Photo credit: Sarah Dorio/AP Photo
While the rest of the country was watching the final game of the World Series on Wednesday night, Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson was sitting amongst the empty chairs at Fenway Park. No, not to mourn the Boston Red Sox’s abysmal season. But for a special screening of Top Chef Season 12, episode three, which had been filmed at the New England baseball shrine.
Season 12 is set in Beantown, and this episode finds the contestants already embroiled in conflict: The classically trained versus the self-taught. North Hollywood chef Aaron Grissom versus everyone else. And everyone versus the ever-looming clock.
The baseball tie-in? Chefs were tasked with crafting high-end dishes using classic ballpark fare and presenting their final creations to judges right underneath the Green Monster, the intimidating 37-foot high left field wall at Fenway Park.
Here’s how things shook out: Chef Gregory Gourdet from Portland, Oregon earned top honors for his roasted duck with peanut-chili sauce, peanut brittle, and crispy shallots (Richard Blais called it “moneyball”), but Atlanta-based Ron Eyester was sent packing for his confusing popcorn soup and gargantuan fish croquette dish.
What will the rest of the season be like? We chatted with Acheson about that, plus the future of stadium food and why the corn dog is never going away.
It’s fitting that the World Series is going on tonight! Do you follow baseball?
I’m a huge baseball fan! Not a Red Sox fan, but I love being here. I respect it a great deal. I’m a Braves fan.
How was filming this season in Boston?
The season was amazing. You know, showing off this city and its food culture is exciting because I think we respect food cultures now. We identify with them and understand the different geographical areas. Boston has got an amazing food culture.
Photo credit: HughAcheson/Twitter
How did the contestants fare with New England ingredients and dishes?
I think they did really well. Obviously there were a couple of times when people were deers in the headlights. Right now it’s early in the season, so there are still a lot of people who you’re wondering if they can tie their shoes in the morning, but they’re getting through the days. But some of them are already excelling. It’s a really interesting mix right now.
And they like to fight!
…There’s a lot of anger.
What do you think is to blame for the conflicts we’re already seeing, like the one between Aaron Grissom and Keriann Von Raesfeld?
It’s because of the Boston drivers! They’re so angry here when they drive!
In Wednesday’s episode, the chefs make dishes inspired by stadium classics. Where do you think the future of stadium food is headed?
I think that there’s a movement towards venues offering healthier things, which I love to see. If I come to celebrate a ball game, the last thing I want do with my two and a half beers—because I spilled half of one!—is to have a pretzel, some cotton candy, and a hot dog. I think America more than ever is willing to invest in better food for themselves.
Do you think stadiums will ever be true culinary destinations?
[A dramatic pause.] You will never see the corn dog go away. And you will never see the corn dog drastically improved. Why? Because America loves a corn dog.
It’s philosophical and it’s true.
If you’re hungry for more baseball-inspired posts…
The Giants Versus the Royals, a World Series Food Fight
5 Outrageous Ballpark Hot Dogs
Best Party Foods for March Madness, Soccer Matches, and Baseball
Sad that the World Series is over? Relive your favorite baseball food memory in the comments!