“James Oseland scares me.” Those were the words of chef Art Smith in Episode 6. Having seen you at work, Chef Art, and having had some time to reflect on the delicious food you prepared, I just want to say, Please don’t be scared! Maybe you read the skepticism on my face when, given your roster of ingredients from Chef Roy, you came up with three very down-homey dishes: fried chicken, smothered chicken, and a mango cobbler. I admit it: the foods sounded great — the kind of fare I’d want to eat for a Sunday supper — but I had the feeling at first that you were staying inside your comfort zone and not challenging yourself as a chef.
I also admit that, despite my promise to myself always to go with my gut reactions to the food and the food alone, I came to the table with a few biases. When I sit down in a fancy restaurant or any environment (including that of Top Chef Masters) where masterly cuisine is the order of the day, I’m going to be subconsciously looking for certain bells and whistles: the architecture of the plating, the visual panache of contrasting shapes and colors, the rare and arcane ingredients, and so on. Then you served up your fried chicken. Looking back, I see it was an audacious move: making this iconic Southern American dish in its simplest form, not tricked out or dolled up in any way.
On its face fried chicken really is a simple thing. The version I make at home consists of nothing more than a whole free-range chicken cut into pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper, and left to sit overnight before being dredged in flour and fried in a few inches of hot peanut oil. But, as any veteran of fried chicken knows, it is remarkably hard to pull the dish off successfully. If the oil is too hot, you’ll scorch the skin; if it’s too cool, the chicken will come out greasy; if the pieces are crowded in the skillet, the skin won’t get crisp. The dish requires unremitting attention and care. When fried chicken is done right, though—as yours, chef Art, was—it is as deeply satisfying to the senses and the soul as any creation of a three-star Paris chef.
In the end, you may have stayed in your comfort zone, chef, but it paid off. Your fried chicken was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Was my scoring affected by my preconceptions? Maybe it was.
Oh, tonight's show has been my favorite, so far! I hope future cheftestants watch this episode and reflect on the respect and friendship shown between the competitors tonight. These gentlemen are the real deal and should be emulated in every aspect.
Thank you for this gift of a show.
I just wanted to say that this was my very favorite show of Top Chef Masters. I was. very touched and impressed with all the chefs in this episode. Not to knock any of the other Top Chefs featured this season, but these four chefs were amazing. They all had personality which entertained and were extremely fun to watch. They all showed great respect for each other, I can only hope to come across people like this in my life. Thank You Gentlemen:).
I'm going to miss the camaraderie amongst all the contestants and judges when this show ends, because I have a bad feeling the forthcoming Vegas "Top Chef" is going to be sauced up by the producers to "Real Housewives" levels of drama, trash and stupidity...
Anyway, Art's win doesn't surprise me per se, because he's about as TCM as the definition gets, but I think I was surprised about the simplicity of what he served getting such high marks. That's not to say his win wasn't deserved, but I would have expected some more of something new in this competition.
Cannot WAIT for the final rounds!
Thank you for this episode, the very best yet of TC Masters. The contestants' respect for one another was inspiring. Fell in love with Jonathan Waxman. (I'm an old lady who cooks, so how did I miss knowing about him?) And ordered his cookbook from B&N. Even though he was eliminated (barely), am eagerly anticipating the playoffs.
Great summary of the episode. Can not wait for the finale.
The episodes of TCM should be required watching for all past and present TC contestants on how to respect others in the kitchen. I am especially thinking of Lisa from two seasons ago..... how to support and respect a fellow chef. Granted the Chef's have already made it, and the TC contestants are trying to make it but maybe that is why TCM made it, is that they know how to be gracious. LOVED this last episode for that reason. The camaraderie was palpable and with the high scores; think the losing score was as high as the winning in a previous episode …winning with a 22. Wondered if that carried over into the food. Do feel bad for Michael though that he did not get some seafood. Part of me wonders if Chef Waxman didn’t pick out seafood due to his comments about his sight and picked foods he felt at ease with. Hope for his sake that was not the case.
Question: Is it fair that 6 finalist get the same time but some have to wait awhile till their dish is served? While waiting of course the food will either get cold or over cooked by standing too long. Shouldn't the time be based on when the chefs turn comes up.