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Film Food

Padma laments on the chef's lack of imagination.

By Padma Lakshmi

For a complete transcript of Padma's Vlog, jump to Page 3. Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 1:

How to Watch

Watch Top Chef Season 21 Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

It was nice to have Daniel Boulud judging the knife skills Quickfire because he is just the perfect person to do that. He's so tender and so precise and so sweet, and so knowledgeable, but in the kitchen -- I have been in his kitchen, and it is such a fascist military operation. I don't want to say fascist in a bad way. But it's, let me put it to you this way: It's very precise, and it's somebody who's after my own heart with that philosophy, so I'm with him on this. I think people didn't really understand what it meant.

If I'm going to make a dish to showcase my knife skills, they better be precise. It's not about what you do, it's how well you do it. So if you cannot execute a brunois, which is an extremely fine, fine dice. They look like very, very small, I mean just, they're just as small as you can get. They're like cutting a Tic Tac in three pieces. If you cut a Tic Tac in three pieces, that would be a large brunois. So, you know, you have to know the difference between a brunois and a julienne, if it's an herb, and you cannot go before somebody like Daniel Boulud and not know what you're doing. You just can't. and so I really think that separated the serious chefs from the dilettantes. It was a very telling Quickfire.

So, any foodie, any serious foodie can rattle off a long list of movies that are centered around food, and I was surprised at the lack of imagination that these chefs came up. I think they probably thought, "What can I do well?" Which I understand -- it's a competition environment. What can I do? And what movie can fit that? What can we layer on top of that? Nothing seemed really inspired to me, except for Willy Wonka, and I'm not really a big dessert person. I'm a chocolate fiend.

So it was even more intriguing when they chose that as their inspiration and did a savory dish, did savory dishes. So, I think, we're eating a lot of food, and we've all eaten a lot of food in our lives because we're food people. So, I and Tom and Aisha Tyler and even Richard Roeper, I think we really appreciated the leap of creativity. And that's what we want. That's why we pick these challenges -- to really get out of you, or to really get out of the chef, their personal stamp. You know, what are they thinking? What makes this chef different from another chef?

Part 2:

You know, the Good Morning, Vietnam, making Vietnamese food, that seemed less inspired to me. If you're going to do Good Morning, Vietnam, you know, you gotta do, you know, call Robin Williams' agent, find out what his favorite foods are or you know and do like the craft services on that movie using only produce that you can find in Southeast Asia because that's what they'd be cooking. That to me shows someone who's thinking, a lot. But it would be interesting if these people really thought in that vain. You know, unfortunately, what became evident when Spike and Manuel came out is that Manuel felt insecure about the challenge. I could see him saying, "OK -- let me let him take the lead on this, because if our team fails, one of us is going home, and if I don't do as much, if something on the plate is wrong, then he'll go home."

Unfortunately, we tend to reward adventurousness on Top Chef, and we tend to appreciate really stretching your limits as a chef and as a creative thinking person, and, you know, when we interviewed them at the table a little bit, it became evident that he just kind of took a backseat for whatever reason, and that's not OK because you're the chef, and as a chef, you need to lead.

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