Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio elaborates on why Stefan's dish was the worst.

on Jan 30, 20130

I like crispy pork.  

I can imagine viewers watching this episode and thinking that Stefan was sent home because "Tom just must not care for crispy pork." This couldn’t be further from the truth. I like -- and like to make -- crispy pork, but that’s not what Stefan gave us. What Stefan made was beyond crispy; it was hard. And it was hard because it was improperly prepared.

The problem was this: if you’re making suckling pig and the skin isn’t so thick, you can leave it on, and it will get crispy. But if you’re preparing pork belly from a bigger animal (and you can tell from the thickness of the belly that it’s an older animal), you need to do one of two things. Either you remove the skin and let the underlying layer get crispy, or, if you want to leave the skin on, you do the following: while you’re first braising it, you need to make sure the entire pork is submerged in the braising liquid so that the skin gets moist. Then, when you reheat it, leave just the top surface above the liquid, and that top surface will get crispy.

I saw that Stefan was in trouble during my kitchen walk-through. He was braising the pork, but way too much of it was exposed, all of which dried out and grew hard -- not crispy, but hard. This was so far past crispy that I really did fear, as you heard me say, that I was going to break a tooth on it. And this was due to a technique issue, plain and simple. It was not the only lapse in technique of the evening, but of all the errors evident in the dishes we were given in this challenge, it was the worst. The greasiness of the dish was an additional headache, but the hard skin was enough, in and of itself, to get Stefan sent home.

As a general note, the pairing of the proteins to create a surf 'n' turf dish was not the difficult part of this challenge. Many cultures have traditional meals with such pairings -- think paella, or Portugese chorizo and clams. I’ve had dishes on my menus over the years pairing clams and pork, seared scallops with oxtail, lobster with foie gras and artichokes, and more.

68 comments
eaglespirit
eaglespirit

I love the show!  The judges have a difficult task, comparing one dish with another.  In the end, it's not one judge's opinion over another, it's a joint decision they all agree upon.  I think you're all doing a great job!

kristimeow
kristimeow

I agree with the last comment that the judge should not be able to see who cooked what on last chance kitchen because I do believe that Toms decision was made simply because he likes Kristen better, because he said he liked both dishes so how are you to pick who is the winner other than who you like better.  Things would be a lot different if they did not know who was cooking what, and although I really like Kristen, I love Stephan, and for the mere fact that I have never tasted any of their foods goes to show you that I do the same thing, when I choice something because of the person and not so much on how it tastes, therefore I know the judges do the same!

franci
franci

OK, I will give you that Stefan blew it with the pork...lstuff happens...however, when it comes to last chance kitchen, I think the judge or judges should not know who prepared what till after the decision is made...somehow I have the feeling that Kristen will beat out all comers no matter what.

better
better

Tasteful reviews in criticizes well as a superior master chef  and for these contestants persons as cooks circles on to a close! Too bad Tom didn't like her fancier Burgers for Emeril didn't like Liz's, and but fine to Sheldons soup in latest shows! Not real values in recipes to gourmet styles? Finals next anyway ?

twix
twix

Love you on top chef.

BarbarainNY
BarbarainNY

Tom, it's too late for this season of Top Chef, but before the next season, could you please speak to Bravo's TOP CHEF producers and ask them to lower the decibel level of the music during the judges' table discussion?  I ask this because I'm missing at least 80% of what's said; the musical instruments drown out the voices. That's ruins a good feature of the program for me, and probably for many other people, too. Thanks for your consideration.

hseertsirhc
hseertsirhc

Bring Stefan back. I wanted to vote for him but that option is not there. PLEASE KEEP CJ OUT!! Not a big fan of the guy and never have been.

JennyDeeNYC
JennyDeeNYC

Yes, I agree. Something's up with Tom and Padma. So obvious the way she looks at him.

iburnfood
iburnfood

Why Stephan and not Oklahoma? He can't cook anything but pork and even then I wonder . Geez, he should have been gone a long time ago. Stephan is much better. I think Pada wanted Stephan gone and so Tom, who seems to kiss her high heels, went with it. 

