Last spring, Divine Swine Pork Bistro owner/chef Josh Valentine came home to learn some interesting news from his wife, Courtney: “Top Chef” was holding a casting call in Denver.
He nodded with mild interest, but had no intention of following up thanks to the one-man show he was performing daily at the restaurant, which boasted breads baked in house, house-cured and house-smoked bacon and ham, burgers and sausage ground daily — even the ketchup was homemade.
Turns out Courtney buried the lead — the same thing I'm doing this instant.
“And we're going,” she said at the same time she showed Josh a pair of airline tickets.
Last week, the producers of Bravo's hit show announced the cast for its 10th season, and Joshua Valentine was among them. So, a kid who once wrestled for Del City High School and was taught to elevate his craft to art in the kitchen of The Coach House Apprentice Program, will be the first chef from Oklahoma to compete on the original “Top Chef” series. Oklahoma City native Rick Bayless won spinoff competition “Top Chef Masters” in 2010, but Bayless has made his culinary bones more in Chicago than at home.
About the time he was set to audition, Valentine mentioned he was going to try out. So when a cryptic note appeared on the front door of Divine Swine a few months later, mentioning how “life-changing opportunities” had caused the restaurant to close, I had an inkling the audition had not only happened but he'd crushed it.
And when a Josh 2.0 returned from his hiatus sporting a sleeker build, neatly waxed Snidely Whiplash mustache, and a smile wider than my belt line after a Candied Bacon Sticky Bun, I was sure.
As exciting as it is to have an Oklahoma chef participate in such a prestigious competition, there was a price to pay. Divine Swine will not reopen as once hoped.
Valentine recently took a job as pastry chef for a new restaurant in Dallas, FT33, with chef Matt McCallister, with whom he worked in the kitchen of Stephan Pyles Restaurant.
Valentine, 33, graduated from The Coach House Apprenticeship Program in February 2009 before going to Dallas. His work at SPR so impressed Pyles that he made him a part of the team at Samar by Stephan Pyles when it opened in November 2009.
When Valentine's father became gravely ill early in 2010, the young chef returned home to be closer to him and took a job at The Coach House. His father died in March 2010, and Valentine continued at The Coach House until he and Courtney saved enough money to open Divine Swine.
“Top Chef: Seattle” premieres Nov. 7. Valentine will compete against 20 other chefs from across the country.
World-famous chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck, who owns a restaurant in Tulsa, joins the show as a judge this season, alongside Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson and Emeril Lagasse, with Padma Lakshmi returning as host, as the 21 chefs compete for the $125,000 prize.
Look for watch parties to pop up at The Lobby Bar with some of his Coach House brethren.
Also look for me to dust off the “Top Chef” podcast on NewsOK.com once the show begins to air.