Bravotv.com: First of all, you’re just back from the Emmys. How was that?
It was a blast. The support was amazing. Everyone from Debra Messing to Rex Lee from Entourage and the entire writing staff of Lost are huge fans and it was so incredible to get their support. I really felt like Top Chef was part of the action.
Bravotv.com: Even though you weren’t part of this episode, what did you think of the Quickfire?
I think it was an interesting challenge. It was obvious everyone was upset with Robin for winning. I understand that she might not be the strongest chef there, but when food tastes good and it’s presented in a clean way there’s something to be said for it. A lot of the contestants really fussed up that challenge and she kept it simple. When you do something simple and make it really good that counts too, and you can’t discredit her. I think her win had nothing to do with the fact that she had cancer. I was really disappointed that Eli brought that up, because I don’t think she was playing that card. She actually had a story to tell that made sense to her duo. She wasn’t judged on the story either; she was judged on the flavor of her food. The devil of getting cancer woke her up to take notice of what she was eating (i.e. the sugary sweet), so she tries to balance it with the angel by going for fresh salads instead. I was very proud of her. Some of the other chefs didn’t necessarily have reasoning for things being on their plates. Everyone’s going to be upset when someone who they think isn’t as good as they are wins. It’s a competition and they were just jealous.
Bravotv.com: Penn and Teller were the guest judges for the Elimination Challenge ...
They were awesome. I wish I had been there to meet them. I thought the challenge was smart too. This is an example of how understanding the challenge is the most important piece. Some people did it well and some people didn’t. I find deconstruction as a theme very relevant and very interesting right now because it’s a trend that fine dining chefs have been doing for quite some time. Avant garde, modern chefs in this country often take what is a simple dish, a well-known classic dish, and take it apart so it doesn’t look at all like what you’re accustomed to seeing. They then put it back together in a clever way so it may not look as it normally does, but all the flavor components when you taste it. It’s hard to do because it can’t be arbitrary. You can’t just pull everything out and then leave it on the plate. Deconstructed lasagna is not just putting the tomato sauce, béchamel, meat and pasta side-by-side. There needs to be a play on it, a cleverness and reason for them being deconstructed in the way they are. Some of our chefs' downfall was the fact that they didn’t figure out a smart way to do that.
Also, was it me or did nobody know what Eggs Florentine was? I think that’s really odd. Has the entire cast of Top Chef never eaten brunch before? It’s a very simple dish. An English muffin, sautéed spinach, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. It’s a version of Eggs Benedict, subbing in spinach for ham. I’m a big egg person of course but I wouldn’t think of it as haute cuisine. It’s what you find on every brunch menu in the country. I’m really surprised at how people didn’t know what it was.
In a nutshell, this episode went totally over my head, but the right person went home. One overcooked seafood too many.
Upset by Robin's win? No. Disappointed ,, yes. She's not a bad chef, she's just (in my opinion) a peg below Matin's skill. But, I've been around this world long enough to know that this kind of "elimination judgement" happens in every occupation. Ron's elimination was clearly a no-brainer. As you stated: he didn't know how to prepare paella; didn't know the concept of "deconstruction" ,, and thereafter was lost in effort. You brought up a good ,, and an amusing point about Eggs Florentine. And your poke at Toby was a chuckle too. Do ask him how he pronounces "Pizza". Happy Anniversary!
I think you are wonderful on the show. Even when you are critiquing (sp?) someone you are never mean to them, I love that about you. I also have to comment on Michelle Bernstein, I thought it was FANTASTIC when she laid into Toby!!! I really enjoy her on the show as well. You both will keep me coming back time and again. I will watch anything if either of you are in it:)
I feel bad that Ron got cut, but I agree with the decision. It seems like he was always in the bottom. I wish Robin didn't get immunity she really doesn't seem to know what she is doing and I do not enjoy watching her in the least. I love to cook and the show teaches me a lot of things I would not be exposed to otherwise. I really enjoy the show, thanks again for your wonderful nature and personality.
I appreciate the concise explanation of deconstruction. I think it's a term that's misunderstood by many inside and out of the fine-dining world (myself included).
I also greatly appreciate you calling Toby out on his purposeful mispronunciation of "paella". I did the same on his blog, albeit with much harsher terms. I expect this sort of close-mindedness from the younger, less world-wise contestants, but isn't a judge suppose to represent some sort of standard of etiquette.
