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Bravotv.com: So, Pee-wee Herman as guest judge!
Gail Simmons: I loved him. I spent a lot of time with Pee-wee as a child on Saturday mornings. So did everybody I’m sure, but my older brother and I always watched Pee-wee Herman on Saturday mornings together and would make the voices of the characters. I loved Chairy. He loved Terry the Pterodactyl. Looking back, it was such a memorable part of my childhood, so it was an honor and pleasure to have Pee-wee with us for a couple of days.
Oh! I think the best thing to come out of this entire episode is that he put me on his Christmas card list. He makes the best Christmas cards I have ever received in my life!
Bravotv.com: So we’ll start with the Quickfire. They had to make pancakes, and we had a lot of extremes, from super whimsical to a little more elevated.
GS: I have to say, watching the Quickfire made me really hungry for pancakes. And I never eat pancakes. When I eat breakfast or brunch I am an egg girl. I’m a savory girl in the morning. But I really was craving pancakes coming out of that Quickfire. It seemed like they all did a great job and were very creative. Even just looking at the list of flavors – blueberries, raspberries, bacon, champagne dipping dots, peach compote, cocoa nibs, whipped cream, marcona almonds -- it just all sounds delicious.
Bravotv.com: And Edward won with his little bits.
GS: Yes! His actually was the one I was most skeptical about, until I saw that it was the best pancake that Pee-wee had ever had. That was hysterical.
Top Chef meets Amazing Race. Most annoying episode ever. Drop the gimmicks and get back to cooking, please.
Thanks for such an informative blog. The way the episode was edited, some of the fine points of the judging were not at all clear. I'm not sure if that is factored enough into the editing, but it is one reason viewers get upset with the judge's decisions. I will miss Grayson - that is, unless she is victorious in LCK.
This ep irked me no end. First off: you people had Paul Rubens as a judge! As Pee Wee, he was revealed to be a pervert. Who cares what kind of food he enjoys eating? He was hardly a gourmand at any time... Then the challenge itself, was absurd. You expected the cooks to carry their food through the streets of an unfamiliar city on bicycles. Finally: Ed served under cooked, rubber chicken. That should have eliminated him; as it did for any other chef in previous seasons. P.S. the last chance kitchen is an unfair farce. the winner is determined by Tom's whim. the last ep did not even reveal the winner. Top Chef has become an culinary obstacle course filled with TOO MANY Gimmicks!
Gail, I strongly disagree with you in reference to the squash and tomatoes. As a born and bred South Jersey girl, (still the Garden State!) we have oodles of local produce from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving. And yes, squash and tomatoes do overlap and yes, we do eat them together. Possibly she should have served them differently - maybe roasted tomatoes with squash. So many times in the past you have send people home for undercooked meat or lack of seasoning - SALT and PEPPER, so it was a surprise to see Grayson go home. And by the way, is Barney on the show next week?
Dear Gail Simmons, Thanks for this explanation. But one question: what would you all have done if one of the chefs didn't know how to (or couldn't) ride a bike? Just had to ask. I've gotten very impatient with Top Chef this season because, quite honestly, alot of the challenges have just seemed out and out dopey. The best episode remains the Charlize Theron episode where the chefs really had a chance to shine. Yes, there was a gimmick to it but it was a gimmick that made sense. So many seem to have no rationale behind them except to be gimmicks for the sake of gimmicks. On a final, unrelated, note: I hope Grayson whoops Beverly's a** in Last Chance Kitchen. I saw the little snippet preview and was really taken aback by Beverly's snotty question to Grayson and lost quite a bit of empathy for her and the bullying she received.... especially when she leveled the question at the one woman who treated her decently, solely for the purpose of psyching her out. I guess we'll find out next week. Ms. Simmons, do you ever read these comments?
I don't buy it. Are you kidding me? Grayson goes home and Ed could have made people sick with undercooked chicken? Of the three reasons Gail gives, the first two are laughable (especially the second regarding the size - c'mon, she's from Wisconsin and those are the portions expected!). I would rather a large, well-done dish with a variety of seasons represented than an undercooked chicken any day!
I am a bit confused by the "if it grows together it goes together" comment. Tomatoes and squash grow together in my large garden every summer and they go very will when used together in cooking.
