Ted Allen

Ted Allen sizes up the remaining chefs.

on Sep 19, 2007

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One thing's sure: None of us, and none of you, has any business being pissed off about the four chefs going into this finale. Not the viewers, not the network, not the blogosphere, nor the judges. All four put their passion on the plate every time. All four are charismatic and gifted. All four of them are fighting for this, with integrity, strength, and imagination. All four of them WANT this. One more thing is sure: Only one of them will get it. On tonight's elimination battle:

Casey: I disagree with the quibbling about the (true) fact that a dish isn't really coq au vin when it's not cooked for hours using an old rooster. I think that position is too rigid, here. Old roosters are hard to find in supermarkets. And faced with Andre Soltner and the deans of the French Culinary Institute, I think Casey was spot-on and brave to present a modern interpretation -- an interpretation, not a literal execution -- of this classic, using the sort of chicken that was shown her at the outset of the challenge. From the moment the chefs announced their intentions, because of their intentions, I thought this was a battle between Casey and Hung. And I was right.
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Hung: Gentle viewer, please try to put aside your feelings about a young chef's cockiness, and look at what he is cooking. And how well he is cooking it. Most great chefs are cocky, as are most great artists. When you're sitting in a restaurant, you rarely even meet the chef. It doesn't matter whether he is nice (and most of the time, Hung probably is). What matters is that he cooks delicious food for you. Plus, it's fairly obvious that Hung is sometimes playing for the cameras and strategizing to win -- but, always, using great skill to cook yumminess. This is not something to dislike him for; this is something to respect him for. Hung demonstrates by far the most precise knife skills of anyone in this cast. He is knowledgeable of and excited about sous vide, one of the most modern and important cooking techniques in cuisine today, an approach that not one of his competitors has demonstrated any facility with (which is weird). Yet, he still bows to the past (and, importantly, here, to the French) with his potatoes Dauphine, imperfect though they may have been. The only thing I didn't like about Hung's performance tonight was his attempt to blame his inadequately fluffy spuds on the fact that no one helped him to plate them. Can't fault him too much, though -- he's giving the judges ammo to let him off the hook for that one, small flaw.