And Dale’s whole dish was bizarre. He basically gave us french toast topped with veal and popcorn. French toast, vea,l and popcorn. It’s one thing to be whimsical, to give us a lamb crown roast with octopus coming out of the top of it, as David Burke has done. But that dish, as with all of David’s dishes, starts from a place regarding food that’s very solid and comes from a simple thought. David then keeps working on it and trying different things, arriving at a whimsical endpoint, but there’s always a purpose behind what he’s doing that is about the crafting of an excellent dish. Dale, on the other hand, seemed to be pursuing whimsy for its own sake, without the culinary underpinnings, and without a talent for whimsy. It was akin to a person without a sense of humor delivering a joke: no sense of timing.
It’s ironic, by the way, that Marcel wound up in the group cooking at wd~50, given the incident in the past in which he was accused of having tried to pass off one of Wylie’s dishes as his own invention. It’s one thing for chefs to like a dish created by another chef and recreate the dish in their own restaurants –- that happens all the time, but the chefs give credit where it’s due. It’s another thing altogether to adopt a technique for a dish invented by another chef and present it as one’s own. It’s also funny that Marcel is the person who put the phrase “molecular gastronomy” into the mainstream during his first season of Top Chef, as he was still just dabbling in that technique at the time –- he still didn’t know much about it at all. He knows more now, and it must have been quite an experience for him to be cooking in Wylie’s kitchen. From the results, which were OK, but a bit timid, it seems he was a little cowed.
I thought that it was a very, very good challenge, and, overall, that we were presented with creative and interesting responses from our chefs. The challenge shows that a chef who is cooking in today’s America should have a diverse palate, an up-to-date bag of tricks, good versatility (and flexibility!), and a depth and breadth of food knowledge. Stay warm.