Late in the recording of this series I finally got to meet the lovely Gail Simmons, who had stood in for me when my visa failed to come through. Her opinion: we were having it easy on Top Chef Masters compared to Top Chef. Or, as she put it, "Boy, did we have to kiss a lot of frogs when we did our show." I got her point. Our contestants were all top-drawer chefs who knew how to do lovely things with ingredients, knives, and fire. But, you know, it still managed to throw up a few nightmares and the worst of them so far turned up here, in the first of the championship rounds. That my more vituperative comments didn’t make the cut, is probably fair. I think I went a little bonkers.
We’ll get there in a moment. First though, I should say that this show also included one of the greatest eating experiences so far – though you didn’t get to witness a moment of our pleasure. It was decided that, for the elimination challenge, us judges should get to eat the signature dishes that our six chefs prepared for each other, to give us something to bench mark the re-engineered versions against. So two platters of each were made, both to be served family style. While the chefs ate in the kitchen we were on the dining room set, attacking them with a massive enthusiasm and gusto, which may be linked to the fact the cameras weren’t on us.
I remember that lunch in great detail because we all commented on how damn fortunate we were. From Hubert’s old school lobster bisque through to Michael’s Quail and Rick’s lamb this was the real deal. We adored Anita’s scallops – ooh, those sea urchins – and revelled in Suzanne’s home style chopped steaks with eggs and toast and lots of good sticky stuff. It was one of those moments that forced us to remind ourselves that we were being paid to do this. Where did it all go so right?
But there’s always a downside and that, for me, came the next day when the lovely Art Smith delivered his version of Suzanne’s stunning chopped steak by presenting us with – a Scotch Egg. Oh Lord. Oh help. Oh my.
It was a shame to see Suzanne go, but it didn't seem her dish really won out on any level, whereas Art's did on at least some.
That whole "egg in lamb" thing scared me from the first moment it was on-screen being prepared, and the sight of the final cooked product just plain caused my drool glands to dry up and invert like when one of those old cartoon characters would eat Alum. Sorry to say, but it was just completely unattractive and unappetizing looking.
Anita Lo. 'Nuff said. Nothing but home runs in every challenge thus far. This woman is primo.
Rotflmao!!! Love the blog, love the show!!! First time I was in London I enjoyed the British sense of humor (or humour). Keep it up, hope we get to see more of you in the weeks to come.
I didn't really understand the brilliance of Anita's dish. I'm not sure the producers conveyed its complexities and brilliant flavor in the show last night. Wish I was there. Thanks for your wonderful writing and good words. It is a pleasure to read and listen to you.
I'd never heard of Scotch Eggs till now. How lucky I was, and didn't realize it.
Wonderfully written blog, by the way.
OMG, I can't stop laughing over this blog. Sooooo glad I did not have any Scottish eggs when I was over there. Very glad they only serve them at Scottish Festivals here and not in the public mainstream.
Although I am personally not fond of Scotch eggs (don't like eggs or sausage), the guests at my Christmas party and just about every other open house gathering we have get rather testy if there aren't any "signature" Scotch eggs - and we use mostly tradional ingredients (a hard boiled egg wrapped in turkey sausage, rolled in bread crumbs and baked, instead of deep fried). So Jay, maybe you just haven't had a good egg - come to Atlanta (maybe for the Stone Mountain Highland Games) and see what makes everyone in our circle of friends love Scotch eggs. I do agree that the traditional ones are very greasy and not very good - especially if allowed to get cold - but dismissing it completely may be a bit much.
Jay you've added wonderful comments and commentary to a really fabulous show! I'm so glad that your Visa came through. I was excited that you were on the show as I was a fan of Cooking For the Enemy in the UK.
Jay should have stayed to what he knew rather than the whole scotch egg which is rather lost on a sad cocktail party with Pimms.
I hope they use in the new season!
As soon as he started making the dish my wife turned to me and said in an incredulious tone, "He's making a Scotch Egg," whereupon she started laughing out loud.
The lack of edge to show is made up by the absolute professionalism and mastery of the chefs.
I think I prefer British food critics. They tell it like it is.
