Bravo’s Emmy award-winning “Top Chef” has a taste for Chicago: Seven years after local chef Tony Mantuano competed in the competition, he recommended his Spiaggia counterpart, Chef Joe Flamm, to compete on Season 15. With a resume that practically maps out Chicago’s hottest dining spots — think Girl & the Goat and BellyQ — Flamm packed his knives for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
He went through months of casting before finally getting the fateful call that shooting would begin in two weeks. “15,000 [people] apply and 15 get on,” he says. Leaving his restaurant, family and loyal patrons back home, Flamm admits that being from Chicago gave him the necessary “grittiness” to endure in the competition. “I felt really proud to be there,” he says. “[I’m] the only Chicago chef that grew up here and still works here. I was carrying the torch more than anything.”
With “Quickfire” challenges being a staple segment in the series, we deemed it appropriate to play a round ourselves with Chef Flamm.
Chicago’s most overrated food is: Lou Malnati’s.
One dish everyone should know how to make is: Pasta sauce or red sauce.
The last meal I had was at: Rangoli (2421 W. North).
One ingredient I hate using is: Pork liver. I can’t get over it.
My wife’s favorite dish I make is: Probably lasagna. Mine is my grandmother’s clam sauce spaghetti.
My personal kitchen is always stocked with: Really nice honey, tons of Asian hot sauces, bottles of Miller High Life and San Pellegrino.
The pickiest celebrity I’ve cooked for is: LeBron James.
My favorite celebrity I’ve cooked for is: When I [worked] at Girl & the Goat, [former White Sox player and manager] Ozzie Guillén used to come in and sit at the chef’s counter. And I’m a south sider — huge Sox fan. He’d sit at my station and was the coolest guy ever. He’d eat everything, was super funny and [would] just tell stories the whole night. And then he’d buy everyone in the kitchen a round of beers before he left.
Catch the Season 15 premiere of “Top Chef” Dec. 7 at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
Photo by Bravo/Tommy Garcia