Lesley Suter's 'Ratatouille' Moment
Doug's food gives the critic hope for the future of food.
If there’s one question I get asked more than any other about my experience judging Top Chef Masters, it’s this: Is the food as good as it looks? In general, the answer is unequivocally YES, but I have to say that the dishes served on this season’s epic finale were among the finest I’ve had the pleasure of eating.
As someone that dines for a living, it can be easy to become jaded—to allow one perfectly prepared velouté blend into the next sublime portion of grass-fed beef short rib. It’s obnoxious to talk about—and I’m certainly not asking for sympathy—but the result is that I carry on waiting for dishes that snap me out of the food-writing fog. I like to say that these meals “make the room go quiet,” or gave me that “Ratatouille moment.” You know, when the mean critic takes a bite of the Remy’s dish and is whooshed out of the present back to his happy childhood? Well, this Top Chef Masters finale meal did exactly that.
In particular, two of Douglas’ dishes—the mussel broth with white wine, saffron, fennel puree, and uni, as well as the soba-wrapped ocean trout with ginger dashi and groats—had me looking forward not only to the dinner’s subsequent courses, but to the future of food. This is a kind of cooking that I’m thrilled to see taking hold in the U.S. The preparations are light but powerful, blending the best of minimalist Japanese fundamentals with pristine American seasonal ingredients. It’s not Asian-fusion—it’s just good cooking.
Congratulations to Bryan, Jennifer, and Douglas on a beyond superior meal. But to Douglas I have to say a special thanks. Your dishes left me feeling reinvigorated, humbled, inspired, and—as someone who gets to sample the work of Master Chefs like yourself for a living—like the luckiest girl in the world.