I Hate Jill Zarin Top Chef Masters / Housewives News
Top Chef Masters, Episode 3 by Harvey
Quickfire: Let’s get icky and cook bugs. Or more accurately, insects and worms. Crickets, beetles, scorpions, night crawlers, green hornworms. The hornworms are quite beautiful. Lots of faces and eeeews. Oh come on, people. Haven’t you ever heard of or enjoyed chapulines, those spicy flash-fried grasshoppers that are great Oaxacan street food? Celina says she’s had crickets in Bangkok, so it doesn’t seem to phase her. Basically what you need to do with foods that are unappealing is hide them, like you hide veggies for kids. And as Mary Sue says, these people not only eat but extol the virtues of eating all sorts of unappealing organ meats such as eyeballs, brains, anything…wasn’t there a time when they would have found these things gross? Most of us still do. And they eat snails, don’t they? They consider snails to be a delicacy. Snails are invertebrates. Slimy gastropods. And they eat oysters – slimy bivalves – raw. So that’s yummy but worms are yucky?
Face it, people. As we deplete the oceans, as we come to the grips with the environmental and health effects of industrial farming and livestock production, we are going to need additional sources of protein. Insects are abundant. Not so earthworms; many species are being depleted because of pesticides and, in some places such as Great Britain, heavy predation by introduced predatory species that were imported as fishing bait.
The people who have worms really should have an easier time of it because they don’t have to deal with the chitinous exoskeletons that crickets and beetles carry, much less the legs. Batter and fry is the obvious answer. Suvir can’t kill his hornworms. His religious and cultural background prohibit the killing of animals. I call BS. His menu at Devi includes chicken, fish, seafood, and lamb. I’m guessing those shrimp didn’t commit crustacean hari-kari by jumping out of the water for his restaurant, and I doubt that the little lambs just died in their sleep. Someone slaughtered them, and Hindu law says that the person who buys, sells, cooks or eats these items is also considered the slayer of the animal. Which makes sense when you think about it. But hey, people of every faith choose to follow rules or not, as they please. Religion these days is strictly a lá carte. So if he participates by making the worms available live in a jar, with a cook-it-yourself blow torch and wants to believe he’s adhering to Hindu beliefs, more power to him.
The guest judges are Mykel Hawke, one of those macho survival types from the Discovery Channel, and his wife Ruth England, a TV journalist. Man, Woman, Wild. He’s nearly killed her twice. Once in the Mexican desert, where she fell victim to heat exhaustion and dehydration. Important survival tip: if this should ever happen to you, ask the film crew you brought as emergency gear to rescue you. The second time, they were both too exhausted from lack of food (in Alaska, where food is abundant in the spring) and cold (how? didn’t they take appropriate clothing?) to hike out to the airstrip. When a storm approaches, they give up and call (good thing they packed that satellite phone) for helicopter rescue. Please folks – watch these programs and learn what NOT to do! Anyway, they’ve apparently had to eat lots of icky invertebrates while out in the field, so they are happy to dig into this gourmet grub (groan……..). I admit that it was gross watching Mykel dispatch the live green hornworms – he tears one in half, the body fluids drain out…
Another important lesson from Mr. Macho – when cooking crickets, remove the hairy legs. They tickle going down the throat and get stuck in your teeth. Nothing worse than being stuck in the wilderness without a toothpick.
The winner gets $$ for the charity and immunity, and this time the winner is Hugh, the guy who was eliminated in the first episode, but brought back to fill the slot that opened up when John Rivera Sedlar had to drop out. He made fried tempura crickets with a carrot and sunchoke puree.
Elimination challenge: A $100/plate charity dinner. They are to make a 10-course tasting menu. Each to make one dish. They are told to expect curveballs.
