I’m back from Los Angeles, from the Emmy Awards. Traveling with my six-week-old was its own reward. As for the Emmys, being nominated was its own reward, too. This is Top Chef’s third year being nominated and the first year that Padma and I received nominations in the “Best Host(s)” category, and the warm reception that we have received each year has been amazing. It floors me to have people whose work I admire come up to me and say, “Hey, man, I love your show!” I don’t feel that television is actually my industry – I’m a chef – so I always feel a bit like a fish out of water, but when I said that to someone at the Emmys, they said, “Well, guess what – it IS your industry now!” It feels great for our show to be acknowledged when you consider how many reality shows are out there. And I must add that Neil Patrick Harris KILLED – he was great! He’s been a guest judge on Top Chef Masters, so it was cool seeing him up there having so much fun and doing such an excellent job as MC.
But meanwhile, back in Vegas… There’s one more behind-the-scenes logistics I’d like to clarify before discussing this week’s challenge. People ask whether the first to serve are at a disadvantage because they have less time to cook … or, conversely, whether the last to serve are at a disadvantage because their food’s grown old and cold … OK, while I know that in this episode we saw all the cheftestants walk into the kitchen together, and it seemed as though everyone started and finished cooking for the Elimination Challenge at the same time, in actuality, the cook times for the Elimination Challenges are often staggered to comport with the order in which the dishes will be served. This time, it took us a half-hour to taste, give a few comments, clear, and get ready for the next course, so we staggered the start times by forty five minutes. Our director is not on the set – he is directing the multi-camera shoot from “Video Village,” a room in a remote location, where he is surrounded by screens showing him what each of the six cameras is doing, and he is communicating remotely with the camera crew, instructing them to zoom in and out to get the coverage he wants. Meanwhile, the set itself is the domain of the Assistant Director, Hogan, and he does a phenomenal job. From Day One, he has timed the staggered starts and finishes perfectly. Hot food never sits around. Every chef has the same exact amount of time to cook, their food is always served hot, and the whole enterprise runs like clockwork and works in a way that is fair to all the chefs.
A bunch of the chefs griped that this week’s challenge wasn’t fair to them all, because it called for them to deconstruct food, and a few of them said, “I don’t ‘do’ deconstructed food.” Nonsense. I’ll explain: Deconstructed food has been going on for a while now. It’s an approach to a plating style, as well as a way of personalizing a dish and making it one’s own. For example, I used to do a dish based on minestrone soup: the veggies became the garnish for a roasted rack of lamb, the soup itself became a sauce, and in lieu of the minestrone noodles, I made a goat-cheese ravioli. Deconstruction is a great way for a chef to put his or her own stamp on a classic – I thought this was a great challenge. For Laurine and others to say “that’s not what I do” makes no sense to me. The point is to stretch yourself as a chef. You may not be a chef who does this often, but this doesn’t mean you can’t give the matter some thought, apply your knowledge of your craft, and come up with a thousand different ways to rework something so that the flavors are there along with the imagination.
How excellent to drop in here to see if a new episode is airing tonight and to find these blog posts by you. I think I'll have to stop by more often. Congrats on that new baby!
Very interesting that Michael V did not applaud Robin's quick fire . He was pretty obvious holding his hands behind his back as the other chefs applauded .Looks like things may be heating up !
Tom, I just want to thank you for such a wonderful blog. It is very refreshing to know that such a successful and busy man will take the time to write an in-depth response to episodes & viewers. Thank you. This is my most favorite show ever.
Have you ever considered having Christopher Kimball of America's Test Kitchen as a guest judge? He might bring a different perspective to the judge's table. He is very practical, and thorough.
I would love to know how you "deconstruct" fish & chips. It's 2 items, 3 if you count the batter on the fish. Please lose Toby Young.
I can understand how disappointed Michael V. was on so many of quickfires and eliminations challanges. He's a great chef!! However the judges decide not the audience at home.
Congratulations Tom to you and your spouse on your new baby!! If I may make a comment regarding Mike Isabella after first challange and "One less old lady to worry about" No class Maureen from Ma
Tom like to thank you for a great show .. i watch and really love the show ,i have learned so much about cooking and try to take the challange to my own table top.the family loves when we try out TOP CHEF COOK-OFF challanges.i DONT ALWAYS WIN AND OUR PRIZES ARE WAY SMALLER !!!but makes life fun so thanks .cant wait to de-construct pumpkin pie teebird style!
I think the reason that they did not have a progam this week was because they are trying to have enough time to do until after the holidays because if you have ever watched Top Chef before and I think you all have you know that they have alot of programs throughout the holidays. I love Top Chef I have watched every season I really did not get as involved with the program as I have until Season 2 but I have watched all the reruns and will continue to watch. Congratulations, Padma.