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Everything posted by oakapple

  1. La Grenouille has received three-star reviews on at least four occasions, and it also had four stars at one time. I suspect the Four Seasons has had that many, given that it has been around since the 1950s. Le Bernardin has had four reviews of four stars each.
  2. Great place, one of my favorites. In my experience, the waits these days are no longer quite long. Sure, Friday night at 9pm you'll wait a bit, but it's not crazy any more.
  3. Much like Top Chef Masters, the list of candidate chefs is diluted compared to past seasons. I mean, Spike Mendelssohn??? He didn't even come particularly close to winning regular Top Chef (not Masters), and he had two shots at it.
  4. oakapple

    Per Se

    I think you may have seen a lunch menu, where there is indeed a shorter option. At dinner in the main dining room, the menu remains $295 for nine courses. You can order à la carte in the Salon.
  5. The chef profession is historically male dominated. On the original show, they've had a 50/50 mix (or pretty close to it) in most seasons, but only one woman has ever been named Top Chef. And invariably, as the season goes on, the women are eliminated at a faster rate. For instance, on Top Chef All Stars, women were 8 out of 17 contestants; but the first two, and 5 of the first 8 eliminated, were women. The season before, 8 out of 17 contestants were women; but 3 of the first 4, and 5 of the first 8 eliminated, were women. In the previous season, the first 4 eliminated were women. If women are (say) 30% of the candidate pool, it stands to reason that you cannot have a sex-balanced cast without choosing women who are, on average, not as good as the men. The only way to avoid this is if the better women chefs are more likely to apply than the better male chefs, but this is probably not what happens. In case it's not clear, I'm not making a comment on whether women are intrinsically better chefs. I am only pointing out the numbers game in the profession itself.
  6. For those of us who missed the show, can you summarize? Ditto.
  7. I wonder whether the change of format reduced the candidate pool, or if the candidate pool was depleted in any case. There are a lot of chefs who have other priorities, who find the format demeaning, or who simply can't adjust their schedules for a TV show. There are many potential competitors of higher stature than the ones we have. I have to assume they were asked, and said no.
  8. With all due respect to the current crop of competitors, I don't think they have quite the stature of the first two seasons, and the format may have something to do with it. The format of Seasons 1 & 2 required most of the chefs to be away from their kitchens for only a few days; and then, only the handful that made it to the finale had a second, slightly longer stint away from home. The current format requires all the chefs to commit to being away for however long it takes fro the whole season to be shot. Of course, regular Top Chef works the same way, but for chefs without a lot of name recognition, the opportunity to win that show is well worth it. The trade-off for someone like a Hubert Keller, a Rick Bayless, a Wylie Dufresne, or an Anita Lo, is very different.
  9. I'd be ok with watching an all-stars with other chefs from past seasons. There were plenty of people who did not do this all stars that would have been worthy contenders. Maybe every other year to get a really good cast? There aren't enough true "all stars" to do an all-star show every other year. As it is, they had to invite a number of "non-stars" to get a full cast, because some of the chefs they really wanted turned them down. From the chefs' perspective, there is less value in doing it a second time, which is why a number of the obvious candidates weren't there.
  10. Does it seem any more ridiculous to you than past seasons of Top Chef Masters? Incidentally, today's inbox brings the news that New York's Danyelle Freeman (a/k/a/ Restaurant Girl) will be a guest judge on "several episodes".
  11. I think the only way it'll be topped is if they do another All-Stars in a few years. The bottom-rung chefs in this season were all (or mostly all) top-rung chefs from past seasons. Besides being better chefs, they'd all been through it before, and knew some of the pitfalls to avoid. There's no way they could assemble that level of talent when they bring in 17 or 18 brand new people. I could swear there've been challenges in the past where chefs made an extra dish not required by the challenge, and then were penalized when that dish turned out poorly. If Richard's amuse had been terrible, it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't have counted against him. Even Colicchio acknowledged that, although they may not have put his amuse through the formal judging process, it had an intangible role in "setting the stage" for the meal to come.
  12. It must always be stressed: the show is edited selectively to put the outcome in doubt until the last minute. Since they know Richard won, they deliberately choose a few more comments favoring Michael, to make the outcome more of a surprise. Colicchio explains the decision on his blog.
  13. I recall at least one other season where it was apparent in the preview, based on the direction Padma was looking. For that NOT to be the case, they would have needed to tape an extra scene in which she deliberately looked the wrong way, just to fool the audience.
  14. Earlier in the season, there's usually someone who has screwed up pretty blatantly — often, several of them. It may still be a close call as to which errant chef gets sent home, but it's usually at least clear they did something to deserve their fate. The overtime makes more sense later on, where every chef remaining has long since proven that they belong, and you don't want someone losing because they got "screwed by the challenge".
  15. I find Antonia more likable, and more genuine than Mike, and she never pilfered anyone's recipe. Nevertheless, given the rules, Mike made it to the finale fair & square, albeit by a whisker. Nothing against Morimoto, but whichever chef had to cook his "last supper" was clearly going to be at a substantial disadvantage.
  16. Lenient isn't the word I'd use, only that it was relatively gimmick-free. I don't have time to look up all of the past challenges, but there are usually at least one or two per season that are reasonably straightforward. Could anyone tell me when were the other two times? The first time was in Season 3 (Miami). After the Restaurant Wars episode, the judges couldn't pick a loser, and they actually repeated the identical challenge the following week. The second time was in Season 5 (New York). The chefs had to make a dish suggested by one of the 12 days of Christmas. But two of the chefs lost their prep work due to a refrigerator malfunction, which created an uneven playing field. The judges felt most of the dishes were underwhelming, but didn't want to pick a loser. It's a tough line to draw: there have certainly been times when the eliminated chef seemed to have made only a relatively small technical error.
