Tocque Roulette: Kitchen-Swapping Spreads Among Chefs

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Tiffany Derry will be in the kitchen at Loft 610 tonight, joining fellow Top Chef All-Stars competitor Tre Wilcox to produce a $100 nine-course meal. And while tonight's supper may be served with extra on- and off-screen drama, restaurant trend watchers say chefs showing up in each other's kitchens is likely to be a recurring theme in 2011.

Michael Whiteman of Baum & Whiteman Co., and food and restaurant consulting company, provocatively calls the practice "wife-swapping, but with restaurants."

"It keeps things interesting," he e-mails. "The idea is that chefs swap their restaurant kitchens for a night or two, bringing their food to new customers."

Much like the original wife-swapping fad, Whiteman says the concept got its start in Europe and has caught on in California. He was unable to provide any specific examples because he'd accidentally deleted his research on restaurant-swapping and dressed-up sandwiches.

But diners in Dallas have already been privy to the work of a few wandering chefs. David Uygur -- who's been wowing friends with sneak peeks at Lucia, his new Oak Cliff restaurant - used the 48 Nights pop-up project as a testing ground for his menu. And Sharon Hage this week was among seven chefs tapped to prepare a truffle dinner at Culpepper's Steak House in Rockwall.

Whiteman likens the concept to food trucks, which allow displaced chefs to share their art without incurring massive debts. As the economy puts an increasing number of chefs out of work, Whiteman anticipates their will be more cooks in one kitchen.

"Some chefs now have permanent one-night stands, taking over humble dives or diners once every week," Whiteman writes in his report. "Often with only one or two dozen seats, snagging a place at these pop-ups will become something of a status symbol and a culinary adventure."

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