Top Chef Season 8 Episode 3: Gang of Four Sends Two Packing

You'd be smiling, too, if you had as many Michelin stars as Chef Michael White of Marea.

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.

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Top Chef Just Desserts Finale: Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis on Love and Loss

Isn't Yigit sweet?

It’s probably safe to say that the first season of Top Chef Just Desserts was a resounding success, so we’re pleased to bring you — for the last time this season but not the last time, I hope — expert insights from Le Bernardin‘s own Michael Laiskonis.

Before we even dive in, how high are the judges’ expectations at this point? Can you put this into perspective? In terms of the title being meaningful, do the standards have to be insane?

I’d like to think that the standards and expectations have been at a constant high level throughout the competition. As this challenge will represent the sum total of the chefs’ work, I’d also bet the judges are really looking for that personal touch; and that’s also when the chef’s are really just pushing their own limits and competing less with each other and more against themselves.

What does a progressive, four-course dessert tasting mean for you when you hear that? Does it inspire opportunity? Fear? Have you done this/do you do this at Le Bernardin? When would a civilian diner (like me) get this opportunity?

I love that kind of format, as it gives us pastry chefs a rare opportunity to take guests on a little sweet journey — an opportunity to explore a range of techniques, flavors, and textures. I also like exploiting a buildup of intensity and creating a cohesive package in small, distinct dishes. We don’t exactly have that kind of structure built into our menu at Le Bernardin, but we’re willing to negotiate such a thing! One restaurant that does is wd-50, where pastry genius Alex Stupak offers an amazing multi-course dessert tasting.Continue Reading

Top Chef Just Desserts Episode 1: 20 Questions with Pastry Chef Michael Laiskonis

Pastry chef Michael Laiskonis makes 'Top Chef Just Desserts' even sweeter!

Bravo’s fun Top Chef: Just Desserts premiered last week — and it’s back again tonight. The lovechild of Top Chef and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, even the show’s initial ep tested my knowledge of all things sweet. Despite my culinary school training, it turns out that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about pastry (although I make a fierce tarte aux pomme). So I’ve called in a pro to help me figure out exactly what’s happening with Bravo’s latest confection. James Beard Foundation Award-winning pastry chef, Michael Laiskonis, from New York’s famed Le Bernardin restaurant, will be tuning in with us every week going forward, so check back tomorrow for his take on Episode 2. To kick things off, I asked him 20 questions about the premiere to help set the stage.

When I was in culinary school, the pastry people always seemed much cooler and calmer than my fellow savory chef students and I – or was that just the cool temp in their kitchen?

I think we’re beginning to see that it’s not necessarily all that calm and cool. I like to think we share the same amount of intensity as our savory cook counterparts; we pastry chefs often tend to channel that energy in a different way.

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World’s 50 Best Restaurants: S. Pellegrino and Restaurant Mag Name 2010 Winners

San Pelligrino and Restaurant magazine have announced their picks for the world’s 50 best restaurants in 2010. It’s a very international list, and many of them are part of the OpenTable network. Honorees include Daniel, Per Se, Le Bernardin, The French Laundry, St. John, wd-50, and Eleven Madison Park.

It’s a big question, but what restaurant is the world’s best? Pick your absolute favorite and reveal it here or share it with your fellow diners on Facebook.