Chef Tell: There's Sum-thing Wrong With Dim Judges

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A little housekeeping first, yes? We were relieved from Top Chef All Stars blogging duties during the holidays, but not relieved by the elimination that occurred: Spike, cute and surly Spike, was sent packing after Jamie bailed on competing once again and left him to flounder in the last episode, the US Open challenge. I suspected she had little to show but the natural talent to reach low pantry shelves with ease and a knack for developing convoluted excuses, but the diminutive blonde truly proved herself dead weight when she ran off to get stitches for a "serious" finger cut back during the "Night at the Museum" challenge. Her refusal to pony up was no real shock, but her getting to stay on the show after essentially not cooking for two competitions was. But more of my thoughts on Jamie to come...

Now on to this week:

First of all, the episode was titled "Dim Sum, Lose Sum." Not kidding. I'm all for puns, but I do have my standards, people. Should've known it was going to be a shitstorm the minute the TiVo info screen popped up. 

The Quickfire Challenge was the highlight. Padma had a badass striped shirt on, for one. Then she was all, "Making great food is nothing if you can't get it out on time. Get ready to have your asses handed to you by a super famous chef who will prepare a dish in front of you, after which you peasants will have to prepare your own winning plate in equal or lesser time." Or something like that. And all the chefs were nervous, wondering who it would be, while we at home felt no suspense whatsoever because the Bravo network loves to spoil big moments by including them in preview ads they air approximately every 4.76 minutes. It was Tom Colicchio. 

I admit I was excited. I love Tom, but I didn't know I loved Tom until he started cooking. It was hot. He moved with passion and grace. He tasted using a giant spoon. He glistened with perspiration. He showed black sea bass he was boss, pairing it with clams, tomatoes and zucchini in...8 minutes, 37 seconds. Yeah.

At first, I assumed the chefs would have to recreate his dish, but really, they just had to create a good dish of their own...and specifically one that was cooked, as opposed to some cheater tartare or crudo. 

Angelo, because he's a bit of a cock who doesn't pay attention, made a crudo. He landed in the bottom with Dale (who tried to make homemade pad Thai but was screwed by making noodles in 8 minutes) and, shocker, Jamie (who produced ONE CLAM, and said it was really difficult to make clams in the allotted time, despite the fact that other chefs, including Tom, didn't seem to have a problem with it).

Blais, Marcel (who used Tom's leftover fish instead of going into the crazed pantry) and Mike Isabella (there is no other Mike, FYI, but he continues to be referred to by his full name and I like it) topped the list. Mike Isabella won immunity and a Toyota Prius. 

After that, in terms of competition, I should've turned off the television.

The Elimination Challenge saw the chefs taking over the lunch rush at dim sum restaurant Grand Harmony in Chinatown. As a team, they had to serve 200 hungry patrons after shopping in a Chinatown market and prepping in the restaurant's own kitchen. 

Sidenote: During the trip to the market, we discovered that Fabio has a pet turtle he leashes and takes on walks. There was footage. Discuss.

During prep, our Casey Thompson de-clawed her chicken feet (that dish was a bold decision considering its beloved status), commenting that she is obsessed with butchery and hopes to one day be the "baddest assed female butcher." Made me slightly irritated that she wouldn't want to be the "baddest assed butcher" in general, but that's neither here nor there. 

​Once service began, customers piled into the restaurant in droves. Carla and Casey worked front-of-house and Mike Isabella expedited. Our Tiffany Derry was crazed trying to stock the carts into the dumb waiter and get them up to the restaurant, but there just wasn't enough food. Customers weren't getting enough and some began getting up to snag plates off the passing carts. The judges (Tom, Padma, Gail and chef, restaurateur and Top Chef Masters competitor Susur Lee) were being served while people at surrounding tables looked over wanting their food.

I found myself shouting at the screen: "Fucking move! What is going on?! Why are they just standing there? People are walking out! This is jacked! Are you serious?! THEY AREN'T PUTTING OUT ANY FOOD!" That's no exaggeration; I have a witness. 

The whole ordeal was shameful. No one communicated beyond shouting or glaring -- and that would be totally acceptable if I was talking about customers.

At the Judges' Table, the top included Tiffany D. (steam bun), Dale (sticky rice with sausage), Angelo (spring roll) and, in a surprise for the Italian Stallion, Fabio (pork ribs). Dale won, though it really did seem close. 

Antonia (shitty longbeans, good shrimp toast), Jamie (longbeans, scallop dumpling), Casey (chicken feet and pancakes), Carla (summer roll) and our Tre Wilcox (orange dessert) landed in the bottom. 

​And then, the unthinkable happened. Casey was sent knife-packing.

I have to say it: Jamie needed, and needs, to go home. I honestly don't give a hootie-hoo if Casey's chicken feet were inedible. It was a risky move, for sure, but in her explanation of the dish she seemed knowledgable that the feet would need to be fried at a high temp in the wok. That didn't happen because she didn't cook them. Yes, she entrusted her food to Antonia, but you know what? Jamie also entrusted her food to someone else two weeks ago when she ran to get unnecessary stitches and she's still around. Let's be fair. Casey was performing a task required by the challenge -- working front of house -- and she did her job to the best of her ability, having left her dish prepped all the way up to being fired off.

Jamie made two crappy dishes. TWO. She produced ONE CLAM and an excuse in the QC. She didn't cook anything the judges ate in two previous challenges. WHY IS SHE STILL HERE? Tom says (on his blog) it's because Casey's food was inedible, and while Jamie's sucked, it was still edible. Fine. Susur Lee called it disrespectful to a national dish of China. I can see how that might be. But was it Casey's food if she didn't make it? Spike was kicked off when others tampered with his food because well, he was still responsible for the final product that was sent out. But how can the same be said of Casey when she wasn't even in the kitchen to determine if her feet were worthy of service? She did go downstairs to intervene once she saw the feet were not up to the example she'd left Antonia, so some credit should have been given there, especially considering Jamie sent out food she knew was sub-par. 

Oh, and one last thing: It's way more commendable to try and fail with a chicken foot than it is to steam a dumpling skin that's meant to be boiled or turn out a greasy longbean.

Casey's exit interview:

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