"Iron Chef" Steels Sabrina

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Sabrina%20cuts%20gnocchi.JPGOnly two other Seattle chefs, Tom Douglas and Tamara Murphy, have been invited to compete at Kitchen Stadium in the seven seasons that "Iron Chef America" has been on the Food Network. Tomorrow at 10, add a third name to the list: Sabrina Tinsley of Osteria La Spiga.

Douglas needs no introduction to Seattle diners; he's the owner of half a dozen successful eateries downtown (Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen, Lola's, Cafeacute; Sport, Serious Pie, etc.); he bested Masahara Morimoto with a series of salmon dishes. Murphy cooks at Brasa in Belltown and the newly revamped café at the Elliott Bay Bookstore in Pioneer Square; she lost narrowly to Mario Batali.

Tinsley's not nearly as high profile, not yet; she's known mostly for her exquisite handmade gnocchi. An Alaska native who attended Michigan State, she was studying (and cooking) in Salzburg when she met her future husband, Pietro Borghesi. For the next five years the couple lived in Italy, where Tinsley absorbed the culinary culture and the two ran a piadina shop. They eventually moved to Seattle, where Tinsley's sister had settled and, ten years ago, opened the original Osteria La Spiga in a tiny space on Capitol Hill at Broadway and Union. Eight years later, it was time to expand. The new La Spiga has drawn its share of hostile reviews, but credit is always given to Tinsley for her sure sense of Italy's cultural and culinary traditions.

Mario Batali, no slouch himself when it comes to promoting Italian food, shot a segment of his TV show at the original La Spiga. He may have passed along Tinsley's name to the producers at Food Network. At any rate, the call from Iron Chef came out of the blue, inviting Tinsley to compete. So, this past June, off she and Pietro went to New York along with two of her sous-chefs to prepare for the smackdown in Kitchen Stadium. Her adversary: Bobby Flay. The show's "secret ingredient," revealed on-air, beans ("all fresh, still in the pod"). The judges: restaurateur Joe Bastianich (Mario's business partner), TV personality Jenna Wolfe, and food critic Jeffrey Steingarten.

Was it as hectic as it seems, being on the show? Tinsley admits that he two months leading up to the taping were stressful, "Once the real-time taping began, I was in my element, but poor Pietro, sitting in the audience, was tearing his hair out!"

Tinsley's not saying how it turned out; that would spoil the fun. But the restaurant is doing all it can to promote her appearance on the show. There's an Iron Chef viewing party Sunday, for starters. Then, the next four Tuesdays in January, there will be parties in the restaurant's private loft for four-course meals ($125 per person) based on Tinsley's Iron Chef creations.

Unlike reality shows like Bravo's "Next Top Chef" elimination, Iron Chef is a one-time battle, win or lose. Publicity is the reward, plus the fact that it's a unique opportunity. Tinsley sums it up: "An awesome experience."

Iron Chef, Food Network, 10 PM Sunday and repeats
Osteria La Spiga, 1425 12th Avenue, 206-323-8881

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on January 3, 2009 1:02 PM.

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