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Kitchen star: Fort Greene cook competes on ‘Top Chef’

Locally-sourced celebrity: Silvia Barban’s recently-opened restaurant, La Rina Pastificio and Vino in Fort Greene, features a charming backyard space.
Brooklyn Paper
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She’s at the “Top” of her game!

A Fort Greene chef with a just-launched restaurant will vie for the $125,000 top prize on the new season of Bravo’s cooking competition show “Top Chef,” premiering on Dec. 1. The culinary contestant could not reveal any secrets from the upcoming season, which pits 16 chefs against one another in Charleston, South Carolina, but said that appearing on the program was a victory worth celebrating.

“Just being on the show for me is a big achievement,” said Silvia Barban, who co-owns Italian eatery LaRina Pastificio and Vino in Fort Greene and is the executive chef at Clinton Hill’s Aita. “I’m a huge fan of ‘Top Chef’ and it was a dream come true.”

Barban was born and raised in northern Italy, where she learned the art of cooking top-notch Italian fare. She moved to New York in 2012 and took over as the head chef Aita two years later, serving up dishes such as oxtail ravioli and grigliata mista — a mixture of grilled beef, lamb, and pork.

Her chance to appear on TV came through serendipity, while she helping out a friend’s application to “Top Chef.” A representative from the cooking competition called Barban while checking her friend’s references, and encouraged Barban to apply herself. She took the advice, aced the interview and cooking portion, and soon had a spot on the mouth-watering reality program (her friend did not make the cut, she said).

The show started taping in South Carolina in May, and Barban opened her pasta shop and restaurant La Rina Pastificio and Vino a few months later. A gag order prevented her from discussing her participation on the show until recently, but she said that customers have been thrilled to find out that they are eating food prepared by a “Top Chef” contestant.

“They can not believe it,” she said.

Barban said that she didn’t do anything special to prepare for the competition. Her day-to-day presence in the kitchen of Aita kept her skills sharp, she said.

For the day show’s premiere next week, she plans to take the day off, and she will watch at her friend’s apartment in Bushwick. And for once, she will put down her knives and relish the experience with friends, without the pressure of preparing a meal for the night.

“My plans are to watch it with my best friends and the people who support me,” she said. “They’re going to cook for me.”

Watch “Top Chef” Season 14 starts on Bravo. Dec. 1 at 10 pm.

Try Barban’s food at LaRina Pastificio and Vino [387 Myrtle Ave. at Vanderbilt Avenue in Fort Greene. (718) 852-0001, www.larinabk.com] and at Aita [132 Greene Ave. at Waverly Avenue in Clinton Hill, (718) 576-3584, www.aitarestaurant.com].

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 12:26 am, November 29, 2016
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