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Jan 8, 2009 06:52 AM

Top Chef Jan. 7th with spoilers

I watched the show last night and I really thought that the right two went home. I was holding my breath about Carla. I have to say that I adore her. She makes me laugh, whether or not she is the Top Chef, she is my absolute favorite personality. I almost choked when she did the "Whoodi Who" thing. And Jamie had such a smug, entitled expression on her face that I wanted to slap her.

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  1. Why delay the inevitable? Carla might as well go home now because she really isn't top 3 material. The show would be much more interesting, in a cooking POV, if there were fewer cheftestants at this point.

    5 Replies
    1. re: KTinNYC

      Well, for the entertainment value, of course! This is a cooking show, with the word "show" as a part of the profile. The enjoyment factor outweighs the relative lack of cooking chops, IMO. Top Chef has a history of allowing bad chefs with annoying personalities to linger way past their sell-by date, so it's only fair we get to have someone who is funny this time around. But, to be fair, her dish was the least bad of the three last night and it was absolutely time for Eugene, who was all talk and no action, and Melissa, who was all whine and no action to go home.

      1. re: roxlet

        agreed. i like her too. she seems like she'd be fun to know. and it's not like her cooking has been horrible - although i agree she's not top 3 material. in this group it's hard to know who is. maybe a few great things are left to come out of them.

        1. re: AMFM

          I have come to adore Carla as well. KEEP her. lol.

        2. re: roxlet

          "Well, for the entertainment value, of course! This is a cooking show, with the word "show" as a part of the profile. "
          Actually, it is a game show with cooking, really no different than survivor, big brother, price is right...

        3. re: KTinNYC

          She also responded well to the criticism at JT, having a sober estimate of her dish, where it went wrong, and what she could have done better. I thought Toby's summary of Eugene's argument was dead-on. "You say you messed up by taking too much of a risk, but then you say this is something you've made before."

          JT sometimes reminds me of people who have studied "job interviews for dummies" or somesuch, with canned answers that are supposed to be right but show nothing of the candidate's insight. (Nothing against any actual Dummies book that might exist ;-) You know, the interviewer asks, "What's your biggest weakness," and the strategy is to say something that could be either a weakness or a strength like "My perfectionism." We've seen nothing in you that could be construed as perfectionism, or in Eugene's case, "Taking a big risk," so it just sounds like you're saying what you think is the right thing to say. Which might be OK for many jobs, but when you're looking for a wow/top chef, it isn't going to cut it.

        4. As far as Jamie is concerned, there are two possible outcomes to any given Top Chef challenge: those she wins, and those in which her genius is not sufficiently appreciated by the judges.

          I liked Eugene at the beginning of the season but his food never measured up to his bravado. And last night's whining about how he was 'too creative' rang hollow for me, given that Morimoto has a nearly identical 'daikon noodle with tomato and basil' dish in his cookbook, The New Art of Japanese Cooking.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Buckethead

            Ha! I wish someone would have mentioned that to Jamie who kept going on and on about how ridiculious Eugene was for putting those ingredients together.

            I liked Eugene. I think Tom C. was right on last night when he said Eugene just needed to get his skills up to par with his imagination. The dude is self taught. He just doesn't have the technical skill to be a Top Chef right now. Whose to say what he could do with some more education/experience.

            1. re: Buckethead

              I couldn't have said it better!! I'm glad Jamie finally won a challenge--maybe she'll STFU now but it is doubtful.

              Fabio's comment was priceless: "This isn't Top Scallops".

              1. re: meadandale

                i DO NOT love jamie but in her defense she did specifically say she was recooking scallops to show she had learned something and could do better than she had before. that shows some insight and some reason behind redoing it.

              2. re: Buckethead

                i was shocked by the judges rejection of cooked daikon as an impossible ingredient. it seemed very out of character. anything is possible, if done well.

                1. re: thew

                  I have to say, I think if the dish had been done well the judges would have been exclaiming about how they really didn't think you could do a successful hot dish with daikon in it. I don't think they'd have rejected it based on hot daikon alone if it tasted good.

                  Being served a poor dish with hot daikon may have just reinforced their idea that it wouldn't work.

