Fans of the reality cooking show “Top Chef” know when a new episode is over, they can go to the Bravo site and watch the web-only “Last Chance Kitchen,” where eliminated contestants can try to battle back into the competition by defeating other dismissed players each week.
But now they have added another component of the “Top Chef” experience with an after-show aperitif, if you will, served by head judge Tom Colicchio. A five-time recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award who has been on the show since it began in 2006, he usually delivers the most spot-on criticism as well as sincere compliments while sampling the dishes that are put in front of him. This no-nonsense guy and his taste buds are almost always right. But while we often get to see Tom eating, we rarely if ever see this culinary superstar behind a stove.
But that is about to change with a digital series,”What Would Tom Do?” It reveals how the “Top Chef” top judge would have handled the challenges attempted by contestants. The first episode (watch above) features Tom skipping the windy and sandy conditions that the 15 returning All Stars faced when they cooked on an open wood fire while on the beach on the Season 17 premiere.
He says he is not going to pretend he is under the same duress as the chefs. He also doesn’t sprint about to grab his ingredients from the pantry or fight anyone off for his choice of seafood. Tom’s perky female companion on the series, Season 16 judge Nilou Motamed, states the obvious: “OK, this is a really hard challenge.” Tom, however, simply says, “I love the beach. And I love cooking over wood.” He is going to serve grilled oysters with compound butter, adding, “Let’s keep this simple and delicious.” It is a dish he actually makes in his own fireplace.
As he places gobs of butter in a bowl, a “Tom Fun Fact” flashed on the screen: “Only eat wild oysters in months that include the letter ‘R’! His helper Nilou elicits another “Tom Fun Fact,” (that compound butter = butter with stuff in it) and ends up making lemon zest. Tom, meanwhile, chops up calabrian chilis, chives and scallions along with the lemon.
“For me, this is something that is very easy to control,” he says. “And also, just in terms of being a team player, because this takes very little time, I can help everyone else on my team.” She then says, “Wouldn’t you say to them they copped out by making something way to easy?” He then chops harder with his knife to drown out her question. The fresh ingredients are mixed into the butter. while Tom adds salt and pepper.
Now it’s time to learn how to properly open oysters. Tom says, “Every oyster has a little button you can get into.” He simply slides a knife into an oyster in a towel and moves the knife along the shell to cut it. His would-be sous chef, who is imbibing some rose wine along the way, asks if he would serve the dish as an “appy” aka appetizer. He agrees as he shows how the butter on top is bubbling and cooking the oyster. They are then placed on a wooden plank covered with Morton’s ice cream salt. Sandy, a producer, rushes over over and slurps one of those oysters straight down.
How much time did the dish take? Only 18 minutes and 51 second. For what it’s worth, the oysters looked yummy and Tom has an ease and a sense of confidence about him as a cook that is refreshing, but next time introduce your co-host/helper when she appears on camera with you.
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