People got a little prickly on this week's episode.
Quickfire: For this "high stakes" challenge ($15k prize), Texas chef Tim Love (a Top Chef Masters contestant) has the remaining cheftestants create a dish based around a tough ingredient selected by the Top Chef viewing populace. Fifty-seven percent of voters went with cactus over rattlesnake and kangaroo. "In the Basque country, there is no cactus," Mattin points out. Thx brah! I was disappointed with the viewers' pick, as it would've been awesome to hear King Kerchief sing a jaunty French song about how 'roos and rattlers are also not native to France while doing a vaudeville soft-shoe performance that involved him using a freshly baked baguette in lieu of a cane.
At the bottom: Ash, whose too-thick tortilla buried the cactus flavor; the usually strong Mike V., whose dish Love described as "two trains coming together"; and Ron, who offered up crab that "tasted rancid." At the top: the usually quiet Laurine, with a cactus salsa-topped pork chop; Mike I., who celebrated his successful cactus-curing by flashing DOUBLE METAL SIGNS; and our French friend, who did a nice job of showcasing the ingredient. Mikey ends up with the chip. No additional metal signs though.
Elimination: There's well-composed restaurant-quality dishes in them thar hills! The chefs are shipped out to the searing-hot dessert to cook grub over an open flame for a bunch of Love's rancher buddies. "I love camping! I grew up on a farm with chickens, pigs and all that," Mattin squeals with glee. Why does this dude, who's the second-Frenchest Frenchman that I'm aware of (the chien supï¿½rieur, of course, being Georges Perrier), insist on reaffirming his Frenchitude with such All Bran-like regularity? I feel a little less American every time I see his little face.
While Eli confirms my suspicions that he was raised as a hardcore indoor kid ("We got electricity for a reason"), Laurine, a caterer by trade, is cool with the into-the-wild curveball. "I've learned to be kind of a MacGyver when it comes to cooking," she says. (Any MacGyver reference automatically puts you in good standing with me, so strong work, ma'am.) Plenty of hijinks ensue during prep/cooking, including Ron foreal requesting a sword to bust open his coconuts.
The judges are BRUTAL on nearly everyone's dishes, especially Robin's shrimp ("Tastes like I just sucked on a piece of chlorine," says Love) and Mattin's ceviche, which apparently sucks so bad that Tom C. actually has to huffily walk about 4 feet away from his picnic table and throw it into the desert. Why couldn't he have just tossed that shit from his seat? Or just said "I don't like this" and left it at that? Because we need good goddamn TV, that's why! Still, nothing can top the transcendently beautiful Padma spitting out her bite last season. What a transcendently beautiful regurge that was ...
Dishes at the top: Laurine's arctic char and grilled potato; Ashley's seared halibut (Padma calls her "the dark horse" ... MIND MELD, LAKSHMI); Bryan's perfect-for-outdoors roasted pork loin with polenta and glazed rutabaga; and his brother Mike's miso-cured black cod. Bryan ends up winning his second Elimination in a row, and even cracks a little smile, which is rare for the almost-always-deadpan Voltaggio sibling. His quietly judgmental camera-leering makes me think he'd fit in perfectly on
At the bottom: Chlorine shrimp lady Robin, food-chucked-by-Tom Mattin, and Ron, whose coconut cocktail accompanying his ceviche dish was called "horrible" by the judges. (If only he had that sword ... ) I guess it's a death knell if your food gets airborne on this show, as Mattin is sent packing. We've already expounded on his ridiculous Frenchness so I'll leave the official goodbye to my girl Jackie.
Next week: Everyone, including Penn and Teller, hates Robin.
If you've ever wondered how moonshine is actually made, check out this clip from The Documentary Channel's Emmy-winning film The Last One, a profile of Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton, a famous Tennessee moonshiner who lived his entire life in the Appalachian Mountains.
After the jump, chef Jose Garces touches base with Meal Ticket to talk about his upcoming appearance on The Next Iron Chef (debuting Oct. 4 on Food Network), food TV, his new restaurant project and more. Garces can't say too much about the show just yet ï¿½ the Iron Chef America victor is competing to join Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and Michael Symon as a titan of Kitchen Stadium ï¿½ but check out what we got him to share.
It's been unfolding greatly for us. It's been really well-received, and we're excited about it. How could you not be excited about bourbon and burgers? And the Whiskey King, that's a pretty decadent, tasty morsel ... let's go on a per-night basis. For example, on Friday night [Sept. 4], we sold 140 burgers, and of those 140, 40 were Whiskey Kings and 100 were Village Burgers.
|Courtesy of Food Network|
How did your appearance on The Next Iron Chef [TNIC] come about?
