Steakhouse owned by former 'Top Chef' contestant to be auctioned

From prime time to Prime auction

September 15, 2010

Hours after one of Timothy Dean's reality TV rivals is crowned "Top Chef" in the season finale, he's scheduled to see his Prime Steakhouse sold in a foreclosure auction Thursday .

It's quite a comedown for the Baltimore chef, who just two months ago was competing for culinary stardom on national television — from prime time to Prime auction.

Dean had hoped the "Top Chef" appearance would get his once-charmed career back on track. After rising meteorically from dishwasher to Jean-Louis Palladin protege and Washington restaurateur, Dean endured multiple setbacks: His Washington restaurant closed, as did his Baltimore-based Timothy Dean Bistro and T.D. Lounge, which operated in the same Upper Fells Point location as Prime Steakhouse, at 1717, 1719 and 1721 Eastern Ave.

Hoping to stage a comeback, Dean launched the restaurant in February, shortly before he started competing on Bravo's "Top Chef."

But more troubles arose even before episodes started airing in June. A bank won a $1.3 million judgment against Dean and his real estate company in May, setting the stage for Thursday's auction. Days later, T.D. Bistro Inc., which had owned the bistro and lounge at that location, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Dean was eliminated from "Top Chef" in July. He was just the sixth contestant to be sent packing from a field of 17 competing this season in Washington. He was ultimately ousted for a batch of bland turnips, but he'd also gotten tripped up on dishes that should have been a cinch for a Maryland chef: crabs and rockfish.

Dean did not return my calls seeking comment. Dean's lawyer, Jimmy A. Bell of Bowie, said Wednesday that the auction would not come to pass.

"It's not going to happen," Bell said. "It's a nonissue. It's a nonstory." Bell declined to elaborate.

If there's a last-minute deal in the works to call off the auction, no one at Jonathan Melnick Auctioneers was calling me back to discuss it. The auction was still listed on the company's website.

Right to left

In other restaurant news — I can't help it; I'm also doing The Sun's dining blog these days — the Rev. Terry Jones, the pyromaniacal Florida pastor whose threat to burn the Quran on Sept. 11 sparked violent protests around the world, inspired a happier reaction right here in Baltimore: a half-price entree deal.

Restaurateur Riccardo Bosio was so outraged that he offered a discount to Sotto Sopra diners who came in that evening with their own holy books. Though Jones never went through with his plan, Bosio held up his end of the deal.

"Thirty-five people showed up, and loved the idea," Bosio said via e-mail. "We had Mormon books, Korans, bibles, and Jewish prayer books. I learned to read from right to left! Holy cow. Smart people, those who can do that."

Off she went

Four years ago, I wrote a little blurb about Mary Terzi, who for 20 years had been making salad for the 150 people who dined at Baltimore's Little Italy Lodge on Friday nights. She was then 100 years old and going strong.

Terzi died Sept. 8. After my colleague Frederick Rasmussen wrote an obituary about her, he got an e-mail from one of Terzi's grandsons, Mark J. Potter, who happens to be executive director of the Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust Inc.

"My grandmother was actually two in one," he wrote. "She was the classic Italian grandmother prior to my grandfather's death in 1975 … cooking … food … cooking food … housedresses. After he died she put on a pants suit and headed to Hawaii and never stopped."

Drink up

Among those who showed up at Martin O'Malley's Canton campaign headquarters on primary night: a soldier who'd met O'Malley when the governor visited Iraq in February.

"We kind of hit it off," said Mike Ball, a 22-year-old Army specialist and UMBC sophomore who was overseas from October to May. "He said, 'Hey, when you guys get home, look me up. We'll have a beer.' "

After Ball got back to Maryland, he posted "Gov. O'Malley, where's my beer?" on Facebook.

Soon afterward, he received an e-mail with this in the subject line: "BEER." It was from O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese. It read: "How about that beer with the governor?"

"I was kinda shocked," Ball said.

Plans for an earlier get-together fell through, but Ball claimed his beer with the governor at the primary victory party.

In a tie?

Two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Stephen Stills — he was inducted as a member of both Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash — played four songs for about 100 people Wednesday in the Baltimore County backyard of Martin G. Knott Jr. Knott organized the event as a $500-per-couple fundraiser for Governor O'Malley. The big shocker: The counterculture icon appeared in jacket and tie. The slightly smaller shocker: O'Malley left the music to Stills. Among those who attended: Attorney General Doug Gansler; Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith and, fresh off his Democratic primary victory, the man who hopes to succeed him, Kevin Kamenetz; Bill Ferguson, who'd just upset state Sen. George Della in the Democratic primary; and City Councilman Bill Cole.

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