Tom Colicchio

Tom's had enough of the chefs' excuses.

on Jan 2, 2013

As for the bottom dishes, you might think it’s unfair that Lizzie was on the bottom when she’d been assigned a scallop dish but was sold inferior scallops. You might say that she had no choice and did the best with what she had. You might even ask what she might have done differently. Here’s what: any number of things.  

Lizzie’s first mistake was made at the market. She needed to check her scallops before purchasing them. If they weren’t good, she could have gone to a producer and said, “I have to make a scallop dish, but the scallops today aren’t OK to purchase.” And if the producers couldn’t -- or wouldn’t -- find her better scallops, she could have gotten creative without them. She could have made scalloped potatoes, for example, endeavoring to make the very best (and healthiest) scalloped potatoes in her power, and then explained to us why she had chosen to do them. Maybe she’d make win-worthy scalloped potatoes, and maybe not. But she certainly would not have landed in the bottom two. Lizzie had no idea that there was a problem with the scallops she’d bought until she got into the kitchen, and she should have known. So she landed herself in the bottom fair and square.  

As did John. Yes, as a general rule, good equipment’s important, and if the pans have aluminum in them, they can get bowed. But a flat bottom is more important when you’re searing or roasting something than when making risotto. With risotto, you’re constantly moving the rice, so it shouldn’t matter if the bottom is slightly bowed. So .I just don’t buy John’s excuse.  [And, for the record, never in all the past seasons of Top Chef did I say that the contestants should not make risotto, as one of the diners in this episode said. If they screw it up, they screw it up. I think risotto can be tricky because it should be eaten right away, which creates a timing issue. But that’s not a reason not to make risotto. It’s just a factor to consider, so that the chef can get it right.]

I also don’t buy John’s gripe that he should not have had to do a cook-off with Lizzie, since her bad scallops were clearly worse than his uneven risotto.  What he failed to realize was that he and Lizzie were not doing a cook-off because we just couldn’t figure out which dish was worse. Rather, the cook-off between the bottom two dishes was built into this challenge from the get-go.  Remember Padma waving a Kindle when they were first handed out and saying that Season 10’s memorable moment would make an appearance later in the challenge? No matter how close or far apart the bottom two dishes were, the chefs who made them were going to find themselves facing off to make a healthy dish based on CJ’s burger.