Thursday, March 27, 2008

Moctezuma’s Revenge: Limp Asshat Gets the Hopfinger

Possums, we feel both a migraine and a rant coming on, but for the time being we will limit ourselves to contrasting Erik Hopfinger’s illogical, condescending, paternalistic, patronizing, and quasi-racist statement (which we will break down later, have no fear) with excerpts from Richard Condon’s (yes, as in The Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi’s Honor) The Mexican Stove, a cookbook published in 1973 (just a year after Diana Kennedy’s seminal The Cuisines of Mexico), and which has one of the greatest subtitles of any culinary book, “Sensual and Evocative Notes on the World’s Oldest Cuisine Together with Matchless Methods for Cooking and Eating Such Timelessness and Including the Oldest Surviving Evolved Recipe for Cooked Food of Any Cooking System of Any of the Ancient Civilizations of the World and the Greatest All-Purpose Sauce in History.”

Erik Hopfinger:

“Mexican food is about the people, and it’s about the streets, and it’s a soulful kind of a thing, and to put fine dining in it, it just, it just kind of bugs me….I don’t think fine dining and Mexican go together, so [Rick Bayless] can go screw himself.”

Richard Condon:

“…in the instance of the most exalted food ever to appear in the Western Hemisphere, the food whose raw materials became the parents of all European cooking, it becomes evident, when the glorious plunge is taken, that to cook and eat Mexican food is to celebrate sensuality in every great chamber of this textured, perfumed, delicious, beautiful and memorable gastronomic antiquity.

Mexican food is an aphrodisiac which excites the passion for living. It courts, seduces, ravishes, then cherishes all five senses (as well as the sense of most worthy accomplishment) by treating each as if it existed alone, as if all satisfaction were dependent upon this one sense, while it orchestrates all five into complex permutations of sensation….

In terms of fuel into energy, chemicals, lubricants, and stimulants, Mexican food is incomparable because it is lighter, more natural, less fatty, and least 11° warmer inside. Furthermore, as a producer of joy and well-being only Chinese cuisine can surpass it and only the French can equal it….

[E]ach dish prepared under Mexican food systems is multileveled and richly dimensional. It is thermally rich. It is scented. Its grasp of glossal tactility is uncanny and exciting as it composes dishes of food to relate the textures of the rough, the slippery, the chewy, and the unctuous simultaneously while it contrasts the hot, the bland, and the piquant with sweet, sour, and salt tastes and as it relates the readily combined flavors of meat, fruit, and vegetables with an astonishing range of sauces. However, because it is high cooking, it takes a considerable amount of time to prepare….

There are yahoos who would disagree that there are only three basic, wholly developed systems of cooking in the world: the Indian/Chinese, the Mexican, and the French, and that all other cooking systems evolved from these or are dependent on these….

Then what is a ‘cuisine’? If a cannibal boils a missionary and his wife, that is not cuisine. But if he adds a touch of oregano and two onions, he has made step one.”


Dorothy Snarker said...

Mexican food can't be fancy just like German food doesn't like black beans. Ugh, he should have been gone after the souffle nachos. Straight up, all of Erik's dishes looked horrible. Really, like something you get at Denny's at 3 a.m. horrible.

Eric said...

Yeah, I think his Mexican food comments sent him home more than his slightly soggy corn dogs.

And the fact that he had zero presentation skills didn't help. I think it was just clear that he didn't have the skills to make it far and he didn't have any willingness to learn or adapt to the demands of the show.

The Troll said...

Quite glad he got the axe. When Andrew and Spike get offed, the show will be wigger-free!

Happy Secretariat Day!

Jeff said...

I was glad to see that tool go. That comment was just an excuse for his crappy dish.

I think the biggest problem with the explosion in chef-worship is the ego that some of these people have. That is why I love to see them ripped to shreds at judges' table

Ryan said...

I agree. His dishes always looked terrible.

Is it me or does Andrew look like he's tweaking in every episode? Maybe there is some confusion and he thinks that he wins an 8-ball at the end. Granted, I'm going to feel like an ass if he has tourettes.

hughman said...

1991 called and wants it's hats back.

also, tatoos? thhis isn't Miami Sink.

Anonymous said...

i was thinking the same thing, ryan. andrew totally looks and acts like a tweaker, especially with his "not-in-my-house" posturing. can anyone who has not just this last second blocked a seven-foot dude's basket legitimately say that? remember it's padma's home, you just cook in it, opie.