Once again, Naomi (dead-pig-carrying uber-hip lady from Portland) takes over and once again no one stops her. When Naomi is identified on screen, it says “Naomi. Beast.” That’s the name of her restaurant and also quite a good description of her attitude, and not in a good way. She’s strident and bossy. Yes, yes. I know. If a guy behaved this way, we’d call him take-charge and it would be a good thing. Well, I am female and I say NO. It isn’t because she’s female that this behavior is objectionable. It is just plain annoying. No matter who does it. But the others don’t object so screw them. They just grumble. Speak up or shut up, I always say.
Admittedly, it is a good thing to write it all down and review the list to be sure that each course is covered and that there aren’t too many of one thing and none of another. It doesn’t seem that any thought is given to how dishes will complement one another. Everyone makes whatever they want.
More stupidity from the producers: no water. Before you say, “oh this is the kind of thing real chefs have to deal with in their restaurants,” let me say NO. The way real chefs deal with no water (even no hot water) in their restaurants is to shut down. Or be shut down by the health department. It is a serious health code violation and as Floyd said, a disaster waiting to happen because it is very likely that cross-contamination from raw chicken or fish will occur and someone will get very sick. They get creative by taking water from the circulating bath and by melting ice.
They are also responsible for setting up the dining room. Suvir gives us more of his “bliss out” philosophy. He is very calm. He has a zen quality. His zen is really getting on my nerves!
Another twist – they take away 30 minutes of cooking time. Dishes have to be simplified. I predict disaster for the risotto which simply can’t be rushed. Risotto is made by adding small amounts of liquid, allowing it to absorb completely, and then adding a small amount more, repeating until the rice is both creamy and yet still each grain is separate and intact. They should be al dente and as we know from watching many failed risottos on TC, it should stand up on the plate. It isn’t meant to be rice-flavored mush. This is not cream of wheat!
Naomi is making lists and yelling again. She’s appointed herself the dining room tsar as well, and she’s telling us how SHE has done a lot of work strategizing how involved she will be with the diners, splitting out the servers, making sure the food goes out fast enough (the downfall of HER team last time…the food went out so slowly that the judges complained). She sets up the plating area but Hugh steps up and decides that it should be elsewhere. Sue is confused, Naomi says of Hugh in a dismissive way, “Hugh’s got a vision with that. I’m not envisioning that.” Naomi catches on to the fact that she’s unpopular and that everyone thinks she is bossy. Eye rolls. She doesn’t care. Good survival trait. If you can’t handle being hated, don’t be hateful. Looking at YOU, Jill Zarin. Take a lesson. And take your nasty little dog to class with you.
Another twist. No waiters. They’ve got to handle service themselves.
Naomi yelling again. Everyone needs to be finished with their course and chip in with service. She thinks that no one should be working on their courses while service is going on. Tracy gives it right back to her. It is impossible for her because her she’s got a protein that has to be cooked last minute. She isn’t used to being bossed around.
In come the guests. Hugh starts bossing. I need first course now and pour the wine!
The judges are the delightful James Oseland, the incredible Ruth Reichl, Danyelle Freeman, and guest judge Alan Systma, the editor of Grub Street. How weird is it that there are three major food critics with similar last names (Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post, Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice – they are not related – and Alan Systma). He looks like he is maybe 14 years old and he must have packed a whole lot of eating into his short life. Hard to imagine he’s got the educated palate of a Ruth Reichl. But he was previously with Gourmet (her late, great food periodical); he says he was an intern for James Oseland at one time.