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    I felt that sort of blanket statement to sound a little ignorant, at the very least chinese and japanese cuisines have many dishes that contain cooked daikon. It's sort of like me proclaiming that cabbage can't be eaten raw after trying a bad coleslaw when I've only known cooked versions of cabbage dishes.

                    1. re: Blueicus

                      Yeah, it was surprising to hear self-chosen food people declare some rule for an ingredient, that's for sure. Not to mention to be so completely wrong on the subject on top of it. And your analogy is excellent, by the way.

                      1. re: Blueicus

                        Gail Simmons did something like this in an earlier episode from (I think) this season, proclaiming that avocado shouldn't be used in sweet dishes. Lots of cultures worldwide have sweet avocado dishes, the US isn't one of them but that doesn't mean everyone else is doing it wrong.

                        1. re: Buckethead

                          Consider the source. I expected more from Colicchio though, not being so provincial.

                  2. re: Buckethead

                    I, too, liked Eugene. He worked his way up the ranks with no formal training. I like to cheer for the underdogs.

                    As mentioned by others, I was shocked to hear Jamie's sidebar comment about daikon = radish = served cold.... even more shocked when judges echoed the same sentiment.

                    However, to me, what really ruined Eugene was the overcooked whole fish. Chef Tom gave his rant about "honoring the food" and not ruining fish by overcooking so much.

                    I would love to hear Lee Anne's take on Eugene's dish. I'm sure she's had cooked daikon and whole fried fish sometime in her life.

                    1. re: dave_c

                      i've had whole fried fish many times and it's fab but it still wouldn't be if it was overcooked.

                  3. I was surprised that Carla stayed and Eugene went home. Based on the comments we heard from the judges, I thought the gremolata would do in Carla. Novelli really seemed to like Eugene's whole fried fish, but I guess that was overruled in JT conversation we didn't see.

                    I liked Novelli really picking apart the desserts in the QF Challenge. They didn't really think he was going to give them a pass, did they?

                    And I have to agree - seeing Jamie win - with scallops, no less - kind of bugged me. I thought Stefan might take it (was kind of glad to see Ariane not win it - but she's done way better than I had expected her to, especially after the first few challenge debacles for her!). I'm tired of Jamie whining. I'm tired of Jamie always doing scallops. Top Scallop, indeed, Fabio! LOL As Buckethead said - if Jamie doesn't win, it's because the judges don't see her genius. There's confidence - and there's knowing when you screwed up. And she's screwed up in the past. Will be interesting to see if this win boosts her abilities in making good food (food the judges thinks is good!)

                    I'm wondering if we're still waiting to see Jeff break out. He was close to winning the QF; in fact, I thought he had it. Good for Radhika for pulling out another one. (I knew I should have swapped out Leah for Radhika in the Top Chef / Chowhound group that Miss Needle set up! LOL)

                    As for the new judge, Toby - we get to see/listen to him for the rest of the NY season. I didn't think he was quite as bad as I had been expecting him to be. I think Tom pulled himself out of the camera's sight line with Toby's "Weapons of Mass Destruction" comment as it seemed he started laughing. :-)
                    ETA: Tom's Bravo blog said that it seemed that Toby thought they brought him on for his wit, but realized that everyone was serious about the food and the competition, and switched gears and became more serious about it himself.
                    But how in the hell did Radhika screw up that bisque? She's made it so many times and she can't get it right this time? How does a soup "lose flavor", or whatever she said it did?

                    41 Replies
                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      From the beginning of the show, it definitely looked like Eugene and Melissa were going home from their edit. Melissa finally got an edit and there was all that stuff about Eugene and his family. But during the judging I also thought it was going to be Carla going home. I was wondering if the editors were getting smarter and trying to trip us up. Wrong! The show really needs to be better edited.

                      Ha! I was glad that Jamie finally won something because I really was getting sick of her whining. On the other hand, I was also annoyed that she won. I think the reason why Stefan was so taken with her is that they're really similar, and Stefan is just in love with himself.

                      I'm waiting for Jeff to break out as well. He's got talent, but I think he needs to listen to the challenge and simplify a bit. Ariane has surprisingly been doing very well. However, I don't think she'll get into the top 3 or 4 because her food doesn't seem refined enough. I think she's kind of like a Martha Stewart or Ina Garten cook -- they're both very good at very simple food and people love to eat their dishes, but they're not in the same league as top restaurant chefs.

