Hello my little bandanas. (Bandanas of course being a reference to Quickfire guest judge Isaac Mizrahi's signature schmatta.) Before we get into this week's episode, let us catch up on the first seven episodes, shall we?
Did you spot my Tarantino-esque cameo? Its' embarrassing, but awesome, and is the handiwork of Ms. Courtney Pollard, the video's editor.
OK, now that we're all caught up, let's start with this week's Quickfire, which was literally all about presentation. We actully had a similar challenge on Top Chef: Just Desserts if you recall. I remember thinking then that some people might not "get" the challenge because flavor is paramount in cooking, and I have a feeling fans might feel that way even more so with this series, but I'm prepared to defend it (y'know, if it were my place to do so.) Presentation is important, and I thought it was appropriate to have Isaac Mizrahi, legendary fashion designer, to judge the challenge. Would he even want to eat the food based on its looks? Although I have a feeling most of our viewers, and probably the chefs too, prepare their dishes for a restaruant setting, there are a lot of food services, especially outside the restaurant business, that rely on appearance. For example, if you go to a restaurant and order something, chances are you don't know what the actual dish will look like, but you probably wouldn't send it back based on its appearance. However, it's more likely that you stop at an eatery daily where apperance matters. Are you going to scoop yourself up some of that gross-looking soup? Probably not. This challenge obviously wouldn't have worked as an Elimination Challenge, but it wasn't, so let's move on! (Don't you love how I just spent a whole paragraph defending a challenge you may not have had any qualms with in the first place?)
Either way, Richard won. I wonder what Isaac would have thought of Hung's Mushroom Fantasy from Season 3. Hmmm.
Onto the Elimination Challenge with the guys from Rao's! Honestly, every episode this season has just astounded me with the guests our producers have been able to book, and this week was no exception. In fact, I was blown away! Anyone who knows anything about Rao's knows how exclusive it is, so for the guys to not only be on the show, but to say what an honor it is to appear, was pretty special.
And of course, the challenge was an Italian one. I remember in the early days of Top Chef, and even amongst the foodie world, exclusively Italian cooks were looked down upon because making Italian food was considered easier. Just as Rick Bayless hoped to do with his Masters win with Mexican food, my hope is that the same happens for Italian food. Places like Eately, in my opinion, have done a lot for the visibility of Italian food culture in New York City at least, and hopefully that momentum will only continue.
What we learned first and foremost is that Italian food is all about simplicity -- that the ingredients have to shine, which has, appropriately, been the foundation of Tom Colicchio's Craft businesses since inception. I was a little worried we would get a comment from Tom that he was offended as an Italian-American by the cooking again, but fortunately that didn't happen. The chefs were broken up into three groups, serving three different courses: Antipasti, Primi, Secondi. Despite Mike Isabella's nonsense that Tiffany's dish wasn't an antipasti (I really would have liked to try that dish by the way), and that Carla's dish could be found in Wisconsin, all those ladies got a pretty warm reception. The meat guys did pretty well too, but alas, it was the pasta course that fell flat. And honestly? I think any of those guys could've gone home. But, it was Tre's day. Or rather, it wasn't his day. Tre has been a bright spot this season, not only is he nice to look at (ahem), but his laugh, his charm, and honestly his cooking skills have been a pleasure to watch. I think we've seen a stronger Tre this season than in Season 3, and I know he will only continue to grow as a cook and a chef. We'll miss you, Tre!It could very well have been Dale or Mike Isabella going home. I was a little happy to see some people comment on Mike's arrogance at the top of the show -- I felt like it vindicated Marcel a little bit. And although I know I'll continue to get comments not understanding my irrational affinity for Marcel, I still adore him.
Anyway, Antonia won with her mussels in white wine. This is a random recommendation, but for anyone who is near midtown should try Pazza Notte's mussels. They're kind of amazing. The other chefs were cold towards Antonia after her win because mussels are simple. But that was the point of the challenge right? Restaraint won. And, mussels can be bad -- when you've had bad mussels, it's horrible.
Next week, the chefs cook for Jimmy Fallon. Love him. I hope you are as excited about the episode as I am. Until then, tell me where you've been eating for Restaurant Week. (I've visited Resto twice in the past week!) Happy noshing!