It was another marketing marvel of an episode - an observation made with considerable respect for the creative and business powers-that-be at Top Chef who continue to cleverly and as seamlessly as possible meld sponsors and elimination scenarios. The ersatz mile high competition was an intriguing challenge to watch play out, while serving as an impressive plug for Continental Airlines. For those traveling (or aspiring to) first or BusinessFirst on Continental to, it effectively delivered the message that the airline is trying to be serious about the food it serves front-of-the-plane passengers. Actually, Continental may have gotten more than in bargained for in the guise of "free" R&D for three new dishes. While Casey got the win because of the bold creativity of her veal medallions, the judges - including, maybe especially, the Continental Congress of Chefs honcho - had nary a quibble with what Dale and Hung put on the tray-tables. Indeed their efforts were enthusiastically commented upon except, of course, for Dale's miscount.
In fact, had Dale kept the number 18 firmly entrenched in his mind, not putting one of his passengers the position of wondering "Where's the beef?" would he have emerged the winner? Not impossible. In this instance, playing it safe with a proven-crowd pleaser in that would stand up well to the ruthless onboard finishing ovens, adroitly addressed Tom's mantra for top chefs, working smart. Dale's choices and execution were spot on for the task at hand; he delivered a dish that could go right into Continental repertoire. The same could not necessarily be said of Casey's. Veal is not everyone's cup of protein, which is why it was considered a daring choice. Plus, as the Continental guest judge pointed out, serving certain vegetables, such as cauliflower, that can have unfortunate digestive consequences is something airlines avoid. So, to my mind, the case could be made that Casey, in the context of creating a dish to fulfill all the criteria for a first class airline meal, did not quite make the grade. However, the judges stuck to the best dish rule and Casey got her second win in a row. As she said, she's on a roll. I can't help but wonder if the heretofore lovely if lackluster girl-next-door has been quite the sly minx all along. She hinted as much with regard to her first win, noting she had managed to stay in the middle, managed to stay in the game without making waves. As I pointed out in this blog last week, her declaration it was time to pull out the big guns was intriguing.