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Coming Full Circle

Harold Dieterle explains why he hated Restaurant Wars.

Going back to Restaurant Wars for a moment, I thought it sucked. I enjoy listening to Anthony Bourdain critique, but ... Well, first off I thought that the quick fire was actually pretty cool -- whipping up some eggs on the short order line. But you can't have an episode without Tom there and you can't have an elimination without Tom there. In my opinion I think its silly -- the competition is supposed to be about the contestants.

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Yeah, it's interesting to hear Bourdain and Padma critique the food, but it was a little much for me. I didn't particularly enjoy seeing Anthony inside a chef's coat walking around the kitchen. I just didn't. It's just not how I think of him. The guy's not known for being a famous chef; his credibility does not lie in food. But the guy has never created amazing food, that's not what he's known for. He's known for being a great book writer.

While at Les Halles, he made bistro food and there is nothing wrong with that because it's good but it's not the type of stuff that gives you mass credibility and unquestioned knowledge from a food standpoint. Tom's the head judge because he has multiple three-star restaurants and a James Beard winner. That's why he does what he does and why Anthony does what he does. So, for me, I wasn't crazy about the dynamic of it all.

I like Jose Andreas though --he's crazy, he's a wild man. I also didn't like the fact that if you won the Quickfire you got to pick your team. That's crazy -- it's like where's the random stuff? This is getting down to the nitty gritty and that's a ridiculous advantage! When you put a bunch of different personalities together, forget about it. You are going to just watch them pick each other apart, which is basically what happened. I didn't think that one team was that much stronger but the conflict of personalities is enough to set it over the edge. I think that Dale is a really strong chef, but I think he got hosed. I think it was tough -- here you're supposed to be a chef but if no one is going to listen to you and respect you, it's like the what's the point? So I thought the challenge was particularly tough on him.

Onto this week's challenge: It was really cool watching the chefs rip through their own rib-eye steak. Spike did a really nice job -- he went about it the right way by taking the fat of the rack first and using those bones as a gauge of how a chop is supposed do look. He went about it the way I would do it. When I was there I got to spend some time talking to Rick. I think that we kind of come from the same school were both very low-key and very quiet. I really like Rick. I don't know what his food philosophies are but as a person he seems pretty mild, really mild-mannered and doesn't seem like a lunatic. He knows what he likes and is able to articulate about food well and I thought he was a cool dude. I really liked his restaurant. The thing about picking the scallops was a horrible call. And if I remember correctly he used canned hearts of palms as well inside the dish and that was another big problem. I thought that his rib-eye was really nice and it would have been nice was if he would have presented it more, especially for the tasting, kind of similar to what Antonia did with her gratin which I thought was cool. It was really good -- there was a lot of good food. I thought as a whole the two dishes by Stephanie were the best. Probably one of the best dishes that I had in the last five years was Richard's appetizer. It was ridiculous. That dish was really impressive and it was definitely my motivation to want to go eat at his restaurant in Atlanta. The sweetbreads and the hamachi was ridiculous and even Stephanie's was really good.

Richard's comment about enjoying that cut of beef more as he grows older didn't really make sense to me. I think that people that start to learn a little bit about beef and meat tend to start up at the tenderloin and then move their way to the strip and then maybe to the rib-eye eventually because it has more fat and it has more flavor. So I didn't really understand his philosophy on that. But the food was good. I was kind of hoping that someone was going to pull out a hanger steak or a flatiron steak, something more of a butcher or a chef's cut. You can have some fun with that and hanger steak is probably my favorite. Does Rick use frozen scallops in his restaurant? No freaking way. What it boils down to is that it was kind of hard to see what he had to work with, but why pick it if it's frozen? If you use frozen shrimp it's one thing because shrimp doesn't absorb water and moisture like scallops do. And frozen scallops are sheeted, so you see a scallop and it's sitting in a muddle of milky liquid. That's the treatment they put in scallops so you want to try and steer clear of those.

As for the final four, I thought Dale was going to be in there because I think that he is really strong. I definitely thought that Antonia, Richard, and Stephanie would be there and those were three of my favorites. You don't know what the elimination Quickfire is going to be and that comes down to straight up cooking. Throughout the competition, I thought the last episode was building up to it. I thought Stephanie had huge advantage because she has done beef quite a few times and she's done really well with it. I don't know -- I think that they are all really strong. I think Richard is probably the most creative out of the three of them. I think that Antonia is really smart and she really pays attention to what the challenges are and gives the judges what they want. I think Stephanie just cooks really good and solid food, food that I want to eat all the time. Lisa's style is very, very Asian and wasn't that crazy about either one of her dishes that she made. But obviously she can cook because she's there.

So I think that anything can happen especially when you get into that finale situation -- you're so nervous it's crazy. Harold

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