Takeaway From the Eater ‘Top Chef’ Panel: Kogi KO’d


Eater‘s Life After ‘Top Chef‘ panel at the 92YTribeca last night had some interesting moments as panelists Lee Ann Wong (French Culinary Institute), Harold Dieterle (Perilla), and Leah Cohen (Centro Vinoteca) regaled moderator and Eater editor Amanda Kludt with tales of the reality that follows reality shows. Dieterle confided that the $100,000 prize money he won on Season One of ‘Top Chef’ was far from enough to open a New York restaurant: “It’s like handing someone a case of vodka and saying go open a bar — it’s not going to happen.” Cohen, a Season Five chef, revealed that during the two months of filming, contestants were barred from communication with the outside world, and that “ICE [Institute for Culinary Education] students are the worst interns.”

But it was Wong, a Season One contestant and the show’s culinary producer, who provided the evening’s most relevant (to obsessive New York food fiends, anyway) news. Plans to open a New York branch of Los Angeles’s famed Kogi Truck, whose Korean tacos Wong helped bring to the city earlier this summer, are “not happening” any longer. “I’m not working with Kogi,” she said. She described her involvement with the truck as “like a guy and girl getting engaged, then getting to the altar and saying, ‘Wait a second.'” Kogi’s owners are now focusing on their West Coast operations, she said, adding that we shouldn’t expect to see the truck “anytime soon.” As for Wong, she’s got a new plan in the works. “At the end of the day, my food is much better than a taco,” she said, leaving little question of what Kogi could do with its wedding ring.