December 04, 2010 03:00 PM by Shayla Perry
On the season premiere of Bravo’s Top Chef: All-Stars, judge Anthony Bourdain had some pretty tough words for Fabio Viviani’s dish–to put it lightly. But in his blog, Bourdain showed some uncharacteristic remorse about how he handled himself at Judges’ Table–sort of.
“No one likes their work to be mocked. Fabio in particular. And yet mock I did. I couldn’t help it. I mean, look at that thing. Its supreme ugliness only reinforced and highlighted by its presentation on paper, bringing to mind immediately and inevitably, the command oft directed at a bad puppy: ‘Go on the paper! The paper!!’
“Did it taste bad? Did it–and by extension–Fabio, deserve the kind of scorn I heaped on him?
“I don’t know. Clearly, I hurt his feelings. And seeing that, I fee bad. Really. To the extent that you can like anyone you know only from TV, I like Fabio. And I liked how he stood up for himself and gave some back at Judges’ Table. If I were an employer looking to hire a chef from among the All Stars, I’d think very seriously about Fabio. He’s smart, likable, steady, level-headed in a crisis, and hence not easily flustered–and I’m guessing he’s a much better chef than evidenced on this first day, where he was challenged to “fix” a dish he’s surely had plenty of time to think about. But…look at that thing. Really! Look again.
“I should confess that one of the things I get predictably cranky about these days is when somebody screws up what should have been a simple, good bowl or plate of pasta. I spend a LOT of time in Italy–and eating Italian food. And admittedly, my threshold for cranky is a little lower when something that should be right goes, for no reason that I can see, terribly wrong. Or worse, if a chef goes deliberately out of his way to complicate or ruin pasta. It’s why I can barely drive by an Olive Garden without wanting to slam on the brakes and get stabby with strangers. It’s why Old Spaghetti Factories and Macaroni Grills across America have a blurry head shot of mine near the door. If I’m seen lurking anywhere near their establishments, the local constabulary is summoned and I am tasered, beaten, cuffed, and securely detained immediately. Which is probably for the best.
“Challenged to remake a dish he never liked in the first place, Fabio piled mistake on top of mistake–like the painter overworking a painting.
“The same damn pasta, sauced less (a lot less), served in a bowl rather than on paper…and without the greasy fried basil leaves–while not something that would have gotten Fabio a win, would surely have kept him off the firing line. …
“…Still. I feel bad about beating up on Fabio. Maybe I’m losing my edge. Maybe I should leave the bloodletting to my sinister French colleague, Eric Ripert. Or that English guy…what was his name? Maybe I should confine myself to constructive criticism. To a kinder, gentler, more mentor-like approach. Wear a big fluffy f—ing sweater to Judges’ Table, speak in quiet, melifluous Garrison Keilloresque tones. Maybe lay off the gin. Or not.”
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Photo credit: BRAVO