10 November 2006

Top Chef Episode 4 or .........?

Last night I sat in front of the TV, with my girls, ready for a fight. But to my chagrin, there was no one to fight with. This episode was b-o-r-i-n-g and as we all know, they didn’t even kick anyone off! Where is the passion? Where is the drama?

Suzanne Goin, one of my favorite chefs and chef-people, was the guest chef for this episode. Suzanne has two restaurants; Lucques (as in the olive) and AOC (as in Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée) with her partner Carolyn Styne. Her husband has the Hungry Cat, one of my favorite “new” places in Los Angeles. Suzanne has three of my favorite restaurants in LA, one of my favorite cookbooks, and she is nice to boot. If I was a chef (and I am…) I would want to be just like her. She’s my hero. Her pastry sampler is my heroin.

Amuse Bouche is one of my favorite dishes to make. It literally means to amuse the mouth en Francais, and it means to start your appetite by inciting the digestive enzymes. It is a bite of something that will leave you hungry for more; a philosophy that I practice in all aspects of my life.

As I explained to the girls, one of my favorite “amuses” is a square of juicy watermelon, with a scoop drawn out of the top—just enough for a small pour of balsamic vinegar. It is an intense bite that will start the appetite and keep them wanting more. Always keep them wanting more.

Yes, there is always a gimmick on Top Chef, so of course they had to “buy” their "ingredients" from the vending machine. I have to say, that I am always quite impressed with these cooks ability to think outside of the box when it comes to snack food. I’m not sure I could imagine some sesame seeds in a “loaf” or Jell-O as a curried banana pudding.

Suzanne was right to explain that an “amuse” should not be dessert. It can be sweet—but it shouldn’t be so rich that the appetite is satiated and one feels fulfilled.

I had a dinner party recently (okay, so it wasn’t so recent) and I served a toast point with melted chocolate, Spanish olive oil, and sea salt. I’m not usually a fan of “bread” in an “amuse” as it tends to dry up the palate, but the salt helps to get those juices flowing.

The winner wasn’t much of a surprise, Suzanne is very comfortable with rustic food—and the “loaf” was the least pretentious but beautiful “amuse” of the evening. The loser also wasn’t much of a surprise. Michael needs to go home—he doesn’t belong there. The only reason he is still on the show is because he sleeps with his wife’s panties and that makes for good TV.

The next segment really made me sleepy. That was the most boring thing I’ve had to endure in a long time. Sure, sure 500 calories isn’t a lot—but it can be done—and it was done. Wow. Neat.

The “controversy” over the olive oil and the “sugar” in the eggs was rather obnoxious. First things first, Sam, if you are going to say anything at all then you need to believe in saying it. You were right, people did cheat. It was right to point it out. But you were wrong to waver. Stand up for yourself man! You are in a competition—you are there to win.

Secondly, I feel that it was ridiculous to not have moderation the second day. Is Bravo too poor that they couldn’t afford the nutritionists for another day? A good chef is willing to start over if his or her dish doesn’t work—Betty was willing to do that—she is committed to putting out a good product (and by good I mean totally disgusting, low fat Pavlovas…) and so she had to remake it. That’s completely reasonable. Those people that used olive oil on the line though, for shame!

Mostly there is no ending to this story—I will take a cue from Bravo and end here. Nothing gained, nothing lost—mostly though, I felt that my time was wasted. And now I’ve wasted your time. Sorry about that. I owe you dinner—I’ll bet Bravo doesn’t offer that.




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