“Enthrall me with your acumen.” -Hannibal Lecter
Our chef careers are shaped in many ways. We get jobs after school washing dishes to start. We watch the whirlwind of kitchens around us and learn what we can. Soon, for those who are enthralled with the frenetic pace of the kitchen, we develop a yearning for learning. This is the turning point. Endless fascination occurs that can only be fed with more learning, more wonderment. Books begin to play a vital role in the quest for knowledge.
When I was young I was working at a French restaurant in Hull Quebec. I was 23. I was green beyond belief. I bought books, I read, I wondered, and I dreamed. I wanted to get better with what was now the only employment I longed to succeed in. I remember walking into the cookbook store in the Byward market in Ottawa and buying Charlie Trotter’s eponymous first cookbook. It was stunning. It was new to me, everything about what he was doing. It sent my mind racing about what was possible. It pushed envelopes and opened doors with flavored oils, modern sauces, elaborate garnishes, and towering plating styles. It was, for me, a revelatory text.
Charlie passed away Tuesday at the age of 54. Too young, too brilliant, and too utterly important to so many young chefs to lose at such a young age. Only last weekend I was talking with Andrew Carmellini about Charlie’s influence and career -- Andrew being one of countless amazingly talented chefs who saved up to make a trip to the Charlie’s place in its heyday. I only had the books to eat but they meant a ton to me. RIP. Chef -- you meant a lot to so many.
Back to reality television. We find Carlos talking about his obstacles, and he seems to have come over many in his life, head first with lots of energy. He is a passionate guy. I like him.
The chefs go back to get some sleep and Brian wakes up on top of Travis. This TV moment is now legal in many states and I will take the progress. Now if we can just keep SNAP programs from being completely defunded. Call your congress-people, people.
Sara is trying to keep the demons out of her head. Vanquish those demons. She styles her hair to take her mind off the stress. Then J. Besh comes in. He is thrilled to take them to the next challenge.
They walk to the posse of Toyota Rav 4s and drive and drive and drive to a farm. There are cows and vegetables and Creole tomatoes. The Quickfire is 20 minutes to make a tomato dish. That’s not a lot of time. Padma opens the trunk to reveal… wait for it… pots!