This is an old post. For my latest Episode Three Top Chef post, click here.
When I learned that for Episode Two, Top Chef 3 would hold a barbecue party Miami Beach style with fourteen outdoor grills, fourteen chefs, and fourteen ways to create upscale food for Lee Schrager's sixty upscale guests I began to salivate. This guy lives in luxury, right?
But sometimes one's expectations simply do not meet reality. The event was hosted by Mr. Schrager. I had not heard of him (yes, I am that provincial). Much to my delight and surprise I learned he was a SOMEBODY when I saw a picture of him with our ubiquitous Rachael Rae.
So that led me to expect a setting like this.
But we only got this. The view could have been from a room at the Holiday Inn Express.
So then I thought if Bravo was gonna screw around with our minds, why not provide our cheftestants with appliances that fit the ambiance of the place? Why not give them a twist, and force them to work on grills like these?
Instead, our cheftestants were made to cook on grills similar to the kind my daddy used in 1985. I swallowed another disappointment. So then I got to thinking, upscale guests. Mmm. I imagined all sorts of celebrities like ...
Sexy and sophisticated guests? Hell no. All we got were ordinary people that nobody recognized and who looked like you and me. Oh, you cannot imagine my disappointment. But, wait, there's more confusion.
No one understood what the heck they were supposed to be doing for a high end barbecue. Not the chefs and certainly not the judges. I mean, the chefs were given $200 each to feed 60 people, and only two hours to cook and to prep. Now, Ms. Place has a barbecue recipe where she takes 2 hours to prepare the meat, all night to marinate, and around 4 hours to slow grill.
So I thought, these chefs must know something I don't. I'm gonna learn me some new tricks!
Tre kept crowing he was in his element and that he would have to hang his head in shame if he lost because he was from Texas, but served up a lame salmon. Hung said he threw the best barbecues around, and although his dish looked interesting, he basically grilled a flank steak. My bro did that on Father's Day. It was totally delicious but nothing special. We eat that all the time.
There were variations of high end grilled food, like grilled sirloin, or grilled sword fish, or grilled shrimp. There's been an interesting discussion about grilling and barbecuing by bloggers, and how southern folks interpret these terms differently from folks up north. So the chefs were grilling or barbecuing or doing none of the above.
And then there were Joey's and Howie's dishes. These two numnuts chose to go the simple route and barbecue for Jed Clampett's family. Joey didn't bother to disguise his chicken drummette as a high end anything, then got pissed of because Hung had stolen his watermelon shooter idea, and no one can hack it in New York like he can, and he hadn't gotten top three in the quick fire challenge. Shut your mouth, Joey and cook. Better yet, go back to New York. You came up with a dish I could have sampled at Price Club near the frozen food section.
As for Howie, once again he shot himself in the foot, slicing his pork too soon. And then there was Sandee coming up with a high end dish that she poached instead of grilled or barbecued, but she did use the same cooking equipment as everyone else.
The three top chefs, Sara the Worry Wort (Other Sara barely made an appearance in Epi 2), Moody Micah, and Brian the Fearless created interesting looking dishes, but none met the criteria of slow barbecued food. All met the criteria of high end grilled food. Ok, so Brian won with his seafood sausage, which put a dreamy look in Padma's eyes. Good for you, Brian.
But then the judges had to decide who must leave. And here's where things got interesting again. They did't know the judging criteria either! Tre's been chosen because his Salmon was over salty or under seasoned, depending on which part of the fish folks ate. Howie and Joey had been chosen 'cause they're dicks. Oh, and their food stunk. Oh, and they forgot to look up the term "High End." But Sandee was chosen because the judges couldn't taste the lobster and because it had been poached in vanilla butter. Fair enough.
But she wasn't cut because her food was worse than the others but because the food did not fit the criteria of barbecue. S'cuse me, but did anyone else's in the strictest sense? And her food was HIGH END, which the Dick Twins' totally was not. It was obvious that everyone was confused by the judging criteria because none of the other chefs expected Sandee to leave.
So, the only concluding phrase I can come up with for this show (and I borrow heavily from Tom Colicchio) is that it was just like Putting Lipstick on a Pig. You might want to do it, you might actually accomplish doing it, but what was the point?
Note, to clarify the confusion between barbecuing and grilling, here is Gail's description of the challenge on her blog:
"I [was] interested in dishes that raised those slow-cooked, smoky flavors to new levels by interpreting them in high-end ways. We also wanted to see how our chefs would do so while interpreting what barbecue means to them, regardless of their obvious regional differences."