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Top Chef Alum Serves Up a Grilling Tip and More

Spike Mendelsohn has set up shop amid the foodie culture in Washington, D.C., but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

By Mali Krantz
July 2012

Summertime conjures images of hot, sunny days, sitting poolside and grilling outdoors with friends and family, so Jewish Woman decided to consult some former Top Chef contestants for outdoor entertaining tips. Here, trendy Washington, D.C., restaurateur and burger aficionado Spike Mendelsohn talks about his career, his cooking inspirations and, last but not least, his favorite grilling tips for summer. 

A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Mendelsohn worked with some of the culinary greats in the U.S. and France before rising to fame as a “cheftestant” on Top Chef’s fourth season. 

His restaurants in the D.C. area (Good Stuff Eatery and We the Pizza) have attracted an enviable following, including the likes of first lady Michelle Obama. Foodies galore stand in line for Mendelsohn’s handcrafted burgers and handspun milkshakes. He has published a best-selling cookbook and is set to appear this fall on Bravo’s new reality show, Life After Top Chef.

What’s your favorite thing to throw on the grill this summer?
Can you give us an easy summer cooking tip or recipe?
Use an onion to clean your grill. Not only will it help you get the grill all ready and clean for that barbecue, but it seasons the grill, too.

How did Top Chef affect your career trajectory?
I was really lucky to be a part of Top Chef at a young age. It helped propel me into a lot of opportunities earlier than I could have imagined. The visibility allowed me and my family to open up Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill to a very welcoming and excited community.
How does your Jewish background influence your cooking?
Well, I am half-Greek, half-Jewish, or, as I like to call it, Grewish. This always makes it interesting when cooking with my mom, because she taught me to blend the two backgrounds together. For instance, I make Grewish meatballs, a combination of Greek and Jewish keftethes, which I call "matzethes."
What’s the best part of being a restaurateur in a foodie culture?
I think the best part is that the average diner is much more informed. Customers are generally interested in their food and where it comes from. That makes it an exciting time to be a part of the restaurant world. The food-centric culture is allowing restaurateurs to engage more with their customers.

Try Spike Mendelsohn's recipe for Vegetarians Are People Too ‘Shroom Burger.

For more on grilling, Read Fired Up by Joan Nathan

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