They’ve endured inane cooking challenges on yachts and airplanes. They suffered through guest judge Rocco DiSpirito. They even cried together. Now it’s all coming to an end tonight when the remaining three cheftestants try to out-cook each other on the season finale of Top Chef. We presented three questions each to Dale Levitski, Casey Thompson, and Hung Huynh and found them all to be a little defensive. The pressure is on!
The New Yorker has a truly mind-boggling story in this week’s issue, a story so bizarre we could hardly believe it, even though we're familiar with the subject. Bobby Egan, the owner of an unremarkable Hackensack meatery named Cubby’s, has become an unofficial liaison with the North Korean government. We expected the piece to be pretty lighthearted, the tale of an unwitting dupe doing PR for Kim Jong Il as if he were the Mayor of West New York. The truth is far weirder, and more chilling: In fact, Egan presents himself as an adviser to the North Koreans on high matters of state.
Hidden away at the back of this month’s Vogue is a pretty interesting essay by Jeffrey Steingarten on the current state of hamburger science (sadly, not online). Bracketing out how bizarre it is that the dean of American food writers should be publishing his scientific food forays amid images of Caroline Trentini jumping in Prada and furs, the piece has lots of interest for New Yorkers: There are more burger insights from Pat LaFrieda, the city’s undisputed top burger producer, and an explanation of what makes Ryan Skeen’s burger at Resto so good, in spite of its always being overcooked. The best part, though, is the revelations of burger science from the London lab of legendary chef Heston Blumenthal.
Related: Shake Shack Hamburger and Little Owl Pork Chops Can Soon Be Yours
It was Brian Malarkey, he of the peasant stew and whiskey river drunken elk, who was unceremoniously eliminated on Wednesday’s penultimate episode of Top Chef. He talked to us today about his admiration for cowboys and entered the debate about Hung’s soul.
We’re not much for coffee-table books, but the forthcoming My Last Supper is so shockingly weird, and shockingly good, that we would consider buying it. “What would your last meal be?” is a popular question for chefs, but the answers here are far better than you would expect. (Masa Takayama wants to cook for Orthodox Jews; Wylie Dufresne would eat vegetables “just to placate my mom.”)
The Post returned to an evergreen feature idea today, every editor’s best friend: the “overrated” list. Since our philosophy has always been to slavishly ape the Post in every way short of peppering our posts with the phrase “tot-slay suspect,” we thought we might add a few of our own. Since the Post didn’t limit itself to specific dishes at specific restaurants, we won’t either. Here are a few things that we find ourselves less than overawed with these days.
Culinary writer and BFF to the stars Michael Ruhlman has announced the Golden Clog awards, a new unofficial contest, with multiple chef categories. The winners will be announced, no doubt with much facetious fanfare, at this year’s South Beach Food & Wine Festival. The categories are as follows:
FERGUS AWARD — for best achievement in offal.
ALTON AWARD — for the food personality who can actually cook.
MARIO AWARD — for the chef-restaurateur who best multitasked, merchandised, multiplatformed and generally whored himself yet still continued to make significant and valuable contributions to the restaurant landscape.
ROCCO AWARD — for worst career move by a talented chef.
CHEF'S CHEF AWARD — for the least heralded yet most deserving working chef.
Not too many men facing a life-threatening disease would readily forgo a half-million dollars in cash. But not many men are Grant Achatz, and his cookbook deal, which Serious Eats describes in great detail today, inspires as much admiration in us as his battle against tongue cancer. As a big-shot chef, it would have been easy for Achatz to take a giant advance and produce a ghostwritten cookbook, pregnant with food-porn images, that would rest on the coffee tables of Chicagoland burghers for years to come. But the same originality that made Alinea what it is is at play in his cookbook endeavor: Achatz has worked a deal where the cookbook will be the gateway to an ongoing, dynamic Web resource, and in lieu of an advance, he and his co-author will get a big cut of sales. It’s brave and original and makes us want to pull for him even more than we did.
