Tom Colicchio

Tom would have rather judged the Mother Sauce Quickfire Challenge.

on Dec 8, 20110

 

Before we go any further, let me just say that I never watched Dallas. I don’t know who J.R.is, and I don’t know who killed him. Oh, my wife tells me he wasn’t killed, just shot. OK. Bottom line: Filming the Elimination Challenge at Southfork Ranch meant nuthin’ to this New Yorker -- it was just another place to shoot. The episode, I mean.  

And I’m sorry to say that the work our chefs presented at the Elimination Challenge held about as much appeal to me as would a Dallas rerun. The reason we were so harsh at Judges' Table is that the chefs were complacent and wouldn’t take risks, so they didn’t create dishes worthy of this competition. This group of chefs, more than in any season prior, seemed to be thinking about how to win the game, and at this early stage, seemed to be saying to themselves, “Hey! Just don’t go home! Stay in the middle of the pack until the end. Then step it up.” Like pacing oneself in a marathon. And with a dinner for 200, yes, they could say, “That’s a lot of people -- let’s play it safe.”  But they could have been far more creative than they were. 

This points to  aproblem inherent in a group challenge like this: When creating dishes by committee, no one puts themselves out there and says “I want to go out on a limb with this, and I don’t care if the group doesn’t want me to.” So nothing soars. Furthermore, the food lacks a point of view -- any chance of one has been eradicated by the process.  

67 comments
CompDoc
CompDoc

Hi Tom - First let me say that I enjoy the show and respect the commitment both you and Padma put in every week. However; I was extremely disappointed in this episode. Does your team review all the footage before you make your final ruling? Were you aware that Heather's Cake recipe was not her creation but rather taken from Ed's pantry; not once but twice? This was very bad form and to award the car to her based upon this deception was disturbing and undermined the overall integrity of the show. Having a show of my own I understand the frustrations and battle's you face but this was one you should have fought for. The editing presented an episode focused around steak (cattleman's association) and based upon what was presented to the viewer Chris Jones cooked a good steak and was very well received. Granted, I was not there and could not taste / examine texture but clearly Chris was the winner. Honestly to consider a dessert that only YOU liked because it was well made, was a mistake in my opinion. Anyway; that's my 2 cents worth; much respect Tom. Thanks for a great show and your hard work putting it together.

Ann Marie Nielsen
Ann Marie Nielsen

Granted I remember all of the things I learned from earning my culinary arts degree from SUNY Schenectady but what stands out the most are the Mother Sauces, a Roux, and Mire Poix. That was the very first instruction/lesson my class was taught. My professor stressed that to make any type of stock you first needed to make a Mire Poix as well as the many different sauces you can make using any of the five Mother Sauces. In fact one of my favorite sauces to make is a Sabayon sauce for a pear dessert. It is identical to a Hollandaise in regards to how it is prepared along with a few ingredients. As for the the roux, I learned from my mother how to make that. Now its my turn for my children to ask me :)

Mooshki
Mooshki

I agree, the group challenges lead to mediocre ideas. So, why do you do so many of them?

gdw1961
gdw1961

Why even have a challenge like this? None of these chefs are banquet cooks - they would never serve the same meal simultaneously to 200 people. Even at a large steak or chop house - all your diners aren't sitting down at the same time and eating the same meal. I think that cooking a good steak is an art, but in a competition that is supposed to be about creativity a challenge like this has no place. Thank you, Tom, for mentioning Ty's class in accepting criticism and not making excuses. This is in stark contrast to Heather's bizarre behavior after the pair challenge episode.

