Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

My Idol Has a Last Name -- It's M-E-Y-E-R

Hugh Acheson lauds this week's guest judge, Danny Meyer.

The tall man is still a champion in Last Chance Kitchen. If you don’t watch LCK, you should. It’s a fun 12 minutes or so. 

John Tesar is gone but not easily forgotten. He is now carefully tending to his favorite flat-bottomed risotto pot, plotting a burger chain, and building a nefarious weapon that will make all the pickles in the world his and only his. 

Not everyone is always happy to see John go though. Stefan misses his morning smoking buddy, but everyone else is ebullient. Josie is all excited about all Asians this morning. It’s either headbands, football, or Asians -- the days just revolve around the topics with that one. 

Wolfgang Puck is in the house. 

Ginger QF. They are cooking redheads. Stefan tells us the basics of ginger, and it really does sound like he’s reading from the Finnish/German translation of the Wikipedia page. Canada Dry ginger ale is stacked high in this challenge, but I don’t think you have to use it. Ginger is pretty versatile in the kitchen, but this challenge is a new one for me. They could make anything. I would probably make a shaved beef salad with ginger/citrus vinaigrette, pickled ginger, and crisp rice. Or a bourbon and ginger to drink and just quietly nestle under the table and hope that no one would notice. I do that sometimes. 

Meanwhile, Micah is being a p---y about the time constraint. The real test to whether you are a p---y is starting off the chat with,“I am not a p---y, BUT….” It’s like losing a swim race and sayin’, “I am not a sore loser, but is this a Olympic-approved pool? Cause I can only race well in those.”

This is a speedy showdown, so remember what I’ve told you in the past: finding your bearings and getting a plan, 5 mins; cooking, at least ten minutes; two minutes to plate up. See, already you’re out of time. Sheldon is swearing at his Chinese fast food because he saw that once at the food court at the mall. He’s also feeling the pressure of Josie making this a race-related day.  Meanwhile Josie and Josh are trying to procreate by bumping into each other. In nine months there will be an awkward celebration with everyone in headbands that say Chef Daddy, Chef Mommy, Chef Baby.

Josh has made a white chocolate thing, Josie a busy scallop, and Brooke squid with caramel. Lizzie has made a watermelon soup with Canada Dry. Micah has artfully arranged a shrimp salad with plums. Kristen has made a Thai-inspired ginger salad with brie. Weird. Sheldon has made No. 14 on the left side of all takeout Chinese joints. Stefan has appealed to Puck with a California tuna plate. He and Wolfgang converse in the language of love, German. 

Bottoms are Sheldon and Josh. “Now Josh, what is the opposite of overwhelmed?” Wolfgang is making up for the soft mittens approach he had in the first episode and just slaying these chefs. 

Tops are Brooke, Stefan, and Lizzie. Micah is lost in the middle again. Brooke wins with her squid deliciousness. 

Out comes Danny Meyer. Danny owns all of the fine dining restaurants in the world that Wolfgang doesn’t, plus the Dubai-headquartered Shake Shack (Sheik Shack LLC). I digress from shenanigans to say that I look at these two restaurateurs as awe-inspiring mentors who have taught the world so much about hospitality and authenticity in restaurants. One day when I am looking for a dishwashing job at Spago or Gramercy Tavern I hope they remember the kind words. 

Josh does correctly say that Danny is probably not coming out to OKC anytime soon, so this may be his only the time to make an impression. I dunno, Mr. Meyer likes him some BBQ and has been known to wander in Texas looking for it; who knows-- maybe his compass will point North to OKC one of these days. But if this season is any indication of the Josh’s porcine skillset, Danny has a one in four chance of enjoying great pork on the visit. 

It’s a quasi Restaurant Wars, but it’s a little different from normal, as it's in two parts. Each person is doing a dish from their on-the-fly restaurant concept. There will be two winners and then Part 2 of Restaurant Wars will be the next episode. They get to shopping and Sheldon is in heaven, because heaven is a suburban Asian foods super-store. He and I feel the same way because I think I saw god at the Super H mart in Suwanee, GA. Micah is finding his raw food niche, making damn sure you know he lives in L.A. Kristen recounts how she’s really lived through a crazy couple of years and she deserves to be here.

The booted cheftestants are the sous-chefs for this challenge, including crazy Carla. Stefan welcomes her with a comment about her a--. Stefan doesn’t really play the closet sexist… he wears it with pride. Josie bowls over Kuniko with enthusiasm. Lizzie is dumping all her dumpling work on Eliza.

Tom does his walk-around, and finds that Brooke wants to show the world some Jewish sensibility while still serving very un-kosher food. He visits Kristen, and they realize Kristen is now officially rich from the show. Tom tells her to invest in old guitars and everything will be fine. The rest of them wrap up Josie in plastic wrap and hope for the best. 

Back at the Olive 8, Sheldon is 30! He calls his daughters. Great picture of his kids. Awesome. I mean that.

They are set up in some outdoor Ikea furniture lot. But it’s inside! Crazy! It’s Bite of Seattle! If I had jobs to dole out I would not let Carla handle the liquid nitrogen. She’s disposed of bodies this way back in the day. You freeze them solid and then they just shatter. I have just written an episode of Dexter in my head. 

Kuniko thinks this is a good day for Micah. Maybe this is opposite day? 

Pictures of when Tom had hair. Stefan celebrated this moment by spreading the joy of hot bisque on everyone in a ten-meter vicinity. 

