Marcel, however, demonstrated uncharacteristic good sense and gained valuable time for himself when rather then follow the crazed herd to the refrigerators, he walked right over to Tom's leftover mise-en-place and worked with that. In spite of his quick thinking -- and what was apparently a good dish --it will not be Marcel driving down the street, sipping on gin and juice in a spanking new Toyota. It will not be Marcel, flashing faux gang signs and come-hither smiles at the ladies from the drivers seat of a shiny 2011 Prius. No.
Mike Isabella won the car.
In the most entertaining way possible, what followed was a slaughterfest. The worst, ugliest, most traumatic, mass meltdown in the history of Top Chef. And let me tell you, whatever sadistic freak, whatever evil genius designed this particular challenge really knew their business. This person -- whomever they are -- knows the meaning of pain and humiliation. They are probably wearing head to toe latex, right now, strangling a kitten with a mailed glove. They knew -- they had to know -- what was going to happen. They built, after all, the perfect mouse trap.
You'd have to have been to a Hong Kong "tea house" -- which is where you get that kind of traditional dim sum service over there -- to understand what was likely to happen. To be sure what would happen. You'd have to have seen first-hand what it's like on a busy weekend brunch service, a huge dining room of 250 Chinese customers, all clamoring for food from a score or so of passing food trolleys. What happened (in the dining room, anyway) during Elimination Challenge was NORMAL. Hell, these customers were well behaved! In Hong Kong, you'd see little old ladies elbowing full grown men in the kidneys to get at a too-scarce dish of favored dim sum. Plates clatter, men smoke. They drink gallons of tea until tweaked out on caffeine like meth heads at the end of a three day jag. They push and shove themselves into crowds by the kitchen doors, unwilling to take a chance that their favorite dishes might not make it across the giant dining room. They actually walk IN to the kitchen and yank bamboo steamers filled with dumplings off the stove tops! It's a mosh pit, a scrum, where the only rules are: you get what you want -- by any means necessary. And that seldom means sitting quietly at your table waiting for the waiters to come by. Imagine a hockey-themed restaurant. Where everybody's on skates -- and hungry.
Absolutely great blog this week! Casey is a class act all the way. I was sorry to see her go and so wish that some of her class would rub off on the others. :)
I knew would recognize Antonia's efforts. I felt for sure Jamie would be sent home, but Casey chose the feet. Knowing she volunteered to do cart service, she should not have chosen such a challenging dish. She knew the difficulty in execution, and leaving it up to someone else, who has their own dish to worry about, was her choice. At the very least, she should have given more explicit directions. I would have loved to see you at the table on this one, given your knowledge of all things Asian. You were missed.
Bourdain, you are such an entertaining writer. Your description of the dim sum diners had me chortling. Thanks for the laughs.
The worst thing ever for the viewers is seeing yet another amazingly talented chef depart while Jamie, who is neither amazing nor talented, is inexplicably still in the running.
You're right, this episode was insane-- it made me uncomfortable to watch the patrons of the dim sum challenge. I've experienced nothing like that. Except maybe when my waiter at the local tex-mex is late bringing my margarita-- then we're talking "head on spike" time.
Anthony!!! Love, love, love your blog!!! I don't think that I could ever tire of reading your perspective! You speak the truth in such an incredible way that it doesn't get boring! That you are easy on the eyes also helps! Incredibly sexy...just sayin'!
as always, a spectacular blog. i have two of your books and enjoy that top chef lets you blog despite not being on the episode. however, can i just say how sick and tired i am of top chef continually putting chefs in positions they probably wouldn't have to be in "real life" situations. i understand the need for mike to expedite but why oh why do they have to make two fo the chefs leave the kitchen to hand out food? ugh. i hate these stupid show gimmicks, let the chefs do what they are supposed to be judged on: conceptualize a dish, prep and cook!
I remember Bourdain referring to Casey as "Ina Garten on Thorazine" when she was cutting onions in her season's relay Quick Fire. It is tough watching each "all star" get eliminated. I would not have wanted to be a judge getting food while all of the other diners waited for the trolleys to bring food. I am surprised that we never heard anything about the sheer number of plates that had to be served during the lunch hour. The kitchen seemed to be waiting to be notified on demands, versus anticipating the needs of a full dining room, consuming an average of 3 to 4 plates per head.
