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Top Chef - D.C. - Ep.12 - Space Food Challenge, What would YOU have cooked?

Okay, I'm going to be crabby here, but it seems to me that not one single contestant had a clue of what the challenge conditions were: Had to be food that would freeze dry well, not too sweet, spicy and strong flavors go over well in weightlessness, no large chunks... Have I missed anything? And to a soul, they all made fancy schmancy froo froo dishes with stacked entrees and many many things that will never freeze dry! Personal opinion? Someone should freeze dry some steaks and make those contestants (cheftestants if you prefer) eat the damned things!

So what would you have made that fits the criteria? The first thing that popped into my mind was Mexican burritos. Hey, all of the astronauts spend time in Texas, so don't tell me they haven't had a burrito! I do know that space food can be re-hydrated and heated. And some things can simply be hermetically sealed. The sole reason for freeze drying is weight reduction. The first time I had freeze dried space ice cream I thought it was a plastic pillow of air until I opened it and found there really was something in it! So for presentation on the show, I would have packed two flour tortillas per serving in a plastic bag that had the air pumped out of it by the cryovac machine that does that for sous vide preparation. Then I would have fixed a nice pot of beans and picadillo with peppers and onions because ground beef does freeze dry just fine. And some cheese to go in it, that also freeze dries and rehydrates, and maybe even some avocado/guacamole and tomatoes because they will freeze dry well too.

For the show's earthbound guests and judges, I would have served it as an assemble yourself dish with the tortillas in a sealed bag and bags of the bean/beef filling and a smaller bag of shredded cheese. It would require the compromise of serving it hot and un-freeze dried, but it would give them some sense of what it is like to eat in space.

So what is your idea for space food that meets the criteria? As far as I'm concerned, every "cheftestant" on last night's show should have had to pack their bags and go! They all failed miserably to meet the challenge in my book.

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    1. I agree. I think that is probably why Tom C smirked when Angelo told him he has making short ribs. However I don't think that the challenge was explained well, and that these chefs probably don't have any idea as to what would freeze dry well, so just went with something they thought that would be impressive. I am not familiar with the mechanics of freeze drying food, but it seems that they should have had to serve their dishes side by side--a fresh version and one that had been freeze dried.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jules127

        I also think they cheftestants latched onto the fact that the food scientist said that well-spiced foods are highly favored. So they went with something that tasted good; just not something that could potentially be freeze-dried (onions rings - I'm talking to YOU, Kevin!)

      2. I'm totally with you Caroline1.

        As to what I've would cooked? I was thinking about this very thing this morning during my run. Probably spicy chili with corn bread, and some CHICARONNES for garnish on the chili!

        1. I think the chefs didn't have enough information. Why or how would they know which foods freezedry well or how to do it? If I had been the producer of this episode, I would have provided some samples of common dishes that had been freeze-dried and reconstituted, so they could get some kind of clue of what might make good choices for their presentation.

          I have no idea what I would have made, having not experienced freeze-dried food that I'm aware of, other than that nasty Tang.

          14 Replies
          1. re: ChefJune

            They did provide examples .. chicken fajita and a couple of others were mentioned by the astronauts at the ISS.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              nothing to taste, tho... Do you really think anyone could have won that challenge wit Chicken Fajitas? If Bourdain poo-pooed sirloin steak, he would have crucified fajitas!

              1. re: ChefJune

                Yeah, I agree with you.

                This is why I don't think the show really took advantage of the NASA theme/angle.

                I would've maybe given each chef a basket of freeze-dried goods and have them cook a dish incorporating each of those ingredients.

                Here's $200 to go shopping at Whole Foods, but whatever you make, you've got to use freeze dried ice cream, freeze dried chocolate cake, etc. Now, that woud've been interesting.

            2. re: ChefJune

              "I have no idea what I would have made, having not experienced freeze-dried food that I'm aware of, other than that nasty Tang."................ChefJune

              Tang is NOT freeze dried. It's simply powdered. But have you ever had one of those 99 cent cups of ramen noodles that many college kids live on because of budget restrictions? Well, if you've ever had one of those, ALL of the vegetables in the little packet are freeze dried. I don't think there is anyone in the country who hasn't eaten freeze dried food. Now, whether or not they know it is freeze dried when they eat it is another matter. But chefs SHOULD know! ALL chefs should know!

