Traci Des Jardins – Top Chef Masters

I have plenty of favorite pop TV shows – Judge Judy, Dancing With The Stars, Project Runway and Tabathas Salon Takeover. But its food related shows that I really sink into and watch all day. Especially anything Top Chef.

The Top Chef spin off Top Chef Masters doesn’t have the charismatic hosts Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi to keep its fast paced chopping and tasting alive. Instead its the twelve chefs on this seasons episodes that truly shined through as its stars.

My favorite was local chef Traci Des Jardins – co-owner of San Francisco restaurants Jardiniere and Mijita Cocina Mexicana at the Ferry Building – she has been one of the chefs to make it through to the finale. She has been competing for La Cocina, a local nonprofit incubator that helps immigrants get off the ground with food businesses.

I met Traci in the early 90’s when she was cooking at Rubicon. I would stop in there regularly to have cocktails and appetizers after work. Though the menu was definitely out of my price range back then – I always somehow managed to get a little taste of everything. And today I won’t pass up the chance to pop into the bar at Jardiniere to eat a piece of foie gras – no matter how she prepares it.

In the late 90’s I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and spent a week in the hospital undergoing much prodding and observation. Hearing that I wasn’t eating anything from the hospital cafeteria – Traci arrived one evening in my room with a big pile of her delicious olive oil mashed potatoes and a piece of perfectly pan roasted chicken. I’ve cooked professionally for years and know what a long day in the kitchen looks like. That visit was the start and sign of a speedy and healthy recovery.

Though she didn’t win the title of this seasons Top Chef Masters – seeing Traci these past few weeks on TV has reminded me of her beautiful generosity. It’s showed – both me and the audience about her deep love and passion for food.

It also reminded me how lucky I am to simply write this. Thank you Traci! You inspire me.

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