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While other girls were playing soccer at the age of 11, Amanda Baumgarten cooked her first chocolate soufflé. I met Baumgarten, the new sous chef at Water Grill downtown. She is also a contestant on the 7th season of Bravo’s Top Chef.
Water Grill hired her just before Bravo informed her that she would be flying to Washington D.C. to film the show. “I was completely out of touch with the world for weeks. No cell phones, computers or newspapers,” Baumgarten said.
While in high school in the Los Angeles area, Baumgarten cooked dinner for her father every evening. One night she told him that she wanted to be a chef. He offered to pay for her to go to a culinary school, but she had to first prove to him that she was serious. So, she worked for free at L’Orangerie on La Cienega Blvd. “After one year in college, I traveled to London and enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu,” Baumgarten said. She discovered her destiny and upon graduation, apprenticed at the prestigious Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Gavroche.
Although she’s sworn to secrecy about the outcome of the show, she revealed, “I felt privileged to be on the show and wanted to do my best.” Now in her second week at the Water Grill, she prepared some of her favorite entrees for a packed restaurant.
The first dish delivered was a Thai snapper sashimi with blood orange, green tea, daikon radish, and cucumber. The blood orange flavor burst deliciously inside my mouth. Second, Baumgarten prepared a soft-shell crab with grilled sweet corn and tomato vinaigrette. For the main dish, Executive Chef David LeFevre constructed a Columbia River king salmon with asparagus and a poached egg on toast. As the yellow yolk trickled onto the toast, it reminded me of lazy Sunday mornings, a nice comfort food.
With big screen televisions in various areas of the restaurant, we watched Amanda Baumgarten’s first episode of the Top Chef, while nibbling on a red velvet pudding cake with raspberry sorbet. Not too sweet, but extremely satisfying. During the first challenge, she sliced her palm while peeling potatoes and didn’t move on to the next round. Fortunately she wasn’t eliminated.
I look forward to watching her face new challenges in the upcoming weeks. Visit the Water Grill for fine seafood made by the accomplished and perhaps next TOP CHEF. 544 S. Grand Avenue, (213)891-0900. BRAVO Top Chef Wednesdays at 9:00 pm.
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