I have no idea why Lyndsey was not only not sent home for her "overdressed, soggy greens" but why she won! On another note, I cannot vote for chef who lacks heart, and anyone who calls another person a "f--ing retard" as she called Beverly on the air, not only has no heart, she is unprofessional in the kitchen. This is hate speech and she should have been disqualified for it. I fail to understand why the bullying tactics which have been employed by Heather, Sarah and Lyndsey are not being addressed by you or Tom. Now, Bravo, please, please, please post this--I keep trying to address this issue but my posts do not go through.
there have been so many more exceptional episodes that top chef has had. season 3 with hung and the others cooking at the french cia. the las vegas season where they cooked for joel robuchon and the bocuse olympics elimination challenge withthimas keller. ellis island episode? are you kidding me? that was manipulative and an aberration. the judges always talk abt splitting hairs. one chef should have been eliminated during that episode. and now that they didn't, they set a precedent. i wonder why tom did not refer to that episode and decide not to eliminate beverly when he kept on saying he ate the best meal ever on top chef during the episode that beverly went home?? and seriously this episode for pee wee herman? makes top chef look more and more like top chef survivor.
I would like to think that there was something ineffably "off" about Grayson's dish, apart from this seemingly arbitrary notion that squash and tomatoes don't go together. I have seen the two married successfully in numerous Moroccan couscous dishes, and my favorite pumpkin soup recipe (from the NYT on November 22, 1989) includes pumpkin and fresh tomatoes, not puréed, along with bell pepper, pennyroyal, and pinyon nuts. This recipe has been a "command performance" for Thanksgiving from my friends and family for decades now. The taste combination is sublime. Tomatoes are often canned or dried, so combining them with an autumn crop like winter squash doesn't seem inherently off-putting. The sweetness of the squash and the acidity of the tomatoes should balance each other, right?
I like Ed, but both the conception of poaching in tallow and the description of the result made this viewer a little queasy.
Why are you guys going so easy on the chefs this season, its almost like you know they are all not that great so you have lowered your standards. Even though you guys like Bev's cooking, she should be able to cook other types of food to be a top chef or to make it so far in the competetion. Please tell me someone cant go all the way cooking asian food! The show is loosing its credibility this season.
Justify Grayson's exit all you want - in my mind nothing is a more serious error than undercooking chicken! It's very clear that the food is this episode was NOT judged by just this one episode, as has been Top Chef's claim. And to be clear, I don't dislike Ed or love Grayson - Nyesha is my favorite (who I also think got robbed for the sake of drama). I have to say while the chef's are doing a great job, I'm pretty disappointed in the judging this season.
Top Chef is my all time favorite show but I have to say that this season is so lack luster. Some of the challenges are stupid especially last nights. No one stands out even at this point in the competition. Past seasons were intense and the food created was high end. The food looks so-so. I'm really disappointed.
WOW! Once again I believe that you have severly wronged a Chef! You talk about the B-B-Q Challange being about stamina, yet Sara, who couldn't handle it is still there? She should have been sent home if she couldn't handle it! How many times are you going to say Ed and Sara? Apparently you would rather have a Chef who clearly can't handle that heat in the kitchen as wall as one that will give you raw and rubbery chicken! I am so disgusted right now with Top Chef. I have whatched this show from the beginning, and although I have thought that you had mad the wrong decision on occasion,I have told myself that I wasn't there to taste the food and that is why. But this is just rediculous. You keep someone who gives you raw, rubber food at this point? He would have left in the beginning for that! I just don't understand how you can call that splitting hairs?
Grayson meal was a heartattac waiting to happen. You could hybernate after that meal. The egg was disgusting, as far as my taste goes.
Could you please please please on the reunion show make Heather and Sarah and all the other mean people apologize to Beverly. They are suppose to be adults and they were nothing more the mean girls. It makes me sick that grown women can act like that.
Thanks Gail for the breakdown. We see the dish but all of you taste the details. My question is what this particular challenge had to do with Texas? There was the introduction of Pee Wee Herman and it was obvious he was brought in as a tie to the youth of the cheftestants. But this whole season has been about Texas - size, flavor, location, theme. The entire Gulf Coast has been left out (so far) and fresh seafood has been replaced with salmon, scallops and precooked shrimp. (Yes the Red Snapper was a great option for Beverly.) I'm looking forward to the last round of episodes. Okay, time to go cook dinner....
