January 16, 2009

Top Chef: A Beautiful Blog Post with a Little Bit of Gloating, Some Analysis, and Finished with a Little Bit of Snark

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 2:35 am

The ontological madness continued this week, with a challenge that specifically required a “seasonal meal” for an unspecified season. The cheftestants don’t seem to understand what season they’re supposed to be in any better than I do. Last week was Christmas, right? But it’s 85 degrees in New York? And so we get,

Hosea: I’m just wondering if braised lamb is our best show for “seasonal”.

Arriane: What about grilled?

Leah: Grilled leg of lamb?

Hosea: I don’t think we should do that. I think we should roast it.

Leah: Roasting it is more… seasonal.

Just what exactly in the fuck does that mean? Grilling is not “seasonal” in summer? Alternatively, if you want to pretend it’s winter, what’s wrong with braising? These people are driving me crazy with their multiple levels of reality all at one time!

Stone Barns is not playing this game. It is summer. They have tomatoes, corn, squash, and string beans (which all look lovely, no doubt). You have to “honor” those ingredients, people, or else they will rise from the dead, murder you, bone you, tenderize you, and serve you undercooked with a little fennel, some thyme, and a little bit of lemon juice.

For a while there, I thought it might be Jamie on Rule #10 (“Don’t let anybody get under your skin”)—even I have to admit Stefan was pretty much being a dick this week—but she pulled it out in the end. Instead, as I predicted, Arriane finally went home on Rule #2 (“Never make something you’ve never made before”). It wasn’t quite a meltdown, but it was a pretty decisive failure: she wasn’t comfortable with the baby lamb, she wasn’t comfortable butchering it or tying it up, and she did an overall bad job of preparing it.

Meanwhile, Hosea and Leah’s defense was, “don’t blame us, we didn’t do shit!” Look at their menu: lamb, Swiss chard, potatoes, tomato salad, and a trifle. The two of them spent six hours combined on a couple of side dishes and dessert, while Arriane was busy completely ruining the centerpiece of the meal? When asked point blank what he had done instead of helping with the lamb, Hosea said, “I roasted the potatoes and did the haricots verts.” That’s how you spent three hours? I don’t think I’m exagerrating (much) when I say I could have prepared those two dishes in about 30 minutes.

Leah should have taken responsibility for one of the lamb dishes. Hosea could have, um, beefed up a side dish or salad (maybe by incorporating cracklings to carry the lamb through the meal). Diversification of responsibility is your friend.

Here’s the Toby Young scoreboard for the week:

  1. You’ve heard the expression “mutton dressed as lamb”? This is “lamb dressed as mutton.” I have not heard that expression. Interestingly, the owner of Sangam told me he uses mutton in his “lamb biryani” because it has more flavor, but Americans won’t order mutton.
  2. The pesto is the Big Bad Wolf which has blown this pig’s house down. I should think a Brit would know the difference between “which” and “that”. Harumph.
  3. The mint/strawberry/blueberry combination feels as if somebody drained a Pimm’s and emptied the contents on top of a crème brûlée. I really have no idea what you are talking about.
  4. When I’m faced with a beautiful, well-reared piece of meat… I want to have full-blown, unprotected sex. I didn’t even get to first base with the pork! Although this seems to have made the rest of the world retch en masse, I thought it was pretty funny. I’m highbrow that way.

Predictions: Leah and Carla are the weakest of the pack, though Radhika’s limping along too. I’m guessing Radhika is safe because she works the front of the house (a note to lazy cheftestants: nobody has ever been eliminated for working the front of the house during Restaurant Wars). Carla will put in a solid utility performance, probably making another dessert and a vegetarian first course. Leah will drag her feet again, roll her eyes at the judges, give Hosea a handjob, and go home to explain it all to her boyfriend.



  1. “Mutton dressed as lamb” is a phrase I have heard used on Project Catwalk (UK’s Project Runway). They used the phrase to mean dressing too young.

    Comment by Polgarra — January 25, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

  2. That’s just gross.

    Comment by Chris — January 25, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

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