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Top Chef Seattle - Ep. #13 - 01/30/13 (Spoilers)

We're cruising with the Final 5, folks. Cruising to Alaska, that is!

Back in Stew, the 5 of them are talking Josie leaving, and how lucky Brooke and Stefan are to have made it through.

Padma and Tom walk in to tell them they're packing to leave Seattle - they're going on a cruise. Tom tells them, however, that they're not going to be sightseeing. They head home to pack. Stefan says in confessional about how his mother signed him up for the Finnish Army, and booze cruises are all he's been on. Brooke, meanwhile, is not fond of boats and is concerned about being on the water.

They get on the Celebrity Infinity cruise ship. Stefan and Brooke do some weird dancing on deck. They are in their TC blue chef coats, and meet Padma and Curtis Stone in the ship's galley. For the Quickfire, they'll be cooking for the Welcome Aboard party. They have 2 hours, but have to make 200 portions for the guests. They'll be working with a "non-foody member of the lettuce family" - and it's iceberg lettuce that they need to highlight in one bite.

Brooke notes that being on board the ship, there is no gas - everything is electric. Lizzie finds it frustrating to deal with the different locks on the oven doors. Stefan says he loves iceberg lettuce, and since they're freezing on deck, he thinks Padma should have something warm in her mouth. Jaysus, Stefan. :-/

Stefan looks for a place to plug in an electrical appliance, and Josh notes there are some by Lizzie's station. Stefan drags the appliance cord through her prep area, messing things up, and she takes him to task for it. He said people underestimate her. Sheldon ends up boiling over a sauce, starting a small fire on the flat top. But he has enough sauce for his dish. Brooke notes that 2 hours to prepare 200 portions without any help is not easy, and she's just throwing ingredients into her lettuce cups. It ends up not looking the way she wanted, but it tastes good, and she hopes that is what counts.

STEFAN - Braised Iceberg Lettuce, Pastrami, Fingerling Potato & Blue Cheese Sauce - Curtis said it's an intense flavor. Other guests say it's comfort food and they enjoy it a lot.

SHELDON - Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap with Pork, Shrimp & Pickled Iceberg Hearts & Green Mango - Padma said it has a lot of flavor. Curtis asks if he was worried about serving it as one bite as it is usually served as a lettuce cup. Sheldon was worried it was too much for one bite, which is why he cut down the lettuce a bit. One guest say it's bright, fresh and she'd eat a dozen of them.

LIZZIE - Iceberg Salad with Crispy Bacon, Shallots & Anchovy Vinaigrette - Curtis asks if the petite salad is something that would be served in Traci Des Jardins' restaurant, where Lizzie works (or has worked?). Lizzie said perhaps, although what she's served to Curtis and Padma are a bit bigger than she would choose. Guests liked it for the bacon.

JOSH - Iceberg Roll with Apple Cider Vinaigrette, Bacon Jam & Blue Cheese - Curtis intently watches Josh as he walks away "He walks like a chef." LOL Guests like the flavors as there was a good punch to it.

BROOKE - Iceberg Wrap with Bacon, Scallop, Caramelized Onion & Crispy Quinoa - Padma asks how to eat it, and Brookie said you could make it a two-biter. Guests like the scallop as perfectly cooked.

Curtis tells all chefs that he loved all the dishes. He liked Stefan's dish in that he cooked the lettuce but kept the texture. Josh's dish, he felt he played it safe, but did a brilliant job of it and Padma notes he took a classic dish and elevated it. Sheldon's Vietnamese wrap was very creative with the sweet, the salty, the pickled flavors. Brooke's scallop was perfectly cooked, and Padma liked the quinoa with it, but thought it was difficult to eat. Lizzie's salad was tasty, but the one-bite dish was not quite there.

Curtis announces the winner of this Quickfire as Sheldon! (I knew it!) Padma says he'll have an advantage in the Elimination Challenge. Padma then says she's made reservations for the 5 of them at Qsine, but they're sent off to explore the ship and relax. Sheldon and Lizzie head off to get a manicure, and Sheldon loves it and hopes he doesn't get judged on his masculinity. Brooke, Josh and Stefan are having drinks topside (Stefan said "Yay! Finally some liquor!" Uh-huh. Like you've not seen any liquor yet on the show, Stefan!)

