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Getting down to the wire on this season of Top Chef ... and I have to say, finally an episode that I was literally on the edge of my seat and kind of nauseous while watching. Talk about an episode for chefs. Jesus, the chef star power in that room is enough to make anyone want to throw up. Thomas Keller (basically the closest thing to God we have in the cooking world), Daniel Boulud, Traci Des Jardins, Gavin Kaysen ... I mean, I could go on and on and on. I have been fortunate in my career to have the opportunity to work with a few of those chefs and I'll tell you, the intimidation factor is high. I couldn't even imagine having to come up with a silver mirrored platter of food for that table. I was very impressed by all the chefs in this episode just for pulling it off! From my experience, doing intricate platters like that are really something you either do once or twice in culinary school and probably never again, unless of course you are part of a culinary competition and compete on a regular basis. Most chefs who work day to day in restaurants never have to create platters like these, and I know I would have been incredibly nervous going into the elimination. I am glad it was this season and not my season, because to be quite honest, I think the caliber of chefs this season could handle a challenge like this better then the chefs on my season (including myself). I am the first to admit when I don't know how to do something, and this would have definitely not been my game.
For the Quickfire, I really enjoyed the idea of stuffing meat inside meat inside meat. We all know how I feel about my meat given the last few weeks of blogging, and I think it's awesome when you get to shove one meat inside another. I really loved Eli's idea of the Scotch egg. But I think it was because it was so homey and down to earth. I have to say, I am a big, big fan of no-frills food, perhaps the reason a detail-oriented mirrored platter does not appeal to me in the slightest. I have always been that girl who would rather eat a can of chicken noodle soup then go out for a fancy dinner (throw knives at me now. It's OK. I know, I know...), but it's true; for the most part I like simple, not necessarily simple in flavor, but just simple in terms of fuss. I like food to be clean, and to make sense, and I think that's why I find myself gravitating to Kevin this year. That guy makes some serious no-nonsense delicious-sounding food that always seems to impress. He's my kind of chef. Out of all the chefs, I think his restaurant would be the one I would seek out if and when I had time to go out to eat (or time to go to Atlanta for that matter). Anyway, back to the Quickfire. I am starting to really, really not like the brothers V. I think they are both so incredibly talented, but they have the personalities of a wet rag. Why can't the two of them crack a smile, lighten up a little? I get that it's a competition. Believe me, I get it, but great cooks with crappy personalities make TV a wee bit boring. I think Micheal definitely did not grasp the concept of the Quickfire and then with his cocky comments about making a ballantine better then Team USA did I really wanted to smack him. His attitude in this episode reminded me a little of Stefan from my season ... cocky, cocky, and cocky, but at least Stefan was funny! It was hard not to take him too seriously, but these guys this year, man. I can only imagine dinner conversation at the Voltaggio house...
Micheal: "Bryan, man you really should have cooked that chicken in sous-vide a little longer. It's kind of pink and doesn't look perfect enough."
Bryan: "Well, Micheal you know I cooked it at 65 degrees for 45 minutes and it's perfect for me. It's supposed to be that way."
Micheal: "It doesn't matter. I can do it all better anyway, and NO, I won't teach you how."
Parent: "OK boys, go finish getting ready for school!"
Yeah, seriously. Micheal, that comment about how Kevin cooks food you cook on your day off? I really hope Kevin kicks your ass now in the finale just to rub your face in that one, and watch those bones buddy. You would have immediately gone home if you were actually cooking at the real Bocuse d'Or. You aren't perfect. Stop acting like you are.
your blogs always make me laugh...love to read them. I do have one thing to say though...although I'm not a huge fan of Michael V., it looks like the comment about him making Kevin's food "on his day off" was the same clip from before. Just saying...but he is a bit of a jerk. I'm uber-excited about this season!!
Bryan is a classy guy that advised Kevin on the proper temp for cooking his dish and it probably cost him the win. I am offended that you would lump Bryan in with Michael just because they are related and cook at similiar levels.
