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Top Chef: New Orleans


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#241 gfweb

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 10:11 AM

Always an error to make extra dishes or to make risotto.  No good comes of it.


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#242 annabelle

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 10:22 AM

Risotto is the dish of death on these cooking shows.  When my son used to watch Chopped with me, we would both shout "NO!" when a chef would announce his intention of making risotto.

 

Way to go, Nick.


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#243 huiray

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 10:43 AM

Antonia Lofaso won the EC in episode 12 of TC Season 8, though, with a dish comprising fava bean risotto: http://en.wikipedia...._Huddled_Masses

 

Sarah Grueneberg (TC Season 9) also made several risotto or risotto-based dishes (e.g.: http://www.bravotv.c...kl=&total_time=) and did well with them, while Lindsay Autry won the first of the three sequential challenges in episode 15 that season with a quinoa "risotto" dish (made in those moving, swaying gondolas!): http://en.wikipedia....Culinary_Games.

 

Still, there has always been the concept of the "risotto curse" on the show, yes, and has got quite a number of cheftestants over the seasons dismissed because of it.  Including the chef who was "Jimmy Sears" in Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" and who was the "popular" villain on that season:  http://en.wikipedia....9:_Past_Suppers

(I didn't mind him; I thought the worst person there was that person with the ridiculous mustache ;-) )

 

There was a recent exception to the "no extra courses" thing also - Richard Blais won in Season 8 where he made that extra oyster amuse-bouche course: http://en.wikipedia....sode_16:_Finale

 

I think the worse "curse" on Top Chef is the "car curse", actually, whereby the people who win a car do not go on to win TC.  The only one who has broken that curse, I think, was Michael Voltaggio.


Edited by huiray, 06 February 2014 - 10:51 AM.

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#244 gfweb

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 10:54 AM

There's also a Padma curse.  If you are her favorite....doomed.


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#245 annabelle

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 11:07 AM

Speaking of Padma, I was hoping she had given up her booze-swilling ways.  She seems to slur her way through Judges' Table more often than not.

 

Season 8 was pretty much engineered as a vehicle to get Blais his Top Chef win.  I still can't stand him.


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#246 huiray

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 12:30 PM

Grubstreet recap of TC NOLA-->Hawaii Finale (episode 17):

http://www.grubstree...nale-recap.html



#247 Shelby

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 03:14 PM

I was rooting for Nina all season but unless you can taste the food it's hard to take issue with the final decision, especially since it was obviously a close call.  Hindsight's always 20/20 but I think Nina made a tactical mistake by insisting on making a desert after she discovered her restaurant had no ice cream maker. I've got to think she could have come up with a killer dish using the ingredients for her 2 amuse/intermezzo dishes.

 

Regardless, Nick certainly earned the win and I was glad that both Nick and Nina brought their A game to the finale.  Overall it was a decent season of Top Chef

I agree that without tasting the food for ourselves we can never be good judges.  However, how many times did we hear that Nick under seasoned his dishes?  

 

I'm happy that Nina won the fan favorite award of $10,000.  I would have picked either her or Stephanie.



#248 huiray

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 05:48 PM

I think Tom Colicchio & Co. have established over the seasons that they all have palates that require a lot of salt.  Other talented chefs have also got in trouble with them - Tom in particular - over "lack of salt".  Kelly Liken (TC Season 7) springs to mind immediately.  There were others.  I believe they have said that their palates deem the amount of salt they add to the food they normally serve to be sufficient, and I remember Kelly Liken saying that she was simply not accustomed to using such large quantities of salt as the TC judges seemed to demand. I think Nick Elmi said something similar during this just-concluded season. Liken got into trouble when she tried to compensate for this by heavily salting her porterhouse (http://en.wikipedia...._7:_Power_Lunch) and went to the opposite end instead and was now faulted by Tom C for food that was TOO salty.  I've said before - this show really should be "Who Wants to Cook for Tom Colicchio & Co."

 

As for other judges who also commented "needs salt"... I suspect that their palates also demand relatively high saltiness?  Grant Achatz who murmured this about Nick Elmi's fish dish in one of the earlier episodes this just-concluded season - well, what I can say is that I've eaten Achatz's food and he (and his crew, under his direction) can have a heavy hand with the salt - for my taste.