Back at the manicurists, Sheldon tells Lizzie that his manicurist is from South Africa, so they exchange local information. Lizzie notes that her father has recently passed, and they had packed up her parents' home. Her father used to love to fish, so she finds it fitting that they're on a ship to Alaska.

Josh notes that this day is the due date for his baby, and he doesn't know how it's going with his wife. He also said that he wants to see Sheldon's manicure. "Where I come from, men don't get manicures." (I think you'd be surprised, Josh!)

They cheftestants arrive at Qsine, and they're handed tablets with the menus on them. Stefan looks around, and sees the lamps hanging from the ceiling - they're upside down. Lizzie says "Alice in Wonderland" (Huh. I immediately thought "The Poseidon Adventure!") Josh said "I told you about them forever ago!" Brooke says "That must be when I stopped listen to you." Josh replied "You just continue not listening to me....fried chicken. That worked out well for you, didn't it?" Ouch. Stefan says "Be nice!" and Josh said "You're going to talk?" They start trading barbs about how many challenges they've won and which were the worst dishes.

The dishes start to come out, and the presentation is amazing! Sushi lollipops, disco shrimp, and an "open grid suitcase" separated into 9 or 12 boxes with various small plate dishes in each box.

Padma and Curtis walk in, and Lizzie gets a wave of panic. Padma says she hopes that they liked what they had a Qsine, as they'll be running dinner service tomorrow night. Padma said they want the cheftestants to take a classic dish and turn it on its head for the Elimination Challenge. They'll be making "Surf & Turf." Padma said the seafood and meat should work together as one single dish, and Curtis told them to be creative and think outside the box. Stefan said Surf & Turf seems old to him, but he's creative, so he's not worried. (Does this foretell anything?)

They'll get to explore the pantry and refrigerator tomorrow morning. Sheldon's advantage is that he'll get first pick of the proteins, and whatever he chooses will be off limits to the other cheftestants. It means it'll be a lot harder for the remaining 4 since they can't decide what to make, since they don't know what Sheldon will pick.

The next morning, they have 30 minutes to choose their ingredients. Sheldon chooses beef tenderloin and lobster tail. Stefan ends up with pork belly and eel; Josh takes pork belly, scallops, and bacon. Lizzie takes half the bacon and the whole pig. Brooke wants to set herself apart, so she goes with frog's legs and mussels.

They then head into the warehouse pantry in the bowels of the ship, which is huge. They then run into the galley for serving vessels for the presentation.

They start prep, and Lizzie goes to town on the whole pig. She's very used to doing this, and Josh is impressed with her butchering skills. Josh is going to make pasta with scallops, Stefan is ravioli with eel, and a beer-braised pork belly. Brooke's wondering if her frog's legs are going to be considered "turf", but she hopes it'll go over well. She asks Sheldon how he's going to make his dish playful, and he says "I'm not." His dish is going to be very straightforward, and now he's nervous that he's not being creative enough. Josh's scallop pasta hasn't set and is way too soft, and he's freaking out inside.

In the in-between blurb, they're shown moving into their staterooms, and Sheldon and Stefan are roommates. Lizzie and Brooke are right next door, and they meet out on their mini decks. Lizzie asks "Hello cheeky boy! What are you doing over in this part of town?" Stefan responds "We're on a gay cruise - this is my boyfriend, Jonathan. Party Pants!" Goofball.

They're back in the galley, finishing the prep work. Josh's pasta didn't work, so he's making scallops scrambled eggs. Stefan says "Come on - breakfast again?"

The guests arrive, as do the judges. Padma, Curtis, Tom, Hugh, John Suley, the head chef of Celebrity Cruises, Caissie Stafford, Cruise Director for Celebrity Cruises, and Sheldon Thompson, Hotel Director for Celebrity Cruises. Tom said getting into the Final 4 is big - you don't want to get to the last 5 cheftestants and then not make it to the Final 4.

Brooke's scrambling trying to get 7 different elements of her dish for all of the 200 dishes.

