Chef Ed Cotton is still on a special secret assignment this week, but, once again, we’re fortunate to have a guest chef correspondent lending a hand. From the second season of Top Chef Masters, Chef Carmen Gonzalez joins us! Chef Gonzalez shared exclusively with OpenTable that she is currently the national chef ambassador for BACARDI rums. She will appear as a guest on an upcoming episode of Top Chef All Stars that you won’t want to miss!
David Chang is in the house. Have you dined at his restaurants? He’s very talented, but I rather dislike the trend he’s been swept up in — of anointing of new chef-kings. What do you think of this trend of people treating chefs as though they’re the second coming?
Yes, I have dined at David Chang’s restaurant, and he is extremely talented. The idea of chef-kings reinforces how important your reputation is in this business. In my opinion, chefs should be praised for their talent and cuisine, not the “awe” factor. One of the biggest concerns that I have right now is that people are going to culinary school for the wrong reasons. They may be able to cook well and have raw talent, but, realistically, not everyone is going to end up on Food Network or Top Chef. The chef-kings are great to aspire to…but at the end of the day you just have to cook good food.
What’s your take on working in teams during these challenges? Is it like working in a kitchen — or not really because there are, literally, too many cooks?
Team challenges create a more realistic restaurant kitchen atmosphere. When you bring five chefs together, there is always the assumption from each person that you “know what you do.” It takes confidence and patience to get to a level of understanding with everyone. Everyone has to rise to the challenge of bringing to the table what they are best for.
Is carpaccio a cop out in these QFC’s? Also, lamb carpaccio sounds kinda gnarly to me. Have you had it? What are your thoughts on it?
Yes, I have had it, and I do not think it is a cop out. In my opinion, with such little time, the carpaccio was a very smart way to go. It is better to serve a carpaccio that tastes good and is finely done, versus sending out a lamb that is not cooked properly.
Yes, I have dined at all of them. They are all very good on their own, for what they are. My favorite style of food would be Marea, because I love Italian comfort food. I would be most comfortable emulating Townhouse because my food is American cuisine influenced by the flavors of Puerto Rico. I could keep to my style and bring different flavors.
When you’re eating, are you like Angelo — analyzing every bite and talking about it?
No, I do not analyze every bite if I am out eating. As a chef, you are always going to find something you do not like or that you would do differently. Analyzing everything you eat defeats the purpose of going out to dinner. Dinner should be sharing a meal with friend and a break from “being in the kitchen.” If something is absolutely disgusting, too salty or too sweet…I will say I don’t like it. But, I want to simply enjoy my meal.
Let’s talk about people’s choices for their dishes in the EC. I was surprised Jamie made soup. I thought Casey’s ‘scallibut’ was very clever and coulda been a contender. Any other standouts or surprises — outside the winners and losers?
I was surprised that Jamie made a soup. When you are trying to stand up to the master chefs that you were supposed to be emulating, I think soup was not a strong enough choice. From my personal experience on Top Chef Masters, I know that the judges are looking to see more than a soup. Sometimes the easiest dishes are the hardest to get right. If you can make something simple taste good with not a lot of frou-frou ingredients, then you are showcasing that you are a very good chef. In this case, that would not work because of the challenge.
Casey’s scallibut was clever and, based on the judges’ comments, it could have been a contender. Ultimately, I agree with the judges. Based on what they were saying about the taste of the food, there were no other outside winners and losers.
Fabio is walking a tightrope. His dish looked like a mess with the ricotta. What’s happening with this talented chef? It’s like he’s lost his compass.
Fabio needs to take a step back, stop trying to do too much, and cook the way he knows. He is all over the place. There were some good examples of people who emulated the cuisine of the chef they were visiting or supposed to. At the same time, they were able to stay true to their own cuisine with their dish and find success.
I am stunned that Dale went home. This guy is far too good to have gone at this point. Tiffany’s melon definitely should have earned her a ticket home, no? It was all technique — and not executed very well!
It is very disappointing that Dale went home. You can be a very good chef, but part of this competition is that you have to be a very good chef every single week. Consistency is the most important element and in order to win you have to bring the heat every week. If you have one weak challenge or week, you are going home.
Tiffany’s melon should have sent her packing. Maybe on Dale’s plate there was more than one item or element the chefs didn’t agree with? I didn’t get to taste it, but based on the judges’ comments, there were multiple elements that were not executed well.
The prize is a trip to New Zealand. My friend Eric wrote a book about New Zealand wines, and he became obsessed with meat pies. Have you ever had one?
No, I have not, and it is on my list of things to do. If anyone has a recommendation for a good meat pie in New York, let me know on twitter @chefcarmeng.