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'Top Chef' star Mendelsohn living out hockey dreams

by Tal Pinchevsky

There are some nice perks that come with being a prominent celebrity chef. The notoriety that comes with competing on one of television's top cooking competitions certainly doesn't hurt either. But when it comes time to take advantage of these opportunities, Spike Mendelsohn just wants to get closer to his favorite sport.

"I'm a huge hockey fan. I'm originally from Montreal, so I was a Habs fan for years," Mendelsohn, who owns a number of restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area and competed on two different seasons of Bravo's popular "Top Chef" show, told "I've been in D.C. now for almost five years. I root for the [Washington] Capitals and go to all their games."

With a couple of restaurants located near the Capitol in Washington, Mendelsohn's eateries have become destination dining for numerous people in government. The First Family even has been known to stop by his establishments, which include his chain of Good Stuff eateries and his We, the Pizza pizzeria. The celebrity chef even has been involved in First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to reform school lunches nationwide. But when it comes to hosting special guests, Mendelsohn gets most excited when members of the Capitals come by.

"I've had some good times with them on my turf," Mendelsohn said. "Rather than hockey skates and sticks, it's knives and cutting boards. The grass is always greener on the other side. I'm enamored to be around hockey players because that's what I wanted to do. Some of the players, when they come around, they're a little envious of my cooking skills."

Lots of people know Spike Mendelsohn as a celebrity chef, but he's also one of the Washington Capitals' biggest fans and a regular at Verizon Center. (Photo: Bravo TV)

For the lifelong hockey fan, fantasy became reality last April when he was a special guest for a Capitals home game against the Florida Panthers. Over the course of the evening, Mendelsohn met with players before puck drop, rode on the Zamboni, and even paraded around the arena wearing the team mascot's outfit. The experience was filmed and will air on Wednesday's episode of Bravo's "Life After Top Chef."

"It was so much fun," he said. "I got to ride the Zamboni, which was a dream come true. It was more special because I got to invite my dad to be on the other Zamboni. We had a good time. The highlight for me was seeing my 74-year-old father with a huge smile. Just to have the whole family there to watch the game. It was a great evening."

The one-of-a-kind night for 32-year-old Mendelsohn was the latest in a series of unique experiences he has had with the Capitals since coming to Washington. For the Caps, those experiences usually are an opportunity to enjoy some good food from one of the area's top chefs. For Mendelsohn, it's a chance to combine his two greatest passions.

"I was equally as excited cooking with the Caps as when I was cooking at the White House with the President," Mendelsohn said. "They definitely have an enthusiasm for food. It's fun to watch them. They're big boys, so you've got to cook big portions."

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