Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Top Chefs In Training

Who could not resist these Mini-Top Chefs?

They all did a great job, especially Steph's sous chef Arlene, who wisely backed her chef despite some doubts she might have shared with Tom about their dish.

Dale's sous chef Emanuel also did a great job despite not being much bigger than the Hobart mixer he's standing next to.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Filed Under the Category of Why?

Yes, folks, they grow them square in Japan. Why? I guess because they can and charge more for it. But they didn't stop at square.

There's also the pyramid shaped watermelon.

Not content with simple shapes...

...they moved to faces. Not sure how those who don't eat anything with a face feel about this latest development?

It could be worse I guess...

...or is it really just a matter of time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Where's the Pepto?

This look pretty much sums up the way I felt this week after viewing the latest efforts of Top Chef. Confused and frustrated. It sucks when one of your favorite chefs is jettisoned from the herd. But this season more than any other I can't say I understand a lot of what's going on with the "judging".
I certainly understand the concept of the viewer not being able to taste the dish to make us rely on the judges as to whether a dish tastes good or bad. I could understand why other factors come into play when judging a dish such as leadership, adhering to the "challenge" (improvising, tailgating, dessert, ect.), presentation and so on. However even that has dropped by the wayside and left me in the valley of despair. It's time to call the judging what it is, superficial and capricious.

I'm trying to follow the logic. The elimination challenge was simple enough, make a dish of the things called out by the audience at the Second City Comedy Night. A color, an emotion and an ingredient. Now because it's Top Chef, I don't have a clue what the rules really are but ONE would think that the specific ingredient was important, the color also but to a lesser extent and the emotion element and improvising your dish factor would allow some wiggle room. Now I'm not even going to get into all the other bullshit tricks that were thrown into the mix because in my opinion they were stupid reality TV show twists that add very little to determining a good top chef.

This was the winning dish, Green Tofu Perplexed. This dish should have won. It used the ingredient, it used the color and it even used the emotion, perplexed which apparently the diners were when they tasted the beef flavor of the tofu. It was nicely improvised by Dale and Richard. Thank goodness because the other choice was the Asshat's long awaited Squash Soup he's been dying to make for apparently the entire season. Team Asshat had Yellow Love Vanilla. So we got an orange squash soup with a Crème fraîche dollop sprinkled with vanilla. It wasn't yellow, it didn't really give off the emotion of love and the ingredient was a sprinkling and it certainly wasn't improvised. Oh well.

Our two losing teams are sweating bullets. Why? I guess because one team didn't use the ingredient, used the wrong color and took the emotion and applied it only to themselves. They did improvise but you would think that one of the two members of that team would be going home. You would think that because the other team used the ingredient, sort of used the color, and applied the emotion to the dish that this would be a no-brainer sort of decision. When you're supposed to use polish sausage and you decide to use sea bass? Seems like the sort of judging criteria that would send someone home for not cooking tailgate food at a Bears game. You would be very wrong in that assumption. Because Jen had to pack her knives. Poor Jen fell into the trap of partnering with Stephanie who has done so well in the early rounds that she now brings the all important "Benefit of the Doubt" factor with her whenever she might appear at a losing judges table.

I know I was just as shocked as Jen. I don't know why. After Richard slipping by with his scaly mushy salmon I should have known anything was possible. What's also possible is that I'm finding that the judging is sloppy, badly seasoned and has absolutely no direction or cohesion. I suggest the judges clean up their act or they will be packing their mics and going home.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

And this season's Top Chef is...

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that this season's winner will be Spike.

Why Spike, you ask? Is it his charming personality? Winning wit? Extraordinary culinary skills?

No, dear readers, I'm basing my prediction solely on the fact that, in seasons past, whomever I have predicted to win automatically gets eliminated. Cross your fingers...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's All Over!

