Fast and Furious
Curtis Stone provides perspective on George Mendes' elimination.
This week’s Quickfire was a true test of every chef, because as much as we love to create delicious food, we have to be really conscious of our food costs. All in all, I think the chef’s did an unbelievable job. Celina’s spicy carrot soup with lime-pickled shrimp was outstanding as was Alex’s spiced squid. But I’m a little concerned for our industry, because we’re now likely to have people expecting amazing food like this for a dollar.
I have to say I felt for the chef’s during this week’s Elimination Challenge. Asking the best chefs in the country to cook fast food is naturally not going to be their favorite challenge. But let’s face it, we all eat all kinds of food, and great chefs should be able to cook everything from haute cuisine to something you eat while sitting on the sofa. In true Top Chef Masters style, we gave them the almost impossible challenge of keeping up with the lunch rush. And while the service was a little slow, the food was the best I’ve ever seen in the fast casual environment. I can still taste Mary Sue’s fabulous skirt steak quesadilla and quinoa fritters. I wasn’t expecting Floyd’s chicken Frankie to be great, but let me tell you, if you were served that at a drive thru window, you’d be going straight back into the parking lot to order another.
When I had George’s pork and chorizo skewers, I felt sorry for him, because he was in a tough spot to serve that as fast food. I admire that he chose to stick with a fine dining approach despite the fast casual environment. Unfortunately, however, it was his demise as the critics found it to be the weakest dish. I don’t disagree, but I want to say one thing about George: If you’re ever lucky enough to eat at Aldea in Manhattan, you will be blown away. I think George is one of the most talented chefs in America right now and his food is outstanding. Celina may have been a little lucky to stay in the competition after her lamb, pork, and garbanzo pancake. While her food was tasty, it was difficult to eat.
Talking about all of this is making me hungry. If only these chefs had fast food restaurants in my neighborhood!