Out comes Mary Sue’s ceviche app. Lacking in flavor. Suvir’s chickpea, potato, and yoghurt chaat (a Northern Indian dish) and he gets demerits for playing it safe but the diners love it. Suvir and George both select the specific plates that will go to the judges. That bugs me. Restaurants should give critics the same food, presented the same way, that they serve to everyone else. One thing I do like about Masters is that unlike regular TC, they don’t engage in silly backbiting. Suvir mentions that Naomi’s cream of celery soup is simple but beautiful. She then says the same thing – doing something boring is risky. And we all know that simple-but-well-executed generally wows the judges. Turns out it isn’t quite so simple. She calls is a celery velouté, and velouté is actually a sauce, not a soup. A thick, creamy stock-based sauce. So she’s trying to hype the dish and in doing so, displays her ignorance of basic cooking terms. It has a salsa verde (nice – the cool celery with the spicy but not overwhelmingly hot salsa, finished with lemon oil and espelette pepper (a mild chili pepper cultivated in France). The judges love it and Danyelle also calls it a velouté, and mispronounces the word. Love it when someone tries to be sophisticated by picking up a word they don’t know and using it incorrectly. Though apparently, this is happening a lot with that word, at least in the United States, where people have started to use that word to mean soup. According to Larousse Gastronomique, velouté is one of the five “mother sauces” with a stock base. Now, I suppose a very thick soup with a stock base and lots of cream and/or butter would resemble a velouté in texture and body, so whatevs. Though Oseland says the same thing on his blog, so I’m not alone in thinking that Naomi and Danyelle are pretentious but not all that knowledgeable about food.
At this point, they all comment that the chefs didn’t conceive the dinner as a whole; that it was every man for himself.
Here’s the risotto, the culinary pass-fail test that so many TC contestants have failed. Miserably so.
The judges don’t comment on the quality of the risotto itself. They question the addition of pine nuts. The crunchy texture adds nothing, they say. I agree. And as a victim of pine nut mouth, I’d be very cautious about adding pine nuts to anything if I didn’t know the source of the pine nuts. If they aren’t from Europe, the Middle East, or the U.S., I simply wouldn’t use them. Generally, they say the risotto is unmemorable. Not worthy of a $100/plate dinner. That comment was made about a couple of dishes and I’m not getting it. At Volt, the six-course tasting menu is $95 and with wine pairings, $145. The optional cheese course adds another $12. At Cityzen (run by Eric Ziebold, a French Laundry alum who won a James Beard Best Chef award), the six-course tasting menu is $110. So what’s with this pretense that $100/plate is a lot for a 10-course tasting menu? At a charity dinner yet. You always pay more for a charity dinner.
The chefs tell us their restaurant horror stories – power went out, we cooked with flashlights held in our teeth. Bathrooms out – guests had to walk across the street to a grocery store to relieve themselves. John Currance almost murdered an assistant chef who put salt on crème brulée and when he couldn’t get it to caramelize, he took it out to the tables anyway.
As we proceed through service, Naomi and Hugh continue to clash. Suvir says he is not assertive and doesn’t usually get excited. Hugh stirs the shit by saying that Naomi is a little assertive. Suvir walks away from him. Alex’s salmon is not a hit. Some think it is undercooked. Tracy has the only meat course. Alan says the veggie (slow-cooked broccoli) is a swampy, flat puree but he is lectured by James who says that young people have been brain-washed to think that veggies shouldn’t be cooked. In fact, he says, is that Tracy’s vegetables are bold, cooked vegetables. Alan looks at him and shakes his head. Palate vs. trendy standards.
Hugh’s desert is a panna cotta with strawberry-champagne sauce and blackberry seedlings. It is a hit. They don’t like Celina’s pudding – it is chalky and gritty and doesn’t have enough chocolate flavor. Interesting – she doesn’t listen to feedback from the servers. Not good. Naomi breaks her arm patting herself on the back saying that everyone worked well together. Only to the extent they obeyed her or kept their grumbling below audible levels. At the chefs’ post-mortem, they congratulate themselves.