Can we stop with the speculation?
Another night at the Winner's table.
Can it be that we'll finally have our first female Top Chef?
The Big Shamu says YES!*

*Disclaimer - The Big Shamu has yet to pick a winner in the 3 previous seasons of Top Chef. As a matter of fact she's an expert at picking the Runner Up when she thinks she's picking the winner. Feel free to point that out to her the next time she gets mouthy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Top Chef Chicago Poll

What's your opinion of this season of Top Chef?
I love it! Can't wait for the next episode!
So far, I'm not impressed, but I'll keep watching.
It's too soon to form an opinion.
It's boring. I'm not watching again.
Top what?
Free polls from

The Asshattery Continues...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chefbian Faux Poll

In the previews of tomorrow's episode of Top Chef: Chicago, we see Chef Jen kicking chairs. Which of the following do you think might have contributed to her tantrum?


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Interview With Chef Harold Dieterle of Perilla

Last May 5th, Chef Harold Dieterle, along with partner Alicia Nosenzo, opened Perilla NYC. With just a month to go until the one year anniversary, we thought it would be fun to check in with Harold to see how things have been going...

Harold! Perilla has been open for almost a year now, and the reviews just keep getting better! What's your secret?

No secret really. Staff is getting stronger and more passionate. Everyone is really doing a great job. Just really trying to cook soulful food people will enjoy.

Once you began planning Perilla, exactly how long was it before you actually opened the doors?

The concept itself was the easier part. Its took roughly a year to raise the money. Then another 3 months to find the space.

How much did the restaurant change between what you originally imagined to what it is now?

I feel like the restaurant changes every day. I feel like the budget we opened on is a reflection of our resourcefulness.

What has been your high point since opening? Your low point?

Getting the doors open was huge. As far as low points -- the rare occasion that we don't meet guests expectations. I'm not really much of an emotional roller coaster. Always try and look at situations as half full.

What do you enjoy most about your work? What are your greatest stresses? Your greatest joys?

It's really nice waking up in the morning and just cooking whatever I'm in the mood to cook. The menu and specials are a total extension of my current cooking tendencies. Its nice to be the boss. That being said I don't think that anything is more stressful then managing people.

What has been the most surprising thing about running your own restaurant?

It's never a dull moment. There is always something happening that is unexpected, be it positive or negative.

We know that your menu changes seasonally, and that you offer daily specials, as well as a brunch -- where does your inspiration come from?

My ideas come from such random places. Anywhere from traveling, modern plays on classics. Childhood reinterpretations. Most likely lately the food I've been cooking is ingredient driven. Just let each individual ingredient dictate how it is prepared.

Speaking of inspiration, who have been the biggest inspirations to your career success?

From an integrity standpoint as a person, definitely my parents. Both are tremendous role models. On being a chef and restaurateur, my last three chefs have all brought various strengths and weaknesses that have rounded me out to where I am today.

Any amusing kitchen incidents that you can share with us?

Yeah. Just about every day something crazy happens. Tried making some squid ink soba noodles yesterday. The buckwheat flour wasn't being nice to me. After I made the dough and let it rest it felt and looked like a lead ball on the table.

We know that restaurant staffing can be problematic -- how long did it take you to get just the right staff balance?

Staffing is a constant challenge. The kitchen is very solid right now. I am lucky that Alicia is a fantastic teacher, the staff really responds to her service style.

Has the Top Chef frenzy that initially surrounded you died down a bit, or are you still stopped for autographs and photos?

I would say it has lightened up a bit. But its still nice to hear that we have helped people become passionate about food.

Are there any culinary trends that people expect, but that drive you absolutely crazy?

I like to see food on the plate. After eating three courses my feeling is that a guest should be full. Not feel the need to go grab a slice of pizza afterwards.

How did you like being on the judges side of the table during the Almost Famous Chef competition in Napa?

It was fun being on the other side. I really enjoy critiquing food and just seeing what my palate can pick up. It was tough though, seeing the kids making mistakes that you know they won't realize for another year.

Since opening, have you ever been in the position of having to run the front of the house? If so, how was that?

No way! My place is in the kitchen.

How did you and Alicia meet, and what made you decide to go into business together?

We worked together at the Harrison. I have always respected her; it was great to see the vision we had for a business together was so similar.

How much input does Alicia have in the menu area?

Well, quite a bit. I usually a write a menu, go through the tasting of each dish, then she gets to play devils advocate.

How do you organize your recipes, i.e., computer, recipe file, little scraps of paper?

In my head.

Is there any one dish on your menu that you consider to be your "signature"?

