Top Chef Masters Exit Interview: Episode 4
Even standing next to a table full of cheese, my eyes can’t stray from the candy that is Curtis Stone (sigh). Despite my cravings for cheese, Top Chef Masters this week went all low-cal by re-creating classic dishes that are usually high in all things that Michelle Obama wouldn’t approve. To keep with the theme, the guest judges/celebs were contestants of The Biggest Loser. Keep reading to see who couldn’t cut the butter, so to speak.
Endless Simmer: The Quickfire was pretty awesome featuring a cheese-focused dish. What is your favorite cheese dish?
Suvir Saran: What I did (pakora with mozzarella) was actually quite delicious. The judges (from Grub Street and Restaurant Girl) weren’t exposed to the kind of flavors we were. I think it’s ok we all have personal tastes; cooking is so subjective. It’s impossible to please everybody and it’s impossible to come to it with a very global take if you’re doing something that acutely, embedded in minutiae, like doing something with cheese in 6 or 8 minutes. There’s very little you can play around with. I did what millions of Indians eat several times a week. We relish it and we celebrate it. We enjoy it. This is a dish that people make with a lot of effort. I’m sorry that I offended the judge. Maybe another judge from another part of the planet would have looked at it differently.
What did you think of cooking for the Biggest Loser?
It made me even more proud of having been on the show. I was amazed at Bravo to have given subsequent chefs the opportunity to make a statement on national television on the state of affairs of our great nation. Obesity is the greatest threat to our national security that people don’t talk about. It’s more than any threat to chemical warfare or nuclear arms, yet we don’t talk about it. It’s not an easy conversation to have. It includes so many corporations and agendas. I was thrilled that Bravo was so sophisticated in the challenge. I was proud what I did.
Curtis Stone has said that typically diners don’t praise the low calorie meal they have at a restaurant. How do you deal with that in your restaurant?
I deal with it by making sure every plate has even fibers, fruits and vegetables of every color. So when people ask for lamb chops I’m giving them on that plate: sweet potato, pear chutney, salad and the lamb chops. So when you pay for them you’re not just getting the lamb chops but everything else. I want people to learn that people have to be respected, entertained and have to be indulged. I put it onto the plate and make it part of my food and people love it.
For the elimination challenge you were tasked with making the burger low-cal. Do you regret not using meat?
It [meat] may have been successful but I would have crippled the client because this is somebody who has lost almost 100lbs of weight. If I were to give them any more saturated fat, be it from turkey or chicken or beef, or any other animal meat, I’m aiding and abetting in not having a conversation. They lost weight by having trainers and support staff that help them remain committing to weight loss. Now the dialogue around food has to begin, otherwise, you come back to where you began. For a real change in diet you have to have a lifestyle change and that doesn’t happen when the person loves burger or a steak. If you are giving them smaller portions, you’re indulging them to not talk to themselves about on how to correct their lifestyles. You’re just giving them an easy way out.
Do you think it was appropriate to lecture the diners on your vegetarian views prior to Hugh (Acheson) serving his meat dish?
It’s a television show and unfortunately it doesn’t have the ability to tell you everything that transpires in the conversation. I’m proud of what I did. I wasn’t making a statement on Hugh’s dish, I was making a larger statement about meat in your diet. I was told these people who have life threatening obesity issues that they were wanting to correct [their issues]. We had to make something calorie specific and also helpful. I take words very seriously: I’m a chef, who I guess, is more educated in the art and craft of writing and reading than in the kitchen. But my education was not in food. I come to it more philosophically and perhaps too literally. I’ve done the right thing.