I walked into The Bar at the midtown Dream Hotel and Top Chef contestant Chef Josie was among the first to immediately greet me. In person she stood tall and confident, but far from intimidating, she appeared before me a pillar of warmth, encouraged me to get a drink from the private party’s open bar and to return to speak with me more.
A writer tries to avoid clichés and it’s easy for me to say the bar was dark and dank, but there’s always something seemingly pristine about the darkness at the Dream Hotel’s downstairs bar. And tonight was no different. Off I ventured into its clean cloud of shadows and lights to order my drink. I ordered the “Josie”, a mix of bitter sweet raspberry tart flavors and prosecco named after the night’s guest of honor. Cocktails were by Liquid Lab NYC with sponsors including Absolut Vodka, Bulldog London Dry Gin, and Kevin Crawford, Inc. with catering by Vitella’s.
And like the shadows that surrounded me, Josie appeared again dressed in all black, but with a bright smile. It’s hard to imagine a “bright” smile without the flash of pearly whites but her mouth bloomed into a smile that lit the room. I didn’t expect her smile to be sincere, how could I? She had just failed to win the nation’s greatest culinary contest.
I thanked her for having me at the party that night and tried to get behind that smile.
Darrel: What are you smiling about?
Chef Josie: Happy to be back with my family.
D: But you didn’t win.
CJ: Winning any contest is about just that, winning the contest. It doesn’t mean you haven’t won in life, or that you can’t still win it.
D: What do you have on the horizon?
CJ: A lot. [She winked, and smiled.]
D: You’ve got to give me more than that, Josie. I mean, it’s an open bar. And you know what they say, open bar – open book. Spill!
CJ: We’re thinking books, we’re thinking TV. I can’t say more than that.
D: You’re so coy in person. Not quite the Josie I saw on TV.
CJ: Every show is edited to build the story the producers want to share. There’s always more to the story than you see on TV.
D: Well then, tell us the rest. What didn’t we see on TV?
CJ: The fun. We all had such a good time participating on Top Chef; but only so many smiles can make it into an episode.
D: Well you’re all smiles now. And it’s lovely to see. I’m glad life itself isn’t edited by BRAVO.
[As we continued to speak, the pressure around us eventually gave in and the fans started to poke at her for photographs.]
D: You’re a chef, but most New Yorkers call themselves “foodies”.
CJ: I get into the kitchen. And I do my thing. That’s how it’s always been. And now I get to do that again.
D: So you’re back out on the other side now. What’s your verdict on the spotlight?
CJ: If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen. But you’ll be seeing more from me very soon.
We took one photograph – well, two. And just like she appeared, Chef Josie vanished leaving only a trail of smoke behind. Her black ensemble and jade hair faded into the shadows. When watching the show I thought for sure Josie must be a fire sign. I didn’t see that angst in person, but rather I saw umph. A little extra sparkle in her eye as she winked at me in the midst of our chat that said she might have not won the reality show contest, but who cares about “reality” anyway, when what she is chasing are lifelong dreams? The next time I see her, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d all come true. #winning