Top Chef Texas Episode 3: Chef Ed ‘Honey Badger’ Hardy on Snakes on a Plate

"Obviously, Padma is totally Carrie, and Hugh is Charlotte. But Johnny and I can't decide if he's more Samantha than I am!"

Is it just me or is Top Chef: Texas getting off to a less-than-stellar start? Either way, I’m making Ed Hardy of Red Rooster Harlem tune in along with me!

Hey Ed! Welcome back for another week! Have you ever had rattlesnake (or even seen one)? I have not, but I really admire the Don’t Tread on Me Gadsden flag. Makes me respect snakes and like. Could you kill a live rattlesnake?

Never had rattlesnake. Never really needed to chow down on it, anyway. I imagine it’s fairly chewy. Can I just say that there are reasons we eat certain animals? Consider the ole’ rattler. It’s tough. It’s hard to break down. It doesn’t yield much meat. And, occasionally it kills you. Mother Nature puts a “Don’t Eat” label on certain things; rattlesnake is one of them. Could I kill one? Absolutely. Quick cleaver through the neck. A lot easier than killing cute cows and pigs. Plus, if given the chance, it could kill me.

Not you! You’re like the honey badger! Moving on, of all the dishes, I was kinda fouled up watching this, as I thought the more complex, pretty plates would take the QFC…but simplicity won. Can you speak to that notion and a few of the more notable entries put forth?

Yeah, I think we’re done with the era of artistic plating meaning something. Everybody now knows how to use white space and a bit of color to make something look better. And, everybody (generally) does. But we, as American foodies AND chefs, have been discovering a lot about flavors. That is the most important consideration. A good chef uses flavor to transport you to your mom’s kitchen or to a cafe in Morocco or wherever. I even have a personal mantra I repeat in my head (and sometimes out loud): “Make it taste like something.” Take Nyesha Arrington’s plate. Swoosh? Yup. Meticulous boned out snake ribs? yup. Time spent on making a beautiful looking plate? Absolutely. Time spent on making it taste good? Not so much.

Before we jump into the EC, I love the Moto guys, AND I wear my sunglasses almost all the time, including at night, BUT…what up with Chris Jones’s double glasses? It is killing me.

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Cooking for Obama: Red Rooster Harlem Staffer Dishes on Serving the President

You may not be the POTUS, but you can dine like him at Red Rooster Harlem.

If you were anywhere near New York and its food scene Tuesday evening, you were well aware that the most powerful man in the world (No, not Matthew Weiner!) was attending a political fundraiser at Red Rooster Harlem, Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s new-ish restaurant uptown. Friend of OpenTable and would-be Top Cheftestant (and former culinary school classmate of yours truly) Ed Hardy was behind the line that night, and he shared his thoughts on what it’s like to cook for the President of the United States (again…see last response).

Hi again, Ed! So, first up, how long have you been working at Red Rooster Harlem? Tell us a bit about the restaurant and Chef Samuelsson’s cuisine?

Red Rooster opened in mid-December, and I’ve been working there since mid-January. I’ve worked for Chef Samuelsson before at Aquavit, so I was familiar with his cuisine. The restaurant impressed me from the moment I walked in, with its bold challenge to menu conventions and conventional Manhattan wisdom about location. As a former Aquavit chef and a native Southerner, it was easy for me to wrap my head around the Swedish and comfort food dishes on Chef Samuelsson’s menu. It’s also exciting for me to be able to experience and use some of the African spices that he brings to the table.

You worked the fundraiser for President Obama at Red Rooster on Tuesday night. For a chef, I imagine this is akin to getting to shake the President’s hand when you’re a youngster. How proud are you to have participated?

Very proud, indeed. It’s one thing to cook for a president at the White House or an event; it’s another honor entirely when the President and his advisors make a special trip to the restaurant I’m at every day.

Did everyone at Red Rooster want to be there? How did you get picked?

Not everyone at Red Rooster was there, but I’m pretty sure everyone wanted to be there. We have quite a large staff because we’re open for fairly long hours, and most of those hours the restaurant is packed full of diners. If we had the entire staff on for this event, the back-of-the-house would have been so packed with people in chef jackets that we wouldn’t have been able to move, much less put food on a plate!

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Top Chef D.C. Episode 9: The Beast Has Left the Building

"Chin up, Kenny. You can still try out for 'Top Model.'"
"Chin up, Kenny. You can still try out for 'Top Model.'"

So, this week on “Top Chef” — my DVR failed me. Totally weird. It said it taped an hour, but when I tried to watch it on Thursday a.m., it would only jump to 35 minutes in. Apparently, I missed some major drama involving — shocker! — Alex. I also missed my second favorite critic on restaurant wars (The first is San Francisco Chronicle scribe Michael Bauer). So, as this post is a bit late on the uptake, I figured it would be safe to indicate in the headline that Kenny is no longer with us. I also figured that, instead of rehashing who did what to whom, I’d call cheftender Ed Hardy for his two cents.

Ed, they killed Kenny!

Let me begin by saying that I have never seen such a disparity in the “Who deserves to go” index as I saw between Kenny and Alex in this episode. Anyone who does what Alex did to that ribeye should be gone. When cutting large portions you must use long, confident, thoughtful strokes. Alex was whittling away at that ribeye like it was a piece of rough wood. If what Tiffany said about the striped bass is true then it just confirms that Alex is having trouble with butchery 101.

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