Anything duck related. My New Year's Day "lucky duck" tasting menu was terribly fun. Six savory ducks courses.

Have there been any dishes you put on the menu that you were unsure of, but that took off like wildfire? Conversely, is there a dish that you thought would really take off that failed?

Yes. We're currently doing "Cheek Du Jour". Using all different fish and meat cheeks, and changing the preparation daily. People are really into it. There are dishes that I come up with all the time that I think people will dig, but are not well received. No one specific dish is coming to mind. There have been a handful, though.

What are some of the qualities that you feel a successful chef should have?

Compassion, a teacher, fearless, business oriented, stubborn, good cook.

Have you considered expanding, or opening another restaurant?

I'd like to do a different concept. I'll let you know when I have something "in stone" to report.

Is there a Perilla cookbook in our future?

I'd like to put pen to paper at some point. Don't think I'd call it the Perilla cookbook, though. Cookbooks are very time consuming, and I would never pay someone else to test my recipes.

Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or the profession that might be helpful to others aspiring to enter the culinary field?

Pay your dues, don't get into cooking or culinary school to be on TV. You gotta love it.

In September of 2006, you blessed our original blog with its first interview, and the infamous "Harold Dieterle underwear question" was born. Since this is a follow up, we have to ask -- Has success changed your style, or are you still going commando in the kitchen? (And have you thought about marketing "Perilla" boxers with a stubby pencil pocket???)

Hahaha! Stubby pencil. Gonna leave that one alone.

What will you be doing to celebrate Perilla's first anniversary?

A Cinco de Mayo party.

Harold, we'd better let you get back to work! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us! We wish you continued success, and can't wait to taste your cooking!

Thank you for all the love and support.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

We're "it"...!

We've been Kate tagged!

Legend has it that Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in only six words. His response? “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Last year, SMITH Magazine re-ignited the recountre by asking readers for their own six-word memoirs. They sent in short life stories in droves, from the bittersweet (“Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends”) and poignant (“I still make coffee for two”) to the inspirational (“Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah”) and hilarious (“I like big butts, can’t lie”).

Here's mine...

"Young men, old wine; no regrets"

And here is Shamu's:

"She came, she snarked, she left..."

We tag Charlus, Thombeau, Tom & Lorenzo, Jen-Nay and Dorothy Snarker...

Here are the rules:
1) Write your own six word memoir.
2) Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like.
3) Link to the person that tagged you in your post, and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4) Tag at least five more blogs with links.
5) Don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.
6) Have fun.

More Top Chef Smackdowns...

Hung Huynh and Lee Anne Wong of Bravo's "Top Chef" will compete in the show's signature face-off style at this weekend's Greater New York Wine & Food Festival, sponsored by The Journal News. Read the full story and Q&A at LoHud.

On May 2, Ted Allen will judge GenderPAC’s NYC Celebrity Cook-Off, featuring Ilan Hall and Hung Huynh. Other GPAC smackdowns will include Dale Levitski and Josie Smith-Malave...check out the full story at the GPAC website.

Is it just us?

Tell us your favorites...

Which food programs do you watch?
No Reservations
Hell's Kitchen
Bizarre Foods
Iron Chef America
Top Chef
Last Restaurant Standing
Lidia's Italy
Julia Child PBS Series
Other PBS food programs (tell us which ones in the comments section)
Other Food Network programs (tell us which ones in the comments section)
Free polls from

Please Die Now

Epicurious had an interesting little bitlet back in December about the Worst Food Trends of 2007. Of the six they mentioned I could really only relate to the macho fast food trend of eating a whole day's calories in one food item. The remaining five trends are more suited to those folks who don't spend their days blogging in a wet dark basement. It did get me pondering on what annoying trends I wish would die a quick death. Here they are in no particular order.

Sourcing each ingredient on the menu. I have a organic restaurant that I enjoy going to but their menu is wiping out forests with their overly long menu descriptions that source each and every ingredient. I love that the bacon, eggs and salmon are all fresh, organic, wild caught, cage free, and local but dang, people there's no need to list each ingredients company on every menu description.

