Swept up in the excitement of TV’s Top Chef, I recently went to see the winner of season two in action at Casa Mono, the Manhattan restaurant where he was working at the time as a line cook. Sitting at a table with an excellent view of the tiny open kitchen, I discreetly (I think) gawked at the reality-show star as he expertly and confidently readied the evening’s orders. Then, best of all, I got to eat a dish he’d prepared: garlicky fideos (a traditional Spanish toasted-pasta dish) with clams and chorizo. In this one moment, the power of food as entertainment became clear: the theatricality of cooking, the seductive power of a TV personality, the thrill of tasting something delicious.
In this issue, we look at this potent nexus of celebrity and food. In "TV Chefs Share Their Best Recipes," we offer dishes from some of the biggest stars. One of my favorites is the spicy beef chili, on our cover this month, from über-weatherman and morning-show co-host Al Roker. In "Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pépin," one of the very first cooking personalities gives recipes from his TV series, which debuted in 1982. And actor Paul Newman has taken his passion for food and philanthropy to a new stage by opening a restaurant to help support Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse. We drop in on a cast party to meet Newman and try chef Michel Nischan’s superb baby back ribs and sweet potato gnocchi.
One of our own stars, Executive Wine Editor Lettie Teague, has just written a book, Educating Peter, about teaching film critic Peter Travers the basics of wine. In this issue, she and Peter explore Sicily, the place that inspired The Godfather. No one they met would discuss the movie, but everyone was happy to talk about the wine! Her story will make you want to watch the film with a nice bottle of Nero d’Avola and some pasta—a perfect pairing of food and entertainment.
Where I’m Coming From
Notes from my recent expeditions.
NEW YORK CITY
One of the city’s best under-the-radar restaurants. I’m still dreaming of the hearty ribollita. Details 403 E. 12th St.; 646-602-1300.
The Ranch House
The spectacularly well-priced wine list and romantic garden were the draw at this classic spot, where my family celebrated my husband’s birthday. Details S. Lomita Ave.; 805-646-2360.
The London Bar
NEW YORK CITY
Had a terrific gilthead bream with lobster risotto in Gordon Ramsay’s bar room. Details 151 W. 54th St.; 212-468-8889.
Do you go to the Web for cooking information? If so, what are your favorite online destinations and why?