I agree it was disappointing to hear Eli trash Robin's quick fire win by claiming Robin only won because she mentioned having survived two battles with cancer. I don't get the impression that any of the judge's are swayed by sympathy. Also, it was not an off the wall or gratuitous reference Robin made. She was simply explaining her 'angel and devil' theme. In past seasons, one younger male contestant repeatedly mentioned he lost a testicle to cancer. Another must have mentioned a half dozen times that he was diabetic. Its clear Eli and the rest of the chefs have it our for Robin. It seems every season the oldest woman is disrespected by the younger contestants.
Gail -- missed you this week! But I couldn't agree more about Michelle Bernstein. I think I'm head over heels in love with that woman. Ah, if only she weren't already married...
Folks in England pronounce foreign words as they read in English, while folks in the US tend to adopt and adapt the foreign pronunciation. So Toby says pie-ella and you say pie-ayah. That's a cultural difference, not a matter of individual ignorance.
Reading your blog has made me very hungry!
i found both the eggs florentine and fish & chips extremely difficult to deconstruct. Fish - Chips ? What's to deconstruct. Even if it were easy, I don't think Laurine could have pulled it off. Like Ron, she refused to use her imagination. But Ash's shepard's pie seemed so off the mark. How could he not know what it comprised? It's such a common dish. Wow!
I appreciate your comments regarding Robin and her cancer...eli was cruel and jealous...he hasn't won anything so why is he saying robin must go.
Gail, I was sad that you were not on this episode. I think you are a more balanced judge than Toby, and I'm pissed he's back on the show. I just wanted to say I was honestly offended by Eli's on-camera stab at Robin. What a jerk! First, when you heard Michelle's reasoning for picking Robin as the quickfire challenge winner, she didn't use the words 'cancer', 'sick' 'diagnosed' or anything. It was all "This is really simple food but really well executed". I also think it's important to note that just because someone talks about something painful in his/ her past does not mean they are trying to elicit sympathy from the judges. I never got that feeling when Ashley, Ron, OR Robin were talking about their pasts. These stories personalize the cheftestants and make them real and relatable to the viewer.
Bottom line: Eli, your insensitive and downright bitter words only prove that you are insecure in everything you do, and it shows.
Like Mike Isabella, Eli unfortunately showed a very immature side of himself in last night's episode. His comment with regard to Robin's bout with lymphoma, which came at a pretty critical time in her life, as she was just opening her restaurant, showed no class, forethought, humility, I could go on and on with adjectives, and unfortunately is seemingly consistent with the entitlement attitude of much of the twenty-somethings I've worked with. He grows up and is forced to pay some real dues to really move ahead in this highly competitive business, maybe he will realize that Robin took a very challenging time in her life and was able to translate her health challenge to this angel and demon quickfire. EVERYONE faces a significant challenge at some point in their lives, and not necessarily health-related, that forces them to take stock of their actions in the past and deal with them, and that realization usually carries forward in their day to day lives.
I think the chefs "not knowing" what eggs florentine is was a strategy move, why help out Mike if he's at a disadvantage?
We missed you on the show last night, Gail. Toby Young is no replacement for you. I wish I could say that I was shocked by Eli's open hostility toward Robin, or that this was a unique instance, but since the first episode some of the men (Mike I.) have been very dismissive of the women chefs as a whole. The blatant sexism is clearly an issue of insecurity, but it's still an ugly biproduct that we don't usually have to deal with on Top Chef.
Hi Gail, I was ashamed of the way the Chefs were trashing Robin.I don't know what they have against her.Maybe some of her dishes weren't the greatest but this time she did deserve to win.As far as Mattin goes it was the right decision to send him on his way . Any Chef who doesn't realize when his dish isn't good has a real problem. I cook often and I usually know when the dishes are good or bad.Also I don't think there was anything wrong with Robin for mentioning her cancer. When you have had it you are so glad to be alive to talk about it that It's a great feeling . I know , my Mother and my Husband both had cancer and my Husband still talks about it once in awhile.And that was in 1996. So please Chefs try to put yourself in someones shoes.!!!
I think that the chefs were lying to Mike about not knowing how to make Eggs Florentine. It's a competition and they didn't want to help him.