Well, as you know, I did compete against Bobby Flay. They had that piece of footage, and I cooked and did pretty well on the show, and I guess [they selected me] based on that. I did interviews for the first season of The Next Iron Chef, but I didn't make the cut for that one. So I'm glad I was able to come back for the second season. I think [the first season] was a pretty stacked lineup.
There's been speculation that you missed this year's James Beard Awards, where you won Best Chef Mid-Atlantic, because you were off filming TNIC. Any truth to that?
Yeah, the show was taped during the spring, and it happened to land during the James Beard Awards. It was a really tough decision to make, but I weighed both options. The James Beard Awards has been something I've been working toward most of my career, so I was somewhat disheartened not to be there, but I was well-represented by my wife and my brother and my director of operations.
Plenty of people have asked us if you were approached to do Top Chef Masters.
No, actually. I haven't been asked to do Top Chef Masters.
How many of the other TNIC competitors did you know personally prior to the competition?
I knew of some of the other competitors, but personally, I knew only Roberto Trevino, because we've done some events before in the past.
From the looks of the first episode, it seems that the competition is going to be pretty intense, as Iron Chef is a huge title. What were interactions like off-camera? Were you friendly, or was too much at stake to get really buddy-buddy?
I think that it definitely was really competitive, and especially during the first episode. During that time leading up to the first episode, it was a lot of feeling each other out, people getting to know each other. Obviously, with what was at stake, it was highly competitive, with that energy, that aura, that competitive nature in and around at all times. My focus going into it, my goal, was to go in and win, and be the next Iron Chef. It was good to meet people, but when it came down to it, that ultimate goal was what was in my sights.
You have an insane schedule as it is. If you were to win this competition, how would you fit filming Iron Chef episodes into your itinerary?
I'm a huge fan of the show, and I highly respect the chefs that are Iron Chefs, so I would take it very seriously. I would definitely set some time aside. I'm flexible enough right now in my career and in my company that I can do that. If I did become that person, I would definitely put a lot into it.
Is it difficult to keep a straight face when you hear some of the over-the-top things Iron Chef chairman [actor Mark Dacascos] says? The stuff he says is so campy. What is he like in real life? Is he really intense, or kinda zen?
I think you're pretty accurate on that ï¿½ï¿½the chairman's routine is pretty funny, but when you have such high stakes on the line, you can't help but take it very seriously. You definitely crack a smile and there is some humor to it, but the competitive nature [of the show] kept me pretty serious. Off-camera, he was very nice, very charming and I think he wanted to make all the competitors feel welcome and comfortable more than anything else. I could see myself having a beer with him.
|Courtesy of Food Network|
On shows like this, there's often a lot of strategy and gamesmanship ï¿½ sometimes, people in these types of culinary competitions get eliminated for reasons not exclusively dealing with their cooking. Do you think this devalues the art of cooking in general?
I feel like of all the cooking shows out there, I think Iron Chef definitely has the most credibility compared to the other shows. Starting from the first episode, it was apparent to me that it's definitely more about the cooking than a lot of the other shows, some of which can be kind of gimmicky [or] a little more whimsical. Even on Top Chef Masters, on the first episode, they had these great chefs cooking in a dormitory with toaster ovens. That takes away from who you are as a chef. I'm happy to say that on The Next Iron Chef, I definitely felt like it was about the cooking 100 percent ï¿½ whose food was the best.
In the first episode you identify Seamus Mullen, of New York's Boqueria, as your heaviest competition on the show. Is that because he also does Spanish food?
I think that on the first episode, I felt that his confidence level was very high. Some of the food he did on the first episode was pretty solid, and of all the competitors I felt he had the most confidence.
Were there certain things ï¿½ aspects of personality, maybe ï¿½ that you gauged when sizing up your competitors that you also look for when hiring chefs for your kitchens?
It's a hard read, you know? I've seen people, although they're quiet or introverted, who can cook their tails off. I've also seen chefs who are really confident and talk a huge game about food and their expertise, but when they get into the kitchen, it's a whole different story. Then there's the end results, what happens during the battles, what happens during the presentations ... there's a lot of factors that are involved.
What can you tell us about your forthcoming Garces Trading Company at 1111 Locust Street?
