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Local Woman Faces Sweet Competition On Bravo’s New ‘Top Chef: Just Desserts’

justdesserts_heatherA new “Top Chef” reality series premiers on the Bravo TV network next week, and, yes, there’s a Falls Church angle!

Heather Chittum, the 30-something wife of James Roth, co-owner of the popular Falls Church wine and cheese shop, “Red, White and Bleu,” will be competing in the new “Just Desserts” version of the Emmy Award-winning “Top Chef” series. The season opener is next Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 11 p.m.

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Heather Chittum (Photo: Bravo)

A new “Top Chef” reality series premiers on the Bravo TV network next week, and, yes, there’s a Falls Church angle!

Heather Chittum, the 30-something wife of James Roth, co-owner of the popular Falls Church wine and cheese shop, “Red, White and Bleu,” will be competing in the new “Just Desserts” version of the Emmy Award-winning “Top Chef” series. The season opener is next Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 11 p.m.

Chittum is already an accomplished pastry chef, on the staff in that very role at the highly-acclaimed Hook restaurant in Georgetown.

She is the latest in an impressive roster of Falls Church and Falls Church-related folk who’ve competed on nationally-televised reality shows. In just the last year, Sweetwater Tavern Chef Tennille Middleton made the final four on Fox’s “Hells Kitchen,” and City resident Joey Santolini also made it to the final four in the second season of the Logo channel’s “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” Also this summer, the band of Falls Church’s Gregg Curtin, Fighting Gravity, is closing in as a finalist on “America’s Got Talent” on CBS.

In the case of Heather Chittum, like her husband James, she is originally from New York, and didn’t originally move down to D.C. to cook. In fact, she landed a job on Capitol Hill after studying government and international relations at Clark University.

After four years, she left the Hill to work for Share our Strength (SOS), a non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger. Her time with SOS allowed her the opportunity to work with a variety of great chefs, which pushed her to pursue her passion for cooking.

“I always loved cooking and baking, especially the creative outlet of baking,” said Chittum.

Enrolling in culinary school, L’Academie de Cuisine, she signed up for the Fundamentals of Pastry Arts program. Soon Chittum found herself working alongside Equinox’s acclaimed Pastry Chef Lisa Scruggs.

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THE CAST OF “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” (Photo: Bravo)

 

Following her experience at Equinox, she worked at many D.C. area restaurants, including Circle Bistro, Dish, Notti Bianchi and Citronelle with Chef Michel Richard.

In March 2007, Chittum left Potomac Restaurant Group to take on a new challenge, Pastry Chef of Pure Hospitality’s Hook Restaurant in Georgetown, where she remains today.

“I think the D.C. food and dessert scene has grown tremendously over the past few years. It’s very exciting,” said Chittum.

Settled in Georgetown, Chittum sought a new challenge, which landed her in the audition room for “Top Chef:Just Desserts” where contestants are whittled down week by week as they perform challenges, competing to out bake their competition.

There are challenges when you have 12 people living in tight quarters. – Chittum

“Some friends heard about the show and auditions and thought I should try out,” said Chittum. And with great success, she earned herself a spot on the program along with 11 other contestants.

Next she traveled across the country to L.A., where she joined her fellow pastry chefs, who became her new roommates. Contestants all lived together during the taping of “Top Chef,” this time in a California loft.

“There are challenges when you have 12 people living in tight quarters,” said Chittum.

The testing continuec with “Top Chef:Just Desserts,” as the show’s website promises that the challenges “will be some of the most creative and inventive yet: from timed wedding cakes and flaming desserts to chocolate show pieces and edible fashion.”

“Top Chef:Just Desserts” will feature two unique challenges per episode. The first in line is the “Quickfire Challenge,” which is a test of their more basic abilities as chefs, usually completing a task or creating a dish in a very limited amount of time.

My favorite part was the good friends I made and just the honor of being on the show. – Chittum

“With the Quickfire challenge a clock is running. Everyone’s strategy is to do the best they can,” said Chittum.

Next for contestants to tackle is the “Elimination Challenge.” According to Bravo, these challenges are “designed to test the versatility and inventiveness of the pastry chefs as they take on unique culinary trials such as working with unusual and exotic ingredients or catering for a range of demanding clients.” With this challenge the losing chef is eliminated from the show.

“The worst part of the Elimination Challenge is knowing that someone will be going home and sitting for hours waiting for a decision,” said Chittum.

For all their hard work the contestants often receive prizes throughout, but ultimately there can be only one winning chef.

And that chef, according to the Bravo website, will collect a variety of prizes. “The winning chef will receive $100,000 furnished by Godiva Chocolatier, a feature in Food and Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival and a 2011 German Engineered Sport Injected Buick Regal.”

Besides the chance to win impressive prizes, Chittum is happy with her overall experience while participating in “Top Chef:Just Desserts.”

“My favorite part was the good friends I made and just the honor of being on the show,” said Chittum.

For the show’s premiere Chittum is planning to stay at home, watching her debut with only her husband and perhaps some pie, which is her favorite dessert. “I love apple pie. I love making cakes and cookies. Really baking just brings me joy,” said Chittum.

Following the 11 p.m. opening episode next week, the following weeks the show will be aired at 10 p.m. each Wednesday.

After staying home for the premiere, however, it is not yet known whether her hubby will keep open late his “Red, White and Blu” with a TV on the premises, or whether Falls Church’s Argia’s restaurant, co-owned by James’ brother, Adam, will keep its door open to attract friends and supporters to cheer on our latest reality show star.

 

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