My dream judges' table would consist of you, Anthony Bourdain, and perhaps the ghost of Oscar Wilde engaging in a Battle of Sardonic Culinary Wordplay during the regular season of Top Chef, whose contestants often deserve a good tongue lashing and ego diuretic. Listening to you talk about food is like reading a film review written by Anthony Lane. I laugh. I wince. I ... However, my favorite part of this episode was witnessing the civility and respect with which the masters approached each other during this competition.
Jay- I have so enjoyed your observations this past season. I tune in just to listen to what you have to say in your drool way. Please keep it up. Also- you are very sexy.
Jay, You're the best writer of any of the BRAVO celebrities. I enjoyed your piece and learned a lot (never heard of Scottish eggs). I'd like to see and hear more from you!
Ooh, I knew the minute Art decided to make "scotch eggs" he was doomed. Let's face it. Lamb is supposed to be cooked "medium" and to put a hard boiled egg inside is ludicrous. If anything, I would have put a soft boiled one instead, but I think that that would still have been over cooked.
Why not make the same lamb patty with quail egg over top? He could have made a great lamb burger with seasonings and topped it with a quail egg and still have been within the guidelines.
I think that Rick Bayless will come out on top. He is such a CLASS ACT.
Oooooh. I never tried the humble Scotch egg and I never want to. Art's dish really looked unappetizing. I had hoped that both he and Suzanne would have been eliminated because they both failed miserably. Regarding Anita's brilliant interpretation of Hubert's dish, is it really safe to eat raw lobster? That sounds nasty.
Love this blog and love the show. Respect the way the chefs have gone about their work with great professionalism, humor and a fun spirit. It really is a completely different show from the TC series...even though I adore the original also.....which brings me to the only whinge I can think of. Sorry about that.
Abruptly telling the non-winning chefs to "return to the kitchen and pack your knives" just doesn't fit in with the good spirit of the competitors. It makes me cringe. They should be thanked and treated with respect.
It might have been a good idea in pre-production. But, surely, once the show was up and running, someone must have realized it would just sound "off" and not fit the spiriti of the show at all.
". . . when you have drunk ten pints of lager the colour and flavour of something that came out the wrong end of a cat."
Is there a right end of the cat to drink from?
Jay you have "NO MERCY". I've seen recipes for scotch eggs and always thought that they would be good, but after hearing your description, I think I'll pass. Maybe if Art had used the beef and a "soft boiled" egg, maybe as someone pointed out, a quail egg, maybe topped it with a bernaise sauce, it wouldn't have been so bad. He would have done better with a takeoff of a Denny's "Grand Slam" with a hash and an egg.
But back to Anita. I don't think I would ever eat a raw lobster. How in the world can you think she is "genius" when her plate consisted of three separate components and one being a "sandwich" with RAW LOBSTER? I'm rooting for Rick Bayless. He seems like such a gentleman.
I love this show, maybe even more than the original, because of the total professionalism and good will of these fantastic chefs. Colin is right--the variation on "pack your knives and go" is just not right for these classy contestants.
I just may plan my next vacation around visiting all of their restaurants!
Sweet Art Smith just carries his emotions on his sleeve. He cries when he wins and is completely devastated when he loses. I hope this wonderful man gets it. Being a chef just happens to be what he DOES - it's not by any stretch of the imagination WHO he is as a person. Art is a man with a heart as big as Texas. Any guy who would spend his precious time on this earth creating his own wonderful charity, Common Threads, has got to be just extraordinarily special. THAT is who Art really is. I hope he remembers that about himself, and doesn't take this cooking thing too seriously.
Scotch eggs sound good to me. What's not to like?
I've never had sea urchin or even seen it on a menu but I'm dying to try it now.
Love this show. And you too.
Having married a Scotsman from Glasgow and having traveled to the UK several times, A Scottish Egg is right up there with Haggis for me.
I have truly enjoyed this show and your blog. Funny, funny and more funny! So much so, in fact, I have just ordered your book.
I do hope that we see more of you on American TV!
Why do americans have to bash british food (and now the british health system) both when done well are some of the best in the world. Scotch eggs are lovely and when on a picnic easy to carry easy to eat and a good source of protein.
They originated as easy carry food, just like the Cornish Pasty for workmen and are best when not messed about with. I find that the reason that most americans don't like british food is 1) you can't get the ingredients here or they mess with the receipe (shepherds pie NOT made with beef).
Pretty cool place you've got here. Thank you for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I would like to read more soon.