Ok, so there were no surprises in my favorite Top Chef guest judge poll: Anthony Bourdain received twice as many votes as second place finisher Alfred Portale. Did anyone catch Anthony on Monday night's No Reservations? His awesome trip to China reminded me of my own recent journey there. Yes, delicious affordable street food is abundant everywhere you go in Shanghai, and yes the Chinese are casually cruel to their food animals. To them it's about freshness not animal rights, and everywhere I looked in food stalls or the meat sections of grocery stores I had to turn away from the sight of fish in obvious distress in their overcrowded tanks, and of live cooped up turtles and eels and ducks and chickens. I ate very little meat while I was there.
As always I am amazed at Anthony's ability to pop anything in his mouth and say yum. If someone said, "Here try these nice weasel testicles made with a bat's lung sauce", I have no doubt our intrepid Anthony would give the dish a fair critique.
Our Anthony has been a busy man, writing for Ruhlman's blog and for Tom Colicchio on at least two occasions. Tonight Top Chef 3 will feature as guest host Rocco Di Spirito. After watching The Restaurant, this is how I feel about Rocco: the man is super aware of his star status, much to the detriment of Rocco's, the restaurant in the show. I felt Jeffrey Chodorow was right to go after Rocco for squandering Jeffrey's money. Rocco also missed a great opportunity of consolidating his image as a serious, talented chef. All I saw was a prima dona behaving like a spoiled child. He would abandon his leadership duties to talk to the pretty girls, sign autographs, and have his picture taken. Ick. How high school. Meanwhile, paying guests had to wait forever for their pricey entrees, much like the Hell's Kitchen diners.
Here's a link to a recipe for Rocco's momma's meatballs, the raison d'etre for the opening of that restaurant in the first place. Momma, who's as old as the hills, worked harder than Rocco.
Anthony Bourdain, understanding the preconceptions some of us will have about Rocco, forestalled our snarking by writing these insightful words:
It’s easy to be dismissive of Rocco’s limelight-loving ways, or to have been appalled (as I was) by the horrifying circus of bathos that was his reality series. And he DOES have that curious Nicole Kidman “shock and awe” expression on his face these days; but Rocco--when he wanted to-- could COOK. Brilliantly. Even his detractors (like me) know that. He’s a truly gifted cook with a great palate. In a head-to-head competition with Hung? (Similar cooking styles.) He could cook him under the table with one hand tied--on roller skates. If HE tells you your Arroz Con Pollo sucks? It’s time to take a long look into that cold, cruel merciless mirror.
I adore Anthony and his facile way with words, and am in a fair way to becoming a Bourdain groupie. Next thing I know I shall have to abandon my Jane Austen books and purchase all of Anthony's tomes. I wonder, are Anthony sheet sets available? Bourdain travel calendars, kitchen utensils, or dried soup packets? Does he promote sexy lingerie with his signature on it? Anthony whore that I've become, I'd bite and buy.