Baltimore’s Timothy Dean—one of the newest batch of Top Chef contestants—has had a lot on his plate these days besides standing up to Padma, Tom Colicchio, and new judge Eric Ripert. The chef, still grieving for his wife who died of breast cancer three years ago, is trying to sort out bankruptcy, liquor board hearings, and organizing investors for his new Fells Point steakhouse Prime.
He’s optimistic. "I stand in prayer," he said. And if you read his Facebook page, you’ll see he’s very much into the power of God and positive thinking. On the practical side, he looks at the bankruptcy affecting the now-closed TD Lounge on Eastern Avenue as a temporary setback that won’t derail his future. "It’s why I filed Chapter 11, not Chapter 7. I plan to reduce the debt and pay it back," he said in a phone conversation today.
The call—with a Bravo TV representative on the phone with us to make sure that I didn’t try and get secret Top Chef info out of Dean—focused on the chef’s upcoming appearance on the show’s seventh season, which starts June 16.
Dean was upbeat about the experience. The 17 chefs became friends despite the competition, he said. He especially grew close to his roommates: contestants Angelo Sosa, Stephen Hopcraft, and Alex Reznik. "We’d talk about cooking and life," he said. "We formed a brotherhood. It made an impact on my heart and life."
Even though he is one of the oldest contestants (he turned 40 on March 18), age didn’t matter. "I still cook on the line," he said of keeping up with the young-uns. "Everyone is so mature."
The bulk of the show, which took place in D.C., has been shot, the Bravo spokeswoman said. But the final episodes will be filmed at a future date to determine a winner. The suspense will mount, I’m sure.
Being on the show was a natural for Dean. "I felt I was a top chef," he said. And after watching last season with the Voltaggio brothers and the other chefs, "they took the show to another level," he said. "I thought I’d look good in front of the judges." He’s pretty confident, folks.
Timothy said he started cooking as a child. "My grandfather cooked. I looked at my grandmother, mom, and dad cook. We always loved to cook." He spent most of his youth in D.C. and Clinton, MD, in P.G. County.
While his mom had aspirations for her son to be a doctor, he listened to his dad: "Follow your dreams. People always have to eat."
So the Howard University business major ended up in the kitchen of famed chef Jean-Louis Palladin when he was 18. He worked on and off at the D.C. restaurant at the hotel Watergate until he was 29.
Working for Palladin, who died in 2001, was a lot like being on Top Chef, Dean said. "I was nervous. I had butterflies." But his experience with the French chef formed him. "He was an amazing chef," he continued. "He made me the chef I am today."
While "today" has been rocky, Dean is still planning to open a Prime in Washington. He also has high hopes for the Baltimore restaurant, which is in the same location as TD Lounge. He understands the concerns that were raised about the former lounge.
"The neighbors were upset by the clientele and music," said Dean, who lives in Fells Point. "I listened to the neighbors. I want to get back into the craft. I want to get back into cooking."
After doing his research, he came up with the idea of a steakhouse. "It’s the one concept that isn’t hurting and is still open," he said. He attributes his financial difficulties to the recession and snowstorms this past winter. "I was shut down for a month," he explained.
Dean originally came to Baltimore to open Timothy Dean Bistro in 2005 before turning it into the lounge in 2008. He didn’t expect to end up in our city, he said, but his partner found the building off Broadway and Dean like it immediately.
"I believe in Baltimore," he said. "I’m still here."
Photo courtesy of Bravo TV