 

On a related note, isn't it the case that in general restaurant food is heavily salted?  I'm sure the professional chefs here on the board will say that the "correct amount" of salt is used but one also reads about how the "secret" of making restaurant food tasty is to salt, salt, salt it...  Or fast food and some processed foods (including potato chips/crisps) being so darn tasty because they are drenched in salt (and MSG).  Other than personal variations there would also seem to be (in the US, at least) regional differences, and this has been discussed in other places/boards (e.g. on a certain other food forum). For myself, when I first moved to the Mid-West from the East Coast I could barely eat anything in restaurants here in my area because I found everything so salty - but over the years my salt tolerance and preference have headed up and up...acclimatization/desensitization to salt, it would seem. 

 

Here's one interesting article about the need to salt food to promote the taste of the food, yes, but also contains this at the end:
 

Which raises the issue of salting that goes on in restaurants. Thanks to open kitchens and endless cutthroat competitions on TV, we can watch chefs regularly toss in enough salt to handle an icy stoop. More is more! Salt equals flavor!

 

Some attribute the heavy hand to chefs’ palate fatigue. West Coast cooking teacher Linda Carucci has an additional theory, which came to her on a second visit to a restaurant where she had enjoyed a good-tasting meal. On this occasion, however, just about everything she tasted was too salty. As she was leaving, she saw chefs on a cigarette break in the alley.

 

“I thought, ‘Smoking dulls the palate. How many chefs do I know who smoke?’ ”

 

Well, one of the meals I had some time ago at a certain restaurant in Indy thought by many (including myself) to be the best or amongst the best in Indy, run by a certain very highly regarded chef with the initials G.H., had a couple of dishes that were SO SALTY I could not finish them.  I know who made them that night, and when I left I exchanged a few pleasantries with said (sous)-chef [at that time] sitting on the pavement outside, who was smoking.  :-D

 

Just stirring the pot. :-)

 

p.s. Some of the commentators on this article report that they did not find Nick Elmi's food at Laurel (his new restaurant) to be underseasoned at all. :-)


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#249 gfweb

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 06:35 PM

I've eaten Nicks food and it was seasoned just fine.

 

Re Achatz. He had tongue cancer and may well have screwy taste buds as a result.


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#250 Shelby

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 08:20 PM

I've eaten Nicks food and it was seasoned just fine.

 

Re Achatz. He had tongue cancer and may well have screwy taste buds as a result.

Regarding Nicks food,  the seasoning in his restaurant , that's good to hear.

 

I wonder why he under seasoned during the competition?


Edited by Shelby, 06 February 2014 - 08:20 PM.


#251 gfweb

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 07:48 AM

I think that Tom et al like salty food. I think it's literally a matter of taste.

The Philadelphia inquirer reviewed Nicks restaurant today. Three stars out of four, which for this reviewer is a rave. They were there prior to the TC win though it was written after.

#252 lindag

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 08:26 AM

I'm happy to hear that Nick won; he was my favorite.  I think of all the cheftestants, he was the most genuine.  Though Nina was a close second.  Shirley, I thought, was trying to get an edge by being a suck-up.


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#253 Toliver

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 10:19 AM

Here's one interesting article about the need to salt food to promote the taste of the food, yes, but also contains this at the end:

 

“I thought, ‘Smoking dulls the palate. How many chefs do I know who smoke?’ ”

 

That's funny. My dad was a heavy smoker and had no sense of taste towards the end of his life. However, he bypassed the salt shaker and grabbed the pepper mill instead. His food would end up quite...black...before he could eat it. He used the spiciness of the black pepper to open up his sinuses so he could taste something...anything. He was a big fan of Tabasco sauce for the same reason.

Three of his four kids (myself included) are chile-heads to this day after watching him spice up his food all of our lives. None of us smoke, though.

 

I've posted elsewhere on eGullet about the huge amount of salt some TV food show hosts/chefs use. Anne Burrell on the Food Network literally throws fistfuls of salt in her dishes.

 

That's the thing about the judges on Top Chef. They'll make a comment about something being too salty or under-seasoned and then you'll hear a throwaway comment from a guest judge say something like "Mine was perfectly seasoned" and then you're not sure who is correct. It's too subjective and becomes meaningless in the end as a judging parameter.


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#254 Brown Hornet

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:23 PM

I think enough judges and guest judges found Nick's dishes underseasoned throughout the season that we should not assume it was just Tom's particular preferences at play. 

