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It was the wrong night for me to attend a progressive dinner party.
I was overdue to have back surgery (which I finally had in October), and my back was particularly bad that night, which made walking from house to house – not to mention the simple act of sitting – a misery. So I wasn’t exactly in a party frame of mind. But our hosts were very gracious, and I had my friend John Besh with us, whom I don’t often get to see, which helped me make it through.
As you know, our chefs were asked to cook a dish for a course of this progressive dinner party. Cooking for a dinner party is totally different than cooking at a restaurant. There are so many things I would do at home that I wouldn’t consider doing in a restaurant and vice versa.
For example, cooking for a dinner party at home gives a chef the opportunity to make things whole, and then slice them. At home, I’ll make a whole roast, keep it self-contained, then slice and serve it; I would never cook ten individual pieces of filet mignon.For those of you who thought that every challenge would require that the chefs cook Tex-Mex, sorry to disappoint, but here was a challenge that essentially asked them not to. Quite the opposite, the chefs were given free-rein and a chance to showcase their signature styles. I think that our chefs got too caught up with trying to deliver the “wow factor” rather than just making good food. Yes, one of our hosts said he wanted the food to be “a conversation starter,” but it should be a conversation starter by being well-conceived and well-executed, rather than by being gimmicky. And yes, one of our hosts said something about nothing being too rich for Texas, but that didn’t mean that our chefs should overdo their dishes and throw too many elements onto their plates.
I love your show and have followed it for many seasons. Tonight made me sick, do millionaires really need Top Chef Cooks to serve them? I live in Iowa and work at a soup kitchen every Sunday, you would be suprised at the meals that are created and the appreciation we receive! I would Love to see an episode at our shelter, and there are plenty of foodies like myself that could judge. You might also be suprised by some of our homeless, they are use to a really good meal at Father Conroys Vineyard in Davenport, IA.
I didn't notice you being "grumpy" at all, so bravo (ha) on hiding your discomfort. My other comment is that I was disappointed in some of the Chef's this week who made derogatory comments about the party hosts. Reality TV or not, they were guests in those people's homes, and as your Mother says, "If you don't have anything nice to say...."
Good episode, and seemed like a good call on the overcooked salmon...ick. Here's my question though: It seems like every time a dessert is required on Top Chef, there's at least one (or more) chefs who grumble and say "I don't do desserts." I realize that there are some amazing chefs out there who hire separate pastry chefs in their restaurants. But I get annoyed when I hear contestants say things like "I don't want to get kicked off for a dessert." Do you cut the chefs a break when their worst dish is a dessert and they're not "a dessert/pastry chef?" I'm guessing your answer would be no, but I'd be curious to hear sometime how you judge desserts against other dishes, when many of the chefs seem to feel it's not an essential skill to be a "top chef"...
Loving the show as usual!!
Love your blog Tom! This is my first time to comment and I have never missed a show. I had to weigh in especially due to the location as I am from North Richland Hills (suburb of Fort Worth). Highland Park or as we call it here "The Bubble" was true to form - sad to say. They came off as pretentious and trying too hard. But what can you say about a neighborhood that at night ensures that all their windows/blinds are open, lights on, just so you can see what they have in their homes! Tacky and classless! But besides my rant (sorry, but embarrassed for my town), the right guy went home. He even admitted that he had to overcook the salmon to cook the cheese and seemed to think overcooked salmon is edible. This is really late, but Tom my husband and I were excited that you were on the cover of the first publication of "Guitar Aficionado". How cool is that?
It was an interesting challenge, but I wish you (the show in general) could have chosen hosts who were more representative of both Dallas and Texas. As a resident of Dallas, these three couples made me want to cringe. Such a stereotypical choice that left an out-of-balance taste - kind of like some of the food presented tonight.
I had higher hopes for the Dallas segment of the season after the great episodes in San Antonio that reflected the uniqueness of South Texas culture. Hopefully, the remaining episodes will be more in balance with what Dallas is really like.
I find it amusing that only men have been eliminated so far. The Women have shown what terrific chefs they are..
I am sorry to hear about your surgery and wish for you a quick, smooth, and easy recovery. I am also, I guess, relieved to read that was the reason for your mood because last night's show in Dallas was painful to watch. Top Chef has many avid fans in my family. We have all been so looking forward to the Texas episodes and man, are we let down. We hail from San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas and we are all bummed. Could it be produced with a more stereotypically, negative bias toward Texas? Highland Park?! Ever hear of Bishop Arts District, Deep Ellum, Greenville Avenue, Lakewood, Oak Cliff? We don't all wear cowboy boots, denim dresses, a redneck twang, & our noses in the air. Not that anyone watching Top Chef would know it but Texas rocks!
