Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio explains what the chefs misunderstood about this week's task, and more on "Pea-gate."

on Aug 4, 20100

Hard to believe it’s already August. Tomatoes are almost at their peak in these parts…we just have to hope the deer have left us some. I just threw a party this past weekend for 40-50 people for my son’s first birthday (without a sous chef! It can be done!) at which I made a salad with a medley of tomatoes that were incredibly flavorful, and I can’t wait to do more with them as the month progresses. 

Meanwhile, in D.C., our chefs this week were asked to be inspired by the ingredients, spices, and culinary traditions of nine different countries spanning the globe. I’d like to take a moment to discuss what it actually means for a chef to “be inspired by” a particular cuisine. What it does not mean is to simply copy wholesale some dish or other from the country in question. First of all, there is no creativity in that process; it is merely an exercise in reproduction, and where’s the joy in that? Paul Simon went and spent time in South Africa and didn’t return intent upon recreating South African music. He got busy songwriting, and worked with South African musicians in collaboration with musicians here to bring to fruition his own music inspired by the music that had so moved and motivated him there. This is actually what chefs here in the States tend to do with foreign cuisine anyway — they use the spices, the flavors, the ingredients from a place they’ve been without being intent on a narrow recreation of the dishes they’d eaten while there. As much as I love Chili Crab, I’m not going to return from Singapore intent on making a straight-up Chili Crab dish. But will the influence of a great Chili Crab wend its way into some dish or other that I make at some point this year? Odds are that it will, and I’ll realize as it’s shaping up, “Oh, that came from my last trip to Singapore.”

Furthermore, where Top Chef is concerned, we knew that a lot of these chefs had never studied most of the cuisines we were asking them to draw from, so “inspired by” was a more reasonable challenge, and fitting for a competition in which we’re asking them to show us who they themselves are as chefs.

Kevin’s dish deserves mention as a terrific example of what I’ve been talking about regarding inspiration.  He didn’t know how to prepare Indian cuisine; he didn’t have to.  He knew enough to braise the chicken properly, and he knew how to work with spices.  You need to know to toast them first before grinding them, in order to release some of the oils.  That’s a given, and Kevin knew it.  He embraced the challenge of being inspired by Indian flavors and created a balanced and delicious dish.

202 comments
Allayna
Allayna

Great stuff, you heelpd me out so much!

RandomEsq
RandomEsq

I heard Anthony Bourdain speak in Chicago and he spoke about his respect for the show and its strict adherence to the rule that the chef who made the least successful dish that particular week goes home. Period.

I won't argue about which team should have won restaurant wars but for the losing team, I understand why Kenny was kicked off.

Do I think he is the least deserving chef out of the bunch? No. But if you're going week by week, I can see why the judges were forced to make a difficult decision here with that goat cheese dish, etc.

Having said that - the talent pool did seem to drop this season. Last season was just packed with so many very good chefs. This season? Meh.

-R.

Debo42
Debo42

I love your show, and wish I could try some of the recipes. It all looks so good. Do you ever review the tapes of the contestants?? sometimes they cheat and it seems like no one see it. I was curious. Love your show and will continue to watch it. ALso like playing the game. Padma Rocks.

atlgirl27
atlgirl27

Ok, so this is my first season watching Top Chef, so I have nothing to compare it to. But I can clearly see that Alex SHOULD HAVE LEFT A LONG TIME AGO! Case in point, this past episode. All he had to do was fillet fish and he couldn't even do THAT right! He was horribly awkward as a host and didn't even say goodbye to the judges!

Another one that needs to go, the chick that thought it was appropriate to serve alcohol-soaked chicken to elementary school kids.... How y'all let that one slide is beyond me!