Mary C
Mary C

I have watched the show since it has been on television. I am so disappointed in the cooks, can not call them chefs. A chef has the ability to make a simple cheese and chicken stand up and be noticed. What is going on with this group is personality, not cooking, not designing, not supporting each other.... Inside of getting more contestants, get more chefs...Maybe start taking one of the bloggers and using them as a judge for a few weeks.

bthgilles
bthgilles

I was also very put off by Heather calling you Tom. I don't think I've ever heard any other cheftestant do that. I thought it showed a lack of respect or a display of arrogance. As far as using Ed's recipe, didn't she go on & on about her pastry background the first time she made the cake. If she is such a great chef & has that background why is she using someone else's recipe at all.

Stephanie Bennett
Stephanie Bennett

Heather needs to go!!!!! Reasons: She is a bully Wins on recipes that do not belong to her She destoryed the steaks :{(mad) and kept her mouth shut Someone needs to tell her she too is a constestant and to STOP bossing people around

AtlantaGeorgia
AtlantaGeorgia

Beverly needs to suck it up or get some tear duct surgery...... for real. Heather is hilarious!

Mary Smith
Mary Smith

I was very disapointed by the judges behaviour in last nights episode...I understand it is a cooking competition but the behaviour that Heather displayed was ridiculous and unacceptable for an adult. It is obvious she does not play well with others and she is very angry and mean to he fellow contestants...but alas for good ratings...you kept her on...sad very sad. Top Chef has been going downhill and it is showing

ViewerElle
ViewerElle

After ready your blog, I have to say that I am not sorry that I haven't watched as faithfully as past seasons. I guess like everyone else I am tired of "group challenges". & I happen to live in Texas, so you would think I would want to watch, but no:(

ImJustMe
ImJustMe

This season of Top Chef is very much so a disappointment! I love Texas but I ain't loving Top Chef Texas right now. Where are the good chefs???? Get creative, do something outrageous, anything!!! Just spice it up some way!

RJENNI
RJENNI

Hi Tom. I remember one season when, after a poor performance by the chefs generally, the judges decided not to eliminate anyone? You sat them down in the stew room and gave them a good talking to about stepping up their game (and then eliminated 2 the following week). That remains one of my fave top chef moments - it demonstrated that this show has standards (both in cooking and entertainment value), and that on some level you and the other judges care about helping these younger chefs get better and succeed. I really feel like this bunch of chefs this season needs that smack down from you. I hope it happens.

Marian B
Marian B

This season very disappointing to date. Very lackluster. If these are the best chefs left to compete on Top Chef then this should be your last season. Sincerely hope not because it is one of my favorite shows. But please chefs - show us some greatness!!

Herb F
Herb F

I agree with Tom. I am a typical New Yorker and was yelling at Ty on the TV. "Stand up and tell them you spent the night in an E.R. and that you were outside cooking and some idiot started to fire the steaks and you knew nothing about it..." I wanted to see him aggressively defend himself but he took all the responsibility. I was very happy to see that the judges did the right thing and when the show was over was very happy that Ty did act so well. Still, if they sent him home I would have thought he was the blame for not fighting...

lemurlvr
lemurlvr

I'm enjoying this season less than most. The chiefs seem to have more atitude than skill. I wonder if the producers are encourging conflict by having more group challenges. These guys need to step it up.

Gremlin
Gremlin

Stop the group challenges! We'd rather see individuals cooking, than a mess of things and getting run over by the bus. Individual challenges allow us to get to know the Chefs better.

Alice C
Alice C

Hello Chef,

I love this show to no end but this season is leaving me with not alot of love. I thought the process of getting the chefs was great. Prove yourself to get in. And those first two rounds were great. They really threw out some great dishes to impress the judges. But once all that was over the bottom kinda fell out of the show. I agree with you and many others that there are too many 'group' challenges. Yes, the area you are doing the show is big so it entails having to cater to larger venues but still. Even though these are group challenges the 'chefs' need to show what they can do. Walking on eggshells with each other just so they dont get sent home really isnt showing the viewers what they can do. And its apparent that they cant work together. They are lost without sous chefs doing their bidding. I have seen this with famous chefs as well. Frankly there is not one of these chefs on the show at this time that i would want cooking for me. This show is to prove to the masses that they can cook and are trying to show that they want "us" to come to their resturants. So far i wouldnt drive across the street for any of these chefs. As in all competition shows there is the bickering and backstabbing. So far i havent seen any bus throwing since the first real challenge....and then it wasnt really a bus...more like a tricycle. I think these chefs need to focus on their "talent" and less on what the other guy is doing. If they have to do a team thing then draw straws who is leader ...make your own dishes to compliment the goal and show us what you got. BTW, Tom. I love you snarky and witty attitude. Keep up the good work sweetie.

