Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi speaks candidly about the chef's lack of imagination.

on Jun 27, 2007

Brian's three rivers of wine, butter, garlic, and chives with clams, scallops, mussels, and crawfish was a perfect way to use all the shellfish and blend the flavors together harmoniously by keeping things simple. For having never worked with conch, the toast was delicious. Brian's plate also looked well put together and very pretty. It seemed to be the most complete dish. Camille's downfall was using tea as a flavoring agent. Tea is very strong and can hold up well next to duck for instance, but something as delicate as shellfish should not be overpowered by tea, which can be very herbal and overly aromatic.

Howie's delicious ceviche of conch, scallops, crayfish, and mussels with crispy plantain and greens was a creative idea with bold, tart flavors that highlighted the seafood being used. Brian won over Howie because of his thoughtfulness in using the elements given and the well-balanced yet simple flavors in all of his dishes. The reason Alfred thought Hung's croutons should have been smaller is because they themselves were very highly flavored and rich in butter. They were actually big wedges of garlic bread. The bread may have been for soaking up the coconut gravy in his seafood dish, but greasy garlic bread dipped in rich coconut sauce made for an overpoweringly flavored and fat saturated mouthful. Had his crouton not been so densely flavored, the proportion of bread to gravy would have worked.

The Elimination Challenge seemed straightforward enough but proved to create quite the dilemma for many of the chefs. Taking classic American comfort foods and making updated, modern healthy versions like meatloaf and tuna casserole may seem pedestrian, but can actually be inspiring cuisine to work from. Unfortunately, I as well as my colleagues were disappointed with some of the choices the chefs made in their decisions to recreate these classics, with the exception of Dale and Howie. Everyone else made some pretty poor renditions of these original favorites. I was surprised at how little they came up with. I thought it would really be a fun challenge. It seemed to stymie them all.