Anyway, this show competed with a couple other shows that come on at the same time. I'm glad I can watch my other shows and know I'm not missing anything special, because this Top Chef D.C. really sucks!

mrsyab83
mrsyab83

i hope i am correct but it seems to me a lil prejudice is involved here kenny was a great cook and everyone knew think back to when angelo said he did not like kenny for no reason jealousy all over his face also it seems like to me all afro americans on the show get kicked off quickly why is that top chef umm i wonder this show is wack for sure i wont be watching and believe me tiffany will be next i got that feeling

wdd
wdd

I know! I have been looking around at the blogs and I'm surprised that there are not more people suggesting this. I was thinking the same exact thing as i was reading the comments. I don't think they need to do something as complicated as a cook off. They did it on project runway (I forget what season). I only watched part of the episode (from the middle of the night before prep to the end) so I wasn't sure if they bought the ingredients. Just look at the receipts and see who bought the pea puree ingredients. Case. Closed.

RC
RC

We DVR shows that we watch regularly. Top Chef is one of our favorites; however, we have removed it from our recording list for the rest of the season. We understand what was said about the cameras, however what we did see seemed to point at Alex stealing the pea puree, also the contestants all believe that as well. The breaking point was today when Kenny was eliminated, when Alex was so obviously the worst tonight. This was the final breaking point for us in several disappointments. This is a competition, so if you're making and following rules... follow all of them! Alex should have gone home a long time ago. BRAVO - TOP CHEF... you've really got it wrong this season and thus lost us as fans. SO disapointed! Kenny should not have been eliminated!

purplemysticmoon
purplemysticmoon

i will no longer watch the show, up until the Pea incident, i thought it was a straight shooter, an honest competition. Now it seems to me that they reward thieving and cheating, all in the name of ratings I guess. They might not have caught everthing on camera, but they should have caught enough to NOT SEE Alex making any peas, plus everyone heard him say he hadnt used any peas...now last week he doesnt make any dishes of his own, another violoation of the rules...Bravo's and Top Chef's integrity is shot. I wont watch it anymore.

Epimetheus
Epimetheus

The one-chef-as-front-of-house part of this challenge amuses me. Granted, this show isn't Top Sommelier, but the Top Sommelier moments are entertaining. I can see that it makes judging less comfortable, and it could make for some inequity for the contestants, but I'll cheerfully condemn you to discomfort and inequity for my entertainment.

Thank you for taking time from your vacation to explain the joys of not eliminating a chef from the winning team, and the rationale for eliminating the leader of the losing team and creator of two losing dishes.

kah
kah

The red team did not follow the rules for restaurant wars. Each chef is to prepare a dish - Alex did not. This was brought to the attention of the judges, at judges table, and they chose to ignore it. Bottom line, the red team did not fulfill the obligation of the challenge, and could not justifiably win!

Bahamain Swagga
Bahamain Swagga

The judges are fast becoming a great disappointment! They are being sucked out of true craftsmanship into television hoopla! Not every dish or plate that has three ingredients is a success. try coming to the Caribbean or to the south with that. We still stone people down here! Get back into the game next season or retire. The New York and LA styles are not the only cuisines that exist! Bacon foam, OMG and where the garbage so that i can eat the real thing is what you would here! To eliminate Chef Kenny is "Gastronomical Prejudice!"

J B H
J B H

This season has been kind of irritating. Not the best season. Not too interested after Alex doesn't make food and he is not removed. No justice. Amanda made one dish..they hated it ...she stays..she feeds kids a sherry sauce..wacky and goofy and more irritatng then good tv.

mfromnb
mfromnb

Kenny deserved to stay. The judges and the producers made a ratings decision. Keep conflict going on regardless of who is the best chef. Next time just do a reality show that you can live with like Big Brother.

mfromnb
mfromnb

I absolutely agree. I think that Kenny was sacrificed for ratings. The producers and a couple of the judges think that certain chefs bring more ratings. If this is the caliber of show they want they might as well bring on the "top chef batlorlette"-forgive spelling, I don't watch the show or use the word. Such a shame.

viewer

Saben
Saben

I don't think checking the receipts from Whole Foods would answer the question of whether Alex cheated or not. He may have bought the peas, but that wouldn't tell us if he made the puree. A cook-off between Alex and Ed seems like the best solution. It is so sad to see this show reduce itself to the depths of many of the reality shows. This show does not need the "drama" to make it successful. The editing of the pea-puree is really disgusting. To show that Alex did take it and for the editing people to air it was just plain stupid. TC has been my favorite show since it's inception and losing the integrity it always held is very sad indeed.

