“Will Work for Food” Should Work on Editing

Though he was not selected as Food TV’s “Next Food Network Star,” class clown and food dork Adam Gertler managed to win his way into the hearts of, well, anyone who happened to catch the very last episode of the Next Food Network Star, because he basically redeemed himself for every stupid thing he had ever done on the show prior to that. By the end of the season, I was a fan.

Adam Gertler Will Work for Food
Photo and logo courtesy of the Food Network

He didn’t win his own cooking show, but the Food Network must have seen star quality or kowtowed to the bombardment of viewer comments saying they couldn’t understand the final verdict that voted Adam Gertler out, because he’s back. His show, Will Work for Food, runs Monday nights on the Food Network and features Gertler acting, for the most part, like a dork, as he shows viewers all of the different, crazy, cool, and downright bizarre jobs that have to do with food. Each show features two different “jobs” and Gertler will suit up to partake in both — for better or for worse.

For the most part, Gertler is likable and easy to watch. The majority of jobs they find for him to do are actually interesting, and a lot of action shots fill out the show as we watch the host hamming it up for the camera while trying to execute the tasks.

But Gertler isn’t all nerdery and jokes. A sincere version of him arises during some of the voiceovers while he explains (a little too briefly) of how the jobs work. The serious version of Gertler is actually disarming and compelling and almost makes the show reminiscent of “Unwrapped” with Marc Summers… that is, until the serious explanations are cut short and the show reverts back to clips of Gertler acting like a dork again.

(Note to Food Network Execs: We don’t want another Guy Fieri. Actually, we don’t want Guy Fieri in the first place, so I don’t know what makes you guys think we want a second one. Marc Summers, on the other hand, we like. Give us more of that.)

Anyway, the show relies on Gertler doing ridiculous things, repeatedly. It’s borderline unfortunate. Many of the jobs are quite interesting and could use more explanation than we’re given.

Recent shows feature Gertler visiting an abalone farm, and he takes us through little clips of what it’s like to work on the farm. Not enough questions were answered. I really would have liked to have heard more nuts and bolts about how the farm actually worked — instead, we just got little glimpses of this vast farm behind him. I appreciate the shots of Gertler doing and saying stupid things, but the producers of the show rely more on his doing dumb things than on his ability to connect to the audience on a more serious note, which he is clearly capable of doing if given the chance.

The other half of the show was watching Gertler learning to be a Benihana chef, flipping food and utensils around a hot grill. I liked the humor in that, but it was just too much. Slow motion replays of Gertler almost hitting a customer with a piece of flying food was not necessary. It’s funny the first time, not the second and third.

To give both segments of the show equal time, there was a lot of repetition on the Benihana chef (we heard them say it takes six months to train to be a Benihana chef — which we only needed to hear the first time, not three) and not enough information given on the abalone farm. I would almost like to see it formatted a little more like Unwrapped, where we get three or four different jobs per show all relating to a main theme, and with a larger variety of jobs featured, everything just keeps moving right along nicely, without getting stagnant. With only featuring two different jobs, things get stretched out way too long. Seriously. Long segments of Adam Gertler acting as a “wine angel” brings a whole new meaning to the word “forever”: He’s a dork and he’s a wine angel. We get it.

I’ll continue to watch this show periodically because it’s interesting, but I’ll have my remote in hand to fast-forward through the slow, repetitive bits.

Advertisements

Top Chef Season 5, Final Episode Part 1: The Final Four Become the Final Three, but not Before Becoming the Final Five

Excuse me everyone, I need to speak to Fabio alone please.  Thank you.

fabio

If food be the music of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Twelfth Night Act 1, scene 1, 1-3.  More or less

 

 

Spoiler alert there, sorry.

OK, so Jamie, Jeff and Leah had a chance to get back in the competition.  I admit I was rooting for Jamie, as she had been strong throughout the show, although putting Leah back in the competition would have been fun just to see Hosea squirm some more.  But Jeff won and got to be in the Final Five, but had to win to continue, which I thought was a fair handicap for having been voted out.  And Emeril was there, but I guess you can’t go to New Orleans without him showing up so that’s ok.  I wish they had tied in Jeff’s second chance with the rebirth of New Orleans a little more, as it was it just looked like another reality show twist, when it could have been something a little more meaningful.

