The knives come out

Although I don’t enjoy reality television in general, I do love that fabulous Bravo show Top Chef. I love to cook. Before I even reached our new bureau offices in Texas I had a vegetable steamer and a set of very nice (and ridiculously sharp) Ginsus pre-deployed to my apartment (via Amazon supersaver shipping). I have also invested in a fust-class set of Calphalon cookware. Meal preparation has never been this much fun! Before I took up blogging, cooking was my one and only creative outlet. It is the only right brain talent I have. Blogging and cooking are very similar when you get right down to it. You have to serve up something delicious in a short time to an an often ungrateful audience who thinks they can do better.

Oh yeah baby. Pour that ink on me.

My favorite part of the show are those “quickfire challenges.” In these fierce battles, contestants are given only like 15 minutes to prepare a scrumptious meal out of some very basic ingredients. Once the hosts sent the contestants into a Kwik-E-Mart and made them use the food available there for a gourmet entree.

Speaking of hosts, Padma Lakshmi, the host of this season’s Top Chef (as Amardeep previously reported), has been getting skewered by the cooks off-camera. Here is a sample of the many ways to cut and prepare a Padma:

According to a source who worked on the set of Top Chef, the ex-model turned trophy wife turned hostess Padma Lakshmi allegedly enjoys smoking pot on set, giving a whole new meaning to the term “Quickfire Challenge” — see, cause she’s allegedly lighting up a joint instead of a stove! Anyway. Exactly how often this happened is disputed, though we were assured it was allegedly “fairly regularly…” [Link]

Asked if he trusted Lakshmi’s culinary taste, Ilan Hall, a line cook at Casa Mono, asked a Bravo flack, “Um, are we allowed to say disparaging things about Padma?” No. “She’s beautiful,” Hall offered. “Mostly, she just explained things, and she did a good job at that.” Cliff Crooks, executive chef at Salute!, said, “Nothing she said really made a difference in my cooking.” Sam Talbot, former executive chef at Punch, said, “Next question.” He also noted that she seemed intent on stepping out of her famous husband’s shadow. “She never wanted to talk about him. I remember a time she got a phone call and she yelled, ‘You can ask me any question you want, but don’t bring up my husband!'” And then there’s the matter of her stomach-baring, kitchen-unfriendly attire. “Some of the things she wore, I wouldn’t suggest anyone wear around a working kitchen,” said Crooks. “Either she’d be a fire hazard or she’d get hurt…” [Link]



See, if I ever had the opportunity to score a trophy wife then I think I could do a lot worse than Padma. On the show she always has a very neutral tone though. She smiles often but never actually laughs. She also gives a lot of really intelligent sounding critiques to the chefs…until the real chefs nicely contradict her seconds later. I do love those outfits though, even if they are fire hazards.

Anyways the season finale of Top Chef is on Wednesday night! It’s down to that obnoxious Marcel and the saffron-happy Ilan. I can’t stand the excitement.

It’s not just “The Apprentice” with the chef Tom Colicchio subbing for the emperor Donald Trump, not just “America’s Next Top Model” with a much higher calorie count. It’s a look at the imagination, desperation, judgment and serendipity that inform any great meal. [Link]

I will close the comments tomorrow night until after the show is over on the West Coast. You East Coasters always ruin these things by blabbing too early.

96 thoughts on “The knives come out

  1. I have also invested in a fust-class set of Calphalon cookware.

    Another reason why we should remain on other sides of the country — I’m an all-clad man myself.

  2. I’m an all-clad man myself

    I sold all my mutual funds to furnish our new bureau offices. With our budget I could only get the very nice Calphalon. All-clad was beyond my budget.

    I missed most of it. Someone please tell me what Marcel did. Is he the Shilpa of Top Chef?

    Marcel is an obnoxious egomaniac. At one point every single person on the show wanted to kill him. He’s more Omarosa than Shilpa I think.

  3. Marcel is an obnoxious egomaniac. At one point every single person on the show wanted to kill him. He’s more Omarosa than Shilpa I think.

    The Anti-Shilpa. Now I’ll have to watch all the reruns.

  4. i like the pocahontas look.

    point to ponder – do you think the octopi changed colors to match her shirt?

  5. she seriously sounds stoned, and sadly unintelligent…it is kind of depressing. i usually mute it when she talks, i can’t really deal with her. has anyone seen her cook book? are the recipes any good?

