The 614ortyPlatter – Top Chef Top Songs

Avishar “Danny” Barua creating some magic on the
cocktail end of things at Columbus’s Service Bar

Those in the know in the Columbus area are distinctly aware of Avishar Barua, of Service Bar Kitchen, and his way with mixing the “mundane” with the magical.  Those who have seen his creative takes with lCheesy Brisket Crunch , Po’ Boy, the (Not) Pad Thai, or Fish Fillet know that his creations reach levels of flavor never hinted at by their original format. 

But he shows he’s not a one trick pony by any means either, delving into creations like a Burmese Tea Salad, Bucatini Carbonara, or their “Very Southeast Asian Meal Kit” (featuring things like Shaking Ribeye Steak, Vietnamese Street Corn Salad, and Grilled French Onion Potato Gratin) have helped guide Service Bar through the often rough waters of the Pandemic for restaurants in general.

Plus, he’s just a cool guy to talk to in general. So when it was announced that he was a contestant on the new season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” (filmed in Portland during the Pandemic months), there were quite a few people, including us, that were incredibly excited to hear the news.

Thus, a playlist, dedicated to Avishar and his fellow “Top Chef” contestants, Padma, Tom, and the all the rest. Eighteen songs representing the filming locations of the show, all food related, which we hope enhances the anticipation of the first show’s broadcast, set to premiere on Thursday, April 1st (playlist embedded at the end of the post.)

1) “Gumbo” – Santana: San Francisco proved to the first locale for the “Top Chef” show (won by Harold Dieterle) and we couldn’t think of a better person to start us off than the city’s own Santana, fronted by general guitar god Carlos Santana and trendsetter in the world of both Chicano Rock and Rock & Roll in general.  Featured here is a song off their self-titled 1971 third album, titled after the Creole and Cajun soup.

2) “Soul Kitchen” – X: “Top Chef” moved down the coast for its second season to the City of Angels, with Ilan Hall taking the championship honors. Representing this season is the Exene Cervenka and DJ Bonebrake from the influential hardcore band X. “Soul Kitchen,” from their 1980 debut “Los Angeles” album, was a cover of a song from another iconic band from the area, The Doors. 

3) “Clean up Woman” – Betty Wright: Vice wasn’t an issue when the show chose Miami for its third season, with Hung Huynh copping the ultimate prize. Here we decided for a little 70s style soul with Miami native Betty Wright; while the song is about cleaning up behind relationships, you don’t have to be a top chef to know that cleaning up awaits any cook after creating their culinary feast for the night.

4) “Time Travelin’ (A Tribute To Fela) – Common feat. Vinia Mojica, Ray Hargove & Femi Kuti: The Windy City hosted “Top Chef” for season four, notable for crowning the first female winner, local Chicago chef Stephanie Izard.  Off the “Like Water For Chocolate” album, “Time Travelin’ (A Tribute to Fela” is Common’s collaborative nod to the legendary Afro-beat musician Fela Kuti. Common himself has proven to be one of the most influential rappers of the 21st century, combining jazz-rap rhythms and political consciousness into a successful series of albums and a branching out into the world of TV and Film.

5) “That Was The Whiskey” – Antigone Rising: The Big Apple had to come into play sometime you figured, and Season Five saw Padma and her gang center their competition in the city that never sleeps, with Hosea Rosenberg taking the final honors. Going a bit untraditional, we call on Antigone Rising, an all-female rock/Americana band which has been plying its trade since the 1990s and is still going strong today; their website touts a new album date release of June of this year.

6) “We’re So Starving” – Panic! At The Disco: Sin City was tapped for the sixth season of “Top Chef”, with a whole host of high stakes enhancements added to the mix; Michael Voltaggio never crapped out and ended up cashing out his champion-chips as the winner. Hailing from Vegas, emo-pop gods Panic! At The Disco give us as good a reason to go to a restaurant based on the title of this track, which hails from their 2008 album “Pretty. Odd.”

7) “Mango” – Dag Nasty: Only the politics of the kitchen were relevant when the show made it\’s seventh season appearance in the Nation’s Capitol, with Kevin Sbraga earning enough culinary votes to put him as this segment’s winner.  One of a number of influential DC-based hardcore bands, Dag Nasty was formed by ex-DYS vocalist Dave Smalley and Brian Baker, he formerly of The Meatmen an Minor Threat. “Mango” hails from their 1987 release “Wig Out at Denko’s.”

8) “Head to Toe” – Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam: You can’t stay from New York for too long. At least, that’s what “Top Chef” producers thought when they put together this competition of all-star non-winners from the previous seasons together, with Richard Blais proving the starriest of the second-chancers. Formed in Brooklyn, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam rode the hip-hop craze to several hits in the mid-to-late 1980s; “Head to Toe”, from their “Spanish Fly” album, reached an impressive trifecta by topping the Billboard Hot 100, Dance, and R&B charts in 1987.

