Sunday, January 30, 2011

TC News and Information 1.31.11 - Insiders' Edition

First off, if you haven’t already read this first-hand account of dining at both RW teams’ restaurants from blogger The Good Life Gourmet, check it out right now. She ultimately voted for Team Etch, but struggled with her decision, as did her tablemates.

And if you hated the name “Etch,” did you know that at one point Marcel wanted to call his team’s restaurant “Marcel”? So says Collichio in the Bravo’s extended judges table clip.

I’ve read comments elsewhere about how difficult the outdoor Restaurant Wars shoot could have been had the weather not cooperated. But when Gail Simmons mentioned in her EW blog that RW would take place where she was married, I did some googling. The Foundry has a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces – and indoor spaces that look like they’re outdoors (see photo below), plus tents available for rent. The Foundry’s website touts its availability for weddings, film, video, and photo shoots, parties and special events, and seminars. So methinks the cheftestants were never going to be cooking in the rain. More to the point, Padma and the diners would not be eating in the rain. If you’re curiosity is piqued about Gail’s wedding (complete with eco-friendly foodie touches), you can find photos via Martha Stewart here.

Meanwhile, Dale Talde of Team Bodega apologizes to the RW servers on his blog and shares this: “I've been getting a lot of questions about why I picked the team the way I did. It is really simple. I was positive that picking Marcel as the team leader would drown what ever team he picked. In speaking with Marcel after in the stew room, I asked him why he picked Angelo first. His response was that he wanted to keep Angelo off my team, and to me that is just a really weird way to go about picking your first chef. When I picked Fabio, it was like picking Micheal Jordan 3rd overall of the draft. Steal of the draft. Getting Richie was Blake Griffin, obvious number 1, Tre was Dwigth Howard, solid in the post, and Carla is Phil Jackson, Zen master."

Fabio Viviani of Team Bodega is now blogging the All-Stars, and his RW recap is a hoot. Fabio's take on Dale selecting Marcel to lead the opposing team: “Tiffany, Angelo, Mike, Antonia are GREAT chefs, as Marcel is…… but Dale just handed a 600Hp Lamborghini in the hands of a teenager !! He will kill himself eventually.” On other matters of strategy: “Our food is playful, simple and easy to plate….Their food is complex, hard to pla[te] and too technical.” On the other team’s food: “I tried Antonia dish, although the sauce is little salty the Gnudi of ricotta are really good, Mike Isabella has a winner dish, i love octopus and pork belly is great….. I actually liked most of their dishes, beside awful eggs pickled in salt and sugar, really ?? and Marcel stoner dessert— I found their food decent…” Fabio’s assessment of his own performance: “Dana Cowin editor of Food & Wine Magazine is there, the judges are there too and I’m taking care the floor like a Mamma Bear would take care of his little newborn Cub. . . . We WON !!!! Fabio take the Princess-Service-Front-Of-The-House Home as I’m producing also a kick ass dessert as well, all the rest of the dishes are complimented the whole time at Judges Table !! Richard Blais get the prize, the glory and 10K …. am I happy for him ?? Yes…. am I disappointed that I wasn’t the one that won ?? Yes…. No one ever want to do the front of the house and no one ever want to do dessert in RESTAURANT WARS…. I’ve done both in an excellent way, maybe this time I should’ve get a little prize…”

You can hear more from the inimitable Fabio on WGN’s Nick Digilio weekly podcast with the “Maestro” here. Fabio is certainly fired up for this week’s Italian challenge! And if you want to learn how to make gnocchi (what else?) from Viviani, here’s a Ustream video of a class he recently offered at one of his restaurants.

Tre Wilcox describes Marcel as someone who proved to be a sore loser whenever he didn't win, in this video with Good Morning Texas, where he also talks about his new restaurant, Marquee, set to open in March.

Eli Kirshtein weighs in about RW on his Bravo blog: “Amongst Top Chef contestants there has long been a dispute about which you are actually cooking for. Some will say that it is the guests who are being fed during the challenges; others will say it is the judges. I know what a lot of you will say, but they are not even close to the same thing. If I had a dime for every time I heard a chef who was on the bottom or even went home say that all of the guests said theirs was the favorite, while the eventual winners was repulsive, I would be rich man. Unfortunately there is a major disconnect between these two camps often times. A chef on the show has done a transcending job when they appease both groups, but it is rare, much rarer than the edit of the show might tell you. . . . It seemed one of the biggest advantages was the wit and tact that the whole team at Bodega had. I think the best restaurant [w]on this day.”

Tiffany Derry, Marcel’s teammate and RW FOH, shares the news that she has a new gig as Executive Chef of the upcoming Private Social restaurant in Dallas with Open Table and offers assessments of some of her fellow All-Stars: “Angelo was made to look like he was a saboteur, but he really was trying to help. Marcel is okay outside of kitchen, but in charge in the kitchen? Not so much. . . . I personally was impressed with Dale Talde. He cooked with soul and his imagination surprised me.”

Marcel himself, of course, made the media rounds after being PYKAG’d, taking issue in many of them with the way he was portrayed, as in this interview with the Chicago Tribune – where he says he is not allowed to talk about the editing, but kind of goes on to do so. More here from The Feast, where Marcel says he’s looking to open a new restaurant in Greater LA within the next year and has already secured the funds to do so. “It'll be modern global cuisine, casual, 60 seats, totally affordable yet elegant dishes. Shared plates primarily, reinvented classics. I'm scouting locations now.”

As for that disparity between “off-screen Marcel” and “in-the-kitchen-on-Top-Chef Marcel”? See what Mike Isabella, Carla Hall, and Richard Blais have to say in this Bravo bonus clip.

Recently auf’d All-Star Casey Thompson blogs about the RW episode here: “Put up a “pop-up” restaurant in 3 hours. COME ON! Then, I like this touch, they bring in an “expert” chef that has been doing these sort of “pop-up” restaurants for years now. Please, everybody, quiet now…listen to this chef tell you how he has been doing this and how it should work. Never mind how he probably planned this “pop-up” restaurant for 6 months before launching the concept.” And her take on the outcome: “The lesson to take away from this week’s chefs…the food doen’t have to be over the top but it must be on point. Finally, we have lowered the bar. Thank you Restaurant Wars for showing all of us the way it should be done or more importanly, the way our guests really want to eat.”

Season 4’s Ryan Scott, who’s commenting on the All-Stars for Yum Sugar, agrees: “I love, love, love team Bodega's concept of simple comfort food, starting with a bag of potato chips. I'm telling you, this is what it's all about. Last week I featured mac and cheese Spring rolls on my catering truck, along with peanut butter and jelly cupcakes. Needless to say, they sold out entirely. It's all about the comfort foods, guys. This is the way it has been for a while and will always be. . . . Which brings me to my next question: Oxtail, monkfish, octopus, and crudo?? What the *&$% are you guys thinking? . . . Back to simplicity, I have to disagree with Antonia that "elevated" food outdoes tuna in a can. It's strictly about execution. And the Bodega team seems to really carry the innovation in this challenge.”

So . . . we finally get a new episode Wednesday, filmed at Rao’s. Do you think Fabio will take it? What about Antonia or Mikey? Will Blais do a twist on gnocchi? Will Tre finally come out of the shadows? And what of Carla, Dale, Angelo and Tiffany?

P.S. Yigit Pura of Top Chef: Just Desserts says he'll make a live cameo appearance on Bravo tonight . . .

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