  6. come on bud, the true cook does not require the zillion dollar calphalon garbage. Actually my favorite piece of cookware is the ridiculously heavy wrought iron wok/tawah that I smuggled in from the old country a few years ago. I can cook anything in that thing, oh I do envy your knife set though, all of mine are just stolen from random steak houses in southern ohio. sorry for my shitty use of commas I’m sleepy.

  7. Azher is right about the cookware, Calphalon is actually rather heavy considering the quality – I have a grudge against the Calphalon concept because all the good heavy cookware lines switched to the (more expensive) anodized format after it became trendy, and it’s hard to find good affordable stuff now. All Clad isn’t quite necessary either. You can get great cookware in restaurant supply stores, and Cuisinart makes good copper-bottomed pots as well.

    Knives are another matter, you get what you pay for.

    Padma Lakshmi comes across as QUITE the bimbette, I’m sorry to say, and I’ve lost a lot of respect for Rushdie after he took up with her. Hairy_d I think you’re right about the octopi, they’re naturally purplish but never seen that shade of pink….

  8. I know someone that works on the set who claims the same thing but does say she sounds really smart and put together and is rather soft spoken when she’s not doping up which apparently everyone knows is happening. I haven’t seen the show. I try to limit myself to one show that sucks up all my energy every season since 24 is on I’m tuning everything else out until of course Ghost Hunter comes on. I still do occasionally catch Iron Chef which I enjoy but I really used to love the original Japanese ones and they don’t show them anymore.

  9. Clueless

    I seen the show a couple of times, and I think Padme is doing a pretty good job of hosting

    Star Wars fan, huh :)? Me too…


    has anyone seen her cook book? are the recipes any good?

    It’s awesome. Quick, healthy, flavorful recipes. I’m not sure about authenticity (the recipes come from all over the world and are trimed of unnecessary fat) but i can vouch for the ease of prep and all round delectableness and presentation. Who in their right minds would fault Chidambaram Chicken that can be fixed in under 25 minutes?

    And for anyone who needs convincing that PL is VGL, pictures of her from ten years ago ought to totally do the trick.

    That said, i’ve never watched the show–i’m going to start today though.

  10. Abhi

    I’m a Wusthof gal myself, but i add my blessings to your Calphalon acquisition.

    And how about that “Everything is Illuminated” piece that you wrote!! It was so amazing; it infiltrates my dreams… Phwoar!

  11. It would be horrifying if Marcel became Top Chef.. It should’ve been Elia — with $100K she could totally run a restaurant with her eclectic mix of Lebanese, French, Mexican cuisine. Did Marcel and/or Ilan ever run a team? Elia led a few teams. Marcel is just ‘good tv’.

    Did y’all hear that he got attacked in a bar — a girl asked if he was Marcel from Top Chef and she hit him with a bottle. Beechara got 30 stitches! (I think he was due for a head-shaving, not a bottle smashing).

    BTW, I love that Omarosa comparison. But, I don’t think he’s as evil as Omarosa.. just an annoying gnat with a lot of foam.

  12. Before I took up blogging, cooking was my one and only creative outlet. It is the only right brain talent I have.

    Hey Abhi, why aren’t you married yet? There must be plenty of eligible ladies seeking a blogger who cooks, or a cook who blogs, there absolutely must be!

    Padma Lakshmi allegedly enjoys smoking pot on set

    That would explain her strange enunciation… listen to her with your eyes closed and you’ll hear a of California surfer dude drawl through a weird flat westernized Indian-ish accent.

  13. If any of your are home/in front of a TV, a TC marathon (from the first episode) is now showing on Bravo! Catch up before tonight’s finale :).

  14. I’m a big Top Chef fanatic. Padma’s not the brightest of the bunch, and not who I’d go to for culinary criticism, but as hosts go, she’s a far cry better than last season’s host – the woman whose eyes never smiled. So sad.

    Marcel’s hair is weird. And his obsession with xantham gum is lame.

  15. Le Creuset is bloody heavy! Very hard to manouevre about unless you’re big and benchpress your own weight or something.

  16. Well, I don’t know if closing comments is going to serve any purpose. I think the results have been leaked already. I am not going to paste the link here, but yesterday MSNBC featured an article on their website that was titled “Did Web site spoil “Top Chef” finale? This was on the article (whose link I am not posting here, to preserve whatever surprise is left.. Also removed names! 😀 )

    Eater LA, a Web log devoted to Los AngelesÂ’ restaurant and nightlife scene, said that for about 15 minutes a Food & Wine story identifying ***** as the reality-show winner appeared on the magazineÂ’s Web site on Monday afternoon. Eater LA quickly trumpeted it. Eater LA also noticed last week that ***** had quit his job……..