RealRH
RealRH

I'm surprised to read so much negative comment regarding Padma!  For me, I can't stand seeing or hearing Tom C.  Is there any way to have the show without him?!  HE HATES EVERYTHING!  He is so disrespectful and comes off SO full of himself!  I can't wait to try HIS food at some point because it must be infused with magic and unicorns!  I would watch Top Chef more often if I didn't have to stomach Tom and Gail.

thomas.carl.946
thomas.carl.946

Theres alot of posts knocking Padma still, i agree with most of them.  Perhaps if she would post a blog on this website explaining her decisions she wouldnt be getting all this heat.  She does seem to be getting more and more annoying after the "Kristen Episode". 

soclearwater
soclearwater

Still found Padma annoying to watch this week.  I just can't stand her anymore after she made that horrible decision to boot Kristen.  WORST DECISION IN TOP CHEF HISTORY!  Congrats for that Padma!

PorkBBQ
PorkBBQ

Josh may make it to the finals just by cooking pork and making breakfast for each challenge. Sushi?  Bacon, eggs, and rice.  Surf and Turf?  Bacon, eggs, and scallops.  Last season Sarah made it to the finals by making meatballs for almost every challenge. There appears to be themes to make it far in the competion like choose a protein and run with it to the finals.  Brooke, Kristen, Sheldon, and CJ were the most creative chefs this season on par as Marcel or Blais.  Stefan was robbed in his original season but it seemed like he wasn't as focused as he was previously. Sheldon all the way!

shaycap01
shaycap01

Off topic--I am a severe Celiac and have been a faithful Top Chef viewer since season 1. How come you have never had a gluten free challenge? You have had diabetes, vegan, low fat etc...but never gluten free? I hope next season you give it a shot just be sure to stock the kitchen with only gluten free ingredient because if real celiacs are the tasters they can get very sick if someone doesn't realize they are using a gluten ingredient in their dish--thanks so much

JennyDeeNYC
JennyDeeNYC

I can't disagree with the decision, but it's unfortunate that Stefan got the boot. He was Mr. personality this season while Kristen was most beloved. Now, without the two of them, we're left with a boring show and after Padma's crazy stunt to boot Kristen, she's become quite annoying to watch. I won't be surprised if ratings start to slide.....

Anamar
Anamar

Never heard of Portuguese chorizo and clams before. And I'm from Portugal...

singingscallops
singingscallops

It's frustrating that in Sheldon's recipe for kimchi, all he provides is the cabbage and ... kimchi base?  What exactly is kimchi base?  I know of some, but if his was so good as to elicit that kind of reaction from those at the judges' table, I want some specifics!

shysharon
shysharon

maybe I should you some challange suggestions....?

alchook
alchook

Why can’t these people follow simple instructions? If they say make fried chicken make fried chicken. If they say make surf and turf as one dish don’t make a surf and a turf.  You could have avoided elimination by wrapping a scallop in bacon.

rain618
rain618

I said it last season, and I'll say it again...I think that if you are the only judge in the LCK, you should be blind tasting the food. You're only human, and of course your bias plays into your decision. I'm not suggesting that you like one cheftestant more than another (wink, wink), but I think it's possible that you bring a little "previous challenge baggage" to your ultimate decision. Like the quickfire and elimination challenges, the winning dish is based on the dish here and now, not who might be the better chef or who might have been eliminated prematurely.

tehbyco
tehbyco

If Josie comes back as a sous chef in the finals, it will prove to me that TC is not about discovering the most talented chef or the one who cooks the best food in a given challenge. It will prove that it's more about the drama than the cuisine. And we're I the finalist who had to work with her--I wouldn't. I'd be better off on my own. Or I'd relegate her to keeping my work station clean.

Mona_Munaki
Mona_Munaki

This season has been a train wreak.  Chefs with bland personalities and no mouthwatering dishes presented.  Those who added fun to the show were cut:  CJ and Stefan.  It would be nice to see some more seasoned chefs as in Top Chef Masters.  Youth, youth, youth! shouldn't be a major factor in selecting contestants.  Certainly, there are up and coming chefs whose belly buttons are not still healing.  Viewers don't need the drama that comes with a Josie however it's noticeable how much more congenial and funny the more mature chefs are on Masters.  Glad that you got rid of arm sleeve tats and piercings as a requirement.  Now, try upping the 28 and under age prerequisite.