Even with three reasons to eliminate her, I think this was so wrong. Someone under cooked their chicken, a BIG no no in any kitchen. And under seasoning has almost always gotten a chef eliminated. I have a hard time seeing why Grayson was eliminated when at least the under cooked chicken is a far bigger issue.
I was so sorry to see Grayson go. She has more heart and class and skill than anyone. This season of Top Chef is so disappointing. Can anyone imagine Richard Blais or Tiffany Derry or Antonia in the middle of this mess? Not likely. I hope they change it back to where the focus is on the food rather than childish back-stabbing.
I'd like to say "amen" to those who've questioned the gimmicks of this episode. I watched it confused; skeptical about the authenticity of all those oddly convenient camera set-ups and artificial conversations with the "random" restaurant staffs; and generally exasperated with all the weird machinations that had nothing to do with culinary skill. Why didn't you make them all cook while doing one-armed handstands?
Oh, right, all of this nonsense is a metaphor for the strange and unexpected challenges that confront a chef every day. Well, I say it's spinach.
On the other hand, "Top Chef" remains one of my favorite shows, so go figure.
Bad season...for me at least. So many things...have nothing to do with being a good chef. Anyway...I have said that before. I am totally turned off by the foul mouths and constant use of the "f" word. I know..."we are all adults here". It is so unprofessional and unladylike. If it is appropriate among "Top Chefs" fine. It wouldn't be appropriate for a "Top Chef" visiting in the dining room of his restaurant and therefore is not appropriate for TV....just sayin.
No fair! You get to be on Pee Wee's Christmas card list! Post it for us who may never make that list. And FanFare57? Please do us all a favor, go back to your spotless life and not watch and certainly don't post.
Gail, I find it unfortunate that the producers of one of my favorite shows now apparently believes that gimmickry and involving guest judges of questionable repute is appropriate. That you found the nexus between Pee Wee's relationship with Schwinn and the preparation of stellar cuisine to be appealing suggests to me that either your personal standards are slipping or you memorized well a few producer-fed words. I seriously hope it is the latter or I'll have to begin to question your other work. I recall my good friend Sonya Selby Wight, Julia Child's producer on "Good Morning America" once telling me that people who didn't explore out of season tastes were victims of learned prejudice. For that reason alone, I reject the criticism of Grayson's chicken. I hope it causes you to question yourself to learn that the vast majority of viewers thing the judges were wrong this week. After all, if we viewers and readers don't believe you, your life as a food critic will not be a long one.
How I long for the old days of evening summer meals courtesy of The Gentleman Farmer in Buck's County, PA.
I grow winter squash and tomatoes in my summer garden. I can harvest tomatoes from June through late fall, but I've yet to harvest any winter squash before September. What Gail and Tom are referring to is a well-understood principal in the culinary world. Some vegetables are considered summer, some are considered fall. Tomatoes are summer, winter squash are considered fall. They don't go together and when I think about they way each feels in my mouth, I understand why this dish doesn't work.
If you look at Grayson's recipe for this dish, you start to see a lot of foods and herbs that were used that work well with summer vegetables. The odd element was the Roasted Squash - seasoned with basil, another odd combination. So if you are thinking about composing a plate, why use butternut squash when you have better choices? It speaks to all of the other issues that Gail is telling us. The dish was not well-conceived and in comparison to the other dishes it didn't measure up.
I am a big fan of Top Chef but this season has been ridiculous! PeeWee Herman, riding bikes to scavage for food, this season has not been about competition between talented chefs but silly challenges that have nothing to do with cooking.
Gail, Thank you for your in depth blog. I guess you judges prefer getting salmonella from Ed's rubbery, under cooked chicken to Grayson's large portion size. Hmmmmm. (btw: Paul Rubens stated that he liked spice and liked it not spicy and laughed. It was as though he didn't understand the meaning of the word "preference". Therefore, Grayson gave the confused non foodie what he appeared to want... As for your preview of next week's weepy challenge: I doubt I'll be moved. I am not invested in any particular cook this season. The food was the least focus of each show. Every challenge featured the extreme ridiculousness of achieving a decent bite. The chefs were not really as important as the gimmicks and environment, thanks to the editors and producers. Thanks to the convoluted themes overshadowing the actual food, this has been the least interesting season of TC.