    And the article continues….

    …..was playing a song that talked about “money in the bank” on his page. The winner of “Top Chef” gets $100,000. “I put two and two together and said this might be the spoiler,” said Lesley Balla, editor of Eater LA.
  17. Doesn’t anyone use the good ‘ol cast iron anymore besides me? It’s legendary in the south for cooking grits. If I gotta swing some heaviness, I prefer it to the Le Creuset.

    Otherwise it’s all-clad all the way baby.

  18. You really shouldn’t read Slate onlinte today…they have the story that leaked who won. Apparently Food&Wine leaked the names….don’t worry, I won’t provide the link.

  19. Doesn’t anyone use the good ‘ol cast iron anymore besides me? It’s legendary in the south for cooking grits. If I gotta swing some heaviness, I prefer it to the Le Creuset.

    Cast iron used here, coach. Hell yeah! Along with Le Creuset.

    Side note: Boxing Latinas who cook grits = hot.

  20. Doesn’t anyone use the good ‘ol cast iron anymore besides me?

    I have two major workaday cast-iron pans that I use regularly, esp to cook sabzi in (nothing beats them). But I don’t go in for Le Creuset, and my expensive all-round fry pan is All Clad.

  21. Side note: Boxing Latinas who cook grits = hot.

    Aye, back off. She wants ME.

    And, just so you know, she cooks more than just grits.

    Doesn’t anyone use the good ‘ol cast iron anymore besides me?

    I use cast iron for a lot of desi food. I trust the heaviness. Works best when you have to do all that churning.

  22. padma is one of the most unenthusiastic, boring, unwitty hosts out there.. and that was in the mere 10 minutes i was forced to watch when a friend was visiting..but she was as bland in the travel special with jeremy pivens traveling india a few months back… i guess it’s one of those situations where a person may look good, but once they open their mouth, the magic is evaporated….hmm… married to rushdie? huh? well i guess we know what he was thinking….

  23. i am obsessed with this show!!!

    marcel is annoying but he is no villain … this is a competition and he is competitive …

    most of the other chefs have bullied him, but he seems pretty resilient

    one guy threatened to kill him (frank) .. one guy assaulted him (cliff) while others (ilan & sam) watched in an attempt to shave his head…

    i can’t stand sam or ilan … sam instigates constantly and then steps back and lets others bicker while he seems to be the mature one … ilan’s put downs on marcel only illuminate his own insecurity …

    i wanted elia to win right up until the last episode … where she joined the pack and accused marcel of cheating … it was poetic justice when the others didn’t back her up on it as they had originally planned …

    did i mention that i’m obsessed with this show??

    on a more serious note, i think its kind of sad how marcel was assaulted at that club all b/c he is seen as a villain…

  24. Doesn’t anyone use the good ‘ol cast iron anymore besides me? It’s legendary in the south for cooking grits. If I gotta swing some heaviness, I prefer it to the Le Creuset.

    Yes, coach! And SP, I agree — Le Creuset is heavy and expensive!

    I am a sucker for a good Chinatown-bought light-weight wok, though. Easily the best bang for your buck in your cooking arsenal. Although nothing can compare to a good set of knives.

  25. I just checked the TV listings and I didn’t see it being listed on the Bravo in Canada, does anyone know when its on in Canada. Is it on a different channel in Canada.

  26. Anyday she is better than the uber perky Rachel Ray…

    This is what I said at a party. “I hate her and anyone who likes her”. Deafening silence. I was in the midst of Rachelheads. Later at home, the wife hit me w/ a fry pan. I don’t know if it was Le Creuset or Calphalon.

  27. the wife hit me w/ a fry pan

    Hehe…I’m with you Shodan, why is R.R.’s face on my box of wheat crackers? And coach diesel…

    Doesn’t anyone use the good ‘ol cast iron anymore besides me? It’s legendary in the south for cooking grits.

    I’m so glad you said it. I cook my grits every morning in a small, deep, damned-heavy cast iron pot…georgia icecream!

