Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 5: Let’s Get Some Shoes…

TCJD 5 Gail Simmons Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 5: Lets Get Some Shoes...
Gail Simmons's dress isn't edible, but she still looks delish.

We’re counting down the days until Le Bernardin’s Michael Laiskonis gets his turn at the judges’ table on Top Chef Just Desserts (next week!), but for now, he’s in the hot seat, dishing it out about all the sweet and not-so-sweet goings on in this week’s episode.

So, we’re seeing some alliances have formed in the competition. Are there mini-kitchen cliques in general?

Sure, there are, but a smart cook realizes it’s important to make friends with everyone, because when it really hits the fan, it’s nice knowing that you don’t have to worry that someone’s got your back. At its worst, the atmosphere in the kitchen can be like trench warfare. Best not to play favorites.

How do you do soufflés for a QFC so that they don’t fall? Also, any good soufflé war stories?

While I do soufflés rarely now, in the past, I’d do dozens in a night. The key is simply controlling all the variables — the recipe, proper whipping of the egg whites, and filling of the ramekin, and of course, time and temperature. In a restaurant situation, worst case scenario, you make another one and wait it out. My worst case: A cook once forgot to add the cornstarch to a chocolate soufflé base; the guests eventually got their dessert, along a few extras while they waited!

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An Open Apology to Ludo and Krissy Lefebvre + LudoBites Lovers, from OpenTable

If you don’t know what LudoBites is, well, you should. It’s a dining sensation that’s single-handedly sweeping the City of Angels. A pop-up restaurant executed in sheer guerilla style by renowned chef Ludo Lefebvre and his wife/partner in culinary crime Krissy (aka FrenchChefWife), LudoBites has become the hottest, tastiest ticket in Los Angeles.

As you may imagine, the Lefebvres experience enormous demand for the unique dining experiences that are the roving LudoBites events. OpenTable stepped up to help them answer that demand in a democratic and efficient manner (first come, first reserved, if you will). However, while using our system for their latest event, LudoBites 6.0, all did not go according to plan.

We apologize to the Lefebvres and all of the diners who experienced technical problems while trying to book reservations for LudoBites 6.0 last night. LudoBites is a phenomenon that concentrates unprecedented reservation demand for a single restaurant with a limited number of tables in a very short window of time. We had a plan for how to customize our service to accommodate the extraordinary search volume for LudoBites 6.0, but we didn’t implement that plan properly. The traffic overwhelmed our systems, and some hopeful diners experienced intermittent problems until the restaurant was fully booked after less than 90 minutes.

OpenTable was built with the idea that securing a dining reservation should be effortless. We didn’t live up to that promise under the unique conditions of LudoBites, and we’ll be taking a closer look at our processes to ensure we deliver a consistently high-quality experience in the future.

To learn more about the talented Chef Lefebvre and the one-of-a-kind LudoBites, please visit LudoLefebvre.com.

Start Your Spotlight Engines: OpenTable Offers Go Live Tonight

Secret Spotlight SF 10131 Start Your Spotlight Engines: OpenTable Offers Go Live Tonight
Can you guess which Secret Spotlight restaurant in San Francisco created this delish dish?

It’s the most wonderful time of the week, as we prepare to turn on our OpenTable Spotlight offers in AtlantaBostonChicagoDenverLos AngelesNew YorkPhiladelphiaSan Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The names of the participating restaurants won’t be revealed until later tonight, but you can use these clues to guess where you’ll be able to save. Share your answers on our Spotlight message boards, Facebook, or Twitter.

trans Start Your Spotlight Engines: OpenTable Offers Go Live TonightAtlanta: One of Gwinnett County’s most beloved dining destinations, this family owned and run restaurant is set along the Chattahoochee River and serves classic German-European fare with a gracious Southern flair.

Boston: This unique restaurant is located in the Seaport neighborhood, near the Boston World Trade Center. Just off the water its decor reflects its seaside location and features stylish, eclectic cuisine.

trans Start Your Spotlight Engines: OpenTable Offers Go Live TonightChicago: This unusual and creative Chicago hotspot prides itself on leaving nothing unfinished: each and every detail, from the ingredients to the dishware, contributes to the diner’s experience. Bring along a bottle of your favorite wine and enjoy one of the specialty 4, 7 or 13 course tasting menu options.

Denver: Situated in a historical manor dating back to the 19th century, this family-owned Italian restaurant specializes in serving delicious 4-course meals complete with warm garlic bread.

Los Angeles: You’ll be on cloud nine at this beachside eatery, where the gorgeous scenery has attracted many a film crew – several television shows, movies and music videos have been filmed here.

