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Birmingham’s Roscoe Hall to compete on Top Chef, April 1

By Patience Itson

Don your chef hat and prepare for a fiery competition. Local Birmingham chef Roscoe Hall shows off his culinary skills in Season 18 of Top Chef, airing April 1 at 7 p.m. on Bravo.

Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Hall rerouted to Birmingham after high school at the age of 17. He’s been Executive Chef for Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Operations Manager for three projects at the Pizitz Food Hall and most currently Culinary Director for Post Office Pies.

Hall, the first contestant from Birmingham on the show, also spent some time in the kitchen at Bottega, where Frank Stitt taught him how to cook, as well as at Chez Fonfon and Hot and Hot Fish Club.

He’s even acted as a resident chef for Jones Valley Teaching Farm’s Twilight Supper—a dinner series that raised funds for urban community gardens.

For Top Chef‘s 18th season, Hall is one of 15 “cheftestants” to compete for the title of Top Chef in the picturesque city of Portland, Oregon.

According to Bravo, Season 18 puts chefs to the test in a variety of new challenges including:

  • Celebrating PDX’s Pan-African cuisine
  • Feeding hundreds of frontline workers
  • Crabbing on the Oregon Coast in a tribute to culinary icon and Oregonian James Beard

What’s in store for the winning chef?

  • The coveted title of Top Chef
  • $250K furnished by S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
  • A feature in FOOD & WINE magazine
  • An appearance at the annual FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen

The Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ) sat down with Hall to learn more about his time on the show and his biggest takeaways.

How did you get involved with Top Chef?

“I was recommended by — I still don’t know who — but I have a few ideas of who could have recommended me. I got a phone call and they asked about like to be a part of it. I thought it was a joke. So I was like, sure, I’ll fill out whatever you want me to fill out. It’ll be fine. But I ended up getting it, so it was kind of crazy.”

What was your favorite part from being involved in the experience?

“On the actual show, it was Last Chance Kitchen. But, overall it was hanging out, getting to meet some great chefs that I heard about. Just to hang out and have some new friends to cook with.”

What are you taking away from this experience?

“The main thing I take away from my experience of Top Chef would be you’ve got to stay true to who you are. I had 23 years of cooking. You’ve got to know that you know how to cook. It’s not about training. You’ve got to express who you are always on the plate. Never try to do anything extra. That’s what gets people on that show — when you’re trying to push the envelope a little bit too much — you’re not cooking your food. So, bringing that mentality back, knowing who I am, and you’ve got to realize who you are and what you’re on Earth for. Things got kind of shifted — I guess the key word is pivot — last year, so it kind of slapped everyone in the face and made everyone realize what was important.”

Did you learn any new dishes or tricks that you can bring back to the kitchen in Birmingham?

“Shota, one of the contestants from Seattle/Japan — I learned a lot of unique techniques from him; Gabriel — that’s my boy … I learned a lot from him; my homegirl Sasha Grumman, she was chicken cacciatore. That was just an insane flavor profile that I’m constantly picking up; and Portland, my old home, also has great takeout food … and Nong’s chicken, which was probably the biggest influence on my time in Portland.”

How does it feel to be a first contestant from Birmingham on the show?

“Pretty cool. Everyone knows me; I am who I am. I represented the city as much as I could; however, I really represent for brown people. I take on the weight for a lot of things, but I definitely built my own platform.”

Are you working on any culinary adventures in Birmingham right now aside from Post Office Pies and private dinners?

“My buddy John (Hall) and me have got a few things in the works for the city, always focused on labor, and boosting development within the city and not trying to showcase. We have our playing fields where we can show off our cuisine, and that’s our private dinners, but when it comes to an everyday situation, we’re just trying to build a community that can have real jobs in the food industry.”

What is a top takeaway from the experience?

“Just seeing another African American on a cooking show as a chef. In (my) time growing up, the only Black chef I ever saw on TV was, I mean, really nobody until I was in my 20s, and then Carla Hall was on “Top Chef,” and a few other people. That’s where I’m at. The more (it becomes) a normal thing, the more we’re going to use a platform to talk about it. And the fact that I do reside in Alabama and my family is like the first real Black-owned restaurant in Alabama that’s still going. That’s where I’m coming from. I love Birmingham, am gonna ride or die for Birmingham because I live here and my kids are born here, but it’s a national scope now. Let’s get it.

Are you pleased with your performance on the show?

“I’m pleased with the person that I was.”

What’s your favorite dish to cook?

“Salmon croquettes.”

What’s your favorite restaurant in Birmingham?

“Chez Fon Fon, Automatic Seafood, Helen, Great Wall, T-Bones, Post Office Pies – I love a little bit of everything – meat and threes, Birmingham has a lot of good food.”

For more visit www.bhamnow.com and www.bizjournals.com.