Celebrity Chef Secrets On Entertaining On A Budget - TheStreet

Interested in stimulating your taste buds without splurging? Bravo's Top Chef (GE) favorite Sam Talbot knows a thing or two about buying food on a budget. In fact, a preoccupation with freshness and tasteful simplicity determines his shopping habits. His professional secret to making great meals on the cheap? Preparation. “Before I go to the store, I always know what I want to cook and what I will need to cook it,” he says.

This celebrity chef recommends local markets for those looking to buy basic foods for less. “Local markets are great for buying things like cheese, milk and eggs for good prices– like the ones at Union Square [in New York City],” he says.

Meanwhile, rushing around without a plan for spending is a no-no and can cost you, says Talbot. “Take it slow – cooking will always be around.” And once you are inspired, remember that laying down big bucks is not compulsory for creating a sophisticated meal. “When I cook, I like to keep it really simple and light – not a lot of sauces,” says Talbot. “I usually buy what’s in season, like cherries, which are in season right now.”

Talbot, who also loves seafood, suggests that likeminded foodies take a trip to Whole Foods (WFMI), where the fish is fresh and bountiful. “Their seafood is great!”

As for his TV past, the Top Chef contestant says that the show taught him “how to take criticism.” However, criticism was not on MainStreet's mind when we sampled some of his palate-pleasing treats at his newly-opened Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y. (Apparently, we’re not the only ones who liked it. Recently, Ralph Lauren (RL) and Jerry Seinfeld were spotted have brunch there recently.)

The spread included seafood ceviche sprinkled with blueberries and popcorn, a delicately peppered scallop perched on pickled watermelon, and an elegantly garnished crab salad on a bed of lettuce. (To be sure, the Season 2, third runner-up’s venture evidences that an official win is not necessary when it comes to conquering the taste buds.)

Whether you want to sit and let your hair bleach in the sun while sipping on a cocktail or surf the waves at a nearby beach, or just get some of Talbot’s life lessons, his Surf Lodge should be on your grocery list.