Eli Kirshtein

Eli Kirshtein examines the chefs' psyche in the premiere challenge.

on Dec 2, 20100

Redesigning dishes is an everyday job for the modern chef. We take a concept, hopefully one that we feel strongly about, and believe in at the onset, and tweak and modify it till it meets the standards and vision we have for it, optimally before you ever serve it to a diner. One of the challenges of the show is the lack of opportunity to go through this diligence. You realistically have just one shot at a dish. All the nuances of seasoning, garnishing, even plating, is left to one opportunity. This specific challenge gives them another go, one more chance at it. All of them have re-concepted this dish over and over again; this is the one the got away. They have hoped for this chance to redeem themselves and prove it was a one off mistake. If they do strongly here, they will feel verified and qualified at the onset. An albatross removed.

As chefs, we are constantly reinventing and revamping more than just our dishes. We are always looking to hone, and focus our culinary identity as well as our outlook on food.  Being a chef is not terribly different than any other artistic, craft driven field; if you are stagnant and complacent you become stale, even boring. This may sound somewhat obvious and like common sense, but the biggest variable is the elaborate and difficult reality of maintaining your culinary identity and food ethics. Sometimes you might even find yourself focusing on changing for the sake of changing, not a terrible thing on the whole, but it could have a downside also. You might see many chefs who stylistically seemed to be so distinct on their respective season have changed and evolved, and not totally for the better.

Some of these chefs have gained national recognition since the first time they were on the show. They have opened their own business, been awarded accolades, some of them have even have changed cities.  Their cooking skill can, and has brought many a lot of notoriety. They are all back on an equal playing field. Many chefs remark about their time on the show, how it made them better chefs, and made think about food differently. Some saw things their last time on the show that have become indicative of their current cooking style. But this none of this matters now. It's just time to cook what you know and believe in.

Post Top Chef, there are many interactions that you have with other chefs from the show, past and present. It is almost a social circle, once you are in; you are in with everyone from the circle. You do a lot of events together, appearances, and dinners. Now you will have to look at many of the people who you have come to call friends and you have to now call them competition. In the sake of good sportsmanship this seems simple, but the emotions will run much higher now, no question.

This season has so many more layers to it than ever before.

Follow me on Twitter http://twitter.com/elikirshtein

6 comments
sushiroll
sushiroll

I really like your blog and the way you allow the reader to see events from the other side (that of the contestant). Tanks, Eli. Don't quit blogging!

maureen leibovitz
maureen leibovitz

You should of been part of this group Eli. My goodness you where right there at the end and did a fabulous job. I am routing for Richard Blais.

Joeymom
Joeymom

I am so glad that you are back to blog! You are one of my favorite cast bloggers. Never quite understood how Jamie would blog but would never talk about the ending moments of the show. What is unique and great about this season is that the chefs all know about each other and their personalities. Should be some great competition.

jeanneX
jeanneX

I'm so sorry to see Bourdain as judge. I've always admired Tom C because of his bottom-line respect for the efforts of the contestants. He treats them as colleagues, who may or may not have a good or bad day. That reality structures a show that even though highly competitive, does not seem exploitative. Certainly Bourdain's comments were designed not for the contestants themselves but for an audience that feeds off of the snark culture that puts mockery over people.

andy boy
andy boy

This season will be a real kickass. Sparks will fly as these near winners from seasons past compete. Having Anthoony Bourdain as a judge is brillant. With his wit, and sarcasim, egos will be bruised. His description of Fabio's plate was brutally harsh and hornestly accurate. Every other season from now on should be an Allstar edition. In fact, there should be a season with all the former winners competing in a true championship of Top Chef. My only criticism in this allstar season is that each season should be represented by a equal number of cheftestants. Lets say three contestant per season. That would make it 21 cheftestants this season. It seems more fair, and its only three cheftestants over the 18 that started yesterday. Why does season 4 have four cheftestants while some seasons have two, and others three. Anyway, can hardly wait for a truly competitive season as Top Chef Allstars: Season 8 rolls on.

Jose JJ
Jose JJ

Well said Eli! I always enjoy seeing the chefs together at events like cooking shows and Kentucky derby; it adds another layer to the modern chef.