Tom Colicchio hopes you trust him that Amanda's dish was not worse than Tamesha's.
I know, I know, bad puns — I couldn’t resist. Still in Australia, but heading home soon…for a little while, anyway. I understand my baby has picked up the guitar while I was gone. We’ve been playing him the Stones since he was in utero; I’m looking forward to hearing the rock stylings of my 11-month old.
Meanwhile, back in D.C.…I was very glad to have Michelle Bernstein with us once again. It was fun to have someone who famously cooks with such heat judge a challenge that was all about the cold. It was also quite interesting to hear our chefs comment on the food of their peers. While they sounded harsh, and while it seemed as though the members of the second group were being strategic in selecting Kenny’s dish for elimination, they were actually generally fair-minded, usually correct, and most certainly correct about Kenny’s dish, which, despite his posturing, was the weakest in his group. And yes, it was weaker than Amanda’s cartilage-laced Chicken Gallantine. Please trust me on that.
A general note about food being served cold: It needs to be seasoned correctly, as the temperature can dull the flavors, as we found with Andrea’s dish, which was probably seasoned correctly for a warm dish, but underseasoned for the same dish served cold. But seasoning can be tricky, as it’s very easy to then overdo it, as Angelo did with his salmon dish – it was impossible to appreciate the salmon. Stephen fell prey to this as well with his chilled beef, in which the taste of the beef was subjugated to the jalapeno oil (and yet, despite the seeming strength of an ingredient like jalapeno oil, the dish still underwhelmed).
And one must also anticipate the changes to texture that come from serving food cold. Tiffany planned for this by selecting a protein that shines when served cold, and by crafting a sauce from gazpacho, typically served cold, and refreshing items like cucumber and arugula. It was smartly conceived and well executed. Amanda, on the other hand, did not get her protein to the correct temperature in time, and it was unappetizing.…which leads us to Tamesha’s scallops. First and certainly foremost, she did not cook them correctly – they needed a sear on both sides, but it seems she completely neglected to cook them on one side. Why, I do not know. Regardless of whether you’re serving scallops cold or hot, they must be seasoned in advance of cooking, cooked in a pan that will retain a high heat (not too many per pan so as not to reduce the heat in the pan), and left untouched in the pan on each side for a matter of a minute or so (no longer!) to get the carmelization and good sear on each side while the inside doesn’t overcook. One can then add butter to further brown them for a moment, or whatever, but that’s it. Not only did Tamesha fail to cook the scallops properly, but she used too heavy a hand with her long peppers, adding way too much heat to her cold dish. Further, she failed to account for the changes in texture that take place with the cooling of a cooked dish to serve it cold. The unseared side of her scallops, sitting in her rhubarb jus, seamed to congeal to the point wherein no one wanted to actually eat her dish. Kenny is lucky that Tamesha’s dish was so stunning a miss.
Kevin, on the other hand, seemed to really take to heart Gail’s directive in a prior episode not to simply give us a dish his family would make, but to give us the chef’s version of that food. He did so with his very fine “Surf and Turf.” His fellow chefs were mistaken about a lack of acidity – it was artfully balanced and absolutely delectable. We all wanted seconds. When watching the episode, I was pleased to hear his comment, in response to Angelo’s meting out advice to other chefs, that the chefs should really take care just to cook their own food. Exactly, Kevin. Glad to hear and see it.