J DANNY
J DANNY

This was a steak challenge. Yes, there was 4 courses to be prepped by the chef teams. However, consider the venue. The Cattleman's association is a huge deal and they eat MEAT. Ty-lor deserved his come to jesus meeting, he should have fought for how the meat was to be handled once it left his grill. The potatos Gratin was horrid looking, I wouldnt have eaten them and the right person was sent home.

But to consider a dessert that only YOU liked because it was well made, was a poor decision. Chris Jones should have won that challenge because his STEAK was properly prepared and well received.

@nostologic
@nostologic

Tom,

I seriously love your approach and attitude towards these chefs and your high expectations. I think that view can be paralleled in ANY professional environment. I really liked how Ty didn't throw someone under the bus even though it was definitely someone else's fault to a degree.

I honestly am growing tired of group challenges on all reality shows - it gets annoying to watch people who are good chefs end up getting let go. "Too many cooks in the kitchen" is like.. the most cliche but awesome phrase about team challenges imo.

re_bekah
re_bekah

What on earth is going on with Top Chef? If All Stars hadn't broken up DC and Texas, I would have quit watching weeks ago. The challenges are so unimaginative, and as you pointed out yourself, they compromise the ability to showcase the chef's true talents and creativity. This whole SEASON has been uninspired and lackluster, and given your general crankiness this year,Tom, I think you might agree with me. I can't help but wonder how much longer you (or I) can stick this out.

mmmg
mmmg

I had no idea there were so many sauces. I think I need a cooking class. I really enjoyed Tom's blog; it explained a lot. I do wish, though, they'd have fewer group challenges. I'm not a big fan of Heather's. I think she's overbearing and bossy, but maybe that's the editing. I just don't think she's very nice.

mmmg
mmmg

I had NO idea there were so many sauces; I need as cooking class. Enjoyed Tom's explanation. I hate the group challenges. Hopefully, there will be more individual ones coming up. I'm not fond of Heather. I think she's too bossy and really full of herself, but maybe that's the editing.

Agapito
Agapito

These contestants seem a bit too Hosea and not enough Stefan. They don't seem to have the wow factor in their food that previous seasons had. The chefs are playing the game rather than challenging their culinary skills. Thanks Tom for your insight and frankness on the overall attitude of this season's competitors. It is blatantly obvious that Heather and Sarah are more strategic than talented and I hope they get eliminated soon. There are a few chefs that seem creative and I would like to see the show tap into that creativity more or showcase chef skills like the butchery or knife skills or the tasting game.

sean k
sean k

Always like to read what you have to say. Often agree, ocassionally I don't. You say here that this is the problem with team challenges. Well here's an idea. Get RID of them. Ive always hated when someone makes the weakest dish, but their team wins and that person stays and someone else goes home. Or someone only has to make a salad while someone else is grilling 200 steaks. Here is my idea no more immunity for anything, prizes for quickfires instead. And no more team challenges. You said it yourself, that's not how a kitchen runs.

GrnMtGirl
GrnMtGirl

I really enjoy reading your blog (and the comments) after watching the episodes. It helps put things into perspective.

