Burning Questions

The eliminated chef has no regrets about his final dish.

Apr 27, 20110

Bravotv.com: What did you think of this week’s Quickfire Challenge?
Suvir Saran: I was so distressed by the cheese expert's total lack of understanding of Floyd's dish that I wanted to leave the competition even before the Elimination Challenge. European cuisine has given the world many culinary pleasures, but one cannot discount the fact that there are many more millions of people in other parts of the world eating foods with the complex and pleasing flavors of different herbs and spices. Floyd's dish was the epitome of Mexican street food, where adding cayenne to cheese is expected, not unusual. To suggest that it is an abomination to add cilantro to a cheese dish discounts the addition of basil to Italy's gorgonzola and mascarpone, not an unusual combination! So, this judge had such a limited view that I felt his judging did not do justice to the chefs. If the judge was going to reject out of hand any variation from the European view of cheese, perhaps he should have indicated that from the outset.

Bravotv.com: Moving on to Elimination, what were you thinking when Curtis announced the challenge?
SS: I was thinking, what a wonderful challenge. What a great challenge. What an important challenge at such a critical juncture in the life of our great nation. As we worry about national security, I wonder how many people realize that obesity and health and wellness pose as much or bigger a threat to national security than perhaps any invasion we might face from another country, nation or people.

And so -- I was thinking that the show did well by our nation to come up with this challenge. I was very proud to be part of it. It gave me a new reason to be proud of my participation on Top Chef Masters.

Bravotv.com: You said that you work a lot with people losing weight — can you describe some of those experiences?
SS: I work with myself, and that makes me very aware of the myriad challenges that anyone obese faces on a daily basis, maybe even hourly. There are always temptations around. You are never too far from something so bad for you, but also so very addictive and harmful. These often come cloaked in innocent packaging, pushed into our lives sometimes by innocent loved ones. At other times through the cooking of family, friends and chefs.

My work with the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard Medical School for a conference called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives, and with Harvard School of Public Health on a conference called Worlds of Healthy Flavors has made me critically aware of the role of food and diet on a persons health and the ultimate shape our lives take on medically. You are what you eat. And this adage becomes increasingly more significant as you peel of the layers of hyperbole and discover how what we eat ends up shaping how we feel.

30 comments
unimpressed viewer
unimpressed viewer

I used to have a great deal of kudos for Curtis Stone as an advocate of sustainable, healthy food practices but after watching Suvir get eliminated, I lost a great chunk of this respect for him.

C.Brooke
C.Brooke

Suvir made a great point: allowing people who are trying to lose weight to keep red meat in their diet is counterproductive. If these are people who haven't taken the time to understand and control their diet up until now, what makes Curtis Stone think that they'll stick to the few red meat options that contain an acceptable amount of calories? Even ignoring other health problems with red meat and cattle farming's environmental impact, the logic of the former argument is difficult to ignore. Just cut it out, it's much easier. I'm very grateful that Suvir said what had to be said and saddened by his treatment from the judges and Hugh. I wonder if Curtis Stone isn't getting some benefit from the beef industry. I expected better of him.

swati
swati

Increased respect for Suvir as a chef and a person at the end of this episode. Top Chef is anti- vegetarian and Suvir knew that and yet he stood by his ideals and made what he felt was the best dish for the client. Not everything vegetarian must be made to mimic meat...that kinda defeats the purpose of taste. I wish I could have tasted Suvir's food. They brought back Hugh- I am still unclear about why they brought him back - maybe they need Suvir back...

J Haspels
J Haspels

For goodness sake, have you never heard of a portobello mushroom? I've had great veggie burgers made w/ the portobello as the meat. My friend adds roasted red and yellow peppers. It's better than a cheeseburger and just as satisfying. American's have a very defined picture of what a burger is. It has to be on a bun of some kind. When they said bacon though, I kind of thought you were sunk. Nothing in the vegetable world tastes like bacon.

malibusal3
malibusal3

As a former resident of the building above Devi, I have eaten at Suvir's restaurant on numerous occasions. It seems to embody exactly who he is. In addition to being incredible, the vegetarian dishes (of which there are many) are delicious, flavourful - you never feel dissatisfied or as if you are lacking a protein. As a vegetarian I find it extremely difficult, even in NYC, as a foodie. I fully support him in what he does and wish he was still on the show for many reasons, not the least of which is that he provides the most entertainment and is by far the best!

Viewer 1
Viewer 1

SUVIR YOU ROCK! NOT JUST AS A CHEF, BUT AS A PERSON!

 know what I like
know what I like

I'm not a vegetarian, yet I adore vegetables and whole foods. I WANTED this meal. I enjoy the meat that I eat, and if I'm going to have it, it's not going to be in a burger. I've never been overweight, but if burgers are what got you to the obesity dance, I say dump them and get conscious, and introduce yourself to the astounding world of real food. Thanks Bravo for bringing us Suvir - he's seduced me with his offerings. Thanks Suvir for thinking big.

