■ Rover’s owner/chef Thierry Rautureau will compete during the upcoming second season of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.” If he wins the competition, Rautureau’s charity of choice, Food Lifeline in Shoreline, will receive a prize. photo courtesy of THIERRY RAUTUREAU
■ Rover’s owner/chef Thierry Rautureau will compete during the upcoming second season of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.” If he wins the competition, Rautureau’s charity of choice, Food Lifeline in Shoreline, will receive a prize. photo courtesy of THIERRY RAUTUREAU
From his birth on a kitchen table to his upcoming appearance on the second season of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” Thierry Rautureau has spent a lifetime around food.
Growing up in a small French village with 11 houses, the owner and chef of Rover’s in Madison Valley said someone was always cooking in his house and there was always food on the table.
At 14, Rautureau (pronounced “row-to-row”) began a two-year cooking apprenticeship in Cholet, France. After six years of traditional French culinary training, he moved to the United States, working in restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles for a few years before buying Rover’s in 1987 and settling in Madison Park.
Known as the “Chef in the Hat” for his ever-present fedora, Rautureau has done several television appearances throughout his career on various networks, including CBS and the Food Network.
When the producers of “Top Chef Masters” contacted Rautureau about three or four months ago, asking if he wanted to be a contestant on the show, he was a bit reluctant to accept.
“It took me a little while to decide,” he said.
Rautureau said it was an honor to be asked and that it would be exciting to be on the show, but he wasn’t sure he could fulfill the time commitment the show entailed.
After a few weeks, with a lot of encouragement from his staff at Rover’s, he decided he could do it and flew to Los Angeles to shoot the show.

The competition
According to the show’s website, 22 chefs will compete against each other in a series of weekly challenges for the title of Top Chef Master and a prize for a charity of their choice.
Rautureau’s charity is Food Lifeline, a nonprofit in Shoreline that distributes food to shelters and food banks throughout western Washington.
“It’s a very, very beautiful organization,” he said.
Season two of “Top Chef Masters” premieres April 7 at 11 p.m. on Bravo and will move to its regular time period of 10 p.m. the following week.
Because the show has not aired yet, Rautureau is contractually bound to remain close-lipped about many details about the show, such as when it was shot and how long it took, the types of meals the chefs prepared for challenges and, of course, the end results.
Rautureau also doesn’t want to ruin people’s viewing experiences. “I don’t want to spoil the soup!” he said. “The less I tell you, the more surprises there will be.”
But Rautureau was able to say he enjoyed his time on the show. He said he had fun and there was “great camaraderie among everybody.”
Rautureau is one of three chefs representing Seattle on “Top Chef Masters.” Maria Hines, owner and chef of Tilth in Wallingford, and Jerry Traunfeld, owner and chef of Poppy downtown, are also contestants on the show.
Like Rautureau, Traunfeld said being one of three Seattleites on the show feels terrific.
“Seattle’s restaurant scene has grown immensely in the last decade, and it is now being recognized as an important and influential food town,” he said.
Traunfeld, who is competing for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, has known Rautureau since 1980 and said he is a great chef and a wonderful, warm and fun-loving person.

A mainstay
If the countless regulars at Rover’s — both local and from out of town — prove anything, it would be that Traunfeld’s opinion about Rautureau is shared — and it’s no surprise. Rautureau has been part of the Madison Valley and Madison Park communities, as a business owner and a resident, for more than two decades.
In addition to Rover’s, the husband and father of two is opening a second restaurant, Luc, which will be next door to Rover’s on the corner of 28th Avenue East and East Madison Street.
Rautureau said Luc is scheduled to open mid- to late-April and will serve simple fare such as burgers, soups and salads.
With one established restaurant under his belt and another one soon to be opened, it is clear Rautureau is not leaving the area anytime soon.
“This is my ’hood,” he  said. “We’ve made lots of great friends.”