  17. Of all the conspiracy theories, surely this is the most absurd. Most genealogical data is freely researchable by anyone. If you're going to make something up, don't do it in a field where it can be so easily disproven. By my count, this is the third time on Top Chef that they decided to send no one home, so there is a precedent (albeit rare). If the food looked that good, maybe it was. Bear in mind that Colicchio is the High Priest of cooking simple things well. Whether or not you agree with that philosophy, it's no surprise that it would dominate a show on which he is head judge. The thing with a "simple" dish like that, is you really can't tell how good it is on a TV screen. On TV, good gnocchi and bad gnocchi look about the same. But if you've ordered much gnocchi, you'll know that plenty of restaurants screw it up. It's not an easy dish to get right. It's worth noting that there have been A LOT of elimination decisions this season that the producers surely couldn't have been happy with. Jennifer Carroll was a favorite with many of the fans, and she was sent home in Week 2. Fabio and Angelo got sent home much earlier than a lot of people expected. I think Spike is a mediocre chef, but there's no question he adds to the drama, and yet he went home in Week 4. If the producers had been determined to influence the proceedings, there are a lot of things that could have gone differently. Although most challenges have a twist, sometimes they really DO just let the chefs cook; that tends to happen later in the season. These are all Top Chef veterans, who know by now how to manage these challenges. And they were cooking food from their "family heritage," which presumably they're amply familiar with. So it doesn't surprise me that we had a challenge without any obvious screw-ups. Although they are all trained professionals, most of the challenges force them out of their comfort zone, often with absurd constraints you'd never find in real life. Any dish you eat in a restaurant is likely to have been tested many times before it is ever served to a paying customer, and restaurant chefs don't have to adhere strictly to a countdown clock. I mean, even on Top Chef Masters, some pretty impressive chefs have fallen to pieces when confronted with a contrived challenge.
  18. What's unscrupulous about it? They are producing entertainment. The edit is designed to draw out the chefs' more colorful comments and reactions. It is also designed to ensure that the outcome will be in doubt until the last 5 minutes, when the winner and the eliminated chef are announced.
  19. Unfortunately, the judging system produces that result sometimes --- where someone is on the bottom over & over again, but manages somehow to avoid cooking the absolute worst dish in any given episode. But sometimes these things go in streaks. Tiffany had a stretch where she was in the top group three out of four weeks in a row. At one point, Antonia was in the bottom group three episodes in a row, but has now been in the top group for the last four, including one win. I do think there ought to be a way to accumulate points, so that sustained excellence would be rewarded.
  20. I think the edit is always designed to be ambiguous, or even downright deceptive, so that the elimination will remain in doubt until the very end.
  21. Offhand, it doesn't strike me as the best idea.
  22. If it is, he needs to be careful. Early in the season, you can pretty much count on at least one chef making something horrible. In fact, it's a pretty smart strategy to keep making things that have a low potential for error, and let someone else make the big mistake. Casey would probably still be around if she hadn't made the odd choice of chicken feet for the dim sum episode. But as the season moves on, there's a higher probability that no one will completely screw up, and in that case a chef can get sent home for being merely mediocre. Yeah, picking Marcel was doubly good, in that: A) It meant that he wouldn't screw up Dale's team; and, B) There was a good chance he would screw up the other team. Fabio absolutely nailed the FOH (as he did the first time he was on Top Chef), but I still think it's competitively unfair. Most of these chefs have little or no experience at running a dining room. The design of the challenge puts them at a dual disadvantage: first, in that they are thrust into a role they're unsuited for; and second, that they are still responsible for cooking something, without being able to give it their full attention. Fortunately, Team Etch was so bad that even if Fabio had been on their team, he couldn't have saved it. And fortunately, Marcel screwed up badly enough that Tiffany didn't pay the price for taking on the FOH. (I haven't checked, but as I recall the FOH person has been the one sent home on quite a few of these Restaurant War callenges.)
  23. Daniel, although clearly not a "La Grenouille" clone, is the closest thing we have to a traditional luxury French restaurant with four stars. But there are two crucial points worth noting. First, although Daniel itself is perpetually packed (suggesting there is more demand than seats), the identical restaurant—if it opened today, without Boulud's name on it—would not do nearly as well. It survives mainly on its reputation and a core of regulars that have been with Boulud since before he had his own place. Second, although Frank Bruni re-affirmed Daniel's four-star rating just two years ago, it was the least rapturous of his four-star reviews. He even said it: "while it yields fewer transcendent moments than its four-star brethren and falls prey to more inconsistency, it has a distinctive and important niche in that brood, a special reason to be treasured." If he had not reviewed it as an incumbent four-star restaurant, I am fairly certain it would have received three stars. I never dined at Lutèce, but I don't think Benoit and Lyon even attempt to replicate it. Even if they executed their missions perfectly, no one would would suggest that they were playing in the same league as Lutèce. Café Boulud on its better days might come closer.
  24. oakapple


    I've been to Ciano twice now, and both times the "half bottles" I ordered were full bottles that they opened in my presence, and then poured half into a caraffe. It may help that both of my visits were relatively early in the evening. I believe that any remaining half-bottles are generally sold by the glass to the bar crowd.
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