Eight Hours, Two Lunches, Three Interviews

In the last eight hours, ELV besides eating and drinking some of the best food and wine on the planet, has had the privilege to interview Gaia Gaja (a beautiful gal who was more than generous with her pours and her information about her spectacular array of wines), Pierre Gagnaire (who giggled like a teenager over his excitement about coming to Las Vegas), and Hubert Keller (who really should have won Top Chef Masters).

You’ll have to wait on the verbatim transcripts of our conversations with Ms. Gaja and Mon. Gagnaire, and it’s unfortunate that most of our talk with Mon. Keller was off the record, but for the time being let’s just say that The Great Hubert deserves to be more than a little miffed over not winning TCM.

As gracious as he is, we all know he was and is the better chef. The fact that young pups James Oseland and Jay Rayner (not to mention Gael “I used to be a slut” Greene) got their heads turned by Mexican mole, when a Hubert’s salmon souffle was clearly the more difficult dish to pull off, only speaks to their love of bold flavors over true technique.

He deserved to win. He followed the challenge to the letter, and the judges should be condemned to eat a slab of rancid headcheese for their amateurish swooning over Rick Bayless’s Mexican food over that of a true master.

So sayeth ELV.

14 thoughts on “Eight Hours, Two Lunches, Three Interviews

  1. Because of course, mate, you were there at the table and ate every dish.

    Oh hang on! No you weren’t! You were in an arm chair at home watching. The salmon souffle dish may have seemed harder – though I’d argue with that – but it was poorly executed. And frankly I’m in a good position to judge because I’ve eaten the original at the the Auberge De L’ill in Alsace.

    Be in no doubt. Hubert is a fabulous cook. So is Michael. Both premiere division. But they didn’t win because, at that final meal, their dishes were not as good as those served by Rick Bayless. End of story.

  2. Jay, it’s interesting that you’d say that ELV can’t judge because he wasn’t there — and then you proclaim the best dish won, even though you weren’t there. Want to try that again?

  3. Thanks for the support, Larry, but Mr. Rayner (a top shelf food writer/critic in London, whose book “The Man Who Ate The World” should be essential reading for any food lover) was one of the judges on Top Chef Masters.

    And thanks to Jay for his good-natured, spirited defense of his decision!

    And bon appetit to all,


  4. the right chef won that competition!!!

    rick bayless is a Gringo cooking mexican food! he grew up in the midwest for god sakes, home of meat and potatoes. to have such passion and drive as to completly up-root all you know and engourge yourself in a culture and cuisine and cook that cuisine as tactful and refined and he does is amazing ! i have eaten at topolobampo and the adjoined frontera grill and its great food.

    keller is local (kinda) but he is a frenchmen cooking boring french food. his technique is impecable but at the end of the day its still nothing special

  5. uebert Keller should have won top chef! His technique is spotless not to mention that he is a kind & sincere person. For a celebrity Chef that is a rare thing indeed. Bobby Flay could take lessons of grace from Chef Keller. He was robbed & should have won Top Chef! End of subject.

  6. kfmcm, Curious to how many professional restaurant kitchen’s you have worked in?
    If you had you would have known that regardless of personal preference mole negro is much more difficult to produce consistently in a restaurant setting then salmon souffle.
    Which is why most Mexican restaurant use a mole base instead of preparing it from scratch.
    With that said my career in James Beard award winning restaurants have been french influenced. Regardless of which cuisine is my passion, facts are facts.

  7. kfmcm – it really isn’t the end of the subject because, like, I ate the dishes and… oh, why am I bothering?

    (Btw I think you meant his technique was ‘flawless’; bathrooms are spotless. Though, as it happens, on the night, it wasn’t. Either flawless or spotless.)

  8. It’s tough for me, as I like both chefs and both cuisines. And as Mr. Rayner reminds us, we weren’t really there tasting all the dishes so we didn’t have the full experience that the judges had. I was also rooting for Hubert Keller, but I must admit it warmed my heart a little to finally see not just Rick Bayless honored, but also Mexican cuisine.

    Maybe it has to do with my childhood spent with so much Mexican food all around me, but there’s nothing like a good mole to comfort my soul. ;-)

  9. I’ve eaten Chef Keller’s food several times as well as Chef Bayless’s. Rick Bayless can cook soulful food which will make you weep. Has everyone commenting here eaten at both his Chicago restaurants?

  10. Sorry, but I really think it comes down to snobbery to suggest that the salmon souffle was definitely harder than the 27 ingredient Oaxacan mole that took Bayless 20 years to perfect. One thing that I really appreciate about TCM is the demonstration that Mexican cuisine can and should be regarded with respect, and not dismissed out of hand because it was invented – gasp – by non-Europeans!

  11. i worked at fdl and ate at topolobampo…by far more impressed with RB. Love HK, but RB is the man for the job.

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