BROOKE - Mussels & Frog Legs with Celery Root & Fennel Puree, Papadums & Shallot Chutney - Caissie said "I didn't even know we had frog's legs on board! Tom and Curtis both say before even tasting it, it's very inventive, and then Tom said the flavors are really good. The frog's leg isn't the most earthy dish, but adding the beet glaze made it more earthy. Hugh said it all married well and was very modern view of it. Caissie liked the presentation. Tom noted that the papadum was the only negative - too greasy.

STEFAN - Braised Pork Belly with Beer Sauce, Parsnip & Eel Ravioli - Tom said it's the greasiest looking sauce he's ever seen. He takes a bite and says "Oh my God!" All we hear is a lot of crunching. LOUD crunching. Padma asks if that's a tooth. Curtis, however, said he loves the crunchy pork. He said it's a cultural thing - people in Australia or Great Britain, they expect the very crunchy cracklings. Hugh said "Well, there's the difference between beautiful people like Curtis with fluoride teeth, or the guy with two teeth gnawing on it in the corner. It's England, so it's different." Padma said she thinks Stefan pushed the envelope with the eel and parsnip ravioli, but Hugh said he can only taste the parsnip.

JOSH - Scrambled Scallops with Braised Pork Belly & Bacon - Tom said that if Josh hadn't said it was scallops, he wouldn't know - but he can taste the sea flavor. He thinks it's packing a lot of punch. Padma thinks there's not enough scallop flavor, but Sheldon Johnson said he likes the presentation. Everyone thinks he was very inventive and the flavors were good. Tom was surprised he was able to recover from the mishap with the pasta.

SHELDON - Korean BBQ Filet Mignon, Tempura Lobster, Sesame Cabbage, Kimchi & Teriyaki Sauce - Tom likes his presentation, but Hugh asks why people think tempura is a good idea, and he's getting "the softie again". Tom notes that the tempura had to have come out of the fryer 10 minutes before plating. Hugh and Sheldon like the kimchi beef. Hugh says, however, that the dish hearkens back to the origins of Surf and Turf - that people wanted 2 different items on the plate - and they weren't married. Tom agrees and says "I don't even think they were dating." Caissie says "We had a singles night the first night; they missed it." (It's not looking good for Sheldon!)

LIZZIE - Cabbage Stuffed with Suckling Pig & Scallops with Mustard Sour Cream with Pickled Shallots & Apples - Tom said the cabbage isn't cooked enough, and it's hard to eat. Curtis said the scallop is overpowered by the rest of the dish. Tom loves the pickled items, and overall, he enjoys the dish. Guests note that it's difficult to eat.

The judges talk about who could win - The Celebrity Cruises head chef says Brooke was inventive. Hugh also thinks that Josh put out a great dish. Curtis thought Lizzie's dish was good, but Tom thinks it needed one more element. Meanwhile, Hugh thinks Lizzie could be included in the bottom group - it wasn't new and modern - it was more traditional. Caissie thought Stefan's dish didn't capture the flavors of surf & turf, and Hugh said not taking off the skin on the belly made it difficult to eat. Sheldon Johnson, Hotel Director, said he wouldn't eat Stefan's dish again. Meanwhile, Sheldon's dish was a failure with the tempura, per the Celebrity Cruises head chef, and Curtis said he chose the worst proteins and executed them badly.

At Judges Table ::::whooshing camera::: Padma and Curtis note that Brooke cooked outside the box and they were impressed. Padma asked Sheldon what he thought of the challenge, and Sheldon said it was uninspiring to him, and the ingredients just didn't to speak to him. Tom notes that HE was the first to pick his ingredients, so why did he choose filet and lobster? He replies that he thought he could execute those items. Curtis said there were a couple of items that were inedible on the plate. Hugh notes he didn't re-imagine the surf & turf.

For Josh, Curtis was nervous about the scrambled scallops, but said it worked and it was fabulous. Hugh said the pork belly was spot on, but the scallop was strange. Tom said he was probably the first person ever to scramble scallops. Hugh said the nice sea flavor worked around the pork and they were well integrated.