OldBitsmasher
OldBitsmasher

I saw what Josh was doing and thought: "A variation on Hangtown Fry!"  But then he left out the bacon. With either scallops  or oysters, HF has to be the easiest Surf & Turf  there is.

backgammon
backgammon

You were RIGHT on Tom.  I thought Stefan should have gone home when he didn't fry Chicken. 

 

 I loved the idea of frog legs, and the ship chef, didn't know they had them.

 

Looking forward to next week!  Great Show

 

P.S. I am glad Josie is gone, she had too many excuses for too long.

lkbrose
lkbrose

I think this season is worst than the Texas season.  You may have disliked Bev, Sarah, or Lindsay -- but they all could cook.  Josie couldn't.  Much better talent was kicked off before her.  I really expected good food from Seattle

 

I also think the problem this year is the challenges are  boring. Fried chicken this late in the season?  This doesn't showcase the Seattle food.

 

Here are my most boring challenges:

1) Cook 50's food from an Iconic restaurant in the exact manner they did back then.  Why couldn't the they put a modern spin on this?

 

2)The dual challenge that no one won. It just didn't lend itself to good food.

 

3) Surf & Turf -- now?

 

4)Restaurant Wars.  

First I hate restaurant wars because typically, the better chefs are voted off.  Especially when they change the rules:

 

- Season 3's Tre got booted, because they had a SECOND (aka "retry") war.

-Season 9 Tylor got booted, because the "girls" team had an extra 24 hours -- just to relax after the last all-nite challenge.  Again bad service won.

-Season 10- The restaurant concept as the first challenge- Josie stays, while Micah goes.

 

I don't think this is a problem of the chefs being bad, but the challenges are. Again too many team challenges...

charleswor
charleswor

Stefan has grown on me, he wears his heart on his shoulders and it shows but  I think he really messed up on the fried chicken challenge also, he didn't cook "fried chicken."  I remember Stefan having more creativity when he appeared the previous season, what's happening to him?  By the way, how creative was the pork wrapped in uncooked cabbage, that chef got lucky this time.

liz82276
liz82276

Did anyone else notice the picture of Andy Cohen on the supply shelf when Kristin pulled off a box of something? Too funny!! It was like Bravo's version of Where's Waldo!

QuincyJr
QuincyJr

The first season Stefan was on I couldn't stand him.  This time he was my favorite.  I don't know if it's the editing or if he has changed or maybe I've changed, but I really enjoyed him this season and wish him the best.

 

I didn't try the food, so I don't want to second guess your decision, but I did think Stefan thought a lot more out of the box than Sheldon.  Eel ravioli?  It was a risk and it didn't work out, but he tried something really different.  Stefan has been pretty inconsistent this year.  He seemed like one of the strongest chefs this season, but he had several miscues. 

 

It looks now like the competition is Brooke's to lose.  When she is on, she seems head and shoulders above the remaining chefs.  As long as you don't have another fried chicken challenge that is.  I will commend Top Chef.  The last few seasons have been a little hard to get into, but this season you have had a great cast of chefs that have been also very entertaining to watch and I've really enjoyed this watching them.

cmp11
cmp11

 @BarbarainNY actually if they could lower the decibel level of the music throughout the whole show would be much better.

cmp11
cmp11

 @BarbarainNY I SO agree. My grandmother watched one episode with me and she really liked it but it got so hard for he to understand what they were saying she couldn't take it anymore. I too think it is annoying.

Mona_Munaki
Mona_Munaki

 @Saykavka Have you noticed the new Padma finger wagging in the last three episodes?  Wagging fingers it very disrespectful.  Admonishing an adult like a child.  

cmp11
cmp11

 @JennyDeeNYC That is a stretch. Although she did call him "tommy" on one episode.

twix
twix

 @RealRH

 

Really. then dont watch. They are the best. Padma brings NOTHING.. 

