Top Chef 10 Preview: Wolfgang Puck on Going Back to Basics

What a week. Election yesterday, and the premiere of Top Chef: Seattle tonight! As someone who lived in Seattle for the past six years, I’m especially excited to see what beautiful Northwest sights and tasty Seattle restaurants they decide to feature this season. (It doesn’t seem fair; when they did Top Chef in Austin I was in Seattle, then I moved to Austin and they went to Seattle! I just want to befriend Padma!) Anyway, what I’m saying is: I’m psyched for tonight, so obviously I was also psyched when I got the chance to jump on a call with Wolfgang Puck, one of the judges this season, to get a sneak peek at what we can expect from Top Chef 10.

On thing Wolfie (can I call him Wolfie? I feel like we’re BFF at this point, so it’s probably cool) is particularly vehement about is the whole “back to basics” thing that Top Chef is touting this season. He explained: “To me… I judge these chefs on how they can cook an egg… I say, okay, make me an omelet. All these people say they cook in fancy restaurants, but you need to know the basics. Cooking an egg is like cooking a steak or something. Oil, butter, some cream, cook them fast enough so they’re cook on the outside and soft in the center. And it’s amazing how few professional cooks can actually do that.”

Amen, my Austrian brother.

Wolfie says it was interesting to see the new contestants and the choices they make. Some he assumed would be good ended up being very spotty, and a lot of them “tried too hard.” He described the judging experience as, “some terrific dishes where I said ‘wow, I would hire them!’ Then the next show, ‘wow, is that the same person?'”

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Burns My Bacon: Fast Food Cheaters

WATCH OUT! Taco Bell has a new chef in town, and she’s changing the way of Taco Bell’s menu by adding a healthy option to help make you more regular after chomping down on a Doritos Taco. Unstinking offices everywhere after the lunch break. Thank goodness a “renowned” chef has come to the rescue of FAST FOOD.
You’ve heard and saw the commercials— Celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia has been wined and dined by Taco Bell and she accepts her new position as face of the franchise. Yes—a human has replaced the famed speaking pup that brought Taco Bell to a new level. Let me say that again – a professionally trained chef, has taken on the role of a strung out Chihuahua.

Why is this cheating? It’s not that I don’t enjoy the occasional guilty pleasure of a quick trip through the drive-through. But more that Lorena Garcia has completely sold out to a corporation that houses their “mexican cuisine” stores in the same buildings as KFCs. Rather than creating her own restaurants and using fresh, local ingredients, she is “making it big” with the fast food industry. Now, she has the distinct honor of having her foods frozen and shipped across the country to drunks everywhere.

I don’t care if you open a dive bar or diner—but make it your own for goodness sake! But at least she made the burrito healthy by…get this…taking out the tortilla. I think there’s another restaurant chain that does that…and I’m willing to bet their ingredients are ten times fresher and real(er?) than Taco Bell. Do you see Bobby Flay “crunchifying” burgers at the BK and Golden Arches? Is Gordon Ramsey making Au Bon Pain a more “refined” establishment? No. And they shouldn’t. I know most celebrity chefs “sell out” on occasion, but I feel like this is beyond that. Packaging your own “unique” and “special” recipes, freezing them, and selling them at your local Taco Bell is cheating. And we really don’t like cheaters here…C’mon Man!

Cornerstone Cooking: Crunchy Black Bean Tacos

We love us a good blog-to-book success story (hellooooooo, agents — what ver happened to Friday Fuck-Ups, the novel?) So I was excited to get my copy of Cornerstone Cooking, the new cookbook from Nick Evans, sometimes ES contributor and the man behind Macheesmo.

Of course, leave it to a blogger to come up with the first cookbook I’ve seen in eons that is actually useful. The concept behind Cornerstone is one we can get behind: “learn to love your leftovers.” In each of his eight chapters, Nick offers up one “Cornerstone recipe” — the simple things that you should just know how to make perfectly (roast chicken, spicy black beans, grilled flank steak, baked potatoes, marinara sauce, lentils, homemade bread and vanilla ice cream). Then for each one, he gives you about a dozen more directions for how to use that cornerstone dish up over the course of a week. For example, how to turn those spicy black beans into black bean burgers, black bean soup, huevos rancheros, black bean salad, and our favorite — fried tacos!

Check out Cornerstone Cooking on Amazon, or keep reading for the recipe.

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ES Local: Booze for Good

From Philadelphia…

It’s all the rage for “celebrity” chefs and restauranteurs to do good things. Marc Vetri just launched his program to save school lunches, and remember when Jamie Oliver had that TV show? Yeah. Next up: Stephen Starr. No, really.

