Not only because I'm addicted to the entire Top Chef franchise, but because for some reason I seem to gain spiritual insight every time I watch.
Wax on wax off,
In any case, because blogging, cooking, and watching any and all forms of cooking related TV are therapy for me, I decided to share the spiritual insights I glean from watching Season 3 with
So let's get started with my first "Yoda of the Day," Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill Restaurant and Truck in Los Angeles.
For a food TV nerd such as myself, I get all giggly about Mary Sue because she was the other half of the dynamic cooking duo known as The Two Hot Tamales along with long time collaborator Susan Feniger on the Food Network back in the 90's.
Tonight's episode began with a cornucopia of distinguished chefs competing in a CHOPPED style challenge where they were faced with mystery baskets filled with ingredients like frog legs, black licorice, chicken livers, and marshmallows.
And after doing a disastrous Chopped style challenge myself a few weeks ago with black licorice (food nerds play Chopped in our own kitchens when no one is looking) I was amazed at what the Masters came up with - good, bad, and ugly.
The challenge finalists ended up being Mary Sue Milliken who cooked with frog legs and cottage cheese and Traci des Jardins who got the dreaded black licorice. In a photo finish, Traci took the prize and won the first pot of quick fire money for her charity.
Out of that, two teams were formed: The Quick Fire Winners vs. the Chefs who didn't fare as well with their mystery baskets.
And the competition?
Top Chef Masters isn't playing around because our Masters were thrown head first into Restaurant Wars!
It was here, in the heat of the restaurant openings that four very important - and it should be added, incredibly applicable to my current life - life lessons began to emerge.
1. All things are wonderful and applicable in their own time. But past glory and recognition are always a part of a certain time and a particular place that, most often, cannot or should not, be re-created.
Mary Sue Milliken made this mistake by re-creating a chocolate cupcake dessert that, early in her career, had been hugely successful but that in 2012 has already been done. I am reminded of this in my own life as I embark upon new projects - perhaps it's better to focus on what I'm doing now rather than go backward and rely on what was successful in the past. The past has brought me here, what can I create as I move forward?
Naomi Pomeroy from Beast restaurant in Portland Oregon provides our next life lesson:
2. Although there are some things that work well for us in our own environments, the wise leader is observant and listens to others, re-adjusting their vision based on the team they are working with, the environment they will work in, and the circumstances they will face.
Seating everyone at once to create a buffet dining approach may work at Naomi's Portland restaurant, but it put a lot of unneeded stress on the kitchen during this crucial first battle - which, fortunately for Naomi, turned out a victory despite the kitchen being slammed. But still, this is an important lesson; we must be open and willing to readjust our vision.
3. The third lesson came from Chef Hugh Acheson, who opposite to Mary Sue Millken, did not rely on the past, and instead went on a limb with a whole new preparation - this time with scallops. He teaches us that, though we may have confidence, it's important to think things through and that, when it comes to taking big chances, spur of the moment decisions that haven't been completely thought out can lead to regret (this is a current theme in my own life and something I am working on).
In the end, it came down to a decision between Mary Sue, who relied too much on the past, and Hugh, who took a big chance, and, sadly, it was Hugh who was first to go home.
Which takes me to a final life lesson:
4. Never make an assumption based on appearances.
In today's battle between the two teams, it would be easy to assume our quick fire team would win and that Chefs like Mary Sue Milliken and Hugh Acheson would be untouchable - but life teaches us that none of us is untouchable and sometimes its the underdog who reaches above and takes it all.
Just for fun, here's a Chopped style challenge from yours truly that went very right... black cherry ice cream as a sauce for pork tenderloin? I think so!
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