New York: This Long Island destination prides itself on unpretentious and sophisticated dishes that are the perfect union of East and West.

Philadelphia: This stylish restaurant is a two-for-one dining destination and showroom location for one of the Northeast’s most celebrated handcrafted artisans. The picturesque dining room showcases the bucolic location with expansive windows to highlight the scenery.

San Francisco: Nestled just 30 minutes south of San Francisco, this charming restaurant was the first in San Mateo County to be recognized as a Bay Area Green Business. A neighborhood favorite for 20 years, it features a seasonal, contemporary menu that showcases the restaurant’s wood burning oven.

Washington, D.C.: Authenticity is the name of the game at this Adams Morgan eatery, which serves up delicious meals that hail from a region in southern Mexico.

Be sure to get your offers before the Spotlight goes out on Wednesday night!

‘The Next Iron Chef’ Episode 2: Marc Forgione on Bleeders, Breakfast, and Burgers

Chef Marc Forgione is back, surviving a second week, and discussing his big W this past Sunday night on the latest episode of “The Next Iron Chef.”

Marc Forgione Episode 2 Iron Chef The Next Iron Chef Episode 2: Marc Forgione on Bleeders, Breakfast, and Burgers
In his journal, Chef Forgione maps out how he'll innovate his assignment of chicken pot pie: "I knew there was never going to be a crust, more like a brown-butter-biscuit crumble."

You have to cook with doughnuts at the start of this episode. Do you have a favorite kind?

I lived above the Donut Pub on West 14th street and, call me old school, but I used to love their old fashioned donut to dunk in my coffee. There is also a place in the Lower East Side called the Doughnut Plant and they do a crème brulée doughnut — really cool.

Doughnut mania has sort of supplanted cupcake mania. What do you think of these food ‘crazes’ in general?

I think people get a little caught up in crazes, but I don’t really pay attention to most of the hype. I think crazes are amusing, overall. The burger is a perfect example of a craze that has taken over the restaurant scene. Today, it seems that every fine-dining restaurant has to have a burger. At my restaurant, we added  “The Burger”, which we serve at the bar for $24. It is extremely popular — a  28-day, dry-aged Creekstone Farm prime strip steak, with caramelized onions and bacon, arugula, and tomatoes on a homemade potato roll. It’s served with wedge yukon fries and housemade pickles.

Sounds sublime! You’re cooking in a tight space in this initial breakfast challenge — but is it all that different than many Manhattan kitchens?

The set at kitchen stadium is five times bigger than the station that I have at my restaurant. My kitchen is the size of an SUV!

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Parting Shot: ‘Just Desserts’ Chef Malika Ameen Talks Cake, Control, and Cookies

Malika1 Parting Shot: Just Desserts Chef Malika Ameen Talks Cake, Control, and Cookies
Malika Ameen's voluntary exit from Top Chef was a surprise to viewers.

On last week’s episode of Top Chef Just Desserts, Malika Ameen gracefully bowed out of the competition, leaving viewers’ mouths agape and leaving some of her fellow cheftestants counting their lucky stars. She shared some thoughts on her decision to leave and the experience as a whole.

Malika, many viewers, such as I, are sad you left. Can you talk a bit more about your choice to exit?

My choice to exit was a decision that took some time as I worked through challenges — and one that I really felt very good about once I knew that it was the right decision for me. It was difficult to actually do it at the judges’ table, but that was the exact moment where I felt it was the right timing with the circumstances around the challenge. It was never preconceived, so I must admit I was really nervous, but I just said what I truly felt and believed strongly in.

The competition ate away immediately at a lot of people, in a way we’ve not even seen on the savory Top Chef competition. Why do you think so many people wigged out or wanted to walk out? What aren’t we seeing?

I don’t feel that people wanted to walk out in the competition as much as the media has stressed it. Pastry chefs are wired very differently from savory chefs. We are used to very controlled environments, working with our recipes, and managing our time by working our desserts in stages. I think we also tend to be more emotional by nature, but that doesn’t mean we are not tough! I think we are just more comfortable with expressing ourselves on an emotional level because our egos are not as big as savory chefs!!!

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Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 4: Sell Crazy Someplace Else…

TCJD 4 LD Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 4: Sell Crazy Someplace Else...
These lovely performers are among the least crazy people to appear in this episode.

We’re all stocked up. Literally. I mean, I have to say, that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy TCJD as much as its savory predecessor, but this sweet show is really rich with drama. And every crazy thing that I thought would happen this episode, actually didn’t, but even crazier things did! To hold our collective hand and explain the more complicated points of pastry, once again, is Le Bernardin Executive Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis.

