Want Some Renaissance Curry? The Latest ‘Top Chef’ Sent Its Contestants to the Getty Center in Search of Art-Historical Food Inspiration
The Getty's sterling collection made a cameo on the show.
The Getty Center in Los Angeles was on TV last week, serving as the inspiration for the elimination challenge on Top Chef: All-Stars LA in an episode appropriately titled “Strokes of Genius.”
Host Padma Lakshmi tasked returning chefs, including Bryan Voltaggio, Angelo Sosa, and Gregory Gourdet, with “interpreting a work of art on your plate” and sent them to the Getty in search of inspiration.
It was the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board that suggested the Getty as a filming location for the show’s 17th season, and the museum was happy to come on board.
“We had worked with Top Chef Masters in 2009 at the Getty Villa, so we were comfortable hosting them again,” Julie Jaskol, the museum’s assistant director of media relations, told Artnet News in an email. “Filming was actually quite compressed—about three hours in the late afternoon. It was a day when the site was open, so some of the chefs were recognized by fans.”
The Top Chef contestants took a tour of the museum with paintings curator Anne Woollett and Jeffrey Weaver, the associate curator of sculpture and decorative art. The chefs were each assigned one of four different genres, as selected by the show’s producers: Baroque, Neoclassical, Rococo, and Renaissance.
“The curators made some suggestions that better fit the Getty collection, but the producers were pretty clear about the genres they wanted,” Jaskol said. “The curators focused on works that illustrated the selected genres and designed a tour that would cover all the genres in a short time frame.”
Some of the chefs were thrown for a loop.
“I don’t understand any of these different styles of art,” admitted Brian Malarkey, who opted to create a “halo” of curry sauce around his filet of halibut in reference to the religious portraits so common in Renaissance art.
But others were eager to embrace the brief. Stephanie Cmar’s mortadella tortellini were inspired by the “really beautiful supple bellies” of the fleshy female figures in Rococo paintings, and Jennifer Carroll based her seared snapper on Jacques-Louis David’s Neoclassical masterpiece The Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis.
For contestant Melissa King, the episode represented a thrilling return to the Getty, where she had worked in her very first kitchen job at age 17.
“This challenge is special to me,” she said, recalling the time she helped make Julia Child’s birthday cake at the museum. “I remember piping out the profiteroles and putting them on the cakes.”
King edged out Volaggio and Malarkey to win the challenge with her Rococo-inspired lobster wonton in shellfish consommé—dubbed Michelin-star-worthy by guest judge Ludo Lefebvre. Jamie Lynch, who didn’t have time to plate the sauce on his Baroque chicken breast dish, was told to pack his knives and go.
Unfortunately, Jaskol revealed, the Getty staff didn’t have the opportunity to sample any of the food. Due to logistical concerns, including the configuration of the museum kitchen, there was no way to cook the food on site. The chefs left after their tour, and the rest of the episode took place at cathedral-turned-event venue Vibiana, in a dining room decorated with reproductions of historic paintings.
The Getty’s TV appearance comes just two months after the hilltop museum, known for its collection of pre-20th-century European art, played a key role on the penultimate episode of The Good Place.
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