                      Gene -- somebody I really wanted to like and root for, but just couldn't because he seemed a bit deluded. I think it's great to have confidence in oneself, but he really thought he was a lot more creative than he really was. And he kept talking about how he's at a disadvantage because he didn't go to culinary school. Well, Colicchio didn't go to culinary school as well. Overall, Gene seems like a nice guy, but it was his time to go.

                      I do like Carla. She seems funny and sweet and can see myself getting along with her in real life. But I think she'll be gone soon as her talent isn't in the same league as the other guys.

                      Did somebody else think the second group who got to cook got a bit of an advantage as they were present with the judges when they were critiquing the first group? I think listening to somebody critique dishes (even if they are not yours) is an incredible learning tool. I mean, that's what master classes in music are all about -- you sit in and listen to the teacher critique other people's performances and learn so much from it.

                      1. re: Miss Needle

                        "Did somebody else think the second group who got to cook got a bit of an advantage as they were present with the judges when they were critiquing the first group? I think listening to somebody critique dishes (even if they are not yours) is an incredible learning tool. I mean, that's what master classes in music are all about -- you sit in and listen to the teacher critique other people's performances and learn so much from it."

                        Totally agree -- this struck me as very unfair.

                          1. re: a_and_w

                            Second group got a huge advantage...they got to shop second, so they had longer to plan their dishes. GRANTED, they are tied to what Whole Foods has, but they are now familiar with the store, and who knows, maybe Whole Foods is contracted to have extra stock on hand for the competition.

                            They knew they were being judged by their peers, as well. I don't think they were as harsh, and than their peers seemed to be twice as harsh on them (second judging wave) IMO

                            1. re: sommrluv

                              Jamie was in the first group and won the challenge. What group were the bottom three folks in?

                              1. re: ccbweb

                                Good Question!

                                Stefan was B (cabbage, dumplings..I forget what else), right? Eugene was A now that I remember (deep fried snapper), because I talked about him doing fish with everyone else doing fish, and I 'think' Carla was 'A' because she was scallop and risotto, and Bangs girl was 'A' with the fish/tuna tacos, Radhika was in A and she did crabmeat soup. Ariane was in top with Stefan group 'B' with skatewing but I couldn't get over the amount of seafood in group A.

                                I might be wrong..this is all off the top of my head.

                                1. re: sommrluv

                                  carla was B. eugene and melissa were A for bottom. reverse: jamie was A and stefan and ariane were B for top.

                                  1. re: AMFM

                                    And Colicchio did say that overall the second group did much better than the first one.

                                    1. re: AMFM

                                      Yeah, so it sure seems like there may have been an advantage for the second group. Two of the bottom three came from the first group and two of the top three came from the second group.

                                      Something that might negate that, though, is that the folks in the top three have been in the top a fair bit through the season and the folks in the bottom three were there quite a bit, too. (I think....this is off the top of my head, too and I admittedly watch on TiVo while buzzing through a fair bit.)

                            2. re: Miss Needle

                              Agree with you on the 2nd group having a HUGE advantage.

                              Also love your description of Stephan and why he likes Jamie so much - he *is* in love with himself! If he were a bodybuilder, I can see him admiring himself in the mirror after a good workout and giving a little kiss to his monstrous biceps. ;-)

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                I could see Stefan admiring himself in the mirror regardless...LOL!

                                1. re: a_and_w

                                  I also have to question the palate of a chef who smokes as heavily as Stefan does. I have noticed that smokers have this haze of smoke clinging to them and often try to douse themselves with cologne to mask the oder. I am wondering if smoking might similarly affect the palate -- i.e. perhaps you taste seasoning differently because of the smoke taste in your mouth.

                                  1. re: roxlet

                                    I can't tell about cigarettes but I can tell you that smoking a cigar is reserved in my family for after meals so the taste of the food aren't masked.

                                    1. re: roxlet

                                      after having been a moderately heavy smoker, and now a non-smoker for many years, I can tell you for sure that smoking definitely compromises the taste buds. and it does not matter if you wait to smoke until after dinner. an habitual smoker's taste buds are compromised 24/7.

