Tom Colicchio

If Tom Colicchio knew then what he knows now...

on Jan 16, 2013

Here’s what I learned from watching the episode:

· Josie continuously dropped the ball.  

· She was insubordinate: She was asked to make the sauce the day before and didn’t.  

· She then assured Kristen it would be done in the first hour the following day but failed to follow through on that promise.  

· She procrastinated, pushing the dish later and later, so that there wasn’t enough time to execute it properly, nor was there time to fix the mistakes.

It’s bad enough not to do what you’re asked to do, but it’s a whole lot worse to say you’re going to do it and only afterwards reveal that you didn’t… time and again. Had we managed to discover this at Judges’ Table, the outcome of the challenge would have been different, but Kristen wouldn’t divulge it, insisting that the buck stopped with her. I wish I’d asked one more question: “If this were truly your restaurant and Josie were one of your chefs, would you have fired her?” I believe that Kristen would’ve had to have said “yes.” But, to quote Kristen herself, hindsight’s a bitch. I didn’t know to ask that question, 1) given that Kristen was determined not to reveal what Josie had done, and, 2) as a result, given the information we had and how it (mis)shaped our sense of what had happened in the kitchen.

There were other problems that contributed to Atelier Kwan's loss. As you could see, Atelier Kwan’s whole set-up for service was a mess, though, again, that was because they were still dealing with prep when service began. But that’s not entirely Josie’s fault. The dishes, as Kristen herself pointed out in her exit interview, were complex and difficult to produce in their restaurant. A dish with six or seven components on a plate is not going to work. The art in being a chef isn’t in creating the dishes, it’s in then taking them and putting them into a system that will work so that you can then produce each dish writ large. As with composers who have written musical compositions that are too hard for performers to play, it’s not a great restaurant dish if you can’t pull it off in a restaurant.  

Urbano’s cooking and expediting, on the other hand, was smooth and organized, despite that restaurant team’s having one member fewer than Atelier Kwan's team had.  Urbano had none of the chaos that Atelier Kwan experienced. And with Stefan in the front of the house, that meant there were only two chefs in the kitchen making it happen, which was truly impressive. While Stefan’s service left Danny Meyer telling him not to quit his day job, no one was left waiting for food.

And the food at Urbano was great. In all the fury over the Kristen-Josie issue, let’s not forget that Sheldon did an amazing job. His concept was terrific -- I think he’s really on to something. He put together a great restaurant, and every dish was a very good, strong dish. The flavors in each dish were harmonious, and the meal worked beautifully and harmoniously as a whole as well.