JEANETTE HENDERSON
JEANETTE HENDERSON

TOP CHEF IA FLUKE!!!!! THE TOP CHEF IS GONE...LOVED YA KENNEY!!!!!!!KEEP UP THE EXCELLENT WORK..THEY HAVE NO CLUE!!!

JEANETTE HENDERSON
JEANETTE HENDERSON

IF ANYONE DESERVE TO BE THERE IS KENNEY. HE IS TOP CHEF AND EVERYONE KNEW IT!!. I PERSONALLY THINK HE WAS BLACKBALLED!! AS WELL AS TREY FROM SEASON ? (CAN'T REMEMBER). WHEN THEY KICKED HIM OFF I LOST COUNT. DON'R GET ME WRONG I LOVE TOP CHEF, BUT I THINK THEY NEED A REALITY CHECK AT TIMES. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE PADMA OR GAIL GO DO SOME REAL WORK OTHER THAN EATING AND JUDGING SOMEONES FOOD.. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THEM GET UP THERE AND DO WHAT THOSE CHEFS DO AND LET THEM DO THE JUDGING. I REALLY BELEIVE THEY SEND THE WRONG ONES HOME LOTS OF TIMES. I EVEN THOUGHT OF IT AS BEING RACIST AS WELL. THEY KNOW EITHER AMANDA OR ALEX SHOULD HAVE BEEN OUT WITHOUT A SECOND THOUGHT!! NEVERTHELESS THIS MAY BE THE LAST EPISODE OF TOP CHEF I WILL BE WATCHING BECAUSE THE TOP CHEF IS GONE!!.NOW IT'S BOTTOM CHEF OR JUST LINE COOK!!...WHATEVER!!!!! IT'S A FLUKE!!!!!

Viewerwantstoknow
Viewerwantstoknow

In regards to PeaGate I have one word, lie-detector. Or is that 2 words. Maybe Alex didn't steal the pea puree but threw it away so he would not look like a copy cat. Who knew pea puree could be so controversial. Bring a lie detector to the reunion show and we can settle this once and for all. It does hurt everyone to have this suspicion hanging in the air and I do hate to think that cheaters are winners. But these things happen in life. I hope the judges pay more attention in the future.

sharon m.b.
sharon m.b.

wow, to kick kenny off! alex didn,t cook one thing and was a lousey host tom you make the rules and so far alex has cheated twice and is still there I GUESS THIS SEASON YOU DON,T NEED TO BE ATOP CHEF JUST CHEAT AND GET AWAY WITH IT!

Josh K
Josh K

Tom:

I've been a diehard fan of the show since the very beginning. The main reason I enjoyed Top Chef was the general lack of "reality" in the reality show. The show used to revolve around the food and remained focused on trying to teach the audience items about cooking great food.

Tom maybe you're to busy or the production team took on to much with the spin-off (I haven't and won't see) but this season is awful. EVERYTHING sucks: basic production, the cast, the focus on stories and "gameplay",and the ridiculousness of Kenny's downfall. Chef, I've heard you often provide well-intnetioned critique about "editing;" and stern condemnation about poor fundamentals and execution. Sadly, you need to look at the mirror about this season.

I'm done...and you better hook me in the first two episodes of the next season. Chef I also think you probably should stop by the table and offer your apologies...because Top Chef used to be a mind-cavity joy...it is now unwatchable drivel.

Josh

My name is the same as a registered user, so I can
My name is the same as a registered user, so I can

Hm, not so much. How you can you be inspired by something you don't know anything about? And I believe part of this comment addresses a lack of vision, on the part of both judges and contestants, as well as a quibble over the definition of "inspired by." Kevin's dish was not inspired by Indian food, as he'd never cooked it and had rarely ever eaten it. Tiffany's "inspiration", sweet and real as she may be, was to call her dish deconstructed when all she did was think "Mexico = tamales" and remove all the difficult elements of making them (the very details that define the tamal), so as to make it easier to cook. It is this short-sighted vision, which the judges wrote off as part and parcel of the "inspired by" aspect of the challenge, that instigated ire. Reading the challenge's explanation does not address the issue taken here, it merely highlights it.

