Saturday, August 8, 2009


This week on Top Chef Masters, the five remaining chefs were required to cook a meal for a group of vegans. A vegan is someone who eschews the use of animal products altogether. Butter is an animal product, so is not allowed in a vegan diet.

Chef Art Smith was asked to pack his knives presumably because he made a dish with store-bought rice milk-based ice cream. But how did he make the almond brittle that accompanied his dessert? According to the recipe found on, he used...


ALMOND BRITTLE (recipe courtesy of
2-1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup Agave syrup
1 Cup toasted almonds
1 tablespoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
Semi sweet chocolate, melted, for garnish

Bring ingredients to a boil, cook to hard boil state, till syrup makes a hard ball and is amber. Stir in toasted almonds and the remainder of the ingredients. Pour on well oiled sheet pan, and carefully with forks pull till thin but being VERY CAREFUL not to burn yourself. Cool, till crispy. Once cool break into pieces. Drizzle with melted semi sweet chocolate and allow to dry.

He could just as easily have used margarine (as long as it was not a soy-based product; guest Zooey Deschanel specifically mentioned that she could not eat gluten or soy), and maybe he did. What do you think? Did Art Smith feed butter to a room full of vegans? Wouldn't that be far more egregious a crime than store-bought ice cream?


John said...

I thought - assumed - that Art Smith would have been smarter than that to feed anything with butter in it to vegans. D'OH!

Renee said...

I think it would be much more egregious. This was very disrespectful. These people have chosen a deliberate lifestyle and very carefully select the foods they eat. To have that food tainted - either out of ignorance or out of deceit - is a serious violation. These people have a right to expect that their choices about a very basic part of their life will be respected. I'm not a vegan, but I'd feel sick about this if I were one of them.

- Renee

eggplant said...

Much as I love the blog, Minx, why are you reaching to come up with a “gate” suffix” for a show many of us appreciate for its lack of manufactured drama? I could have sworn when I rewatched today, Art said he had not used butter. As for what’s posted re: Art’s recipe on Bravo’s site, we know how sketchy, unreliable, and poorly proofread those recipes can be. Looking at some today, I saw one mention a “summary” salad and another tell you cooking time in a “convention” oven.

For anyone who may be interested, there’s a discussion on the chow thread below about making brittle without butter, which then goes on to discuss esoteric aspects of what kinds of sugar are vegan. Not that I’m siding with all the “chowists,” some of whom have a holier/fresher/more organic-than-thou thing going on . . .

But seriously, why not just enjoy some of summer’s bounty of fresh veggies and fruits, with family and friends, from one's own kitchen, farmer’s market, or a local restaurant that celebrates the season, and just get along? A much better agenda, I think, than anything one would want to eat from a convention meal with summary salad.

theminx said...

Anything to get a conversation started, Eggplant! :)