Vegan Veiwer
Vegan Veiwer

Suvir is a man of honor and integrity in his food choices. I have only been vegan for a year and half, but have been a vegetarian on and off again for 30 years. Making the right food choices is a daily challenge for everybody not just the obese. He made the right choice and explained fully his intentions to the biggest loser contestant. I think the peer pressure is what changed her mind on the veggie burger more than anything else.

I do not regret my current food choices and am dedicated to sticking to them for the remainder of my life. So much of our sicknesses are caused by poor food choices and the media blitz of advertisements for foods that we shouldn't be eating in the first place. The preservatives alone are killing us little by little every day.

Suvir may not have made the judges happy or his client, but he can walk away from Top Chef Masters with his head held high because he did not cave in to the peer pressure to make things that are unhealthy for an obese person. I believe that most of the mainstream media are afraid of the health benefits being vegetarian and vegan provide and that is why they do their best to degrade it every chance they get. Money and advertising is also a part of that mix and without the advertisers there would be no shows like this or even a network dedicated to food.

are you crazy!!!!
are you crazy!!!!

I honestly did not know Suvir before the show, nor did he blow me away during the first episodes, but his "buring dialogs" responses give me an enormous respect for him. I have been vegan over 20 years, but will cook carnivore - I can only respect his position and willingness to be committed to it. BRAVO (in the true sense, not to be confused with the TV station)!!

SB Viewer
SB Viewer

Thank you, Chef Suvir for your remarks - I don't think Top Chef realizes how many vegetarians there are who love to cook and don't eat meat. I've never expected the show to be vegetarian friendly but to have it be anti-vegetarian is disappointing. Leaving any ethical discussion aside, to ignore the health and environmental consequences of our over-consumption of meat in this country is truly sad. I'm thankful Chef Suvir was on the show and hope to learn more about him.

Interested Party
Interested Party

Boy, you can't win! Twice Oseland says you played it safe, and then he skewers you for thinking outside the box. Good for you! The other chefs who simply doled out reduced portions of the same dish should have been admonished for playing it as safe as safe can possibly be. Sorry to see you go!!!

Not Surprised
Not Surprised

I think that Suvir forgot he was on a competition show.

You have to follow the challenge. A lot of people go home on reality shows because they didn't follow the challenges which is what Suvir did.

He needed to make something resembling the flavors of a cheeseburger with fries, while making them a low calorie dish, and he failed , period.

Hated to see him go, but he should have been smarter.

EHenry
EHenry

Suvir is simply a class act who represents the very best in the world of culinary and operates at a level that most people, including the judges, have a hard time understanding. He sees more than just food and ingredients and calories and spices. He sees a life force and a measure of spirituality on the plate. I think he cooks in a world of which many are just not familiar. I was very proud of the way he stood up for his principles and didn't bow to conventional ways. He's a champion in my book!

breaktheranks
breaktheranks

Suvir, I just want to say that I truly respect what you've done tonight and am very sad that the judges saw fit to let you go. This interview is brilliant- and you are a talented chef who truly cares about many things people ignore. Thank you for that.

titarico27
titarico27

I admire and thank Suvir for bringing up social and health issues in this question and answer discussion (both are intertwined). As Suvir, so intelligently mentioned, social construcs are affecting the foods that people consume in the United States. As a result of the high prices of vegetables/fruits and the low prices of high caloric foods, often the poorest of the U.S. are the most overweight. I also admire Suvir for staying true to his ideals and for admirably bringing up the negative points about this season as well. I too am disappointed in some of the challenges, which as Suvir stated, sometimes make a mockery of the talents these amazing chefs. I am also highly disappointed in the quality of the judges of this season. They seem overly pretentious and uncharismatic. Top Chef Masters, I love you, but as of right now I'm disappointed in your decreasing quality as a show.

Bonnie D.
Bonnie D.

Suvir brought a very personal struggle to the table by taking the opportunity to prepare an alternative choice for his client. Nope, it was not a bacon cheeseburger. But, if you made a commitment to change and come this far then lose all that weight and your craving for bacon cheeseburger beckons, one might consider meeting that craving with higher quality, healthier choice albeit a non-meat alternative because your life depends on it.

I have been a meat eater all my life, but have made a very conscious effort to explore healthier ways of eating by choosing organic produce, including grass fed animals & wild caught seafood, eliminating processed foods, and cooking with a new food or ingredient each week. This is all for better health, wellness, & happiness. It is my hope that the clients on this challenge take their lives seriously enough to entertain lasting change in their lives and will try many different ways of eating and find what works for each of them. It is clear that Suvir wants to encourage healthy ways of eating that are innovative.