              My favorite freeze dried food is corn. It's as interesting as popcorn, and if you eat it without rehydrating it, it's crunchy and tastes really interesting! You can get large packs of it and other freeze dried foods from "survival" supply stores on line, as well as some commercial food wholesalers.

              1. re: Caroline1

                <have you ever had one of those 99 cent cups of ramen noodles that many college kids live on because of budget restrictions?> I tried one, once, but it was SO salty I had to toss it.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  Ditto that. I can't deal with them. They're not "Cup-O-Noodles" - they're Cup-O-Salt".

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    You could use just half of the seasoning mix packet...just saying...

                    1. re: huiray

                      You know what? I think even *that* would be too salty for me. And since I can afford something more than Cup-O-Noodles, I'll pass. :-)

              2. re: ChefJune

                Chef June I agree with you. I don't know if the chefs had more information or not, but as a viewer I wanted more info. Especially since I thought Angelo missed the mark with his short ribs.

                Caroline1, to answer your question, I immediately thought of pulled pork bbq kicked up a notch so it is smoky and spicy, but I never got beyond that.

                  1. re: lizzy

                    I have mastered pulled seitan and nominate it as the penultimate space food. Yeah, ok you guys I know you're all spelling is SAtan, but it'd be a perfect dish. I bake it with spicy, gingery bbq sauce to dry it out a little and give it a meatier texture. Starting from freeze dried might make it even better. And it's something for the occasional vegetarian astronaut to be happy about.

                    1. re: MplsM ary

                      Remember the pierced woman with the tattoos and stretched earlobes that made seitan chile rellenos on TC6? (I shouldn't judge her by her appearance, I know. I can get past the tats and piercings, but the ear thing weirded me out). It didn't go so well for her.

                      1. re: John E.

                        I do remember. .Tom said it would've been terrible no matter which protein she used. Don't blame seitan, blame Jen Z.

                        1. re: MplsM ary

                          I wasn't blaming the seitan, I was merely recalling the only time I've seen it used on Top Chef.

                1. I'm wondering if they will actually put Angelo's short ribs on the flight. It seems to be the opposite of what they instructed--big pieces, too sweet. I was also surprised at the fried food. Will fried food stay crunchy freeze dried? Or, taste crunchy in a good way?

                  The first thought I had was chili but too boring/common and would never win. The question is what does freeze dry well and that would help. OTOH, I haven't had a lot of freeze dried astronaut food but the few things I've tried were terrible.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: chowser

                    <I'm wondering if they will actually put Angelo's short ribs on the flight. It seems to be the opposite of what they instructed--big pieces, too sweet.>

                    I wondered the same thing, chowser. After thinking about the challenge for the last couple of days, I came up with duck leg confit that might work freeze-dried and reconstituted, yet be considered "gourmet" enough for Top Chef. But not too much else. Maybe Boeuf Bourguignon.

                    1. re: chowser

                      < "I'm wondering if they will actually put Angelo's short ribs on the flight. It seems to be the opposite of what they instructed--big pieces, too sweet" >
                      ------
                      Yet when Anthony Bourdain praised Angelo's dish at the dining table and said that he could imagine it being amenable to being adapted for space travel the NASA food scientist at table nodded - in agreement, it would seem to me.

                      I could envision the dish being massaged without loosing the flavor or intent - e.g. the short rib (already boneless, remember) could be cut into smaller pieces (duh!), the toppings and sauce could be placed in separate bags, the sugar content scaled back a bit if needed etc etc before freeze drying. Regarding that "problematic sugar content" - recall that the NASA scientist said that the sugar content shouldn't be TOO high, not that it couldn't be sweet.

                      Angelo's worry about whether it was too sweet, and Tom's comment about it being sweet for him are not really meaningful in this context because we don't know how much sugar is too much for purposes of freeze drying.

