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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


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SF, perhaps you should put up a disclaimer for our west coast friends. Something about not reading the thread until Top Chef is on there.

I'm rooting for Marcel, but I think D*ckwad is going to win.

Thanks for the suggestion, Nick. All done.

This household is unanimously rooting for Marcel. But we think the same thing you do.

As a foodie, SF, can you really get a sense of who's more expert and competent in this competition, or do you rely on the judges like I do?

Down with Ilan! We're all MFs here at Chez YF too. We're hoping the mad scientist brings his top game; my impression is that he's the superior talent: more consistently creative, more consistently competent. If he can avoid affectation, I think he's got a good shot. Ilan's organ-meat tapas shtick is limiting. Good for designing apetizers at Casa Mono, but doesn't justify the attitude.

No sense at all. They're probably both good chefs. I default to Marcel a bit because I have had a minor obsession with Ferran Adria for about five years now, a chef who Marcel obviously knows. He may do some derivative things, but at least he experiments.

I find Ilan a total hanger-on. He seemed to ride on Sam's coattails to me, and his passivity during the whole Cliff-as-Rowdy-Roddy-with-a-hairclipper thing was deplorable, no matter what he thinks of Marcel. He's infinitely more annoying to me than Marcel, faux-surfer-street dialect and all.

Marcel is by far the more talented, in my opinion, better instincts. I also kind of like him because the other people hated him so much, call me crazy.

Much like the rest of you though, I don't think it's going his way.

Are there no IFs out there? We need a contrarian.

Amazing. The one thing that can bring YFs and SFs together: an annoying line chef at a trendy tapas bar. Who would have thunk it.

I probably have had one great meal in my life. I'm not a foodie by any stretch, but I must admit I love to hear and read people talking and writing about food. The language is great. I just started Kitchen Confidential and I have to say the guy can write. Great stories, and I'm salivating over Cape Cod fare now.

Just saying stuff to say stuff...

Back to my paper.

I meant to say, I've probaby had one 5 star meal in my life. Maybe 2, but the point is I can count the number of super top-line meals I've had.

Oh man, we've sunk to an all new level re: a search for things to talk about on a baseball blog.

for those of you not surfing other threads, Barry Bonds is refusing to sign his revised contract. Lets hope he just retires. lol


If you want some truly enjoyable food writing laced with humor, try the work of Calvin Trillin, who is not really a culinary writer but whose work often involves his passion for food.

who is Barry Bonds?

SF, thanks for the recommendation. I trust you've read Kitchen Confidential. What do you think of Bourdain?

I like Bourdain a lot. His metamorphosis from anti-celebrity chef to celebrity chef has been interesting and entertaining.

Bonds is the Ilan of baseball. No that's not right.

Bourdain's book is terrific, and when he was behind the stove at Les Halles there was no better bistro in the city. There probably still isn't. And his travel shows are fun, too.

As for food writers, the classic NYer piece of food literature is AJ Liebling's Between Meals, which is now a modern library classic. Begin there.

I've read Liebling. I love his work on New Orleans. Somehow I missed that piece.

If you're a Liebling fan, then you must love Joseph Mitchell. One of my favorites.

Les Halles as a Bistro, I don't know. Never been. But I do know that "Kitchen Confidential" is required reading, and I've worked around the food industry for more than 20 years. Also, if you choose buy Bourdain's eponymous Bistro book and stick to the general guidelines of the recipes, you end up with some seriously formidable chow. It _will_ make you feel like a rock star in the galley.

God, is Paul a foodie too? Am I the only food illiterate on staff?

Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, SF and I had an off-list email row over the candidates in this latest Top Chef. I have to say I agree with him that I was surprised when Sam got sent, and though it cut to the quick when he trashed my erstwhile kegger buddy Michael, I can not believe what a conniver Ilan is.

Why oh why do I have to favor Marcel? Give me Cliff and his Greco-Roman style cooking! Give me Sam's color-blindness and I'll pick up the stragglers as my girl forsakes me for him! Give me Sam and his "green eggs and ham!"

Weren't they "Gray Eggs and Ham"?

Yes, but he spelled it "Grey", which made it haute.

But Cliff is the color-blind one!

I judge on personality and what Padma likes (you goddess, you!). Therefore, I like no one too much from this season. Cliff was too fratty for me and passively evil. Sam was quietly manipulative. Only Marcel seemed mature...That's basically all you need to know about this season. Oh, and Betty. Betty was the worst.