Tom, sorry about your back. I was totally noticing you seemed to be having a crappy time. I watch just for your comments. Thought it must've been the company. 800-1,200 wedding guests? Aahh. the sadness of noveau money. It was nice of them to host, but .... snore. I would love to see a little more of the techniques that go into the meals.
The producers really missed the mark with this show. In this time of economic struggles, it seemed inappropriate to have spoiled, high-maintenance, Real-Housewife Wannabes as your guests/hosts for Top Chef.
On the other hand, I love the last chance kitchen!
You did not appear overly grumpy although you did move uncomfortably. Hope your surgery went well. We were truly disappointed that you (the show) would choose such a pretentious place as Highland Park to offer your services. As another viewer stated, it would have been more appropriate to have the chefs cook for a homeless shelter. Also there are many families that travel to the DFW area for medical treatment. Maybe you should consider preparing meals for those families that are worried about their family members in the hospital undergoing some type of medical treatment. The families are usually living in area hotels/motels and would certainly appreciate a home cooked meal. The clients were obnoxious and painful to watch. If the show continues down this road; it may be time for a change...
I too wish you had chosen more interesting people from Park Cities-those couples were some of the least interesting clients ever-if the chefs had paid attention to their taste, the awful strawberry cupcakes would have won. Also, I love John Besh but could you not have gotten one of the good chefs of Dallas for this challenge? Was Central Market not interested in being part of this season or do you have a contract with Whole Foods? Although the cigar was a close second, Chuy was the right loser since I think he knew overcooked salmon would not fly. I like this year's cast and the way most challenges are being handled but some of the choices for showing Texas and Texans are off the mark. There are some old time Texas characters in Park Cities. Their taste would probably be similar to that of the Yuppies shown but they themselves would have been far more interesting to watch as would their reaction to the food.
I think the couples chosen for this episode were terrible. Very pretentious and rather forced. I would rather see the top chefs cook for a homeless shelter than for these self-absorbed snobs.
I could tell something was wrong with you Tom. You seemed aggravated and irritated. Sorry you were in pain. HOpe your surgery went well. Back pain affects the full body in many ways.
Some interesting challenges this season. Keep up the good work Tom.
I thought you were grumpy because all of the dishes were sort of uninspired if you ask me. Even the top ones IMHO.
I agree with meg. this was the first episode that i felt ill. non of the the high-eend 'clients' were likable. i thought the real housewives in california were fake, but the dallas folks rate right up there! the women have as much personality as a rock!
Thank you for your blog and explanation of how your felt that night. You seemed unusually negative and moody. Well, it was another forgettable show. I actually fell asleep during it. I couldn't remember who won or who lost. The hosts were demanding and wives, in particular were simply vacuous. None of them seemed to understand fine dining. They may pay big bucks for their meals. It doesn't mean they bought class. Thus far, this season is uninteresting and gimmick filled. It leaves as bad a taste in mouth as the ill conceived appetizer: the cigar. No, I wouldn't want to eat that gross looking thing. He should have been canned instead of the little fellow.
I gotta agree with Dallasite. SOOOOO unrepresentative of the Dallas foodie crowd. And so unrepresentative of Dallas, as a whole. Really, one of those ladies was from (*gasp*) Canada! Highland Park used to be a beautiful neighborhood of lovely bungalows on vast expanses of lawn, shaded by enormous old trees. Now a wasteland of zero-lot-line McMansions that have no character. Really, Dallas has a fabulous foodie crowd, and we would have been represented better by a visit to some of the amazing pop-ups we've been enjoying here the last couple of years. Cringed all night long.
Love the show and watch it every season and also love your blog! I have to agree with Dallasite. I live in Dallas too and have to say Highland Park is not representative of this city - it may be representative of the very wealthy in Dallas but the very wealthy are definitely a very small part of the people who make their home here. Especially in this economy where a lot of people here and in other places around the country are struggling, to flaunt wealth and make a show centered around the fact that these people are extremely wealthy seems rather tacky to me. Hope the next shows in Dallas showcase a broader view of the city.
I've thoroughly enjoyed this season so far. The twist at the beginning in how the cheftestants were chosen was great, and I've been following 'Last Chance Kitchen' with great interest. I'm looking forward to seeing who ends up victorious as well as the reaction of the other chefs when the winner rejoins them. I also wanted to add that I hope your surgery went well, Tom. Having been through three surgeries myself, I truly understand the pain brought on by disc herniation.
Tom, having had back surgery myself, you have my sympathy.
