Behind The Scenes

ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law doubles as Bravo’s Top Chef ‘scout’

Keith Law's Top Chef: Texas' Final Four Power Rankings

Many baseball fans anxiously await ESPN Insider Keith Law‘s annual power rankings featuring the best prospects in baseball.

With a scouting eye, Law evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of young athletes in an effort to predict their Major League Baseball success.

But fans who follow Law on Twitter @keithlaw or Facebook quickly realize that this ESPN veteran can dissect more than bat speeds and the horizontal break of a pitch.

Law also analyzes culinary creations, both at restaurants and from his own kitchen, with the same detail-oriented techniques.

This ability, teamed with his ongoing interest in Bravo’s Top Chef reality series, led the network to call on Law for a baseball inspired breakdown of the final four contestants’ skills.

The ‘Top Chef: Texas’ Final Four Power Rankings utilize baseball’s scouting scale of 20 (low) to 80 (high) to evaluate the final contestants. Bravo’s Top Chef: Texas airs on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET.

Law sat down with Front Row to answer some of our burning questions about this odd but interesting collaboration.

FR: How did this come together?
Law:
One of my readers alerted the social media team at @BravoTopChef to the weekly episode recaps I’ve been doing on the dish, which combine some analysis (limited, of course, to what we see on TV) and the kind of dry humor I try to bring to my baseball writing as well. They liked what they saw enough to ask me to do a guest piece ranking the four remaining “cheftestants.” I was thrilled to be asked and am even happier with the response.

ESPN Baseball Insider Keith Law in his day job.

FR: When did you first learn to appreciate the culinary world?
Law:
I first learned to cook when I was in grad school in my mid-20s, because my wife was working full-time as a preschool teacher while I was home every day by 3:30 with nothing to do. I discovered that I enjoyed it and did my usual obsessive thing by seeking out books, TV shows (including Good Eats), and websites that could help me learn to cook the right way. And the more I learned, the more I realized I wasn’t a very good eater — I had a narrow palate and limited experience. I didn’t try sushi for the first time until I was 29, for one example. I was fortunate to live in Boston, a great town for high-end cuisine, for much of that period, so I ate at places like Todd English’s Olives and Ken Orringer’s Toro and Coppa that exposed me to new styles of cooking. Since then, it’s been a constant learning experience for me, and I approach meals like I approach going to see a player for the first time, with an open mind and the expectation that I’m going to learn something new.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the influence my cousin, Tracy Kamperdyk Assue, and her husband, Peter Assue, had on me as a home cook and a nascent foodie. She’s the head pastry chef and he’s the executive chef at City Limits Diner in Westchester and Stamford, Conn. They answered a ton of questions about ingredients and techniques, gave me my first look at a restaurant kitchen, and just generally encouraged me to keep learning and experimenting.

FR: What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
Law:
I’m a dessert guy. I love to bake cinnamon rolls from scratch with my daughter, or to get up early on a summer weekend morning and make a pie dough to cover some local fruits. But I think my favorite dish to make is a really simple one — chocolate pots de crème, a simple egg custard that puts the chocolate front and center. Just top it with a little sweetened whipped cream (maybe spiked with Chambourd or amaretto) and some shaved dark chocolate and you’ve got a great dessert to impress any chocolate lover.

FR: Who is your favorite Top Chef contestant of all time and why?
Law:
Richard Blais. I admit I got caught up in the narrative of his All-Stars appearance (the guy who should have won his first season but came up short in the finale), but I also love the way he looks at food from a different perspective than any other contestant I’ve seen. He doesn’t use modern techniques like molecular gastronomy for their gimmick value, but to deliver flavors in new and unusual ways. I’m glad Georgia has several good draft prospects this spring, because I need to get to Blais’ and Hugh Acheson’s restaurants.

I should mention Nyesha from this season, though. She cooks angry, and I like that. She has to be a shoo-in for the next time they do “All-Stars.”

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