I too have a lot of respect for Ty-Lor and the way that he handled himself in this episode. That said...I wanted to throttle Lindsay for deciding to flash his steaks without even consulting him on it. Whether or not that was the right way to prepare these steaks, she should not have messed with his dish. Not only that, but I feel as if most of the weight of this challenge was on his shoulders as the steaks were to be the highlight of the meal and he had to prepare 200 of them to be served at the same time...Whew!!! Ty-Lor is quickly becoming my fan favorite; in line right behind Grayson.

I can't wait to see Heather go...she is mean and nasty. And, I don't understand why she thinks it is okay to call you 'Tom' rather than 'Chef'... found it to be completely disrespectful and I felt very uncomfortable listening to her do so.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the Mother Sauces, how the Gratin should have been cooked and your overall knowledge about food.

Cryslynns40
Cryslynns40

There are so many group challenges because that is what provides the "drama" of the show and I'm sure Bravo producers are behind it. I say base the show on the food, but that's just me :). That said, I agree that the steaks should have gone from grill to plate. There was no reason to flash them if done that way. Whitney deserved the elimination because the gratin is a baked dish. She had plenty of time to get it precooked and then heated and browned in the oven. There was no reason for it to be undercooked.

Heather obviously had enough time to be running around checking on everyone so if she was so concerned about Bev getting the dish done, she should have jumped in and helped peel some shrimp. Just sayin'.

EllenS
EllenS

1. Ty-Lor was the hero, he did the grueling grill work admirably. He should not have had to shoulder sole responsibility for the steak in the main course. His team mates are to blame for the steak debacle.

2. I'm a bumbling fool in the kitchen but I've never messed up a roux base sauce.

3. Thanks for the inside info on potato gratin preparation.

4. I agree with several of the other comments. Less "top catering" challenges. I think restaurant wars is a great means of showcasing chef's kitchen/team leadership abilities while still highlighting an individual's creative skill and point of view. The remaining challenges should give the chefs the chance to cook innovative food in reasonable quantities in a realistic amount of time.

Gitone
Gitone

Tom, I sympathize with your frustration over the timid dishes served during the latest episode but I feel the show has brought it on itself. First, as you note, Top Chef is structured like Survivor – you do not have to win until the very end, you just have to stay on the island. This encourages caution and mediocrity. To counter this attitude I encourage you, on occasion, to send more than one contestant home. Ty, as the chef responsible for the steaks, clearly should have gone home as well. To balance this approach if everyone has tried his or her creative best, don’t send anyone home. Second,have fewer catering challenges. Chefs get through these rounds by playing safe and keeping their heads down, not by cooking great food.

Cindy C
Cindy C

Could the web site post Nyesha's compound butter and her steak suace recipe?

Matthew JA
Matthew JA

This group of chefs doesn't play well together -- and we only seem to see flashes of their skills. With the exception of a dish or two, this season, so far, has been a disappointment. And as for the steaks, I'm no chef, but I'm a pretty good cook, and when I cook for a herd of guests, the protein is cooked in one massive piece (a spit-roasted pig, a smoked turkey, butterflied leg-o-lambs piled in a grill) and then portioned for serving. The idea you could grill 200 steaks and serve them "all at once" was foolish. Oh yeah, Heather is not nice.

EMS702
EMS702

Tom, Thanks for the breakdown of sauces. As a home chef I am testing myself on sauce making often. As I live in a warm area of the US I grill steaks year round. I understand how some may be confused when you said to buy the whole roast and slice it to proper cooking size. When I do large parties I buy the Rib Eye Roast, cut it thick enough to my liking or just cut it like Hugh suggested in his blog for smaller appetites. Then I grill each cut separate, not as a rib eye roast.

efw
efw

Seems like this season the cheftestants are succumbing to stereotypes of the Southwest or something. I think if they were in New York or Chicago they wouldn't be making such safe, boring dishes. Seems like they think if it's Texas, they don't have to make difficult, sophisticated food. Hope things get better and they elevate their own standards. Good luck Tom! (p.s. can't believe you never watched Dallas!)