Padma said she was excited to hear Stefan was working with eel, as she remembered his last season on TC, and he had had a deft hand with the eel. Curtis asked if he had tasted the parsnip and eel together; Stefan replied he had and that it tasted fine to him. Curtis said you couldn't taste the eel. Tom noted the sauce had a half inch of grease on top. Stefan said he skimmed the pork fat off, but there's only 45 minutes to plate up....Hugh notes "You guys have to conceptualize dishes that work under the pressures of the challenge." Tom also notes that the skin was so hard he thought he could have broken a tooth. Curtis said while he likes crispy pork, this was right on the verge of going over. He could hear Tom chewing on the other side of the table loud and clear.

For Lizzie, Tom said he liked the idea of the dish, and it tasted good, but when you cut into the cabbage, it fell apart. Curtis also loved the dish and thought it was presented beautifully.

Curtis announces the winner - and it is Brooke! Padma tells her she'll get a 7 night Caribbean vacation for 2. She laughs and says "That's ironic!" She realizes that, after spending time on the cruise ship, maybe her fear of boats was in her head. Meanwhile, Lizzie and Josh are also both safe, and they can return with Brooke to the galley. That leaves Stefan and Sheldon.

(Another in-between is HYSTERICAL! The #SaveChefCJ and #SaveChefJosie - it's 94% for CJ, and 6% for Josie! LOL!!!)

Back at JT - Tom notes the issues with both of their dishes, and says he hates to see either of them go. Padma asks Stefan to PYKAG. I *REALLY* thought Sheldon was going to go home. Stefan has a really nice farewell in the confessional, but realizes he has LCK to redeem himself. (They show him saying "Of course it's Wifey!")

Previews for next week show them in Juneau, dog sleds, fresh fish, and some bears.

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  1. Thanks yet again Linda.
    1st thoughts:
    For some reason I found this episode boring even though there were some interesting dishes. I guess iceberg lettuce IS boring.

    Brooke: gutsy move. Frogs legs and mussels. Both ingredients can easily be overcooked. Very unforgiving. Looked great.

    Lizzy: Interesting dish. Chef I'd probably least like to go out with for a good time (the most dour looking face ever) although when she smiles I think she is transformed.

    Sheldon: Sheldon, Sheldon, Sheldon. You're bumming me out man. What were you thinking dude? You lucked out on this one. (Slapping him across the face) Get it together man!

    Josh: Talk about lucking out. His ill-conceived pasta led to an un-conceived scrambled scallop that by accident tasted good. Even a blind dog finds a bone once in a while.

    Stefan: I never liked that they brought back the chefs from past seasons but Stefan started to grow on me - kinda like a staph infection. Seriously, I really started to like him a lot but he failed big time with that pork belly. Tom, in his blog describes nicely where he went wrong. It's one of Tom's best reads and educational (Hugh's, as usual, is just a great read).

    It's nice that one particular person is gone. No drama. Good cooking and these guys all seem to genuinely like each other.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bobbert

      Lizzy and Sheldon both have impressed me as two of the most down to earth and genuine of the competitors. Lizzy's agonizing doesn't strike me as drama-queening, but a fairly true reflection of how difficult some of the challenges have been -- the time demands combined with the huge volume they're required to produce. despite the problems she had with execution, the judges probably recognized what an accomplishment it was to properly prepare the whole suckling pig with the limited time and unfamiliar equipment. Sheldon has probably had the least formal or conventional apprenticeship training in classical techniques and repertoire of them all, and in this instance his qualms about execution dampened his creativity.

      1. re: moto

        Watching Lizzy butcher that pig was pretty impressive. Even the bacon guy was impressed. Sheldon is just such a cool guy - he knew he blew it. I'm glad it didn't send him home.

    2. I noticed the "Save a Chef" graphic, too--I think the 6% was higher than I would have expected.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Skippy1414

        I was wondering if the 6% were jokesters or people who just really hate CJ. Does Josie watch this and realize what a jerk she has come off as?

        1. re: chowser

          I think Josie has a small (very small) contingent of supporters. Hell, Don King has come out in support of her and wants to "promote her".

          As for Josie? No. She has absolutely NO self-knowledge about herself or her surroundings. I think Hugh's first paragraph puts its best:

          "Kristen is still reigning champ in Last Chance Kitchen and Josie is napping off the hangover of defeat. Did you notice the very awkward exit when Josie got her pink slip? Missed hugs, avoided high-fives, skulking walk of shame back to the Stew Room, but always sporting that trademark smile. The world could be imploding into itself and Josie would be like, “Dudes, let’s party!” "

          1. re: chowser

            I was thinking CJ must have some really bitter exes ;->

        2. I liked this episode. Both challenges had a curve but still let the chefs show their own creativity and skills. This episode also reminded me why I like Stefan. He can be such a goof-ball and genuine at the same time.