 

Beyond the fact that seasoning levels are very subjective, I think for many dishes there is a fine line between perfectly seasoned and salty.  Mashed potatoes are a classic example -- there just seems to be a narrow sweet spot between bland and overly salty.  It gets even trickier when you're dealing with a cold dish (like a crudo) that generally requires more seasoning than a hot dish.

 

In any event, I would love to try Nick's restaurant.  It sounds fantastic and when he was on his game (as in the finale) his dishes looked amazing.



#255 huiray

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:26 PM

 

That's the thing about the judges on Top Chef. They'll make a comment about something being too salty or under-seasoned and then you'll hear a throwaway comment from a guest judge say something like "Mine was perfectly seasoned" and then you're not sure who is correct. It's too subjective and becomes meaningless in the end as a judging parameter.

 

 

Which is why, as I think has been discussed at other times too, cheftestants on TC should cook for the judges - meaning Tom C. (in particular), Gail S., Padma L., Hugh A., and whoever is on that season.  In the past I've talked about how the cheftestants should also cater for their general dining clientele in their dining audience, as one would think they should do - but as others had pointed out the opinions of the other diners count for very little in the "judging" and the paramount thing still remains catering to the specific, idiosyncratic tastes of the TC judges.  In fact, I seem to recall that one of the TC finalists (was it Richard Blais?) said specifically that in the context of TC he needed to disregard everyone else ("screw them")  and simply cook to please the judges.  In Real Life the cheftestants in their restaurants or in their catering endeavors need to cater to their dining audience, drawn from the general public and NOT the TC judges - but insofar as the TC show is concerned NONE OF THAT MATTERS.  I thought in the past that that was a travesty - but after I accepted that TC is a Reality Entertainment Game Show then it was clear that yes indeed the Game Show Contestants simply needed to satisfy the specific people who were going to judge them.  No matter whatever blah-blah they threw out there about whatever they wanted the viewing public to believe about the Superior Intentions of said Game Show.

 

p.s. Tom Colicchio HAS admitted that TC is a Game Show.

 

p.p.s. It's still entertaining (Top Chef, that is) but it IS a Game Show dependent on the whims of the specific people who are judging it.



#256 huiray

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:38 PM

I think enough judges and guest judges found Nick's dishes underseasoned throughout the season that we should not assume it was just Tom's particular preferences at play. 

 

Beyond the fact that seasoning levels are very subjective, I think for many dishes there is a fine line between perfectly seasoned and salty.  Mashed potatoes are a classic example -- there just seems to be a narrow sweet spot between bland and overly salty.  It gets even trickier when you're dealing with a cold dish (like a crudo) that generally requires more seasoning than a hot dish.

 

In any event, I would love to try Nick's restaurant.  It sounds fantastic and when he was on his game (as in the finale) his dishes looked amazing.

 

But that's the thing - as I alluded to before, perhaps there IS a bias towards heavy salting in restaurant food and amongst professional chefs that the general dining public may not share.  See my post above.  Some chefs do not seem to have a heavy hand with salt (perhaps those who said their food - from Nick - was "perfectly seasoned", as Toliver suggested? Or as I exemplified with Kelly Liken?  I don't know.  I *can* aver that "salting" is variable from person to person and region to region.



#257 annabelle

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 03:05 PM

Most professional chefs use too much salt for my tastes, yet time and again, we hear the judges grousing that dishes need more "seasoning".  Do they specifically mean more salt?  Many of the chefs cook with an Asian* palate of ginger, garlic, soy, &c.  Soy sauces, fish sauces, bean sauces, &c are pretty damned salty already so if they want more seasoning, what are they asking for?  The chefs can't ask or they get accused of being snot-nosed kids and we are left guessing.

 

Maybe the best course is to crack some salt and pepper over the thing before it goes to table. 

 

Has anyone gotten called out for using too much seasoning?  I recall a few times a chef has been chastised for making a dessert that is too sweet.

 

 

 

 

*let's not revisit that "what's Asian?" battle again, okay?


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#258 Shalmanese

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 04:59 PM

Back when Pepsi did the "Pepsi challenge", people preferred the sweeter Pepsi when drinking a single mouthful but preferred Coke when drinking an entire can. I think the same principle applies on TC, TC judges are served such an overwhelming amount of food that they have no choice but to eat a tiny bit of every dish.

