No Strength In Numbers
Miami chef and restauranteur weighs in on Top Chef.
Curiously a show about one of the most stressful, intense, adrenalin-charged experiences I know of--opening a restaurant--was, for me, rather flat. Maybe that's because I've done it once and am in the process of doing it again, so I know the drama associated with getting a restaurant open, which by the way bears little resemblance to most anything you might have seen and on the late, not lamented, "The Restaurant" with Rocco DiSpirito. It may also have a lot to do with the confines of the television show's format that condenses processes that can take literally months into a few hours. The details, as Howie pointed out, are myriad, and it's the details that, like with most things in life, make the difference, that make or break a restaurant--details as seemingly minute as the font used for the menu or the beverage napkin at the bar. It took me two years to open Barton G. The Restaurant, and it looks like my second will take nearly 12 months. And this is from someone who is known for normally moving at the speed of light with business decisions!
Then there was the fact that, for the first time, all the chefs grasped the necessity of teamwork. Given what we've seen previously, it was really quite remarkable, but a bit boring. It would seem reality TV and non-confrontational contestants do not good bedfellows make! I suspect, through the magic of editing, we'll see a lot more theatrics in next week's re-do. I wonder if Andrea Strong will be back as the "secret blogger." I hope so. While not a faithful weekly reader (hey, I've never done much of anything of a recreational nature on a regular basis until I started watching Top Chef every week to write this blog!), I have read her highly-acclaimed Strong Buzz about the New York restaurant scene and have been struck by her intelligent, knowledgeable approach coupled with a deft command of the English language. The woman can turn a phrase! Witness her observations about her Restaurant Wars dining experience as read to the contestants by the judges. Andrea's comments were the most entertaining aspect of the episode. But it turns out what we heard on the show was just the tip of the clever wordsmithing iceberg; if you haven't done so, read all of what she wrote about the experience that night on Padma's blog or go to her Web site .Wait till you read her take on naming a restaurant "The Garage" and the complete description of Brian's sweating problem
Now about Brian, any odor issues he may have had aside, he was the big surprise for me. I found it hard to believe the charismatic barker of the Guilty Pleasures show, who got the party started and kept it going at his team's snack stand, was the same person who had such a disastrous meltdown as a host--one that was literal according to Andrea! When CJ anointed him with front-of-house duties, I was in total agreement that Brian would be a natural in the hospitable charm department, if nothing else. Actually, I thought the April team had it in the bag, period, given its members and the responsibilities they took on. Boy was I wrong.
Which brings me to Tre, who was so uncharacteristically out of his Executive Chef element. Serving those potatoes, when he knew they were over-smoked, was just plain stupid. And letting them get to that state in the first place was sloppy work. Not what I've come to expect from Tre, but I stand by my prediction he will be one of the last three chefs in the competition. Ditto that same prediction about Hung. A post from "ck" questioned my choice of Hung as one of the likely final three in last week's blog, wondering what I see in him given the number of times his dishes tanked. It's part hunch, "ck", and part because he works for Guy Savoy, one of the world's truly top chefs. OK, it's Savoy's Vegas operation, not Paris; however Hung wouldn't be Executive Sous-Chef at a restaurant with a Michelin-starred chef's name on it if he didn't have an uncommon degree of talent and sophisticated technical proficiency. Both have risen to the surface on several occasions--certainly when I was guest judge, with his sublime sauteed shrimp with corn pudding, and again during this episode with the tuna tartar. It was the only dish universally applauded by the judges and Andrea. With regard to naming the last member of my personal final three, which I said I might be ready to do this week... forget it. Nothing during Restaurant Wars I gave me any new insight--I'm looking forward to Restaurant Wars II for that.