Waiters that are overly attentive to the customer. There must be some dumbass survey that found if a waiter tells you his name is Brad, touches your shoulder, kneels down beside you, and basically acts as if he's your new bff, that you will tip your new bff much more than if he hadn't done all those things in the first place. It might even work if BRAD had spent a little time LISTENING to what you had ordered and actually brought you the nice crisp Corona Shrimp Taco you asked for instead of the nasty and slimy plain shrimp taco that frankly should be purged from the menu. Yes, BRAD, if you had paid a little more attention to detail and a little less attention to that article you must have read, you just might have found a phat tip waiting for you on my table when I left instead of me wishing I had smacked your hand when you touched me and wondering just where that hand had been...

Restaurants that charge more because that's what restaurants in other cities charge. I live in Kansas City. I expect to be charged an arm and a leg for seafood entrees. Charging me an arm and a leg for a steak, pork or chicken entree is just greedy. The same goes for the $6.00 baked potato or the $9.50 chunk of iceburg lettuce with some blue cheese crumbles masquerading as "our classic wedge salad". Give it a rest.

One of Java Junkie's peeves is with restaurants that are legends in their own minds. There is a steak house in her neck of the woods that, at least at one point in time, must have been amazing. The basis for her conclusion is a wall covered in framed "best of" awards as one enters. There is also a plaque over the host stand telling you how great this place is...And one over the bar. She was even reminded on the menu that the steak she was about to order was "award winning". Sadly, she feels that they are resting on their laurels, and no longer provide the quality of service or food that originally garnered all of those kudos. If you're going to raise the customer's expectations to such lofty heights, you'd better be able to deliver...

And of course, the Junkie hates the Any-every-allitini trend. Just because you pour a mixture of rum, chocolate syrup, coffee liquer and orange curacao into a martini glass does not mean you have made an "Orange Mochatini". You have made dessert in a martini glass. The martini is a pure and exquisite thing of beauty to the Junkie, and it does not deserve to be bastardized. She says stop it. Seriously.

Well, that's our rant. Unless BRAD wants to coerce us into trying a "Trumptini" with a famous wedge salad...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hell's Kitchen 4 Jumps The Shark

The premiere episode of Hell's Kitchen 4 was for the most part nothing more than an exaggerated redux of previous seasons. They did, however manage to offer up a new low: Ramsay actually went "undercover" (wearing a hot tranny mess of a disguise) so that he could eavesdrop on the new contestants during their bus ride to the restaurant. Once in Hell's Kitchen, the disguise was removed and Ramsay poked at the contestants with random cruel personal comments. He then spit and vomited (literally) his way through the "signature dishes" they had prepared, deeming only two of the fifteen to be (barely) acceptable. The dispirited contestants were then shooed off to their respective male/female lofts to memorize the menu and recipes for the next nights service, and to elect team captains.

Of course the contestants are not ready for the first service; the men's team doesn't even know what's on the menu (even though most home viewers could probably prepare the ubiquitous "risotto starter" just from having watched previous seasons). Ramsay throws tantrums and food, and delivers the requisite continuous stream of expletives. "Customers" who have patiently waited three hours for their food finally see it being brought to their table, and promptly walk out, and we hear Ramsay bellow the familiar "SHUT IT DOWN!!". He then bemoans that he must decide not who won, but who was least horrid. As usual, the best member (a young line cook with a mohawk that Ramsay likened to a toilet brush) of the worst team was left to nominate two of his teammates for elimination, and (big surprise) Dominic, the 43 year old "stay at home dad" who spent the entire service looking like he was going to cry while holding five scallops on his upturned left palm was given the boot.

The bottom line is that this show has become a caricature of Ramsay and his seemingly extraordinary talent for meting out abuse. It's not about cooking - it's about which of the sorry, stock character contestants can endure the vituperative Ramsay the longest. Nothing new to see here, folks. Move along...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What's Cooking on TV Tonight?

Hell's Kitchen Season 4 Premieres...
Chef Gordon Ramsayt returns for a fourth season of HELL’S KITCHEN. Check out the new contestants at the Hell's Kitchen/Fox website.

Last Restaurant Standing continues...
The five remaining couples have to come up with distinctive brands for their restaurants that will make them really stand out. Check out who's left at the BBC America website.