Tom Colicchio

Tom Colicchio offers solutions to the chefs' dish problems.

on Dec 5, 2012

Everything was bad this week… but not because these ingredients were so hard to work with. Look, when we get a seafood dish with sand in it, that dish didn’t fail because the ingredient was hard to work with. Execution was poor. 

But there was another problem evident this week as well. Every single one of the ingredients could have been worked into the dishes better. The problem was that no one this week was creative. There was not one dish that we judges could point to and say “that looks interesting.  This chef is thinking differently.” Nothing looked like it came from a chef with any accomplishment. It is not enough to just do a burger with a pickle. As I said onscreen, and as I show in my cookbook, Think Like a Chef, when you have an ingredient, it should inspire you to think what you can do with it, not what you can put it with. I appreciated that Tyler at least thought to try to bread the pickle. At least he endeavored to do something with it. It wasn't a good something, but it was something. 

But even so, there was a real failure of imagination, of creativity, here. There were so many directions in which this pair could have gone. For example, what about using the spicy pickle in your own version of a Sauce Gribiche, which is a classic French sauce similar to a tartar sauce, made with hardcooked eggs, capers and, traditionally, cornichons. That would have been “doing something with” the pickle. Heston Blumenthal, one of the most creative chefs out there today, puts the classic Sauce Gribiche to a wildly imaginative purpose, using it, along with an “edible soil” of olives and grape nuts, to anchor his “Garden Salad with Sauce Gribiche” recipe, in which his vegetables seem to be planted in the soil, ripe for the diner to pick. Whimsical and delicious. You can take something as simple as the spicy pickle and turn it into something very, very modern, interesting, and special… or you can just look at it as a pickle. Even if you didn’t go as far “out there” as Blumenthal does, but you made a gribiche or just a more conventional tartar sauce and then went the American route of using it with fish, you’d still be creating something from the ingredient.