THIS is the Anthony Bourdain that I remember! Excellent writing. Your description of the Hong Kong tea houses also had me thinking of Nioullaville in Paris, where I have eaten on many an occasion. Dodge City! I'm glad I never dared sneak a peek into the kitchen. . .
I love, love, love NYC Dim-Sum. It's wonderful. But I've often wondered what it looked like back in the kitchen while those carts are flying around. I really thought that this was a miserable challenge for the chefs, starting with shopping in an Asian grocery and ending in a an alien (for them) kitchen.
When I saw Casey go for the chicken feet, my heart fell for her. I'm about as white as they get, but I absolutely LOVE chicken feet IF they are prepared properly. Most of the time they are, but even in the big Dim-Sum houses, you can get an order that is too chewy or something else off-putting. I had little hope that Casey was going to be able to pull that one off, and these thoughts were sealed watching her attack those toes with a knife (ever heard of poultry shears?).
I don't understand why none of the chefs went for something super-tasty, but simple like curried squid (a Dim Sum staple, but one you often have to fight to get)? Have they never had a real Dim Sum meal before?
Wow. What a night! Great review Bourdain!
Jamie made 2 crappy dishes and one of them was GREEN BEANS, how could you F that up?? At least Casey had some balls. I'm horrified that Jamie is still there, WTF are the judges thinking? I'm still bitter that she flat out was like "no" when her team last time told her to go first (tennis match) and nobody pressed the issue??
Blais said it BEST!! She is like an octopus that appears out of nowhere to cook beans and then slithers back into her hole!!! LOL
Casey - you're a class act! And a talented chef! I'm sure you will go far! Good luck. Jamie should have sent home! Hello? Scallops again? As Fabio said in season 5, "This is top chef, not top scallop!" (Oh Fabio I love you, you are hella funny!!!)
Mr. Bourdain - I think you probably tried balut when you were here in the Philippines! Don't you just love our lechon de leche?? Anyway, why not Balut over easy? LOL!
I agree totally with you on this episode. The first mistake they made was not having someone to lead them in the kitchen. They needed someone to step up and get the lazy chefs moving! Yes, Casey is a talented chef and Jamie hasn't really cooked in 3 episodes, but if you are going to volunteer to push the tables around, you should pick an easier dish to execute. If it tastes good, you won't be in the bottom. Where were the boneless ribs? I would like to see an elevated version of those! My favorite dim sum item is the pork bun that is not a sandwich, but a morsel of pork encased in pillowy bun, a sphere of goodness. As to Tre's desert, why not try to elevate the classic dim sum powdered donut? All I can say is dim sum should be a experience when you go, not the horror show that those patron were submitted to. (I really liked the waitress who didn't know what kind of meat she was eating..)
Mr Bourdain - you need to go to Toronto or Vancouver for Dim Sum!
Your blog's always make me laugh / smile. Would love to know if you have been to a dim sum place in Canada (Toronto/Vancouver especially). I have not been to China, but have been to ones in Chicago, NY,NY, Vancouver and Toronto. I suspect in the two Canadian towns they are a lot more like China. In fact there are multiple direct flights daily from Hong Kong to Vancouver/Toronto (that in itself is an experience). I lived in Toronto/Vancouver for 3 years and even though most Canadians are more humble/civil than most Americans in Chinatown all civilities go out the window (or down the drain). At a busy lunch time it is worthwhile to order a glass of rice wine, sit back and watch the show. To me going to a Dim Sum restaurant in one of Toronto's Chinatowns was like getting lunch with a show.
It no longer matters who wins this or who should or what they cook or...anything...other than the fact that this show moved you to write "...kitchen full of stunned carp..." My life will never be the same.
Bravo for a great blog and candid perspective. When you write, you capture my historical knowledge on levels more exciting than book smarts. Love the references to the gangster snitches. Dead on, regarding Jamie, and Casey for that matter. I do a lot of dim sum at The Empress in L.A. and we are always griping about how slow they bring out the food to our seating area. I like the idea of waiting near the kitchen. Don't think I'd try it. But I love the idea of it. Keep up the great writing Tony!