 

I know when I've made dishes, there's plenty of things that seem delicious on the first bite that become overly seasoned and fatiguing on the palate when I'm halfway through the dish. Eventually, you learn to dial back the seasoning commensurate with the expected serving size. What I think trips up a lot of chefs is that they're used to seasoning amuse bouche portions with amuse bouche levels of seasoning and entrees with entree levels of seasoning but they need to break that habit and season entrees as if they were amuse bouches.

 

Also, I think chefs that are known for their "big, bold" flavors like Carlos seem to go much farther in the competition than those known for subtle, refined flavors for the exact same reason.


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#259 huiray

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:47 AM

Most professional chefs use too much salt for my tastes, yet time and again, we hear the judges grousing that dishes need more "seasoning".  Do they specifically mean more salt?

 

(snip) 

 

Has anyone gotten called out for using too much seasoning?  I recall a few times a chef has been chastised for making a dessert that is too sweet.

 

 

Yes there have been instances.  Certainly for dishes that were "too salty".  In many cases they were the result of trying to satisfy the judges' liking for  higher salt levels, I seem to remember, other times not.  If one includes "spiciness" within the definition of "seasoning", then yes again.  Even in this just-concluded season Nina Compton was repeatedly dinged for making things that were too spicy. 


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#260 huiray

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:54 AM

TC judges are served such an overwhelming amount of food that they have no choice but to eat a tiny bit of every dish.

 

 

Not always.  They have been shown on numerous occasions to finish off the entire serving (entrées) from one cheftestant or another, especially with Tom Colicchio and Emeril Lagasse (when he is a judge on whatever season), and have declared they wanted another portion of whatever it was they just polished off.  Gail Simmons has also done this; I'm not sure about Padma Lakshmi.



#261 annabelle

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 09:12 AM

Well, at least they specified to Nina what the problem was.  It makes me crazy when they just use "seasoning" as a catch-all.


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#262 gfweb

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 09:53 AM

Report of a guest at the final dinner. A chef from past a TC. She agrees that Nick won.

https://twitter.com/...923627991134208



#263 huiray

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 01:02 PM

Podcast of Emeril Lagasse discussing the TC Season 11 finale (and more) with Andy Greenwald.

 

http://espn.go.com/e...lay?id=10415579


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#264 huiray

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 03:44 PM

(snip)

 

Also, I think chefs that are known for their "big, bold" flavors like Carlos seem to go much farther in the competition than those known for subtle, refined flavors for the exact same reason.

 

I've thought about this for a while over the seasons.  Tom Colicchio (and even people like José Andrés) seem to have this notion of "ethnic cuisine" as having BOLD, POPPING, ASSERTIVE flavors.  To this day it still rankles when I think of that cuisine-around-the-world challenge in TC Season 7 (http://en.wikipedia....Foreign_Affairs) where both Tom C and José A dissed Ed Cotton's tea-smoked duck.  Even though the Chinese diplomat in that episode declared it very good, very authentic. (including the rubbery skin that it would have had) JA asserted that it was not representative of "Chinese Food", whatever he thought "Chinese Food" was; while TC asserted that he expected "Chinese Food" to be BURSTING with flavors, In-Your-Face, etc etc.  What hogwash. They also faulted that duck for still having a layer of fat - but, but - that layer of fat is EXPECTED in such a duck dish in Chinese cuisine!!  I really think that if these two folks had been presented with classic Cantonese dishes like steamed prime fish they would have slammed it as "lacking in flavor".  Much of Cantonese cuisine, for that matter, would FAIL their test for BOLD, BURSTING, ETC ETC flavors.  Perhaps they think of Chinese cuisine as solely Sichuanese/Szechuanese cuisine, where extreme spiciness and palate-numbing dishes are more common than otherwise?  For that matter I have read far too many comments from Western/USA food bloggers/food blog posters who say that they have little use for Cantonese cuisine but adore Szechuanese or Hunanese cuisine - precisely because of those spice/heat bombs in those cuisines.


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#265 annabelle

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Posted 10 February 2014 - 04:35 PM

Yes, it's not popular to prefer Cantonese cuisine these days.  I'm not sure why, other than that it is more commonly available in America.



#266 lindag

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Posted 11 February 2014 - 07:10 AM

Seems to me that Nick got some karmic payback for the humiliation he took when asked to give up his immunity early on.

He also deserved the win.


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