The food goes on. Josh has steak, Lizzie has a Northern Italian/German dumpling thing.  Danny is a very serious man. I want him to make a fart joke, but he won’t. He just won’t. Sheldon has made a Filipino soup and Stefan has made a coconut milk soup and a frozen pop thing. Padma seems to think that Stefan has made that frozen pop thing before… for them…  on Top Chef. The pitfalls of coming on this show multiple times are numerous. They love Sheldon’s soup and kind of like Stefan’s. 

Micah’s raw sensory perception is busy. Kristen’s Onsen egg is delightful. As fancy as that sounds, it’s just a slow-cooked egg at a prescribed temperature. I like 63 C. Danny asks her, with his “Let’s get crazy!” zeal, “What will be the style of the restaurant, in terms of formality?” This type of calm and focused demeanor is why he wins, and I continue to refer to myself as an idiot. Must get more serious. Must get more serious. Stefan practices his sexism on Kristen, but I get the feeling she’s playing him much more than he’s thinking he’s playing her. She has outcooked him again and that has to weigh on the relationship. 

Josie has channeled all of the berry farm memories and is playing bad chef at the demo table again. She gets nervous with laughter when she gets in the weeds. It’s a tell. Not a good one. 

Brooke takes a really long time explaining her UnKosher dish but it looks cool. Josie staggers and talks about Miami, 2LiveCrew, area codes,and everything except for food. Sadly the matzoh is leaden and offends Gail’s whole tribe, but there is a shining light for Brooke, as Josie’s pork is way too done, no matter the amount of Magik sauce you apply.

The judges talk restaurant and there is some good wisdom in there. I could listen to Tom and Danny talk about restaurants all day long. 

Tops are Sheldon, Josh, and Kristen. The concepts from all three came through. Josh seems to have calmed down in this episode and is not so angry and whiny. He cooks better when rested and happy; we all do. 

Sheldon wins for his homage to his Filipino ancestry and Kristen wins for her egg. They will be the bosses for the next half of Restaurant Wars. They are charged with picking the teams for the next challenge. But the trick is that they will be splitting the folks up before the loser is called out for this part of the competition, meaning one team is going to be one person light. There’s a minivan in this for the winner. 

Kristen misses the chance to pick Stefan for her team. Ouch. Stefan is busy writing her one of those grade 4 notes, “Do you like me?” It just happens that it gets all split down gender lines. Should be exciting. But we still have someone to send home now and Micah, Josie, and Lizzie line up in front of the firing squad. All three have some big flaws. Is Lizzie all pissy? She seems a little mad that she wasn’t allowed to fully explain her dumpling. We do glean a poem by Danny though:

“The minute I tried to
Put my fork into that pork
And the pork fought back
I said, This is gonna be a problem.”

Micah goes home. He is sad but thankful. I thought he was a good competitor in all of this and wish him well. Godspeed.

 

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Richard: "Winning Is Overrated"

Richard Blais congratulates Doug Adams on his admirable run and knows (from experience) this is just the beginning for this talented chef.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef.

Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about. A jumping off point for unrecognized or yet truly discovered talent.

Mr. Adams, yes I'm saying Mister because it pays respect to the man, and also because that's how The New York Times goes about things, came on to this season touting his resume of being a working class sous chef from Portland.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef. Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about.

Richard Blais

Sous chefs are on the line everyday (sous chefs from Portland I imagine are also butchering whole animals and foraging for botanicals, buts that's for a different blog). They are hands-on, blue collar grinders and early on Doug uses this statement to separate himself from the contestants who maybe are clipboard surfing, or worse, not even really in a restaurant at this stage of their careers. And although this is a part of his strategy or drive, and a very honest personal understanding and awareness of self, I have news for you...

Doug Adams is no longer a sous chef.

Sure, he may actually, technically still carry the title tonight, I'm not certain to be honest, but by his performance this season on Top Chef, he is now ready for the next stage in his career, and this is what can happen and should happen after Top Chef.

I can't imagine someone not taking a chance with giving Doug the opportunity to run a small restaurant. I can't imagine that someone out there tonight, hearing about Doug's goal of operating a Montana restaurant, connected in some way to hunting and fishing won't contact him. I can't imagine it; because it happened to me... My restaurant Juniper & Ivy in San Diego is a direct connection from my performance on Top Chef, and my gut tells me it had very little to do with "winning."

The fact is, winning is overrated.

Winning is fun. It may get you some cash or secure your ego, yes, but really, six months after this thing runs out on television, we are all just "that guy or girl from Top Chef.

Throughout this season, Doug has demonstrated everything one looks for in a great business partner. He cooks delicious, relatable, soulful food. He does it with a smile on his face. He cooks with a sense of authorship and knowledge of place and time. And perhaps most importantly (no, not his epic beard), most importantly, he communicates with his colleagues professionally and with integrity. I'd guess every cheftestant likes him. I know every judge likes him. He takes risks, like roasting a whole lobe of Foie gras, or say, blending up an aioli of ant eggs. Which, by the way, are you kidding me? Maybe he takes these chances because it's part of the game, but I think more so because Doug is a curious cook, which is a sure tell sign of a chef ready to do their own thing.

Doug, it may seem like I never had anything positive to say about your food, and maybe indeed that's how it played out on television, but it's not the case, Chef.

Congrats on an amazing run, one for all future contestants to take note of. And when rooms become available at your resort in Montana, I'm booking...

Blais
@RichardBlais (Instagram & Twitter)

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