Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Top Chef Masters A Seat At the Table

Before we get too deep into Top Chef Las Vegas I wanted to take one last look at the Finale of Top Chef Masters. Talking about all the food that the chefs produced was a daunting task especially if you weren't at the table. So I decided to reach out to someone who was. Chef Harold Dieterle, our first Top Chef, was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule at Perilla to give some insight as to what it was like having a seat at the table for the Top Chef Masters Finale.

KK: Harold, it's wonderful to talk to you again. As always we have to check in on your baby, Perilla. What's tickling the palates of Perilla's diners?

HD: Just having fun cooking for people, the menu and food program are constantly evolving. We have alot of talented people in the restaurant right now putting their heart and soul into the food.KK: How rough has it been keeping a fairly new restaurant running in such choppy economic waters?

HD: No matter what the state of the economy, it's always challenging. It's important to everyone to be inspired and focused. We're doing really well and beginning to think about new projects.

KK: Any strategies to keep the regulars while attracting new customers?

HD: We actually participated in New York Restaurant week this year. I think it helped bring some folks in that might find our usual price points a bit too steep or don't usually dine downtown.

KK: Before being asked to attend the Top Chef Masters Finale, had you eaten in any of the finalists restaurants?

HD: I had never eaten in any of their restaurants, I did have an event in Napa a week after the finale. So I did eat at Michael's place.

KK: Did you know ahead of time who the three finalists would be?

HD: I didn't know who the 3 chefs were going to be. I was just excited to be there.

KK: Was there a dish from that night that you would want to "borrow" for folks back home?

HD: Not really...the food was all really awesome.. but when you find your style you stick with it, my style is so different from all 3 of the masters.

KK: Chef Bayless's mole sauce seems to have been the superstar of the night. Do you have a similar dish that was your culinary inspiration?

HD: No I don't think I have ever eaten something that made me want to be a chef....I've eaten things in Thailand that I've been obsessed to recreate.

KK: Pretty gutsy move by Chef Chiarello to plate a dish with burned pages from James Osland's magazine. James did make it home safely that night, yes?

HD: Yea...I thought it was pretty hilarious.. but I suppose James had the last laugh with the poor star grades he gave Michael later, which I personally didn't agree with.

KK: The one dish that seemed most out of step with the whole theme of excellence as the focus of Top Chef Masters was Chef Chiarello's fish dish. From a viewer's standpoint, it looked very heavily breaded and simplistic without the sophistication we've come to expect. How was it?

HD: Well it was hard to eat....I don't think he had the plate selection he would have liked. It was my least favorite dish of the entire meal. At the same time, it's a good thing he moved out of South Florida and went to Napa to developed his style. He cooked my favorite dishes of the night.

KK: What dish was your favorite?

HD: Michael's braised short ribs.

KK: What dish sparked the most discussion between you and your fellow critics?

HD: I think it was funny how Hubert was talking about using humble cuts of meat in our current economic environment, such as the sweetbreads and beef cheeks. Then shaves black truffles over the top...I thought that was pretty funny.

KK: The judging was really close. Did you find yourself agreeing with the final scoring or would you have had a different winner?

HD: I thought they all did an amazing job. I had Michael edging out Rick.

KK: Putting your Top Chef producer's hat on for just a moment, what Master-like "twist" would you have given the chefs in their last challenge?

HD: I don't think I would have. When you make it to the finals you have earned the right to cook your food without any restrictions

KK: While I enjoyed seeing what those 3 finalists brought to the challenge, I was most sad that Anita Lo didn't make it to the end, not because it was an all male finale but because I was so hoping to see what incredible Asian dishes she would have kicked out, free of any restrictions or twists. Was there a chef you were hoping would be in the finale that wasn't there?

HD: I too would have liked to see Anita Lo in there. I've eaten her food at Annisa several times and she is legit.

KK: Thanks so much for giving us a bit of your time and sharing with us your experience of the food that night. As always we remain some of your biggest fans and we certainly loved getting to see you again on the little screen.

HD: My pleasure ladies.


MakingSpace said...

Wow! Blog newbie, here, how did you score that interview? Cool!

Jenny said...

NICELY done Shamu. Great questions and I'm impressed that you somehow got behind the "Wall of Bravo" to get an interview.

moi said...

Spill it, Shamu. You snagged him with a white chocolate mousse bag and tomato water soup, didn't ya.

Aunty Belle said...

awesome commentary--too cool.

Big Shamu said...

Harold is a great guy and a long time friend of the blog. If in NY, you should definitely make a trip to Perilla.

Sharon Rudd said...

Ah, yes. H is such a mensch. Great interview, Shamu!

Dani said...

Damn girl! You ROCK! :)

Big Shamu said...

Actually, it's Harold who rocks. I'm just the persistent woman with questions.

LaDivaCucina said...

Thanks for pursuing an interview with Harold, he's such a nice guy and deserved to win! Great up date and commentary.

Just took a quick squiz at his menu and am loving the ""bar menu" with duck burger. His prices are in line with some pretty average restaurants here in Miami, wish we had him here as I'd gladly pay $26 for berkshire tenderloin, crispy wild boar belly & spicy hampshire pork booty pate!!! (As opposed to Grouper that is not cooked right and could possibly not even BE grouper!)

Thanks Sham!