                      (...and besides, I'm not sure I always trust that Colicchio's taste buds are calibrated properly)

                    2. Here are some examples of freeze dried entrees they sell to campers:

                      http://www.cabelas.com/link-12/produc...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: junescook

                        Oh dear! Could you see Angelo serving the judges Chili-Mac? (ROTFLMAO!) It is one of my absolute NO's in the food world. It even looks nauseating.

                        junescook, none of those dishes are even remotely Top-Chef material. I can hear Bourdain choking now.

                        1. re: ChefJune

                          I only floated i there as examples of the kind of textural things that can and are already being freeze dried.

                          Personally, if I were in space, I'd probably get a craving for fried oysters since I do here, but they're likely not feasible. How about feijoada? I've never had it, but it sounds homey and could be good, right?

                      2. When I heard the restrictions on big pieces I immediately thought of a stew. No ordinary stew, something rich and complex. In fact that Moroccan lamb dish would have been great for space if it was in stew form rather than on the bone.

                        1. This is a little off topic, but does anyone remember 'Space Food Sticks'? They were made by Pillsbury and were supposedly similar to the food the astronauts ate on the Apollo missions. I was quite small, but as I recall, they were hideous.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: John E.

                            Sure do.

                            Space Food Sticks were the energy bars before energy bars entered into mainstream consciousness ...
                            http://www.spacefoodsticks.com/index....

                          2. They didn't say but is it really wise to serve beans in a closed space?

                            56 Replies
                            1. re: mnosyne

                              ROFLMAO!!! Well, in case they needed additional fuel to power the rockets to get home....

                              1. re: mnosyne

                                That's about as funny as a f*rt inside a space suit. :D

                                I don't think the criteria matched what would be considered a gourmet meal worthy of a chef.
                                A thick Mexican stew or a jambalaya type rice dish would be perfect for space and freeze drying but just wouldn't be considered good enough for that contest.

                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  Do you think a posole or a jambalaya is lesser of a dish than a sirloin? I think both would be good choices, could use smaller cuts of meat and incorporate spices. And I'd much rather eat either of them, freeze dried, than mussels. It's ironic when Tiffany said her mussels froze and were ruined but were destined for a dish to be freeze dried.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    I don't think the judges would have been impressed with the skills necessary to produce a jambalaya. Sorry not sure what a posole is and don't feel like researching it right now.

                                    They weren't impressed with steak either. Bourdain said it was too safe, I believe.

                                    I think Tiffany got booted to create drama and controversy. After all, the purpose of the show is not to showcase a great chef but to provide entertainment and drive ratings which generate income.

                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                      Bourdain also thought Kelly was safe, too. But, both dishes were good enough for the chefs to stay. Posole is just a thick Mexican stew, pork based. Done well, I think it would have been great for this challenge. Well, the key to winning with any dish is done well, I guess.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Given his background, Bourdain would probably think 99% of the dishes were "safe" -- he of the "I eat beating cobra hearts" world traveler.

                                        But we all know (esp. given some of the threads on Chow), just hard it is to cook steak well and properly. It is, by all means, not so easy as to be "safe".

                                      2. re: Hank Hanover

                                        I don't think Collichio would attach his name to the show if it were rigged. It would go against the entire industry's view of him. Same thing with Ripert. And many of the guest judges.

                                        Anthony Bourdain has also gone out of his way to elaborate how straight-up the judging is, how it's all about the food on any given episode, and how dismayed the producers are over some of the judging decisions (probably Kenny's elimination earlier this season for example). I don't see the impetus for Bourdain to go out of his way to lie like that. I doubt Top Chef can pay him enough to buy him off.

                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                          Right. Tiffany got booted to "create drama and controversy". No, she got booted because her dish was the worst out of the five.

                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                            TV has made these chefs far richer and more famous than they ever were before. They know not to bite the hand that feeds them. No, they aren't going to let a "ham and egger" win but manipulating whether a chef leaves 1 episode earlier or later is not going to essentially change anything. Without TV Collichio and Bourdain would both be very hard working chefs with an ownership interest in their own restaurant. They would have the respect of other chefs that knew who they were but the rest of us would have no idea who they were. Their incomes would be far lower than it is today. They have a very large interest in a TV show they are involved with being successful. No, I don't think they are going to have much trouble with a little manipulation if it doesn't terribly effect the results.