Enough with the gimmicks. You can develop new and interesting challenges without resorting to this level of nonsense (Pee Wee Herman and bikes?). People tune in to watch great cooking and root for their favorite chef. There is precious little time spent watching contestants cook this season and even less spent on cooking anything interesting. You are down to the final four (or five) and there has only been one challenge that produced really great food. If you must persist with the 100+ diners, group challenges change the name of the show to Top Caterer - don't suggest that you're really interested in a Top Chef.
I am a Pee Wee fan and don't think his very, very minor victimless crime years ago makes him a pervert. Google the facts and see if you agree.
But I agree with many of the commenters about this Amazing Race b.s. It's embarassing and annoying. I don't mind challenges in the cooking--that's why I watch the show--but I don't want to watch bicycling and idiots barging into professional kitchens. If you're out of ideas, please go back to previous seasons and re-use the good ones. I won't mind.
Gail, thanks for the explanation about the judging, but I have seen so many people go home for improper basic seasoning that I was taken aback by this decision.
You probably don't realize it, but it seems to the viewer that you are making decisions based on which contestants are the most controversial--and you are setting up a Beverly vs. Sarah situation. Ugh. That's how it looks.
If you do Last Chance Kitchen again, there has to be a more fair way of judging than Tom's whim.
I loved this episode! I was on the edge of my seat the whole time! As long as its not a team challenge where someone gets sent home even though they did a really good job....I love it! ENOUGH with the team challenges! NEVER do those AGAIN! I can't believe this season is almost over. :(
Gail, just wanted to say that, at this point in the competition, I'd prefer to see how the contestant cooks without physical challenges and gimmicks. The heat seems to have been brutal, yet Top Chef producers pitted fit contestants against less-fit contestants in it repeatedly. How would Mario Batali fair in that, I wonder? It's supposed to be about making great food, not biking in the heat or doing a treasure hunt for ingredients and stoves. I have loved Last Chance Kitchen, though, and hope you keep it.
I agree wholeheartedly with the prior comments made by Pierre DeRagon, and would also like thank you, Gail, for your explanations. Also, I can understand the need for the writers to come up with quirky challenges to keep the viewers entertained and make each episode unique, even if it bugs us and takes away somewhat for the actual cooking.
Although Beverly seems sweet (or is edited to appear that way), I detect a lot of selfishness there, which is probably why some of the other chefs turned on her (although the manor in which they did so revealed more of their OWN character flaws than they did Bev's). Her question to Grayson in the heat of battle about why she was cut was a prime example.
The one thing that bothered me most about this season was the Last Chance Kitchen episode of Beverly vs. Nyesha. I think that particular twist was purposely done to give Bev a better chance and Nyesha a bigger handicap, so that the "underdog" no one expected to would win. Bev may have had a fighting chance to win on her own, but THIS twist made it feel like she was slated to win by the writers. A "twist" is fine, but it should have been an equal one, rather than Nyesha being handicapped by Beverly's lack of preparation.
Gail, I just don't think you or Tom made a good call in keeping Sarah over Grayson. Your lengthy defense of your decision reinforces my thinking. Tom gushed all over Sarah's dish, talking about how the egg was jus "cooked perfectly." Really? Wow, I'm impressed...my seven year old granddaughter can cook an egg. This is Top Chef week 13 - she should also learn how to season an egg. Besides, Grayson cooked a perfect egg inside a chicken breast and delivered it intact on a bike to you. What credit did she get?
She was flagged for tomatoes and butternut squash coming from two separate seasons. Odd, since she bought them at the market that day. Also doubly odd since you and Tom both loved the same items together in previous Top Chef dishes (check out the blog, SimonBao's got the episodes and dishes.) Grayson was also penalized for a dish being too big. All of these were minor, petty, and very arbitrary arguments. When you fail to season a dish at this stage, as one contestant did, you should be packing your knives.
I have to disagree with the judges on the squash/tomato combination. I have at least 10 GREAT recipes that combine squash and tomatoes. I'm from Texas and we garden and grow them side by side. Was it because it was butternut squash? I am not a HUGE Grayson fan, GO PAUL, but don't think it was right to send her home. No salt and pepper was much worse.