  28. uber perky Rachel Ray and the ever annoying Martha Stewart. How I wish Giada was the host!

    those mentioned above all are horrible..EVOO up yours Rachel Ray… i prefer alton brown. now that is fun to watch.

    shodah: sorry you had to be with rachelheads..or so called racial ray.. UGH! she was tolerable when she first came out..but her voice and her fake ‘chirpiness’ grinds to no avail…and her talk show SUCKS… oh well with her comments about oprah recently, we’ll see how things turn out since the big O is her sugar momma and opened the doors for her..note to rachel: never make fun of Oprah..she is like the godmother of the world..and never bite the hand that feeds you 😉

  29. I am obsessed with this show and cannot wait for this evening. I hope there’s a brawl.

    On the show she always has a very neutral tone though.

    Except when Tom Colicchio accused Marcel of not using heat and she said, “So?” with such ‘tude. I was impressed. Girl got her backbone back.

    Le Creuset, y’all!

    Sid-Uncle, I had no idea you were so bougie.

  30. I think Padma is doing a pretty good job, all things considered. Part of mediating all those warring personalities is not being the uber-know-it-all, I think. Plus I love the fact that she really seems to enjoy her food, sometimes you can tell she’s wanting to dip in with her fingers to get every bit of the good sauces, unlike the typical model-actor-wannabe.

    Marcel has been horrendous from the beginning. Ilan has been a peacemaker for most of the show – sharing a room with Marcel (which he did until pretty recently) would be enough to drive anyone crazy.

    Cast iron: you guys rock for using it, I just can’t deal with the whole no-wash thing.

  31. you moron, it’s not supersaver shipping. everyone gets free shipping with orders over $25. you probably could have paid half of what you did if you did take advantage of the supersaver stuff on amazon.

  32. LOL, siddhartha.

    Anyone see Padma on that Jeremy Piven India travel show? She was in the ‘North India’ half of the show and was pretty funny, actually. I liked her in that show. Plus, it was hilarious to see Jeremy Piven travel through India, partly shirtless at times, and wrinkling his brow in when in deep thought.

    Anyway, there is NO JUSTICE in the world when you can be that pretty and that successful. I want a prettiness tax. Oh, wait, that already exists. I think it consists of having ugly, non-rich guys slobber all over you at bars while you desperately search for someone of your own caliber. Mean? Yes! Bitchy? Yes! But this is me we are talking about…..

  33. : Le Creuset, y’all!

    Go Siddhartha! Spoken like a true cook. Le Creuset….I second your opinion. Heavy…but great to cook with. Curries turn out awesome and so do stir fries. Their dutch oven pot/stock pot works well for Biryani/Pulav.

  34. The NYT piece on Top Chef made this little crack about Padma Lakshmi:

    “Top Chef” offers the reliable, although perhaps not always intentional, hilarity of its blunt product endorsements and of its host, Padma Lakshmi, a k a Mrs. Salman Rushdie, a model-turned-actress whose epicurean musings are less riveting than her sluggish, mouth-full-of-molasses style of speech and strenuously come-hither poses. As she makes her costume changes you can almost read her thoughts: “Does this skirt go with hamachi?” “Is this too much cleavage for a chicken liver canapé?”
  35. : Cast iron: you guys rock for using it, I just can’t deal with the whole no-wash thing.

    mexicalidesi, I can’t deal with the no-wash thing either, especially since I use the cook ware to make food for very staunch vegeterian people & meat eaters as well. I cook,wash & season the Le Cruset iron woks each time. Little more work – but worth the effort. To season the wok after you cook each time wash /scrub thorougly with non-scratch scrub , dry the cast iron cook ware, place on the stove to dry out any residual water. Heat for 3- 5 minutes. Turn off the stove and take a tissue paper with some oil and rub it on inside of the pot. Works great.

  36. You cast-iron pan users have my respeck, I tried cast iron for about a month after reading scare articles about how nonstick was bad for you, but the cleaning was such a PITA that I gave up. What’s the word on nonstick these days, last I checked it was OK so long as you put the oil/fat in it before turning on the heat so it doesn’t burn dry, and you’re OK so long as there are no scratches on the Teflon.

  37. Cast iron: you guys rock for using it, I just can’t deal with the whole no-wash thing.

    agree with the person who uses it to cook both veg and nonveg.

    i wash my pans all the time and wont use anything other – the versatility is amazing especially because one can also use these directly in the oven – i like the simplicity of few utensils.

    prepping the pan is important. when you first get it, rub it with oil (non-olive) and ‘bake’ it in the oven upside down for maybe 20 minutes. over time the layers that form give it a nonstick cover.

    good luck and go iron. it also improves the forearm – you should see me flipping masala omelettes.