I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t want to be a vegetarian but I learned a lot watching our chefs cook vegetarian food tonight. The lesson I have learned time and time again, but must constantly remind myself of, is to keep it simple, use proper cooking techniques, and do what you do best.
Yes, Michael V. is awesome with his “out of the galaxy” approach to vegetarian food and he showed why he is the one to beat, but Kevin showed us that we can all cook great vegetable dishes at home. His simple approach and the fact that he cooked with his hearty down home meaty-style gave me inspiration for the next time I cook vegetables on a cold winter day.
We saw lots of interesting approaches on this episode and I think some of our chefs got too caught up trying to emulate Michael V.’s polished cuisine with dainty portions and spent more time on colors and textures rather than soul. The other Michael, as we will call him, is a perfect example of spending too much time on looks rather than taste. This is where I challenge you and me to cook our vegetables with as much pride as the best steak, the freshest scallop, the rack of lamb or your backyard burger.
As Americans, we all eat too much protein and not enough vegetables, fruits, and grains. It's time we spent more time and more energy looking to enhance our knowledge and skill level when it comes to preparing the “rest” of the dish. Not only is it healthier for us, but better for the planet in the fact that it takes so much more “carbon” power to raise a chicken, pig, or cow, than to grow a field of grain, a patch of squash, or a grove of fruit. The amount of energy it takes to fatten the animal is enormous when compared to that need to grow a field that is then fed to the beast. We can eliminate the strain on the oceans as well, and in general be better protectors of our planet. Again I am not a vegetarian nor am I pushing you to become one, I’m simply saying change the proportions from the “center of the plate” to the “sides.”
It is much easier digesting a diet (hate that word) similar to a vegetarian with a side of bacon (love that word) than the other way around. So make yourself a salad with some halibut croutons or a burger with great tomatoes, crisp lettuce, pickles with a few slices of salami. Change your proportions and change your life as well as the life of the planet. This is where I want to insert a really lame Princess Leah joke about living well into the future or in a galaxy far, far away or something about Darth Vader but I just can’t seem to come up with anything that fits. I got it! The first movie I saw with Natalie Portman was a great small flick called Beautiful Life! Maybe the secret lies within that title! Eat Well and Live Well!
A few notes:
I love the fact that Michael got the boot before Robin after all his trash talking!
I love the fact that Kevin has been with the winner the last two weeks; you can just see him bursting with pride.
I fear Jen is going to beat herself down so far that the judges are going to have little left of her. It seems she has the ability to hang with the brothers and Kevin but she needs to get out of her head and just cook!
Now it is time for Robin to go home!
I hope Kevin gets his picture on a Schwan's box!
Michael V.’s take on Cheers was weak, but looked liked it tasted great.
Top Chef pulling the likes of Natalie Portman is a testament to the show on how well it is received and how far it has come. “I smell Emmy!”
I know that Richard Blais is going to have a great blog this week because he is a Star Wars FREAK!
See you all next week at Get Fresh!
As a one time vegetarian myself I can say that I thought the same as the Judges, that these dishes seemed to be all sides and not an entree. Its very hard going into a restaurant and looking for something that is filling and appears tasty at the same time. It's just lacking on most menus... and no a salad is not an entree. Don't get me wrong I love, absolutely love salads but some times you just want more. I think you are right in that you can add other things to a salad to make it more hefty. One of my all time favorite adds to a salad is a corn relish with corn, jalapenos, bell peppers, and black beans. The beans and corn make a protein. I love this option and make it a lot but it does get old at times. More and more people are becoming vegetarians so it is important for restaurants to see this. Mike is gone and I am happy about that too. Trash talking gets you no where, just makes you look like an a**. How these chefs didn't know that Natalie Portman was a vegetarian I will never know it's soooo common knowledge.
"This is where I want to insert a really lame Princess Leah joke about living well into the future or in a galaxy far,far away or something about Darth Vader"
While I applaud the second Star Wars/Top Chef blog reference, I can't believe someone would think that the character played by the amazing Carrie Fisher is Princess Leah...it's Princess Leia. This is especially upsetting when the guest judge is Natalie Portman who (to paraphrase Eli) is most known for her role in Star Wars!
I agree with your take that meat should become a side and not the main event. It makes me so sad that rain forests are being cut down so that cattle can graze. Cows create more pollution than cars... sad but true.
Uh, the early Natalie Portman movie you're thinking of is "Beautiful Girls", not "Beautiful Life." Not quite a motto for life, perhaps, but a good movie.
Brian, I think Tom said it best when he made mention that showmanship doesn't trump good execution and well seasoned food. Just because Mike V. seems to be able to do some amazing productions with his plates, Kevin seems to have been the most consistent chef on the show this season - nothing has rattled him, and he has shown an amazing range of foods he seems comfortable working with, and it has been obvious that the judges have thought the meals also tasted good as well.
I would also add that as the chefs have begun to dwindle, there have been a lot more frayed nerves between the chefs, and with the angst, it seems like some of the chefs that many of us thought would be handling the pressure and sailing through have reacted poorly, including Mike V.
On the other hand, Kevin has remained calm and jovial throughout, and the food has been reflected in his consistency. Strangely enough, the other chef who seems to have benefited from some of the favorites nerves seems to be Eli; perhaps he has been calmed by Kevin because both from Atlanta or is so much younger than the rest and just doesn't know better, but for the most part, Eli has been coming on strong lately. He hasn't missed platings, and has been producing some nice food.
Brian I appreciate the fact that you are trying to carve yourself out an identity in a crowded field as the "healthy" chef but I have to tell you your food Puritanism is getting tired fast. And I wonder if you haven't misjudged the foodie audience.
I think it was a great challenge for the show, and your comments are really on the mark. I am a vegetarian, and I love to cook, and I cook meat for my man. When I cook for him, I have to rely on my other senses - smell, texture and sight to gauge how its going as I can not taste it myself. It keeps it interesting in the kitchen! Doing great meals that incorporate something healthy and tasty for me and a dish that is more for the meat eaters is not difficult - just takes some creativity and experimentation. There are a lot of things that I cook that you would never necessarily know were vegetarian! But the old standards of creating a plate with meat+starch+veg+sauce are really out of touch - more people would be healthier if they did not focus on meat as the "meat" of the plate. :)