I am agreeing with Gawker right now: Danyelle Freeman Sucks: The Marrow Out Of Life, In General. As Joshua Stein wrote, “Today brings the debut of blogger-cum-Daily News food critic Restaurant Girl, real name Danyelle Freeman. When the news was announced a week ago, we were frankly skeptical of her lack of skill and anonymity.” While she has yet to openly announce that, no, she can’t write very well, she has fully embraced her own faciness. Freeman’s mug appears on the paper’s website no fewer than three times. And later, “ Crumplefaced spry the Daily News’ restaurant writer Danyelle Freeman stops by Lower East Side’s Allen and Delancey in today’s review, quotes fromWalden, misinterprets Thoreau and in general cuts a broad swath of self-indulgent nonsense across the meanness of life.” Danyelle is a former (read, “failed”) actress who started a blog called Restaurant Girl. Which Gawker calls Restaurant Hurl. It is an insult to Ruth Reichl to have to be sitting at the same table with this twit. Don’t believe me? OK, fine. Believe the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/04/fashion/04bloggers.html. This little epitome of the “I’m know I’m fabulous because my parents said so every five minutes” generation reviews restaurants based on opening nights. And then after she failed as an actress, she failed as a food critic – the Daily News (the also-ran to the New York Post) axed her in 2009 after two years.
After so many mediocre dishes, they still say “what a fantastic dinner.”
Hmm. Critics’ table, not Judges’ Table. Why? Who knows. Well, the diners voted for the favorite dish and the money is doled out to the charities according to the percentage of the vote for the top two dishes, and then each got an additional $10,000, which is very cool. And then the judges chose the winner, which was Naomi. Now she’s a million percent sure that she should be in charge and that she is always right about everything.
The risotto is in the bottom three, but not for quality, but because it was banal. Shitake mushrooms and pancetta. He played it safe. The chocolate was grainy and not chocolately enough, and the ginger donuts weren’t fluffy enough. It fell flat. Mary Sue’s ceviche lacked the flavor of the fish; the pickled onion overwhelmed everything. Celina’s pudding was unanymously disliked. John goes home for the risotto even though there was nothing wrong with it. Huh? A good dish that is simply not spectacular loses to two dishes that are flawed? And Suvir’s dish was also criticized as being too safe, too within-the-comfort zone, but wasn’t in the bottom three at all. And here you have it, folks. One thing that TCM has in common with TC. Totally inexplicable decisions and completely arbitrary and capricious standards.
Can’t complain. It gives us something to gripe about…and what is blogging, if not griping with a purpose? Who wants to read a nice-nice blog, and especially one about programs that are created deliberately to show us the worst of people (not that they have to try very hard with most of the cast…just turn the camera on and let them be themselves)? BORING!
Thank you Harvey, another great job blogging Top Chef Masters, the bug thing was rather creepy. The way that Stone described them, I suppose you could live off of the bugs and probably lose a whole lot of weight too!
For those of you who don’t know, Harvey is our anonymous researcher, contributor and all around good egg who helps me tremendously with the blog! Thanks again Harvey.
Real Housewives and other News…
A Viewer TO: @BravoAndy so why so many rumors about new Housewives cities?!
A simple “no” says it all, I think he’s telling us that he won’t be approving anymore Housewives shows but that doesn’t mean they won’t shoot in other cities. Bravo isn’t the only network in the world and there’s no reason why other networks couldn’t air similar shows. Mob Wives is appearing on VH1 right now and the success of Bravo’s Real Housewives could certainly prompt other networks to air similar shows.
I think Andy’s being as clear as he can be, they’re not filming in Arizona for Bravo but they are filming something…
Andy’s ad posters slapped all over New York City are being defaced but apparently Andy think’s that its funny because he’s Tweeting the photos.
Real Housewives of Miami Marysol confirms: “It wasn’t supposed to be a Housewives show,” .
The ratings? I knew why that was happening,” Marysol said. “They literally told us 10 days before it aired that the show was going to air.” (It was actually 19 days; on Feb. 3, Bravo sent out an announcement that Miami, which hadn’t been mentioned, much less promoted, would debut on Feb. 22, and that the network was postponing the premiere of Season 4 of The Real Housewives of New York City. But yes, the change in plans was a surprise.)
“We got one week’s promotion,” Marysol continued. “All the other shows get two months of, ‘It’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming!’ What kind of following can you get when there’s only one of advertising?”
Bravo declined to comment for this story.
