Ah, the Top Chef episode we’ve been waiting for since August, when the show was busted filming at Le Bernardin. Remember those days, when we thought this season would have something vaguely to do with New York? Well this installment, at least, kind of did, as the cheftestants first tried to cut fish like Eric Ripert, and then, after a lunch at Le Bernardin, had to duplicate his dishes (says Carla: “This is what I want to be when I grow up — one of his dishes”). Ripert last appeared on season four’s finale, as Stephanie Izard’s sous-chef. So we thought, why not chat about the episode with last season’s winner?
Maurer: Fish is kind of your specialty — were you surprised that chefs who’ve worked with it in their restaurants would have such trouble filleting?
Izard: The first time you clean any type of fish, you make a few mistakes. It takes time to get used to the bone structure of each one, and there are tricks for making every type a bit easier and quicker. Hosea did okay aside from the eel. I don’t think a lot of chefs use eels often. Leah seems to have trouble with fish in general (restaurant wars), so I was not very surprised. But it was weird that she just gave up.
Maurer: Colicchio even called her out on not really wanting to be there, and yet they let her off the hook. Jamie still seemed to have a lot of fight in her.
Izard: Leah doesn’t have as strong of an attitude, or maybe just lacks the confidence that Jamie has.
Maurer: Is it just me or did it sound like he said, “Fabio, the way you fellated the fish was not right”?
Izard: I love chef Ripert. So sweet.
Maurer: Do you think they gave Jamie the boot because she seemed totally over him and “bored with this type of food”? Who’s going to buy On the Line after that?
Izard: Maybe; it is always hard to tell. Though they would not have aired that quote if she had not gotten the boot — as soon as she said that, I knew she was the one.
Maurer: How is it that she “didn’t have time” to let Ripert taste her dish?
Izard: She seemed a bit stressed. I’m not sure what’s so hard about braised celery, but it probably wasn’t ready when he came in, and she didn’t want him to try. I think she was just a bit off her game.
Maurer: So was Stefan’s lobster really the easiest dish to duplicate? What do you think was the hardest?
Izard: Jamie’s looked easiest. The hardest? Maybe the monk. The crusting seemed to confuse Hosea a bit — it’s not a spice a lot of chefs use.
Maurer: The thing is, Jamie at least knew what she did wrong, where if Leah had another 30 minutes to do the dish over, it probably would’ve been just as bad. (Also if Toby Young had 30 minutes to rethink his “Pablo Escolar” joke, it’d probably be just as bad.)
Izard: I don’t think Eric was into Toby’s humor at all. And I like how Tom said, “It’s not as easy as it looks.” Monk is a trickier fish to cook right. It’s like a piece of meat. You must pull it off a bit rare and let it rest, which some people don’t get. The bottom line is that Jamie is just a better cook, at least from what we have seen all season.
Maurer: Do you think they really had to cook those dishes from memory, or did they just not show them tasting as they cooked?
Izard: I think they did it all from memory, but they were given all of the right ingredients, so that is a HUGE help. Plus if they couldn’t guess that a six-course lunch was going to be the challenge for the six of them, they have not been paying attention to Top Chef.
Maurer: So who do you think is next to go?
Izard: I would think Leah just because she has scooted through way too many times.
Maurer: What do you think about this season five in general? Do you agree with Spike that it should’ve ended with season four?
Izard: I’ve heard people say that they are a bit disappointed this season. I’m just hoping that next season is better. I guess it would have been good for me if it ended with four … but we’ll see what happens next.