                                            A couple of seasons back two twins won first and second place. You don't think the producers were thrilled with that controversy and drama? Unless those guys messed up really bad, they weren't going anywhere.

                                            A season or two back, there was this load mouthed chef that just hated this lady named Robin and the fact was, she wasn't very good. Neither one of them was going to win the overall prize. Guess what, mister loud mouth got bounced before Robin because that was what the audience wanted.

                                            Why do you think they continually run audience phone polls? It just isn't realistic to think that drama, controversy and ratings don't effect this.

                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                              Without proof of manipulation, when so MUCH has been said during past seasons that the outcomes are not manipulated, you're just blowing smoke, Hank. You really think that that many people who are involved in the show could be kept quiet about potential manipulation of challenge outcomes? Especially after they've left the show and their non-disclosure agreement time period has ended?

                                              Oh wait. We didn't land on the moon either.

                                              Oh - and "two twins" won Top Chef? Ummm, no. They were brothers. And they were both damn fine chefs and deserved their one-two finish, because Kevin Gillespie, who came in third, essentially imploded because of personal issues in his life just before the finale.

                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                Quote: "TV has made these chefs far richer and more famous than they ever were before."
                                                _______
                                                Chef Ripert doesn't need Top Chef. He has other options. He was quite famous and probably pretty rich before signing on. Bourdain may need TV. But he has his own show. On another network with different producers. Guest judges are reportedly paid next to nothing. Do you think Thomas Keller, Jacques Pepin, or Daniel Boulud have much to gain in either money or publicity from taking part in a rigged contest?

                                                Quote: "Guess what, mister loud mouth got bounced before Robin because that was what the audience wanted."
                                                Quote: "I think Tiffany got booted to create drama and controversy."
                                                _______
                                                So people are booted because that's what the audience wants EXCEPT when they're booted precisely because that's what the audience doesn't want? You can't really have it both ways and still make a sensible argument. Is there any decision the judges could make that wouldn't be evidence of some grand far-reaching conspiracy in your mind?

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  So people are booted because that's what the audience wants EXCEPT when they're booted precisely because that's what the audience doesn't want? You can't really have it both ways and still make a sensible argument
                                                  ~~~~~~~~
                                                  Touché! Well played, cowboyardee. :-)

                                                2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  "Why do you think they continually run audience phone polls? It just isn't realistic to think that drama, controversy and ratings don't effect this."
                                                  ___________________________________________

                                                  I didn't know they ran "audience phone polls"?

                                                  Really? They do this?

                                                  Isn't better to just monitor the BravoTV Top Chef message boards? Or maybe follow the trends on Twitter?

                                                  Really ... phone polls???

                                                  Someone please disabuse that notion for me ...

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    I know they conduct polls where they ask audience members to text responses to fairly insipid questions, and then air the results. I believe they charge said audience members for the privilege of being polled, but I'm not positive. Hey - I would do the same thing if I thought it would work. Or else everyone reading this thread is welcome to send me money in a box.

                                                    I don't think this practice is particularly damning evidence of mass deception.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      "I don't think this practice is particularly damning evidence of mass deception."
                                                      ________________

                                                      I didn't raise it because I thought it was a sign TC was fixed. I was just astounded at how archaic a method it was ("phone polls") to gauge audience reception.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                        I gotcha. I think Hank was referring to the text message queries when talking about phone polls.

                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Every time they go to a commercial break, they show a phone number to call. Did Alex really steal the pea puree? Who do you think will be the next chef to go home? I have personally seen those polls.

                                                      I think you even have to pay a small fee to participate. I'm not sure on that but the polls are there.

                                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                        Well, texting is certainly different than "phone polls" ...

                                                        I can text from my computer, and certainly don't need a phone to do it.

                                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                          It's an audience-participation thing because some people can't stay on one channel long enough - it's a way to keep them there. You *really* think that they're actually using that to judge when to remove someone from the competition? Ummm...no.

                                                          Would you like to know why?