I have watched every episode of every season of Top Chef and it's spin-offs. In a season which I've found disappointing so far, the Nov 30 episode was perfectly awful. If it had been a dish, I'm pretty sure you would have spit it out. The hosts requested pedestrian food, and, as near as one can tell on TV, they got it. And if they had class to match their wealth and pretension it certainly did not come through on the screen. John Besh had to tell one of the women that the red wine reduction wasn't blood and the editors left it in? I normally watch your show wishing I could be at the party. Not last night.
I know you didn't set out to make a bad show any more than the chefs set out to make a bad dish, but you did. It may be too much to expect that you top All Stars, or your absolute best, Season 6, but I know you (or all y'all as they'd say in Texas) can do better than this.
Nice save tom. Had I spent a dinner party with those three couples, I would have blown my brains out. For a more fun, and a bit more, ahem, diverse, dinner progressive, drop me a line when you're in DC!
You're the man Tom. Even a healthy back could not withstand the level of pretension and materialism you were dealing with in Stepford, TX on the show last night.
Part of being a pro is sucking it up and dealing with a lot of things you don't like, so to the chefs that were able to put their heads down and just cook, good on you.
But thank you, Tom, for making it all bearable. It was almost "must turn off" TV on my favorite show.
I hope you are feeling better post surgery, Tom. We'd forgive you if your facial expressions were in response to the vapid comments by the dinner party hosts. These people are the worst. They don't like to try new things? They think the dessert looks like a wittle Elmos face? They don't like cilantro or food getting stuck in their teeth? Why would a show about food choose hosts/judges who don't like to try new things, would consider a pink food-themed party and brag about a gummy bear wedding cake? Wow, they really are lifestyle experts. I would have loved to hear what Tom, Gail, Padma and John Besh *really" thought about those hosts' comments.
Tom, sorry to hear about your back.
As someone who has spent most of his life in Dallas, I have to say last night's episode was both frustrating and embarrassing. There are many foodies in this city and there are even many people in the Park Cities that would represent the area better. It is very easy for shows that come to Dallas to play on the stereotypical big money, big everything image. The show had the opportunity to take the time to learn more about the area and portray the many non-pretentious elements of this town. Or hell, showing the pretentious but foodie side of Dallas would have been better. But seeing as how the show is going to South Fork Ranch next week, it looks as though stereotypes will be the name of the game. I hope I am wrong.
Hope the back is better. the hosts were certainly interesting! I'm sure you had quite the time. he likes meat, she likes veggies! gummy bear wedding cake! deserts "worth" the calories! my wife and I enjoyed the hosts' shenanigans to no end. And it was clear that they knew what they liked when it came to food. Just goes to show how sophisticated and diverse the culinary culture is in Dallas.
While we do dinner progressives from time to time, it's a much different experience, and you're always welcome. If you ever find yourself in DC, let's go pick on Isabella at Graffiato, grab a couple cigars, and make a night of it.
Cheers, and thanks for the great blog!
First, Tom - I hope you are recovering, back injuries are very hard for most people to understand the pain of just sitting in a dinning chair after back injury. Second, I am sorry but I was so disappointed in the show. I have met many people from Texas, and the three couples did not represent anyone I have ever met from Texas. Frankly, I nearly decided to stop watching the show after this episode. I really hope the season will quickly make up for this poor episode and I hope Austin gets a big representation for the very unique and cool town it is for food and culture. Not to mention, most foodies know that it is the birth place of Whole Foods Market!
I enjoyed cooking part of the challenge, but thought the hosts were poorly chosen. These three couples were plastic, boring and childish. They didn't seem to have many social skills and their comments were dull. Honestly, it seemed a caricature of both social climbers and Dallas itself. I'm glad Mr. Colicchio cleared up what was causing his bad mood, because I thought the hosts were the culprit. Last nights show reminded me of a bad Kardashian episode, where money, status and flat expressions rule the day. I expect more from Top Chef—a champion of creativity, individuality and ingenuity.
Tom good luck with the back sugery, went through that and it is painful. Usually enjoy the show but last night seemed off, not only some of the food but the whole format, even the judges energy seemed subdued, of which yours is explained.
This episode made me smile.
Paul Qui, the most talented chef ever to compete on Top Chef, won again. And although Chuy, who is extremely talented, went home, there is still plenty of talent. I especially love Ed, Paul, Grayson and Nyesha.
I'm glad that you explained your grumpiness because we all, as viewers, noticed it.
A lame idea, but what the hell, for a future episode. Break up the contestants into two teams. Simply cook a 4 course meal in two hours. The twist, the contestants get to the kitchens only to find they are totally trashed and have to be cleaned before they start, clean and cook all in 2 hours
You were so rude. I understand that the (seemingly very nice) couples were deliberately chosen for the Bravo audience demographic to sneer and laugh at, but you were a guest in their homes and should have controlled yourself. Watching you laugh at them was so mean, and confirmed everything most people think about pretentious foodies.
