Jay Rayner

Jay Rayner explains why he very well may have been grumpy during this week's episode.

on May 20, 20100

A number of people, including the chefs themselves, accused me of being grumpy during this week’s Quickfire. I watched it and wondered whether they had a point. Was I? Thinking back to when we filmed this it struck me that I might have been.

Anybody who whined about the Top Chef Masters gig, would deserve to be poked with the business end of cattle prod. It’s a huge privilege and an honour to be involved with this show. And hell, we even get paid. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its strains. The shooting days could be very long – certainly much longer than would ever be allowed in the UK – and the shoot itself is concentrated. I know those chefs, pushed into the deeper days of the competition round, feel it and I have no idea how the crew, working much longer days than us, manage. Still, there is a certain pressure on us as judges and I had some of my own. My newspaper, which craves my attention, was keeping me working all the time I was out there, and I had been filing features from Los Angeles on what were supposed to be my days off. Indeed I had worked flat out for a couple of weeks.


And then, on what was supposed to be my first real day off, I get a very early morning call. One of the Quickfire judges can’t make it, and I’m in. See you in 20 minutes. So was I grumpy? You know what? Possibly. Did this interfere with the way I looked at the dishes? Absolutely not. Sure, I might have been less bubbly and effusive. There might have been a little more piss and vinegar in my pronouncements, but at the end of the day – or the very beginning, which is when we shot this – the basic critical faculties still kick in. Rick’s octopus was tough. There wasn’t enough crab in Jonathan’s crab pasta. And the skin on Susan’s chicken was crisp. Put me through four days of sleep deprivation and a little light waterboarding and I’d still come up with the same answers. Would I say they were definitive answers? Absolutely not. We all know that James Oseland has a palate calibrated by the scientists who built the Large Hadron Collider for CERN. He might reach a different view. But both of us would be consistent. Grumpy or not.

If there was one thing guaranteed to lighten my mood, it was always when the Top Chef Masters team went out on location. For a Londoner, starved of sunlight, it was always a slight disappointment that we were locked for most of the time in the studio complex. And then all of a sudden we were going to the game, and what a remarkable operation it was. Nothing I have ever seen in England prepared me for this: the size, the vitality, the drama.

11 comments
simonestevin
simonestevin

Dear Mr. Rayner, I have enjoyed your comments on the dishes of the Top Chef Masters this season. Recently I picked up a book called Gowan Street by Claire Rayner at my favorite used book store. I wondered if she was perhaps related to you and I find out she is your mother! What an impressive woman she is. (info thanks to Wikipedia and other sources) Like your blog I am enjoying her book immensely. I can see from whom you got your flair for words. Kudos to the both of you. I learned to cook while I lived in Paris so many years ago using the famous La Bonne Cuisine de Madame St. Ange as my guide. Fundamental principles of cooking still are as important today as then, regardless of the vast array of equipment available to us. That is one criticism I have of the the show, I wish they would show more of the techniques of cooking and less of the histrionics between the contestants. Wishful thinking I am sure. Thanks for you attention to this email. Simonestevin

titi
titi

Hi jay,

you are wonderful man,we like u, u are perfect. jay,we like marcus food he is a great cooker so what do u think about marcus & susan???susur is not amazing for us but he don't have a good manner.even he cook korian traditional dish so he have to cook american dish in that episode so its not belongs to him 4 star.

God bless u & God bless America.

Quincy
Quincy

I think this episode and all the fallout from it in regards to the Judges' Table and some of the comments already posted here for this blog are simply the result of the show making an error in judgement.

For something like Top Chef Masters, a tailgating challenge was just a bad idea. This works perfectly on TC, but here with some of the most celebrated chefs in the country, this just didn't work. Unfortunately, Tony was the one who took the fall for it since he couldn't grill pizza. I'd have preferred to have seen an elimination based on something a little more "Master-y" than that.

You can't win 'em all, and this is only the first TCM episode that I feel misfired both in the concept and in the execution. No worries. I'm sure next week will be back to form.

And hopefully the producers will not have had to wake you up early on a day off for it. 8-)

kathyo
kathyo

Jay, You did appear grumpy during the quickfire but you were uniformly grumpy so no biggie. For the tailgating challenge, I really like that these chefs stand behind their food. It may not be what the judges are looking for but they are passionate in their defense. Susur's and Susan's styles couldn't be more different but I'm rooting for them to be final two...

robinson road
robinson road

Despite your self-proclamation of grumpiness, i'm a fan and agree that at the end of the day your colorful comments are spot on.

mmc
mmc

I loved this tailgating show.What a bunch of lucky people to have all these great chefs cook for them.I liked Susans dish the best and I think she has the makings of a Top Chef Master.Plus she's gracious and has a happy face on most of the time.Any of these chefs have the ability but not all have the temprament!

Marybeth Mank
Marybeth Mank

Perhaps you were just a little grumpy, but given the circumstances, that is totally understandable. I would probably be just downright cranky and curmudgeonly. I also suspect that your perceived grumpiness is just part of your nature, anyway. :-) I did enjoy James' and your comments about 'being manly.' That was the funniest thing. No disrepect to James, but you definitely are manly...LOL! James kind of reminds me of Tony Randall (actor who played Felix Unger in the TV series 'The Odd Couple' just in case you didn't know). I do like James, though. Hope you enjoyed the rest of your shoot for this season of TCM. Feel free to come to Dallas any time to get sunshine! We have lots in Texas! :-)

R Manley
R Manley

We have all been there when it comes to being grumpy. The chefs are all remarkable. I have had a difficult time deciding how they should be scored. In my lowly uncultered opinion they all are doing well and it is to close of a race to call. I look forward to seeing what comes next from the chefs and from all the remarkable judges at the table.

Robinson_Road
Robinson_Road

Despite you self proclamation of grumpiness, I'm a big fan and love your colorful commentary. The Top Chef Masters' judge team seems to work very well together. How about a television restaurant review series featuring all of you?

CityJohn
CityJohn

Jay's incredibly witty and handsome and brave and strong and not at all grumpy or tolerated. It's like having Superman as a judge and I, for one, salute him and his quest of rightousness.

gargupie
gargupie

We can have 'one of those days' and thanks for sharing your feelings at that moment with us. You weren't exactly 'grumpy', but just more 'critical' than usual. I personally would've love to eat that grilled pizza, but perhaps that just wasn't a taligating food. I'm rooting for Susan! She's so genuine and never 'grumpy'. :)