FanFare57
FanFare57

Hello Tom, Thanks for another insightful blog. You state that you don't care for the group challenges because they inhibit the chefs to perform at their best. Then, why are there so many group challenges? Obviously, outstanding food is NOT being produced. It looks very safe, boring, and unappealing (even the winner's).

LaurieFromBoston
LaurieFromBoston

I've been surprised by the choice of chefs this season - and I'm hoping that we see a few stars emerge and sparkle. We viewers have enjoyed watching chefs with superb cooking and imaginative chops, who also had personalities; therefore enjoyable to watch and root for. Unfortunately for me and I'm sure many others, we are missing the Blais', Voltaggio'esque people, the Antonias, Mikes, Carlas and Fabios - folks who could cook, but like 'em or not, you cared one way or another about them. Some seasons have had a glut of talent and personality -- this one, not so much. Hope it changes soon, because I love my show and want to keep watching. PS: great to see Chef Acheson on Top Chef. I enjoyed him when he was competing as well. hmmmm, maybe it was the chops AND personality??!!

Arms-Akimbo
Arms-Akimbo

Thank you for the sauce explanation and the breakdown on how you would have prepared the potato dish, that sort of information is fascinating. Why in the world did they have only one person (who was exhausted and injured) working the grill in that heat? It just seemed stupid to me. I prefer the challenges where they are cooking for a small group rather than a huge group. No matter how great the chef, the food seems to suffer a little when they're cooking for an army.

Eliot k
Eliot k

Waitaminute, did you all see what just happened?

"I was impressed."

Did he really just say that?

MadisonCouse
MadisonCouse

I always enjoy your blogs. I too am a New Yorker. I had no idea about JR and all that. I was a bit confused about the thin cut of meat that Ty used. I always thought Texas had the BIG of everything! I reallly enjoyed the roux comments. The very first thing that my grandmother taught me to make was a roux. I receive a great many compliments on my sauces thanks to her. Keep on that group of chefs. The talent seems far lacking compared to other seasons' chefs.

domynoe
domynoe

I've seen a few comments about how this season seems to be failing. Some think it's because it's on the heels of the All-Stars season, but I think this episode highlights that the problem is the chefs themselves.

Competitions like TC are supposed to push you, make you go outside your comfort zone & out of the box a bit. These chefs aren't doing that. You guys said it in judging: the menu was under-whelming and you expected more (as do your viewers, quite frankly). Heck, they recycled a cake recipe! So it's the chefs. And I'm not even looking for a Marvel or whoever to amp up the drama. I'm looking for...CHEFS! People who want to push their boundaries. And that's just not what we're getting this season so far. That's not TC's fault. They looked for the cooks, now the cooks need to step up.

Marips
Marips

I get that you liked the cake. I get that a LOT of folks liked the cake. But the main part of the challenge was to make steak, and with Chris' steak course so well received by everyone I could not see why he did not emerge the winner. He got robbed, if you ask me.

NicoleA
NicoleA

My dad's gratin comes out awesome with just a buttload of butter and sticking thinly potatoes in a pan, so I'd beg to differ Tom. But Whitney's dish did look awful with all that dense cream and cheese - it was like she wanted to put the steak in a wet diaper. Heather's attitude was horrible, sad that she got the car but if that was the best of the worst (as Hugh Acheson put it), then it was the best of the worst. The last couple episodes have had (what looks to be) lackluster cooking - hoping the heat is turned up next week!

roastedbeet
roastedbeet

Excellent blog this week!

I particularly like the breakdown of how you would have made a gratin. Very interesting insight into your cooking process.

Keep them coming...