LMAO - I Love your comments, always funny and so earnest.... Thanks so much for the comment on simple food. Simple is so devalued, give me a slab of butter or dollop of pesto (ok sour cream) over a smear of anything any day! As for the brothers V, I think Bryan would be a lot different if Michael were not around. Bryan even said in the episode Michael might have not helped Kevin, but it all comes down to helping each other in the kitchen. I think Michael does the smack talk, like Stefan, to get to the other players. (He even talked smack about Jenn, on the week she won.) And I think he doesn't get it...Michael (I suspect) thinks all of the fancy presentation is better than good tasting basic food to his detriment. I suspect most people with the economy are looking for value and a good tasking meal over smears and presentation.
To Michael and Bryan's credit though, I think if I were on a show, already high stress, with a high caliber of Chef's I would be stressed. But to throw sibling rivalry on top of that, I suspect I might be a bit snotty too. My brothers would pick on me relentlessly, but have anyone else pick on me god help them. Plus if I were Michael and not winning the elimination challenge week after week like Kevin is, I might be getting a little frustrated too (Bravo where is the tracker this year?). If you look back Kevin is first to win both Quickfire and Elimination and I think has won more Elimination than anyone. So I suspect in Michael's mind not only is Kevin the one to beat, but Kevin is also beating his brother (or Michael is just a prick and I am wrong).....
Keep up the updates, they are great!
Don't be so hard on Bryan; he's a really good guy. So far he's stuck up for his brother when they bashed him, he helped out Kevin with his technique and he also takes criticism better than possibly anyone. He may not be energetic, but you can tell that he has a lot of heart by the way he talks about his family...brother included. Plus, he can cook.
Hi Jamie!!! Just wanted to say that you were spot on in your blog this week. I find myself wanting to hop a plane to Atlanta to eat in Kevin's restaurant. His food is definitely more simple than the V bros, but I know it would be more delicious. He's my fave for the season. While contemplating who may be fan fav this year, I really have no idea who since no one has a good personality this year. All too serious. Your season had lots of fun people that cooked good food too. I have to be honest. I partly watch the show because I think the V brothers are so cute! I would eat at Kevin's restaurant first and then have the V brothers make me a sandwich! ;)
I love reading your blogs Jamie! I love your insight.. especially since you were my fave last season - it's great to see that you've still got a strong opinion in the Top Chef world!
I ate at Kevin's restaurant last week. The first course included a sous-vide egg and it was excellent. Then I find out last night that he only recently learned the technique? I'm even more impressed now.
I've flown up from LA twice to go to absnithe. I've asked if u were there both times, but never get up the nerve to ask if you can come say hi to me and my wife.. I never want to bother you.. So i just enjoy your food. (and secretly wish i'd see u peek ur head out the kitchen curtain)..
I hope Kevin smashes the Voltaggio family..
question.. Turducken Temp/cook time???
I couldn't agree with you more, Jamie! I love Kevin and I am soooo tired of the V brothers!!! Brian could be such an awesome guy but he is way too intense! Michael needs to relax and realize he is not God's gift to viewers. I would love it if Kevin or Jen won...they are both so talented and genuine. I guess it all makes for good television, right? Jamie, I loved you on the show and wanted so badly for you to win! I hope you are doing well!
I agree with your comments about Mike V. The thing he seems to be forgetting is that Kevin's food TASTES better than his. Hasn't Mike V. ever watched Tom's Diet Coke commercial...it doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to taste good!
I think Bryan has a great personality; throughout the competition, he has always been very classy. I think he has treated this as a serious competition the entire time, which may have reflected in his on-screen persona. I prefer listening to his comments over Robin & the two Mikes; not as much drama, but a lot more instructive. It is really a shame that the lamb was slightly underdone - I really believe that he would be a better competitor in the Bocuse d'Or than Kevin; nothing wrong with Kevin, I just think Bryan has skills that are better suited to that style of competition.
As for Michael V., he is a bit whiney and cocky. I suspect it comes from being the younger brother and sibling rivalry.
However, it does genuinely appear that all the remaining chefs respect each other and they defintely deserve to be there in Napa. Bring on the finals!
Quite simply, Michael needs to start cooking the food he cooks on his days off if he is to beat Kevin!
I am so happy Jen is back on form. She and Kevin were my pick from the start.
Hey Jamie..who ended up winning the Gilroy Garlic iron-chef cook-off? My husband and I were there for the beginning but couldn't listen to anymore Fabio "chair" jokes (I love you Fabio. Love your blog. Like you, I find Kevin's food suited to what I like to eat. He is the only contestant that has made me want to eat his food every week.