I totally did a deconstruction of eggs florentine today for lunch - homemade sourdough croutons sprinkled w/shredded fontina cheese, creamed spinach (with sauteed sweet onion and garlic), 2 over easy eggs (didn't want to deconstruct those), a dash of hollandaise, followed by a dollop of extra lemon juice and a trail of tarragon (I prefer bearnaise to hollandaise! Just spread it all out on the plate, serve w/a roasted fresh tomato (from the garden is best) and voila! Florentine always means with spinach, don't know why that was such a brain bender and I'm just a cook at home mom!
Re: Eli's cancer comments--clearly not an example of exceptional character, but like another poster wrote, try and put yourself in his shoes. From reading these blogs, my understanding is that the chefs are pretty much locked away in a house with 15 people they don't know, no newspapers, no television, no computers, no unlimited access to their friends and loved ones. The environment is designed to bring out the worst in people.
Also, the viewers don't know what struggles many of the other chefs have had in their lives. Who knows what obstacles Eli has had to overcome to get where he is? Just because someone doesn't talk about the challenges in his life doesn't mean they are any less significant than those of someone who does. Ashley talks about growing up poor in the interviews, but (so far) has never mentioned it to the judges.
Re: Toby Youngs pronunciation--I am totally on his side. There is no consistency in English for how we pronounce foreign words, and if he wants to say Pi-ella and Bernstein wants to say Pi-ayuh, let them each have their own way.
I really love watching you and really appreciate how honest you are about certain situations, especially Robbin's win. It's all about the food. In sports, sometimes 2nd string bench warmers come out to bat and hit a home run. The same goes for Top Chef contestants who might not shine as bright as the others, but you know they cook good. On another note, I wish Ashley Merriman had a blog because I would write and tell her how sexy she is. There's just something about her, I guess it's sex appeal. I'm not a lesbian but she really gets to me. Go Ashley! Please let her know that her face on TV is wonderful.
Great blog, Gail. Eli and Mike Isabella seem the most insecure of the group, but it does seem that the competition has now gotten too deep for Robin.
I like the Voltaggios, Kevin, and Jennifer to go all the way. I think a dark horse could also emerge from Eli, Mike, Ash, or Ashley. I'm betting Robin goes home next, also Laurine.
I totally agree with your second point. Season 5 - Jeff always thought he was a better chef because he overthought and put more technique into his food. However, Tom always reminded him that it was the product that was judged, not the process.
In that vein, I find the Robin bashing interesting. Yes, her skill set may not be as wide or as deep as other chefs, but, as my brother always reminded me, sometimes even the squirrel finds a nut. Each chef is judged on their one product for that week, not their history. So in any given week, even the "weaker" competitors can temporarily surpass the celebrity chefs. It heightens the competition imho, and it might be THAT fear that the other chefs are speaking from.
I don't understand where the Toby Paella bashing is coming from. Let me explain, I think everyone has a right to experience the show their own way. But logically, we Americans pick and choose our pronunciations so haphazardly, I wasn't shocked. For example, words like Los Angeles, Los Feliz, and sangria are common terms that we have chosen to be pronounced the "American" way. If I had nickel for every time I've heard an Asian word likewise butchered... Anyways, imho, it's not as much a question as "right or wrong" just "more common" or "less common".
Toby is well aware that paella is not English which is why he tried to explain that you don't change the way you pronounce mexico or barcelona because they are not english words....so why change the way you pronounce paella. The way we pronounce spaghetti in English is also not the way Italians pronounce it so how come we don't change that too, to the correct way.
I don't get deconstructed food. I think it's just chef play out of boredom serving the same things on a menu. It's trendy.
For a Caesar salad, is there a smear of anchovies, a dollop of raw egg on a plate, etc., and I'm supposed to mix it together to make my own salad? I would rather have it served already dressed, thank you. And don't forget the croutons! I must be missing the point. And if I do, so will a lot of other diners. Of course, that was Michael's challenge, so I don't fault him at all.
We had a table-side Caesar salad prepared in a New Orleans restaurant and it was fun. We were served a beautifully dressed salad. I don't want an odd imitation. It's like, here you go, now figure that out. What's great about that?
Thank you very much for explaining deconstruction in simple terms. If there was an explanation at the beginning of the program, I missed it, so I spent the program in a fog as what was supposed to be accomplished. I love the show, and you are always to the point. This tastes good or this doesn't taste good (and why).
