You should know that under the Judges' Table, just out of sight of the cameras, are apple boxes containing various beverages. Most of the time, Padma's drinking some kind of herbal tea. But Tom and I? By the end of the day, we've got two shaker glasses filled with gin and tonics working under there. And after 16 hours of eating, evaluating, arguing over who stays and who goes? There's no skimping on the gin.
I know, I'm supposed to be a heartless, evil, snarky bastard. But actually, I'm rooting for these contestants. All of them. I like cooks. I think anybody who cooks with pride is automatically on the side of the angels. I want them to do well.
Even more so with his particular group of 18. They are, after all, the "All-Stars." The Veterans. Who've been to this rodeo before. Who've endured the slings and arrows, experienced the heartbreak of almost, almost making it -- before either choking at the penultimate moment (Richard Blais), having an inexplicable brain fart which requires you to drown scallops in butterscotch sauce (Dale Talde), become debilitatingly ill (Angelo Sosa), or falling victim to the Far-More-Evil-Than-Me Eric Ripert (Tiffany Derry).
All were mighty warriors, brought low by a strange confluence of bad luck, bad timing, bad decision making, "just-not-your-day" syndrome, tough judging, or extraterrestrial visitation that can happen at any time to the best of professionals.
In fact, one of the joys of watching Top Chef is seeing a talented cook reach the limits of their talent and experience yet somehow, dig deep, find something more -- and push through to victory.
More painful is watching an otherwise talented chef walk slowly and with eyes wide open into a haymaker for no apparent reason. These chefs are older, smarter, and presumably wiser now, which should make for a very exciting season.
No one likes their work to be mocked. Fabio in particular. And yet mock I did. I couldn't help it. I mean, look at that thing. Its supreme ugliness only reinforced and highlighted by its presentation on paper, bringing to mind immediately and inevitably, the command oft directed at a bad puppy: "Go on the paper! The paper!!"
Did it taste that bad? Did it -- and by extension -- Fabio, deserve the kind of scorn I heaped on him?
I don't know. Clearly, I hurt his feelings. And seeing that, I feel bad. Really. To the extent that you can like anyone you know only from TV, I like Fabio. And I liked how he stood up for himself and gave some back at Judges' Table. If I were an employer looking to hire a chef from the among the All Stars, I'd think very seriously about Fabio. He's smart, likable, steady, level-headed in a crisis, and hence not easily flustered -- and I'm guessing he's a much better chef than evidenced on this first day, where he was challenged to "fix" a dish he's surely had plenty of time to think about. But...look at that thing. Really! Look again.
Thanks for coming back to TC and for blogging. For many of us in TC fan land-- reading the blogs is the best part of the experience, since we can't taste the food. And you are so correct ---Tom and Eric were wicked mean and snarky last season-- it seems they had reason-- so my hope is you stay true to yourself and the food and let the criticisms fall where they may.
The cheftestants seem to be pushing back at judges table this season. How long before we see a cheftestant challenge a judge to a Chef to Chef one on one challenge?
Thank God for Anthony Bourdain and his sarcasim. Let' face it, most Chefs are egotical jerks and not the gods they tend to think they are.
You mean Toby Young/aka the Simon Cowell of Top Chef?? Well, I always considered the 3rd judge to sort of be the bad guy, so that paints you into the black hat, naturally (because black wouldn't look good on Gail). Keep with the gin. I hear it helps soothe the nerves.
Honestly Tony, I didn't think you were all that bad. It seems the cheftestants are a little more sensitive. Of course, more is at stake this time or it could be they watched Top Chef: Just Desserts and decided to up the histrionics.
Don't lay off the gin, Tony, you just wouldn't be Bourdain without it. Your sharp insights are invaluable....
I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE ON TOP CHEF!!!!
YOU make the show!!!
This is a perfect fit for you and yes you were harsh but you spoke the truth.
Now if we could just get you a cigarette........
First thing, Anthony, WELCOME to the blogosphere, and I can already tell that your blogs are going to be as wonderfully snarky as ever. Awesome.
Secondly, why is everyone on the show calling you "Tony"? I don't think I'd EVER heard anyone call you "Tony" and tonight I heard it, I think, three times.
