Monday, May 3, 2010

Food Pornolicious


Meet the chefs competing for the last chance of making it to the next level of Top Chef Masters. From left to right we have Sunsur Lee, Debbie Gold, Rick Tramonto, Maria Hines, and Jody Adams.

It's a strange thing to be a blogger attending a public event which involves the subject in which you blog about. Strange things happen. Like wanting to tell the open bar trough drinkers to stop their loud chattering...don't you know the SHOW is on? While there was plenty of cheering for the hometown fav, there was a surprising cheer that erupted when the guest judge for the Quickfire was announced. What was even more surprising was that loud cheering and clapping came from me. (Note to self, if you want to be the fly on the wall, whooping and fist pumping is not the best way to be invisible).

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That's right, a food photographer. Not just any food photographer. If you watched any of the past seasons of Top Chef from Miami on, you've seen his work.

Stephen's eggs

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This fish portrait is one of my most favorite food porn shots ever.

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I love the way the tension in the curve of the body makes the viewer feel like the fish is alive and about to flop right out of the photo, I love the highlights glinting off the fish that repeat in the little puddles of water on the counter top. I'm amazed at how just a little sharp focus in the tail draws your eye down into that photo. What chef doesn't see that and not immediately start wanting to break that beautiful fish down and make an incredible dish with it? I am a huge fan of Stephen's work and I'm not ashamed to say his photography has had a definite influence on my own meager food porn efforts. If there was one Quickfire where the taste didn't fully blow out the rest of the judging criteria, this was it. The challenge was simple enough, make a fruit plate presentation.

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Perfectly styled. Do the chefs listen to this? Do they think about the people they are serving the food to? Probably not because the twist to this challenge just sprang from Kelly's mouth and that it's a High Stakes Quickfire and the winner automatically moves on to the Champions Round. Dayumn. Let's hope we don't see anything like this class food porn.

beef porcupines

A symphony of red and green textures and patterns and bloody clots of food.

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Debbie's Deep Fried Pecan Stuffed Fig with Persimmon and Tangerine.
Looks a little monochromatic with the browns and yellows and the little dabs of herbs look lifeless.

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Rick's Herb and Fruit Shooters.
The judges called it playful. It's not my style, too busy and I hate the inspirational cards. It's a food competition not a Hallmark commercial.

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Jody's Fig & Walnut Tart with Pomegranate Syrup and Zabaglione
I like this plate, going from dark to light and a nice mix of color.

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Susur's East Meets West Fruit Plate with Blackberry Ravioli and Thai Basil
That is all.

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Maria's Northwest Trio of Apple Soup, Grilled Fig & Berries with Berry Mousse

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I thought for sure this was the winner. Simple tastes and visually opening that fig up to draw the eye to what you want them to taste first. However the second judge for this Quickfire and one of the few judges I find myself agreeing with most often, Gail Simmons, said she was confused why these elements were on the plate together. How that criticism is applied here but not on Rick's or Jody's plate leaves me scratching my head. In fact I totally misjudged the outcome. Maria only got 3 stars from the judges, ahead of only Susur's dish. The winner with 4 stars was...

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Damn right she's got Jazz Hands, she's going to the Champions Round


intuitive eggplant said...

What befuddled me about these entries was that there seemed to be more fruit food prep than fruit food styling. Not that you can't have both on one plate. But some of these didn't look like much.

Am racking my brain to recall what the entries were like in the original TC challenge. I believe Stephen won - was this the one with all those little cups? Can't for the life of me recall what anyone else did.

Big Shamu said...

That's right Eggy, Stephen won with the fruit in the cups. It was the beginning of...The Look. Smug Superiority. He had it down. Andrea just set the fruit out. What's interesting is that Lisa (the mom) cut up fruit but also included the top of a pineapple. She got zinged for having something inedible on the plate and Stephen went so far to say it was Culinary School 101 not to put inedible garnishes as part of your dish. Guess Rick Tramonto doesn't enjoy that concept.
The reason you don't remember what most of the other chefs had in Season 1 was because it was mostly forgettable. Most of it was called buffet fruit plates. Also the Judge, Elizabeth Falkner only judged by appearance. No one tasted the food in that second Quickfire of the premier season.

Making Space said...

Hmm, I was also intrigued by Maria's offering - but just based on the visual, I have no complaints with Jody's win. I'd dig in to that.

Is it me or was that a weird challenge? I mean, not as weird as stuff from the gas station, but...

Aunty Belle said...

Shamy--amazin' commentary here. LOVED IT.

They oughta hire ya'.

The fried pecan stuffed fig sounds delectable--but looked lackluster.

BTW, there is a novel--a murder mystery--called the Fig Eater. Set in 1900 Austria. It is written by a fashion stylist--very very atmospheric in a food pornish sorta way.

Big Shamu said...

Hmmmmm literary food porn. I could get into that.

A weird challenge? In the grand scheme of Top Chef this was fairly pedestrian. I think the original intent (in Top Chef Season 1) was to get a feel for the chefs knife skills. Here I think they hoping for something outside the envelope more along the lines of what Stephen Aspirino did in original challenge. It didn't really work. Perhaps it's the results that are throwing you.

LaDivaCucina said...

I'm a bit old fashioned I guess but what's wrong with putting things together so they actually are EATEN together instead of all over the plate like a friggin' dog's breakfast? Most of them look too messy to me AND confusing and I HATE the inspirational cards too.

What, you gonna tell me to "take care of each other?" Gee thanks, I would have never have thought that on my own! Take care of what's going on in your own house, church boy. Sheesh. (sorry, some could think it's sweet but i found it to pushy, there to eat not be preached to)

LaDivaCucina said...

Oh yeah, I love the food porn photos too!

LaDivaCucina said...

By the way, I love Jody's chef's jacket. Very flattering. I refuse to wear them as they are hot, cumbersome and I don't work in a commercial kitchen but hers I like.

Big Shamu said...

The inspirational cards were a bit over the top and you know he was going to find a way to use them no matter what since I have to believe he brought them with him to the competition. It just seemed like a major creepy pimpage. Maybe it was payback for sticking frozen scallops in his freezer back when he was a judge.

LaDivaCucina said...

Maybe like a missionary, he can't help himself and thinks it's his duty to tell people how to behave. *shudder*