Tom Colicchio

Tom says: stop playing it safe.

on Nov 15, 2006

To make matters worse, their ingredients bore no seasonal or geographic relationships to one another that I could see; prickly pear grows in the desert, coconut is tropical. The two interacted unpleasantly and became a flat, Pepto-Bismol pink (serving it up in a spoon didn't help matters. The fennel and apples in the salad weren't wrong together, but the preparation was unmemorable in the extreme. And the pineapple "course" was nothing more than diced pineapple drizzled with honey. For this they left the short ribs in the walk-in? It was a tough call, but ultimately we saw Marisa and Josie's course as the most disappointing of them all. Marisa and Josie made it clear that they both bore equal responsibility for concept and execution, thus both of them had to go.

Let's talk about the two best dishes: Cliff and Sam were a lucky pairing. Both have ideas and the technique to follow through. They landed a middle course, and went with at least one guaranteed crowd-pleaser -- roasted foie gras. Foie gras is one of those eyes-rolling-back-into-the-head ingredients that makes chefs look good (frankly, I'm surprised other teams didn't fight them for it). A smart choice, because it meant they were likely to make an impact using flavor. They also found meaty diver scallops (large sea scallops that are hand-harvested by divers) which they seared quickly and simply, allowing the scallop's natural sweetness to come through. They served the foie gras with a sweet/tart fig gastrique (the acid and sweetness of the figs cut the richness of the liver) and updated classic fennel by using it in whimsical grits. The final dish tasted good and looked great. What kept Cliff and Sam's dish from winning was simply this -- separating the components on the plate was the easy way out. They told us the elements of the dish were meant to be eaten together. If so, then they should have found a way to conceive the dish so that everything worked as a cohesive whole. That's where the talent comes in, folks. No one said it was easy.