Top Chef Texas Episode 14: At Cloche Range with Chef Ed ‘Cowbell’ Hardy

"Do these shoes go with this napkin?"

I’ve got Valentine’s Day on my mind lately, but, thanks to all the cloches, we’re getting dark, Brad Whitewood, Sr.-style, on the latest episode of Top Chef: Texas with Ed Hardy of Red Rooster Harlem.

Hey, Ed! You scared yet? You oughta be. So, first up, why does Bev scare everyone as much as Christopher Walken in At Close Range? She’s not at all creepy!

Are we doing a Christopher Walken 80’s movie this week? It had better have Crispin Glover in it, or I’m outta here [Checks IMDB] Okay, it does. But, next time run the theme past me, okay? Much like Crispin Glover, Beverly creeps out everyone anytime she’s in the room. From Paul the Monk to Ed the Clown to Lindsay the Southern Drawl Ya’ll, they all don’t seem to be comfortable with her. Even Tom seems to pre-defend her by saying that she has been doing a good job. There is obviously something going on here. Having a lot of faith in yourself and your abilities is no substitute for actually having those abilities.

So, the blind-folded pantry QFC definitely has a very marching-to-my-doom feel to it. I wish they’d done a total smell test to choose things, as this seemed more an exercise in luck than skill.

Did you see them smoking in the opening? I’ve never understood why my peers insist on pursuing a habit that will directly affect their palates and careers. So, to answer question, Caroline, I don’t think these guys would be able to pass the smell test anymore. Did you see Paul sniffing and tasting? He was like the calm in the middle of the storm. Vegetables should be easy enough to feel out. I think with the right idea for a dish and a simple plan, you can rule out luck.

"Ha! Did you see the look on Ed's face when Bev walked through the doors? I thought he was going to wet himself!"

In terms of the QFC, two contenders’ fish dishes are undercooked, which, in light of  the chef-judges’ reputations makes me believe that they were REALLY undercooked because slightly underdone is almost the sweet spot. Thoughts?

The devil is in the details. Tom seemed to be giving Paul and his underdone shrimp a chance to argue the point. Beverly’s underdone bass seemed like a forgone conclusion, especially since we saw her start to butcher the fish with about five minutes left. Bass is a fish that just doesn’t taste good underdone. The flesh gets really chewy. Shrimp, however, is a little more forgiving.

Ed comes close, but Sarah wins, and she takes ultimate immunity. Isn’t this the smart choice? And, why are people calling her chicken for not taking the car and heading straight to the final EC? Will she live to tell?

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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 8: Brazilian Whacked

"Has anyone seen my other sleeve?"
"Has anyone seen my other sleeve?"

With just nine cheftestants remaining, the herd is seriously thinning – and worrying.  Kelly promises to step it up and Tiffany sets her sights on winning some challenges. Alex denies all knowledge of Ed’s pea puree. Poor, spineless Ed isn’t angry (which he should be), but he is confused (which has me confused). This show needs some controversy. Note to casting agents: You need to cast better villains and we need more hook ups in future seasons.

The QFC…

Marcus Samuelsson, formerly of Aquavit and winner of “Top Chef Masters,” is this week’s guest judge. In the least surprising QFC ever, they’re asked to cook Ethiopian food. What is surprising (to me, at least) is how very popular Ethiopian food is in our nation’s capital. (Bethany, is that true? It must be if they said it on TV!)

Chef Samuelsson gives us a quick lesson in Ethiopian food. In a nutshell, it involves a spice blend called berbere, injera, a sour, spongy bread that acts as a delicious utensil, and spicy stews. With 90 minutes to cook, Amanda gravitates toward the goat. Fork-tongued Alex goes for the tongue. Angelo has an advantage as he’s well-versed in Ethiopian cuisine, and Ed and Kenny seem pretty comfortable with what they’re cooking as well. Some of the others, including Amanda and her goat, are sort of lost.

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