If at first you don't succeed on Top Chef, just appear on Life After Top Chef.
The Bravo spinoff - premiering at 10 p.m. Oct. 3 - will follow four chef'testants in their post-reality lives: Richard Blais, Fabio Viviani, Spike Mendelsohn, and Somerton's Jennifer Carroll.
During her two appearances on Top Chef, Carroll was chef at 10 Arts, in the employ of chef Eric Ripert. (She had worked for Ripert at his New York landmark Le Bernardin.) Almost exactly one year ago, Carroll resigned from 10 Arts at the Ritz-Carlton, saying she wanted to open her own restaurant in her hometown.
Life After Top Chef's cameras followed her from January to June. "They got the ups and downs of what happens when you leave a job and it doesn’t always work out as you planned," Carroll told me. "They filmed multiple meetings - my lawyer and I, the partnership with my investors - and fun things. We filmed a lot of events together." The four chefs cooked together in D.C., L.A., Aspen, and Charleston. She also briefly ran chef R.J. Cooper's restaurant in D.C., Rogue 24.
Carroll says there's footage from the popup restaurant she did a few months ago at the now-shuttered restaurant Meme, and a benefit dinner for Cole and Heidi Hamels' foundation. ("Cole was cooking," Carroll recounted, "and [Shane] Victorino was a good heckler.") She also spent time on a farm doing chores.
But after filming, the real drama unfolded. "I searched for a long time to find the perfect opportunity and the perfect investors," she said. "If I did want to open just to open, I could have. I didn’t find the right fit for myself here, that’s the honest truth. I could have gone to D.C. multiple times. Luckily, I saved some money and I'm able to have the luxury of taking the time to find the best investors and partners."
She changed investors, who suggested that she launch her restaurant, Concrete Blonde, in New York.
She told me that they had received demolition permits the other day. Timeline for the opening in the West Village? "Who knows. Could be six months, could be a year," she said.
In between paid and charity gigs, Carroll has been spending a lot of time helping to care for her parents, Ray and Joan. She shuttles frequently between 19116 and 10004. She will work at a Top Chef pop-up restaurant in New York in late October and early November.
Thinking about the changes in her life since June, she joked: "Hopefully, there will be a season two."