The Trading Company is going great. We already started our commissary. The Trading Company has three functions. The commissary is one, so it's a producer of different products for all the restaurants ï¿½ pastry and bread production, [our] charcuterie production and sausage making, the [meat] grinds for the burgers [at Village Whiskey] ... that's all being done out of that operation. Then we're going into construction in the next couple weeks to set up what will almost be like a market with a wine cellar. We have a partnership with the PLCB, so it'll be a wine, cheese and charcuterie shop, as well as a cafï¿½. We'll launch our Garces Trading Company coffee there. [The cafï¿½] will be eat in for lunch, and [for] dinner we'll convert it into a full-service restaurant. The experience should be you walking into a wine cellar, picking up one of these exclusive bottles of wine only available there ï¿½ we'll have 200 selections ï¿½ and then you can sit in our cafï¿½ and we'll give you some food that matches that wine. [It will open] around November 15.
Finally, we've heard a few rumors that your friend, chef Marc Vetri, recently filmed an episode of Iron Chef America. So?
I cannot confirm or deny that.
These kids are seriously freaking me out.ï¿½ I don't know if this is possible, in reality or Photoshop.ï¿½ It does, however, make me want some sweet sweet Cadbury chocolate.
h/t Bogus Blog
... Meal Ticket reader Jeff, who submitted this response to our Tuesday contest query: "If Andrew Zimmern came to visit you in Philly, where would you take him to eat and why?"
Iï¿½d take him to a cheesteak place that also sold Taylorï¿½s Pork Roll. Then Iï¿½d ask the steak maker to combine them both into a sandwich and weï¿½d eat that. This would confirm my suspicions that this might be the greatest culinary combo that hasnï¿½t (to my knowledge) been attempted yet.
On a weirdness scale, does this even stack up to some of the "bizarre" stuff Zimmern's eaten over the years? Not at all. But we gotta give it to this dude for one simple reason: Putting pork roll on a cheesesteak is a GREAT IDEA.
Last night, I was talking to a local chef who's a big Top Chef fan. He explained that any chefs who claims they never tune in to the show are most likely lying their clog-wearing asses off. Now that I know this ï¿½ what's up, chefs? Wasn't last night's episode French as shit? Did any of you have mortifying flashbacks to culinary school? Night terrors about aspic or anything? I'm here for you.
Quickfire: The world-renowned Daniel Boulud invites the cheftestants to his Vegas brasserie, and asks them to impress him with a dish highlighting snails. A tough enough challenge on its own (also a "high stakes," with $15K on the line) ï¿½ but then they learn that while the QF winner will earn immunity, the loser will be shipped home. "Whoever thought that a snail looked good to eat had to be really fucking hungry," quips Jen C.. That's kinda like a Philly version of that famous oyster quote from Jonathan Swift. "Escargot is like my whole youth, you know?" says Mattin as he preps his dish. No, we hadn't noticed you were farcically French.
Among Boulud's favorites ï¿½ Kevin, who Southerned up his dish with a candied bacon jam; Mike I, who impressed the big-shot chef with a soulful ouzo broth; and Jen C., who grilled ramps and threw yuzu into the mix. It's close, but Kevin ends up with the chip. (He also ends up with probably the dopest perk in Top Chef history ï¿½ more on that in a sec.)
Bottom three for the QF ï¿½ Jesse, Ashley and Robin. As they brace to hear who'll be sent packing, Tom C. throws them a bone, giving them 20 minutes to whip up an amuse bouche to prove their mettle. Jesse, who does the pre-dinner bites at her Bmore restaurant every night, doesn't impress with her tuna tartar, and Boulud says au revoir. "The thing I want people to know is that I don't suck this bad," she laments post-axing. That sounds depressing but it reminds me of an important distinction ï¿½ as much as I like to poke fun at the ridiculous things these people say on TV (my long-standing rule of thumb: If they're on the screen, you are allowed to make fun of them), some people just aren't predisposed for success when it comes to the spontaneous challenges these sick-in-the-head Top Chef producers concoct. I don't think it has much to do with raw ability, either ï¿½ remember Roy Yamaguchi stumbling on Top Chef Masters? Wacky on-the-fly cookery just ain't in their makeup. "Why do they sign up for the show, then?" you might ask. Wouldn't you?
Elimination: The cheftestants draw knives ï¿½ some are assigned classic French proteins, while others land classic French sauces. Then they pair up in six groups, combining a sauce with a protein to create a coursed tasting for some of the biggest French chefs in modern memory, including Boulud, Laurent Tourondel, Hubert Keller, Jean Joho, and "chef of the century" Joï¿½l Robuchon, whose restaurant hosted the dinner. Not competing? Main man Kevin, who gets to sit with all the culinary giants and eat dinner. The dude's face lights up like a bearded Christmas tree when he gets the news. Seriously unbelievable.