Americans have the highest number of obese people on this planet. This challenge was time appropriate in bringing the topic of health and wellness to the table. More people each day are learning that diets do not work and that it is the quality of what we eat, how we live, work, exercise, and love that changes health for the better.

The vast majority of our modern diseases are directly related to how we eat and live. The nature of this challenge had more power than was allowed to be portrayed. Maybe TCM and Bravo played it safe rather than the other way around.

Khushali
Khushali

Honestly, I saw this coming. Once you say vegetarian on cooking shows and just to professional chefs, it seems to go downhill from there. It is sad that many chefs do not say that a vegetarian meal is a legitimate meal. I want to see, just once on Top Chef, that there is a challenge to make a vegetarian meal. I can already predict what will happen. All the chefs will be shown as being upset and dumbstruck that they have to make a vegetarian meal. After, we will see these tiny dishes that show very little creativity or initiative and something that deserves no respect in the eyes of the customer or the other chefs.

This aspect is what Mr. Saran was talking about. It is that chefs look down upon vegetarian food and do not think of it as a lifestyle. However, there are so many advantages of being a vegetarian, not only in relation to your health but also in relation to the environmental issues of pollution and climate change. Vegetarianism should be looked upon favorably and these shows are the ones that are going to effect how people look at and try food. If there is a focus on healthier and vegetarian meals, then it is very likely that the human diet would move towards a healthier diet as well.

I think that Mr. Saran did an AMAZING job and his statement was probably the most important one made throughout the Top Chef series. I think his step was exactly right. In the Biggest Loser, the main goal is to make a change in the contestants lifestyles in order to be healthier and thinner. Now, trying vegetarianism is one that follows this goal perfectly! What Mr. Saran did was admirable and should not have been eliminated. In order to become healthier, you cannot trick yourself into eating better food, you have to actually make that visible change.

I think that if chefs actually want to make a difference in the people and prevent diseases like obesity, they need to switch their focus in these shows from money and what the audience want most to what information and ideas need to be brought to the audiences. Changes NEED to be made and if we want to make a difference in the way humanity is proceeding for the better, this is one change that needs to be focused on and quickly!

Jessica H
Jessica H

You're awesome, Suvir. I was halfway through my recording of tonight's Top Chef Masters and I already knew you would be eliminated, which I think is a terrible mistake. You were my favorite chef from the beginning! Red meat has been proven to increase instances of cancer and heart disease and has no redeeming nutritional qualities that aren't available in better (and tastier!) foods.

I am so proud and honored to see a vegetarian chef who is open-minded, understanding, and non-judgmental but still able to hold on to his values. On a side note, the images of the freshly killed pig over the female's chef shoulder were disturbing by anyone's standards. It would be nice to have a more understanding and less slaughter-house feel to the show.

Maria Carrasco
Maria Carrasco

If anyone was well suited for this competition, it was Suvir who due to his experiences, lifestyle and beliefs understood the entire concept of the challenge with all of the ramifications. Dealing with overweight is not only about food but involves behavior modification and you must adapt your palate, acquire a variety of tastes and be open to new things as well as a change in lifestyle. Healthy food is delicious too but it would be absurd to believe a diner could equate the taste of saturated fat found in meat and cheese in a healthy meal. We, as a nation need to learn this and not see it as a lecture but to turn it into a way of life. My daughter has high cholesterol and although we were health conscious before, now we are even more so. I am proud to say that my 4 year old daughter has learned and she is capable of understanding that she cannot eat saturated fat or trans fat and that although a big cheese burger is delicious, it is not worth dying for. I praise Suvir for his choice and for being true to his instincts as well as his beliefs and committed to his diner’s health. By the way, one of the judges said the veggie burger was good this is contrary to “bland and boring”. It is a shame the judges could not agree and did not understand the entire scenario that surrounds obesity and the related health issues. As with any type of addiction, people face options and tough choices on a daily basis and must be encouraged to break free from elements that cause harm and disease. I was flabbergasted to see Suvir pack his knives but hopefully now he will have a chance for his own show to showcase his healthy recipes, tours of the farm and visits to his restaurant, I would enjoy watching that. It is a shame that integrity and high morals are qualities so seldom seen that people with convictions are no longer honored but condemned.

taekwondidi
taekwondidi

I don't have a problem with Suvir using a vegetarian alternative, but he could have done it without so much self rightiousness. I don't blame Hugh for being somewhat annoyed. The grand standing was rude. Good for all the chefs for finding great alternatives. Speaking from a foodie who watches her weight, this food looked great, and I would love to see the pizza recipe.

M3
M3

Suvir, As you know all but one will be asked to leave so you certainly are not a loser in any sense that matters.