My name is the same as a registered user, so I can
My name is the same as a registered user, so I can

"Meanwhile, it appears that Alex continued to be a jerk this week, stealing the pressure cooker that another, much shorter, contestant was reaching for, and appeared happy and snotty about taking it from her."

Actually if you watch that shot more closely, you will see that the camera catches Alex already approaching the pressure cooker in a stroll, and Kelly running across the room and jumping for the pressure cooker as Alex already has his hands on it. If anyone was the aggressor in the situation it was her, since she is the one who tried to snake something someone else very nearly already had in their hands, simply because she needed it. And despite the fact that someone else already had laid claim to it and was already collecting it by the time she realized she wanted it. It just points to the selective editing employed to vilify Alex as somehow intrinsically underhanded and shady, which underscores neatly the cheating drama they wrangled out of the footage (this is why reality shows have story editors). The motto "Watch What Happens" is a bit of a misnomer. To be totally precise it should read "Watch Our 'Interpretation' of What We Tell You Has Happened."

Kathleen Walsh
Kathleen Walsh

I 'm sorry to say but this season was not as profesional as the others. The people chosen were not profesional and acted like it . I won't name names but you know what I mean ,men playing certain woman,men hating each other .Such arigance wow give me a break, Jelousy is being insacure. Please pick people out like Jenifer ,Michael, Michaels brother,all the rest ,when they lost they did with dignatity

Kathleen Walsh
Kathleen Walsh

I 'm sorry to say but this season was not as profesional as the others. The people chosen were not profesional and acted like it . I won't name names but you know what I mean ,men playing certain woman,men hating each other .Such arigance wow give me a break, Jelousy is being insacure. Please pick people out like Jenifer ,Michael, Michaels brother,all the rest ,when they lost they did with dignatity

Jean Pennie
Jean Pennie

I agree with dee 100% !!! Kenny has already moved on and will find success wherever he goes; Top Chef has "cooked the shark" and many viewers have packed our knives and won't be returning.

Agnesh
Agnesh

I have started questioning Top Chef's integrity in deciding who goes home each week. It doesn't seem to be about the food anymore but who is able to garner higher ratings. I'm reminded that the judges along with Bravo TV make the decision. Look at the credits at the end and it makes a statement to that efeffect. If that's the case then this show is now all about showmanship and less about the food. That saddens me as I used to look forward to the show but feel that the right people are getting kicked off while the wrong ones are staying on. Looks like Bravo's head has gotten big and now it wants to just glamorize the show. It lost Project Runaway, so this is the only true bread and butter left. Be fair in the decision making and the show will retain what it used be..An exciting show to watch.

liaisonbri
liaisonbri

I can't believe people continue to post regarding this "Peagate" scandal. That was two weeks ago! Water under the bridge. Kenny needed to go home. he was rightfully chosen by his fellow competitors as having prepared the worst dish and if it hadn't been for those hideous undercooked scallops he would have gone home weeks ago. If you wish to give kudos to Kenny for his leadership skills as executive chef in Restaurant Wars then you must ask how he could allow Amanda's horrible beef dish to be served. It's a sword that cuts both ways!

For those who wish to complain about Angelo's demeanor in the kitchen, I ask you: Do you not remember your beloved Mike V.'s attitude towards that poor cancer survivor that the whole house ganged up on last season (sans Kevin, who was always a class act). Kenny's story may be compelling but as has been said here so often "bad food is bad food".

liaisonbri
liaisonbri

All you posters who will never record the show again on their DVR's -- I'm sure Top Chef's sponsers are crying the blues especially since you all buzz right through the commercials which pay for the production of the show! BOO-HOO!!!