Laurine didn't know what a "chip" is either! (french fries). I been trying to figure it out but I can't - how would you deconstruct a french fry?
OK, Toby comes off as a prat, but I'll stick up for him: Brits tend to anglicize pronunciation more than Americans (and Canadians) and see our pronunciations as affected. They have a point, since we pronounce France like "pants" not "taunts" etc. Even, when we mimic the original language, as in paella, we can be selective in which aspects of the original pronunciation, preserving the ll-y sound but dipthoniging the vowels. I don't think the British way is right (there's something for cosmopolitanism and multicultural melting-pot approach), but the indignation seems misplaced.
We have British friends who love to make a "Pie-ella." I guess there is no other explanation than when at home, you're in Rome.
If I went to a restaurant and ordered a Reuben and got tuna, I would want my money back!
When a patron orders one of these "deconstructed" delights, is there some way they'll know what they're getting?
That's a big concern for me as money is tight - and I am willing to bet that any chef serving deconstructed cuisine is charging $$$$$ for it.
Hi Gail. Great blog. Robin won't win the ultimate prize so the other chefs should just get over it and respect Michelle's decision. Did Mateen really leave all the scarves behind?
As for the fish and chips another blogger mentioned potato crusted fish. Sounds good to me!
Kevin and Mike V continue to amaze me more than anyone from any season. I also like Bryan and Jennifer.
As far as the Reuben goes, the rye bread works but gruyere, tuna and fried capers are a re-invention of corned beef, swiss sauerkraut and russian dressing not a deconstruction. Pastrami?? that's not a reuben.
In the culinary world, you pronounce "Bechamel" "Coq-au vin" "creme fraiche", "tandoori", foie-gras, etc... the way it is pronounced in the original language, right? so the same goes for Paella, it's an international dish and the correct pronunciation is expected from a chef.
I am not totally happy with Toby as a judge for a few reasons.
I feel that he is miscast in a role that has been preordained by producers trying to make up for the lack of lost talent from the first four seasons.
The chemistry between him and others on the panel doesn't seem to work.
He can come across as being too self assured in his criticism's simply in order to get a usable soundbite.
However one thing we shouldn't be upset with him about is his pronounciation of paella. He is simply being true to himself and his culture when he says it that way, anything else would be pretentious (and we don't need more of that).
Other judges that mocked while saying they pronounced Barcelona correctly would probably also state that the city is in Spain. Not Espana.
Get back to the food and stop being eedjits!
I was also surprised that a chef could be unaware of what Eggs Florentine is (I'm hoping those Mike asked were tactically feigning ignorance) or that chips means fries (she mentioned the newspaper, so either someone told her to say that or her memory failed her terribly).
I don't understand Brits' anglicizing words (especially place names) in other languages that are relatively easy to pronounce, which, as someone else pointed out, makes simply trying to pronounce them as they should be sound affected and pretentious. I did find it amusing that he chose "Barthelona" as an example, which she went along with - "For me, I'm Latin,...and I do say Barthelona." For Pere's sake, Barcelona is a Catalan city. There is no lisp in Catalan - they pronounce it with the "s" sound just like English speakers.
I want Jennifer to win she rocks! I want Mike I to go home his attitude is horrible gosh he is so full of himself. I think the brothers are so hot.
Actually, Paella is originally a spanish dish, and in Spain they pronouce is Pie-el-ah, the Mexican version is pronounce Pie-ay-ah. Feel free to look it up, that crazy Brit is still wrong though, becasue he didn't know why he was pronoucing the L, he was just doing it because that's how the British do it, so in his mind it must be correct.
Gail, were you knocking Jennifer's lagsana deconstuction? She was in the top 4 and everyone at the table loved it and Michelle said it was very smart.Toby and Padma also had great things to say about it.It came off strange the way you referred to her dish as what not to do and didn't mention Jennifer by name.
Actually, I lived in Spain for a year and I never once heard anyone pronounce it pie-el-ah. Wrong! The word still has the double ll and they are still pronounced silently.
I've never heard a Spanish person pronounce it pie-ella. Are you sure you didn't hear pie-el-ya? Some Latin Americans pronounce the "ll" as a combined L and Y sound.