Monday, January 29, 2007

Sphinx-Like Guest Chef Anthony Bourdain Breaks His Silence on "Top Chef" Contestants

Retiring, soft-spoken guest judge Anthony Bourdain, guest-blogging on Michael Ruhlman's blog, finally takes a timid sip of sherry and dares to pipe up ever so gently about what he thinks of the Top Chef contestants. You can read the entire thing here, but we have provided the cherce bits for you below:

On Elia Aboumrad:

Chef material? Not just yet. Why not? Her insistence on making everything to order "a la minute" during the "Hollywood cocktail party" was a really bush league move. And the "I quit" business--same episode.( Leaving the line for emotional reasons--unforgivable in a professional kitchen). Everybody who's ever done a volume passed hors d'oeuvre party knows from painful experience that you have to make compromises. (half cook that shit in advance!) Drunks want food fast. They want it hot. They want it NOW!

On Michael "Beer Bong" Midgley:

Let this guy run a kitchen and the food and booze would be running out the back door with his cooks--who he'd probably be drinking with. That said? I love this kid. There would have been a place for him in nearly every kitchen I ever ran. Probably the grill. (Don't let this Manimal NEAR saute!!)

On Betty "Spice Rack" Fraser:

Forget about. Very limited skills--and it showed.

On Cliff Crooks:

VERY solid cook. And will definitely be a solid chef as well. He crossed the line Big Time with the Marcel incident and he knew it. He deserved to get canned, would have been canned--and surely sued--in any professional situation where he behaved similarly. Period.

On our chulo chef, Carlos Fernandez, whom he (unintentionally?) dubs "Alex":

Nice guy. And back in the minor leagues--where he should have stayed.

On Sam Talbot:

Probably the closest thing to Chef material this season--with the most chefly demeanor and attitude (generally speaking).

On Marcel Vigneron:

But his Chef potential? Presently zero. You have to get along with the people you work with--and I can't imagine this guy "working with others" over time. He's petty, vindictive, immature, a loudmouth, not a team player by any stretch of the imagination.

On Ilan Hall:

Okay: So Ilan cribs his offerings shamelessly from Andy Nusser. And he's a manipulative, conspiratorial, vindictive, weasely little shit....(Hardly impediments to a career as a chef). These are classic assets. If Ilan has a fatal flaw, it's that he let Marcel get up his nose so easily and predictably. And that when he (again and again) conspired to sabotage or screw over his enemy--either directly or through surrogates, he was both obviously behind it--his fingerprints all over the place, and worse--FAR worse-- unsuccessful!


On THE INCIDENT:

I agree with those who suggest that it would have been fair if EVERYBODY involved in the "full-Nelson incident" had been kicked off the show. The event reflected most poorly on Ilan. Who came off as an instigator--and a weasel. It would have been appropriate for him to have stepped up and thrown himself on his sword when Cliff got canned. Wouldn't (and shouldn't) have saved Cliff--but it would have been the Right Thing to do. Instead, he behaved like a punk and let the black man take the fall. It was sickening to see him stand silently by while Cliff took the full freight. Notice that Cliff kept his mouth shut, blamed no one else, took his jolt like a man.
Update:
Bourdain has now posted this in response to some of the comments on his post on Ruhlman's blog:
An earlier response disappeared into the ether, but I'd like to add that Marcel deserves a lot of respect for simply having the strength to hang in there--in the face of relentless, naked hostility. It's an admirable character trait that will serve him well in the business. I'll stress again that he clearly deserves to be in the top two. Bottom line for me was: Do I want to eat his food? And: Would I ever want to hire the guy? I base my judgements/opinions, btw, solely on close viewing of every episode, on nearly 30 years as a chef/manager/employer and ONLY one day as an actual judge who ate the contestants' food. Fair comment above. And it was "Carlos" NOT "Alex". Apologies to the departed.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of Mr. Bourdain's comments and like his ascerbic tone. I do, however, disagree with one and am absolutely mystified by the whole "Beer Bong is a nice guy" cult that he's joined.

Marcel IS Chef material and he DOES get along just fine with sane people. I know for a fact he was well-liked both as a Student and as a TA at C.I.A. And he seems to get along fine at Robuchons.

Ilan, by contrast, was known as a spoiled punk crybaby while at C.I.A. where he nearly flunked.

The "Beer Bong Likable Mikey" thing just amazes me. In my experience, asshat clowns like Mikey are annoying to be around for longer than 20 minutes.

Chef Z

Vote for my poem called "And the Winner is..."

at

http://bloggingtopchef.blogspot.com

Cardamon said...

""Instead, he behaved like a punk and let the black man take the fall. It was sickening to see him stand silently by while Cliff took the full freight. Notice that Cliff kept his mouth shut, blamed no one else, took his jolt like a man.""

Ditto that.

Anonymous said...

Bordain looks just like a pickle on Sam's menu.

Hmmmmmm maybe there is something to that after all.

