Back in my blogging bigshot days, publishers would send me free cookbooks. For me, that was better than having Ed McMahon show up at my door with a giant check. I love cookbooks. I have stacks and stacks of them in my kitchen right now because there’s not enough room left on my shelves. (“Maybe you should pull out the ones you don’t use and sell them?” says my well-meaning but delusional husband. “I USE ALL OF THEM!” I reply.)
So imagine my delight the other day when an advanced copy of Gregory Gourdet’s new cookbook, Everyone’s Table, showed up at my door. I’ve been a fan of Gregory’s since he first appeared on Top Chef, and I was really rooting for him when he came back for the All Stars season. Now he’s a judge — a much more comfortable role, I imagine — and it’s great to hear him thoughtfully and gently weigh in on everyone’s dishes.
As the 300th season of Top Chef looms, a few predictions: in the first episode, there will be an arrogant know-it-all who claims a superior set of kitchen skills, only, when asked to debone a chicken, he’ll crumple into a heap and cry, “My mother never loved me!” A duo of lesbian sashimi experts, formerly inseparable, will have their loyalties tested when one is told to pack her knives and go and the other is told that her knife skills surpass Morimoto’s. A down-and-out hard-on-his-luck dishwasher, who hosts supper clubs in his spare time, will bring tears to Emeril’s eyes when he recreates his grandmother’s gumbo, beating out a chef from a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Napa for the final slot on the show.
This season of Top Chef has been my favorite so far. The chefs are more talented than they’ve ever been, the focus has been on the food not chef antics (well, except for everyone’s conflict with Robin) and somehow the Vegas setting, which might’ve undermined the shows credibly, has allowed for some of the world’s great chefs–Joel Robuchon, Thomas Keller–to act as judges. Today, I join my blogging friend Mark Blankenship (check out his great blog, The Critical Condition) for a discussion about this season of Top Chef and our predictions for who will win.
Anyone who watched last season of “Top Chef” will remember Carla’s pea dish. She wowed the judges with her side of fresh peas, purchased from Whole Foods, cooked–according to this blog (the Bravo recipe site is too hard to navigate)–with tarragon, butter and lemon thyme.
Inspired by Carla (who, by personality alone, should’ve won the show), I purchased fresh peas the other day at the farmer’s market. But would my peas have secured me a place in the Top Chef Finale? I’m not quite sure.
By this point, you’re probably sick of reading people’s reactions to last night’s “Top Chef” Finale–“Poor Carla!” “Ugh, Hosea!” etc.–but have you seen Casey’s rant? I just found it, via Eater (it’s on a site called Side Dish) and Casey lets it rip.
When Archie Bunker called his son-in-law “meathead” on “All in the Family,” it entered the lexicon as both an insult and a term of endearment. But not until this season of “Top Chef” had I ever considered that “meathead” might actually be a physiological disorder, an actual psychological/anatomical condition that causes the sufferer to, literally, have a head full of meat. That’s the only way I can explain the phenomenon of Danny–a sweet but sorry competitor–who last night showed such bad judgment, such muddleheadedness it’s scary to think that this person’s allowed to hold a knife.
Last week I groused about too much Top Chef coverage and here I am, one week later, and I really want to blog about it. So call me a Top Chef hypocrite, I can take it; the show is good, I can’t lie. And tonight’s episode was a good one. But I’ll just make a few observations in this one little paragraph and be done with it. Observation 1: isn’t it fascinating that two of the most confident chefs–corn soup gal and Fabio–were in the top 3 and two of the most aimless, insecure cooks–Ariane and ostrich egg gal–were in the bottom? I haven’t read Oprah’s “Secret,” but doesn’t that book say if you believe you’re the best you’ll be the best? I think there’s something to that. Observation 2: we all know the adage “write what you know,” but tonight’s episode proved you should also cook what you know. The second the ostrich egg gal said “I’ve never cooked with an ostrich egg” I knew she’d be in trouble; whereas Fabio, who served his dish hundreds of times at his restaurant, came out on top. Finally, I think it’s cute that Amanda Hesser and her husband Tad Friend Plodted the whole episode which you can check out here. And now I feel completely purged of tonight’s “Top Chef,” thank you for letting me blog it off my chest.