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Interview Wed Jun 03 2009
This past Saturday I caught Bravo Channel's Top Chef Tour at the Chicago Green City Market. On hand were Antonia Lofaso and Radhika "Rad" Desai, both Cheftestants from Top Chef's Season Four and Season Five respectively. Over the course of 4 sessions on Saturday, both demonstrated their skills and amused the crowd with anecdotes from the show, dishing out answers to the audiences questions like "Are Hosea and Leah still together?" (The answer is yes), and "Is Toby truly that way in real life?" (Off camera, he's supposedly much nicer and very much the family man).
After the second session I had about five minutes with Wicker Park's Radhika Desai, who I found to be wonderfully charming and very funny.
So what's new for you?
"I left Between... it was a friendly separation,but I just felt like I needed to move on. I'm also doing private dinners and catering, and a lot of charity stuff. I'm not sure if you've heard of Deborah's Place?
It's a foundation for homeless women and children, and I donated a dinner where I went to someone's house and cooked. We raised $8000 for the charity! So I'm using my pseudo-fame to give back to the community rather than just being a consumer.
In the meantime I'm working on my own place.
Any idea on when and what that will be?
Hopefully it will open in the next year! Definite Indian influence, probably Indian-French. Very clean, classic preparation with Indian flavors.
We're here at the Green City Market, how do you feel about the local food movement?
I love the whole farm-to-table concept. And I've seen five chefs today that I know who are going directly to work after getting produce from here. It's awesome and really cool if you can afford it.
There's a difference between going to Restaurant Depot (she made cute air quotes here) and getting ingredients versus coming here. If cost allows you then, of course, you should come here.
During the presentation you mentioned that you're a big fan of Sunda. If price is no object, what are some of your favorite places in Chicago?
Sunda is great! It's by the same guys that opened Rockit. It's pan-asian, very consistent, and a large place. The atmosphere is very cool and great for a first date.
Alinea is another one. I've been there once,and it was a magical experience. It was like a six hour tasting that flew by!
And any place on Devon. The whole street has such good, authentic Indian restaurants that I feel I'm back in India for a visit. It makes me feel like I'm home.
Consequently, if you've got to eat cheap, where do you go?
La Pasadita. It's a Mexican taqueria on Ashland. There are several right near each other, and each has different food, but they're all La Pasadita. It's definitely my four AM fix!
And on Orleans and Chicago there's Baba's Palace, it's the first place my parents and I had dinner when I moved here. It's great Indian food, and you can get a lot of really good food really cheap there.
You mentioned that visiting just about anyplace on Devon was like a trip home. What's your favorite comfort food?
My mom's rice and lentils with potatoes. It's very traditional Indian food, and when I went home this past weekend, she made it for me. I was so happy! I could smell it when I walked in. She knows exactly what I like.
And to wrap it up, is there a question that you've always wanted someone to ask? Something that you've thought through and are prepared to answer?
"Will you marry me?" At which point we both break into laughter.
Radika will be taking part in cooking demos during the Printers Row Literary Fest on Saturday June 6th, and you can check out more of Radhika Desai at her website: www.radhikadesai.com