I love Top Chef, and I have seen every episode of every season. Last night's show was the worst of any in Top Chef's nine seasons. I felt ill just watching it. Whoever chose those empty-headed millionaires should pack their knives and go. With so many people homeless and struggling to make ends meet, choosing those hosts was in poor taste. Is this the best of Texas? Yuck!
I'm really starting to dislike a lot of the chefs this season. I feel that the skill level of these chefs is not as high as in previous seasons.
I'm a huge fan of the show, very loyal viewer. Please don't do anymore shows with out of touch, rich, snobby socialites. Who cares what these people think? I get that its a component of the culinary scene to cater to these interests, but these people SUCKED!
I hope your back surgery went well. Must've made you wince like me when the chefs were forced to STOOP in a field for 30 minutes trying to do the quickfire challenge. Cooking in unfamiliar surroundings shouldn't include tortuous conditions where people are going to get hurt. I knew the second it started there would be trouble. I'm suprised the overweight chefs were able to get through it without experiencing severe back pain. If you judges can't imagine doing the quickfire at this stage in your lives, pregnant, with a bad back, overweight, etc. then why is it fair to expect these chefs to do it? That quickfire challege actively discriminates against the chefs of size or who happen to have a touchy back... VERY common after childbirth or a tough season of cooking, household project, etc. If you're not considering ergonomics and back safety in these challenges, you're not doing right by these contestents who trust you to keep them safe during the competition. If it's impossible for a chef with a disability or pregnancy to complete a challenge without being injured and in agony, you are doing wrong by all chefs in every workplace.
I was very disappointed in the show probably for the first time since its inception. The Stepford couples were the most despicable people. I literally thought I was watching a movie parodying of these type of people. I kept on having to snap back into reality and realize that yes, there are indeed people who are that fake and disturbing in this world.
I have great respect for the show and its contestants, so that is why it bothered me that it would sink so low as to promote such horrible people. Plus I won't even get into the fact of putting these people on a pedestal during a period of time in our country when many are hurting. This isn't the Kardashians or Real Houswives of Emasculated Husbands, this is Top Chef...one of the very few respectable reality TV shows out there.
I am from Texas, and have lived here my whole life. The show last night was an embarassment to Texans. I just want the world to know that most people in Texas, both with money and without, are not so silly and pretentious. Texans are very welcoming, friendly people, and few are as shallow as those couples that were chosen to represent Dallas. Please don't play to the sterotype. I do believe you would have a much harder time finding those sterotypical Texans than finding the "real" people of Texas. Texas is extremely diverse, please show the diversity, the interesting, even the weird, but, PLEASE, PLEASE don't continue to perpetuate a false sterotype.
Tom, I'm sorry you are in so mich pain. I will remember you in my prayers. I love the show and am an avid viewer.
I don't know why everyone is down on choosing Park Cities as the location for the show. Who do you think sustains the restaurants that all these chefs aspire to own? It's not the "foodie" types (I hate that word, as it happens) because they don't have enough money for expensive dinners on a regular basis. Top Chef showcases and features the top .1% (or higher) of the culinary industry, so I don't know why it's such a big deal to have some wealthy couples on air unless your pretension is only acceptable where taste in food is concerned. Frankly I thought the episode was condescending to the hosts on the part of both contestants and judges (maybe that was the bad back - I think I am willing to give you the benefit of the doubt). As an aside, are we going to have any judges from the host cities by the time this season is over? You imported judges from LA to judge chili at a rodeo? Just seems like odd choices. I guess this happens in every season and maybe I'm just taking it more personally because I live in Dallas.
Tom, I'm glad you are happily recovering from your surgery. While I've watched the show in all its versions since Season 2, this week's episode was the first one that inspired me to check the blogs. When I saw your facial expressions at the second house, I wondered if you had been given something raw or rotten but weren't saying anything -- it looked like stomach distress. I'm guessing the camera just caught the right angle for your expression of back pain, which judging from the look on your face was horrific.
I hope you have a speedy recovery and feel much happier soon!
My wife and I have enjoyed watching all The Top Chef shows, but I find the main series is progressively losing its way. For your viewers please focus on the cooking more, e.g. Masters and AllStars, so the audience can watch, learn, and be inspired to mimic your great chef contestants. Challenge them with products, time limits, cooking environments, and less with the interpersonal dilemmas of team challenges.
Still love the show and judges, just expecting the greatness that you've served up many times before.