Viewer456
Viewer456

Learn How to Judge! I cannot believe that you guys chose Alex to stay over Kenny!? Alex should have gone home during the second week of the show.. he has no talent, he is all over the place it doesnt make sense. Top Chef is a joke because you guys keep someone who does not have talent over someone who does? Maybe you guys should re think before you just cut people next time.

RyzandShyn
RyzandShyn

That was a lousy restaurant wars episode! This entire season isn't anywhere near as good as expected, or as enjoyed as in past seasons. I'm almost ready to give it up too.

Jean Pennie
Jean Pennie

As someone so eloquently stated on Facebook, "Top Chef has cooked the shark" ... I'm done, finished, kaput with Top Chef. Although I've been a viewer of every episode of day one, I find the judges elitist and inconsistent both in their rules and in the application of same, and the contestants who remain "safe" seem to be those who are the least threatening to both Tom Colicchio and to the guest judge(s). I wish Kevin and Tiffany well in this season but I will not watch ever again.

Not an Alex fan
Not an Alex fan

That's hilarious about posting Alex's picture in the broom closet or men's room. Otherwise, if it was posted for all to see, maybe some helpful future diner could accidently opaque his picture out with some well-placed pea puree?

GS
GS

Well that's it for me - if something like the pea puree isn't going to be looked into & resolved appropriately and Alex' apparent failure to actually create a single dish when that was a requirement for the challenge isn't going to dealt with, then why set any rules at all.

I supposed it is possible that Alex is innocent in both situations, but the producers make no effort to determine this that is demonstrated to the viewers - instead the situations seem to be manipulated in a manner that exploits the drama of having a (real or imagined) villain on the show.

After a great season last year, this has devolved into a typical reality show instead of something better than that. Disappointing.

After watching every episode for the past 4 seasons, I'm done with this season's version. Maybe I'll watch again next season, maybe not.

McCall Merchant
McCall Merchant

I was really upset last week about the pea puree incident but have managed to let that go and believe Chef Colicchio that they truly do not know what happened to the puree. However, this week's incident is truly upsetting. The red team completely cheated and should have had their title stripped from them. Alex did NOT prepare a dish! Meanwhile everyone on the blue team was adhering by the rules and working hard to put in their part. It's completely unfair and I am really disappointed by the judges here to not investigate this further. It should at least be obvious when Alex has completely stumbled in the last few weeks when having to cook on his own (hello, quickfires? Terrible tapas plate and then what did he do in the 10 minutes he had this week but salt the fish?) but then somehow shines when he has help from others?

Arghhhh I have been a HUGE Top Chef fan since the beginning but this episode really let me down. Kenny's food probably did disappoint, but the fact is that he is a great chef, good leader for his team in restaurant wars, and Angelo is a controlling chef who cheated his team to a win.

Spicymint
Spicymint

I started out cheering for Kenny, but each week he started getting on my nerves. His constantly referring to himself as a "beast in the kitchen" was weird. Who wants to eat food prepared by a beast???

Viewernj
Viewernj

I don't think kenny as the best chef in the house but he surely was and is better than a most of the chefs that stayed I would hae liked to have seen him lst longer. I'll miss Kenny he was a great competitor.

cmpb
cmpb

I loved Top Chef...until now. How could you guys cut Kenny????????????? If it weren't for the fact that there is nothing else to watch this summer, i would be done with this show. He was one of the best you had, he was nice, Alex THE THIEF should have been gone 2 episodes ago. WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT. Just my measly 2 cents form a very disappointed fan.

Jose Rivas
Jose Rivas

Thanks, Tom. I am glad that you touched on the "pea puree-gate" again. The least that you could do was some research into what happened during that episode and you did. As a viewer, I can't ask for anything else. Good job!

I am sad to see Kenny go, I think he is one of the strongest chefs in the season. True, his dishes may have been poorly executed, but he is a true leader in the kitchen. Plus, I would think that in restaurant wars you are evaluating domains other than food: quality of service (the blue team was significantly superior), organization in the kitchen (idem), management of the waiters (same), etc. I still don't get how decisions are made at judge's table. At the end, restaurant wars was only about food... then why is this challenge different than others?