My fall squash comes in and I am still picking tomatoes. They DO grow together in much of the world, certainly in most of the country.Under-seasoned and under-cooked seem like a bigger goof.
Just wondering what all you Bev fans thought of her trying to mess with Grandson's head during the LCK? Grays was one of the few chefs who tried to befriend her and never put Bev down. Come on folks, cutting the butcher line,only taking care of her own part in team challenges,not being considerate of other chefs in the kitchen...I do not condone the behavior of any of the chefs that were so mean at all...I think they should have been eliminated for that behavior alone, never mind their food but i have worked with too many Bees in my life, the victim with only number uni in mind. Btw did not like being left hanging on LCK!
I agree with most people on here. This Texas top chef has felt like a gimmick from the start. It feels like Survivors, or Amazing Race. You tortured them in 105 degree heat, throw ridiculous obstacles at them and then TWICE they had to stay up all night to BBQ, and everything was team cooking, which I HATE. I do not watch this show to see them serve 200-300 people. ( Hello- have you heard of Dinner Impossible?) That is something you do once. Period. The restaurant wars shows them trying to serve many people at once too. Then the stupid housewives of Texas dinners was terrible. Now Pee Wee Herman? That was just weird. This is starting to feel like a game show from the Japanese. Why not have them wear Velcro and see if they can hold a plate of food and stick to the wall at the same time or run a maze, jump off a platform and then run and cook something real quick. I seriously hope to see this show return to it's cooking roots next season. I want to see the chefs cook, individually. I want to see their food and skills on their own and drool over the amazing food they have prepared, not this.
Sorry, Gail, not buying it. I know we can't taste the food, but the squash and tomato combo (which was most highly emphasized as the fault in Grayson's dish) seems a far less offense than under-cooked chicken (hello - dangerousd!) and under-seasoned eggs (are you kidding me? Even I know how to salt and pepper an egg!!!).
Pee Wee Herman as a guest Judge. Why are we scraping the bottom of the barrel here? Unbelievable! And I never watched Pee Wee Herman's playhouse because I thought he was a strange, dopey man. Turns out I was right. So very bizarre to say the least.
Sorry, Gail, gotta disagree with your assessment. OK, so I can't taste Grayson's food, but the only criticism I would see would be the runny egg (I personally don't like runny egg). Why wasn't Sarah eliminated for crying out loud?! She missed a key element with the lack of salt and pepper! Seasoning is a basic that you shouldn't be missing on this late in the competition. And Tonya, perhaps you didn't watch the LCK episode where Bev ended up cooking Nyesha's Meditteranean ingredients and won.
Gail, Can you please reveal where your dress came from in this episode? It was amazing! One of the best you have EVER worn on the show. Thanks!!
Wow, reading all these comments, kind of makes me laugh.
First off, as far as gimmicks, as you call the,....they have always been part of the show..cooking outside at campfires, limited time, limited space, limited tools. They have cooked on boats, had to cook on planes in many past seasons, etc. This was no different. Its not only about cooking. These are all phenomenal cooks in the competition. Any one of them, given no paramiters, and decent amount of time, can cook you an amazing dish. They need to make it hard for them. Make them think on their feet, be creative, think outside the box, and still produce amazing food. Thats what this show has always been about. Come one, doesnt anyone remember the vending machine challenge, or the convient mart challenges?
As far as judges decisions......your talking about people that either cook for a living(Tom, Anthony Bourdai, Emirl, Eric Rippert, etc) or food critics such as Gai.. They have tasted thousands of dishes not only on the show, but beyond that as well, and have eaten some of the best food from the best chefs around the world. I think there accredited enough to judge these competitions without being questioned. Its def not a popularity contest, cause if it was, Grayson would have never been sent home. They didnt like her dish, she went home, its how it works.
I don't know about the tomato and squash - ratatouille is a classic and it's based on a combination of zucchini squash and tomato. They work well together there. I'll just take Gail's word for it that it didn't work since I wasn't there.
Another LCK, another round of snarky comments about Bev "of course cooking Asian."
For the geographically impaired, let me remind you that Asia is an entire continent. Italy is a single country whose cuisine was in fact influenced by Asia! It seems to me that cooking with Asian inspirations isn't as narrow, limited, and lacking in creativity as the haters want to suggest. And the judges seem to agree.