Tonight's blog is going to be a short one as I opened a new restaurant this week (Craftsteak NYC) and I'm tired down to the bones. It's been a hard week, with plenty of opening glitches, but my regulars have all shown up and it's reminded me yet again why I got into this business. Great food makes people happy. It's really not more complicated than that. My amazing staff has been working around the clock and we're all running on empty. On Sunday I got a quick break when I played paintball with my son Dante and ten of his friends. Tired or not, I wouldn't have missed that for the world.
The good news is this week's episode speaks for itself - little needed in the way of insight from yours truly. I will say this though - now I get why people drink heavily at family reunions. I also now get why that's not such a great idea.
It seemed to me as I watched the chefs light into each other, that some of them had been storing up months of animosity and resentment, and finally felt this was their moment to vent. It seemed clear to me, for example, that Tiffani was looking to put the negativity that she had aroused over the course of the show behind her. She wanted a chance to convey that she was a nice person - far nicer than the show made her seem. Dave, on the other hand, saw this as his chance to be heard, to finally gain the upper hand against the woman he had come to see as his nemesis.
In a flash I remembered why Ken was voted off the show so quickly. His dish had been bad but his attitude had been worse. He is a provocateur who craves attention and if he didn't get it through talent, he was going to get it through confrontation. I actually had to step in at one point and keep him and Stephen from going at it.
Stephen showed us what many people suspected all along - that arrogance can be wrought of youth and insecurity, and can mask a generally nice human being. I thought he really stepped up when he apologized to Candice for his disparagement of her during the show, and he gave us a glimpse of the gentleman he may yet be once he's had a chance to mellow, like a good wine, with age.
It was great to see Lisa and Cynthia and Andrea again. I sensed that they had each profited in their own way from their time on the show. Watching Brian watch himself being a hound towards Candice in the house "succulent!" was a riot. Then again, watching everyone watch themselves was eye-opening for them and for me. Tiffani bore the brunt of it, and eventually had to be coaxed back into her seat; there's a fine line between honest critique and character assassination, and she felt it had been crossed. That said, I think it's a useful, if painful, exercise for her to consider the role personality has played in all this. I don't suggest that Tiffani (or anyone) not be themselves, or water down their ambition as they work towards the top. But a greater understanding of one's impact on others can't hurt.
I truly feel that each of our remaining three contenders bring something unique and special to the final round of the competition. Harold is the consummate professional, with solid technique and a love of pure, clean flavors. Tiffani is laser sharp in her focus and determination - no one will ever work harder or want it more. Dave has a gift for understanding how people like to eat and brings big flavors into his food to match his big emotions. I wish all three of them luck in the final challenge, but as far as I'm concerned Dave, Harold and Tiffani have each proven themselves and luck had little to do with it. With or without the title of Top Chef, these three are going to go far.