Thursday, January 15, 2009

Top Chef: Why the Chefs Should Be Older

Last night's episode of Top Chef really chopped my hyde.

The "chefs" were gifted a trip to the gorgeous (I've been, and trust me, it's amazing) Stone Barns, where they were literally tripping over lush vegetation and fantastic produce, and what did they do? They bitched about not being able to go to Whole Foods. I'm sorry, but did we just time-travel back to 1994? Are all of these "chefs" really so unfamiliar with the not-exactly-cutting-edge farm-to-table movement, aka a walk through a farmers market as inspiration for a meal, that this kind of thing throws them off their game? Is this for real? Or are all the chefs just way too young?

During the episode, they, collectively, removed all the fat from a pork loin (and didn't, you know, render it and use it), they took the tender, lovely meat of a baby lamb off the bone and pounded it out like it was a tough piece of crappy grocery store flank steak, and they made CUTLETS (Jesus, 1983 much?) out of the farm-raised whole chickens. Is this for real?

Now, since the oldest contestant got kicked off last night (Ariane), it might seem illogical for me to argue that the reason all of these chefs f'ed up so badly is that they're too young. But I can't figure out another reason for their cluelessness. As Tom Colicchio kept saying (last week with the whole-fried fish, this week with all the meats): respect the protein. Maybe it sounds precious, but seriously: Respect the life of the animal that died for your meal.

When I worked in kitchens, it was always the young chefs who over-worked and over-thought things. Their attemtps to impress were never the "let the ingredients speak for themselves" variety. They were the "let me show you my skilz" variety. Sadly, up til now, those "skilz" are what the Top Chef judges have been asking to see.

But last night the "chefs" were cooking on a farm for the farmers who grew the food they were preparing. They were cooking for people who already know how incredibly sweet that corn is, and (I'm just guessing) want to see that the chefs recognize it too. Can you imagine spending all summer working the soil, weeding, waiting for your tomatoes to ripen, and then having some dufus come in, pick all your ripe summer tomatoes and make a tomato frickin' jam out of them? Tomato jam is what you eat in WINTER because you preserved summer tomatoes. Come on now. Is this food 101 or what?

Anyhoo, Ariane went home for literally butchering that poor baby lamb. But it could've been any one of them. Stupid Jeff and his fat-free pork, stupid Leah and her not-doing-anything when she knew how to tie the lamb. Maybe next year they'll actually get some older, wiser, more experienced, less desperately unsure-of-themselves "chefs" for the show. But probably not.

[where: 98118]


David Dust said...

It would make a lot of sense for them to have older, more experienced chefs. But I'm sure they'll go for the younger, hotter, dumber ones next season instead...

CLICK HERE for David Dust's Top Chef recap.


Every Gym's Nightmare said...

hey- saw you on another blog- Im from Seattle, too! West Seattle, but Seattle all the same. I thought i was alone in the blogosphere :)

Kelly Turner

Kables said...

Hosea honored the starch.

But yeah, generally, I agree. What's really ridiculous is that Ariane has won three or four times, and several times for cooking lamb. Ridonculous, as the kids say.

matt wright said...

I am not sure it is age, but maturity.

For me the whole Top Chef thing just goes down and down each season. None of the chefs on this season inspire me at all, and this last episode was a complete joke.

I can honestly say that 90% of food bloggers out there could cook better, cleaner, simpler food that highlighted the basic ingredients than the cooks on this show.

I couldn't believe what they did to the proteins this episode. Especially that poor young lamb.

I can only figure that most of them think that simple, elegant food won't show "what they can do", so they try and over-think, over-complicate things, and in the end make boring dated dishes.

Anonymous said...

Great Post. I think the only reason they don't go with older chefs is money. Younger people bring a demographic with more disposable income not to mention increased ratings.

Sad but true.

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