                                                          The season was filmed several months before the FIRST episode ever started airing! How could they "poll the audience" when the judges' decision was made several months prior to airing? They're sure as hell NOT going to go back and re-film it based on what the audience says in the poll!

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            That's a good point.

                                                            Ma'am, you're getting more upset about this than it deserves. I've stated my opinion. If you disagree, that's fine.

                                                            I am amazed that nobody thinks this show is manipulated. I still watch the show. I'm still entertained by it. I still learn a thing or two from it. I will continue to watch it.

                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              "I am amazed that nobody thinks this show is manipulated. I still watch the show. I'm still entertained by it. I still learn a thing or two from it. I will continue to watch it."
                                                              _____________________________________________

                                                              I can't speak for Top Chef, but I know folks who work behind the scenes at The Amazing Race and know for a fact that that show is not fixed, or manipulated in any way.

                                                              Just food for thought.

                                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                Ma'am, you're getting more upset about this than it deserves.
                                                                ~~~~~~~~
                                                                It's the illogic you're presenting that bothered me, when this has been talked about a LOT. On Bravo. Here. There. Everywhere.

                                                                I'm glad you will continue to watch it. But the manipulation is non-existent. Otherwise, you wouldn't have the quality of judges or cheftestants on the show, as there'd be no reason to sully their hard-earned reputation on a "fixed show".

                                                        2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                          The thing with Robin and Mike Isabella is that Mike made a mistake in his preperation of leeks I believe. He made a bigger error than did Robin. All throughout that competition Mike put himself in the same skill category as the Voltaggio brothers and Kevin and to a lesser extent, Jen. I don't think he was as good as any of them. Eli kind of did the same thing and I don't think he was as good either.

                                                          I think the judges do exactly what they say, they judge the food before them without taking into account the contestants' past performances. Robin seemed to be very lucky in that when she had a poor dish, somebody else made a bigger mistake. That will only get you so far because pretty soon there aren't enough other contestants and the odds catch up with you.

                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                            It could be manipulated but not by the views of the audience. It's more the reverse where the audience is manipulated by the editors. There are thousands of hours of footage and they pull out who they want to be the heroes/heroine and the villains. Eli was made to look like the villain against Robin (last season), though he remained after Robin--not because of what the audience wanted because the audience hadn't seen any of the episodes at that point. The other chefs seemed to like Eli a lot and Richard Blais, high respected winner previously, is very close to him. They showed footage to make him seem like a whiner mama's boy.

                                                            As for the "twins" winning, that would be brothers Voltaggio? They impressed most people w/ their cooking and if they weren't going anywhere, it's not because they were brothers and the drama. Let's be honest, drama can be drummed up out of any unscripted show. They let those win who win and then they go back and find footage to support what they want.

                                                            The audience is being controlled by the show, not the show being controlled by the audience.

                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              <TV has made these chefs far richer and more famous than they ever were before. They know not to bite the hand that feeds them. No, they aren't going to let a "ham and egger" win but manipulating whether a chef leaves 1 episode earlier or later is not going to essentially change anything.>

                                                              This kind of controversy comes up every season, and every season Tom discredits it. Still for some reason, there are folks who can't wrap their heads around the concept of voting off the worst dish each week.

                                                              Oh well.

                                                              1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                it isn;t realistic to search for conspiracies under every shiso leaf either.

                                                                people on TC are voted off if their dish, that day, is the worst.

                                                              2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                I think we will just have to agree to disagree.

                                                                There is a lot of money in these shows. Other than to Tiffany and her mother, what difference would it make if Tiffany placed 5th or 4th?

                                                                And yes, there are going to be times that better ratings are gotten when giving the audience what it wants. There are going to be times that the controversy of going against the will of the audience will generate more ratings.

                                                                You can have it both ways. That's why those guys make so much more money than we do.