Our species has much to learn about eliminating violence from our lives but what easier way to start than with our diets?

Greatly enjoyed your participation in TC Masters & loved the dimension you brought to the competition.

fursure
fursure

I WOULD LOVE IT IF YOU HOSTED A VEGAN AND VEGETARIAN COOK SHOW ON BRAVOTV!!!

Sweden
Sweden

Suvir was, in all honesty, the only reason why I was watching this season of top chef masters, because it is far less intresting and entertaining than previous seasons. (Why they would change the concept to look more like the standard top chef series, I don't know.) Also, I do agree that top chef are anti-vegetarian and always have been, but to actually have a competition where you actually have to kill in order to cook?? Kind of bad taste, I would say. At least Suvir had some integrity, which is more than you can say about the bravo network (and the other chefs who happily threw alive bugs into the pans).

Well, there were top chef- just desserts.. So where is top chef- strictly vegetarian? Maybe, with that show, we could actually escape the face and voice of James Oseland.

never miss an episode
never miss an episode

I admire Mr. Saran's dedication to helping people improve thier health and his unwillingness to compromise his principles. However, I do think it bears pointing out that not all red meat is the same and detrimental to our health. I wish that such opportunities would be used to promote the benefits of grass-fed beef, and to educate the public on the tremendous difference between its health impact and that of corn-fed beef. Without delving into a diatribe, suffice it to say that corn-fed beef (what has now become the standard, as it is cheaper and more efficient to produce) contains much greater quantities of the fatty acids that result in the health risks Mr. Saran talks at length about, whereas grass-fed beef has higher levels of those fatty acids which are, in fact, beneficial to our health. This is the same point that I wish Elia, on Top Chef All-Stars, had made more strongly on their Reunion show, before being shut down by Mr. Colichio. It amazes me that people whose lives revolve around food appear to have such narrow views and knowledge about health.

Buddydave
Buddydave

The judges absolutely made the right call. I was very pleased with their decision. Suvir completely failed his client. He could have made a veggie burger that incorporated some of the "reference points" (to steal James Oslund's phrase) of a bacon cheeseburger. He could have used his creativity and imagination to win her over to the idea that she doesn't have always have red meat. But he didn't do that. He served a "lecture on a plate" and just used an old recipe of his. He didn't just say ALL red meat is bad, he said you can't EVER make a healthy burger and fries. Because there was NOTHING in his dish that referenced a burger. Instead of a bun, he served a pita. Instead of a patty, he served a mashed veggie ball. Instead of fries, he served slaw. Suvir's self-righteousness failed himself. It failed his client. It failed the judges. And it failed America. Suvir could have made a statement without being so militant, strident, and unyielding. But he failed.

LLM
LLM

I also think the judges were completely off with this one. Suvir truly understood what needed to be done, especially to modify an Bacon Burger. As someone who is not obese, but struggles with those constant 10-20 pounds,I have followed the WeightWatchers plan over the years. It is a plan that works, but I always thought it a shame that they focused on, what would be translated as, calorie counts - until this year. Even they now recognize the importance of what goes into your body, not just the amounts. It is a struggle but one I think we and his burger-loving client needed to hear. Portion sizes are just 1 part of the problem. I would like to think the judges recognized this, and truly based their decision on the fact they did not like the taste of the veggie burger. It is hard to say, based on the editing. But I was truly disappointed. I would love to eat in Suvir's restaurant someday!

M3
M3

Suvir, As you know, all but one will be asked to leave so you are certainly not a loser in any way that matters.

As a species we have a long way to go in eliminating violence from our lives & hearts. What better way to start than our diets?

Thank you for bringing your special dimension to TC Masters this season.

MaggieSC1
MaggieSC1

I am so very sorry to see you go, Suvir. Thank you for not only being true to your ideals, but for understanding that part of what we need to do to combat obesity is to have the guts to change our eating habits, to learn to enjoy healthier foods & to live mindfully. It's a dreadful shame that the judges were so lacking in understanding, but, sadly, exactly what I've come to expect from James Oseland.

craw
craw

This blog post is far and away the best thing to have come out of a crummy season of Top Chef. Suvir is an elegant, brilliant spokesman for his beliefs and for himself, and everything he says here is completely and unequivocally true.

jh18
jh18

As much as I enjoy parts of Top Chef, I have found the show to be anti-vegetarian in many ways over the years. I remember hearing that when vegetable dishes were great, but the meat not so much, discussions that the meat was always the most important part of the dish, not the vegetables so the chef was sent packing. Although you have had a few vegetarian episodes, I wish you would include more on this topic. Many of us can be foodies and not eat meat (although most chefs, esp, AB, would disagree). Would like to see more on the complexity of vegetarian food rather than grilling a piece of meat. Thanks Suvir.