Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio describes what it was like hanging out with Buzz Aldrin and the other space people.

on Sep 1, 2010

There are a few events in my life that I’ll never forget -- my wedding and the births of my two sons ranking highest on the list. Also on that list now, thanks to Top Chef, Season 7? Riding to the Goddard Space Flight Center to shoot this episode with Buzz Aldrin and a carload of astrophysicists. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I kid you not: the group was discussing what it would take to get to Mars, not just in theory — to actually land a person on the red planet. They discussed the merits of this rocket over that, the best coordinates for a successful landing, the logistics involved. I’d elaborate on the details of the conversation, but I wouldn’t want to bore you with all that physics.  OK, OK, actually, I can’t elaborate on the details – that conversation was so over my head. They even discussed the politics of the mission, with one of the astrophysicists cautioning Aldrin that he had to couch his points with care, that he can’t just walk into a room and make people feel like they’re dumb. Aldrin cheerfully agreed. Apparently, he’s known for not suffering fools. Can you blame him?  He was the second human being to ever set foot on the MOON.  

It was a remarkable car ride.

And a remarkable meal. Our chefs did so well – all five of them. Their cooking was top notch. As I mentioned in the episode, there was not a huge margin between the cooking in the best and worst dishes of the evening. But as in the Olympics, where the gold medalist crosses the finish line less then a second faster than a competitor who doesn’t secure a medal, we did need to rank the dishes, declare a winner, and eliminate one chef.

Tiffany had many fans, but I haven’t received too many angry tweets about her elimination. I think it was clear to viewers that she was disadvantaged by the inadvertent freezing of her mussels and might not be able to fully compensate for their loss. And when you look at the five dishes presented, her concept just wasn’t as nuanced and sophisticated as the others. Curried fish over rice? Really? It might have been prepared beautifully, but compared with the other dishes, Tiffany’s just didn’t go far enough. We were looking for food that could be served in space; we were also looking for food that was out of this world. We were aiming for the stratosphere….

So while Tiffany presented a delicious dish, and while her execution didn’t lag too far behind that of Angelo’s, there was a wider gap in the level of sophistication of the dishes … and that gap cost her a seat on the flight to Singapore.

I know that some viewers have expressed disappointment with the season. I also know that we’re in for a very strong finale. The chefs cook some great food – the best food all season. And I will live tweet during the finale.  You can follow me @ tom_colicchio. Tune in – you won’t want to miss it!