Ashley Williams
March 24, 2008 12:00 PM

JOSIE SMITH-MALAVE

THE SPEAKEASY, BROOKLYN

Comfort food—roast chicken, french onion soup, sirloin burgers—is the draw at this neighborhood eatery, which Smith-Malave, a consulting executive chef, helped launch in October. “I come from fine dining,” says the Miami native, 33, who has worked with famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. “But if your business is burgers, make the best burgers anyone has tasted.” Speakeasy is her third opening since her stint on season 2, and she has many more plans, including “gourmet takeout.” Meanwhile, her braised short ribs with truffle gnocchi (above) feature a notorious ingredient: “Truffles were my downfall,” says the chef, who couldn’t get them out of a can during a key challenge. “In this dish, we don’t forget the truffles.”

STEPHEN ASPRINIO

FORTE DI ASPRINIO, WEST PALM BEACH

“On the show, I focused on presentation,” says season 1’s cherubic wine snob, who was nixed for paying more attention to service than food. Now, at the 175-seat Italian restaurant where Asprinio is managing partner, “I’m focused on flavor.” His menu includes Top Chef favorites like butter-poached lobster (below). And, while he is on-site, he has hired a chef and sommelier, leaving him free to “have my hand in everything.”

DAVE MARTIN

CRAVE ON 42ND, NEW YORK CITY

“This is all me,” says Martin, 43. He’s not kidding. Hired in October as executive chef to revamp a failed sports bar near the Hudson River, Martin did everything from creating the menu (mainly steaks, seafood and gourmet pizza) and selecting the wines to painting the dining room. “I take drink orders, bus tables—we’re a start-up, we don’t have a fleet of people,” says Martin, a season 1 runner-up. “If I gotta clean the toilets, whatever. I do what it takes to make it a beautiful experience.” So far his patrons, many of them out-of-towners, seem pleased. Since Crave’s December opening, he’s sold over 1,000 plates of his seen-on-Top-Chef specialty, a $15 black truffle macaroni and cheese (right). “I don’t do a lot of plain things,” says Martin, who is also a consulting chef at Bandolero, which opens in L.A. later this year. “If you’re going to pay to eat at my restaurant, it better not be something you can do at home.”

HAROLD DIETERLE

PERILLA, NEW YORK CITY

The menu at this popular Greenwich Village spot can be a bit challenging. Besides the spicy duck meatballs (below) Dieterle prepared in June’s reunion show, “I have a dish I call ‘Cheek of the Day,'” says Top Chef’s first winner, 30. “Last week, halibut and cod cheeks. This week, veal cheeks. But trust me. It’s good!” Celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker come for the food, but some patrons also want a glimpse of the chef, and they can get, well … cheeky. “I’ve had girls barrel into the kitchen. I don’t like to be cooking and cussing and then have somebody in my face saying, ‘I love you.’ It’s awkward!”

EATING LOCALLY

Here’s where to find other Top Chefs in the kitchen

DALLAS

Casey Thompson is back at pan-Asian Shinsei.

SAN DIEGO

Brian Malarkey still helms the Oceanaire Seafood Room.

CHICAGO

Chris “CJ” Jacobsen and Sara Nguyen join fellow season 3 chef Dale Levitski at his restaurant Town and Country, which opens in September.

SAN FRANCISCO

Season 1 runner-up Tiffani Faison opens Workshop later this year.

MIAMI

Howie Kleinberg launches Bulldog Barbeque this summer.

What About …

ILAN HALL?

The season 2 winner plans to open an L.A. restaurant.

HUNG HUYNH?

Winner No. 3 is wrapping up a stint at the kosher Solo in N.Y.C. before starting his own place.

SAM TALBOT?

A New York City eatery and other projects are “in the works,” says season 2’s fan fave.

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