Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Offal? Not So Awful

Eli doesn't understand why the chefs were so psyched out by the Quickfire's exotic ingredients.

Offals, or the nasty bits of animals, are fun. They are great for restaurants and chefs for so many reasons, whether it be that they are often times very affordable (sans maybe foie gras) or its ability to let chefs get creative. Oh, and they are pretty tasty also. I think it also speaks volumes about a chefs cooking ability and comfort level. They aren’t such a normal part of the modern professional kitchen, but they are still important skills to master.

The Quickfire was fun, and a bit off putting for a lot of reasons, but I think the offals were really the main reason for discomfort for a lot of the chefs. The main thing that shocked me was that the emu egg went last! It’s a bird egg; they are all more or less the same with exception of size and slight flavor variances. What is arguably the most versatile and approachable item on the table seemed to scare the chefs off the most. That being said, Kelly really lucked out getting it during the mid-challenge switch. She was able to quickly adapt and do exactly what she should have; cook a perfect egg dish. Simply highlight the ingredient and make it tasty all in one. I was also surprised by the aversion to the Llama and Ostrich loins. They are lean meat, unlike the unusual animals and some of the random parts they cook like other more traditional cuts of meat. These were safer ingredients that I didn’t see anyone emphatically jump for. Surprising really.

I did love the concept of the Elimination Challenge. I think it's great any time you get to see the chefs cook their own food with so little restriction. Unlike some of the challenges, this is something that all of the chefs do on a daily basis, prepare cold dishes. So little room for mistakes because of how well versed they all are in it and how much creative freedom they have. Also a lot of chefs go on the show with “pocket” dishes: things they know work and they are very good with. This is a super opportunity to break them out.Now this is where it got interesting. The first thing most of the chefs spoke about was playing a strategy in terms of their judging, only a few talked about judging the food fairly. I know it’s a game, but Kevin really nailed it on the head mentioning professionalism. I would hope that the focus would be on the worst and best food and not playing strategies. The justification for Kenny and Tamesha being on the bottom might be that they had the worst food, maybe not. I do think, that as Tom brought up, Kenny might have had a conceptual problem, whether or not that justified being on the bottom is up for interpretation, but Michelle Bernstein was quick to give her honest opinion when Kenny explained he thought he was there for tactical reasons.  Conversely, I do think that Kevin and Tiffany were on the top because their dishes did shine. Initially there was a bit of negativity towards Kevin’s dish, but Tom seemed very quick to shake the chefs out of it.  Kevin took the win for being the most composed and articulate of dishes, Tamesha left for being overpowering. It was also a bit striking that Tiffany was so quick to put some blame on Angelo. In the end you are responsible for your own food and Tamesha told the judges point blank that she stood behind it. OK so actually now it's starting to get interesting.

Follow me on twitter @elikirshtein

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