Editor's Note: Bravotv.com is pleased to announce that Barton G. Weiss, founder and president of Barton G., will be blogging for the rest of the season. Come back every week to get his respected expert opinion on exactly what you're seeing.
Last week I confessed that I hadn't been a religious follower of Top Chef. Since I have been invited to be a guest blogger for the remainder of the season, it's time to reveal that my musings about the episode in which I appeared as a guest judge was my first blog. Ever. Imagine my surprise when Bravotv.com asked me to continue weighing in about the show! So, I have been glued to the set two Wednesday nights in a row, a record for me for any show. And, I'm getting hooked, partly because I feel I know the contestants having met them and tasted their food. Actually I realized this week that I had become invested in Lia because she had won the challenge on my watch, and, consequently, will be working with me at a Diabetes Research Institute Foundation event in the Hamptons next month.
What a dreadful time Lia had of it. The competition this round was all about timing, and this clearly wasn't Lia's time to shine. I wasn't too concerned when Maria Frumkin named her chorizo and artichoke tart as one of the bottom three during the Quickfire, but my heart sank a bit when she started talking about doing smoked trout for the "Latin Lunch." Nothing about trout or smoking resonates "Latin" to me--obviously they didn't with the Telemundo diners or the judges either. It was a bad call on Lia's part, compounding her final execution of the dish, which I'm sure was affected by cutting the three hour cooking window in half. But that's the kind of turning-on-a-dime that chefs have to deal with occasionally, especially in catering, where all kinds of last-minute monkey wrenches can get thrown in--something I know a lot about!
Tom said it all when he talked about the importance of "working smart." It seemed to me there was a lot of not-smart working going on in that kitchen. Ironically, while I was watching I thought Howie was working the least smart by sticking with braising when the time was cut to 90 minutes. As Tom pointed it out, switching to roasting would have been the obvious thing to do--it's what I would have done. But Howie stuck to his guns and pulled it off. I respect that, especially since I remain amazed his pork turned out to be the big winner given the timing. What I respect even more was Howie's graciousness about his win--giving that bottle of wine to Joey and citing his dish as the best. It was a sweet moment.
And it brought another irony to mind--Hung's assertion about the necessity of having finesse, style, grace, and elegance to win. Given his frenetic demeanor in the kitchen (I gasped at his near knife miss with Casey; kitchen injuries go with the territory, but that kind of carelessness is frightening.) and his somewhat arrogant response to what were unanimous criticisms of his chicken and rice, he is not displaying those attributes.
Which brings me back to Lia, who dealt gracefully with the trashing her dish got, defending it as she should without giving off attitude. And she exited with aplomb, admittedly embarrassed at being booted off so early by clearly embracing the experience. Actually, there's another irony here: Lia is out of the running, but she may have snared the biggest prize of the competition, a new lifelong friend in Casey.