After watching the “Door to Door” episode I sure hope you get the show back on track. To me, it came across more like a new program called “Yuppies of Dallas.” Best wishes on healing up after your surgery.
I have been a fan of Top Chef since season 1. I love learning about new types of food or new ways to prepare things. It seems that the contestants have been chosen based on their actual talent rather than in their ability to cause drama as in early seasons (season 2), which is a refreshing change from other reality tv!
I loved All-Stars! It was great to get to see the old contestants and to root for them again. So far this season has been great! I wasn't so sure about the contestants cooking for their chef coats, but it turned out to be something entertaining and fresh for the show. Last chef standing is a wonderful idea too! I think making it all the way through that would be even more difficult than cooking on the real show!
I love that viewers get an insight into the judges decisions through the blog. I appreciate Tom mentioning that he reads the blogs and wants feedback from fans. I'd love to see more Tom! The whole oogling of Padma is getting old...and it bothers me that she voices her opinion so much. What are her credentials that make her opinion of equal value to that of the other judges?
Keep up the good work! :)
Hi Tom, glad you're feeling better after your back surgery. It was a very interesting show to me. The world of the private chef is so very different from a restaurant chef, but it's still a reminder that the customer is always right. I was surprised that no one commented on Ed showcasing raspberries, since the hostess of the dessert course said she didn't like them.
The money in those three houses was sort of sickening, but that's the way it is in every town. Here in north Alabama, there are many people with tons of money, but our elbows will never rub. Alas that I couldn't be one of them...
It was awesome to see John Besh! My husband is from New Orleans, and we're both big fans of Chef Besh. I didn't realize that his restaurant Luc is in San Antonio - makes me want to return to that glorious city.
What on earth was Chris C thinking with that God-awful cigar? It would have been a bad idea for a bachelor's party, forget about an elegant dinner party! Chris was lucky that the cooking wasn't bad to boot, because it would have been him joining his little buddy Richie in the exit. I was shocked to see Chuy not do well, but bad cooking on top of a bad idea usually spells TC doom. It's easier to forgive sloppy presentation (Ty) than to forgive overcooked fish. As you said in an earlier blog, seafood protein cannot be saved if it's overcooked.
Loved it that roasted brussels sprouts won the challenge! And was it two desserts that made it to the favorites list? That was a good reminder that TC is more than just the entree course.
I'm glad that you're on the mend with your back, just take it easy til you're completely healed. Looking forward to the rest of the season!
So very unfortunate that you chose to represent Dallas in this way. Where were the Dallas area guest chef judges? So many to choose from! Why would you choose the settings/hosts that you did? So embarrassed for them and you. I personally know the hosts and felt horrible for how they came off on the show. I can only imagine how much fun was had in the edit bay as editors chose to portray the hosts in the worst possible light.
Top Chef missed out on an opportunity to explore and showcase great cuisine in Dallas and Texas, so far. Instead, you have reached for cliche after cliche. Rodeos, chili, state troopers and vapid socialites. Oh yes, and let's not forget, we have South Fork to look forward to.
As a Twitter follower I knew you had an epidural to try and get through shooting the season this past summer. Hope your surgery is successful and your rehab is progressing. I'm having my own back surgery Dec 7.
I really enjoy the show, the personalities and competition, and the techniques I've picked up. In 9 season's the progressive dinner was the first show I almost turned off. While some of the contestants made some particularly glaring errors, I felt the home kitchen situations contributed to that. However, I'm not sure that even YOU could have satisfied those dim-witted palates. A party-planner that won't eat half the things on earth, and one woman that I'm betting doesn't even know where her kitchen is? When she said she wouldnt eat the Panna Cotta because it was "jiggling", I was done.
I just assumed your less than warm demeanor was the result of having to do an all day shoot with those people. Youch!
Good to read the other post and find out they were not happy with the so called host. I am from Texas and this show is making Texans look stupid. Those women were nothing more than trophy wives and cook not cook them selves out of a wet paper bag. The men well what can you say? I have watched every episode of Top Chef and this one was enough to make me rethink my choice.
I absolutely love top chef, and am sure to watch every single week. I read a lot of comments about this episode making Dallas look bad, and giving off false pretenses about the people there. I would just like to say I'm from new jersey, so no one should expect sympathy from me. I mean.,, jerseylicious? real housewives of new jersey? jersey shore? there are stereotypes everywhere haha. when I saw the episode I was thinking you looked really down, and was sincerely hoping this wasn't foreshadowing some detachment from the show. so glad that wasn't the case, which sounds bad considering the alternative was that you were in pain. love the show, best recovery wishes!!