Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

To Judge the Judges!

Hey, Brian Malarkey likes new judge Toby Young! But wants to know what you think.

This episode seemed to be more about the judges then the contestants. Do we not have enough talent in this cuntry to find some of our own judges to dismantle, critique, and pan our contestants? Where is Anthony Bourdain when you need him, off eating lizard gizzards in Timbuktu? Our lovable Ted Allen jumped channels to The Food Network where Tom seems to be moonlighting more and more (i.e. see every Food Network event and you see Tom). This week let's change focus as did and lets "Judge the Judges." Who are your favorites over the seasons and who drove you mad? Who made you laugh and who made you want to throw something at the T.V? Yes this week my friends we are sitting behind the Top Chef Judges' Table and were going to let them have it. Not even our beloved Tom is safe this week and I'm sure Padma is going to get lit up like yesterday's Christmas tree. Don't hold back because this week we are making our own show: Top Judge on Top Chef!

Sit with me at Top Judges Table: I love it when they get real accomplished chefs such as: Jean-Georges, Daniel Boulud, Jose Andres, and Eric (kicked me off) Ripert. As a contestant you can't help but learn and appreciate the feedback from these legends. Of course it's also great to see the big celebrities chefs such as the Martha Stewarts (awful and slightly scary) and the "Dancing Chef" Rocco Dispirito (over-played on the show but mad skills). The ones I can't stand are the local chefs from the location the show is being shot, the ones who get their shot at fame and really put forth their own agenda; these judges usually show up in the early episodes that don't have as much impact on the final results. A few I have in mind are the Maria Frumkins aka the "Queen of Tarts," Michael Schwartz -- "Who" -- and so many more that I cant think of because we don't know who they are. I must say that I really look forward to more of Toby Young's hilarious lingo and movie references.

When one of his compliments to Stefan is "this dish reminds me of being in a wood cabin all alone in the middle of the Alps" you can't help but say, "What the f___ is this guy talking about." Another great one: "This dish reminds me of British Actors in a comic role in an American movie upstaging the lead actors" and the Tom Cruise in his cameo role in Tropic Thunder comment had my hairy knuckles slapping in the air at those apple bottom jeans! Come on I had to give it a shot! I am a Toby Young fan and he wins this week's elimination for me. The one knock is that it obvious he is not the one pulling the trigger here; he wanted to keep Eugene.

Now Jean-Christophe Novelli our French guest judge was overshadowed and really quite dry and boring.

Alright now it's your turn bloggers. Let's here what your thoughts are on the judges who have graced our beloved show Top Chef. Congratulations to most of the bloggers who agreed that it was time that Eugene and Melissa got the "boot." Not wanting to sound too harsh but I really wanted a triple elimination with Carla going home also. She's real sweet but her commentary, her voice, it's starting to drive me mad like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind ... I Toby Young'd that one ...

Bonus on your commentary this week: When complimenting or crushing your judges use Toby Young style references ... Get creative and have some fun ...

A quick power ranking:

Stefan: "The villain" is taking this game over! "Run circles around Hosea." "Against my taste buds." " I'm French." "Green Vomit"...

Fabio: We still love the Italian Stallion even with undercooked lamb. Roast it and win.

Hosea: Wallflower this week Radhika: Even with a weapon of mass destruction, I really am starting to like her.

Jamie: I can't believe they are not calling her out on this scallop fascination. I think she is a better cook then Hosea and Radhika but I dropped her down because of the constant scallop thing. I hate it when a contestant wins and doesn't get a prize (like me). Maybe they should send her on a Scallop Harvesting Adventure?

Jeff: Come on -- he got the Tom Cruise Cameo Comment ...

Leah: I love balsamic also ... fried food family style not so much. Ariane: I'm still not buying into it.

Carla: So sweet but no sugar

Melissa and Eugene: Same arguments week after week finally send you home. "When the booze is gone it's time to move on."

Cheers!

Also take some shots at "Mama Malarkey Macaroons" I can take it. Until next week with Hung...

Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

Richard Blais explains why Mei Lin won, and why we'll definitely be hearing from Gregory Gourdet soon.

The finale of Top Chef is the one absolute every season. Make the best meal of your life, in a multi-course tasting format for a room of the "who's who" in the culinary industry.

If you get to the finals, it's the type of thing you can prepare for. Every finalist should have a few four to five course menus floating around their heads, including a dessert, and all complete with options and Plan B's transcribed to their moleskins. And although the knowledge of what's coming is helpful, the format does not play to every chef's strengths.

There aren't too many restaurants committed to such meal services. Which means less chefs experienced with how to "write" and execute them. A progressive meal has to have a certain flow about it. And even the stereotypical versions of the "menu degustation" could force a contestant into cooking a dish that's not in their wheelhouse, for instance a straight forward fish course because "it belongs there."

Tonight, Mei Lin has a slight advantage. She cooks in a restaurant every day that showcases a tasting menu. Her food has been the epitome of a modern tasting menu all season. Many previous times, to a fault. Mei's food is small and precise. Beautiful to look at, and intellectually stimulating to discuss. Cold sometimes, every once in a while a shaved radish plated with tweezers heavy. It's not for everyone. It's not for everyday. But it's the type of food that when done well, can win Top Chef. Win James Beard Award noms. Win Best New Chef honors. Win Michelin stars.

Her future could indeed be bright.

What struck me most about Mei's food tonight however, wasn't technique. Technique and presentation often can get in the way of flavor. But tonight Mei delivered a few courses that were deeply satisfying. Soulful, delicious food that also was presented at a high level and cooked with surgeon's precision. That congee though...combined with a simple dessert that took yogurt and granola to another planet, won her the day. Her other two courses were fine, but suffered from the strains of modernity. Overly plated (the duck) and technically overwrought (the fried octopus).

Gregory on the other hand, it's just not his finest work. You can hear it in his voice as he's explaining his food. He's cooking improv, an ode to Mexico. The problem is, this isn't a jam session at a local cantina. This is a studio session where the chefs should be cooking practiced and refined pieces.

His octopus was a highlight and featured the unusual combination of passion fruit and avocado. It was an explosive start. The following two courses unraveled a bit, with the soup being good, but way too unrefined for the moment and technically problematic (the crispy shrimp heads), and the fish course bordering on dessert with the sugary carrot purée.

The mole was authentic and delicious, the rib cooked perfectly, but the dish felt a little incomplete. I believe Gregory had the better ideas, but just needed to think them through a bit more.

His sadness after the fact, I can attest, is profound. Tearful. Absolute emptiness. Close to the feeling of the sudden loss of a loved one. This may shock some of you, because it is indeed just a game. The mere thought of feeling that way over such silliness is well, silly. But not for us. This isn't the Super Bowl where an athlete loses and they can shake it off. Jump in their Bentley and start thinking about next season. There is no next season. There is no guaranteed pay day for the runner-up. The ten wins you had before don't matter. It just ends. Suddenly. And it's rather sad.

The good thing is, this is certainly, 100%, not the last time you will hear from Gregory. I waxed last week about Doug's professionalism, all of which is very true. But Gregory... Gregory is a special talent. His food (and I can say HIS type of food, because it's unique to him), is a study in refined, exotic comfort. What the man can do with a one-pot meal of braised anything, some chilies, sugar, vinegar, herbs, and spices is beyond impressive. Rarely do I taste food that makes me jealous as a cook. Rarely do I taste food that makes me start thinking about a new restaurant concept. The word inspiring in cooking competitions is sort of like the word "love," when it gets used too much, it loses it luster. Gregory's food however. I love it. It is inspiring.

Congrats to Mei and Gregory! Tom was right, I can't wait to one day say I saw you two way back when, in Mexico, in a little kitchen, before the bright lights, fancy kitchens, and big stages that lay ahead for both of you.

See you next season. I hope!

Richard Blais
@RichardBlais - Twitter and Instagram

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