Hosea had done his homework on Creole cooking,  a rare smart strategic move in a competition where the chefs seemed reluctant to pick up those kind of clues.  So how much are we buying Stefan’s arrogance?  I have had many conversations with Squidlegs on this subject and I still can’t really tell.  It is obvious that Bravo is trying to make him into this season’s villain, and I love rooting against euro-trash as much as the next guy.  But every once in a while he sneaks in a chuckle as if to say it’s all in good fun, just busting balls with fellow chefs. 

So Carla made an amazing-looking oyster stew, Hosea’s gumbo kicked Stefan’s gumbo’s ass, Stefan took some smoke breaks, Jeff did good food but not good enough, Fabio made bread but didn’t really know what Creole was, Carla’s drink was better without booze than anyone else’s with booze (how did that happen?), oh and lest I forget, Padma wore a collar.  Full stop. 

top-chef-season-5-513-episode_01

No.  Words.

 

I was really hoping Stefan would go instead of Fabio, but he didn’t.  So now down to the Final Three, is my prediction going to change?  No.  I’m still going with Carla.  Hosea could surprise us I guess, but I think he has skills, whereas Stefan has skillz, and the z makes all the difference.  But Carla is peaking in the playoffs, and if it comes down to great food with soul, I think she’s got it made.

 

~Citizen Chef

Food Network’s “Chopped” is Half Baked

A similar pattern has evolved with first season Food Network programs; their initial ideas start out as mimicry of another successful program, but generic enough that the continuing seasons are much more developed than the previous. It’s as if the Food Network either didn’t have the creative chops to come up with their take on a great program or they are too scared to dump money into something that has the potential to tank, so they serve up a program that’s only a half-concocted idea at best. After the show airs, they get a better idea of how to make the show more receptive to the public and the later seasons reflect it.

Chopped Logo

The latest brainchild, “Chopped” is a great example of this kind of development. When the show first aired, reviews came flooding in that this was a complete rip off of Bravo’s darling “Top Chef.” For this reason alone, I wasn’t so thrilled to sit down and start watching. I didn’t even read other reviews about the show. I was already watching “Top Chef,” so why would I bother watching its clone?

This weekend, I finally did, and walked away with some mixed feelings. To summarize, the hour long program selects four professional chefs to compete in three challenges: An appetizer, main course, and dessert. Each dish is dictated by a preselected combination of ingredients that are revealed right before the challenge begins. All ingredients in the basket must be incorporated into the dish. At the end of each challenge, the chef with the most unsuccessful dish gets “chopped”, that is, they are eliminated from the show. The panel of judges, all experienced chefs and restaurateurs who get to watch what’s happening in the kitchen (a la Iron Chef America), taste the dishes and determine, not the winner, but the loser. The winner is the person who makes it through all challenges without getting chopped, and wins $10,000.

If it sounds a bit like a Top Chef Elimination Challenge, I suppose it is. To me, it’s a hybrid of many cooking shows, but it feels a lot more to me like the fledgling stages of a stripped-down Iron Chef America. Reviews comparing it to Top Chef may be a little off, because it isn’t quite that. What makes Chopped better than Top Chef is, rather than providing gimmicks, themes, and expensive product placement, Chopped selects what might seem to be a random smattering of ingredients and demands the chefs to use them all in a dish together. The viewer gets a look at the ingredients and thinks, along with the contestants, “How in the hell am I going to do this?” The viewer is then brought into the process of clever food problem solving. After all, they are the Food Channel and their viewers want it to be all about the food, not about the gimmicks and product placement. We get enough of that from the channel as it is. (No, I do not want a Rachel Ray “Yum-O” knife, a Mario Batali lunch tote, or a vat of butter sucked out of Paula Deen’s arteries. Thanks anyway.)