                                      1. re: roxlet

                                        I don't seems as if a lot of chefs are heavy smokers. Every time I see Bourdain with his chef friends on his show, they are smoking. Most of the previous contestants were big smokers.

                                        1. re: bignickpsu

                                          The question would then be, were any of the previous WINNERS heavy smokers?

                                          1. re: bignickpsu

                                            I have always wondered if those chefs who smoke tend to over season their foods just so they can taste it while cooking.

                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                              some of us got into a discussion about this not too long ago. scroll down to about the lower third of the posts...


                                              i'm with you, Phaedrus. i think there's a good chance that many of the chefs who smoke are the same ones who tend to be heavy-handed with the salt.

                                          2. re: roxlet

                                            Hasn't Stefan basically lived in the top 3 this season? His food seems to have been very well received by the judges just about every week.

                                            I don't smoke, can't stand smoke and think it's disgusting but questioning the palate of a chef who smokes simply because they smoke doesn't seem to make any sense. Either the food is good or it isn't.

                                            1. re: ccbweb

                                              There are many threads about chefs and smoking. We can all argue about whether or not it affects their palates but the fact is that many people that cook your food smoke cigarettes. This is an indisputable fact.

                                      2. re: Miss Needle

                                        Yeah, I noticed that Eugene got the "phone call from home" edit of death and knew he was a goner early on.

                                        I like the way Ariane keeps pulling it out. I think a lot of the younger, hipper chefs looked down on her, like "oh, she's just a Jersey housewife with a restaurant" -- and maybe they still do -- but she clearly knows what she's doing in the kitchen. Even in the 12 Days of Christmas challenge when she ended up in the bottom, it was more because they didn't think her dishes were "special" enough, not that they weren't well executed. And frankly, anyone who caters or throws parties knows that deviled eggs are always popular. I hate 'em, so it's a mystery to me, but I've seen it happen enough to know it's true.

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          actually though Leanne said they were bad.

                                          1. re: AMFM

                                            Did she? Because at least one of the judges said they were delicious.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              in the blog.
                                              "6 geese a laying: Ariane's deviled eggs were, well, deviled eggs (and terrible ones at that)."

                                              1. re: AMFM

                                                Well, that may have been Leeanne's opion, but at least one of the judges said they were delicious, and they weren't just deviled eggs, in that there were six different flavors. Unfortunately, there's no way for us to taste them for ourselves and form our own opinions.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  I think it was the actress who enjoyed the deviled eggs. Honestly, they looked good to me, but I love deviled eggs.

                                                  1. re: a_and_w

                                                    i'm not judging myself - i love deviled eggs. and i have no problem with ariane. just saying that not everyone thought they were good is all. :)

                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            <"oh, she's just a Jersey housewife with a restaurant" > I doubt it. She graduated from CIA while many of them were still in Dydies.

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              No matter. Young, hip urbanites tend to look down on older suburbanites, no matter how well qualified they are. Jamie's attitude toward Ariane is positively patronizing.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                From what I hear, Jaime has a patronizing attitude towards pretty much everyone in real life.

                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                          "I was surprised that Carla stayed and Eugene went home. Based on the comments we heard from the judges, I thought the gremolata would do in Carla. Novelli really seemed to like Eugene's whole fried fish, but I guess that was overruled in JT conversation we didn't see."

                                          I thought so too, Linda. I even figured they were giving us the head fake with a family edit for Eugene. But the edit doesn't lie!

                                          1. re: a_and_w

                                            Ha! We cross posted. Yeah, they seriously need to do work in the editing!

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              No, no! The editing is absolutely done that way on purpose. It's the old bait and switch. They'll do it this way sometimes, and do it much more accurately other times to keep the audience guessing.

                                            2. re: a_and_w

                                              I had a question in relation to Carla's dish. The judges seemed to say that risotto(carb) and protein are two separate dishes or did I misunderstand.

                                              I'm an avid runner and need both nutrients. Recently I made crab cakes and plated them on a large spoonful of simple risotto(I wanted to keep it subdued for the crab).

                                              Is this considered a faux pas?