Lockland, I honestly do not think Marcel has a single instinct about food. I think he sees food, and he remembers some cool a** sh** recipe he read once, puts some foam on it, and done. I think he is incredibly learned, and he knows the way to work the front side of the house, but he's basically "saber" applied in its most brutal sense to cooking. All science, no love.

Tom's a great voice, and I would love to hang out with him some time. Otherwise, I find all the judges absofracking worthless.

Padma has gotten cocky. Last week she was piping in like a regular MFK Fisher. I don't want to come off as a MCP, but when she takes one of Colicchio's comments and rolls her eyes I have to laugh. The eye candy's got an attitude.

I thought Sam was color blind as well.. or maybe he was the diabetic. Screw it. What Does The Food Taste Like?!?!

Everything else is noise.

She was wrong, but if they had followed her instinct, Sam would be in the final. Certainly a better option than Ilan. She was trying to direct the competition to a more just end. She is righteous that Padma!

That last comment comes because I think that Colicchio's got INSANE taste. His restaurant "Craft" has some of the most pure, unadorned, and beautiful food I have ever eaten, even if it is a tad expensive. So when he says something, I am almost immediately inclined to agree with him, such is my admiration for his skills.

Lakshmibai, the lubricious southasian gem, she was way out of line when she got uppity with TC. I've also had his food, at several venues, and he's got the legit cred when it comes to evaluating these guys. The point about using flame was important, as was the comment about knife skills--i'm guessing that was also a serious demerit. For two consecutive shows he was impressed with Ilan's dishes, and he has been impressed with Ilan's work quite often. I was rooting for Sam, but the idea that he was the only with the chops/authority/bearing to run a restaurant--an argument that i hear a lot, and was featured on Slate today--seems to me bullcrap. He was basically in charge of the LaLaLina team, and that failed. So it's not like he hasn't had opportunities. They've all screwed things up. Sam had his watermelon and gorgonzola fiasco, Ilan his chicken liver bonbon, Marcel any number of foam extravaganzas.

Josie was seriously good.

What I find hard to take seriously is the kind of detached disdain that each contestant has for their competition. Never do we find out if they have actually tasted each others' dishes. This is a problem with either the format or the editing. Perhaps they have tasted each other's work, but you'd never know from the way the show is presented. Ilan seems like the king of crapping on other people's work, but you never hear any kind of substantive criticism about texture, taste, or creativity, other than the "tiredness of the foam". While that crutch may be one of Marcel's weaknesses, have we ever heard "I tried it, and I couldn't understand what he was doing", or "I tasted the dish, and it was really flat", from anyone other than the judges? I know these players are predisposed to disliking each other and are reflexive in feeling pride in their own work, but the fact that we never see any of the competing chefs tasting their competitor's dishes makes me completely skeptical of almost anything that any of them have to say.

By the way, worth noting that SF is a ringer for Chef Tom. And not bad in the kitchen, either.

Thanks for the props, YF. You were lucky enough to ingest the one bowl of Cheerios I didn't overcook.

A YF quote:

"I like my food in mounds. Not in squares or triangles".

(That's real, for the record, but is no criticism of his tastebuds, which are discriminating and experienced)

To those comments, SF, I'd add that i'd like to see a little more of the chefs actually doing their cooking. We don't see too much. It occurs to me that I've learned little that I can apply in my own kitchen from watching these guys cook, and that's because there's actually very little visual demonstration of process. The show could easily go 90 minutes.

I have learned not to stuff chocolate with liver. Which is worth something.

Rerun of Elia and Ilan weakly crapping on Marcel at last week's elimination, and now it's time...

Weird. Ilan with the desire for a golden shower with Marcel...

I fear I'm being misquoted, and in any case the discussion came after the considerable intake of alcohol. Also worth noting the context: following what I considered a disappointing (and astronomically expensive) dinner at a top NY restaurant that had recently installed a new, avant-garde chef. The issue was a dish—a duck breast that had been transformed into a precise geometric bar—that I found especially unsatisfying. The point was that I would prefer food achieve its natural form, or be formed into a shape for some reason directly bearing on the preparation, rather than a fussy and pretentious obsessiveness. So there.

The Gerb celebrates: Mikey's back!

Marcel draws the short straw: Frank chooses to work for Marcel. Mushroom madness!!!

Wait, I jumped the gun. Frank on the pine.

Sam goes to Marcel! SHOCKER!!!

