Keep it Simple

Keep it Simple

Jamie Lauren is loving Kevin's style, but is so over the Voltaggio brothers.

Getting down to the wire on this season of Top Chef ... and I have to say, finally an episode that I was literally on the edge of my seat and kind of nauseous while watching. Talk about an episode for chefs. Jesus, the chef star power in that room is enough to make anyone want to throw up. Thomas Keller (basically the closest thing to God we have in the cooking world), Daniel Boulud, Traci Des Jardins, Gavin Kaysen ... I mean, I could go on and on and on. I have been fortunate in my career to haveĀ  the opportunity to work with a few of those chefs and I'll tell you, the intimidation factor is high. I couldn't even imagine having to come up with a silver mirrored platter of food for that table. I was very impressed by all the chefs in this episode just for pulling it off! From my experience, doing intricate platters like that are really something you either do once or twice in culinary school and probably never again, unless of course you are part of a culinary competition and compete on a regular basis. Most chefs who work day to day in restaurants never have to create platters like these, and I know I would have been incredibly nervous going into the elimination. I am glad it was this season and not my season, because to be quite honest, I think the caliber of chefs this season could handle a challenge like this better then the chefs on my season (including myself). I am the first to admit when I don't know how to do something, and this would have definitely not been my game.

For the Quickfire, I really enjoyed the idea of stuffing meat inside meat inside meat. We all know how I feel about my meat given the last few weeks of blogging, and I think it's awesome when you get to shove one meat inside another. I really loved Eli's idea of the Scotch egg. But I think it was because it was so homey and down to earth. I have to say, I am a big, big fan of no-frills food, perhaps the reasonĀ  a detail-oriented mirrored platter does not appeal to me in the slightest. I have always been that girl who would rather eat a can of chicken noodle soup then go out for a fancy dinner (throw knives at me now. It's OK. I know, I know...), but it's true; for the most part I like simple, not necessarily simple in flavor, but just simple in terms of fuss. I like food to be clean, and to make sense, and I think that's why I find myself gravitating to Kevin this year. That guy makes some serious no-nonsense delicious-sounding food that always seems to impress. He's my kind of chef. Out of all the chefs, I think his restaurant would be the one I would seek out if and when I had time to go out to eat (or time to go to Atlanta for that matter). Anyway, back to the Quickfire. I am starting to really, really not like the brothers V. I think they are both so incredibly talented, but they have the personalities of a wet rag. Why can't the two of them crack a smile, lighten up a little? I get that it's a competition. Believe me, I get it, but great cooks with crappy personalities make TV a wee bit boring. I think Micheal definitely did not grasp the concept of the Quickfire and then with his cocky comments about making a ballantine better then Team USA did I really wanted to smack him. His attitude in this episode reminded me a little of Stefan from my season ... cocky, cocky, and cocky, but at least Stefan was funny! It was hard not to take him too seriously, but these guys this year, man. I can only imagine dinner conversation at the Voltaggio house...

Micheal: "Bryan, man you really should have cooked that chicken in sous-vide a little longer. It's kind of pink and doesn't look perfect enough."

Bryan: "Well, Micheal you know I cooked it at 65 degrees for 45 minutes and it's perfect for me. It's supposed to be that way."

Micheal: "It doesn't matter. I can do it all better anyway, and NO, I won't teach you how."

Parent: "OK boys, go finish getting ready for school!"

Yeah, seriously. Micheal, that comment about how Kevin cooks food you cook on your day off? I really hope Kevin kicks your ass now in the finale just to rub your face in that one, and watch those bones buddy. You would have immediately gone home if you were actually cooking at the real Bocuse d'Or. You aren't perfect. Stop acting like you are.

Moving on... Jen, well done on the Quickfire. Nice to see you back in the game, and I'm happy that you were given the extra 30 minutes because apparently you needed it (these are your words not mine). Onto the elimination...

I have to say out of all the platters and all the commentary, Kevin really did present the most consistent looking plate. I am so surprised that almost all the chefs undercooked their proteins. It seemed that after all the time that was allotted for the challenge that none of them should have undercooked their meat. That being said, I was very impressed with the fact that they all put together beautiful platters under all the pressure they had on their shoulders: $30,000, cooking at the Bocuse d'Or, Thomas Keller.... Again, did I mention throwing up? I just can't believe none of them turned green. For me when it's all said and done, Bryan seemed to be the one chef who had the most technically impressive platter. However because of the lack of doneness on the lamb he shot himself in the foot. Same with Eli, who apparently had great flavors going on but also couldn't pull out a well-cooked piece of meat. Then you look at Kevin, who didn't even know how to sous vide, and ends up with perfect meat and the most complementary remarks and probably the win. Go figure, the guy who cooks "homestyle, day-off" food ends up killing it. My thoughts remain the same for the final four as they have for weeks: Kevin, the brothers V and Jen. Which means no more Eli. If that's how the dice roll at Judges' Table then I think Napa Valley is going to treat us to a very interesting finale. Will there be a resurgence of the great Keller himself? Perhaps a French Laundry Quickfire? Guess we just have to wait and see....

PS: Keep the comments coming. I'll try and answer them as the season wraps up. And follow me on Twitter (@chefjamielauren), and if you are ever in SF, come visit me at Absinthe. I may even come out and say hello, but don't talk about scallops, or Stefan, please.

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