Washington, D.C., has proven to be a hotbed for reality and cooking show contestants, particularly for Bravo's "Top Chef." The area is home to many big-name competitors and cheftestants from various seasons of the show, and since their time being berated by Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi, they have all gone on to achieve success.
Here, you can catch up with five Washington, D.C., chefs who had their turn on "Top Chef" and see what they're up to today and where you may be able to sample some of their standout dishes for yourself.
Mike Isabella -- 'Top Chef' Season 6, 'Top Chef All-Stars'
Mike Isabella originally competed on "Top Chef" Season 6, filmed in Las Vegas. He made it fairly deep in the competition, but was eliminated before the finale episodes. He got a second chance on "Top Chef All-Stars," finishing as runner-up to winner Richard Blais.
Prior to his time on "Top Chef," Isabella had been executive chef at Jose Andres' Zaytinya. Now, he operates two restaurants, Graffiato (707 Sixth St. NW), which is behind the Verizon Center and serves up Italian-inspired small plates, and Bandolero (3241 M St. NW), right along the main stretch in Georgetown, offering innovative, small Mexican fare.
Either place is great for a nice dinner out, a date, or for any local foodies looking to sample a few new offerings. Isabella isn't done there, however. He has at least two new restaurants in the making, including the Greek Kapnos, and G, planned as a sister restaurant to Graffiato.
In a previous interview I conducted with Isabella, right before he opened Graffiato, he was asked about the impact the shows have had on his career:
"For me, it's sort of like I have more of that celebrity-chef status. I travel around, do a lot of fundraising, do a lot of events. I've been trying to keep my name and face out there, and there's a lot more opportunities in front of me and my PR team that weren't there before and probably wouldn't be there."
Bryan Voltaggio -- 'Top Chef' Season 6
Bryan Voltaggio competed against Isabella in Season 6 of "Top Chef" in Las Vegas. Voltaggio made it to the finale, ultimately finishing as runner-up behind his brother, Michael Voltaggio.
Bryan Voltaggio currently runs the highly regarded VOLT (228 N. Market St., Frederick, Maryland), which opened in 2008 but took off to new heights after his time on the show. It's a high-end establishment where pride is placed in the perfection of every small detail and all of the craft that goes into each plate you order.
For casual lunch bites, five blocks away from Volt is Lunchbox (50 Carroll Creek Way, Frederick). A third Voltaggio restaurant is also close by, Family Meal (800 N. East St., Frederick), which focuses on casual and hearty home-inspired American classics. Bryan Voltaggio has also teamed up with his brother for various cookbooks and other projects.
In an interview conducted with Bryan Voltaggio before the finale of "Top Chef" Season 6 aired, I asked him if he'd ever like to just be a 'normal chef' again, and he responded:
"Well, there is that overnight phenomenon that happens with 'Top Chef,' which is a lot of fun. But when you think back, like wow, I used to be able to go to the gas station and fill my car up without being stopped! But I enjoy it, because it means that people are supportive in a very positive way, and they are excited about it. I'm trying to do the best I can to make sure that they can be proud of what I've done. That's what it's about. It's about the people having fun with it as well, not just myself."
Spike Mendelsohn -- 'Top Chef' Season 4, 'Top Chef All-Stars,' 'Life After Top Chef'
Spike Mendelsohn has made a rare three-peat performance in the "Top Chef" universe. After finishing fifth in Season 4, Mendelsohn was eliminated early on in the all-stars season. Recently, he has been one of four chefs featured in Bravo's "Life After Top Chef" series, which follows the lives of several notable alums of the show to see what they have been up to lately.
Mendelsohn's first restaurant endeavor was Good Stuff Eatery (now three locations: Capitol Hill, Georgetown, and Crystal City), a burger and shake joint. Next came We the Pizza (305 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), right next door to the first Good Stuff, with pizza, wings, and homemade sodas.
Now, a steak-frites restaurant, Bernaise, is also on the way, to be located on the same block as Good Stuff and We the Pizza, forming Mendelsohn's own Capitol Hill empire.
Carla Hall -- 'Top Chef' Season 5, 'Top Chef All-Stars'
Carla Hall competed on Season 5, filmed in New York City. She made it to the finale and finished as a runner-up, ultimately being undone by taking the advice of her sous chef rather than sticking to her own instincts. She also appeared in the all-stars season, finishing fifth. Hall lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and stepson.
Today, Carla is one of the co-hosts on "The Chew," a daytime ABC series also featuring Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly, and Daphne Oz. Alchemy by Carla Hall is her product line of savory and sweet snacks, cookies, and other treats. She has also released a cookbook, "Cooking With Love," focused on comfort food.
Timothy Dean -- 'Top Chef' Season 7
Timothy Dean competed on Season 7 of "Top Chef," which was the season filmed in Washington, D.C. Despite being in his backyard, the Baltimore resident was eliminated in Episode 5.
Things got worse for Dean before they got better, with closed restaurants, failed ventures, and a lawsuit against the developers of the National Harbor. Now, though, he operates Timothy Dean Burger (801 G Blvd. at Cap Center, Largo, Maryland), a tasty and thus far successful casual burger spot also serving sandwiches and pizzas.
Jake Emen is a freelance writer based in Bethesda, Maryland, with experience covering local news stories and events for a number of online publications. He is also the owner of the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com.