Philly’s Starr restaurant organization isn’t exactly known for its philanthropy or even being nice to its employees. However, this year, some employees have joined together to do the Broad Street Run…because of course, if something is going to sell out in five hours, Starr has to be a part of it. But instead of just running down Broad Street like assholes, they’re using the race to support Teens4Good, a program that transforms vacant lots into urban farms to improve access to healthy food for communities, while creating jobs for at-risk youth and empowering them to become healthy, responsible adults. My favorite part of this is that they’re raising money for the program through my one true love: booze.

If you’re interested in giving back without actually doing anything, need an excuse to get to Route 6 for the oyster crackers, or just want to meet a celebrity (me), head up to Route 6 on Wednesday night after work. Rumor has it the beers are $3 and there may be a specialty cocktail thrown into the mix.

Plate It or Hate It

Recent food world discoveries the ES crew is loving and hating

Plate It: Creamed Honey

We love honey. We hate how it sticks all over everything. Creamed honey is pure honey that is crystallized so that it changes texture; you get a smooth, creamy product that spreads like butter and doesn’t drip-drip-drip all over everything like that pedestrian un-creamed honey. Brilliant. (Available at

Hate It: Push Pop Cakes

The latest mom blogger craze picks up where cake pops left off. Come on, foodie moms — please stop sacrificing practicality for cuteness. That is not how you eat a cake. Push it up and things start to fall apart once you take your first bite.  (Photo: kristin_a)

Plate It: Travel-Size Brie

Finally. We no longer have to fly with just Laughing Cow. Quality doesn’t compare to regular brie, but it’s sure better than no brie. (Available from Ile de France)

Hate It: Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off

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In Defense of Paula Deen

I’m sure y’all have heard by now that Paula Deen has diabetes. It’s all over the news. People are pissed. I’ve seen media “correspondents” (who are these people who are allowed to throw stones all over the place?) calling her “outrageous” and demanding apologies to the public. WHAT? Why?


Know what? I’m just gonna say it. I like Paula Deen and I DON’T CARE. I don’t care that my girl Paula cooks food that is bad for her/everyone; I don’t care that she kept her diabetes a secret; I don’t care that she is now doing an endorsement deal with a diabetes pharmaceutical company.

Is a lot of her food hilariously bad for you? Sure is. Does she blatantly ignore nutritional guidelines? Yep. If you cook and eat a ton of her recipes on a regular basis, are you doing your health a disservice? You better believe it.

But guess what, Food Network viewers! The onus is on YOU! If you think Paula Deen’s recipes are unhealthy, don’t cook and eat them. If you think her lifestyle is appalling, don’t watch her show. The fact that Paula has diabetes may be linked to her eating habits, great. Frankly, her health is her business. Anthony Bourdain may say she’s “in bad taste,” but honestly, how is her admitting to diabetes and hawking meds really affecting any of us? Nobody was “betrayed” by her cooking shows, as some people have claimed. She’s never represented herself as an athletic, fit person. Paula Deen’s admission of her diagnosis doesn’t give you a free pass to eat poorly, then complain and point fingers.

Even here at Endless Simmer, we delight in writing about alarmingly extreme foods. I highly doubt any of our readers think we constantly pig out on all of our ridiculous culinary discoveries, or that we encourage anyone else to. We’re all smarter than that, right?

This is just like people who try to sue fast food companies for their health issues. Let’s take some personal responsibility, please. If you honestly think it’s okay to eat burger-stuffed doughnuts three meals a day, that is 100% your problem, not Paula Deen’s.


Review and Recipe: The Dead Celebrity Cookbook

When I first discovered The Dead Celebrity Cookbook it was a near hit at the back of Entertainment Weekly’s The Bullseye feature. Frank Decaro, best know for being the movie critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, drew inspiration for the book from a college party in the 80’s. All of Decaro’s friends dressed as a dead celebrity, but the party had a fatal flaw — it lacked food. So, over the years Decaro collected a mass of cookbooks, magazines and other sources of recipes from celebrities who are now dead. If you can get past the morbidity of the book it really is a great collection of recipes, with no particular rhyme or reason other than they’re each supposedly a favorite of a deceased famous person. Who’d have thought Johnny Casrson cooked? Whitefish, no less.

If you can convince yourself that these people actually cooked, let alone had a favorite recipe worth keeping note of, then it’s worth having as an addition to your collection of cookbooks. Plus, most  the recipes are pretty basic. Dean Martin’s burgers and bourbon consists of three ingredients — beef, salt and bourbon — at least he seasoned (what, you’re expecting molecular gastronomy?) My favorite chapter is chapter 25, Thank You for Feeding a Friend, which includes Bea Arthur’s veggie breakfast and Rue McClanahan’s non-dairy cheesecake, among other Golden Girls goodies. And to get your started, here’s one fabulous recipe from the DCD.

How does one catch a salmon, why with a wire clothes hanger of course…


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