Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio explains how Kristen's dish could easily have gone awry.

on Nov 28, 20120

For the most part, the chefs did a great job. They “got” the challenge, and everything looked and seemed very '50s. And so many of the dishes really delivered on all fronts. 

Josh’s soup was too salty, yes, but not enough to kill it. The dish was saved from the very bottom by its good, beefy flavor, which superceded its saltiness. An inherent problem with the dish, as a matter of fact, was the actually dish, i.e., the bowl itself, which was the wrong vessel for onion soup -- it was way too wide and shallow.  The reason for the crouton in onion soup is to hold up the cheese, but this wasn’t possible in the bowl Josh used.

CJ’s dish was a serious contender for “One of the Worst Two Dishes” -- he’s lucky that it was edged out by Chrissy’s and Carla’s. His lamb didn’t get enough char on it. The meat’s mealiness came from his having sous vided it for the wrong length of time -- I just can’t understand why he chose to do that at all. All in all, the dish was under-seasoned and boring… but it was still not quite as bad as the other two dishes.

As for Carla’s, you need to understand a couple of things both about being a chef and about squab: I have seven restaurants, and I have chefs cooking my food. But it is my job and mine alone to make sure that they know exactly how I want each element prepared. One can’t become Top Chef and not know how to supervise others who are cooking one’s food. If I’d been in charge of that squab dish, I’d have been in there making sure it was done correctly.  And cooking for the judges in this competition is akin to cooking for VIPs in your restaurant -- you want to be extra sure that their dishes are prepared exactly as you want them.

As for how Carla wanted them? We judges don’t know at the time what is going on in the kitchen -- we only know what we’re served. But having watched the episode, I see that not only were ours overcooked, but the early ones were absolutely undercooked -- clearly, the chefs then overcompensated for that when cooking the later ones. Squab should be medium rare  If too rare, it's chewy; if overdone, it starts to get, well, “livery” is the best way I can describe what happens to it. Squab is pigeon whose wings are clipped when it’s young so that it never flies. It’s a nice tender red meat bird, like a duck, with really rich flavor. It’s one of my favorite things to cook… and to eat. Sadly, Carla really blew it, not only by not supervising the preparation well -- she actually made mistakes all the way through. Even when doing the whole flattened thing that you saw her do, you still need to butcher it a bit and take out the rib cage. Carla blew it from the get go with this dish.

33 comments
better
better

Nicest remarks onto the CANLIS families place as for a establishment to favorites on areas and next places stop onto plans public market place isn't to be ignored either! Lower into Ritzy presentations, but of a few elegant dinning rooms! For cooks to compare may try sometimes at lower places in less styles, your announcement on FARE START is fair! 'Casa Latina' workers did share day jobs and add for they found jobs to work too!

better
better

Nicest kindness on remarks for place at there Canlis Family decades long establishment ,but sometimes every area can't be covered by only these figures alone. Next at local public market place can be describing on areas careers cooks as assortments.

TXCajun
TXCajun

I, for one, am glad to see Carla go.  I would not want her cooking anything for me with all that hair flopping aound.  It just looked so unsanitary.  But I love Top Chef and look forward to each episode. 

Mielegirl
Mielegirl

I completely enjoyed this episode.  Hopefully, the contestants can stay away from the infighting and just try to cook good food.  That is why I watch.  Thanks.

DCGal
DCGal

Tom - I think it's been a great season so far, heads above last season's gimmicks. It feels like a return to foundational elements of being a chef. I am loving the season and feeling my favorite show is back! Plus, I love that Kristen won. It really illustrates the point that often gets lost in the competition: excellent execution of simplicity trumps dazzle. Too many contestants ache to pull out the stops (CJs use of sous vide showed a real lack of restraint) instead of doing simple things well.

Lynda58
Lynda58

Tom, I must tell you that I won't be watching Last Chance Kitchen.  I believe when a cook is dismissed, that's it.  There is no need to prolong the process of getting down to the finale.  I discovered last season that watching it is a lesson in futility because only the last  challenge matters.  The rest of the side show is a waste of time.

LOLA-B
LOLA-B

You are so completely full of it Tom.

 

SURE, it's the same thing for your paid employees to "cook your food" as it is for a competitor on this show to cook THEIR COMPETITOR's dish. 

 

Why even cast women on this show?  They are nothing but fodder. 

TChefAddict2012
TChefAddict2012

The "old school" telephone apparently isn't the only thing that hasn't evolved.  "Charming" as the old ways may be, requiring women customers to wear dresses is decidedly UN-relevant in these days.  Instead of stripping, I'd be taking my business elsewhere.  Guess the food isn't the only thing that's retro-modern.

 

twix
twix

I always enjoy watching you. I will follow you anywhere..

BostonSingle
BostonSingle

Top Chef & Tom - Here's a suggestion I hope you take up.  Before a Quick Fire that involves a protein that can be cooked to different temperatures/doneness, the chefs should be told how well done the judge (e.g., Naomi) prefers the protein to be cooked.  There's always an impression that a dish is not successful when the judge says, "I prefer my steak to be medium rare (or rare or medium, etc.)."  That's not fair if the chef has no clue what the judge prefers.  Why keep that a secret?  If the chefs know what the preference is, this also adds an element that can be judged (i.e., did the chefs cook the protein to the correct doneness.)

 

Love Top Chef and the fact that Last Chance Kitchen is back!

singingscallops
singingscallops

Kristen first roasted the mushrooms, beginning the caramelization process and the release of their water content.  She finished them in a pan, furthering the browning effect and probably imbuing them with the flavors of whatever fat she used to baste them.  Always good to learn something in cooking.

