Saturday, April 2, 2011

Conference Call with James Oseland, Ruth Reichl, and Curtis Stone

Earlier in the week, I participated in a conference call with new Top Chef Masters host Curtis Stone and new judge Ruth Reichl, along with James Oseland, who has been judge for the past two seasons. Right off the bat I learned that James and Ruth like Curtis - they really like him. Honestly, they couldn't say enough nice things about Stone, which was good to hear because, personally, the man has never impressed me.

If you didn't know already, Curtis was on Celebrity Apprentice a couple seasons ago and says the experience helped him empathize with the Masters cheftestants:
It was very interesting. It gave me a real perspective on how the contestants were feeling in this competition because, you know, you’re standing there thinking am I going to look foolish here? You know, is he going to destroy me? And just like with these guys, it’s their credibility on the line and they’re doing the best they can but we give them some really unbelievable circumstance to cook under on Top Chef Masters and, no matter how great these chefs are, we really make their lives - you know, we really make them show that mastery through their cooking in the limited time we give them and all the rest of it. So I could really empathize with them.
Curtis also felt that with his experience as a chef, part of his responsibility at Judges' Table was to "plead [the chefs'] case to the critics and to try and justify why...what ended up on the plate that’s in front of us."
There’s nothing more nerve wrecking than cooking for other chefs apart from cooking for critics who hold your career in your hand. I think - I value both and I know this sounds like a copout of a response - but I really do value both equally because I think chefs can understand what you’ve done from a technical perspective...what kind of techniques did you use, how did you treat the ingredients to get them to taste a certain way. So they look at it more from a technical perspective. But then critics look at it from the diner’s perspective and I think that that is probably maybe even slightly more important because you can impress a chef but at the end of the day, they’re not your customers. Diners are.
James Oseland thinks the new format is beneficial to the participants:
I think that the chefs ultimately became more comfortable because we were giving them the chance over the course of multiple episodes to become more...familiar with the kitchen, to know where the salt was kept, to know that...the kind of salt that’s used in the Top Chef Masters Kitchen is...a coarse-grained kosher salt versus a fine-milled kosher salt, so we weren’t tasting food that was...aggressively awfully salty. Whereas on the first two seasons, a lot of times it was...really hard to get a sense of who they were because they were in so many respects just sort of really struggling with the sort of basic fundamentals of cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen.
Ruth Reichl was asked about her thoughts on the online character who is a hybrid of her own Twitter persona and Anthony Bourdain, "Ruth Bourdain," nominated for a James Beard Award this year. Reichl's theory on Ruth Bourdain's true identity might be an interesting guessing game for Top Chef Masters viewers as she said, "there is actually a little suspicion in the back of my mind that it may be one of the people who was a judge this year." Hmmm...who could it be?

Speaking of judges, there are some interesting guests this season: Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) and her husband, Geoffrey Arend (Body of Proof), are serious cooks. Ruth Reichl found it a bit intimidating that such a beautiful woman would also spend time making her own puff pastry. Singer Kelis is a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Maroon 5 and contestants on the Biggest Loser also make appearances.

It all has my interest piqued...yours?

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David Dust said...

Wait ... Kelis is a trained chef??? Oh they BETTER do a "milkshake" challenge when she comes on the show!!


theminx said...

The person who asked the question inquired about a milkshake challenge, but it went unanswered. I don't know from Kelis, so I didn't care one way or the other. :)

xoxoxoxoxo backatcha!

Intuitive Eggplant said...

As a viewer, my interest is definitely piqued! Although as a blogger, I wouldn't have minded wee break between seasons :)