And so I must confess that when I learned that Susan Feniger had cooked a dish involving sea cucumber I was not a happy man. We all have our dream foods, the ones we could eat till the cows come home. Sea cucumber is my nightmare food. I wanted to shout "Call my agent" or, more likely "Mommyyyyyy!!!!"
And yet... and yet... what she did with it was remarkable. She didn’t just make it edible. She made it pleasurable. Her deep-fried sea cucumber was frankly a revelation and for that alone I will always give thanks. I couldn’t resist eating it. Though Susur won and by a country mile – his stuffed chicken leg and tourchon of monks fish liver were truly delicious – if I’m honest I think he had it easiest. Those two ingredients were pretty easy to play with, especially for a Chinese guy who had met them before.
What Susan did with her ingredients was impressive in a very different way. And thank god for that.
Jay Rayner is the author of The Man Who Ate The World, published by Henry Holt. Follow him on twitter @jayrayner1
Is "black chicken" the same breed of bantam Chinese-originated chicken known as a Silkie? I know they have black skin, and thought they were the only chicken with that trait. If so, a lot of people in the U.S. raise these birds, but mainly for show or as pets. There's a breeder not far from me who specializes in them. They look like what you'd get if you crossed a small chicken with a poodle, and are apparently very friendly. I don't think I'd want to eat one for that reason, actually...
Yay Susan! Her cheer and attitude serve her well. They let her truly play and discover what she can do, all while staying human. I felt she had the biggest triumph.
Susar upsets me. Yes he is skilled but he does not play well with others. He ruins ingredients (which he should have been called on), doesn't share, complains and denigrates woman - I don't think he is what a master should be.
Mr Rayner - My admiration and, alright, crush on you grows with each insightful, well-written, honest, and witty post. I have picked up your books this week and look forward to reading them. I hope that as long as TC:M runs, you'll be a part of it. I would really love to see your input on regular Top Chef as well. Bravo sir.
Jay - I really enjoy your blogs and seeing you on TCM, I hope you'll guest on TC one day! I would have to agree with Ohiogirl - Susur may be truly awesome in the kitchen, but his tactics and personality leave a lot to be desired. I have to admit that I had a difficult time with this challenge - a little too stomach-turning for my taste!