IPO chef competes for Top Chef host

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Chef Chris Wadsworth in his tapas restaurant, Restaurant IPO, last year.  Wadsworth hired a furniture maker from New Orleans to create the tables and chairs in Restaurant IPO, and says the art is local, too. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Chef Chris Wadsworth in his tapas restaurant, Restaurant IPO, last year. Wadsworth hired a furniture maker from New Orleans to create the tables and chairs in Restaurant IPO, and says the art is local, too.

Baton Rouge chef Chris Wadsworth battled for a spot on Bravo’s Top Chef reality show and just missed representing Louisiana’s capital city on the show.

Wadsworth, a Lafayette native who opened Restaurant IPO in downtown Baton Rouge last year, is featured on the Top Chef website competing for a spot on the upcoming season of Top Chef in New Orleans against a New Orleans-area chef.

The video hit the Top Chef website late Tuesday night. A series of six videos called Padma’s Picks feature the show’s host Padma Lakshmi choosing which south Louisiana chefs should compete for a place on the reality show’s new season, which airs Oct. 2 on the Bravo network.

His Restaurant IPO creates tapas, which are traditionally appetizers, but gives them a south Louisiana twist.

“We’ve kind of been the pioneers of crazy food here,” he said Wednesday.

Wadsworth wanted a spot on the show to draw attention to the restaurant scene in Baton Rouge, Wadsworth said.

“We’ve got to draw some attention to this Baton Rouge market, because Baton Rouge is on the move with food,” Wadsworth said. “What better way to do it than get in front of 2 million viewers and show what we do?”

After watching several seasons of the show, he thought his style of creating dishes would fit the program’s fast pace. The specials at Restaurant IPO often aren’t decided until he knows what products are fresh that day.

“My style is very spontaneous, which works very well with that show,” he said. “There are a lot of times on Fridays and Saturdays that I don’t design specials until I talk to a farmer or a fisherman and it’s last second.”

The month of preparation for the Top Chef filming included criminal and financial background checks, a psychiatric interview and several phone and in-person interviews. On the day of filming, Wadsworth drove his food truck to Magazine Street in New Orleans.

He was told to create a “late-night meal for a hungry chef” in 30 minutes. Wadsworth chose to cook a locally raised, pan-seared duck breast lightly breaded with sweet potato flour. He made cracklins from the skin and made a chutney of local oranges and syrup and glazed the duck with Abita Purple Haze beer.

While the dish impressed Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi, it did not meet the show’s idea of late night street food. Wadsworth lost the head-to-head competition, but he enjoyed the experience.

“Looking back, I kind of kick myself in the butt because of what I did — whether it was street food or whether I went with something a little nicer,” he said. “I still stick with what I did. It’s the kind of food we do on the truck every day.”

Wadsworth can’t say if his association with Top Chef has ended. According to him, he impressed the show’s staff.

“Even if I had something lined up with them I’m not at liberty to say,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the last time you will ever hear my name and Top Chef in the same sentence.”

Galatoire’s executive chef Michael Sichel appears on the website series as well. He won a competition to earn a spot on the show.

See Wadsworth compete here: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/season-11/videos/padmas-picks?guid=2669502