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Top Chef: Texas cheftestant has Charleston ties.

Monday January 23, 2012
by Scott Wink of

Charleston, SC  –  Season 9 of Top Chef has a larger than normal cast and lots of talent.  One of the cheftestants, Keith Rhodes, owns 2 restaurant in Wilmington, NC and has ties to the Charleston area.  His restaurants are Catch and Phun.  They feature lots of seafood and Southern dishes with an Asian flair.  Chef Rhodes made the cut on Top Chef to progress into the final cast only to be eliminated in a controversial, cut throat, judges table.  Despite being eliminated Chef Rhodes continues to stay close to the top of vote getters for fan favorite.  Top Chef season 9 is down to just a few remaining contestants so we thought we would talk to Chef Rhodes about his experience on the show and his restaurant Catch. 

Charleston Food Bloggers ( CFB ) :  Did you know any of the chefs from Top Chef: Texas before filming started?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Everyone was new to me. I absolutely knew no one. There were several of the contestants that did know each other.

CFB: Which contestants surprised or impressed you the most?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  I liked talking with Chris Jones from Moto in Chicago.  I enjoyed hearing a lot about the restaurant’s philosophy.  It is not all about show, there is a lot of meaning in what they do over there at Moto. It was real insightful.  I talked to a lot of the chefs but as far as someone that I took some ideas home to think about it was definitely Chris.

Top Chef: Texas was unlike previous seasons that stayed centered around one home location.  This season moved all around the state of Texas and included every facet of what Texas could offer.  There was a minimal opportunity to cook with a lot of seafood.  I have traveled a lot and eaten a lot of food different types of food but I had never been to Texas.  It was my first time there and boy was it hot.  It was like 110 degrees.  They have a truly unique type of cuisine in Texas with lots rich influence from Mexico.

CFB:  This year they expanded the number of contestants. Were you guys running all over each other? 

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Yeah. It was intense.  It is really like stepping on a roller coaster.

CFB:  How were the judges?

Chef Keith Rhodes:   Padma, Gail, and Tom have seen thousands of chefs. They have tasted so much food.   Even with all of that experience they were still really nice people to work around.   I was honored to work with a FIVE TIME James Beard award winning Tom Colicchio.  Padma and Gail brought their wonderful personalities to the table as well.

CFB:  Have you changed or tweaked anything on your menu since your Top Chef experience?

Chef Keith Rhodes:   No, we are still doing our own thing here.  We do a lot of the modern and new techniques here at Catch already. We like to stay grounded to our Southern food with an Asian flair approach. 

CFB:  If dinners from Charleston eat at your restaurant for the first time what do you recommend they try first to get a good idea of what your cooking is all about?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Right now things are changing because of the seasons but I would say our NC sweet potato salad. We blanch the sweet potatoes and give them a flash fry so that they get nice and crispy on the outside.  We serve it over baby spinach with a honey shallot vinegrette and some local goat cheese and sun dried cranberries.  It has some onions, some sweetness, and you feel good about eating it because it is on that bed of greens.  It is something that has been really successful and tasting that salad will let you know what we are all about.  We are about local, simplicity, and quality.

CFB:  The name of your restaurant is “Catch” which to me implies you are cooking a lot of seafood from local fisherman. Are you at the mercy of what they catch that day?

Chef Keith Rhodes:   We try to plan our picks weekly based on what fish is going to be available. So there are times when things are moving and changing on a daily basis.  Right now there is a lot of grouper and triggerfish.  We have tons of oysters and local shrimp.  All of our crab meat comes from Oriental, NC.  Our catfish comes from Greenville, NC.   We really try to say within the region.  We buy local whole fish and local produce that keep the flavors true to our area.

(seafood ceviche at Catch)

CFB:  Do you visit Charleston often?

Chef Keith Rhodes:  Yeah, I have been down there a lot. My mother-in-law actually lives in Moncks Corner. I know Sean Brock. I have spent quite a bit of time down there.

(Chef Keith Rhodes and his wife Angela Rhodes)

(2011 James Beard nominees: Chefs Sean Brock, Keith Rhodes, and Ashley Christensen)

I really have been so honored this year and I appreciate all the support especially from down there in Charleston.  That is a fantastic food scene you have down there.  I look forward to meeting you guys from Charleston.  When you stop by for dinner make sure you say hi.

CFB:  Thanks Chef Rhodes!