September 20, 2009

Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Ceviche

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 3:15 pm

All right, class, let’s see if you’ve been paying attention: why did Mattin go home for a mediocre ceviche instead of Robin for inedible, potentially dangerous shrimp?

Anybody who said Rule E (”Be prepared to defend your dish at Judges’ Table”), give yourself 5 points. Robin knew she screwed up and admitted it: “I’m not making excuses. I’m not proud of what I put out today.” She didn’t have much to say for herself besides—she didn’t even mount an argument that the shrimp had gone bad out in the hot sun and she shouldn’t be blamed—but she also didn’t fight an uphill battle against the judges’, um, judgment. What did Mattin do? He went the Danny route and said, “I was very happy [with my dish] and I’m actually very surprised to be here.” Not smart. Now, you’re not just unlucky or off your game; you’ve called your own judgment into question. That’s a self-inflicted wound you don’t recover from. As Tom said, incredulously, “The biggest problem is he claims to have tasted those ceviches and thought they were good?!

Predictions: I had Ashley pegged wrong. She not only kept her shit together, she stayed focused, thought things through, and excelled.

Robin and Ron are fighting it out down at the bottom. Ashley and Laurine are more marginal cases: they both have talent, but are too unreliable and streaky. I don’t think either has the grit to win this competition. My guess is Ron has finally hit his limit.

Looking out further, I’m going to call it now: the finale will be Jennifer vs. Bryan (who will have Michael oh-so-heart-warmingly on his prep team). Bryan will win, after which he will betray an emotion.

Random thoughts:

  • I was really surprised that Tom Colicchio’s much-promoted spit-out in the bushes was just chewy, too-raw ceviche and not a piece of bad shellfish (like, oh, say, shrimp). I would have thought it would take more than that—something dangerous to eat instead of just lousy (although Tim Love did say it made him feel sick).
  • Tim Love, to Robin: “‘I wanted to play off steak, so I decided to give you sausage and shrimp.’ That’s ridiculous.”
  • Ron, why in the world would you make an alcoholic beverage if you don’t drink? Also, the judges never like things served in coconuts.
  • On his blog, Tom Colicchio defines “correctly seasoned” as “whether it was salted correctly, because salt has the ability to bring out the other three types of taste you experience on your tongue, i.e., sweetness, bitterness and sourness.” That’s what I thought that meant, but I always assumed there was at least a little more to it.


  1. I wonder if you could rename Rule E. I think “defending your dish” sounds as if it’s describing what Mattin did. (“Oh, of course I thought my dish was delicious!”)

    Perhaps instead, “Be prepared to throw your dish under the bus if it’s clear that it sucked.”

    Comment by Andy — September 22, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

  2. First of all, we don’t say “under the bus” around here. Tacky.

    Otherwise, you have a point. “Defend” may be misleading. Blind defense of your dish can be devastating (that’s “the Danny route”). But disowning your dish usually isn’t effective either (if they hated your dish, they’re going to blame you). What you need to do is: (a) clearly state what you were trying to achieve, so the judges can see you put some thought into it, and (b) clearly state how and why you fell short, preferably with reference to some circumstance beyond your control. You want to be the guy who screwed up, but could do it better next time, not the guy who is oblivious to his own faults.

    Comment by Chris — September 23, 2009 @ 9:57 am

  3. My apologies for the phrasing – sometimes I type faster than I think.

    I don’t doubt what you say with regard to disowning your dish, but I’m having trouble thinking of a someone who’s done this. Is there a representative “disowner” to serve as an analog to the Danny’s and Mattin’s of the world?

    Comment by Andy — September 23, 2009 @ 10:04 am

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