First let me say, everyone should stop reading this right now and head to Harold's restaurant. He's doing serious food. My meal was light but hearty, restrained but bold, creative yet familiar, sophisticated but still fun. Harold, man, I'm happy I live in the neighborhood. Congrats. I was hoping to answer some questions this week, but I've been on the road without Internet access, so next week I'll have some answers for you all. Oh, and unlike Bourdain, I'm not a writer so thanks for bearing with me on this blog. "Top Chef" isn't easy. Each week comes with its own set of challenges, so I figured I'd make a list of the things that I thought weren't easy about this week:
#1: Fatigue Everyone looked pretty drained. After a few weeks into it, your initial adrenaline rush dissipates and the long, stressful days start to accumulate. The average show takes about two days to shoot. Two really, really long days. Almost 18-hour days. I never got more than four hours of sleep and usually less. And from the looks of it, this crew is a little fatigued.
#2: Cocktail pairings.
(If I had only known in college that becoming "Global Mixologist For Bombay Sapphire Gin" was a career path....) Gin and chefs is a pairing about as common as a burger and fries. But chefs attempting to pair something with fin other than themselves is another story. It's not like wine -- if you're under the gun you can follow some general rules and you'll be OK. A complicated cocktail takes some time and some thought -- two things a Quickfire Challenge doesn't allow. But what this season does have is a stocked pantry. Foie Gras?! Where was that last season? And speaking of the pantry, Lee Anne is a rock star. Have you noticed how good the spreads look?
#3: "You will divide yourself..." Awkward.
#4: "...into teams" Howie said something to the effect that he didn't like working in a team because what you're really trying to do is send each other home and be the last one there. (I'm paraphrasing.) I never looked at it that way. I thought the goal was to try to just keep winning until you get to Hawaii and you lose it all. But seriously, the point isn't to try to send other people home and not lose -- it's to win. And when you're on a team, you should want everyone on your team to do your best. Which leads me to...
#5: Team dynamics. Casey handled her position a lot better than I would have. I would have been crawling out of my skin if I were her.
#6: Trios. I had a great meal at Michael Mina's in San Fran New Year's Eve. Every dish on Mina's tasting menu is a trio. The whole point of the trio is to have the three tastes complement each other and work in harmony, which means if you don't work together, the judges will see it and taste it on the plate. Why pick such overdone proteins? Why not use different cuts of duck? It would have been a lot more interesting.
#7: "Top Chef" and desserts: A lose-lose situation I know you don't HAVE to do a dessert course, but you SHOULD. And I'll be the first to admit that I don't do desserts. Most chefs don't. It's a science with rules to follow, and I'm not into rules. So, to get ready for Hawaii, pastry chef extraordinaire Heather Carlucci-Rodriquez helped me with a few desserts that I memorized. All I can say is that if you're thinking of trying out for Season 4, master a few recipes you feel comfortable with.
#7: Sashes. And Ted, you should have called in a 911 fashion emergency to Carson to get rid of those things.
#8: Saying goodbye to someone who is going home too early. Camille, I know you're already on your way to great things. It was hard to see you go, and your fellow chefs' reactions only confirmed that. See you in New York.