Courtesy NBCSan Francisco chef Melissa King

Two Bay Area chefs making 'Top Chef' debut this week

For two Bay Area chefs on Season 12 of “Top Chef,” which premieres on Bravo at 10 p.m. Wednesday, top speed was essential.

“'Is it real? It that really the time that they have?'” San Jose chef Keriann von Raesfeld remember thinking during previous seasons of the popular culinary contest. She faces a sudden-death, “quickfire” challenge on the first episode, scrambling to shuck a pile of clams. “It's real!”

“You have to be able to think quick on your feet and improvise,” agrees San Francisco chef Melissa King, who was tapped for “Top Chef” after tying on her apron in the kitchens of “Iron Chef” winner Ron Siegel of the Ritz-Carlton Dining Room and Dominique Crenn of Luce and Atelier Crenn.

Von Raesfeld, who won the title of World's Greatest Young Chef in 2008, received her trial by fire while opening her own fine-dining restaurant on Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.

“I was 22 years old, and I was executive chef,” she says. “I was managing 45-year-old men who'd been working on the ship for 20 years.”

Facing Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and the other “Top Chef” judges was its own challenge.

“To actually be there being critiqued by some of the best chefs in the world … is extremely intimidating as a chef,” King says.

The 16 contestants were also cut off from their families and friends.

“My kids are very young, 3 and 1, and just being away from them was the hardest thing for me,” says von Raesfeld, though she hopes she can inspire other moms. “We need strong women and moms in the kitchen!”

King missed her family, but also the special flavors of the Bay Area.

“What I really missed after being away is Philz Coffee,” King says. “And Tartine's sourdough bread. …. Toast and coffee, and I'm happy.”

QUICK TAKES

A matchmaking service says San Francisco State alumni are the seventh-most datable in the nation, TheBoldItalic blog reports; The Dating Ring put students from New York's Colgate University at the top of the list (great teeth), while UC Berkeley ended up at No. 7 on the least-datable list. … “I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control,” singer Chris Brown tweeted Monday, before ackknowleding in his next tweet that he really needs to shut up.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Actor Jay Pharoah (“Saturday Night Live”) is 27. … Director Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) is 32. … Actor Ben Whishaw (“Cloud Atlas”) is 34. … Singer Usher is 36. … Singer Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks is 40. … Actress Lori Petty (“Orange is the New Black”) is 51. … World Golf Hall of Famer Beth Daniel is 58. … Singer Sir Cliff Richard is 74. … Fashion designer Ralph Lauren is 75. … Actor Roger Moore (“The Spy Who Loved Me”) is 87.

Got scoops or Bay Area celebrity gossip? Email scoop@sfexaminer.com.

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