Belmont Center is packed full of lights, cameras and … chefs as the popular Bravo reality cooking show, Top Chef, is filming an episode of its Season 12 at Belmont’s standout restaurant il Casale on Leonard Street today, Tuesday, May 20.
Current Productions, the production company for Bravo, has taken over Leonard Street from Rancatore’s Ice Cream to the Bank of America branch office, narrowing the roadway with trucks and other vehicles as Belmont Police officers directed traffic. The production crew also required Belmont Light to take down the “Belmont Town Day” banner to the displeasure of the Light crew who had spent yesterday repairing it.
Across the street a growing number of fans of the show sat on benches or stood by to see the busy work taking place.
“We love Top Chef!” said Dawn Perry of Gilbert Road who watched the “action” with some of the show’s local groupies.
Periodically, groups of young, hip-looking white-clad contestant cooks are led in and out of the restaurant as darkly-dressed servers along with il Casale’s chef Dante de Magistris – who owns the award-winning eatery with his brothers Damian and Filippo – were being instructed by a production crew member.
Around 11 a.m., the contestants boarded four SUVs and were taken to Belmont Town Hall where the production company rented out rooms for catering.
By 12:30 p.m., the talent showed up as show host Padma Lakshmi (who waved to fans), head judge Tom Colicchio – who had a great write up in this past Sunday New York Times on feeding the poor – and judge Gail Simmons were ushered into the restaurant.
Not that il Casale or Belmont is unfamiliar with the film-making process. Last year, Robert Downey Jr. and his production company filmed on Belmont Hill and a Dane Cook movie was shot in the Center. And il Casale recently hosted Starbuck’s CEO Howard Schultz, it is the favorite restaurant of former governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney and one night the Boston Bruins caused a near riot among a slew of teenage girls when the team held their “break-up” dinner there.
Top Chef is a competition show on since 2006, in which chefs compete against each other in culinary challenges. The contestants are judged by a panel of professional chefs and guest judges such as Anthony Bourdain and Wolfgang Puck with one or more contestants eliminated in each episode.
It was announced last month that Boston was selected to be the host city for the new season which will broadcast in the fall.