Chef Shota Nakajima is reemerging from the pandemic without his Capitol Hill restaurants — Adana has closed permanently at 15th and Pine while E Pike while his Taku bar on E Pike which opened only days before the first lockdowns of the pandemic in 2020 is also currently temporarily shuttered — but with his positivity intact and a shot at reality TV stardom.
Top Chef returns for its 18th season in April with a season shot in Portland and Nakajima on hand to fight for the title on his home Pacific Northwest Turf:
“This season will welcome 15 new cheftestants vying for the coveted title of Top Chef in picturesque Portland, Oregon,” the hype begins. “These executive chefs and restaurant owners from all across the country each bring a unique set of skills and a diverse culinary point-of-view to the competition.”
The path to Top Chef Portland has brought Nakajima some TV star level attention as the Seattle Times talked with the chef about his challenging 2020 — COVID-19 crisis shutdowns, a car crash, health issues — and his experience with the show:
Throughout a year of struggle in the pandemic-benighted restaurant industry, he’s maintained an almost absurdly positive attitude. Now everyone who always watches “Top Chef” — and everyone who’ll tune in just because it’s in the Pacific Northwest, or just because it’s the pandemic — will know his and Taku’s name, will witness his beaming charm and culinary expertise.
Taku, meanwhile, sits empty as Nakajima sorts out his next moves as the show episodes are about to be unveiled for the world. CHS talked with Nakajima early in the COVID-19 crisis about trying to keep the E Pike bar in business on takeout orders alone. After permanently closing the more expensive Adana at 15th and Pine in the first weeks of the crisis, Nakajima said he was hoping to center his effort in the neighborhood on Taku and its inspiration from Osaka alleyways and Shinsekai district food stalls.
What comes after Top Chef? Nakajima tells the Times he has been working in some consulting and is considering some media ventures of his own. And, we can hope, the neon lights at Taku will eventually be turned back on.
Top Chef’s 18th season debuts on April 1st.
PREVIOUSLY ON TOP CHEF
Long time readers might remember another Capitol Hill chef who took part in the long-running reality television competition. Chef Robin Leventhal took a spin on the 6th season of the show in 2009 in the wake of the closure of her 12th Ave eatery Crave. Her experience? Not exactly positive. “They hated me,” she said in 2009 about the other “cheftestants.” “I think they just wanted to hate me.”
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