                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                  "And yes, there are going to be times that better ratings are gotten when giving the audience what it wants. There are going to be times that the controversy of going against the will of the audience will generate more ratings. "
                                                                  ~~~~~~~~~

                                                                  Hank - I will repeat what I just said above:

                                                                  "The season was filmed several months before the FIRST episode ever started airing! How could they "poll the audience" when the judges' decision was made several months prior to airing? They're sure as hell NOT going to go back and re-film it based on what the audience says in the poll!"
                                                                  ~~~~~~~~
                                                                  They (judges, editors, producers, ANYONE involved in the show) have NO CLUE as to who the audience is going to like or dislike. The "will of the audience" has absolutely nothing to do with how the dishes are judges.

                                                                  They film it. They edit it the way they see fit. And they air it. Period.

                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                    I know I shouldn't continue this line of discussion but I just can't help myself.

                                                                    First I looked on the web and saw where Tom Collichio is adamant that Top chef isn't rigged. Although he is responding to repeated charges by fans that it is rigged so I am not exactly alone.

                                                                    I did want to point out this disclaimer that is displayed on Top Chef :

                                                                    "Winning and elimination decisions were made by the judges in consultation with producers. Some elimination decisions were discussed with Bravo."

                                                                    This link shows the freeze frame of the disclaimer.

                                                                    http://warmingglow.uproxx.com/2010/08...

                                                                    Now it isn't exactly an admission that the producers have some say in who stays and who goes, it would seem that they aren't above trying to have some effect.

                                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                      Hank,

                                                                      The language you quote (i.e. ""Winning and elimination decisions were made by the judges in consultation with producers. Some elimination decisions were discussed with Bravo.") is standard boilerplate language for reality TV shows.

                                                                      It can mean whatever you want, or nothing at all.

                                                                      It's like "All Rights Reserved" or "Void Where Prohibited" ...

                                                                      1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                        I'm well aware of the disclaimer - as Ips noted, that's a standard disclaimer for reality TV shows. It doesn't mean very much, and as you noted various people representing the show have stated that the judging is straight up and based ONLY on that week's food.

                                                                        Since you cannot be convinced with explanations of why it would be a bad idea to rig the show, let me try another argument - the basic application of Occam's razor:

                                                                        I haven't heard a shred of evidence that the judging actually is rigged. Not one. No one connected to the show has said it's rigged. No guest judges gettting sloshed for an interview and letting slip, no former contestants whining that they were robbed. Stating that manipulation of the eliminations would benefit the producers is one thing (actually I think it would be a stupid risk on their part), but that doesn't mean that they actually went ahead and rigged it.

                                                                        If the eliminations can be explained plausibly at face value - that contestant had the worst dish that week in the honest opinions of the judges - then there is no reason to suspect the semi-unlikely conspiracy of many individuals to hand-pick eliminations as well as the HUGELY unlikely continued suppression of the truth by many individuals. In fact, an honest contest would explain some eliminations that would seem very strange were the show rigged (Tre season 3, Kenny this season, Kevin losing the finale last season, Hosea winning season 5).

                                                                        Is there any other reason to think it's set up beside the 'it sure would be nice for the producers/bravo' argument?

                                                                        Cuz right now, that's a whole lot of conspiracy to explain a whole lot of nothing.

                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                          Well, to be fair, cowboyardee, I think there is a better way to use Occam's Razor.

                                                                          In fact, to play devil's advocate for a minute, I think you are setting up a "straw man" argument when making your case that it would be too complicated to rig TC.

                                                                          You wouldn't need to tell any of the contestants, or the producers, or even the crew on the show. The only people who would have to be "in" on a conspiracy to rig the show would be the permanent judges, who number (how many?) 3?

                                                                          So, in the name of Occam, you wouldn't need a vast conspiracy. Just a handful of people to manipulate the outcome.

                                                                          I'm not saying that the show is fixed, I'm just saying it is not out of the realm of possibility, and certainly would not be out of the realm of possibility if one were to apply Occam's razor to this question.

                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                            Maybe you misunderstand me. Occam's razor applies regardless of the size of the conspiracy. Any conspiracy is an ad hoc and superfluous proposition to explain away.... nothing much.

                                                                            As for the size issue: if you cut people for dishes that are obviously better than others presented the same week, guest judges and contestants would quickly catch on. I see no reason to think most of them are fools who wouldn't notice something like that. They are food service professionals, usually with years of experience.

