Astoria Native To Compete For ‘Top Chef’ Title

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

Astoria native Benedetto Bartolotta will take his cooking skills to New Orleans, where he will compete with 16 contestants for the title of Bravo’s “Top Chef.”

Bartolotta said he is ready for this season’s cook-off because he expects intense cooking with close to impossible cooking limitations.NUP_156555_1992.JPG

For its 11th season, the chef’testants will battle head-to-head for $125,000 furnished by Healthy Choice, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and the title of “Top Chef.”

As this season’s show premieres on Oct. 2, the chefs will be tasked with serving food for top entertainers, culinary stars and celebrity guest judges. The contestants will have to pass the taste-test from lead judges like Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson and Emeril Lagasse, alongside host Padma Lakshmi.

Bartolotta comes from a family who loves to cook and who stays true to their “culinary rituals.” Since his parents would often entertain family and friends with homemade feasts, he said he would always help out in the kitchen.
Growing up in Astoria also inspired Bartolotta to cook because fresh groceries at the retail fruit stands on Ditmars Boulevard, and all cuts of meat from the butcher shops lining Broadway were always readily available.

When asked how he will handle any surprises during the competition, he said, “You have to be light on your feet and expect the unexpected.”

Since Bartolotta was recently a sous chef for Chef Odette Fada on Bravo’s “Battle of the Sous Chefs,” which is a part of “Top Chef Masters” culinary competition, he said he is a bit more familiar with the geography of the kitchen.

“Plus I have been an executive chef in real life for many years before the show, so I took a step down to get a step up,” Bartolotta said.

Bartolotta left Astoria at the age of 18 to pursue a degree in culinary arts from the Culinary Institute of America. In addition to his degree, Bartolotta studied extensively in Europe and Asia, where he said he was able to hone his skills and bring back innovative ideas.

Bartolotta has not only worked as the executive chef for acclaimed New York City restaurants such as San Domenico NY, Cipriani and Osteria del Circo, but he is also the founder of Indulge by Bene’s, an event-planning and catering company.

If he wins the title of “Top Chef,” Bartolotta said he would use the winning prize money towards a store front for his catering business.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.