During the Top Chef Season Three Finale (Part One) , Chef Eric Ripert made a comment I found jaw dropping. Brian Malarky had prepared a braised elk dish that he served with a a number of garnishes including the choice of either gorgonzola or rochefort (forgive me if those are wrong, I am going off memory.) During Judge’s Table, Ripert was aghast that Brian would allow his guests to choose the type of cheese they wanted on their dish.
He stated that Brian was less than a chef because he did not make all the decisions for his guests.
Comments like that make me wonder if I am missing something about the chef’s mind. My feeling is that gorgonzola and the soft rochefort he chose were fairly similiar in flavor and contrast; one was milder, the other stronger. It is not like he offered a choice between gorgonzola or cheese whiz. (Had cheese whiz entered the equation, Brian would have dropped the culinary ball for a number of reasons.) I just do not feel that Brian was shirking his duty as a chef, rather I think he realized that some people do not like the taste of gorgonzola.
I would love to pick Chef Ripert’s brain about why he felt allowing guests to choose was such a crime. Strangely, enough, on the same day the episode aired, I was reading Thomas Ruhlman’s Reach of a Chef. In the book, he tells of an instructor who would not eat the first meal his wife (then his girlfriend) prepared because the chicken had not been trussed. Both examples illustrate two chefs’ dedication to food that I do not particularly find admirable.
I respect when someone loves food and loves their profession and pours every ounce of themselves into it, but the chicken was untrussed, not uncooked. Brian gave his guests a choice. I find these to be culinary nonissues next to serving undercooked meat or poor knife skills.
What do you think? Is Ripert too harsh or am I not understanding the essense of a chef?