Cooking Brunch Sucks

'Top Chef' Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle gives his take on this week's 'Masters' episode.

OK -- first I want to catch up on last week's episode. My favorite offal is probably duck tongue.
think it tastes kind of like chicken. You’ve got to blanch it, pop out the little bit of cartilage in it. I pop that out. And then I deep-fry it and I do a high preparation that’s called Larp, which is basically, when we take the duck tongues and crush them with toasted rice and deep-fry them.

What I don’t understand is that it just didn’t seem like Ludo thought it through. It’s not that different from a charity event in my opinion, where you know you’re making food for X amount of people. It’s going to be fast and furious. You’re going to be there by yourself. I just didn’t really think he thought. Why couldn’t he do some sort of French preparation? I don’t understand why everybody did something Latin. Rick obviously makes sense because he’s the King of Mexico …. And Wilo's obviously made sense too. The British thing I mean, Except for Ludo, I’ve been to all of their restaurants.

As far as the judges go, Jay is funny as hell. Jay is really, extremely entertaining. I really enjoyed listening to what he’s got to say. And you’ve got to love and respect Gael Greene. She’s been in the game a long time. She is super nice- very, very polite. She’s very well spoken and she’s very articulate. And she certainly knows her food. James Oseland is quirky. He’s very serious. He’s very much the scholar at the table. I’m also familiar with Kelly. And she’s easy on the eyes.

This week's episode brought me back to our all-star episode. Stephen won. He had a one-handed omelet.  What was interesting was, we had season by season, and so I feel like we had a little bit of an advantage because we were all helping each other out. A little bit of that took place; like John Besh was helping Anita out- I saw that a little. But in our season when we had had our little cook-off, we were all really getting each other stuff and helping each other out and trying to have everybody put out the best dish.Do I think John should have spent the littlest time helping Anita? It’s one of those things, it’s like, you know the temperature of your oven and you know how it works. I thought yeah, maybe he should’ve not waited for it to cook for fifteen minutes and see where it was at. I think he put a little too much confidence in the equipment. But what are you going to do? It’s one of those things. If you’re throwing any type of excitement or anything crazy out the window and you’re focusing strictly on technique and saying “I’m doing the perfect slow cooked egg,” then it would be perfect. It’s fine, but you’re not winning. It’s simple and he knows that, it just didn’t work out. There wasn’t anything else for him to do.

And oh man, cooking brunch sucks. I’ve got to be honest. It’s one of those things where if you don’t cook eggs all week long and you’re just open on the weekend, people want eggs very particularly. I know I do. They’ve got to be perfect.  And you can tell whose cooked eggs before and who hasn’t, in a high-pressure, high-speed environment. Cooking an egg, it’s one of those things, there’s not so much gray area. If you want them over easy, it’s over easy. 

I'm not a fan of magic, but I am a fan of Neil Patrick Harris. He’s been in the restaurant a couple of times. He’s a big Top Chef fan. He’s a super nice guy. At the table, I’ve met him. He knows his food. He’s a serious foodie, so I think he’s an appropriate judge for it.

First, Mark's dish: If it’s going to be something magical or a surprise, what else are you popping out? It’s fish. I think it was a tough challenge. I don’t know what I would have done for a surprise.

John had the right attitude. He bombed the quick-fire, but at least he went for it. He brought out the liquid nitrogen. It was kind of cool because it was like you were going into an alchemist shop He’s pouring the liquid nitrogen to try and make the sorbet and there’s that smoke coming out. I thought it was cool. I thought it really played well with it all.If he knew he needed more time to set the sorbet ahead of time, then he probably shouldn’t have done that or it’s one of those things, just to do it for a little bit of show, he could have had the sorbet already set up inside the bowl and then add the table portion while liquid nitrogen in there and stir it in- just so you still have that effect, because that’s what he’s looking for. Why not have the sorbet already set up. Guests aren’t going to know the difference.

Doug's was entertaining, watching him rub Sterno on the outside of the coconut and then light it up. I’m not really sure what he was thinking but again he kind of went for it. The duck looked overcooked to me but when food sits around, who knows. I take my duck very seriously.
But God bless him I was like “You’ve got to be kidding me; and you’re going to light it up and put it on the table.” What happens when the fire goes down?

Anita is a legit chef. People ask me what I think of her food. Her restaurant is on my top five list of restaurants to eat at. I really dig her place. It’s really nice. She’s just really talented. She’s serious about her food. She’s really good. It’s a little intimidating for me; she’s around the corner from me — that’s major competition over there.

The competition so far is pretty ridiculous. Part of me wishes that I were cooking with these guys. The talent is ridiculous.

