Tom Colicchio

The farm fresh challenge really hits close to home for Tom Colicchio as he reflects on the conception of Craft.

on Jan 14, 2009

The ethos at Craft is to take the finest ingredients available and prepare them as simply as possible, so that the flavors and textures of the ingredients themselves will shine. "Cooking simple" is like walking a tightrope without a net -- simplicity isn't as simple as it seems, because there's nothing to cover up mistakes; there are no heavy sauces to hide behind. It requires forethought about how best to help the ingredients sing. It requires skill and precision, and, of course, an abiding reverence for the elements themselves.

When animals are raised as they are at Stone Hill and are fed the right ingredients, you don't need to do a whole lot to them. You don't want to remove the flavor -- and moisture-rich fat from the pork -- that made no sense to anyone. And even worse, you don't want to take a beautiful leg of lamb, which was as tender as such meat could be, and do what Ariane did to that lamb. It was completely hacked up and then rolled. A chef would usually roll lesser ingredients, but here there were these muscles you'd want to keep intact. Ariane's treatment of the lamb showed no respect whatsoever for the animal that died to feed everyone. It was more than disappointing, it was upsetting, most of all to the farmers who had worked so hard to raise the produce and animals. It felt to them like their work just wasn't honored. The irony of Ariane's losing the Elimination Challenge with the very protein that had won her prior challenges is not lost on us. But the work of each chef is judged anew in each successive challenge, and while I certainly overstated in the first sentence of this blog, Ariane's performance this week made her the clear choice for elimination from the competition. I'm not thrilled that Leah and Hosea kicked back and did nothing while that meat was both literally and figuratively butchered right in front of them, but at the end of the day, she is the one who did the actual damage.