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Now for part 2 of our series on Top Chef alums: Boston’s dining scene has always been a vibrant one. With such easy access to an abundance of farm-raised, season-changing ingredients, our region has always been much more than the “land of bean and cod.” Our corner of the country has always been quietly pushing culinary boundaries. (Thanksgiving? Totally America’s first dinner party.)

Tiffani Faison

Tiffani FaisonFaison placed runner-up on the very first season of “Top Chef,” and earlier this month she scored the number two spot again on the inaugural season of “Top Chef Duels,” a spin-off that pits popular alums in culinary face-offs. (She also competed in a special “Top Chef All Stars” season.) When she’s not in front of the camera, you’ll find her in the kitchen at Sweet Cheeks Q, her popular barbecue restaurant steps from Fenway Park. With its smartly sourced meats, house made sauces and creative, bourbon-drenched cocktails served in mason jars, there’s a slightly elevated touch to her down-home fare.

Pro Tip: Chilly out? Fear not. Sweet Cheeks’ popular beer garden has a retractable roof, so you can still drink outside (sort of) when the cool weather comes.


Mark Gaier & Clark Frasier

Mark Gaier & Clark FrasierThis culinary power couple competed together on “Top Chef Masters.” But they first made their mark at Arrows, an Ogunquit icon that introduced locals to “farm to table” dining long before the phrase became ubiquitous. They still operate a slightly more casual restaurant, M.C. Perkins Cove, up in that resort town. But earlier this year they opened their first Boston spot: M.C. Spiedo, at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel, a glitzy option for historic Italian cooking based on the traditions of – what else? – Renaissance-era cuisine.

Pro Tip: How down to detail are the recipes? Check out “Leonardo’s Salad,” is comprised of a list of ingredients found in Da Vinci’s notebooks.


Kristen Kish

Kristen KishKish was chef de cuisine at Barbara Lynch’s fine dining destination Menton when she won the 10th season of “Top Chef.” Since then, she’s moved on and parlayed her fame into a number of opportunities: from roving the country for special cooking engagement to scoring an endorsement deal with Rembrandt toothpaste. She hasn’t yet settled into a new permanent home, so keep an eye on her Twitter account (@KristenLKish) to see where she’s cooking next.

Pro Tip: In this case, tip your hat. Kish made “Top Chef” history by being the first contestant to win after being (temporarily eliminated). She made a comeback in the show’s “Last Chance Kitchen” and wound up only the second female winner to date.


Michael Schlow

He may not have won the inaugural season of “Top Chef Masters,” but the star chef behind Via Matta, Tico, and Alta Strada says he would “absolutely” return to reality TV again. “Although it’s really stressful and demanding, I’m competitive and seek vindication,” says Schlow. “I understand the challenges a little better and hope that given the opportunity I would fair a little better on the show.”

Pro Tip: Traveling? Good news. Schlow recently opened some new restuarants outside the Hub: Cavatina at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood, and a Washington, DC brand of Tico.


Ana Sortun

ana-sortunAnother “Top Chef Masters” alum, Sortun is the major talent behind Oleana, a Turkish and Eastern Mediterranean restaurant that earns its recurring recognition as one of the area’s best restaurants. But late last year she also opened Sarma in Somerville, a hip destination for cocktails and small plates. And her Sofra Bakery continues to satisfy sweet teeth, specifically.

Pro Tip: Want to try your hand at the plates that this James Beard-winning chef puts together? Sortun is also the author of a cookbook, “Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Boston Night - With An E Photography

Looks like a city but it’s a flame!

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To give you an idea of how amazing Nerdnite is, I’ve got five words for you; sold out on a Monday.  Yeah, you read that right, this monthly celebration of learning, nerdiness, and socializing is so much fun that it can pack a venue even on a Monday night.  What exactly is Nerdnite?  Think of something you might already be familiar with doing; hanging out at a great bar with a few of your friends drinking and socializing.  Now, imagine adding some interesting talks by local experts/enthusiasts on anything, from things you never knew about cheese, to how your music files become compressed, and what’s lost in the process.  If you’ve ever been out to a bar and felt underwhelmed by the caliber of conversation, Nerdnite is for you.  All the normal fun and great music you’d expect from Middlesex Lounge, plus you’ll learn something cool, and maybe you’ll finally meet someone who’s as smart as they are cute.

When I attended the last Nerdnite on March 29th, the talks were titled “The Sexy Social Science of NBA Basketball: Insights into Economics, Sociology, and Psychology from Professional Hoops” by Adam Waytz (of Free Darko fame) and “Break it Down: Prototyping Dance Central” by Matt Boch.  Already a fan of Dance Central I knew I’d find the second talk interesting, but not being much of a fan of any sports, least of all basketball, I was a little worried about the first talk.  Now, this is where Nerdnite really shines, the speakers often have a way of presenting things you never thought could pique your interest in the most compelling and exciting ways, their enthusiasm for their topics is incredibly contagious.  And that’s what you’re always guaranteed at Nerdnite, new knowledge, some surprises, and a uniquely good time.  Tonight’s Nerdnite is a special trivia edition co-sponsored by Young Professionals in Energy.  Come out and test your nerd skills, or, if you need to brush up on a few topics first, check out the next Nerdnite Friday, May 6th at the MIT museum, a special night being held as part of the Cambridge Science Festival.  See you there!

Monday April 25, 8PM
Middlesex Lounge
315 Massachussets Ave, Cambridge