Anonymous said...

Erik was cool and I'm sad he's gone. I'm Latino and understood perfectly what he said in that comment, which was NOT racist. What IS racist is having this Anglo fairy -- Bayless or whatever -- fronting like he's God's appointed evangelist for Mexican food, just because he opened an overpriced restaurant in Chicago. Notice how Bayless totally skipped over Manuel's taco in favor of the white boy who didn't even use a tortilla. What Erik meant was that Mexican food is populist and "of the people" as Erik said -- hint, that means MEXICAN people, not some Anglo snob running a 5-star restaurant. I was happy Erik made the comment and told that whiny queeny judge with his annoying tourist voice to go screw himself. It was a vindication of Mexican cuisine's raison d'être.

Now it's true that Mexican food can be chic, and there are upscale restaurants that serve Mexican cuisine. But a taco is a taco. A taco is made for the common, everyday Mexican, and to be proud of the taco is to celebrate the Mexican man on the street. Not some pretentious gringo judge on Top Chef.

We'll miss you Erik! And now can Top Chef please stop trying to San Francisco-ize every national cuisine in the entire world? The show should be called "The World's Cuisine, as Seen by Hoity Toity White Homosexuals"

Anonymous said...

As a Top Chef and Amuse-Biatch fan actually living IN Mexico (I have my ways of watching Bravo) I thank you.
Did Erik even go to culinary school? I'm sorry but any one who calls himself a chef knows that all cuisines have low end and high end variations. Proclaiming that Mexican can't be "fine dining" only shows his ignorance.

Diana said...

"Anonymous": Just because you're latino doesn't mean you know about Mexican food.

As a Mexican, I found Erik's comments highly condescending and slightly racist. I am deeply offended that someone would think that whatever crap passes for Mexican food in the United States is in fact Mexican food. The truth of the matter is, what does pass for Mexican is actually an Americanized version of popular (and, yes, common) dishes. People have no clue how varied, how robust, how complex, and how flavorful true Mexican food can be, and if Rick Bayless comes off as a "Mexican food evangelist" that's because he is. No one in the American restaurant industry has done as much he has to promote the virtues of and to destroy the myths surrounding Mexican food. You should read his books and see his shows on PBS. My sisters and I are absolutely MOVED TO TEARS at how much this man loves our country, our people, and, yes, our food. He is to Mexican food what Julia Child was to French food.

That being said, a taco is nothing more than a label for what a person can tuck inside a tortilla. It's a blank canvas, like a sandwich. The tacos you get on the street are usually made with small, palm sized tortillas filled with all sorts of crispy meats and topped off with cilantro, onions, salsa, and a touch of freshly squeezed lime, but, really, you can put whatever you want inside a tortilla and call it a taco. That being said, the cheftestants generally sucked at the quickfire because they failed to understand that principle. Richard's saving grace was that he used truly Mexican ingredients that also happen to be quite popular in haute cuisine: jicama, papaya, avocado. That, and they looked quite tasty.

On a final note, to anyone not convinced that Mexican cuisine can rise above "populist" food to become haute cuisine, I suggest the following: go on whatver travel site you feel like, buy a ticket to Mexico City, fly there, and visit a place in the Historic Center called "Cafe Tacuba." Still not convinced? Drive from Mexico City to Cuernavaca and look for a place called "Los Colorines" OR drive to Puebla and eat in any resort there. I doubt you'll need convincing after that.

hughman said...

"The World's Cuisine, as Seen by Hoity Toity White Homosexuals"

uh. hello.

phobic much? taco is a food, not a sexual distinction. there are good tacps and bad, noting to do with who you love.

Anonymous said...

I love Mexican food as much as the next guy, but seriously, he left out Italian and Japanese food. Italian is not french nor is Japanese the same Chinese. Common influences, yes, but French did not begat Italian food.

And, as an added benefit, you can each Italian food without chowing on the requisite poind of butter from the French.

Anonymous said...

Rick Bayliss' mouth is nearly as big as Steven Tyler's.

Also don't hate on Andrew, he was the shit.

Anonymous said...

Erik is so sexy, I think he's the most honest contestant. I have such a mancrush on him and he does live in San Fransisco.