Tom Colicchio

Bourdain on Rocco DiSpirito, bad rice, and why you gotta love Howie.

on Jul 20, 2007

Lia, last week's winner and a very strong cook from a great restaurant, showed us the terrible potential cost of a bad decision. The challenge was to cook for the cast of the Latino soap, "Dame Chocolate". Latinos, many of whom, presumably, have been working far from home for some time. The implied challenge was to cook food that would bring them right BACK home. Authentic flavors and ingredients, or at least flavors and ingredients that would evoke home, connect them in a powerful way with their culture and their culinary history. This was not a challenge. This was an OPPORTUNITY. There are few weapons more powerful in the chef's armory than the ability to make people homesick in wonderful ways. NOTHING brings people back to their childhood, to their family, to earlier, happier, simpler times than the senses of smell and taste (other than music).

One need only see the "Anton Ego-Ratatouille Epiphany" in Ratatouille to understand (as all good chefs do) how happy you can make people with a few simple, familiar flavors. An animated rat got this. Lia, temporarily, forgot. This was no time to start getting too creative, adding one's own spin, or dicking around with trout and polenta.