                                              1. re: spinblue

                                                spinblue, IIRC, I think their intent was to say that the risotto could have stood on its own as a dish without the scallop on top. Even Carla said that she could have put the gremolata into the risotto, reducing the bite and bitterness of the raw garlic. This is what Carla herself second-guessed herself on - she was planning just a vegetarian dish (the risotto) but thought the judges would think she couldn't do protein, and so plopped a seared scallop on top...and then topped *that* with the gremolata which, it sounds like, overwhelmed everything.

                                                So - in answer to your question - yes, I think they were thinking of it as unnecessary to add the scallop. Similar to Jeff's three tapas - Tom called them three separate dishes vs. one cohesive dish.

                                                1. re: spinblue

                                                  The judges don't seem to be able to make up their minds about simplicity versus complexity. When something is simple and straightfoward, they sometimes say that it is not sufficiently (e.g.., deviled eggs, fish tacos) and sometimes that simplicity would be better (e,g,, just risotto without scallops, not to mention the gremolata). When a chef puts out something complex, the judges sometimes criticize a chef because they feel there's "too much going on" and other times are wowed by combinations of disparate ingredients and praise a chef's creativity.

                                                  1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                    You can have a complex dish that has too much going on, or a complex dish that works. You can have a simple dish that is a mess, or a simple dish that is elegant. The level of complexity is not necessarily related to whether the dish is any good or not. Their complaint about Carla's dish wasn't that it was too complicated or too simple, it was that the scallop didn't go with the rest of it.

                                                    1. re: ClaireWalter

                                                      A good example...this month's food and wine magazine, Tom is a guest for a dinner with famous french chef Bras and from a multiple course dinner, everyone's favorite course was a roasted onion which was rubbed with salt, demerrera sugar, and dehydrated olive.

                                                2. re: LindaWhit

                                                  I think what saved Carla's bacon was that her dish was well liked, minus the gremolata and the scallop. Also, during JT, Carla spoke honestly about her dish (hit and misses) and her thought process. She mentioned she should have mixed the gremolata into the risotto to better flavor the risotto and tone down the raw garlic. Tom nodded in agreement.

                                                  Eugene and Melissa just made excuses. They didn't even admit their errors and stood behind their dishes... 1000%! Although, the French judge did like Eugene's concept, but not his food.

                                                  For the elimination challenge, just to annoy Jaime, too bad Ariane didn't win. Jaime thinks too highly of her abilities.

                                                  1. re: dave_c

                                                    Thanks for the clarification on Novelli's thought pattern on Eugene's concept, but not the food. Couldn't remember if he said he *liked* it or not.

                                                    And I had to LOL at your last comment, "just to annoy Jamie." :-D

                                                  2. re: LindaWhit

                                                    I think it's that toxic crab at Whole Foods. Josea (sp?) picked it up in an earlier episode and tanked with it and I've used it, as the only lump crab option at that location. You think it's in a plastic container, but it's sealed with a metal lid underneath and tastes metallic and awful. You cannot make it taste like crab.

                                                  3. Miss N, the second group totally had an advantage, not only did they get to see the critique but they had more time to conceptualize their dishes.

                                                    Jaime- Her initial reaction at JT to winning ("Finally!") was telling - and annoying.

                                                    Jeff- He reminds me a little of Blais early in the season last year- very creative but way too many ideas without focus. However, Blais got it together pretty quickly and we're too far along for Jeff to still be floundering. Family meal=tapas?? I didn't get his thought process. And when he was bragging that he had the most prep of all the contestants, not sure why he would think that is a good thing. I think he has talent and hope he can start self-editing and get it together!!!

                                                    They didn't show Radihka shopping, but if Hosea had to resort to canned crab a couple weeks ago, she probably did too - maybe thats why her flavors were off. But it does make me question her skills. Tinkering with something mindlessly is what home cooks do(like me!). Shouldn't chefs know what the effect of more spice, or more lemon will be, so they can predict what the result will taste like, especially if it's a familiar dish, as she said.

                                                    Stefan made a good dish, but did anyone else think he played it safe? No real experimentation with flavor combinations there, just a reproduction, albeit a great one, of traditional flavors. Granted, I know squat about Alsatian cuisine or German or whatever it was, but from the judges comments it didn't seem very revolutionary. It was funny to see his personality fall flat again with Novelli in the quickfire, when he tried to joke that the Finns invented chocolate mousse, or that he was french. They should've edited in crickets to go with Novelli's lack of response.

