Taking a cue from the "Watch What Happens: Top Chef Extravaganza," I'm switching gears on this nascent blog and starting by addressing some of the comments that have been posted. First, I am very gratified by the warm welcome to the blogosphere which has been extended to me. Thank you for your encouragement; it's greatly appreciated. Now to specific posts. And chalk another first for me: responding to comments on a blog!
Megan, I agree that the hot boxes probably worked to Howie's advantage, but I'm not so sure they figured into his planning, at least in terms of counting on them to continue the cooking process. He was clearly rattled by the change in the amount of time allotted to the challenge. However, he may have been thinking ahead, figuring that a braised dish stood less chance of being adversely affected by its time in the box. Kristi, Lori B., and Margaine, it's great that Lia has supporters like you. She certainly impressed me and I suspect there are lots of Lia-ites out there.
With regard to your experience at Barton G. The Restaurant, Kristin, thanks for the compliment about the service. Now about the risotto! (By the way, it's no longer served, as we just debuted a new menu.) For a restaurant that does the kind of volume we do--400 to 600 guests a night--it's not just common practice, but absolutely necessity to par-blanche risotto. If it's done correctly, only the most discerning and sophisticated of palates, yours obviously being among them, can tell the difference. Cooking risotto to order is a luxury for that only a much smaller operation can permit itself.
Finally, Drio, I was so relieved to read your post today, because that was what I had been th inking. Just when I was getting hooked on the show, there's this monkey wrench of a special. I wouldn't go so far as you did and pronounce it "terrible," but I think you had to have been a die-hard fan since the first season to really appreciate it. As I've admitted, I wasn't' such a fanatic follower, so I didn't find the hour particularly compelling. Although the show did have its moments for me: The compilation of the submission tapes was fun to watch. I got a kick out of finding out Howie is called "Hurrican Howie." He certainly can bluster and blow! I was taken aback by that category four fight with Joey and consequently even more impressed b Howie's gracious gesture at the end of the Latin challenge: There was Hung's enthusiasm for dating...anyone.
There was one important issue that was addressed a few times during the course of the show, one that I think is important. and that is just how much time the judges take deliberating and debating before making their decision. They take the responsibility very seriously, as they should. Those few minutes of the Judges' Table actually are, as Tom pointed out, distilled down from hours of thoughtful, often impassioned discussion.
Quite frankly, I hadn't expected the whole process to take as long as it did, when I was a guest judge. We were at it until four in the morning! And I'm told that's not uncommon when they're dealing with an evening-oriented challenge. So don't ever think anyone connected with the show is taking the fact that careers can be made--and possibly broken--by it lightly. Top Chef may be a contest, but it's no game--at least not in the frivolous sense.