A famous face from the Food Network was in the Valley this week.
The restaurant’s parking lot on Tuesday was cordoned off to accommodate a TV production crew’s worth of cars, trucks, and equipment.
Burrell herself was inside the eatery — where, the Valley Indy was politely informed, cameras and note-taking were not allowed — but took to Twitter Tuesday to note the perfect weather and lament the fact that she couldn’t take a motorcycle ride.
Kevin Harding, a line producer for Los Angeles-based Smart Dog/Valencia Productions, said the premise of the show is simple: lending a hand to eateries in search of new chefs.
“Basically the idea of the show is we go around the country and find restaurants that need our help,” Harding said.
Tavern 1757 was opened last October by Tony Mavuli, who also owns the venerable Inn at Villa Bianca next door.
Harding said the show’s producers start with a stack of chef applications and spend several weeks whittling the list down to the four best candidates, whose skills are then tested by Burrell.
“We basically give them the most intense job interview anyone could ever think of,” Harding said.
During each show, two challenges narrow the field down from four contestants to two, who then face off against each other in a final challenge.
The final challenge — being told to wow a crowd of 60 local dignitaries and higher-ups with a meal of their own creation.
That portion of the show was being filmed Tuesday.
One of the dignitaries, Derby Mayor Anthony Staffieri, said he’ll be tougher to impress than most.
“I’ve got a little bit of experience,” Staffieri, a former restaurateur, said. “If they cook Italian, I’ll be a lot more critical, because I always compare to my restaurant when we go out to eat.
“I’m looking forward to having good food, maybe something new or unique, and difficult,” Staffieri went on. “I think it’s just awesome. And we get to experience some fabulous cooking.”
Seymour First Selectman Kurt Miller was also on hand Tuesday evening and was glad the restaurant was getting publicity from the show.
“It’s great a local business can get this kind of exposure,” Miller said. “It truly shows some of the greatest, family-owned businesses in Seymour that are a backbone of the community.”
The TV production even sampled some other local fare.
Burrell and her crew stopped at the Dew Drop Inn at 25 North Ave. for a few drinks and a meal Monday night.
Owner Jason Carlucci said he didn’t get a chance to chat with Burrell because the bar was hopping during her visit.
Carlucci said she was low-key, as were the patrons in the bar who recognized her.
One thing stood out.
“Her hair is as amazing in person as it is on television,” Carlucci said.
The Valley Indy attempted to harass Burrell on Twitter while she dined at the Dew:
.@chefanneburrell hey can you pay the Valley Indy’s tab at the Dew Drop? We’re a non-profit and times are tough. Also, try the wings.— The Valley Indy (@ValleyIndy) June 3, 2013
She didn’t take the bait.
Was the Dew Drop owner nervous about serving a famous . . .
“No,” Carlucci said, interrupting the question. “I stand by my product.”
Carlucci said the staff at Tavern 1757 recommended the Dew Drop as a place to check out after she was done filming.
Local fans of the crazy-haired chef were excited, naturally.
“I can’t believe she’s basically right down the road,” said Dan Mott, a 17-year-old Oxford High School senior.
“Chef Wanted” is one of his favorite shows on the Food Network, Mott said.
Burrell’s popular because she’s down to earth — but a bit wacky.
“She’s like a crazy biker,” he said. “She’s not as abrasive as (‘Kitchen Nightmares’ Gordon) Ramsey, but she has a good yell here and there.”
The show gets about 1 million viewers per week on the Food Channel.
With reporting and harassing Tweets from Eugene Driscoll.