Get Fresh with Brian Malarkey

Brian Malarkey shares how to live and cook family-style with a healthy approach.

on Oct 8, 2009

First off, don’t get too caught up watching our Top Chefs cook family-style for some of the country’s best chefs in this week's episode. I learned a long time ago that home cooking is a lot different than restaurant cooking.  When I was a young culinaire with much to prove, I would invite my friends and family over to show off my newly acquired skills. I would spend the whole day shopping, chopping, setting, cleaning, washing, and in general, working my ass off. Then my guests would arrive, the table was set, the wine was open, and I would walk them through the appetizers, salad, soup, fish course, meat course, and some lame excuse of a dessert. All the while I would be plating each dish as if I had a team of talented line cooks working with me. I would do the dishes, reset, and even fold napkins.  At the end of the evening my somewhat drunk, full, and happy “friends and “family” would tell me how much fun they had, and I of course would be delighted to hear this, but when it was all said and done, I realized I had not had the opportunity to enjoy the evening. I did not get to enjoy stories, share ideas, catch up, and most importantly, I did not get to laugh with my friends.

I am always being asked what is the best meal I have ever had, or what would be my last meal, and after thinking it through many times, I have come up with the answer. It is not a 35-course at Jose Andres Mini Bar (truly amazing), and it is not Chef Keller cooking for me at the French Laundry (has not happened yet). It is sitting with my friends, my wife, my baby “Boots” in a comfortable environment with good wine, and most importantly, shared time of laughter and bonding. I don’t remember details of most of the dinners I have had that empty my wallet, but what I do remember is exactly what I had the night I proposed to my wife! When I think back on all my favorite meals I remember them as much for what was on the plate as whom I shared them with.

This is the healthiest thing about eating family-style; Roast a bird with some potatoes and vegetables, throw a whole loaf of bread in the oven, mix a huge simple salad, open some wine, and sit down with your friends and enjoy the time shared “breaking bread” together. You can still make a great sauce or relish, whisk your own vinaigrette, put your own personal touches on the meal, but don’t slave away while your friends drink and laugh the night away. Laughter burns calories too ….

I am sure most of our Top Chef contestants did not enjoy cooking family-style but the ones that did, the groups that had the best dishes, were the ones that lacked the drama, the groups who got along and enjoyed the challenge. Cooking should not be looked at as a challenge, except on Top Chef, it should be a ways to a means.  We cook to share emotions and not the other way around.

Bullet points on tonight's show:

I think Kevin or Michael will win this whole thing!
Bryan loves his brother!
Jen rocks it when the chips are down!
Ashley got robbed and Ash should have gone home, or at least Eli.
Robin and Laurine are on the outs!
Mike is annoying and insecure.
Padma needs a new stylist — that green dress was awful, but congrats on the baby!

Until next week! Laugh and be healthy.