          It did feel like the episode was longer so they could include a celebrity cruise infomercial.

          I loved the presentation of the dishes and love that they got be creative. I love crackling too and am always disappointed to not get in the US.

          The thought of breaking down a scallop like that doesn't seem appealing to me and I would think not being even able to identify one of the proteins would be a mark against him. It must have tasted great but I still wouldn't cook it like that.

          "making whimsical fun food isn't something I do."-seriously Snidely Josh what exactly do you cook.

          Lizzie's dish just seemed so uninspired compared to the other presentations.

          2 Replies
          1. re: tjinsf

            Regarding Josh, and "I don't make fun food," I'm shocked he's made it to the final four. I predicted Sheldon, Brooke, Kristen, Stefan. I guess I'm only hitting 50%, but still, the guy cooks bacon in EVERY SINGLE CHALLENGE. That's not interesting. That's a crutch.

            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              Every episode, he comes up with something else he "doesn't do," which is a terrible attitude for a chef. And except for the fried chicken, even the food he does do tends to turn out mediocre.

          2. Thanks Linda! My cable started doing that jerky stacatto mosaic thing during the judging. :-[

            13 Replies
            1. re: Shrinkrap

              And my cable went weirdly bonkers. I was hitting the 'guide' button to record the 2nd half of TC when the screen went out and I couldn't change channels. Unplugged and when it came back on, I then had no sound. The menu wouldn't reload in time when I was on the phone w/ them so I just went to bed and got it going this morning, but figured I'd read this anyway. I have to watch just to see these cute Stefan moments, he really can be a fun goofball, sorry to see him go.

              Note: I don't see LCK up on the site yet at 7:15AM Thurs. That's odd.

              1. re: Joanie

                LCK was up right away. I think it's one of the best yet.

                1. re: bobbert

                  Weird cuz on the 2nd page of Tom's blog, I clicked 'Last Chance Kitchen' and get a "Sorry, it seems the page you are looking for isn't here right now." And on the Bravo Top Chef page I see last week's David Chang ep even after refreshing etc. Whatever, I'll find it eventually.

                  1. re: bobbert

                    Yup, I stayed up to watch it last night as well. (Although I wasn't watching it until around 12:15 until after I finished writing up the recap!)

                    1. re: bobbert

                      Can you post the link since I'm not having any luck? Thanks.

                      1. re: Joanie

                        OK, this is VERY interesting. The Bravo site seems to have reverted to Ep. #12 with the "latest videos". There's just Stefan's exit interview and "BravoTV.com Exclusives" for Ep. #13. Then they have two previews for Ep. #14. Hmmm....

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          I can see the LCK on this end. Watched it last night; one of the best LCKs yet in my opinion.

                        2. re: Joanie

                          http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...

                          Try this. I had a hard time last week and had to keep going round and round the houses. This week I got straight to it.

                          As others have said, it's a great one.

                          1. re: Chatsworth

                            I have to confess that I have to read the comments before I watch so I can see who won before watching.

                      2. re: Joanie

                        I missed it last night, too, but couldn't wait until Saturday to read Linda's recap. Thanks Linda! I'm just relieved that Sheldon is still in the running! Last Chance Kitchen was really good, as were the blogs. Now to wait for Max to get his up on Eater...

                          1. re: momjamin

                            There's a LCK spoiler in the Eater recap, for anyone who hasn't seen LCK yet.

                            1. re: LurkerDan

                              As someone who doesn't think Curtis is esp. cute, I liked this:

                              Lizzie gets all flustered by him. "He's really cute," she says. In South Africa, obnoxious sweater detailing like toggles and shawl collars are a sign of a man's virility, so it makes sense that Curtis is extremely attractive to her.

                              That's so cute that Max met Kristin after his gig in Boston. I wish I'd known he was in town (actually I wasn't). Will keep a lookout for next time.