Something else that I like a lot is that the show selects actual professional chefs, regardless of how charismatic they may appear on television. Chopped can sacrifice that element because this is definitely a cooking show, one that we don’t have to live with the contestants from week to week. I’m excited to finally see people who we know can cook, because they are professional, executive chefs, and in the end, only the food matters. If they have a television personality of a potato I can forgive that, because if their food is magnificent it doesn’t matter.

Where the show gets clumsy is at its attempts to connect the audience with the food. Through the television, the viewer can only enjoy the show with two senses: Hearing and Sight. The usual taste, smell and touch that comes with eating is unavailable, so the viewer is largely reliable on the show to provide the rest of that information. To do so, through the challenges the contestants are interviewed and provide their thought processes as to how they are going to solve the challenges. This is handy and necessary, but there are far too many of them, and they are way too long. Someone needs to get into the editing booth and do a little extra cutting. After the first challenge, it was apparent to me that the only reason we were seeing clips of the same chef over and over is because that chef was Red Shirt: He’s the extra crewman who gets out of the ship on a strange planet and instantly dies so Kirk, Spock, and McCoy can go on to beat monsters and score the green chick at the end. It becomes a little predictable and anti-climatic.

To make it conflicting and surprising for the viewers, we get the judging period where the dishes are served up and the discussion begins. This is especially where the show could use some work. The judges table is, by far, the most important part of the show. Not only does it provide the controversy and climax of the drama, it fills in all of the little details that the viewer can’t be a part of – not only because of the sensory issue, but because our panel of judges are experts that we trust and derive most of the excitement from watching their arguments about each dish.

Unless the judging portion is incredibly short and somewhat contradictory.

Chopped takes too little time with the judging portion, which is unfortunate because that provides the additional senses that connects the viewer with the audience as well as provide the whole plot of the challenge: Does the dish taste good? Could it have been better? Is it horrible? (Often times, we hope it is because it’s good drama.) Do other dishes surpass it?

The judging portion was way too short, and what comments made it through to the show makes the verdict confusing. Dishes that received only negative comments won the challenge, while a dish with mostly positive comments was chopped. The show’s inability to connect the audience with what’s happening in the room is a big downfall. By the time the verdict is reached, I didn’t even care who was chopped and who got to go on.

This needs to improve. The judging portion of the show is the guilty pleasure for the viewer because, not only do we want to see people soar, we want to see people crash and burn. We need the conflict for a good drama (even a food television show needs one), and Chopped isn’t yet providing it.

A big criticism I heard about the show was the host, Ted Allen. The reason I haven’t mentioned Ted’s hosting in this review is because the Food Network has pretty much relegated him to the role of the tacky, plastic parsley on the side of a diner dish. Now, I like Ted, but I dislike what the Food Network is trying to do to him. Attempts are made to connect him with the show, but he’s sort of the off-to-the-side host who doesn’t even get to sit at the table with the big kids. What they should do is try to make him more involved, rather than an outside viewer. In fact, when he addresses the camera and viewing audience, it makes the separation between the show and the viewer more pronounced. He’s trying to act as liaison between the two, and it isn’t yet meshing. Someone’s got to find a better place for him and, as someone who knows a lot about the food, he should be a lot more involved. Right now, he’s the inedible and offensive garnish that gets thrown under the table and is forgotten.

What We’re Watching: Last Restaurant Standing

For all you food reality show lovers out there, BBC America is back with Raymond Blanc and his incredibly picky “inspectors” for a second season of Last Restaurant Standing.

Last Restaurant Standing

Nine couples are chosen and handed keys to a vacant restaurant space and given the seed money to start their restaurant. Each couple chooses their own restaurant’s concept, menu and decor — then try to run an actual restaurant, front to back. Raymond Blanc’s inspectors show up and evaluate the entire package of the restaurant, and they sit down with Blanc to determine who gets to carry on, and whose restaurant shuts down. In the end, one couple gets to open a restaurant with world renown chef Raymond Blanc.