Now about the show...yeah, maybe the mocking was a bit much, but frankly, the "inside-out animal" comment was what made me react on the couch like I took a Pacquiao gut shot. THAT was harsh. The thing is, it was pretty accurate. Your criticisms, akin to dodgeball, are never delivered with a Nerf ball. They are delivered with a fully-inflated soccer ball. They are GOING to sting. That's just the way it is, and I don't think any chefs or viewers would expect or want anything less. You don't lay those criticisms on just to be a "bastard" as you said, you lay them on when they are warranted. I love Fabio but the dish looked like exactly what you said it looked like. The criticism was warranted.
One episode in and I am already in love with the season we have before us. There are NO weak links here. At all.
Great to see you back on Top Chef. Don't change a thing - your blog had me in stitches and looking forward to hearing more from you. It looks like a great season ahead.
No nicotine, and you are considering giving up the booze, too? What kind of domesticated bliss-ninnie stole Anthony Bourdain and is occupying his carcass? I was glad to see Fabio bark back and for you to give it some serious thought, but let's not do something hasty. This looks like a good season simmering.
Don't hold back, one of your greatest appeals is your raw honesty, even when it came to yourself in Medium Raw (which I thought at times were a bit harsh).
You're a judge on this show, everyone knows how it works. If you were their mentor then yes, constructive criticism would be ideal. I like Fabio and all but perhaps he's never read any insulting reviews written by a food critic before.
In my opinion, as a musician, artist, author, comedian, director, cook, etc, you are putting yourself out there and in a reality TV competition everyone should expect to have their work criticized, praised, or mocked.
Every contestant has the chance to win $500,000. Maybe Fabio can buy a sense of humor with it if he wins.
Tone dont hold back we like the way you are.... maybe once in a while you'll get a slap back !! :-) Love you !! Fabio Viviani
It's GREAT to see you back on the show!
Fabio seemed genuinely hurt, but it might just as easily have been the shock and embarrassment at being on the bottom right out of the gate. Maybe he didn't truly grasp how tough the competition was going to be this time around. You'd think he'd have a tougher skin; after all, he has been through this before and should know what to expect at Judges' Table.
Stay true to yourself! "No reservations," right? And keep up the blogs!
HILARIOUS!! do NOT do anything, or SAY anything that makes you not you. your blog is going to be my weekly GIN, lol! stay true to who you are. these cheftestants know exactly what's in store, as they are veterans. personally, i love 'em all, but they know the rules. give 'em heck and blog away!!
I thought I was excited for TC Allstars - now with you blogging each week, too - HEAVEN!!! Please do not lose your edge or give up the gin for that matter!! Yes, you gave it to MY FABIO but he deserved it and now he can up his game. I want you to know you are on my "list" of people I want to have dinner with some day!! Maybe, someday - I can always wish and dream!!!
God, I've missed you!!!! You and Chef Ripert are my two favorite guest judges. My friends and I SWOONED like tweens at a Justin Bieber concert when we found out you were judging this season. You raise the "fun" level so much. Don't change a thing! I don't want "fluffy sweater Tony." I want "gin soaked Anthony!" And I also want to go out drinkin' with you and Ripert one night!
Anthony, with you as a regular on judging panel, this season of Top Chef has all the ingredients to be the most entertaining yet. Your blog is a delight to read. It was very decent of you to address your misgivings about the harshness of your critique of Fabio's dish. It did, however, remind that Fabio can have a bit of a defensive attitude when his dishes are criticized. Seeing your and (especially) Tom's expression when Fabio defended himself was good TV.
Fabio acted like a big baby.
Though not as much as Marcel.
Why, why do we have to watch that brat again?
As much as I've looked forward to Top Chef All Stars, I was even MORE pleased to see that you're one of the judges!! In fact, I think I'll join you and Tom with a gin and tonic during Judges Table! Snark away!!
Could just be the things you say would sound better with a French accent…
Sorry to disagree with most people here (including Fabio, looks like) but I think you could dial it back just a bit without being mistaken for a teddy bear. Once the knife is in, maybe one or two small twists would be enough.