                                                    Poor Gene. I was rooting for him, but he was in over his head at this point. Hopefully he takes away that he has a lot of talent, but a lot to learn.

                                                    I like Ariane less now that she's not the underdog anymore. Glad she didn't win.

                                                    I read Soul of a Chef over the holidays to get me thru the 2 week Top Chef hiatus. If any fans haven't read it, I'd highly recommend. The first section follows the Certified Master Chef exam at the CIA, which seems like the inspiration for TC's challenges and structure.

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: yamalam

                                                      In the end, this was the same type of challenge they will get in the end - cook anything you want. They know that many of the contestants will lock in on some bulletproof dish they've done a few dozen times already, or a technique they have down pat. So both creativity and execution become critical... a good but obviously safe restaurant-fare dish isn't going to hack it (e.g. fish tacos), nor is a creative dish where the basics are botched (frying a fish).

                                                      The undercooked lamb got a pass because of the execution of the rest of the dish. The skate won praise for being well cooked, as did the duck thing Stefan did.

                                                      In the end, the two that went home should have gone. And the shows get more personal - down to 9 people, the individuals start to shine more..and those that remain start to run out of pat recipes to re-use..

                                                      1. re: yamalam

                                                        Hate to disagree with you, but Top Chef could not possibly be further removed from the Certified Master Chef certification process. The CMC is a highly structured serious attempt to judge a chef's skills and abilities while Top Chef is strictly for entertainment. There is absolutely no connection whatsoever.

                                                        1. re: trouttr

                                                          yamalam didn't imply any connection. Only that the producers of Top Chef may have taken some ideas from the way CMC exams are put together.

                                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                                            Actually he did imply a connection. He said "which seems like the inspiration for TC's challenges and structure." I just pointed out that there is not the slightest connection between the two. The CMC exam is laid out in advance and anyone who is interested can go see exactly what the criteria are and how it will be judged. TC is entertainment and has scenarios where you are recreating a dish and suddenly oops turn it into a soup. They are both entertaining and valid and fun, but totally unrelated.

                                                            1. re: trouttr

                                                              I meant that he or she didn't imply any official connection, any sharing of ideas, any participation on the part of anyone involved with the CMC exams.

                                                              Whether the folks who run Top Chef took inspiration from the CMC exams isn't something we can know unless someone asks one of the producers about it.

                                                              For all I know, the people involved with Top Chef don't even know of the existence of the CMC exams. But, I don't think we can go with a case-closed idea that there's no way the producers of Top Chef didn't take some ideas from the CMC exams and/or elsewhere. I also don't understand the need to.

                                                              1. re: trouttr

                                                                i've taken inspiration from salvador dali, from mahamta ghandi, and from walt whitman. am i saying there is any connection between any of them and me?


                                                                inspiration and connection are separate issues

                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                  Thank you, that is indeed what I meant ccb and thew.

                                                                  1. re: thew

                                                                    Nicely put, thanks for writing it far more succinctly than I.

                                                          2. This show is getting very predictable. When each episode airs, the first person to speak is the one usually sent home. Last night Eugene first spoke then the dude with the blond hair spoke (Melissa ) - they went home. It's been that way the majority of the time. take notice.

                                                            27 Replies
                                                            1. re: sagman

                                                              I felt bad for Melissa, it seemed Tom's comments about lack of creativity hit her very hard. Knowing that they were sending her home it might have been appropriate to give her some encouragement. During her exit comments she seemed totally defeated.
                                                              Rather than the phone calls home I wish they'd spend a little more time on the critiques of the dishes. Toby's WMD comment about Radhika's bisque gave a very different impression of the dish than Tom's blog comment. It's hard to get a consensus.
                                                              I'm not the least bit entertained by the "cat food" type comments, a little more depth of analysis would be appreciated.

                                                              1. re: tofuburrito

                                                                i don't feel bad for her. she never cooked a single dish i was impressed with, and never showed an inkling that she could do any better

                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                  I'm just saying it would have been more productive to offer her some suggestions for improving her skills rather than kicking her teeth in.
                                                                  Because someone is not a great chef doesn't mean it's o.k. to be rude to them or insult their character.

