Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain explains that the chefs' performance during dim sum service was inevitable.

on Jan 5, 2011

The New York version, in Chinatown, or in Sunset Park, while lacking the same potential for ultra-violence in the cause of lunch, can get rowdy as well. This was a tough crowd. The toughest.

Which is to say that as soon as it was decided, in whatever House of Pain at Bravo Central, that this week's challenge would take place in a large dim sum joint, with Chinese customers, the contestants were doomed. There would be blood. And shame.

As so often happens, some contestants declined to wait to saw their own heads off,  rushing at warp speed to make the Worst Possible Decisions imaginable.

Jamie, having failed time and again at scallops, chose to stick her tragically injured hand straight into the fuse box -- again -- and make -- wait for it…  scallops (!!!) --this time with the added value of putting them inside crappy, store-bought dumpling wrappers. This for a crowd of Chinese,
for whom dumplings are nearly a religion. She later complained that "service is a pain in the ass." Something she might have considered before choosing the restaurant business as a vocation.

Tiffani made … salad. Something you see in a dim sum house about as often as BBQ pork ribs in Riyadh -- and about as welcome.

Tre made something sticky and gooey -- in a halved out orange, counting on it to freeze up and stay cold -- while being wheeled around a giant dining room filled with 250 people for indefinite periods of time.

But it was Casey who made the most spectacularly bad -- if bizarrely noble and audacious -- decision to prepare CHICKEN FEET. I like chicken feet.  And I admire anyone who dares serve them -- outside of a Chinese night market, dim sum house, or street stall. It's a beloved dish in parts of Asia, and Latin America, a comfort food that often reminds one of earlier, harder, more austere times. They're bony, gnarly, gelatinous, and cartilaginous. And that's when they're good. They are, for most, an acquired taste. Most people who do  like chicken feet like the chicken feet their mom would hand them in the kitchen when they were kids. But when you're not a dim sum expert, not Chinese, and certainly NOT anybody in the dining room's mom, it is a dish that good sense would tell you it's best to avoid. They have to be prepped and cooked just right. One of the more painfully hilarious moments of the night was watching poor Casey, standing in front of a huge bus-tub heaped with chicken feet, painstakingly trimming off the nails. Having decided on making perhaps the single worst dish one could choose for a Top Chef Elimination Challenge (other than maybe durian souffles -- or balut over-easy), Casey hastened her rush over the cliff by then turning this thing over to someone else. The results were inevitable.