Not enough time to go into how big of a deal Robuchon is here, but please read former TC finalist Richard Blais' extended-Star Wars-metaphor writeup on the guy. My only quibble, Richard? If you're gonna get all Lucas on us, how could you not liken JR to Emperor Palpatine?! They got the same tailor and everything:
"To be cooking for the chef of the century, honestly I feel like throwing up," admits Ashley.
The cooking and service segments are intense and FrenchFrenchFrench, as are Robuchon's monolingual thoughts on the dishes (a little translator guy helped break it down), e.g. "If you go into the details, I'm caught a little off-guard" re: Eli and Laurine's middle-of-the-road lobster/sauce Amï¿½ricaine dish. At the top: Jen C. and Mike V. (love connex? seems that way), whose rabbit/chasseur plate was "cooked perfectly," according to Robuchon; and Bryan and Mike I., who took a big risk ï¿½ that paid dividends ï¿½ by desconstructing a bernaise to go with trout. Bryan is selected as the individual champ, his second Elimination W. I still think they look like lifeguards, but it's clear the Voltaggio brothers are serious, serious business.
At the bottom: Mattin and Ashley, who screwed up a veloutï¿½ with too much bacon (anyone else notice Mattin curtsy like freaking Madeline in front of all his countrymen? cute); and Hector and Ash, whose Chateaubriand steak was unevenly cooked and ill-presented. Hector, sadly, gets the boot for his sloppy meat-slicing, but there may be a buddy comedy in this duo's future ï¿½ Ash was already working on the treatment early in the episode ("So this Puerto Rican and this gay guy have to make dinner for Joï¿½l Robuchon ... ")
Next week: Cookin' in the desert with Tim Love.
The entire food court in the historic Bourse building in Philadelphia, is taking the day off... and one man is filling in. Robert's mission is to simultaneously open 7 restaurants, with 7 different cuisines in just 8 hours. Robert must work through the night to stock each location with enough food to handle the hundreds of tourists who visit the Bourse each day.
We've excited to see what he'll turn Flamers into!
|Courtesy of Food Network|
Meal Ticket landed a screener copy of the first episode of season two of Food Network's The Next Iron Chef, which debuts Oct. 4 (a month from today) and features none other than Philly's Jose Garces vying for a spot in Kitchen Stadium alongside Bobby Flay, Masaharu Morimoto, Mario Batali, Cat Cora and NIC Season 1 winner Michael Symon.
While we love to yuk it up about Top Chef around these parts, it's important to point out that this particular show is SERIOUS BUSINESS.ï¿½ Yes, Top Chef Masters was too, but since everyone was competing for charity, there was some sense of camaraderie, as we noted ï¿½ but judging by the take-no-prisoners approach of many of the NIC competitors (full rundown here) in Episode 1, there will be very little back-patting among this crew. (Look how mean they all look!) This probably has something to do with the extreme histrionics practiced by the mysterious Iron Chef Chairman, aka the guy from Double Dragon who is not Scott Wolf.
A few quickie details on upcoming episodes and our dude's official chef shot after the jump.
Each of NIC's eight episodes features a challenge themed around some sort of buzz word. There are two of these for Episode 1: "Memory" and "Fearlessness." The chefs are first asked to cook a dish "that has played a significant role in their lives"; then, they're tasked with cooking another dish using "exotic ingredients" (unlaid eggs are involved ... shudder). Of course, we would never spoil the ending of the show for you outright, but even if we wanted to, we couldn't ï¿½ the screener cut off right before they announced who got eliminated. Well-played, Food Network.
We're not gonna ruin the rest of the episodes for you, with the exception of one ï¿½ Episode 4, which airs on Oct. 24. Peep the description:
Host Alton Brown asks the remaining seven chefs endure a tough test of Adaptability. The chefs have 90 minutes to prepare a savory and sweet duo of Mexican-inspired dishes and a creative beverage that successfully utilizes a secret ingredient flown in from Mexico on American Airlines. At the iconic Grand Central Market, the chefs shop for additional indigenous ingredients to effectively capture the heart and soul of Mexican cooking. They are judged on how well they adapt the secret ingredient to their culinary creations.
Holy crap, that's the food competition show equivalent of a hanging curve straight to Garces. Hope he hits it out. Oh yeah, here's chef looking all SERIOUS BUSINESS:
|Courtesy of Food Network|
Late pass, my bad.