As a PR guru, Marysol was particularly miffed about the rush-job. “When we were told, all of a sudden everyone in [my] office froze. We looked at each in awe, like, What are we going to do? We looked at each other like, Why do we all feel so paralyzed? I didn’t know what to do. We had to let Bravo do their thing, I couldn’t go gang-busters doing my own PR. So I had to sit back and watch… We were all frozen and frustrated.”
Something else Marysol felt free to talk about—besides the fact that yes, hubby Philippe’s wine refrigerator is still in the house—was that when she was first approached by Bravo, she was told that the series, then called Untitled Miami Project, “was about women in business and philanthropy.”
I’m not surprised that Bravo turned this into a Housewives franchise while not being clear with the cast and I don’t think anyone is surprised that it failed. Miami was used as filler because New York wasn’t ready. As they said, it was sitting on a shelf gathering dust with probably no intention of ever airing it because it was just that bad. When the NY fiasco happened they threw it on the air then didn’t even give it the courtesy of a reunion, Andy flew all the ladies to appear on his Watch What Happens Live show for an hour and called it a day. He was clearly annoyed that he even had to do that. It was a joke and these poor women took it seriously, they fought with real emotion and true feelings but it was all just a way to fill time for Bravo. Andy didn’t even try to make any sense out of any of it, he allowed them to make the rookie mistake of all talking at the same time ensuring that viewers couldn’t hear any of them, he didn’t care.
I hope that the cast members of The Real Housewives of Miami are able to parlay this experience into something positive in their lives but Miami is finished on Bravo, I’m convinced.
Real Housewives of DC
Cat Ommanney of The Real Housewives of DC didn’t seem to like Jill’s comments on Wendy’s show:
What’s all this about Jill Zarin being rude about DC? Has she not heard I’m coming to NYC? Meeeeoow!!
Real Housewives of New York
Alex McCord’s husband Simon VanKempen announced this morning that he has a song coming out, it will be available immediately after the RHONY airs tonight:
NEW YORK, April 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The Real Housewives of New York City’s Simon van Kempenwill release his debut single “I Am Real” today,Thursday, April 21, 2011. The song will make its TV premiere tonight, 11pm EDT, on Bravo TV’s Watch What Happens: Live hosted by Andy Cohen and which will feature Simon’s wife, Alex McCord. “I Am Real” was produced by JSM Music in New York City. The song will be available to stream on Bravotv.comimmediately after the show.
After four years starring on a hit reality TV show, Simon van Kempen takes a tongue-in-cheek look at himself and others of The Real Housewives of New York. In this irreverent pop and dance track, Simon lampoons everything and everyone around him including the “surreality” of Reality TV. Simon is the first “Househusband” to record a single and the song is the first specifically written about the experience of being a participant on the runaway hit show. Says Simon:
“Not many people know this, but I spent my childhood and early 20’s studying and performing as a musician. Music has been a huge part of my life, and although I never thought of myself as a singer, I was thrilled and a little nervous when Joel Simon, and his company JSM music approached me with the idea of creating a song. More than anything, I wanted the track to be fun, irreverent and to talk about my real experience on the ‘Real Housewives of New York City.’ The title and lyrics are cheeky but hey, that’s the REAL me!”
Born in Brisbane, Australia, Simon van Kempen, at the age of three moved to neighboring New South Wales before returning to Brisbane for high school. In 1986, at the age of 22, Simon moved to London where he lived for thirteen years before returning to Australia to pursue business opportunities. Just two months later, Simon, on a business trip to New York, met Alex. It was love at first sight.
The single will be available on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon among other leading online music sites.
You can preview about 90 seconds of it on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesIAmReal
and the news release is here http://bit.ly/IAmRealNewsRelease
If you don’t have Itunes, Popeater has the whole song along with a great interview with Simon here:
I think Simon’s a lot like Bethenny, he doesn’t care to hold back, he gives his impression of the other Housewives, like it or not.
Simon’s webcast show is scheduled to premier tonight as well. Look for the recap by Quincy right here tomorrow morning on IHJZ along with my RHONY blog.
Until Next Time…