In the hour or two before we kicked off the quickfire challenge that I was to judge this week, I wandered on to the kitchen set. I adore kitchens but, because of the structure of the show, this kitchen was not somewhere I got to go very often. The dining room was where we critics lived; the kitchen was their domain. Still, filming hadn’t started, the eight chefs through to the championship round were hidden away and I had a moment to wander. And as greedy people will, my wandering took me to the fridge. I knew what the challenge was, and there stacked in brown paper packages, were the ingredients, neatly labeled, from which they had to chose.
I closed the fridge door, took out my notebook and scribbled a word upon it. I folded it up and handed it to one of the production team. ‘Open it afterwards,’ I said. ‘It’s what they’re going to cook.’ I wandered off to prepare myself for the gruelling task of, er, eating stuff and saying smart arse things about it.
The word I had written on that piece of paper was ‘scallops’ and I was, more or less, right. Both teams in the tag cook off did indeed include scallops in the seafood stews that they came up with. I’m not telling you this to prove how clever and insightful I am, or at least not just to prove that. Rather it is an interesting snapshot, I think, of how even top flight chefs will behave under pressure. The package of scallops was positioned close to the front of the fridge and were simply irresistible. Anybody who has cooked seriously for any period of time, will know that scallops are a banker: the luxury ingredient that keeps on giving. Sure, they require technique but, like a little gold gilding, they add lustre to almost any dish in which they appear. Had I gone to that fridge in those circumstances I would have done exactly the same. I’m merely observing, rather than complaining.
Plus I bloody love scallops. Greeting them on the plate made me very happy indeed.
Love the blog, Jay! It's refreshing to have a judges table that's witty and informed without being up its own arse (hey toby! see you next season!)
Your comments had me laughing out loud. I don't heartily agree with your distaste for tender beef. Perhaps it's a culture clash. Americans love their meat to be tender, period. That's ok. I really hated British grub when I visited London a few years ago. I cried when the nauseatingly greasy breakfast appeared every morning. Every other English thing I tried netted the same result: tasteless and greasy and unappetizing. I finally gave up and ate Indian, French, Spanish or any other ethnic food I could find. "To Each, His Own"...
Jay, Gael's blog mentions that you were entrenched with regard to the fillet. Your post here confirms it & has made me rethink just how tender my steak has to be. No one wants to fight with their meat but a little texture might enhance the experience.
I so much enjoyed reading your perspective & got a laugh from your homage to the critter.
okay i noticed in the wedding episode when they were packing up the food they were putting it in garbage bags for transporting, i may be wrong but i thought garbage bags had a pesticide in them???
Jay, I totally understand your point about the meat. It's all in what we are raised to like. However, if you are rating American chefs in a competition in the United States, I don't think it's fair to measure them against a standard found in another country.
I bloody love scallops too. But I don't love meat bloody! Or soft. I'd have spit Marcus's mush out myself. I like my steak well-done and if I can cut it without a knife, I'm not eating it. I'm with you on this 100%!
You know, until I read this blog I didn't really care for you much. After reading the things we can't see (like a book into a movie) I totally get you. You're great and I hope to keep seeing you on Top Chef.
If you have ANY pull, seeing more vegetarian dishes would be great. The chef's seem to have much more trouble with it. Makes for better bitching and moaning. ;-)
@iamsobz - forgive me but that's rubbish. These guys are big enough to play on an international stage. And either they are up to it or they ain't.
In any case, Marcus is about as international as they come.
Oh, and re what Gael said. believe me I have eaten plenty of steak in the US.