Sorry for not being able to blog last week, so here's just a few quick thoughts about last week's episode: Look, I know sponsors make the show run, but c'mon! I actually really liked what Andrew did with his crusted chicken as opposed to doing a rice dish. When you do something like fried rice, it's like come on! That's my feeling on it, anyway. I'd do a simpler dish. There's a preparation called larp when you grind the rice down and you usually cook small portions of proteins. Sometimes it's pork, I use sweetbreads, and then you pan-fry it so it gets nice and crispy.
My thought about the elimination round is that they just should've called it the "chicken challenge." What did they have? Ten dollars? I know that's tight, but there must be something else you can do with ten dollars and still make it accessible to a family. I know everybody likes chicken, but everybody did chicken, which wasn't very exciting to me. Mark made a curry, but he put some funky stuff in that curry. It was all proteins, and there weren't any fun, green, crispy vegetables. All the things that's hard to get kids to eat sometimes. I do a curry here at the restaurant all the time, and those are not the vegetables I would use.
It's interesting to see the folks that have kids on the show. Like with Antonia, I felt bad for her. It's tough because they're gone, and have very minimal contact with her little ones, and it's tough. It can break you down.
But this was one of my favorite episodes: Wedding Wars? Wow. It was really good, and I was like: C'mon, Tom had to take a shot at the first season? The situation was a lot different in that we got to go to Whole Foods; we didn't get to go to the Restaurant Depot. I couldn't taste it, but I was blown away by Stephanie's cake. Wow. She rocked it. I was like she's done this before. You can't just stroll your way into making a wedding cake like that. It looked professional. But they said Lisa's tasted better, and I believe it. It looked good. The chocolate frosting ... it looked dirty. I'd much rather eat that cake, but I'm a no-frills guy, so I'd much rather get some of that on my face.
The Quickfire Challenge reminded me of how chefs can be in any kitchen. When you have some downtime, every once in a while you have a few people start hosing each other, saying who can do this or that faster than anyone. I remember this one line cook who was very arrogant and cocky. He used to pick on the interns, and then I would get involved, and tell him, honestly, that I could do anything he was talking about better and faster blindfolded. And so we had a little competition where I was blindfolded and he wasn't. I won. Luckily. Otherwise, I wouldn't be telling this story right now. But these types of things are common, and it was cool to see. The thing about it, though, when speed is on the line, things can get a little dangerous.
What Andrew did with the artichokes was smart. I mean, that's why we have peelers. So, it's a pretty common move, and I'm just surprised that Spike didn't take that route, either. You use a spoon to get to the inside, but for the stem, you use a peeler.
Would I have chosen the bride? I think Richard made a very valid point in that he's going for it. That's one thing you have to say about the guy: He doesn't sit back and take a backseat. Ever. He puts himself at the helm every single time, and there's something to be said about that. Where, on the opposite side of it, you have someone like Nikki who said, "I am by no means the executive chef." You're not going to win this competition if you don't step up. It doesn't work like that. You have to say, "I want it."
The bride wanted meat and potatoes, and I think the team did a nice job. Obviously, our wedding team plan didn't work out so well in Season One, so who am I to really say? I think certainly exhaustion sets in, and I knew what they were going through. I think that everything they made looked good. I didn't think it was incredibly creative, but I don't think it was supposed to be, on either side. They're catering a wedding for four people each, so they're making food for 125 people. One thing I will say that was a hell of a lot easier than what we had to do was that it was buffet service instead of a sit-down dinner. And that sets you up to succeed a little bit more. You're doing five courses of 125 people sit-down, it's just brutal. I remember that, it was like round after round of plates ... is it ever going to end? You're looking at the food going out, and I didn't think any of us thought it was that good. I think the buffet style was clutch. You shouldn't make a chicken dish that's supposed to be crispy if it's going to sit in a dish for a while. I'm not a big chicken fan. The only time I'm leaning towards chicken is for a family meal. That's when I like to serve chicken.The groom's side wanted Italian food, and the way Nikki dodged responsibility was kind of weird. There was that connection between the groom and her, and then she passed the ball, and didn't want to get involved. I don't have a problem with her making pasta again; she's an Italian chef, I get it. That's what she likes to do. But, you have to kill it. You have to do it right. I mean grilled vegetables? I don't know. And that fight between Spike and Dale? It was bound to happen. Once you get on the chopping block, you see who can keep their integrity, and who can't, and I think it was pretty obvious who could. Granted, it seemed like Dale was running around, but at some point you have to speak up. If you're the executive chef at a restaurant, you have to speak up and say, "I need this sorted out. I'm busy, and I want what I'm making to be good." It just seemed like he was pissed off. And you're not going to make good food when you're pissed off. I know I don't.
I thought it was Nikki's time to go. I think at the end, Dale will look back and see that his temper may have gotten the best of him. I still think he's one of the stronger chefs there, from a cooking standpoint, I was happy to see him stay on. I don't think I've ever seen anyone give their win away in the history of Top Chef. Richard and Stephanie, those two are favorites of mine. Hopefully, it'll all work out, and two will face off at the end. I like Spike, too. I don't know what it is. I just like him. He's kind of New York. Punk in a charming way. And a goofball. Andrew is entertaining as well, but in a completely different way.