                    2. Thanks for the recap, Linda!

                      I was sorry to see Stefan go, but it just seemed to me that a lot of his cooking has been poorly conceived and half-hearted. Would he send hard, inedible pork belly and a grease-laden sauce out to a customer in a restaurant? The only time it seemed as if he was engaged was during judging. Although Sheldon was lucky to have skated with, once again, a terrible tempura, something virtually inedible--i.e. the pork belly-- will always trump something that's poorly made.

                      Josh was incredibly lucky to have turned the intended scallop pasta into a scallop scramble and to have had it be, not only edible, but tasty. For my money, he is the one who shouldn't go to the finals. I don't feel he is the equal of the others as a chef, both in terms of technique or conception of dishes, although this one was a real leap forward for him.

                      I know everyone liked Brooke's dish, but what was it exactly? With all these bits and pieces of the serving dishes, it was difficult to tell. I'm glad she won, however, and if Kristin wins TCK, my money is on one of the two of them to win the whole thing.

                      12 Replies
                      1. re: roxlet

                        Interesting that you think Josh *shouldn't* go to the finals with the Final 4. Right now, LIzzie is the *only* cheftestant without a QF or EC win. However....she *does* have 6 "Highs" in the EC challenges, so she's always *right there* and just misses out. I actually see all four of these cheftestants as pretty equal.

                        Now, if Kristen comes back, all bets are off. :-)

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Yes, you're right: all bets are off if Kristin comes back. I believe that she would win for sure. Although Lizzie hasn't won a QF or EC, Josh's win EC win was for a basic, homey dish as opposed to interesting cooking. For me, his making bacon and egg sushi in last week's QF, for example, displayed a real lack of imagination and a narrowness of expertise. Though Lizzie hasn't hit any true highs, her food has been more consistent. However, factoring in the LCK, clearly the final three should be Brooke, Sheldon, and Kristin, with Kristin for the win. Right now, both Sheldon and Brooke should be hoping that Stefan beats Kristin in LCK!

                          1. re: roxlet

                            Agree that Josh has been off on creativity. This week was *the* most out-of-the-box he's been. At least FINALLY he's won something for cooking breakfast. :-D

                            Agree on your Final 3.

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              ...and you know it was complete luck that he ended up with something good after the debacle that was supposed to be scallop pasta. Was it just me or did anyone else notice when Brooke asks him what he was making? He tells her scallop pasta. She then asks if he knows how to do it and he says no but in such a way as in "...no, I don't need your help..." I think Brooke was going to offer up some well intentioned and well needed advice but got turned down. Anyway, that's how I saw it. I will cut him a little slack with his wife about to give birth ans he's basically on a cruise. It really shows just how much these chefs are willing to sacrifice to be top chef.

                              1. re: bobbert

                                Maybe prerequisite for Top Chef contestants should be to watch the full backlog of Iron Chef episodes. Not only would this give them some hints for quickly prepping stuff under pressure, they'd also get some idea of how to do things like make fish noodles... (I think it's been done 10+ times on the show -- extrude the damn things into simmering water, not onto a sheet pan! And it's probably wise to use a bit of meat glue to make sure everything stays in shape.)

                                1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                  Tom talks about a couple of ways to do it on his blog this week. One is just as you say....

                                  1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                    I love when Hounds have seen methods in which to make a dish that the cheftestants haven't figured out. :-)

                                    1. re: davis_sq_pro

                                      I was thinking scallop spaetzle idea, too. When it didn't work, I thought he could turn it into mousse.

                                    2. re: bobbert

                                      My interpretation of their exchange was that she was curious, not offering help. And his reponse was more on the lines of, "No -- thanks for pointing that out," as in "I know I don't know what I'm doing, don't distract me with reality."

                                  2. re: roxlet

                                    LCK may be the way to go this season. I can't imagine Kristin not taking the whole thing.

                                  3. re: LindaWhit

                                    I think I would want Lizzie over Josh because Josh seems both afraid and unskilled at cooking out of what he keeps on saying is his wheelhouse. While Lizzie's dish this week wasn't the most inspiring, it's clear from how she is often in the top that it is because of her cooking skills where as Josh gets up there with either happy accidents (the scallops this week) or his type of food (fried chicken). Did he not know he was going on top chef and would have to cook outside his norms?