That last sentence really shouldn’t be ended with a period. It should have at least eighty exclamation marks.

I’m in love with this show — it is a must see. The show runs on Tuesday nights, typically for one hour. The first show was longer. If you missed out on the first episode, BBC America is replaying it periodically – just check the website for details.

Top Chef Season 5, Episode 9: It’s good to be the king, okay well not really

First off, let’s get the canoodling discussion out of the way.  Hosea and Leah were all like “oh you’re so cute” and “no you are cute” and all smooch smoochie cuddle cuddle and stuff.  And then they felt bad about it because they both have significant others, but nothing happened except cuddling and some kissing.  Ok, maybe Leah can use that excuse.  Assuming her beau is a guy, since they didn’t screw, she might survive this with her relationship intact.  But Hosea?  Dude you snuggled.  SNUGGLED.  The level of emotional intimacy that implies means that your girlfriend is going to stab you in the heart, like, a whole bunch of times.  You would have been in less trouble if you screwed her because then you could have played the whole “oh it didn’t mean anything it was just sex” thing.  But with cuddling involved, you get all the pain with only half of the pleasure.

…which leads us quite nicely to RESTAURANT WARS!!!

…just waiting for the people I lost with that analogy to catch up to us… ok.

See the problem with Restaurant Wars, is that one person is elevated to Head Chef status, and invariably is the one to get the axe if things go wrong.  I will go out on a limb here, and with the absence of evidence to the contrary (because I am too lazy to look it up) I will state that it has always been the Head Chef that has gone home.  So if you are going to throw a Quickfire, now is the time.

The issue is that in a real kitchen, the employees are working for the Head Chef and they work hard for him/her because if they don’t live up to his/her standards their ass is canned.  In the best restaurants, they are living up to that standard because they believe in that chef’s vision.  But in this case, you have four people who were equals a second ago, and then one of them makes a good soup and then they are in charge.  And if the team fails, they go home.  So they have half the power, all the blame.

The other problem with Restaurant Wars, is the maitre’d position.  Of all the stretches Top Chef makes when testing the contestant’s Chefability, none is so far afield as this one.  Being front of house is a completely different skill-set than being a chef, and I daresay one that you don’t have to have to be a chef.  Thomas Keller, from all accounts is fairly taciturn personally and would do horribly in the greeter role.  But somehow he survives with only his cooking skill and vision to aid him.  There really is no reason at all (beside it being funny television) to have one of the chefs fill this roll.  Might as well have one chef work as a waiter and one as a dishwasher while you’re at it.

That all being said, if you are on this show you have to know that.  You have to know that if you are the winner of the Quickfire, you are going home if anyone on your team messes up.  And this is where Radhika fell down.  I would think that you would want to be cooking in your own restaurant, but that’s just me.  But you need someone that can schmooze a little.  The other team wisely picked Fabio, who did fabulous.  On Radhika’s team there was a lot of “oh gee I don’t know, I don’t want to do it, do you want to do it?”  NO.  You man up and say “Sorry pretty boy, you are out front.  Now mousse up and put on some short-shorts!  I know you brought them!”

But she didn’t.  She said “oh I guess I’ll do it then” and did a crap job of it.  The food was about a tie, so it was her against Fabio and she lost.  Duh.  Her failure was not that she wasn’t a good maitre’d, it was that she didn’t take charge enough to make sure that she used her talent wisely.  Hell even veloci-cosby-raptor  would have been sending out positive vibes or some-such happy horsesh*t.

 

~Citizen Chef

Top Chef Season 5, Episode 8: Old McFabio Had a Farm, and all the cows were sexah

This is going to be a shorter post, since I’m already one episode behind, and for the first time in a while, nothing really cheezed me off in this episode.  Well relatively speaking anyway…

 

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE:  Cook like a normal person!!!