MomaCat
MomaCat

Couldn't agree more with Tom about the lackluster performances of the chef's this season & about Ty-Lor's attitude. He had every reason to whine & complain about what happened, but instead he stood up & took full responsibility. Hooray for him! With that kind of attitude he quickly became someone I can finally cheer for to make this season more interesting.

xiuxiu
xiuxiu

I think you're a little off about the comment about Ed being bothered by her use of his recipe--- how about Heather bake something up her own repertoire? Insist that he bake it? Come on... this is a competition; I think anyone would feel uncomfortable with someone using their recipe twice, then winning. It could have gone badly if he had done it himself, but ... still. While not the oyster fiasco with Richard/Mike, and I understand that there is no plagiarism in cooking, even as a viewer, it doesn't sit well with me, especially because Heather is so obnoxious towards some people in the competition. She says Bev always cooks asian food, now one can say she always bakes Ed's recipe...

FanFare57
FanFare57

i completely agree with your assessment of the lackluster performance by the chefs. Your point about group challenges seem to dummy down their output is well taken. Therefore, I reiterate my major complaint: why are there so many group challenges? They really don't give the chefs a chance to highlight their individual talents and POV.

lburns
lburns

I am probably not the only one to say this, but I'm getting really tired of these catering challenges. The show is called Top Chef not Top Caterer. I realize that you must be an excellent chef to pull off an event for 200+ guests successfully, but the goal of most of these chefs is to own a restaurant or something along those lines, correct? So if you're going to have a steak challenge (which I love because a perfectly cooked steak is my absolute favorite thing to eat), then have every chef prepare a steak. I'm not interested in who can bake a cake and who can cook the worst potato casserole or whatever it was (although I do agree that she deserved to be eliminated), but I would want to know who could actually prepare a mouth watering, perfectly cooked and seasoned steak. After watching the "steak challenge," I along with all of the other viewers don't know who can prepare the best steak. I guess it would be whatshisface with the weird hair, because he and Tyler are the only ones that made steak! Oh well, I still love the show!!!

Alex B
Alex B

I don't know what I think about this blog post from Tom. If you know the problem with these "Everyone in the same team" challenges, then why are we in season 9 (season 14 if you count just desserts and masters) and they're still happening?

Group work is sort of weird in Top Chef because then the judges are left asking "Who thought of the idea for this recipe, who did what component, so you cooked the shrimp and she did the sauce but who was responsible for the garnish?" etc. But everyone on 1 team means that everyone's already in the losing team and now they have to keep from being eliminated. At least if there are multiple teams there's some motivation to take a risk: keep your team from being on the bottom.

It's like in season 8 at the dim sum restaurant where Casey and Carla "took one for the team" and did service and lost full control over their dishes. Except there was only one team and they were basically giving up time to work on what they'd be judged on (because Top Chef can't afford two more waiters?). Both were in the bottom and one was eliminated. Maybe they would have done poorly if they were able to focus on their dishes and change them as problems arose, but we'll never know.

MichaelM
MichaelM

I agree with you on the basic flaws of the team challenges. As a producer of the show, why not advocate for changing the structure? Add an advantage for anyone who steps up as a leader, or takes risk in what they cook. Define the advantages up front and I think the contestants would step up.

nybkps
nybkps

Did you know Heather before this season's filming? The way she addresses you as "Tom", rather than "Chef" it appears that she expects more from you than fair judging. And, now, by how you've defended her in this blog, it looks like she got it. Her unprofessional bullying should be excused by you or anyone else.

Subhadeep
Subhadeep

Tom ... as a steak man can you please post 2 steak recipes:

A) I am a NY strip steak fan ... can you please post a good seared individual steak grilling method as well as a whole set and cut them up later like you mentioned during the episode and your blog? Can NY Strip be done as a block or individual only?

B) Same above for a tomahawk steak like the one you had Keith and Chuy do during LCK: as a block and individual.

I don't like cooking in kitchen on a searing pan and like to grill outside.

Thanks in advance ......

juliaxxx
juliaxxx

Top Chef started so great and it appeared you selected the best 16 chefs but now it looks like these chefs are so scared of being sent home they are playing it way too safe which makes for boring televison. too bad because it could have been a great season.