Sunday, June 17, 2012

Life Lessons Learned Watching Top Chef Masters - Season 3, Episode 3 - Bug Off!!

A day late and a dollar short, I am just now catching up on Season 3 of Top Chef Masters as it is airing now in Canada. For some reason I get a sense of Zen every time I watch. I hope you enjoy...

Today's episode featured my worst culinary nightmare: The Masters had to cook with an assortment of live insects - squirming legs and all - and were tasked with having to create individual five star dishes in 20 minutes that poor Curtis Stone was going to have to taste. 

Michael Hawk and Michelle England from Man Woman Wild were the judges and as they chomped away on the bugs making comments like "I love that he left hair on the legs," I find them a bit scratchy going down," or, "This fellow swelled up during the cooking," Curtis Stone had my deepest sympathy as I watched him valiantly sample the horrors, going from shades of white to pale green as the tasting continued.

Hugh and his Fried Tempura Crickets came out on top and I arrived at my first life lesson of the episode shortly afterward:

In life, and in insect eating, there will be times when even the hands of a master won't be able to make better a bad situation. If something is not good to you or to your taste, no amount of window dressing will disguise what it truly is.

Moving on.

Today's elimination challenge had the chefs each cooking one course in a ten course tasting menu for a charity fundraiser. They had three hours to cook with no time for shopping and would have to use what was available in the pantry. They were also advised by Curtis to expect the unexpected during prep because they were going to be tested on how well they cope under pressure and discovered that their first curve ball was no running water in the kitchen. Shortly afterward they were told the service would begin 30 minutes earlier than expected, and that the chefs would be the servers that evening.

While that went on, a sub battle began between Naomi Pomeroy and Hugh Acheson who both had strong feelings about the way service should go and though Naomi knew the chefs were bristling under her leadership, she took a stand - unafraid of their disapproval - and stepped it up keeping service running smoothly.

I loved this. Loved that she is a strong woman who isn't afraid to be up front and assertive and while she continued to hustle trying to get the job done, Hugh was in the kitchen talking behind her back to the other chefs - providing today's second life lesson:

 Talking behind anyone's back is never a good idea. As much as it may feel safer to go through the side door with our thoughts and feelings, being upfront, honest, and unafraid is always the best strategy. Women are socialized from the time they're little girls to be "nice" and for some people, strong and ethical instead of "nice" can be threatening. At the end of the day, though, ethics must take precedence over all, and gossiping is one of the most unethical of sports - not only reserved for women as cultural folklore might have us believe, but a practice men regularly engage in too. 

But karma was in Naomi's favour and she came away as the challenge winner for her gorgeous celery veloute.

Unfortunately, John Currence didn't fare as well with his risotto and he was asked to go home.

Stay tuned next week for more life lessons from Season 3!

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