I'm not really surprised by the problems the chefs are facing. It’s got to be tough. And I remember my first time on camera I was shaking like crazy. So there’s that build up until where I found my groove and they don’t really have that. It’s like, boom you do quick-fire, boom you do the elimination challenge, and if your stuff is not perfect, you’re done. But I’ve seen a lot of amateur mistakes that I’m sure if these chefs were sitting at home watching TV, they’d be like “These guys are a joke.” But then it’s not too easy when you’re in front of the camera.

- Harold

Curtis Stone's Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

Curtis describes cooking for the finalists. Recipe included!

Well done, Doug! He put in a cracking effort this season. Were you happy to see him go all the way to being crowned the Top Chef Masters Season 5 winner? It’s great that he won 100K for his charity, Green Dog Rescue, Inc. Congrats, mate. 

The finale is the most exciting time in the entire competition, and it was a seriously great night for the critics and me. Each dish that was served up to us was absolutely bloody delicious. Jen, Bryan, and Doug should be so proud of themselves. 

These chefs are truly at the top of their culinary game, which makes it even more exciting and daunting for me to cook for them. Chefs love cooking for other chefs, but it’s also pretty nerve-wracking. We cook for critics, customers, and celebrities all the time, and that’s par for the course, but no one can break your food down like another chef. We only got to see the spot prawns and lemon cream on tonight’s episode, but I also got busy in the kitchen and hand-made some beautiful ravioli and chilled soup too. (My lemon cream recipe can be found below). I’ve put these three chefs through the ringer for 10 weeks, thrown a bunch of crazy challenges at them, and have said some not-so-great things once or twice while critiquing their meals, so it’s safe to say I was a little nervous awaiting their reactions. They seemed to enjoy the dishes a lot, and it was great to just sit down, reflect, and celebrate their accomplishments.  

Bryan is a total superstar and has elevated his career more than anyone could have imagined going from Top Chef finalist to Top Chef Masters finalist. It’s just unbelievable. It’s kind of like going from playing local football to suddenly being in the premier league. 

It was also amazing to watch Jen come back fighting like a champion in this competition. She really fought hard and deserved a place in the final after going from being eliminated to winning her way back in, and then winning a handful of challenges. 

I think Doug had that winning edge in the end due to a number of key factors. He’s an accomplished chef with years of experience and has a vast amount of knowledge to draw on from his travels and training. Doug’s spent a lot of time behind the stoves and has never turned his back on them (well, only when he is working and playing with his beloved dogs). He’s got an admirable roll-up-the-sleeves, resilient attitude and gave each challenge a good crack. And we can talk about him facing his fears of skydiving? A lot can change in 10 weeks, huh? I had a ball filming this season, and it was a pleasure to work with such a talented group of chefs, critics, celebrities and the crew. I’m already thinking about next year and the chefs on my wish list to lure into the Top Chef Masters kitchen. I’d love to see April Bloomfield from NYC’s The Spotted Pig, husband and wife team Karen and Quinn Hatfield from Hatfield’s Restaurant and The Sycamore Kitchen, Josef Centeno from Bäco Mercat, Christopher Elbow from Kansas City (his chocolates look insane), and I’d also love to see Missy Robbins come back to us. 

Thanks for a great season, everyone!



Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

This dessert is a bit of a calorie killer, but hey, what the hell. It’s dead easy, but you’ll need a thermometer. Use two lemons if you like a subtle lemon flavor, or three for more of a zing. I like using frozen sour cherries to cook with -- fresh cherries should be eaten fresh. 

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes


Lemon creams:

3 1/2 cups 35% whipping cream
Finely grated rind and juice of 2-3 lemons
6 oz instant dissolving sugar

Poached cherries:

Finely grated rind of 1/2 orange

7 fl oz red wine (Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon)

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 whole clove

1 tsp instant dissolving sugar plus extra, if needed

7 oz frozen sour black cherries, defrosted 



To prepare the lemon creams: 

In a saucepan, heat the cream to 160°F. Remove from the heat and cool to 150°F.

Add the lemon rind, juice and sugar to the cream mixture, and mix well. Allow to cool, then pour into six 6-inch dariole moulds (cups, ramekins, or glasses will do if you don’t have molds*). Place on a tray and put in the refrigerator to set, about fur hours.

To poach the cherries:

Place the rind, wine, cinnamon, clove and sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Add the cherries, bring to the boil, and taste for sweetness. If necessary, add a little more sugar to neutralize the tannin of the wine, while retaining some zing. Simmer for five minutes, then cool.

When ready to serve, carefully up-end the moulds over serving plates and give them a shake; the creams should just slip out. If this proves difficult, run a small knife around the edge of the mould to release the cream and try again. 

Serve each lemon cream accompanied by 5-6 cherries. Drizzle a little of the syrup over each one. 

*You can also make molds from 3-inch diameter PVC pipe from a hardware store cut to depths of 1 1/4-inches. Sand the edges and then seal the bottoms with plastic wrap.