As much fun as it was to see how many syllables Fabio could jam into the word “aquarium” this challenge was all about using (gasp) canned ingredients!!  Then it was a race  to see them all tripping over themselves to prove that they always use farm-fresh ingredients of the highest quality.  Yeah, none of your restaurants ever get shipments from the huge Sysco food truck.  Ok, gonna have to call shenanigans on that one.  SHENANIGANS!!!  There, I called it.  Anyway,  Stephan won with a sandwich or something.

 

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE:  Down on the farm

I really wish they would have made them kill the animals themselves to see how “farm-fresh” the chefs really want to be, but that’s just me.  And that brings me to the only rant I have on this episode.  Let’s not all gush about “honoring” the ingredients like it’s a moral high ground.  If you really wanted to “honor” the animal YOU WOULDN’T CUT IT UP AND EAT IT!!  The organic movement, or the localvore movement or any of the related uh, movements, do themselves a disservice when they set their sights too high.  I don’t want to hear about my carbon footprint, I want to know if it’s going to taste good.  And in that regard, aiming at our lower appetites is the more effective, not to mention honest, way to go.  If your rationale for eating within a 100 mile radius of your house is that you want to decrease the gas emissions from the cargo trains not to mention the lower acreage required for root vege – I’m sorry, I stopped listening to myself after “house”.  Why do we have to stray beyond the basic formula (fresher food = tastier food)?

So Ariane butched her butchering and got sent home.  On a side rant, yes I think the right person went home, even though Radhika and Leah didn’t “do much”.  If everything got done, then they did enough.  And if we are talking about honoring the ingredient, Ariane failed.

 

~Citizen Chef

Chocolate Cream Tart

The last time I shared a Dorie Greenspan recipe, it was for Peanut Butter cookies, and I said I would not be sharing another recipe from her book, Baking: From My Home To Yours.

Baking, From My Home To Yours

This isn’t a retraction, because I meant every word. It doesn’t mean I can’t share the pictures.

Chocolate Cream Tart

Typically, I don’t make a lot of desserts. Making them promotes eating them, and eating them makes me fat. However, this weekend I was cooking for a different family than my own, and I found myself in the mood for an actual dessert. After flipping through Dorie Greenspan’s book (and actually forcing myself to avoid the cookie section — it’s so hard to do) I came upon the tarts.

I love tarts, their thick, flaky crusts, their sweet, creamy puddings, their deliciously delectable toppings — you get the picture. Since I needed a chocolate fix, I settled on the Chocolate Cream Tart with Chocolate Shortbread Crust. Since I have now made two successful batches of shortbread, I thought that an attempt at a shortbread crust was now fitting.

The crust itself was amazingly simple. All ingredients are put into a food processor and pulsed until combined. The instructions indicated that everything would end up in pea-sized lumps, stuck together by very cold butter. Somehow mine was powdery and not lumpy. To get the “stickiness” in action, I used a wooden spoon to compact everything down, then it was turned out into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Chocolate Cream Tart Crust

It is then supposed to be frozen or baked with a weight, so the dough doesn’t rise. I did refrigerate it for about 45 minutes; I did not freeze the crust. So when I stuck it into the oven to bake for 25 minutes, I checked on it about half way through the bake time and gently flattened it out with my spoon, then put a large, glass Pyrex measuring cup on top to keep it from rising again.

Baked Chocolate Cream Tart Crust

The crust was then set into the refrigerator to cool while I made the chocolate custard.

Again, for such a delicious and rich dessert, this was very simple. I don’t know why I always associate complete desserts with difficulty — maybe because when I typically try to make a dessert, I like to choose something that has a lot of steps to it. This doesn’t.

Custard 1

The ingredients go into a pot and get whisked. As it cooks, it will begin to thicken. This only took me a few minutes. I’m not one for constant manual whisking (I’m a slacker) but this didn’t annoy me one bit. It was pretty quick, to be honest, and turns into a sweet, thick custard that you’ll want to keep sticking your fingers into.

Custard 2

In the above photo, you can see how it becomes lighter in color and thicker. Melted chocolate is added, then the custard is poured into the shortbread shell.