Lots of good stuff from both sides here. I like some of Ilan's dishes but Marcel has the all-star team behind him.

only one thing sticks with me from the first segment: Ilan's stated desire to pee on Marcel...kinky

and now I must run back to the TV

Wow. Grand slam for Ilan. I sure could go for that sorbet medley right now. The short rib—yum!—looked like it needed some mashed potatos. Yick to the baby eel.

I don't know too many disorganized scientists. Marcel with some pretty bad stumbles.

My prediction: Ilan wins.

I'm very disapointed in the results- Top Chef clearly went with boring choice. Ilan cooked well, but he went with spanish dishes that he has bascially cooked before, and probably learned from his mentor at the spanish restaurant he works at. Sure Marcel didn't hit nail every dish (salad??), but he had considerably more creativity and style in his food. I never thought the mad scientist would make it this far, but over the past several episodes he's shown he can make cool food that tastes good too! The title "Top Chef" should constitute more than just skill in one style of cooking, and it should go to someone who is going to use the 100 grand to create an incredible restaurant. Ilan might as well just build a new wing at his spanish restaurant.... Man I would have liked to see what Marcel would do with the money. Bummer.

Nick, I'm with you. I enjoy watching Food Network when the wife has it on. Iron Chef is entertaining; Top Chef sounds like it would be fun to watch, but I've never seen an episode. I'm quite good at making spaghetti (Italian family, I better be) and sandwiches. I'm also a famously picky eater and hate to try new things. So, no. A foodie I'm not. I kind of wish I were, but that's just not me. C'est la vie.

At any rate, I'm still trying to figure out which of those glamorous descriptions is me, and which is Gerb. I'm kind of a shrimp, but I also wear glasses. Hmmm...


Typepad commenting died during the second half. Thanks.

Gerb: See what happens when you get a TGiFriday's line cook sous-ing for you? They forget to bring the fish.

Here's to Ilan cranking out slightly above-average tapas at a waterside joint in Key West for the rest of his days.


Does anyone else marvel at the fact that Padma is married to Salman Rushdie? Because I think I mentioned it to my wife at the beginning of every episode.

I thought Padma was married to Anakin, you know, before he turned into Darth Vader.


My two favorite interactions for the night (modified for effect and because I was slightly intoxicated while watching so I'm probably not remembering it right):

Marcel: "That.. that.. that doesn't look like one and three-quarter quarts of milk"

Mikey: "I thought you meant cups, dude."


Mikey: "I'm not playing for a hundred thousand bucks. You keep track of the Kampachi."


Marcel reaped what he sowed with his staff, but in what universe does the head chef carry the fish?

In the one where he's playing for a hundred thousand bucks and should have inventoried _everything_ on his ticket prior to going into production.

Funny thing is that dish was perfect without the kampachi according to the judges. Maybe Mikey did him a favor? Anyway, you're right about trusting details to Mikey.

Marcel should have stuck to mozzarella cheese sticks if he wanted to keep Mikey interested.


Upon retrospect I think if Marcel had done something besides the salad he might have won; that dish was like a fart hanging around the room, the big problem being that everyone knew who cut it.

Why not Foie Gras (perhaps in a shaped terrine) with Yuzu gelee, or something traditional/local/interesting, all-in-one?

I think Marcel was doomed nevermind the salad. TC's blog over on the Bravo site is informative on this score. Even has a nice baseball/sports analogy:

"The thing is -- and I could see that Sam got this when we spoke that evening -- if our job as judges was to decide based on aggregate performance, then why even have a Finale? For that matter, why bother with a Super Bowl or World Series, or any competition that caps off a competitive season, since a straight analysis of the stats-to-date could probably determine the winner. My feeling is that by the time we get to the end round, it is assumed that each competitor is among the best based on a season’s performance, and now they must dig deep and bring it again, faster, brighter, stronger, better than before."

As SF already stated, the fact that Sam saved Marcel's ass on the lost fish dish is indicative of the whole reason why a chef that obviously had superior chops was able to torpedo himself. Ilan put out what must have been a very tasty five dishes with the full backing of his crew, whereas Marcel, who admitted that he was playing by himself, for himself, sunk himself due the fact he just didn't play nicely with others.

I've worked with some seriously intense prima donna chefs, and though their food can be awesome, it is really hard for a staff to put out consistent product when the head of the kitchen is unable to get along with the crew. Restaurant cooking is about formula and repetition. If a chef can't pull it off in a one-off situation like a "challenge", translating it to the assembly line of a restaurant is an impossible task. Maybe Marcel will get that now.

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