Episode 3 of Top Chef was as well-intentioned as it was slow-moving. It did, however, provide us with a few fascinating insights, which I will now run down in bulleted list form:
- PREETI SAYS SHE BECAME A CHEF BECAUSE OF 9/11
- PREETI SAYS SHE BECAME A CHEF BECAUSE OF 9/11
- PREETI SAYS SHE BECAME A CHEF BECAUSE OF 9/11
- PREETI SAYS SHE BECAME A CHEF BECAUSE OF 9/11
There were a few other interesting aspects of this episode, but that really stuck with me for some reason. It's just a weird thing to say. But on a positive note, it opens up a world of possibility as far as pairing occupations with American calamities goes (new parlor game?).
- "I became a cobbler because of the Hindenburg."
- "I became a home appliance technician because of Columbine."
- "I became a occupational therapist because of the Kent State Massacre."
- "I became a Jiffy Lube franchisee because of the USS Maine."
Very fun, try it!
Quickfire: L.A. chef Mark Peel, who competed on Top Chef Masters, has the 15 remaining cheftestants to create a dish using potatoes. No one, not even the transcendently beautiful Padma (who came hard with it on this episode, right?), made a Peel/potato pun, and I was pleased about that. At the bottom: Eli, whose play on sweet potatoes and marshmallows was too sweet; Ron, who overcooked tuna; and the consistently not-good-at-this-show Jesse, who burned Peel's face off with too much cayenne in her soup. On top? Ashley, who executed gnocchi well despite Preeti dunking asparagus into her boiling water (terrorist!); Ash (co-dark horse nom with Ashley), who turned bad (sweet potato ice cream that wouldn't freeze) into good (sweet potato custard); and The Woman, Jen C, who won immunity for steamed mussels in a lemongrass potato sauce that featured three things I wish were conveniently transportable in one's billfold: duck fat, butter and creme fraiche. JEN C!
Other QF weirdness: Peel and Padma hated on Mike I's potato risotto ï¿½ Peel said it was too salty, while Padma patronizingly reassured the chef it was still a "nice idea" ï¿½ and dude started screaming favoritism on the Jen C-hearting judges' part. Jesse, who seemed aware of the heat her spice-based assassination attempt soup packed, yelled "Stupid me, I hate me!" and slapped herself in the forehead repeatedly.
Elimination: The chefs are told to cook a meal for 300 air men/women (the Thunderbirds) in a hangar in the middle of the desert. Mike V digs this, because he and Bryan's sister is enlisted in the Air Force. "Also," he adds, "who doesn't want to do something for their country?" Screw knife skills, patriotism is my new favorite desirable chef trait.
Mike I stops conspiracy-theorizing long enough to come up with a smart way to split up work ï¿½ since his fairer-sex archnemesis Jen C has immunity, she's tapped to be boss, with the remaining 14 cheftestants pairing up to put together to cook a total of seven dishes. Jen C kills it in her supervisory role, maestro-ing the crappy kitchen space so everyone can cook and sticking it to Hector for chit-chatting. Top four: Mike I and Mike V, who teamed up to talk about tattoos/cook a bacon-as-pork belly dish that looked eerily similar to something I recently ate at Michael O'Halloran's Kong (theirs; his); and Eli and Kevin, who bonded "on a fat kid level" while prepping braised pork shoulder and potato salad. Mike V ends up winning (Gail deems the dish "super mega delicious," which I believe is Canadian for "good"), but I'm thinking his W is tainted based on the face-palm quotient of this Bravo Photoshop (I swear I'm not responsible for this):
Just so you know, this image comes from Mike V's bravotv.com Q&A, which features inspiring exchanges like this:
Bravotv.com: Tom LOVED your idea to cook the bacon as pork belly. What gave you this idea? Have you done this before?
Braised bacon ... enough said.
Bottom this week ï¿½ Mike I, who was stuck here because the judges thought his salad contribution to Mike V's plate was weak; and Laurine and Preeti, who teamed up on a bland-looking pasta salad on Top Chef and thought that was OK.
Prior to judges' table, though, is where Preeti said her piece about how Osama bin Laden was indirectly responsible for helping her learn what a quenelle was. "We all experienced that day in many different ways ... the only thing that made sense was to cook," Preeti explains of 9/11/01, adding that she "went to culinary school a few years later." Yep, still a weird thing to say. Though it wasn't the reason Preeti was sent home this week (real reason: pasta salad foreal?), I'm going to go ahead and pretend it is.
Next week: Step 1: Learn you're cooking for Joel Robuchon. Step 2: Poop yourself.
We're barely into our recaps for Season 6 of Top Chef (here's Episode 1 and Episode 2), and Philly's already looking formidable. Above, check a clip from tonight's ep, where 10 Arts chef de cuisine Jennifer Carroll ï¿½ an early front-runner in our eyes ï¿½ puts the kibosh on idle chit-chat in an executive chef role. Don't cross this chick!
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