Custard 3

This is refrigerated until cooled, and a delicious whipped topping is smothered over the top, consisting of heavy whipping cream, sifted powdered sugar and vanilla. The entire package is amazing and an incredible chocolate overload. Any chocolate lover would be happy with this. I would recommend small slices, as it is intense. The whipped cream is also a must on this, as you’re already dealing with chocolate on chocolate and need a little light, special something to go on top.

Slice of Chocolate Cream Tart

Top Chef Season 5, Episode 4: “I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star!”

OK, let’s start with this guy.

And here’s what Anthony Bourdain has to say about him:

Perhaps, then, they should teach the cautionary tale of Rocco DiSpirito as an example of A Chef Who Went Too Far, one who went over the line–messed with the bitch goddess celebrity and got burned. Before television, Rocco was the well-respected chef of the three-star Union Pacific, a bright, charismatic guy with the world on a string. He was known for his skill in the kitchen, his innovative style, and his insistence on quality. As he became more recognized, he began expanding his “brand”, consulting to other restaurants, signing multiple endorsement deals, showing up at openings and promo parties. Now, after his hideous, high-profile, post-ironic “reality” television venture, The Restaurant, has run its humiliating course, he’s no longer the chef of his once excellent Union Pacific; he’s banned from his own eponymous eatery (the cynical and soulless Rocco’s); he’s finally settled protracted litigation with his ex-partner, Jeffrey Chodorow and he can presently be seen hawking cookware with his mom on QVC. It’s been a long, hard, and painfully public fall. In a highly competitive business, a certain amount of backbiting and schadenfreude is to be expected. But, in Rocco’s case, the reaction from his fellow chefs has been positively gleeful.

And in case you were wondering where most of my writing style, thoughts on food, and love of commas comes from, well there you go.

The Quickfire challenge was a breakfast amuse bouche, and I am going to skip right over that, and the resulting “how many bites makes an amuse bouche into an appetizer” discussion. I think we need to figure out this first, and then move on from there.

What our sermon today will be about, is the elimination challenge: present a 3 minute demo of a dish for television. Which implies that to be a successful chef, you have to be famous. Really? Who decided that exactly? I thought we here on Top Chef were above such petty concerns, we leave that to that bastard stepchild The Next Food Network Star. Now I love the Food Network, but that show in particular lacked something for me, and not just contestants who could cook (Oh Snapskies! What? My daughter says it all the time, it must be cool.) The contestants on that show didn’t want to be chefs, they wanted to be tv stars. Only one of those is a noble calling. Here on Top Chef we take struggling cooks and catapult them into the position of their dreams!!!!

Uhm, waitaminute. Back up the Snapskie truck. A quick look at the bios shows that 11 out of the 17 contestants are either working as executive chefs, or own their own business. So what the hell are we actually doing here? We have seen more and more contestants with more and more cooking background, which is great. But if these guys are already established chefs, what do they need to be on this show for? The cash? The exposure? Has Top Chef become what all reality shows eventually become: a platform for people to get rich and famous?

But back to the original question (yes there was one), what does being a “successful” chef look like? In any artistic endevor, there will be people who “sell out”, or at least appear to to others, usually those who are less successful. Is whoring yourself out to the Today show necessary? Is it evil?

There are plenty of chefs who quietly become famous, Thomas Keller being the vanguard for that front. These are not ivory tower chefs who refuse to connect with the public. Chefs that are cooking food that they think tastes good are connecting with the public in the most honest way possible.

Then there are the teacher chefs, and God help me I’m going to mention Bobby Flay. Morimoto standing on the cutting board issue aside, his shows are popular because he teaches people that cooking is easy and fun. And you have to get behind that just a little bit. I’ll even throw Rachel Rae in this category. Yes she’s not a chef, I know that. She knows that. And the person she hires to take care of her dogs makes more money than you and I combined.

And then there is the TV personality. This has to be considered the lowest rung on the ladder, not because it takes any less skill, but because it is the least righteous. Righteous was the word I was looking for 5 paragraphs ago. Here we get into people like Rocco, who seem to have taken the easy way out, been seduced by the trappings and forgotten what they were trying to do in the first place. Cook really good food.