BarbarainNY
BarbarainNY

 @RealRH I disagree because I find Chef Tom Colicchio's comments to be very instructive for the contestants (and for us, the audience). I don't find that Chef Tom hates anything, but rather he has an acute sense of what it means to be a head chef: using the best ingredients one can find, conceptualizing the dish, and executing it flawlessly.  I continue to learn and learn from him.

PaulainVA
PaulainVA

 @JennyDeeNYC

 It's not a "stunt" if the dish is inferior.  I am amazed at how many commenters seem to think any judge either plays favorites or has enough pull to keep someone around who fails, or boot someone off who is performing well.  It is a competition, not a popularity contest.  Some of my favorites have gone home before too; but I don't cry about it or blame the judges, who are experts in their field.  I think TC is probably one of the most legitimate reality shows running.

twix
twix

 @rain618You are so right.   lots of favortism. Did we really think Tom was going to pick Josie's dish.    NOT!!!!

 

bellazoe
bellazoe

 @rain618

 Totally agree, blind tasting levels the playing field and takes emotions out of the equation..

LAMusing
LAMusing

 @rain618  I agree!  I've been able to call every LCK win (except the first one, where I didn't try) BEFORE they cooked anything... based only on who I think Tom likes best.

mockingboy
mockingboy

 @tehbyco Imagine if Kristen came back in the finals, and selected Josie as her Sous chef in a blind tasting. :P

cmp11
cmp11

 @Mona_Munaki no young chefs, no tats, no piercings and you want funny and congenial. you DO realize you are watching a show with professional chefs right?

borbor
borbor

 @Mona_Munaki I'm 51 and I have no tattoos and only one piercing and I Couldn't disagree more. This has been a very absorbing season of Top Chef. Stefan is more than seasoned and he made it all the way to the final five! John Tesar went pretty far too. The reason the chefs aren't as seasoned as Top Chef Masters is because it's not Top Chef Masters! I love Lizzie, Kristen, Stefan, CJ, and Sheldon is a charmer who keeps surprising me. I didn't even mind Josie coming back - she made a great villain and was so clueless about her (lack of) skills and drive and talent. You sound like you have a chip on your shoulder. Maybe you should pitch Top Chef Seniors.   

Mona_Munaki
Mona_Munaki

 @charleswor Stefan is a great chef.  The challenges have been poor.  Stefan needs his own show.

motherhubbard
motherhubbard

 @liz82276 They've been planting it everywhere. It's either "Where's Waldo" or Hitchcock doing brief cameos in his movies.

Mona_Munaki
Mona_Munaki

 @PaulainVA  @JennyDeeNYC Disagree.  It was a given that there would be an African American winner when TC went to DC with our first Black president in office.  It's also a given that winners need to cover the progressive spectrum since the show is on Bravo. Sheldon will complete the Pacific Islander on the census report.   There still has not been a Native American winner.  We'll see that next season.

Mona_Munaki
Mona_Munaki

 @cmp11  @borbor   Mea culpa.  I guess I stirred the pot a bit.  I'll slap my own hands with a ruler.  I had some bad dreams about a few seasons where most of the chefs were gay, had tat sleeves, facial piercings and were under 30.  Not terribly representative of our nation's of top chefs, ( a lot of Hispanics in the kitchens across the country.)  Just a freak show where the contestants felt obligated to share their political views.  I don't care if someone is gay, straight, has a tat sleeve or a ring through their nose.  Just cook and stop whining about how you won't cook for the military because of your political beliefs.  I guess I would sum up several past seasons as the Whiny Bunch.  "Life's Not Fair!"  TC is not the format for this.  

 

Back to funny and congenial:  You caught me.  I was a huge fan of Hung and he was a prick.  How about is I say, I like lively interaction?  Even if poor Bev's feelings get hurt.

 

The show has jumped the shark with LCK.

Mona_Munaki
Mona_Munaki

 @borbor  @Mona_Munaki You didn't read what I wrote thoroughly, Evelyn Wood.  I said CJ and Stefan were the most entertaining contestants.  I know that they're over 28.  I used 28 as a random number.  Top Chef Seniors sounds like fun, now that you mention it.  Our country considers Betty White a national treasure.  I'm sure some white hairs could could put the over-confident, narcissistic baby chefs to bed...in other words, eliminated.  And they won't have to rely on scallops to win.