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Last week I had dinner at a restaurant in New York called Rouge Tomate. It’s the American outpost of a restaurant by the same name in Belgium, but it’s not the place to go for that country’s famous frites or creamy gratins; instead, the restaurant’s menu is designed to keep the diner feeling light—even after a five-course tasting menu like the one my partner, Daniel, and I consumed that night. During our meal, the chef came over to chat. He explained how the restaurant works: “I do my dream version of a dish,” he said, and then explained that his collaborator in the kitchen, a nutritionist, works with him to edit it into something lower calorie, lower fat, and more nutritionally varied.
It was uncanny that I’d eaten at this restaurant just a few days before watching Episode 4, considering how similar The Biggest Loser challenge was to the nutritional mandate Rouge Tomate’s chef adheres to every day. It was particularly notable because our meal at Rouge Tomate was really terrific—a delicious, nuanced, light (and light-hearted in its conception) repast, and one that clocked in at under 1,000 calories—whereas the dishes produced during tonight’s Elimination Challenge were uniformly among the most lackluster I’ve sampled on Top Chef Masters.
Mary Sue really hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that calorie counting is a largely foreign concept to chefs. In the challenge, the chefs were stripped of their usual weapons: butter, heavy cream, animal fats, cured meats — all those marvelous vehicles for flavor — were off the table.
There was absolutely no question that Floyd deserved to win this week. Compared to the other chefs’ dishes — flimsy, lo-cal shadows of the flavor-bombs on which they were based — Floyd delivered a plate of food that really stood on its own. With gloriously layered, bright, smart flavors, it wasn’t a healthy version of a meatball sub; instead, it was a dish unto itself, one that referenced the tastes and textures of its source material, but was an original composition in its own right.
I have to say as a whole, this is the first time possibly ever while watching any version of "Top Chef" that most of these dishes as they came across on my HDTV did absolutely nothing to make me hungry or want the recipe. This tells me your blog and how you describe most of the dishes as not-so-hot is right on point.
The meatball, Hugh's steak dish and the pizza were the only ones that looked appetizing. Healthy food doesn't have to look or taste like cardboard. Unfortunately, most of it did here.
This episode exemplifies the overall problem with this season's TCM, which is that these chefs don't appear to have any skin in the game. With the possible exception of Hugh, none of them seem really hungry for the win. It won't make them any richer. It won't make them more famous. Maybe a tiny bit of bragging rights (for about 10 minutes), then it's back to their already-very-successful lives. I agree with James that they phoned this one in... but they've been doing that all season. They have so much experience and so many dishes under their collective belts, that they can pretty much adapt each challenge to some recipe they already know (ceviche, Mary Sue?). Boring boring boring. Give me the flat-out "I-have-to-win-or-I'll-die" mentality of regular TC. Or the concentrated bravura of Chopped All-Stars... now THAT was a competition!
Isn't it disingenuous to compare a Rouge Tomate dish or dining experience to a, yes, calorically parallel Top Chef task? One has a chef create a dream dish and then spend hours (or is it days or even weeks, and many tastings?) experimenting to replicate flavors with lighter ingredients and different techniques to produce flavor in an optimally healthy choice. The other is "Hey, you reality TV sign-ups with great credentials, make it work now, in an unfamiliar kitchen and, by the way, work it within another reality TV show construct." It's fun TV, and I enjoyed the episode as a diehard Top Chefs fan, but if there was ever a set up for pursed lips and "I like meat/butter" comments juxtaposed with "Red meat is evil," this was it.
Poor Suvir...but really, the best way to get yourself booted off of Top Chef is to criticize the eating preferences of a table full of decadent gourmands! At any rate, the judging on this episode was disappointing. Chefs that lazily produced mini-me versions of staggeringly unhealthy dishes were rewarded, while those, like Suvir, who actually made an effort to create a healthy dish, were penalized.
No points for trying to honor the spirit of the challenge? Really? Because if all you're going by is taste, of course miniature portions of conventional restaurant fare are going to beat out vegan dishes or meat analogue dishes! Well, at least Pomeroy's honest attempt at a healthy french toast was acknowledged.
I loved this challenge, in theory. It has been a dilemma for most home cooks: how to make delicious, healthy meals. However, from what I watched, most of the dishes were not very creative. I actually think I can and have done better. I find this crop of cooks to be less than impressive compared to seasons past. None of them are standouts. And their food seems unremarkable and boring.
Nothing from the episode seemed to imply that the veggie burger was the worst tasting dish. Instead, the focus was on Suvir's lecture, and that he missed the mark with the challenge, which I completely disagree with. I'm not a huge Suvir fan...but I think the took a tremendously courageous risk in making the veggie burger. Like he said, the purpose isn't to simply take an unhealthy dish and reduce the portions to a 1/3 of the original....but to change the eater's tastes and lifestyle. What is the point of that? Perhaps Suvir would have been better served to make a single tiny bacon and meat slider, with a single french fry and onion ring fried in olive oil. And for dessert....a 1 cm by 1 cm bite of chocolate brownie with a 1/2 teaspoon of rich vanilla ice cream.
It seems Alex has had the worst dish (or very close to it) for a majority of the episodes so far. Suvir's dish was too risky, but that is much better than a bad tasting dish that doesn't taste great either. Last time you eliminated John for a decently executed dish, that was far too safe. So how do you explain Alex's dish. More than anything, some consistency by the judges would be nice.
Of all the people I know, I am the last remaining watcher of the show. This season of Masters has been beyond disappointing....but I'm still watching hoping for better.