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Thursday, October 22, 2009

S.F.'s Laurine Wickett Got Canned from Top Chef Last Night. Now She's Cooking Up an Homage to Balls

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 4:04 PM

Wickett: Not totally bummed about getting axed. - BRAVO TV
  • Bravo TV
  • Wickett: Not totally bummed about getting axed.
Laurine Wickett of San Francisco's Left Coast Catering made it all the way to Episode Nine on Top Chef, last night's infamous Restaurant Wars competition, by pretty much flying below the radar. Things looked tense in Episode Three, when the notorious pasta salad she helped concoct at an air force base sent fellow San Franciscan Preeti Mistry home. But though Wickett never won a challenge in the ensuing weeks, she never lost one either -- until last night's show, when she worked front of the house, forgot to describe the courses, and undercooked her rack of lamb.

She didn't seem entirely unhappy about losing. During today's post-elimination phone conversation, when we reminded her that Tom Colicchio blogged that he thought she was ready to go home, Wickett replied, "I think I was. I wasn't hungry to win. Maybe eight or 10 years ago, I would have been more competitive. When I wanted to be famous like Wolfgang Puck and was working 90 hours a week."

She auditioned for Top Chef on a whim. "I hadn't ever watched it. I didn't even have any idea that there was a Quickfire challenge on every episode! I wanted to help my business -- the jury's still out on that. It's given me a better idea of who I am as a chef. Being on the show made me lose focus at first, but then I realized that I cook from the heart, for my clients, to make people happy. Not to feed my ego."

Since leaving the show, Wickett has done an unpaid stage at Michael Mina. "Top Chef opened my eyes. I felt out of touch with what was going on in the food world. At Mina, I did a lot of grunt work, but it made me see a different style of cooking. As wonderful as that style is, with a lot of steps involved, it doesn't always translate into a comfortable meal. The food really becomes too precious."

Wickett has created an event space, 2150, above Left Coast's commercial kitchen in Dogpatch, where she can create meals as a caterer that duplicate the intimate dinner parties she loves. Menus include a Christmas Eve dinner in honor of baby Jesus featuring baby ingredients (quail, veal, tiny vegetables), and a Tongue and Cheek meal with braised beef tongue, halibut cheeks, and beef cheeks.

She's down with San Francisco's pop-up restaurant trend, too. "I'm starting to do weekly dinners at Coffee Bar: two in November, and then on a regular basis beginning in January. The beauty of that is you can create a restaurant for a night without all the ongoing hassle of opening or running one."

And if you're headed to this Saturday's Exotic Erotic Ball, we read on Left Coast's site that Wickett has created a special ball-themed menu. No comment.

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Meredith Brody


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