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A Class Act

Chris Cosentino and Patricia Yeo's collaboration in the kitchen reminds Ruth Reichl of her own culinary experiences.

By Ruth Reichl

Watching Chris and Patricia working together in the Quickfire reminded me of the sheer joy of collaboration in the kitchen. In my own kitchen career, there was one person with whom I shared that joyful kitchen ballet; she would use a saute pan, empty it out, and leave it on the burner just as I came up to toss in a glug of olive oil. We were a smooth, well-oiled machine with no wasted motions. Chris and Patricia were working like that, and watching them was pure pleasure. I think Lorena and Kerry got very, very lucky in this challenge. 

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But as far as I was concerned, there was no luck involved in the winner of the Elimination Challenge. Chris’ picnic for this Diner en Blanc was so beautiful that when I opened that box and looked inside I became instantly hungry. It was the world in a box -- the sea, the forest, the land -- each bite distinct and delicious, each bite different in flavor and texture from the one that came before. On the show you hear a lot about the fabulous pate and the lovely swordfish conserva, but I wish you could have tasted those marinated mushrooms; they were superb. More than any of the other chefs, Chris understood what would happen to his food as it sat waiting over night and he factored that in, producing a completely perfect picnic.

As for the other chefs; Lorena played it extremely safe. Her papa alla huancaina was delicious, but it’s a completely classic dish. And as she said herself, she serves that crowd-pleasing sweet chicken salad to people in her restaurant. Chocolate mousse? Another play-it-safe way to please a crowd. Pleasant enough, but not food you crave from a Top Chef Master.Although Patricia overintellectualized her food, allowing ideas to trump flavor, I was impressed with the reach of her picnic. Her salad was wonderful: sweet, sharp, a fine mix of flavors and textures.  And it was, above all, original. That bison was a nice idea, too, an interesting take on cold steak, and I liked the chile jam. The problem was that they didn’t seem to have much to say to one another.  As for the flat bread, that was, flat out, a bad idea. And it was the flatbread that sent her home.

Kerry’s food was smart, I’ll give him that. I especially liked the progression, the way the intensity of the flavors built.  I admired the cold cauliflower soup, which was both smooth, tasty, and lovely. The green bean and orzo salad was nice.  The chicken skewer? Pleasant enough. But like Lorena’s, not even close to what you want from a true master chef. 

For me, the best moment in this entire show comes at the very end. As Patricia walks out the door she says, “Help each other out.” A class act.


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