No argument with your honesty and general bluntness. Even in a fluffy sweater you’d be pretty colorful. However, though this is Bravo TV and not PBS, and there’s chefs I’d still be happy to see the back of, I think these guys deserve a minimum level of respect for just showing up. That’s where I think you sometimes cross the line. It’s a reality show, but that 200 grand is at least a few years worth of income, and 17 other talented people are breathing down your neck for it. Not everyone is going to be a Rick Bayless someday.
I’m in the camp that prefers to see the focus on the food and the cooking, and not the interpersonal drama, so I’ll be hoping to see people I’ve liked in the past create good food as the season unfolds.
Solid work, looks like a great season.
Glad to have your worldly palate on the show again. While Padme, Tom & Gail are all obviously well traveled, seeing you on the panel makes all the Cheftestants aware that they cannot try to fake ethnic flavors. I can't wait for the first one to try.
Can't wait to see the rest of the season, it looks like it may be the best yet as far as the challenges. Thanks for blogging, keep it honest.
Utterly, completely, totally THRILLED that you are back on board TC! This is the most perfect season for Bourdain to be judging AND blogging! You've had experience with some of these chefs in the past (that lovely Butterscotch Scallops that was redeemed last night is a perfect example!)
I completely agreed with you on the plating of Fabio's pasta. It looked like dreck and completely unappetizing. Everyone knows you have a way with words - and if those words describe a dish as an inside-out animal, so be it. (Quite frankly, it was da truth!)
So I'm very much looking forward to your continued comments. I LOVE Eric Ripert, but I love your snark better. Now, a show where both you AND Chef Ripert are judges? Call me happy as a peeg in sheet, thankyouverymuch!
Changing who you are and your gritty assessment of the food you love will only compromise your seemingly souless persona. Your fans expect, no DEMAND, that you stay to true to yourself. Doing so only makes the contestants better chefs, and your followers aspire to be more than they are.
Really, every night when I cook dinner for my family, I say to myself...would Tony eat this stuff? Of course now I have my answer: SURE.....after lots of gin and tonic.
Your faithful fan -
Leslie Evans Sugar Land, TX
Yippeeee!! You're on as Judge all season! That will make my hubby very happy...and me as well! As much as I love Fabio and was sorry to see his feelings hurt, I still wouldn't want to see you play it down for anyone. Your comments at Judges table are the best and always have me and my hubby cracking up. Looking forward to a whole season with you!
If reading a weekly blog by you, Sir Bourdain, is what I have in store for this season...I am a VERY happy woman.
I think I've just developed a big old crush on you.
LOVE YOU!!!!!! Just by looking at Fabio's dish anyone could get a hint that it wasn't that great... I wouln't eat pasta on a sheet of paper, and it really looked terrible!!!!! I'm a big fan and looking forward to see more of you in this season!!!!
Noooo, noooo, nooooo please Tony don't. You are too entertaining and your blogs unleashes the hounds even more. :)
It was too much. Your attitude made you look like you are an unhappy person and taking out your misery on others at the first opportunity. People LOVE Carla bc she is so happy and full of love. A little dose of Carla wouldn't hurt; you can maintain your honesty and still be snarky without being disrespectful.
Tony please keep your wiseass comment that's why we love you, and if sometimes you get a Bark Back its all good, we are all big boys.... love you sir !! See you soon !! BTW, the pasta was delicious....pretty ?? No i agree, but still delicious.... :-)
Damn; Anthony Bourdain sure is handy with the written word. This essay is priceless. There's something hedonistic about that much literary talent and angst-ridden moral compass being slathered onto TV show commentary but I'll enjoy it along with all my other guilty pleasures. He's an eating, speaking, typing culinary equivalent of the Daily Show.
When we heard you were at Judge's table we said.Best Top Chef EVER!! You Rock Tony-If there is no Snarky there is no Bourdain
I appreciate both your slight of that [annoyingly horribly not at all clever] English guy and your use of the word 'felching'. Frankly, it's a word not used enough these days, especially when discussing food.