Bill Blake
Bill Blake

Getting more difficult each week to keep watching... could go on and on but like this season, I am uninspired.

Viewer99
Viewer99

Totally agree. Sending Kenny home is just a load of bull when you still have Alex and Amanda there.

I refuse to watch anymore of this season.

wanz
wanz

I have been a die hard Top Chef fan since the 1st season. I am so turned off I'm not sure if I will even bother with the rest of the season. Sending Kenny home was bogus and I am pretty sure I am not alone in this opinion.

booooooh on Top Chef.

RPA
RPA

I have been a die hard fan of Top Chef throughout the show's duration. This is the only show for which I always set time aside to watch. I realize that not every season can have as strong and professional contestants as Season 6, but this year's season has left me disappointed. I no longer look forward to watching episodes, because I'm neither wowed by the for nor impressed by the editing. Certainly the chefs aren't as petty and juvenile as those from Season 2, but they don't impress. Please choose better next season or risk losing this viewer.

dee544
dee544

Pea-gate is an issue that YOU ALL did not resolve! So, you're gonna let him be your face on the wall of the Palm Restaurant in DC without being sure if he can give the correct recipe to them for the "pea puree" that you all went crazy over? Shouldn't you just ask him to whip up a batch just in case??? Further Chef, don't give me this nonsense that there is no way to know . . . admit it . . . Alex makes good television. You don't take off a master chef and leave Alex without thought. Kenny will do fine without you, but this has truly damaged TC in the eyes of many of your viewers. Shame on you and your pathetic excuses. I believe that you know better!

dee544
dee544

Pea-gate is an issue that YOU ALL did not resolve! So, you're gonna let him be your face on the wall of the Palm Restaurant in DC without being sure if he can give the correct recipe to them for the "pea puree" that you all went crazy over? Shouldn't you just ask him to whip up a batch just in case??? Further Chef, don't give me this nonsense that there is no way to know . . . admit it . . . Alex makes good television. You don't take off a master chef and leave Alex without thought. Kenny will do fine without you, but this has truly damaged TC in the eyes of many of your viewers. Shame on you and your pathetic excuses. I believe that you know better!

MCD
MCD

I know the blogs are not up yet for restuarant wars, but I am voicing my opinion. I am so sorry that Kenny was chosen to go home, he is an excellent chef and I believe that is why the blue team's restuarant moved so smoothly. I am sorry but in my opinion Amanda should have gone home, she made one dish and it was not cooked properly, Kenny made two dishes, although, not well received, he also was responsible for the executiv chef position and that should have garnered him some notice. Steven went home last week for not cooking his food properly and now Amanda stays for the same reason. Her meat was overdone her greens undone, two big components on the plate. This is just my opinion but in a competition of this caliber I think the chef who can not cook his/her dish properly should go home.

phan
phan

great idea.. would be very interesting if they had Ed and Alex make a pea puree and blind taste (not know who cooked which pea puree) both of them to see which one tastes like the winning dish.

Doc
Doc

Tom explains the pea incident using ignorance of the situation as an excuse for not calling out Alex. Then on last night's show, the contestants flat out told the panel that Alex and his team cheated and nothing happened. The cheating team again was rewarded for being dishonest. Top Chef is a joke! There are so many cooking challenge shows on that require the cheftestants to be honest. I'm going to start watching them. I don't appreciate that TC holds cheaters to be winners. What a disappointment!

Bette
Bette

Top Chef got it right; Kenny needed to go home. If Kenny's team wanted Alex to go home ... they should have WON! Had they, there is no doubt that Alex would have packed his bags. Enough with the alpha male all talk, chunka goat cheese making Kenny. I knew he was going when they included alllll of his "look at that other team makin' all those mistakes" banter. Hubris. Alex, I hope you're next.

what?
what?

Alex's team should have lost for not letting him cook his own dish anyway, then he would have been sent home if his dish was not good. That team was lucky that they won. They have nothing to gloat about. Alex was a jerk to the staff in the front of the house, and a real disappointment as a server to the judges. For some reason, they wanted Kenny out.