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By Daniel Maurer

‘Top Chef’ Recruits Seven NYC Toques

Top Chef has announced its new cheftestants, and we, like everybody else who got the press release, were delighted to see that there are even more NYC cooks than ever before, from restaurants including Mai House, Buddakan, Public, 24 Prince, and Dos Caminos. You can’t go by where they work, though: Among last season's rivals, Casey was a “personal chef,” whatever that means, and made it to finale, while poor Lia was at Jean Georges and got bounced halfway through the season. Still, we’re already thinking deeply about this crew — and looking forward to making fun of them in IM conversations a few months hence. 'Top Chef' Chicago Premieres in March [Bravo press release] Related: Adam Platt Was Right About ‘Top Chef’ All Along

Drew Nieporent Hardly Ever Eats Like a Restaurant Mogul

Drew Nieporent
Let’s say you were the city’s most famous restaurateur, the man who more or less invented Tribeca, and still owned three or four of the city’s most popular restaurants in Tribeca Grill and the three Nobu restaurants, not to mention Mai House and Centrico. Let’s say you were also seriously overweight. What would having complete command of four restaurants within one block of your office — not to mention the red carpet at every other restaurant in town and an essentially bottomless food budget — do to you? Drew Nieporent used his resources to go on the ultimate New York diet and lost 70 pounds in the process.

Liebrandt and Nieporent, Sitting in a Tree…

The impending collaboration between Drew Nieporent and Paul Liebrandt, whether at Montrachet or elsewhere, is probably the worst-kept secret in the restaurant business. But the hirsute restaurateur isn’t slowing down the rumor mill any with his latest high jinx. At a party at Mai House earlier this week, Nieporent was showing people candid pictures of Liebrandt that he had taken with his cell-phone camera. We followed up with the Montrachet mogul, and he insists that “it was just tongue in cheek, because of the way you people have been going on about Paul and I.” Well, that’s fine – but how did pictures of Paul Liebrandt fishing get into Drew Nieporent’s phone? Either there’s a serious man crush going on, or the two are about to do a restaurant together. (Or both.) Earlier: Can Paul Liebrandt Make New York Safe for Molecular Gastronomy?

Texas Barbecue Coming to Tribeca in Limited Release

Clinton Hill: Former Bodegas spot now in the hands of Fort Greene's Pequeña posse. [Brooklyn Record] Little Italy: The great-grandson of the founder of the San Gennaro Festival plans to add an Italian-American history museum to the nabe as well as high-end retailers like Armani and Gucci (a step up from those “I Heart BJs” shirts). [MetroNY] Lower East Side: Park Slope's Cocoa Bar set to open on Clinton Street by the end of May. [Cocoa Bar] Tribeca: Smokin’ Joe’s True-Blue Texas Barbecue will serve lunch (sandwiches, platters, and all the fixins) at the Tribeca Tavern on Fridays and Saturdays during the Tribeca Film Festival and, let's hope, longer. [NYT] Mai House's late-night $10 menu kicks off tonight. [Myriad Restaurant Group] West Village: Chumley's will be under construction for the next few months, at least. [Eater]

Sam Mason Is Hiring in Soho

Chelsea: Taste from over 400 wines plus eats from Alfama and Tintol at Vini Portugal, tonight at Pier 60's Lighthouse. [Slow Food USA] Columbus Circle: Bouchon Bakery to beef up its menu starting tomorrow with the addition of Waygu sliders. [A Hamburger Today] Park Slope: Whole Foods marks its toxic territory. [The Gowanus Lounge] Soho: Sam Mason is hiring [Eat for Victory/VV] Tribeca: Mai House will launch a late-night menu of dishes under $10 served after 10 p.m. starting April 25. [Myriad Restaurant Group] Tonight, Centrico is closed for a private party. [Grub Street]

Chef Daniel Boulud Eats Sushi at $10 Per Minute

When we asked the great Daniel Boulud what he’s eaten this week, we were secretly hoping to hear confessions of Seven Layer Burritos at Taco Bell. We shouldn’t have been surprised when he reported that, with exceptions like Sunday brunch and the occasional sushi splurge, he eats 75 percent of his meals at his own restaurants. Luckily that didn’t make his food journal any less fascinating; not only did he give us the scoop on some spring menu additions and his new line of spices available this fall, but he actually did scarf a burrito.

More Reasons for Ramsay to Worry; Could Use Some ‘Time Out’ Love

Frank Bruni wants to dislike Mai House but just can’t quite bring himself to do it. [NYT] Meehan has no reason to like Pardo’s … so he doesn’t. [NYT] Paul Adams tepid on Gordon Ramsay, citing his “great competence and little sparkle.” [NYS] Alan Richman awards Ramsay one big “ouch”; he’s reminded of “the French-international cuisine that British chefs turn out whenever they ply their trade aboard cruise ships.” [Bloomberg] Klee Brasserie apparently finds its way into Randall Lane’s heart, though thoughts like “it’s a bit of a mishmash, but a good mishmash” don’t fully convey the apparent chemistry they share. What with all the positive mini-reviews of Café Pierre, Guadalupe, and Benjamin Steak House, it’s a veritable lovefest over at Time Out. [TONY] Brooklyn spot NoNO Kitchen charms Andrea Thompson, who rather drily observes that it’s “quite good, if not exactly phenomenal.” [NYer]

Michael Bao Huynh's Vietnamese to be Taken to the Next Level

Good news for Bao 111 fans: Chef Michael Bao Huynh is opening Mai House, a much bigger, more ambitious restaurant, backed by the Myriad Restaurants Group (Nobu, Tribeca Grill, et al). He'll be cooking straight-up Vietnamese food, but whatever it lacks in fusion flash, we're betting will be made up for by the guy's way with flavor. And the 4,500-square-foot, 120-seat space sounds like it'll be lovely, with "hand-carved wood fixtures from Vietnam, crushed sunflower-seed walls, Zebrawood banquettes, a mother-of-pearl and bamboo butcher-block bar and Vietnamese lotus flower light fixtures," according to the Myriad Group. It should open at the end of the month. 186 Franklin St., nr. Greenwich St.; 212-431-0606.