So if they all should have been kicked off after the hazing incident, how is it that Sam "its not my fault" is his pick for Top Chef?

All that speculation and he doesn't even know them personally. Lame.

Anonymous said...

how is it that Sam "its not my fault" is his pick for Top Chef?"

EXACTLY.

You know, if Cliff had been THAT GUY (aka. "Sam"), he would have been kicking and screaming that EVERYONE was responsible for the "prank" and trying to drag them down with him instead of taking the entire blame for it. Just like Sam did with his flimsy "olive oil" cheating charges when his ass was on the line.

Sam, Elia and Ilan sat back and let the black guy take the fall for them as well. They blamed EVERYTHING on the black guy. That's why they flat-out refuse to apologize to Marcel for anything. In fact, they all deny that they had anything to do with it so they keep giving snotty interviews trashing Marcel.

Sam is a punk ass bitch. Just like Ilan and Elia.

Tom was right. All four of them should have been kicked off. And the last four eliminated contestants should have been brought back to compete.

Cliff got played by the white folks. Dumbass. He only reinforced the image of black males as violent thugs. Now he gets called a homophobe and compared to Isaiah Washington? All the while, Sam sits back smugly and enjoys the damage like the puppet master.

Sam, Elia and Ilan are disgusting despicable people. They have never been held accountable or punished for their actions. And they never will be.

ChefBob said...

You need to read the complete text, with comments, on Michael Ruhlman's blog if you have the time. I believe Anthony Bourdain to be good judge of character but he really doesn’t even know these people that well. I respect his opinion, but it is just his opinion. He’s right where BRAVO wants most of us - dramatized.

(Go to "http://www.charactercounts.org/defsix.htm" for character traits most needed for success.)

That said, too bad Bourdain is not there in some sort of consulting capacity to the production of the show. BRAVO needs to know more about the internal operation of working kitchens. Tom C. could help but he would probably have to be disqualified as a judge of the food if he took a more active role in the preparation and production environments.

Thanks for the post and link.

Anonymous said...

c'mon, let's not make this a white vs. black issue..........ANYONE, whether red, white, black, yellow or purple could have found themselves in Cliff's shoes and those 3 cowards would have remained clammed up like village idiots just the same. I do not condone what Cliff did, I think they all got carried away, but I have respect for the fact that he didn't go down trying to take everyone with him.....as sure as sh*it, Sam, Elia and Ilan would have. Cliff took his lumps like a Man.

Anonymous said...

Cliff did take his lumps like a man. He apologized, took full responsibility for everything and got kicked off the show, and his exit interview was gracious.

HOWEVER, Sam, Ilan and Elia seem to think that Cliff being punished gets THEM off the hook too for THEIR OWN actions. That's the part that irks me. They never apologized. They never admitted wrong-doing. In fact, they continue to stir up shit and conspire to accuse Marcel of cheating, and continue to trash-talk him in all their interviews. They've learned nothing.

Cliff was the dumb patsy. He got played, plain and simple. Cliff is portrayed as the violent brute homophobic savage who does the dirty work and is expendable. Sam, Ilan and Elia are portrayed the civilized gentile white folks who keep their hands clean and get redeemed.

Mostly, I'm mad at Cliff for being so stupid. He should NEVER have trusted those white guys. He should have known better. He got played like a chump. Just another black fool.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Here's a scary fact. Anthony (Dorian Gray in reverse) Bourdain is only 50 years old. He looks worse than my Grandfather.

Stay away from drugs, kiddies!!

Z

Melanie said...

Bourdain has posted a comment in reply to some of the posts he's received in response to his critiques of the Top Chef contestants.

"An earlier response disappeared into the ether, but I'd like to add that Marcel deserves a lot of respect for simply having the strength to hang in there--in the face of relentless, naked hostility. It's an admirable character trait that will serve him well in the business. I'll stress again that he clearly deserves to be in the top two. Bottom line for me was: Do I want to eat his food? And: Would I ever want to hire the guy?

I base my judgements/opinions, btw, solely on close viewing of every episode, on nearly 30 years as a chef/manager/employer and ONLY one day as an actual judge who ate the contestants' food. Fair comment above.

And it was "Carlos" NOT "Alex". Apologies to the departed."

Posted by: bourdain | January 29, 2007 at 05:41 PM

Anonymous said...

Bordain is more qualitied to judge the contestants than any of us. He spent one day in person with them - most of the audience have never met these people. And unlike us, Bordain tasted their food.

Just because he's not kissing Marcel's ass is not reason to dismiss him. I actually respect his opinion more because he's giving an honest assessment of Marcel's food and social skills instead of pandering to the "pity" card.

Anonymous said...

Bourdain, as a guest judge, did eat their food, but do guest judges really spend time with the contestants before they judge their food? (or afterwards?) I thought the show frowned upon the judges getting personal with the contestants as it could taint their judgement of the prepared food. Even the regular judges were supposed to keep at arm's length from the contestants during the season.

PeachPie said...

Bourdain has spoken. Enough said.

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