                                                                            I suppose they could be very disciplined about ONLY manipulating the elimination when a chef has made a dish that's plausibly bad enough to send them home anyway. But that's not what Hank or other conspiracy theorists claim. And that would beg the question - what's the point? And again - why send home Tre or Fabio or Kenny or Tiffany? These eliminations make more sense in the context of an honest competition than a rigged one.

                                                                            Quote: 'I'm just saying it ... certainly would not be out of the realm of possibility if one were to apply Occam's razor to this question.'
                                                                            ~~~~~
                                                                            Occam's razor can't prove or disprove anything. Ever. And you're right that it's a possibility. Just not a likely one.

                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                              What I meant was that a "the fix is in" theory is not necessarily the most complicated explanation for TC. There are certainly more complicated explanations for the judging decisions on TC.

                                                                              If one were to use OR, then we would gravitate to the simplest explanation, and away from the most complicated, because according to OR the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

                                                                              I'm just suggesting that "the fix is in" theory is not necessarily the most complicated.

                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                Wait, what? What's the most complicated explanation? So OR can only gravitate us away from the "mind-rays from Martian super robots" theory of Top Chef eliminations?

                                                                                The "fix is in" theory only has to be more complicated than the "honest competition" theory for OR to apply.

                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                  here is my occams razor theory of top chef:

                                                                                  The fix is in iff tom C has no integrity.

                                                                                  Tom C has integrity

                                                                                  ergo

                                                                                  1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                    That pretty much sums it up, TFE. :-)

                                                                2. re: chowser

                                                                  The big problem with freezing live mussels is you can't reliably tell which ones are stiffs. That probably played into her decision not to use them more than the change to their texture from freezing. You can freeze mussels after cooking with no problem, except for the usual textural changes. But freezing live ones is begging for problems.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    Maybe it's just my experience but I haven't had frozen good mussels. I've never had freeze dried mussels, though. Maybe that would be good but I'd think the flesh wouldn't hold well.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      I don't think I have either. If I'm bothering to have mussels they'll be fresh. Tiffany may have had several reasons for not using frozen mussels. Just pointing out the biggest one.

                                                                      And I bet there are probably very few people in this world who have tried a freeze dried mussel. I have no idea how that would come out.

                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                        I completely agree w/ Tiffany about not using the mussels. I just thought it was funny that she was ready to have them freeze dried and yet not okay with them being frozen. Other than the novelty of trying it freeze dried, I'd take frozen mussels cooked over fresh mussels freeze dried.

                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                          There is a huge difference between buying live mussels and having them frozen by accident and buying pre-frozen mussels. The problem comes from not knowing which mussels were alive among the accidentally frozen ones. When you buy live mussels, you throw away those that won't open or show signs if life before you cook them. When you buy mussels that are already frozen, they have already been picked over and no dead mussels are frozen. That's was Tiffany's dilemma!

                                                                          I have bought frozen mussels that were as flavorful and good as fresh. I have also bought frozen mussels I cooked but wouldn't eat because I didn't like the flavor. It all depends on they type of mussels. I now know I don't like frozen "green mussels." Won't buy them again! Got a pound of them in the freezer now I will probably keep until late winter and plant them with tulip bulbs or something.

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            Thanks--I don't know all the ins and outs of frozen mussels. I grew up getting them fresh from the bay. My parents would take us out for a day and we'd come back with buckets of them. I hadn't had them in years until we went to Scotland last year and again, had some amazing mussels and it brought back the craving. Since then, I've had them here and there, all frozen, and haven't been happy w/ the flesh. I don't know what type of mussels they are but I've had a craving for good, inexpensive mussels. I should have appreciated them more when I was growing up.:-) But, I'll still stand by the idea that freeze dried mussels just don't sound good.

                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                              I don't think freeze dried seafood of any sort would make the top of my shopping list, let alone mussels! Heck, I don't even like those foil envelopes of tuna.

                                                                              But from time to time I do wonder what Top Chef results would be like if the winner was the one with the most accrued points overall for the whole season? I seem to recall someone winning one week and being sent home the next. One off night does not end a cooking career, but it sure plays hell with a TV career!

