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Top Chef recently announced the contestants for its upcoming season, which will not only feature D.C., the city, but also a couple of D.C. area chefs. Two of the competitors include Tamesha Warren, sous chef at the Oval Room, and Timothy Dean, owner/chef of Prime steakhouse in Baltimore and a forthcoming steakhouse in D.C.
Dean has been a lightning rod for controversy over the course of his career in the Washington-Baltimore area. In 2002, he filed a discrimination lawsuit against the St. Regis Washington Hotel, claiming that a top hotel executive told the staff, “No black man is capable of running a five-star establishment and he should stay in the kitchen.”
Last year, Dean filed another lawsuit against a minority business consultant, claiming that the consultant had mishandled a restaurant development deal at National Harbor to the point where it fell apart, robbing the chef of millions in potential revenue. Meanwhile, the chef has had a few complaints against him, too, mostly from liquor officials and a supplier.
Will controversy follow Dean onto the Top Chef set, too? Y&H will have to wait and see.
Warren, on the other hand, brings no apparent baggage to the reality show — well, other than the fact that the Oval Room’s head chef, Tony Conte, had to cover for her during filming.
“Tony had to work every single shift,” says owner Ashok Bajaj. “It was one of the biggest months we had while she was gone.”
Warren has been working at the Oval Room for four years now, ever since Conte brought her down from New York, where they both worked at Jean Georges. Bajaj said she’s been a real asset, the No. 2 in the kitchen, which she runs in Conte’s absence. The owner, in fact, would consider her for a head chef job as he continues to expand his restaurant empire.
“She’s a great No. 2,” Bajaj says, “and one day, she will be a great chef.”
So does she win Top Chef D.C.?
“Even if I knew, I cannot talk about it,” Bajaj says.
I had to try.
Meanwhile, WaPo‘s All You Can Eat blog has more details on the upcoming Top Chef D.C. edition, which begins June 16.