Food Porn

Krista Simmons explores the similarities between cooking and burlesque.

Sometimes Vegas deals you a crummy hand. While I was busy galavanting around town on my day off, the cast was getting to experience in two of my guiltiest pleasures -- Dita Von Teese and Thai food. As you might have gathered from my comment bubbles on the interactive episode, I have a massive girl crush on the queen of burlesque. In fact, I am so inspired by Dita that I ended up taking burlesque lessons here in L.A. a few years back. And I found it fascinating how much the art form really does apply in the kitchen. 

Not in the obvious way, of course. Let me tell you, feather boas and frying pans are a dangerous combination. (I'll keep it G-rated and spare you the details on that one.) It's more the spirit of burlesque that applies to cooking. The art of the tease, the importance of timing, and exhibiting the right amount of restraint make for showstoppers in both art forms.

There really is a playful dance that the chefs have do in the kitchen, knowing how to tease the palate, and exactly when to execute that one explosive moment that wows the crowd. In the quickfire, the Masters did just that; even the dishes that Dita was least fond of seemed pretty darn sexy. 

Though most of the dishes looked divine, to me, Chris' dish was serious food porn. What can I say? Some girls like love poems and long walks on the beach, but for me, foie gras and figs and roses are the epitome of sexy. Perhaps this is why I'm still single.  

But I digress. Back to burlesque. Another element of the dance that applies in the kitchen is timing. Just as a dancer slowly coaxes off her glove to the baseline in “Fever,” the kitchen brigade has to stay coordinated with the firing of their dishes. A good expediter will make it seem effortless. I've worked in kitchens were it sometimes seems that the staff is reading each other's minds, and the only voices you'll hear is an occasional “oui, chef” after the expediter calls an order. But that can all quickly turn to chaos. And in the elimination challenge, we saw how critically that impacts everyone.

It was unfortunate to see Kerry and Patricia, who are both such pros, come to blows, but those sorts of communication meltdowns are classic on a first night of service. That's why critics wait at least a few weeks, if not months, to review a restaurant. The Masters didn't have that luxury. 

Some of them, however, gracefully executed dishes akin to Saipin's at the Lotus of Siam. Her Northern Thai dishes toy around with sour, salty, sweet, and spicy flavors. Like a great burlesque tease, they are never one note, and always leaves you curious, yearning for more. Having lived and farmed around Thailand, I would have loved to have been there to sample Kerry's winning dish, or Lorena's pisco-spiked tom ka gai. But considering how much I admire Saipin, I might have ended up tongue-tied like Curtis at the judges' table.

Sadly the Masters interpretations of her cooking weren't all winners. Art played it too safe. If you were to liken his chicken dish to a strip tease, his seemed downright Victorian, barely showing the slightest bit of wrist. But look, it's a tough challenge to cook regional cuisine with a minute's notice. Saipin has been working on that craft for a lifetime. 

All in all, I think the Masters did a good job presenting their talents to two very well respected women at the top of their game. It was undoubtedly an experience to remember, or in my case, envy.

 

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