                                                                2. re: tofuburrito

                                                                  Melissa chose to make fish tacos?! How she can defend herself as being creative after serving fish tacos is beyond me.

                                                                  1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                                    In her defense they were in crudo form so there was a slight twist on the traditional.

                                                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                      And they were kind of an inverse fish taco. Fish tacos are generally made from fried fish and plain tortillas. Hers was reverse.

                                                                      That said, her defense at JT was kind of lame -- I really want to be here, blah, blah. Not the first time we've heard this from her before. I've also got a feeling that she threw Carla under the bus because Carla looked like she interrupted Melissa and defended herself.

                                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                        The idea of pairing a fried tortilla with raw fish strikes me as something which could go wrong very easily.

                                                                        1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                          Anything can go wrong in the hands of wrong people. I've had great preparations of seared and raw fish on tostones in Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago and they were really good.

                                                                          ETA: And things that don't sound too good can be totally fine in the hands of the right people. In Gene's interview with Bravo, he says that Morimoto uses hot daikon in tomato basil sauce. While I haven't eaten Gene's and Morimoto's daikon, my bet is on Morimoto.

                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                            Eugene seems like a nice guy, but the fact that Morimoto does daikon fettucine with tomato-basil sauce (and the Morimoto recipe is pretty well-circulated) undermines just about everything that Eugene was trying to "sell" in this episode. The whole point was to make something to show what you're about as a chef. He was talking up a big game in the episode about what a creative dish this was and how bold he was to do it. But what he did was actually a dish that another chef created and made famous (relatively speaking). So it's not a good dish, AND it's not creative either.

                                                                            1. re: Frodnesor

                                                                              I'm a bit perplexed by your comment. I'm in no way defending Gene here.

                                                                              ETA: In fact, up above I talk about how Gene was a bit deluded as he thought he was a lot more creative than he really was.

                                                                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                                                                Interesting, I did not know that.

                                                                                On the other hand, it does make the judges and Jaime look like idiots because they kept saying that daikon is supposed to be served cold and not hot because it is a radish. That really ticked me off because it shows the narrow mind set of a lot of these people. Do you think Toby Young would have denigrated the idea of daikon fettucini if he had known that Morimoto had thought it up in the first place? I think not. Daikon is served in soups and stews in China at least.

                                                                                Of course I would not vouch for Eugene's execution of the idea either.

                                                                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                  He might very well have denigrated the idea even if he knew Morimoto served something with hot daikon. People may just disagree about that. They may think its a bad idea no matter who serves it. No way to tell, really.

                                                                                  As you also note, the execution seemed shoddy as well, so not an ideal test case for someone new to something with hot daikon.

                                                                                  1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                    Plus, a tomato and basil sauce? No matter how well executed, it'd still be the most simple (and to my mind, boring) sauce possible. Not Top Chef.

                                                                                  2. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                    I'm with Phaedrus on this -- I was surprised by the judges' objection to even the concept. There's also no evidence that Eugene got the idea from Morimoto. In fact, if he had, I would have expected him to cite that fact in his defense when criticized.

                                                                                    1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                      Morimoto's cookbook which included this recipe was published mid-2007. And Eugene does refer to the Morimoto dish in his exit interview on the website->

                                                                                      " Were you worried at all about the daikon? Have you ever used that flavor combination before?
                                                                                      No I wasn't worried about it because I have worked with that flavor combination before. I think the judges may have been turned off by it because most people use daikon cold. They don't really have experience working with daikon period. They're only used to eating it in a mainstream way like for sushi. One of my favorate chefs, Chef Morimoto uses it in one of his cookbooks. It was also meant to be eaten right away. I didn't know it'd sit out for awhile."


                                                                                      As for why he didn't raise it to the judges, wouldn't it undermine the "nobody but me has the balls to do daikon fettucine" pitch if he said "Nobody but me .. and some really famous chef named Masaharu Morimoto who put the recipe in a cookbook a year ago ... has the balls to do daikon fettucine."? I'm a big fan of chefs riffing on the ideas of others and making them their own; I'm less impressed when someone tries to convince as to how original and creative they are when they're using a borrowed concept that's presented without substantial alteration or embellishment (and pairing it with a fried fish doesn't count in my book).

