Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio explains that the ultimate outcome may not have been as close as you think.

on Dec 9, 2009

Michael’s dish, on the other hand, did sing. I disagree with Gail about the tomato – I thought it was great. The sweet and sour flavor woke up the whole dish. We’d handed the chefs a lot of autumn ingredients. The ingredients, on the whole, were strong for the fish and crab. With that tomato, Michael added that extra bit of acid it needed. Course Two: clearly Michael.

So far: Kevin 1, Michael 1, Bryan 0, going into the third course.

Here was the chef’s opportunity to define themselves as chefs without limit or restriction. And here’s where a fine chef can have an off moment. Kevin knows pork, yet his pork belly wasn’t cooked long enough. And I believe that while it was a fine dish, it needed more – Kevin needed to go a little further with that dish than he did.

Bryan’s venison was his best dish of the night, and it was an excellent dish. The venison was well-cooked, and Bryan extended himself in preparing each vegetable two ways and did so very well. 

However, as good as that venison was, Michael’s squab was just a little bit better. The faux mushrooms were playful, a bit silly.  They didn’t need to be there – why bother, when everything was so fine? That said, though, they didn’t hurt the dish a jot – it was absolutely delicious. Without a doubt, we all felt it even beat Bryan’s venison by a nose. 

Kevin 1, Michael 2, Bryan still 0.

The desserts were all good. Kevin’s seemed like one a chef would make, as opposed to a pastry chef. What we knew but wasn’t apparent to the viewer watching the episode is that he was doing a play on Elvis Presley’s favorite ingredients – bananas, chocolate, bacon. People are putting bacon in desserts a fair bit right now, and it works, as long as the bacon isn’t overly cured or smokey. Michael’s dessert was really very delicious, even though he overcooked the ganache a bit. He knew he had done so, and that was unfortunate, but it didn’t overly harm the dessert, because the cake was still tasty and the other elements of the dessert worked really well. There were lots of little techniques in there that were used to great effect, and, overall, the dessert still worked. Of course, it was Bryan’s cheesecake dessert that was the best of the lot.  It was well-conceived, flawlessly executed, balanced, and great.

So at the end of the day, Kevin won the first course, Bryan won the last, and Michael won the middle two, giving him the ultimate win. The equation is pretty much that simple. 

Don’t be fooled by the fact that Kevin thought the day had gone to Bryan, or that Bryan’s venison dish was strong enough to plant a question in the minds of viewers, or even that we ended with Bryan’s winning dessert, leaving a strong last impression. When taking a step back and thinking over the entire meal, while Bryan’s dishes were certainly solid, while his dessert won and he made a strong showing with his venison course, Michael just hit higher notes all along the way throughout the meal. He just did.