A New Orleans chef who was booted from the 11th season of "Top Chef" after failing to impress Tom Colicchio with his interpretation of risotto will join the Hotel Bennett as its signature restaurant’s executive chef.
The hotel, scheduled to open later this year alongside Marion Square, has not yet revealed its main restaurant’s name or theme.
Michael Sichel, most recently of Galatoire’s and Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak, was last in the national spotlight when he was paired with Nina Compton for a Halloween episode of Bravo’s 2012 cooking competition. Compton, who this year won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef South award, chastised Sichel for calling her “booboo” and “baby,” but it was an arancini styled to resemble an eyeball that led to Sichel being asked to pack his knives.
A risotto created for a consolation round of the tournament ultimately sunk Sichel’s chance at victory.
“Tom Colicchio didn't understand my risotto as much as I did,” Sichel told The Times-Picayune. “I thought I nailed it.”
Sichel joined Galatoire’s in 2011, six years after moving to New Orleans to open Indigo. That restaurant wasn’t reopened after Hurricane Katrina, so the native New Yorker hopped to 7 on Fulton, followed by Windsor Court Hotel’s Grill Room.
Other restaurants on Sichel’s resume include New York’s Gotham Bar & Grill and San Francisco’s Rubicon. He’s also spent time cooking in France.
“I’m excited about working with the area’s incredible bounty of fresh produce and integrating into the culinary community of Charleston, which has fabulous chefs and amazing restaurants,” Sichel said in a statement provided by the hotel.
At Galatoire’s, Sichel was tasked primarily with upholding the 113-year-old restaurant’s traditions.
“Everyone is doing something different now and trying to be unique,” he told Gambit’s Ian McNulty soon after starting the Galatoire’s job. “I'm happy to do what we do and stand out by doing that well.”
In addition to the restaurant that Sichel will helm, Hotel Bennett will house Camellias, a lounge furnished with pink marble, and a rooftop bar.