I must agree with the other viewers who stuck up for Bryan. He really has been a class act throughout - seems to be an excellent chef and dignified classy person. I thought explaining sous vide to Kevin, and explaining it in such a way that Kevin could prepare near-perfect lamb, was the highest level of being a class person and professional. Ultimately, Kevin seems to have the best palate - a genius-level palate, is my impression from judges' comments - and the steadiest nerves. I hope Kevin wins, but if Bryan were to win, I would feel very good about that too. (Heck, if Jennifer were to win, I would feel very good about that too, and if Michael were to win I would not feel surprised and disgusted. All of them seem to be at the professional level of all the past winners.)
Consider what Bryan's advice to Kevin cost him... $30 grand, and a Finalist slot for Bocuse America. When you saw Bryan sort of consider giving Kevin that information, you can bet that he was realizing in his mind what it might be costing him at this stage of the competition. Yet he did do it, and did it to the best of his ability so Kevin could execute his dish and win the challenge.
For me it's hard to slam Kevin, Bryan or Michael. They all seem like among the highest caliber chefs ever on Top Chef including Hung (who was a Finalist in the Bocuse last year himself), Blais, Marcel, Tre, Stefan and Harold
Jamie, do you still do the lovely lavendar creme brulee at Absynthe? I haven't eaten there in years, before your time there, and that was a dessert that still sticks out to me! Love Hayes Valley!
Jamie, loved your blog and agree about Michael V.. The sad thing is the way Keven cooks it the way most "non" chefs cook. This is the food most families would eat, not something that is too complicated to make. Bryan seems to realize this is a compition, but to win fairly you do need to help and share what you know. Really hope Keven wins, he seems to love food so much it would be a shame for him to lose.
I agree with you totally Jamie! I want Kevin to kick Michael V's ass! I liked him in the beginning but he is so cocky and arrogant.. Bryan isn't quite as bad but close.....but it was nice of Bryan to give Kevin advice, Michael I don't think would have done that.....
I must disagree, if I was to hire a personal chef it would be Michael. He has shown by far the broadest range of cooking, all at high levels, from japanese, southern (braised pork belly), barfood (buffalo wings), MG. With Kevin I know I would shortly get sick of and fat from eating his southern or upscale diner food or comfort foods.
I have a feeling michael phoned in this last challenge. I can't say for sure, but I felt was really annoyed and frustrated by all the judges fawning over Kevin for his greasy and heavy southern "man" food. (Contrast with last week a judge calling Michael's cooking effeminate.)
Your blogs are great, keep it up!!! And I absolutely agree with what you say about Michael V. He thinks he is soooo special, and that he is so sophisticated, but I bet my chef hat that Kevin's food is hands down better than his any day! Is not about fancy, is about food tasting good Michael, maybe is time to for him to start cooking with flavor and integrity instead of running his mouth. Kevin is my favorite to win, and I hope he does!!!
Kevin does what a chef is supposed to do...cook good tasting food.It looks good it tastes good and he does it with a smile. He's a winner in my book. Bryan and Jen are gracious too.Michael has a problem, cocky, arrogent, and he thinks he cooks better than eveyone.Sorry michael you underwhelm me and your attitude will be your downfall!
Your comments are spot on about this episode. They pretty much summed up my sentiments about the end of this season going into the final. I'm rooting for Kevin and Jennifer second. The V Brothers are very good technicians and not bad guys, but it's hard to see any heart and soul from them, other than primal survival skills. On that score, Bryan is the more civilized of the two. I'm being generous in considering that the stress is getting to Michael V. and that his comments about the other chefs, very ill-advised, are starting to make him look pretty bad in comparison to the magnaminous behavior of the other chefs toward each other.
Love the blog; completely agree. People who say Bryan has been "pleasant" this seson are only comparing him to his brother Michael. He's picky, sensitive and haughty. But he has generally done so quietly which, in the midst of Mike I., Eli and his bro comes across as being a gentleman. My picks: Kevin, Jen, Bryan in that order.
John D ... did you forget? This is the same guy who gave up a full ride to MIT, to become a chef !!!!
I appreciate what you mean about the brothers V not letting up, but c'mon... Looking ahead to holiday travel I have the 72 hour rule for family and when is the last time *you* spent living with a family member for more than a few days, let alone competing against them?