This was pitiful! WTH were they doing? This was the time to put their heads down & work- Dale should have had his ass handed to him- Teamwork, apparently a concept they're not familiar with- I worked in a Oyster Bar,restaurant in the Quarter in NO-Very simular situations, only add patrons that have been sucking up street side Hurricanes-It's not pretty
As usual great blog but once again no show for the real show. Whats up with that? Also once again Jamie did a lousy job and stayed. I felt bad about Casey but she did take too many risks and it didn't pay off. Maybe the women should be more like the men, selfish and never volunterring for anything that doesn't directly benefit them.
"They drink gallons of tea until tweaked out on caffeine like meth heads at the end of a three day jag."
This is why I love reading Anthony Bourdain's blog.
I applaud your ability to talk about dim sum and Whitey Bulger in the same post. Well done, sir! Thanks for your always entertaining recaps.
As painful as this episode was to watch your blog was rapaciously hysterical. I teared up watching the disasterous dim sun fiascos, but I laughed til I cried reading your blog. And spot on with evaluations just as tou were with Steven and Dale. They, as did Casey, left with self-effacing grace and I will miss all three of them. Onward and Up(hopefully)-ward to the next episode... Keep up the great writing.
Reading your synopsis is better than watching the episode, if not certainly a necessary accompaniment. But, unlike the playbill they hand you, you provide an insider's look at the true gritty depths of the kitchen and the experience that was unseen to the naked viewer. I'll never tire of your writing.
GREAT blog. Bourdain is a fantastic addition to this show and his blogs are the best. Thank you! Also, so sick of Jamie and Tony is right: just put her out of her misery.
Well, Tony, I hope you aren't tipping your pitches (do you know the outcome of this season??), but you again wax poetic about Antonia's good nature and Dale's awareness that he robbed the bank. Antonia and Dale were always favorites of mine - great cooks, passionate, hearts-on-their-sleeves human beings. They are arrogant only in the sense that they want to do right by their diners, and they get sorely p.o.'ed at those not trying as hard.
I was a little sorry to see Casey go, but honestly, what was she thinking? I knew that I didn't have the slightest idea of how to cook chicken feet, and I suspected that she didn't either. Maybe Angelo or Dale could have tackled them, but I didn't see Angelo's manipulative little fingers in that particular bag of goodies.
My experience with dim sum houses is very limited, but I have always thought that the idea was to make almost "amuse bouche" type food - lots of little things that can be prepared in mass numbers, rather than massive sizes per serving.
The cooks I always admire most are those who can turn on a dime and face adversity with a rewired gameplan. Fabio seems to have trouble with that, and so I was relieved for him to see his ribs come out so well. Tre, not so good. I recall Stefan putting his desserts in a pan of ice in the refrigerator to cool them down; perhaps Tre could have tried this. And Jamie's dumpling (it's Top Chef! Not Top Scallops!) - good grief.
It was fabulous to see Tom cook! I was also very pleased that the cheftestants were blown away by his expertise. A lot of the great chefs have lost some of their chops by owning rather than running a restaurant, and so it was nice to see Tom still with his cooking wits about him.
Your blogs are spot on - thanks!
Funny and right on! Mr. B is back in the saddle. Thanks for the language it fills my head and makes me laugh.
OMG, I couldn't stop laughing and really lost it when you said, "durian souffle or balut over easy." Your descriptions of everything were really spot on! Keep on writing. We need the entertainment.
Tony love the blog, I live in Chicago and we do have the Chinese room of 250 and the room is perfect on the second floor. Yers it is a described. Love it.
BALUT! Damn you Bourdain, for making me google image search that! On the other hand, your description of a Hong Kong Tea house makes me want to get on plane now.
And a great point on Casey's departure--its so much better to go home for something bold like chicken feet than something safe and uninspired (i.e. scallop dumpling made with store-bought wrapper!!).
Another great blog! Your writing is sooo entertaining. I'm going to Amazon right now and buy your books. I hope that you keep blogging for BRAVO...you're the best!
