Season 4 comes to a close with, in my opinion, the correct outcome taking place. CC and Kerry did not have to go through any pointless Quickfire this week, but instead had ample time to plan a menu based on four letters. Each course would be inspired by a letter each man will write – presumably during the planning stage of the meal. They are given a helper – a chef buddy of Kerry’s (Nick) and CC’s chef de cuisine (Manfred) – to assist in the meal. The meal would be judged by an all-star panel of critics.
Which immediately led me to believe that somewhere down the road, Bravo is developing Top Critic. Twelve of the nation’s best critics compete to see who can be the snarkiest, who can turn a phrase better (ie – quilt of flavors), and who could be the most pompous in their opinions. Although, no one would beat this guy. Or if you want to expand it to movie critics competing – this guy.
Anyway, the chefs’ four letters would be a love letter, an apology, a thank you, and a letter to themselves. As the episode developed, it became clear what each of their strategy would be. Kerry basically chose to barely skirt within the parameters of the challenge, and just went flat out for a safe, delicious meal. As a very talented Master, that should be no problem for him to accomplish. Meanwhile, CC decided to forego the safe double, and swing for the fences and try to knock it out of the park. The dishes he put out were bold, to say the least. If he was going to win, he was going to do it the hard way.
Interestingly, the first three letters the chefs wrote were very similar in theme. Both wrote their love letters and their apologies to their wives. The first being obvious, and the second because each of them are essentially married to their restaurants. Seems like an occupational hazard with chefs and restaurant owners. The thank you letters are each going to parents or grandparents for instilling a love for food at a young age.
The big differences between the two menus are the self letter and the food. Kerry’s letter to himself is basically just an excuse to make some high class food. CC’s letter has a theme of it being his last meal – so it’s an excuse to make his favorite foods. I think that resonated a LOT more for the critics. The food that Kerry made were all standard stuff – steaks, seafood, short ribs, etc. Meanwhile, CC made hearts, tripe and fried eggs. Bold, bold, bold.
The differences come down to the shopping plan too – Kerry goes to Whole Foods and heads right back to the kitchen to use the six hours more on prep and cooking. CC heads to Whole Foods, 99 Ranch (I think I heard that right) and Butcher Block (again, I think I heard that right) to get all of his specialty meats and other supplies. He gets back and has only three and a half hours to cook. Kerry also failed to get everything he wanted – such as lobster – and CC rubs it in a bit that he should have branched out more.
During prep, CC breaks out the hearts, the stomach, and even the blood. He’s making blood sausage as part of his “Last Supper” that he would want as his final meal. And CC officially becomes really weird. More so.
The Critics: In addition to Senor Sweater, Ruth, Stone, Lam and Katniss (welcome back), we have John Curtas of Eating Las Vegas. Known as Bowtie from this point forward. Jane Goldman of Chow – our friend the Rachel Maddow cousin. Alan Richman from GQ – which is awesome to me, a loyal subscriber to GQ. Not Michael Ian Black – Alan Sytsma from Grubstreet is back. So is the female henchman from Austin Powers – also known as Karen Brooks from The Mighty Gastropolis. Lesley Bargar Suter of LA Magazine rounds out the group, after apparently visiting Missy Franklin and borrowing all of her gold medals.