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Food & Wine's Top Chef Finale Party at Craft

The Matriarchs of Top Chef: Season 7
The Matriarchs of Top Chef: Season 7
[Photos: Joshua David Stein /]

Last night, a television program called Top Chef ended its seventh season. To celebrate the wrap of the season, one of the judges, Tom Colicchio, hosted a party at one of his New York City restaurants, Craft. Many people were there including notable chefs, contestants and editors. The model and hostess of the show Padma Lakshmi, who is sui generis, was present. I too attended, somewhat apprehensively. This is my story.

In the narrow front room a red carpet lay. Behind the carpet hung a capitalist tapestry, a backdrop with the names of the evening's sponsors at widely spaced recurring intervals. In front of this tapestry standing on the carpet and strobe lit by a thousand — or ten or so — flashes, various grandees stood, smiling with their arms around each other. Gail Simmons, a judge and the hostess of Top Chef Desserts; Food & Wine Editor Dana Cowin in charming chartreuse dress. Chef Eric Ripert, smiling as always with Japa mala around his wrist. He is charming that guy. Regarding his triumphant appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live he shrugged, "It's not hard when you have an octopus." How true.

Restaurateur Ken Friedman could be found at the bar, of course. With him Jonathan Waxman who Ken introduced as "the greatest man in the world." Waxman shook my hand with that wry yet wide-eyed irony he has. Ken kissed his forehead then kissed mine. Only a man as tall as Friedman could do such a thing. It was a little demeaning but also strangely pleasurable. Later Ken Friedman stole my slider and this was demeaning as well but less pleasurable. Mrs. Eric Ripert, first name Sandra, giggled and told Mr. Eric Ripert, "He took that guy's slider." That he did.

Masaharu Morimoto in seersucker, Marcus Samuelsson looking dapper, and Mark Stone, Morimoto's affable partner, stood in a corner. Morimoto fanned himself with a small black lacquer fan. Marcus picked at a small plate. Nearby Scott Conant was speaking with PR guy Philip Baltz. Scott looked good. Baltz asked why. Turns out Conant went to a nutritionist, a woman named Lyn Genet, who used to work for Keith McNally. "She said I'm allergic to almonds and carbs." He's lost 15 pounds and left early. "I have to get up at 5. By 8 am, I'll have eaten four courses of lamb sweetbreads." Such is the life of a Chopped judge.

Rich Torrisi looks like Matt Damon. PR maven Becca Parrish is in a band called Milton. Frank Bruni was there too. Now he can show his face unabashedly. We briefly discussed the film Bitter Feast, a horror film inspired by his review of Gordon Ramsay's The London. "I'm not going to see it," he said.

Tom's in a band too. Suitable he showed up rockstar-late. He's pretty good-looking truth be told. He mentioned this was the best finale ever. Events did not bear that out. Padma very publicly wished Gail "all the best of luck" on Just Desserts. Dana Cowin spoke about Singapore and how she enjoyed it. A woman from Singapore spoke as well. Gail and Ed seemed on great terms. The show started. No one stopped talking. I realized this wasn't for me. These people lived through the show, or rather, the raw material that became the show. I was interested only in the artifice. I strode out, across the now-empty red carpet. The gift bag had curry paste in it. I took that, my notebook, and fled.

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