Great blog, as always.
I totally agree with you on Bryan. He has been presented as generally pissed off and fuming (up until recently).
I also reaffirm your choice to run Absinthe the way you want. I think some of us foodies may be under the impression that newer celebrity chefs have a large enough staff to cover for when they want to schmooze the high rollers, which may or may not be true.
Finally, I too am rooting for Kevin and JenC. On the forums, some refer to Kevin as Yukon Cornelius. Do you think they'll make a plushie doll of him?
I will agree with you that Kevin is an amazing cook, but I think you should cut Michael V. some slack. That guy is an excellent chef. I am a fan of Michaels and I am hoping he can pull it out in the end.
"I like food to be clean, and to make sense, and I think that's why I find myself gravitating to Kevin this year. That guy makes some serious no-nonsense delicious-sounding food that always seems to impress. He's my kind of chef. Out of all the chefs I think his restaurant would be the one I would seek out if and when I had time to go out to eat (or time to go to Atlanta for that matter)."
So much WORD! This is EXACTLY how I feel about food. One of the things that annoys me so much about Mike V. is that he keeps forgetting that the food has to taste good, first and foremost. If I get a plate of food that looks beautiful and a bunch of wonderful techniques were used to cook it but it tastes bad or was undercooked, that plate is going back. Period.
Come on Jamie, This group of chefs is working at a much higher level than in the past. I am sorry I disagree regarding Michael V. Think of all the stress all these chefs have been under. Michael, I believe takes his profession as a craft so he might be more serious and come off cocky but If I where going to eat at any of these restarants his would be the first I would head for. You tell me was it smart for Bryan to tell Kevin during a competion how to su vive. no. After fine We all know just how professional your group 5 was!! For any chef to win with a plate of kale well Nataile happened to like kale. I don't think any of the chefs did there best on that on. Maureen
Jamie, Love your blog and I am in awe at how spot on you are every week in calling the winners / losers or successes / failures. I always read Chef Tom's blog first and then yours - I seriously hope that Bravo will keep you on and available to us fans. Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving.
i don't know about you guys, including you jamie, but i think to be top chef, one has to know how to sous-vide. that separates the cooks from the chefs. that's why michael v deserves to win.
such a good blog! it still makes me mad that limp, salty celery was your downfall. i stopped watching after you got kicked off... anyway, i hope they ask you to blog again next season and good luck with the future!
Love your blog, but disagree about no one from your season could do this Bocuse d'Or challenge - your pal Stefan.
Wow, Jamie. I've enjoyed some of your posts this season but completely disagreed with this, and was sorry to see you bash Bryan V. for basically, being related to Michael? Come on.
And word to Satoriste and others--Bryan has become one of my favorite TC contestants because he seems like such a class act--quiet, respectful, talented, and a sly sense of humor. He's also a nice enough guy that he helped Kevin with the info he needed for sous vide--and lost $30,000 in the process. Doesn't exactly sound like a D-Bag to me. (I also agree with those who wished Bryan had won this EC as he does seem more suited to the Bocuse d'Or in both skill and temperament.)
Jamie, this latest post also buys into the storyline of the season that Kevin=simple, and V.Bros=complex, and I'm not sure it's fair to either side. Kevin's shown he can cook complex dishes and Bryan AND Michael have shown they can create with elegant simplicity when required. So I don't buy the arguments there. I just like seeing competitors as grown-up, smart and pleasant as Bryan, Kevin and Jen on my screen this season. Mike V. as the bratty upstart is fun because he's outnumbered (and probably on the verge of a comeuppance).
Nevertheless, this is a fantastic final four, and can't wait for the finale. I like Kev, but I'm totally rooting for Bryan V. or Jen to take it all.
@ge "i don't know about you guys, including you jamie, but i think to be top chef, one has to know how to sous-vide. that separates the cooks from the chefs"
Perhaps what you meant to say is that what differentiates a "cook" from a "chef" is that a chef should have a more vast and varied knowledge of preparations and ingredients?
I'm going to go with that theory, because I can't believe anyone would think that knowing how to sous-vide is THE ONE thing that defines the difference between a cook and a chef. If that were the case, I'd learn how to sous-vide, call myself a chef and go apply at the French Laundry.