Being a chef is a business, and that brings all sorts of ugly realities into play. It also has a certain amount of fame required, which brings even more ugliness in. And not to sour grapes this whole bit, but that is a large part of why I am not a professional chef. The other parts being, in no particular order: not wanting to work weekends and holidays, I don’t think I could find a kitchen to work in that was set at 71 degree room temp, and I have to have my wife check to see if the meat is done or I will kill my entire family. Don’t get me wrong, part of me would love to be a chef, I mean it’s right under rock star as far as coolness goes. But I tell myself that I have the best parts of being a chef already: I get to cook food for people I love.

And as you are wiping away that small tear lest it run down your rosey cheek, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that you cannot make creme brule in an hour. You would think an executive chef would know that.

~Citizen Chef

Top Chef, Season Five Episode 3: Grant Achatz and other stuff that’s not nearly as cool, but the Foo Fighters were in there too and that’s nice.

Miss Macchiato has been busy posting about food of all things, so it falls to me yet again to dissect this week’s Top Chef.  The guest judge was Grant Achatz of Alinea, which was rated the #1 restaurant in the country.  The French Laundry finished 3rd that year.  I have mad hyperbole skillz but even I am not up to the task of telling you how cool Grant Achatz is.  I know molecular gastronomy is a term on the outs these days, but whatever you want to call it, he was doing it a long time ago, and better than almost anyone.

This is called Hot Potato.  It is a cold potato and truffle soup, served in a paraffin wax bowl.  There is a skewer through the bowl with a hot potato, a chive, parmesan cheese, a black truffle and one (1) salt flake.  You pull the pin out and the hot potato meets the cold potato soup.  Tell me that’s not the coolest thing you’ve ever seen.  Yeah?  Ok, how about this:

That?  Oh that’s just rhubarb.  Seven different textures of rhubarb.  There are 13 different components to that dish.  That’s one course.  The tasting tour has 25 courses.  Oh and he beat cancer, I almost forgot that part.

What kind?  Oh it was tongue cancer.  Yep, he was just your average chef with tongue cancer who went to every doctor he could find and they all told him he would either lose his tongue or die.  He enrolled in a clinical trial that gave him experimental treatment.  He couldn’t taste anything at all, and his face and neck were burned from the chemo and radiation.  He was finally pronounced cancer free the following December.  And Grant’s proudest accomplishment?  He only missed about 6 days of work.  Yeah he worked at the restaurant the whole time, so his employees would know he was still there for them.

SO IF GRANT TELLS YOU THAT YOUR BANANA SMORE THING IS CRAP YOU SAY “THANK YOU SIR, I’M SORRY I HAVE FAILED YOU.” AND THEN YOU TAKE OUT YOUR WAKIZASHI AND PLUNGE IT INTO YOUR BELLY AND HOPE YOU HAVE THE STRENGTH TO CUT UP INTO YOUR HEART SO IT WILL BE A MEANINGFUL DEATH AND YOU DIE!!

So the quickfire they made recipes from the Top Chef cookbook (product plug) which was ok but it would have been cooler if they did it from the Alinea cookbook which I will hyperlink for another product plug but they probably could not have handled it because it’s friggin’ impossible and then no wait you’re making soup ok whatever and Leah wins and she picks all the best people to be on her team and all they come up with funny team names well not really and they are cooking Thanksgiving for the Foo Fighters who are very cool and you should buy their new album (product plug trois) but it’s not really Thanksgiving because they are cooking outside in New York and it’s not snowing and they are playing the concert across from MM’s work “HI MM!” and Richard makes a banana smore with no burnt sugar and loses and goes home the end.

~Citizen Chef

Top Chef, Season Five Episode 2: Canned Ostrich Crab Egg Recipes for your Holiday Table

Citizen Chef:  Ok, are we ready to start watching the next episode?