9) “Mi Guerita Coca Cola” – Santiago Jimenez, Jr.: Season nine saw the first show where “Top Chef” took an entire state (in this case, Texas) and used several major cities within it to host their chef competitions; in the end, Paul Qui, who was born originally in the Philippines, took the show’s top honors. We decided here to focus on San Antonio and Santiago Jimenez, Jr. – he along with his family were incredibly influential in helping traditional Mexican music styles thrive within the state, with his father pioneering conjunto music and his brother Leonardo being considered the greatest Tejano accordionist in all of history.  Santiago Jr. himself is no slouch, recording over 700 songs and earning several commendations for lifetime achievement in Tex-Mex music.

10) “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” – Kishi Bashi: The Pacific Northwest rained down its welcome mat to the “Top Chef” staff for season ten, with Boston-resident Kristen Kish rising above the notorious gray skies of the area and the smoke of the kitchen to earn that year’s championship. Born as Kaoru Ishibashi, artist Kishi Bashi and his combo of unique lyrics and skillful violin playing has earned him a devoted fan base; two song features in television ads by Sony and Microsoft and a well-received cover of the Talking Heads’ “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” certainly haven’t hurt either.

11) “Brazilian Sugar (feat. Phillip Manuel)” – Los Hombres Calientes: The Big Easy finally got to spice up the Top Chef staff for its eleventh season; Nicholas Elmi bested Nina Compton to become the pride of Bourbon Street. Founded by a host of talented musicians, including Bill Summers, Irvin Mayfield and Jason Marsalis, Los Hombres Calientes proved fairly influential in the world of Afro-Cuban Jazz in a relatively short time period in the 1990s and early 2000s, including this pumping track.

12) “Cornfield” – Volcano Suns: Top Chef used its bean and brought the show to Bean Town for season twelve; Mei Lin took the win these season and bagged an even bigger prize shortly thereafter, earning the nod as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef before opening her own restaurant. Rising from the remnants of the Mission of Burma band breakup, members Peter Prescott, Jeff Weigand and guitarist Jon Williams formed the Suns for seven more years of rocking, including this “corny” song from their 1985 debut album “The Bright Orange Years.”

13) “Lady Marmalade” – Sheila E.: Using Season Nine as a template, “Top Chef” used the whole state of California to its advantage, adding in cities such as San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Palm Springs to the usual suspects, with Florida’s Jeremy Ford besting Amar Santana in the final. Oakland, also featured in this season, has received its own due in a number of worlds lately, including its music – Sheila Escovedo, better known by her stage name Sheila E., took her percussion talents to great heights, with 1984’s “The Glamorous Life” announcing her to the music scene at large. This cover of Patti LaBelle’s classic can be found on her 1991 release “Sex Cymbal.”

14) “Homegrown Honey” – Darius Rucker: Southern hospitality was on full display when Tom Colicchio and the gang headed down to Charleston to film season 14, with Brooke Williamson taking the championship from a 50/50 blend of returning contestants and new participants. Starting off in the pop scene with his bandmates from Hootie and the Blowfish, Darius Rucker went full on into country in 2002 and hasn’t looked back, earning his share of acclaim and notice in a music genre which has seen a fair amount of change in the past few years (this track is taken from his 2015 album “Southern Style.”

15) “Dudley’s Kitchen (Live)” – The String Cheese Incident: home of the Mile High City and the Buffaloes, “Top Chef” raised itself in elevation using the nation’s 38th state for its contestant challenges, with Chicago’s Joseph Flamm coming out on top in the kitchen. If nothing else, Boulder’s The String Cheese Incident loves its jam with a country/folk/pop flair, with a hint of live on stage panache to boot (“Dudley’s Kitchen (Live)” from their Boulder, CO “On The Road\” album, is actually a fairly short number all things considering.

16) “Eggplant” – White Reaper: Going the state route again, “Top Chef” decided bluegrass was more to its liking, setting up its kitchens in Kentucky for its sixteenth season. We don’t know if eventual winner Kelsey Barnard Clark is a fan of eggplant (we personally haven’t watched this season yet), but we know that Louisville-based White Reaper has a thing for it – heard regularly on everyone’s regular favorite independent station CD 92.9, the band features “Eggplant” on their 2019 album “You Deserve Love.”

17) “Fried Okra (Remastered Mono Version)” – Charles Wright & the 103rd Street Rhythm Band: “Top Chef” escaped back to the left coast for their seventeenth season, focusing on Los Angeles again to allow a collection of the show’s All-Stars to battle it out for top honors (previous finalist Melissa King from the Boston episode emerged victorious in the end.) Founded in the early 1960s, Charles Wright & his bandmates released a whole host of tunes that would be influential in their own right, being featured as samples in a number of future songs, and with the band members moving on to other influential 1970s R&B and funk bands.

18) “Catcher in the Rye” – The Dandy Warhols: We obviously don’t know who wins Season 18 of “Top Chef” in Portland, Oregon (we obviously hope it’s Avishar ourselves), but in the spirit of being Bohemian like them, we include a song from Portland’s own The Dandy Warhols, whose satirical pop-rock grooves have given the band its own decently-sized fanbase; “Catcher in the Rye” is featured on their 2016 album “Distortland”, which find the Warhols continuing to mature out by lowering the winking sneer of previous hits like “Bohemian Like You” and “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth.”

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