First, congratulations on Le Bernardin’s three Michelin stars! What does this level of achievement and recognition mean to you and your staff?

Thanks, Caroline! It’s an honor and a great return for all of our hard work, but we always remind ourselves that, at the end of the day, it’s all about our love of cooking and feeding others. No matter what level we push for, it’s that passion that sustains the day-to-day.

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The Michelin Stars Are Out in NYC: Eric Ripert Reflects on His ‘Threepeat’

Chef Eric Ripert on His Michelin Stars The Michelin Stars Are Out in NYC: Eric Ripert Reflects on His Threepeat
Chef Eric Ripert's Le Bernardin has received three Michelin stars for six straight years (That's 18, in case you're counting!).

Today the honorees of The Michelin Guide New York City Restaurants 2011 have been named, and Le Bernardin, for the sixth year in a row, has been awarded three stars.

Executive chef-owner Eric Ripert says of being recognized, consecutively, with three stars, “Every day when I come to work, I think about making Le Bernardin a great place with our team and never think about the rewards first. I believe the consequences of thinking like that can result in great rewards later on.” Indeed. Of the impact of being recognized by such an esteemed guide, Ripert, whose PBS show “Avec Eric” will begin its second season, states, “It is of course a great honor for the team and myself, that we don’t take for granted. It also helps the restaurant to be recognized and busy for the entire year. The Michelin Guide has an economic impact and, therefore, allows us to have a big, well-trained team and to buy high-quality products.”

When asked if he and his staff ever feel anxious about maintaining the level of excellence they’ve attained at Le Bernardin, he shares, “We do not work for the reward but by passion. And, we have evolved with time. We are always inspired and always thinking how we can create a special experience for our guests. New York City being a very competitive city is a blessing in disguise, and we reinvent ourselves all the time — sometimes without even knowing it. But, when we look back a few years ago, we realize that Le Bernardin was a similar but very different place. We strive for perfection, but the most important thing is actually the quest.”

While, once again, only four other restaurants — DanielJean Georges, Masa, and Per Se — received the coveted three-star rating, Ripert would welcome others atop the list. “I’m always very happy to see chefs and restaurateurs being highly rewarded, many of them are friends. The more 3-stars we see the better it is ultimately for our industry,” says this most gracious chef.

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We’re Going to Make You an Offer You Can’t Refuse. A Spotlight Offer, That Is!

The Godfather Were Going to Make You an Offer You Cant Refuse. A Spotlight Offer, That Is!
Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

OpenTable is pleased to bring you another week of savings in cities around the U.S. The Spotlight is set to shine strong in nine cities this week: AtlantaBostonChicago, DenverLos AngelesNew YorkPhiladelphiaSan Francisco, and Washington, D.C. The names of the participating restaurants won’t be revealed until Tuesday evening, but, as always, if you can’t wait, get a clue or two below, and make your best guesses on our Spotlight message boards, over on Facebook, or on Twitter.

trans Were Going to Make You an Offer You Cant Refuse. A Spotlight Offer, That Is!Atlanta: This elegant midtown restaurant is a celebration of local Southern cuisine with a sophisticated contemporary twist. Its namesake is celebrated with an annual festival to herald in spring.

Boston: The name of this restaurant has several derivations – some say it was named after a queen of the Amazons; others after the father of Theseus, king of Athens. It is located just 20 miles west of downtown Boston.

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‘The Next Iron Chef’ Episode 1: Chef Marc Forgione Talks Sammies and Slides

TNIC Episode 1 The Next Iron Chef Episode 1: Chef Marc Forgione Talks Sammies and Slides
Alton confesses that he wouldn't have worn a hat if his hair were as cool as Marc's.

Move over, Mad Men. Sunday nights have even more must-see TV for foodies, thanks to the premiere of season 3 of The Next Iron Chef. Competitor Marc Forgione has signed on to help shepherd OpenTable diners through every episode this season, win, lose, or draw (and we’re going to hold you to that, Chef!). We’ll find out what’s behind Chef Forgione’s thinking as he takes on the world’s best chefs, as well as get a look behind the scenes of this exciting, high-stakes competition.

Thanks for joining us, Chef Forgione!  NYC has become the city of the sammie. And, you had to make one straight out of the gate. Do you have any fave sandwiches in NYC that you eat when you’re not at your restaurant?

The Banh Mi from The Saigon Bakery on Grand Street.

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