Miss Macchiato:  Yes, but first let me tell everyone out there that you are an AMAZING cook and an AMAZING writer and are so funny and smart and good lord you are a hottie!!

CC:  Uhm, thanks MM that’s very nice-

MM:  I mean how you don’t have your own cooking show being so talented is beyond me.   You should have a whole CHANNEL devoted to your cooking philsophies and opinions!!

CC:  Well I don’t think that’s-

MM:  Have you ever thought about hosting the Oscars?  You would do a much better job than Jon Stewart.  They should GIVE you an Oscar.  AND let you host it!

CC:  So would now be a good time to let everyone know that I watched the show before you did so you are making me post this by myself and I am just putting words in your mouth?

MM:  Shouldn’t I be the one saying that?

CC:  You are the one saying that.

MM:  I are?  I mean we is?  We doth?  Err wut?

CC:  Oh let’s just start with the rambling already.

MM:  I couldn’t have said it better mys-

CC:  No!  I am not going to let you use that hack joke.

MM:  You mean you are not going to let us-

CC:  And no more grammar humor either.  Just get on with it already.

 

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE:  HOT DOGS GONE WILD

A good hot dog is a joy forever.  And I have to say I am warming up to Fabio, or maybe just getting over his name.  Now see if MM were here, she would post a really cool pic of the Top Chef Fabio with the real Fabio’s hair on him or something like that.  So let’s just “theater of the mind” that now, shall we?  ….. oh man that is funny!  Yeah I can’t do shit like that.  I can barely post pics.  So I realize I am setting myself up for failure when I do this:  I appreciate the fact that Fabio took what was good about the plain old hot dog and made it better, without resorting to stupid chef tricks like “reinventing” it into a hot dog spring roll.  I mean who would be dumb enough to do that?

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE:  A RESTAURANT FULL OF SALIERIS

In a very nice twist, the New York chefs that didn’t make it will be the customers for this challenge.  So not only are they chefs, from New York, who didn’t get on the show, they are chefs from New York who didn’t get on the show who probably realize that the harsher they are about the dishes the more face time they will get on camera.  That my friends, is what we call hi-larity.  It was suprising to note, then, that there were some positive comments.  So snark didn’t totally rule the day.

Anyway, on to what I bring to this little endevor, which is pontification!  First let’s demystify the “OMG we are cooking at CRAFT!!!!”  While it would be nice to work with Tom, it’s not like you are serving the regular lunch crowd, and the restaurant will fail if you don’t live up to Craft’s standards.  The diners were brought in.  It could have been at the high school gymnasium for all that mattered.  What was shocking to me was that two chefs, one of which I thought was going to do well, made the rookie mistake of not paying attention to their ingredients. 

I’ve done it plenty of times.  You find that awesome recipe for grilled lobster tail with asparagus coulis, and then you realize that it’s November and you are in Wisconsin so there will be no grilling, and no asparagus, coulised or otherwise.  To quote from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook:

“You may have thought you wanted to make strawberry tart when you headed out to the market, your head filled with visions of the brightly colored fraises des bois set on a picnic table in France you saw in a magazine or cookbook.  But this is not France- and chances are, strawberries aren’t in season, and the Californian or Mexican ones, sitting in neat rows at the supermarket, are woody, watery, flavorless, and unripe.  Time for a change of plans.”

The two sinners in question are Hosea and Jill.  Jill had never really impressed, and her choice of ostrich eggs for a quiche was just daffy.  There are plenty of recipes that would take advantage of the ostrich egg, like uhm something that calls for a metrick f*ckton of egg yolk.  But if you are going to just blend it all together, what the hell is the point??  Ok, I think the Bourdain has worn off so I can probably get through the rest of the post without cursing.  And then there is Hosea, with an almost classic case of blinder-itis.  He went to the market and had already decided on a cold crab salad, before finding out if they had any, you know, crab.  There are plenty of uses for canned crab, but a cold presentation isn’t one of them.  Go to the store, see what’s good, THEN decide what you are making for dinner.  N00bs

 

~Citizen Chef