 

And I'm glad to know my hunch wasn't incorrect regarding the serving bowl for the French-onion soup.  I thought it looked odd, for that soup.  The beef-stock element that saved it: interesting, because I've always thought that the most traditional way to make the soup is with water.  No other flavor should shine but that of the onions.  But if you have to rescue it ...  Now I know ...

Lynda58
Lynda58

Tom, Thanks for your insightful comments.  Even after you explain in depth who made the greater errors, CJ's inedible lamb seems like a worse offense than an over-dressed salad.  Those mushrooms made me crave them.  I wanted to eat them all.  Kristen's side dishes looked amazing.  I'm hungry now.

Mummy35332
Mummy35332

Oh my, I hope they had a spare skirt for that actress!!!!

swell_swell
swell_swell

 @DCGal Frankly the use of sous vide should have been an automatic go-home for failing the challenge.

dennis.g.grace
dennis.g.grace

 @Lynda58 I do hope the producers ignore your input. You're welcome to your opinion, of course, but I disagree with the entire premise that one failure proves that you're not Top Chef. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a successful chef who never failed at anything. The best learn from their mistakes.

Marti_W
Marti_W

 @Lynda58 I don't know that I'll actually watch Last Chance Kitchen (okay, maybe if Sheldon lands there) but I like the idea of it.  So many times we've watched a chef who has consistently put out excellent product all season go down in flames because of one inferior dish.  So I really like the idea of having a chance at redemption, so to speak.

PaulainVA
PaulainVA

 @LOLA-B

 Unless you've actually run a kitchen in a top notch restaurant, you are not qualified to challenge Chef Colicchio's explanation of how a chef manages his/her kitchen.  Period.  The women who went home deserved to do so.  Gender bias is a reality, but you have to look at the whole picture and have a measure of common sense.  Carla was an accident waiting to happen, and did not work well with anyone in any of the challenges; including the one she won.  Chrissy did not do badly in LCK, but did not show the mastery of her ingredients that Kuniko did.

swell_swell
swell_swell

 @LOLA-B I agree that it's doesn't seem fair. Men seem to get to slide a little more on certain things than women do - how well you actually meet the challenge, and how your dish is presented. If a dish is truly poorly cooked, any cook will go home, but if it is a toss-up, then nine times out of ten, it seems a woman goes home. When I look at the winner's list, I don't think men are really that much better than the women in the kitchen.

BabiBlue84
BabiBlue84

@BostonSingle that's actually a great suggestion, 'fancy' chefs always seem to lean towards the rare meat, but when a surprise 'normal pallet' guest is there the dish is often scrutinized. I for one only like my meat medium well or better. Idc if its a lil overdone I like that too and better than undercooked. Don't hand me a pink raw feather less pigeon or a leathery one... Even well done can go wrong I.e the lamb shanks that just looked like they came from a cheap Gyro's drive-thru

swell_swell
swell_swell

 @singingscallops I've always had French Onion soup made from a beef stock base - often fortified with some red wine. I can't imagine how thin an onion-only broth would be.

Lynda58
Lynda58

 @swell_swell  @DCGal If Emeril says he didn't want to eat it - that's beyond bad.  CJ should have been axed.  He seemed stupid to do a sous vide - (it was remnants from his season when Hung did it successfully all the time).  What a BIG fool.  But, he shouldn't have been pardoned.  His offense was greater than an overdressed salad.

singingscallops
singingscallops

 @swell_swell  @LOLA-B Tom has addressed this question before.  Whether or not race or gender comes into consideration.  The answer is no.  If you question his integrity, why bother following the show?  I'm not into pro wrestling for the same reason. 

 

Also, don't forget that Padma -- most definitely a woman -- is a judge, as well as Gail when she's on the show.  It's difficult for me to believe that Tom could convince both to go against a woman simply because she is a woman.

 

I'm hoping that this year, Kuniko or Lizzie or Brooke will make it.  All three comport themselves very well, and are clearly well-trained.  In fact, they all have the calmness exhibited by Stepanie Izard.  Which is one of the reasons I think it's realistic to think any of these three can do it.

LOLA-B
LOLA-B

 @Marti_W And TWO went home, one that wasn't even allowed to cook her own food. 

 

3 in a row...so far.

singingscallops
singingscallops

 @swell_swell I should study more soup recipes, including those for French Onion.  I've always used one of the first ones for it that I learned: using water, after deeply caramelizing onions, then adding fresher cuts of onion during the simmering of the water.

 

But hey, beef stock with fortified red wine sounds good in almost any setting.  So you won't get any arguments from here!  Thanks!

swell_swell
swell_swell

 @LOLA-B  @DCGal And had some responsibility for how his food was cooked! Unlike poor Carla! He also knew how his food was intended to taste, unlike poor Chrissy!

LOLA-B
LOLA-B

 @singingscallops  @swell_swell Gosh, OK then!  I just won't watch the show anymore. 

 

I stopped a while ago, but each year, come back and give it a try.  I stuck out a whole season when Ripert was part of the judging, and will always watch when the important chefs are on the show, because Tom will actually defer to their opinion, and has. 

 

As far as Padma and Gail?  Get serious.  What Tom says goes. 

 

dennis.g.grace
dennis.g.grace

 @LOLA-B  @Marti_W Bunk. The first eliminated cheftestant was male, and as Marti points out, a woman won the challenge. 

swell_swell
swell_swell

 @LOLA-B  @Marti_W There is NO WAY in a competition like this that I would let someone else cook my food - unless I had immunity. The risk is just too high. How many chefs have been sent home for not supervising the cooking of their food during Restaurant Wars or other team challenges?