Telluride Chef Eliza Gavin It to Makes Prime Time
by Martinique Davis
Oct 21, 2012 | 2763 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TOP TELLURIDE – Chef Eliza Gavin will bring her culinary talent to Top Chef; her first episode airs on Nov. 7. (Courtesy photo)
TOP TELLURIDE – Chef Eliza Gavin will bring her culinary talent to Top Chef; her first episode airs on Nov. 7. (Courtesy photo)

TELLURIDE – Telluride chef Eliza Gavin is back in her hometown kitchen – and wielding some new tricks at her restaurant 221 South Oak – following her stint on Top Chef, the popular reality culinary show.

Gavin, owner and head chef at 221 South Oak in downtown Telluride since 2000, joined 20 other “chef-testants” for season ten of the Bravo show, which was filmed in Seattle. Although details are scarce about what Gavin and her co-contestants faced as they brandished their culinary talents for celebrity judges Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Hugh Acheson and Gail Simmons, as well as world-renowned chefs Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck (the show has yet to air on cable television), Gavin could speak cursorily about her experiences on the reality television series.

“It was an amazing experience,” Gavin said, adding that she made close connections with many other chefs on the show, some of whom she plans to train with later this year.

Although she couldn’t speak directly about the challenges she faced on the show (no spoiler alert here), Gavin did admit that being away from her Telluride-based family, husband Brian (a local realtor and investor in Telluride Brewing Company) and 3-year-old son, Gigger, was the most difficult aspect of the experience.

“I was lucky my husband was so supportive, and that I got the opportunity to go,” Gavin said, joking that when she returned “every toilet seat was up in the house, and I’m pretty sure they had been drinking out of the garden hose” during the weeks she was away.

She had never left her restaurant for more than a week before this hiatus, but Gavin says the  staff at 221 fared beautifully in her absence.

Most of the other chefs on the show this season hailed from large cities and name-brand restaurants, and Gavin admits it was daunting to face off against some of them in Top Chef kitchen showdowns. But she also believes it was a great compliment to what she and her team at 221 South Oak have accomplished in small-town Telluride. “It was a great tribute to what we do here that they wanted such a small-town chef on the show – and it’s not just because I’m a loudmouth!” Gavin said.

She admits that her experiences on Top Chef have clearly shaped the way she now scrutinizes the fare in her Telluride-based kitchen.

“I’m definitely thinking more about it, and giving my food a lot more attention and focus. I’m more focused on learning new techniques…it’s really opened up a whole new culinary world for me, which I’m excited about,” Gavin said, adding that she has been inspired to experiment more with her menu. Lamb cheeks and other exotic and refined fare are now fair game for Gavin and her staff at 221.

Gavin, originally from Richmond, Va., receieved her Diplome de Culinaire at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris. She began working at 221 South Oak Bistro in 1999, and bought it a year later. She has two published cookbooks, Foreplay: A Book of Appeteasers and Recipes from 221 South Oak Bistro.

To find out how Gavin fared on the show, you’ll have to tune in: The 10th season of Top Chef premieres on Wednesday, Nov. 7, on Bravo.

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October 21, 2012
Go Eliza!

Way to represent for yourself, the restaurant and for Telluride! We're proud of you.

Josh Geetter