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Staying Out of It

Eli Kirshtein doesn't understand why the toothpick challenge threw the chefs off. And he's staying mum on "Pea-gate."

By Eli Kirshtein

Toothpicks are almost ubiquitous in restaurants. Whether it at the bar, in the kitchen, or at the front door, they are always there. Nothing wrong with them really, some high-end restaurants have even started having fancy metal ones designed for them. This was a solid Quickfire however because of how familiar the chefs should be with this. They got to put together hors d’oeuvres. I was surprised really to hear some of the chefs feeling like they didn’t like this challenge or that it was boring; they got to cook their own food and flavors. They basically needed to make the best overall dish they could and shrink it down and layer it well enough to stack it on a pick. While it might have been “old school,” Angelo’s dish achieved that. He packed a whole lot of flavor into this tiny cup. In addition to Angelo the other two chefs in the top did pretty traditional flavors, Kevin with pork and onions, Stephen with surf and turf. All three of the chefs in the bottom seemed to have one common link which was that they paired a fish with a fruit. Not sure if there was any connection, but that could be a great example of the judge having an aversion in his own palate.

I got a kick out of the premise of the Quickfire. One of the main reasons for the food on a toothpick policy in Congress is to maintain food not being overly extravagant. This was a good way to circumvent that and have Top Chefs put the food together. Could be a pretty persuasive meal for a congressman, no?

The Palm is an iconic restaurant. It originally opened in midtown Manhattan in 1926 and opened its second location in D.C. in 1972. It is one of the quintessential American steak houses, and to be frankly honest it helped define the genre. When someone says the name you have expectations, and all of the ingredients that the chefs had come to mind when I think of The Palm. But I was also happy that none of the chefs just tried to recreate steak house classics. I was a little miffed with the idea of chefs having the same ingredient, but not being head to head. They tasted all the dishes head to head and some of the guest judges even made comments of how they preferred one specifically to the other with out any dialogue of the other dishes. Having Tom in the kitchen was a new twist also. Some of the chefs were really shaken by it, which I was surprised about, because he was no different then having other chef in the kitchen. With that said, I was shocked that the chefs weren’t hyper-aware about keeping clean and organized. With him in the kitchen and Padma at one table and Gail at the other it was interesting to see the diners' reactions to the dishes. Instead of a familiar setting of the three regular judges talking with a little interjection from the guests, there was an extensive dialogue from the whole table. I felt as if the three in the top were there for the simple reason that they had a complete dish that was flavorful and refined. They had more articulation and depth than a lot in the group. The three chefs were in the bottom all seemed to be there for having somewhat clumsy dishes in one respect or another. In the end, I think Andrea went home for having a dish that ended up muddled and basically was on the plate too early.

Oh, and in terms of pea puree. I’m staying out of that one.

Follow me on Twitter @elikirshtein

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