Your comments on the show are so smart and funny and dead on. A little Europan charm does not excuse bad food. And who ever said all criticism needs to be explicitly "constructive?" Telling a cook that the dish he has made is the worst plate of pasta you have eaten (in your case, that would be a whole lot of pasta) is constructive. In this case it might mean that Fabio has cooked so much pasta on the show that he is out of tasty ways within his ability and imagination to change it up and therefore he may want to explore another theme. Ya know throw a lamb shank our way, or some superb white beans, or rice balls -- he's Italian for God's sake, he has to know that Italian food is not all about pasta. Okay, wrapping up: stay Bourdainish, do not let a pouting hot Italian man infuence you (I know this from hard experience myself), and most everything you say is instructive so let the listener figure out how to learn from it. Also, based on your blog and TC appearaces and your Food Network shows I would pledge my troth to you if I thought you were up for it.
Maybe you shouldn't have went on and on how bad Fabio's dish was---BUT, he was VERY disrespectul to you. I don' think you should apologize--I think he owes you an apology. And if he wanted to confront you, it should have been in private--and only once. Also, with Fabio---you almost need to stress loudly how bad his dish is, else he won't understand.
I was never much of a fan of Fabio the first time around. I still will not yet say that I am. However, two things happened last night that started to change my mind about him. First, his dislike of Marcel. Second, the fact that he stood up to Bourdain. Cooking is like anything else that is subject to opinion in that everyone is going to have a different one. The difference is cooks put their souls into what they are doing. Constructive criticism is fine. Not everyone is going to like the same food. Tell him why you don't like it. That's fine. Continue to run your mouth like a drunk idiot (sorry, being drunk doesn't excuse bad behavior it only means you cannot handle your liquor or you don't know when to stop) and like Fabio said you're going to have a different problem. Though, my guess is Anthony 'Massengil' Bourdain couldn't handle himself as well as a high-school cheerleader.
A man who loathes Olive Garden....that has to be the best insult ever. "Your food is Olive Gardenesque".
I laughed so hard when I read that bit I almost fell off my chair! Here, I'm passing you an e-gin for your efforts. Don't stop, you're doin' it right!
Great stuff, both on the air and on the blog.
I am so glad to see you as a full time judge this season and not just a guest ! Not only are you honest (so is Tom) but your humour cracks me up. Love it.
However, I am not so glad to see some of the most annoying, egotistical, arrogant chefs ever to appear on Top Chef, back again. Too many of them spend too much time telling us how wonderful they are and trashing the other chefs.
Tony you crossed the line last night and I am glad that you realized this and have apologized. I was looking forward to the show and seeing everyone again, particularly Fabio, he is a favorite of mine, your response to his dish made the episode uncomfortable for me to watch. You were mocking him and that was uncalled for, there is nothing wrong with a snarky critique, but this went beyond that. Cronstructive critisism would have been as you wrote in your blog - less sauce, no fried basil and put it in a white bowl (although my family would have taken issue with the sauce comment from the judges - they do not get the sauce as a condiment idea, they like their sauce thick, rich and plenty of it.
There is nothing wrong with Fabio's sense of humor, he has a wonderful sense of humor as was evidenced during his season of Top Chef (the best), I understood how he felt last night, It was good that he stood up for himself, I would expect no less from him.
I wish him much success this season.
P.S. Maybe a little less gin next time, but you, stop drinking, no need to go there!!
All I can say is I love you and I'm so glad you are on Top Chef All-Stars, all the more reason to watch. You and Eric together is even better! Don't hold back on the criticism or the gin (maybe Padma should try some too)
I thought the quote was "there is no there there," and I thought it was in reference to Oakland. But I could very well be wrong because of the amount of gin I've drank since Literature class. Which brings me to my second point--drink the gin.
Enjoy the show. And enjoy it more with you on it, dude.
I love the style and class that Fabio puts into his food, but looking at his dish last night, I am reminded of what my Grandfather would say when asked why he did not eat pizza. "I'm not going to eat any G** DAMNED food that looks like it's been chewed once already!"
This was a good read.
Question: are there any GOOD tiki bars in Long Island strip malls? Would that be like, purgatory?
And "there is no there there" was what Gertrude Stein said of her hometown, Oakland, CA. The Tribune Tower in Oakland has occasionally flown a flag with the word "There" on it in reference to this comment.