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                That accumulated point idea wouldn't work. If the judging worked like that, anybody that got a few wins would play it safe and not necessarily do their best work. The current system where anybody can go home at any time due to mistakes is still the best.

                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                  Accumulated points system could work if it was based on a Jeopardy! type basis -- that is, the more "points" the more money you get if you win.

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    Well, the thing I like about accumulated points is that is more "reality based" than the current method. After all, isn't that the way LIFE works?

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      " After all, isn't that the way LIFE works?"
                                                                                      __________________________________________-

                                                                                      No, not really.

                                                                                      You can accumulate all the brownie points you want, but if you get hit by a car? You still gonna die.

                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        And as it's been said before - if you get badly cooked steak frites in a restaurant do you really care that yesterday's version was fabulous?

                                                                                        1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                          Very good point MplsM

                                                                                          But if you've gotten several good steak frites at the restuarant in the past, you certainly will give it more rope when you get that one soggy plate of fries, right?

                                                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        no, it isn't how life works at all. you can be brilliant at your job, and then one day you mess up big, and you get fired. Youre a politician with a brilliant career and then one day you say one stupid thing, and you arent getting reelected. etc

                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                          My goodness, what a grim outlook! I have never fired an employee for a first screw-up. Takes at least two or three. They're so grateful for not being fired, they try harder. Works for me! And if all politicians lose elections for doing stupid things, how do you explain Marion Berry? Gotcha! '-)

                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                              Not even a big screw up, as long as I'm convinced the original intent was not to screw up. Not to sound crass and manipulative, but truth is the bigger the screw up, the greater the guilt and the harder the guilty party will try. So both of us come out winners. Not many times in life when that happens! '-)

                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                Yeah, guilt can be a great motivator. We once had an employee mess up and a client complained. The same mistake had been made on at least two other occasions, but I had not been made aware of it. The mistake was made again, the client complained, and it's unfortunate, but he had to go. Letting someone go really is a tough part of being the boss. Of course there have been other partings, but usually it's more of an "it's not working out" situation.

                                                              3. I agree in principle but if someone *had* done something that would have freeze dried well, I am not at all sure that they would have gotten a single brownie point for it. It seems they were being judged more or less "business as usual"

                                                                5 Replies
                                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                                  Did the judges have a choice? My guess is that had someone prepared something that fit all of the criteria, they would have walked with the win, no sweat! The judges had to deal with "what we cooked is what you get," and no one cooked what was requested. No one!

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    I guess I'm saying that if the choice was between putting something really elegant on the plate, freeze-dryability be damned, vs. doing something truly space-worthy (deliciious, but less elegant), that elegance would have won. Sure if they could have done *everything*, that would have won, but there's usually a trade-off somewhere.

                                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                                      Whatever. But the bottom line *IS* that *NO* contestant/cheftestant rigorously followed the criteria that was given for preparing the meal. Period.

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        Thanks so much for this post Caroline!

                                                                        I watched the episode last night, and the whole time I was just really annoyed because the challenge just seemed so gratuitous!

                                                                        I totally agree - none of the chefs followed the criteria, and to me none - abosolutely none of the dishes would be good as a freeze dried version.

                                                                        And at judges table - there was no mention at all of what the challenge was! (at least not that we saw)
                                                                        Very annoying!

                                                                        I was thinking chicken definitely... some sort of chunks of chicken and veg.
                                                                        I'm not a chef so - I can't get more creative than that at the moment... but I have a "thing" for freeze dried chicken anyway. When I was a kid, I used to open up the packets of Lipton chicken noodle soup, and pick out all the chicken bits!
                                                                        I used to love to crunch them or suck them till they got mushy!!
                                                                        I havent done this in years of course, but I bet I would still enjoy it!!

                                                                        1. re: NellyNel

                                                                          Lemme guess... You like salty snacks, right? '-)

                                                                          Yes, the number of chicken possibilities is practically endless, including curries, stir fries, stews, fricassees, arroz con pollo... Endless. Unfortunately, the imaginations of the "cheftestants" turned out to be limited. The viewing audience is the loser because it is a missed chance to learn something practical about food in space. Too bad.