Great blog. Love you are part of this show now. Keep on keepin' on with your bad self. Absolutely Fabulous!! You are so spot on and honesty is the best policy especially when it comes to food! You da man!
You know what's crazy?? I agree with all the Jamie comments, but does anyone remember that Lisa (TC Chicago) was in the bottom of almost EVERY challenge and ended up in the top three of the finale?? That was the absolute WORST to watch!!!! Hope it doesn't happen with Jamie too....
Having lived a year in China, I almost peed in my pants when reading your comments. And Hong Kong is tame compared to Guangzhou. Also, I never saw the chicken feet trimmed at all. They sat on trays with toenails in all their glory. Anyway, your comments are spot on and hilarous! And good for you for not being too pc to write them!
Mr. Bourdain, doesn't it offend you that Chefs are being judged on things that have nothing to do with cooking? Why did chefs have to be in the dining room? That's ridiculous. I'm sick of the talented women getting sent home because they're put at a disadvantage by design, and I'm sick of Jaime sliding by. Casey and Jen both stepped up and did more than should have been required and got sent home for their trouble. If that's the way it's going to go, stop putting them in positions where they aren't on an even playing field. I had such high hopes for this season, but we will still have no idea who prepares the best food at the end of it. How about putting them in an ideal situation and seeing what they produce? That's the show I thought I was tuning in to. This challenge seemed designed to hand a win to Dale. What a surprise that the guy who makes dim sum for a living won. He shouldn't even have been considered for the win.
Brilliant Bourdain blog as always! The perfect palate cleanser after the episode. However, there is no smoking in Hong Kong tea houses any longer (maybe some of the very dodgy ones in Mongkok) and it isn't quite the scrum described. The volume level is always at an ear bleeding high, though.
As to the ep, Jamie should have the self-respect to pack up her own damn knives.
Hard to pick which is funnier - your blog or the stunned looks on Jaime and Casey's faces. I agree it would have been excellent if we had been spared yet another awful "scallop" dish to endure. But Casey, while disagreeing with the judges' decision, maintained her dignity and class with aplomb. Well said, sir.
Right on Tony! Chicken feet are an acquired taste for sure, and although I was also curious when Casey made the decision to go that route, then my better judgment kicked in. Unless cooked atop an empty oil drum in a back alley by an old woman under an orange tent... go eff yourself. Haha!
Yes, but... Casey went down more gracefully than did prior contestants. She has clearly watched enough sports in her life to have learned some useful cliches. I will point out, however, that she complains that she got sent home because she left things in Antonia's hands. Not so! She wanted to stir-fry the chicken feet instead of deep frying them. Thus, they never puffed up or got tender. The dish was conceptually flawed.
Dim Sum drama aside, I'm surprised none of the bloggers had any commentary about Fabio's little "princess". An absolute comedic high note in an otherwise painful show to watch. Tony, he shares your occasional issues with the thought of killing small animals for the sake of cuisine.
The worst thing about Jamie (besides the fact that she is a mediocre cook) is her complete apathy about the whole competition! She stands there with her arms crossed and a vacuous expression on her face and refuses to go out of her way to help anyone. I was hoping beyond hope that she would be eliminated this week, but when I saw the disastrous chicken feet Casey made, I knew she would get a free pass for one more week. Completely unfair, in my opinion! I honestly don't know why she bothered coming back on the show. She looks like she could give a d*mn.
Best. Blog. Ever! I'm still laughing. I almost peed myself when you threw out durian souffle and balut over-easy. Love your books! Can't seem to get enough snarkiness! Please keep blogging the show!
It never ceases to amaze me how Jamie can skate from episode to episode while rarely ever cooking anything significant (and sometimes not cooking anything at all like in the tennis challenge), while left and right chefs are getting shown the door for taking risks and failing.
Given the choice, I'll give credit to the cook who tries something gutsy like chicken feet and fails over someone who makes green beans in sauce and can't even do that right.
I would also like to echo the sentiment admiring Casey's showing of grace in defeat, as contrasted to someone like Jen from a couple of weeks ago. I cannot say that in a similar circumstance, I would have been as composed as she.