Alinea's Grant Achatz Turns Down Lots of Money to Write a Book His Way [Serious Eats]
Is the David Chang superstar era over yet? If not, can you wake us when it is? We just opened the October Gourmet, and there’s a multipage lovefest to the Momofuku Man, complete with the usual musings on pork (“a mystical, magical animal,” he calls it, echoing Homer Simpson) and the usual close-ups of him eating. Coming on the heels of Bon Appétit’s even more ridiculous Chef of the Year award, we think the time may have come to say what everyone we know is already thinking: that Chang, earnest and talented as he is, has turned into the Sanjaya of Soup and needs to be reassessed.
On the heels of Citysearch’s food-blog launch comes still another source of restaurant news: the NYC debut of Metromix (still in beta, it seems) and its own food blog Deep Dish. The juiciest item so far is a roundup of chef banter from the New York Rising Stars Revue awards. Not that the rising stars seem to have been that deep in their cups when they were interviewed (food blogger rule of thumb: Wait till they’re at the after-after-party), but some of their responses sure are punchy.
Sara Mair could not escape elimination on last night’s Top Chef when she began the episode by serving Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque an undercooked potato-wrapped sea bass and concluded with poorly flavored and undercooked chicken for deans of the French Culinary Institute. Today she talks to us about reconciling with Howie and Hung’s lack of heart.
The suggestions for a name for Daniel Boulud's new burger place on the Bowery have been coming in to Grub Street, and no one quite seems to have hit on it yet. The ante has been upped, however: The prize for the best entry, awarded by us, is a free burger, beer, and ice-cream dinner for two at the place when it opens. As for the suggestions so far?
Chris Jacobsen, a.k.a. CJ, got the boot on Top Chef last night, much to Adam Platt’s dismay, as well as the dismay of many viewers. The 6'10" former volleyball player from Venice Beach was an audience favorite for his unpretentious, self-effacing style, but now he’s back in the real world. We had a chance to talk with him about Hung, Howie, and why he thinks he has a shot with Padma Lakshmi.
The war between plutocratic food pimp Nello Balan and not-so-starving artist Jerome Lucani continues to get better and better. We read some weeks ago of their tiff, based on Lucani’s claim that Balan was shaking him down, and Balan’s claim that Lucani, who looks like he couldn’t beat up Peter Braunstein, had threatened to kill him. Now the two have taken to the courts, with Nello filing criminal charges and both men taking out mutual orders of protection. Our question is, who’s going to protect us against all this distracting entertainment? We’d sure rather read about Nello than write about him, or his preposterous restaurants. Fortunately, Daily Intel is doing all the hard work.
French Artist: “I Fear Le Nello” [Daily Intel]
Earlier: Nello Said to Teach Artist a Thing or Two About Overcharging
The cri de coeur a reader sent in last week in the form of a Ginsbergian 'Howl' has inspired us. What would the likes of Ginsberg, the Beats, and their admirers think of today's restaurant world and its absurd come-ons? What would Bob Dylan circa 1965 think of it? Well, owing to the magic of aggressive marketing, the new Website for the Dylan boxed set allows us to see for ourselves. Just click here.
Gastronomic Homesick Blues [Dylan07.com]
Related: A Restaurant World ‘Howl’
There have been a flurry of Chef Q&As in the blogosphere lately, but Gothamist’s sit-down with Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park really stood out for us. Part of it was the chef’s unabashed enthusiasm for three-star European chefs nobody has ever heard of. (Nobody, that is, who reads blogs.) Then there was this tidbit, which interviewer Hugh Merwin saved for last: After this year’s James Beard Awards, Humm threw an informal party at Eleven Madison. The highlight was 80 drunken guests pouring into the kitchen, where Daniel Boulud made scrambled eggs with truffles. This just highlights an important food rule: Always follow Boulud. Last year, the highlight of the after-party at Thor was Boulud jumping up on the bar and spraying everyone with champagne at three in the morning. If you can’t hang out with the man, at least read about it in Gothamist.
Daniel Humm, Chef [Gothamist]