Jamie, You probably get tired of hearing "great blog", but hell, great blog! LOL. It's been far too long since I've been to SF or even California (used to live in San Diego). Being in NY now, I sure miss it. I'd definitely make Absinthe a must. But, I'm sorry... I think I'd absolutely WANT scallops! Every time you made them they looked great! And I encourage anyone who hasn't done so to check out the restaurants web site. The menu looks fantastic! (And the cocktails!)
As for this episode, I missed it. I'll have to catch the rerun tomorrow.
You brought up a great point comparing the difference in cockiness. Mike I, Michael V and Stephan were/are all cocky. I think with Stephan, despite the cockiness, he tended to be more charming and funny. And that grin of his! With the other two I've mentioned, their cockiness tends to feel a little more mean-spirited, if that makes any sense.
As for Bryan... well, he may be hating himself for helping Kevin with the sous-vide (it is a competition and so much was at stake), but my guess is he'd probably hate himself equally if he'd been the ass*ole on national TV who didn't. It said volumes about his character. If I owned a restaurant, he's the kind of guy I'd want to hire.
Have a great week!
I agree that Kevin is super-talented and Michael V is really cocky, but I do think he can be funny too. They haven't shown much of it, but the clips of him teasing Eli and considering him the little brother is cute. Bryan was in on it too, teasing with a straight face. And I don't think it's fair to lump Bryan in with the arrogance. He's the one who told Kevin how to sous-vide, with details about how to change it for roasting afterward and all that. It may very well have cost him the win, but to me that showed a lot of maturity and some good chef/leadership qualities.
I dont think it is fair to lump Bryan and Michael together just because they are brothers, Bryan is a sincere, kind person based on what we've seen. Even Michael is not nearly as cocky as some of the past season chefs, Marcel, Stephen, etc. I think that Michael is getting picked on because he is the ONLY chef who is competitive and tells it like it is. Its a little weird that you don't watch the end of the show to see who is voted off, why do you do that? And can we truly belive that you do that?
Your chicken noodle soup comment just made me love you even more!
My father CONSTANTLY criticizes me and cannot understand because, while I love cooking, want to go to culinary school, love gourmet food, and insist on going to the nicest restaurant in our city for my birthday every year...If you step between me and my chicken noodle soup or spaghetti-os on a saturday...I will stab you with one of our fancy knives! So, I will not throw a knife at you! I shall stand proud by your side.
Nice commentary on a great episode. I was especially impressed that Kevin was able to recognize a technique he had never tried was appropriate for his food goals and that he was able to master it with only informal verbal guidance from Bryan. I was struck by Kevin's initial belief he had "squandered" his chances of a win with a new technique and later discovering the new technique was instrumental in his victory. In the end, I was ultimately impressed that Kevin has remained true to his belief in his food and not changed his approach fundamentally, even for the faux Bocuse D'Or; it was good to hear Kevin say he was going to bet on his food flavors and not the presentation for the challenge.
Kevin winning the pseudo-Bocuse D'Or was nothing short of poetic justice.
Though I'm still a fan of the Voltaggios (particularly Bryan, who I think will take the season), your imagined conversation between the two of the them actually had me LOL out loud ("LOLOL"?). Spot-effing-on. :D
I live in Atlanta and actually a few blocks away from Kevin's place (Woodfire Grill) I plan on eating there this weekend as I can't explain away why I haven't eaten there yet. BTW Blais place (flip) is a nice eat too.
As for the V brothers. I would like Bryan to cook for me any day, given I had the money and plane to fly him out. Michael is a bit too opinionated to cook for anyone. He would do best in his own place. Kevin and Jennifer would do great as I like what they create.
And as for Bryan helping Kevin out, as chefs you understand that it is important to work as a team. It was not as if Bryan COOKED for Kevin. He verbally discussed a cooking method and Kevin nailed it. Good for Bryan for sharing his knowledge with someone who shares his passion.
Frankly I think all of the final four are fantastic chiefs. Jennifer hasn't been as consistent as the other three. I don't think Kevin gives enough variety. It's like he only cooks traditional southern food and very well. I don't think that's enough to be a Top Chief. Michael has a bit of an attitude, but it is far less than some of the nasty attitude's I've seen on previous episodes.