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Dec 3, 2011 07:15 AM

What I've learned from watching TOP CHEF

Top Chef is one to few cooking programs and reality programs I enjoy. In fact I usually hate all reality tv on principle. However since the first time I saw it gained a place in my heart. I've avidly watched every season (online) I usually get so excited I get up to cook, or eat something myself. One thing I love about cooking is pushing the boundaries and making up new and interesting combinations. I've used two recipes from this show to Also it's one the few places in my life where I relish (no pun intended) a challenge. This is what I've learned for Top Chef.

*A good cook is not afraid to take risks.

*A good cook is will adapt to whatever crisis or disaster is thrown at them.

*A cook is only as good their ingredients.

*Baking is hard, and I'm not alone for sucking at it.

*Pork belly is food of the Gods.

*If you can't get the ingredient/equipment you want substitute and pray it comes out right.

*Trust your instincts.

*If you think something has gone wrong, and you know it shouldn't smell/taste/look like this, it's not right, then it has. (Luckily at home I can throw it out).

*Don't overload your dish with two many stupid ideas all crammed together.

*If you are cooking for others LISTEN to what they want, don't thumb your nose at them.

*I need a Sous Vid like yesterday.

*I need a bigger kitchen.

*If Gail Simmons is so cool then how come Food & Wine awful magazine?

*Don't cut corners

*If you can make it from scratch do it. usually that will be better.

Funny how one silly show taught me so much. I mean when I get down in my kitchen, I just kitchen the GE Monogram kitchen and bunch of cheftestants scrambling around trying to do something. Maybe a clip of some guy cheftestant going: "I got chickpease, cheerios and collards. Why did they give me the letter C *BEEP*!" And I know I can usually pull through. Also I don't have Marcel mocking me.

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  1. Depends on your appetite for truisms. I learned to tune it out. I still want to see a "Pasture to Plate" series: catch 'em, stun 'em, bleed 'em, gut 'em, cut 'em. You get the picture, right?

    6 Replies
    1. re: Kagemusha

      I might be showing how young I am but that sounds TOTALLY HARDCORE! Make the EPIC MEALTIME guys look like WIMPS.

      1. re: Kagemusha

        I'm with you. It's funny how many of the chefs get anxiety from having to butcher primal cuts of meat. I think they should each be given a choice of a live rabbit, chicken, duck, goose, or pheasant, a cast iron pan, and a campfire. Those are all animals I've killed, field-dressed, and later cleaned and butchered. (I left out giving them a live deer or grouse, I don't know where they would get those).

        As far as things I've learned from Top Chef: 1. don't do duos and; 2. don't do risotto.

          1. re: Kagemusha

            I have zero interest in actually hunting myself, but I would watch every single everloving episode of your program. Even it it went to farms-here is the cow that is about to be converted to meat. I'm a dedicated omnivore, but I also really like the idea of knowing where your food actually comes from.

            1. re: Kagemusha

              That would be interesting. I caught a show on the BBC channel awhile back. There were several series where they took young adults and put them into the behind the scenes of fashion cloths and having to work in a sweat shop in India, fast food and having to go to Indonesia to work on a rice farm and gut fish. You get the picture. They also had one where they took a group of kids and did an episode like you just described. Go to the farmer, kill the chicken, cow, pig or what ever else they encounter. Butcher and process it and then eat something made from that animal.

              I thought it was really interesting to watch. Some kids could handle it and some not.

              The electric clamp to electrocute chickens prior to cutting their juggler was interesting.

              1. I don't care about Food and Wine, but leave Gail alone, she's smoking hot. You forgot one thing, season your food.

                2 Replies
                1. re: James Cristinian

                  My daughter bought me a subscription to food and wine. I enjoy it. I don't really drink much wine, but I like the food part.

                  1. re: wyogal

                    I didn't mean anything against food and wine, as I like it. It meant as a Gail Simmons comment.

                2. Taste your food before you serve it.

                  An unwatched pot boils over.

                  5 second rule is in force in my kitchen.

                  Never let anybody into the kitchen with a camera.

                  The prime value of a good sous chef is to have somebody to blame the misses on.

                  Never wanted to try a recipie from it. But I enjoy it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                    But the watched pot never boils;)!!

                  2. I like your list, YAYME. Sous vide has NEVER been on my radar as a home cook, but I'm also not as fancy as many other home cooks on the Home Cooking Board are.

                    I think my top 2 of what you listed are:

                    Trust your instincts.
                    If you can make it from scratch, do it. Usually that will be better.


                    1. Lots of great observations here!

                      My takeaway is -- I can't consider myself a serious cook unless I'm willing to get inked ;-)

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: momjamin

                        that's a good one. I guess I am always going to be second-tier in the cooking dept because I have not a single tattoo. I *do* have two holes in each of my ears-- but I don't think that's enough.

                        1. re: momjamin

                          I got curious about that myself and did a little bit of light research during my TV watching.

                          Here is a short list of Chefs who do not seem to have any Tattoos (I am simply going by what I have NOT seen during the normal watching of TV):
                          - Thomas Keller
                          - Daniel Boulud
                          - Eric Ripert
                          - Pierre Gagnaire
                          - Joel Robuchon
                          - Guy Savoy
                          - Grant Achatz (I think)
                          - Ferran AdriĆ 
                          - Gordon Ramsay (I think)

                          They all have at least one thing in common: a 3 star Michelin restaurant to their name.

                          I am guessing that there is a 3 Starred Michelin Chef out there with at least one tattoo on him, but, so far, I have not seen any basic evidence of it.

                          1. re: DougRisk

                            I'm willing to bet you can add Jaques Pepin to that list too!

                            1. re: Bart Hound

                              You know, I was trying to stick to 3 Starred Michelin Chefs because that recognition seems to trump all others (not my personal opinion, but I understand).

                              However, I am the absolute biggest Jacques Pepin fan. I thought his autobiography was really interesting.

                            2. re: DougRisk

                              Excellent. Maybe I should make it "serious cooks of a certain generation" ... I'm uninked (and planning to remain so) and unstarred (and expecting to remain so, since I'm not a professional) and much closer to Eric Ripert's age than Michael Voltaggio's.

                              1. re: momjamin

                                My guess is that the newest crop of 3 Star Michelin chefs, few will have much ink. Grant Achatz is just one example.

                                In my experience, those people that are obsessive enough to master all of the tiny details it takes to reach the absolute "Toppermost of the Poppermost" are unlikely t go to a Tattoo Parlor.

                              2. re: DougRisk

                                eric ripert has a fleur de lys tattoo, sorry to break it to you. perhaps his restaurant needs to lose a star!

                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  You don't have to apologize for anything. Like I said, in general, it seems like the 3 starred Michelin chefs do not have that much ink.

                                  If you told me that Gordon Ramsay had a Tattoo, I would also not be that surprised.

                                  However, with Ripert, I would bet money that he did not get any ink until AFTER he got his 3 stars and very likely did not get any until after he became friends with Bourdain.