                                                                                      1. re: Frodnesor

                                                                                        Interesting...I stand corrected! And you're right -- mentioning Morimoto would have undercut Eugene's claims of creativity and originality. But I think the point is that Eugene shouldn't have tooted his own horn so much in that regard. If he had simply cooked the dish, then mentioned the Morimoto influence when challenged on the concept, he would have been much better off.

                                                                                        PS: Apparently, the Morimoto recipe hasn't circulated all that much because none of the judges commented on the precedent.

                                                                                        1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                          Assumes the judges are consistently well-informed. I think the judges generally know well their particular universes, but don't have the impression they are in touch with everything going on in the food world. These are the same judges who thought that Fabio was some kind of genius for coming up with a spherified olive, something that Ferran Adria famously did years ago.

                                                                                          This was a well-publicized cookbook release (Morimoto is an int'l celeb chef) and it was certainly not a buried secret. Indeed this was one of the featured recipes, and was all around the blogosphere, and on TV shows like Emeril and Martha Stewart (I wonder if she would have recognized it!), etc., a year ago ->


                                                                                          1. re: Frodnesor

                                                                                            Hmmm...points well taken! Out of curiosity, would you hold it against Fabio that he did something Adria has done before?

                                                                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                                                                              I would not at all hold it against him for doing it - only if he tried to claim that nobody else would ever have the balls or creativity to make a spherified olive.

                                                                                            2. re: Frodnesor

                                                                                              To be fair, the spherified olive is impressive every time I have one.

                                                                                              This should not be construed as disagreement with your post, you're spot on.

                                                                                              And spherified is an excellent word, by the way.

                                                                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                I know this is an old post...but since I didn't see last nights TC - (YET!!) - I had to get some TC in for the day and came across this.

                                                                                                CCBWEB - where have you had a spherified olive before?
                                                                                                I have been fantasizing about them ever since that episode aired!

                                                                                          2. re: Frodnesor

                                                                                            In this case, I think he may have meant "no one but me has the balls to serve daikon fettuccini in an elimination challenge to a bunch of judges who may not like the concept." Presumably even Morimoto doesn't serve daikon fettuccini to everyone who comes into his restaurant, just those who express an interest in trying it.

                                                                                            Top Chef judges aren't always very open to innovative uses of ingredients -- they actually have, to my mind, fairly conservative palates. I'm blanking on it, but there was an occasion last season where they judges made similar pronoucements about how some ingredient should always be prepared, and there was a similar discussion in this forum about how they were wrong/ignorant of the way the ingredient was used by other chefs or in other cultures. In this case, the guest judges were a French chef and a British food critic, so avant garde preparations of Asian ingredients may have been way out of their comfort zone.

                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                              I believe there was one time when Collichio derided the use of peanuts/peanut butter in a tomato based stew, which is similar to a regional African preparation.

                                                                                              1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                That could be what I'm thinking of, thanks.

                                                                                                1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                  Virtually everyone in my town would be shocked to hear one shouldn't use peanuts in such a manner. One of the most popular lunch joints in town that serves a soup based on exactly that would probably go out of business in a week if they couldn't serve it.

                                                                                        2. re: Frodnesor

                                                                                          Miss N - I didn't think you were defending Gene, I was just following up on your comment that Gene mentioned Morimoto's dish.

                                                                                          The fact that Morimoto does the dish doesn't make it good either, but it certainly makes it less creative when Eugene does it. Should the judges have known that? In fairness, Morimoto's cookbook and PR blitz (where this recipe was frequently featured) may have post-dated the shooting of TC (though surely the dish was on the menu well before the show came out).

                                                                                          Under any circumstances, the judges probably should have known that cooking daikon is not at all unusual in Asian cuisine, though if not served raw it's usually braised or stewed. I think one problem with the dish was that it was somewhere in between.

                                                                                          If you google daikon tomato basil you'll see several references to the Morimoto recipe, which doesn't seem to be universally adored by those who have tried it.

                                                                                          1. re: Frodnesor

                                                                                            Eugene struck me as someone with talent but not much knowledge. He's a sushi chef, right? But he avoided the question when one of the guests(maybe Rocco or Bayless) asked him to explain the difference between sushi and sashimi. Seemed odd to me.