Author’s note: This is a continuation of a series of blogs about the experience of watching my daughter, Chef Dakota Weiss, make her way through Bravo TV’s Top Chef Texas, currently airing on Wednesday nights.
Over 250 Los Angeles chefs and restaurant industry professionals swarmed the W, Westwood (where Dakota is executive chef) this week for a red carpet roll out of Dine LA 2012. What’s this to do with my daughter-on-Top-Chef series? Read on.
News cameras rolled and media photographers clicked and flashed their Nikons at the welcoming platform.
“Thank you Dine LA for inviting the W and allowing me to serve as your host chef for the Dine LA 2012 kickoff,” Dakota explained to the noisy and noshing foodie professionals. Her quick welcome ended with “…enjoy the food tonight—especially my perfectly cooked venison sliders!”
Not everyone got the joke. But among those who laughed out loud were the Two Hot Tamales, also known as Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, both Top Chef Masters and guest judges for Top Chef, Season 9, Episode 4—the chili cook off that Dakota’s team survived. Both chefs stood right in front of me—a kiss or hug distance away. I thought to have my friend Christi shoot a photo of me with these celeb chefs, but it seemed so nerdy to ask.
Anyway, the day Top Chef Texas, Episode 7 was set to broadcast, Dakota was in a total funk, as was I, because we knew how it ended—badly. Rare venison spelled the end to Dakota’s Top Chef competition. But something unexpected happened that December day that eased the pain of watching oneself or her daughter pack the knives and leave: A phone call from the Dine LA people asking Dakota to serve as Host Chef. It’s a regional honor that confirmed Dakota’s talent. It was also the call that helped her put aside the feeling of being of Top Chef loser, along with that episode’s other elimination, Nyesha Arrington.
The post-show media and interviews seemed to want to pit Dakota against Nyesha. Well, anything to bring interest in this crazy 24/7 news world. But after I read some of the interviews, I couldn’t help but wonder what was going on. You see, Dakota considers Nyesha one of her better buddies from the show. And as serendipity would have it, both of these women grew up in the same area—a Mojave Desert valley just north of Los Angeles.
Back to the Dine LA fandango. The DJ kept the music bumping, vendors offered free libations, Dakota’s staff rushed out plenty of venison sliders and other delights. While I balanced my wine and slurped up a fabulous cauliflower Panna cotta topped with lime and caviar, Dakota grabbed my arm. “Mom, come meet Nyesha.”
Nyesha sat unobtrusively in a corner sofa. A crowd gathered around the talented chef (who was trying to eat a meal). Dakota pulled me through the crowd. “Nyesha, this is my mom!”
She wiped her mouth, stood up and said, “Wow, you can sure tell that you’re mother and daughter.” (Okay, that’s a huge flattery for this not-so-fit 63-year-old.) My return was, “And you are drop-dead gorgeous, lady.” And Nyesha is. She is also soft-spoken and easy to like. And like Dakota, Nyesha has found this new celebrity a surprise.
The two chatted like girlfriends, not two chefs pitted against each other, and talked about the latest Tweets about their other LA Top Chef cheftestant, Chris Crary, rumored to possibly be dating a Hollywood starlet.
And this is when this whole new chapter in our family’s life gets fun and I get to sit back and enjoy the show.