Updated: Sep 4
SPOILER ALERT: If you have not watched “Top Chef: World All-Stars” through episode nine, you may want to wait to read this until you have. This story contains spoilers.
Attending events is par for the course when restaurant writing. Receiving an invite to feast on a trio of dishes made by “Top Chef” season 20 contender Amar Santana “and” have him speak (mostly) freely about life behind-the-scenes is something I rearranged my work schedule for. Who wouldn’t want to try three “Top Chef”-worthy dishes?
When Santana first appeared on season 13 of “Top Chef” in 2015, the California-centric episodes coincided with the opening of his second restaurant, Vaca. I remember doing episode recaps for OC Weekly at the time, taking photos of my TV screen to document his dishes. Despite finishing runner-up, his reality show stint translated into foolproof marketing that kept diners wanting a table well beyond the first six months of Vaca’s launch. I recall sipping its slushy, vermouth-based Vaca Tonic at the bar on a semi-regular basis that first year. The establishment is still going strong and will celebrate eight years in December.
Bravo is currently airing season 20, dubbed “Top Chef: World All-Stars”, where 16 chefs from 11 different “Top Chef” franchises go head-to-head in London (and eventually Paris for the finale) for bragging rights and $250,000. To be a contender, Santana knew his caliber of cooking had to be at the top of its game and he said his goal was to make it to Restaurant Wars, the show’s marquee challenge in episode nine where the remaining eight chefs form two teams and open pop-up restaurants in a limited amount of time.
Santana did, indeed, make it to Restaurant Wars and his team survived. He has survived it yet another week.
This full story can be accessed for free in its entirety at Voice of OC.