Thursday, February 23, 2012

How easy is it to make pasta, really? My two cents on Top Chef

I am reading many comments on food blogs about how unfair it is for Chef Sarah Grueneberg, of Chicago's Restaurant Spiaggia, to have made it to the finale of Top Chef. The criticism is twofold: they accuse her 1) of being a total bitch and of having bullied fellow Chicagoan Beverly Kim (from restaurant Aria) and 2) of always making pasta, and that making pasta is very easy, hence she is not a good chef.

I don't care about point 1. The couple of times I've had the chance of meeting and briefly talking to Chef Grueneberg, I have found her a very nice person, down to Earth, funny and amicable. Is she a total bitch in real life? I don't know, I am not friends with her. But honestly I don't care: all I care if I go to a restaurant is if the food is good. And her food for me is the best Italian I have ever eaten outside of Italy, full stop. 

Also: TV programs are made to dramatize things, to generate audience. If I were to be on a TV show and say "When they behave like scumbags, I hate journalists", a TV program would probably edit it all and make me say "I hate journalists", and then show me with a gun, and then they would show a journalist. This is how TV works. So, honestly, I don't care. 

But let's come to the second criticism, which I find peculiar. Did Sarah Grueneberg often cook pasta on the show? Yes, she did. So what? She is the executive chef of a Michelin-rated Italian restaurant. She is known for - among other things - her pasta. What should she be making? Stir-fries? (Incidentally, Beverly Kim, the chef that Grueneberg is accused of bullying, always cooked the same style of Asian cooking. I didn't have a problem with that, yet I would expect that people criticizing Grueneberg for making pasta would also criticize Kim for using always the same ingredients? Nope, that didn't happen...)

But the final argument is the most stupid I have ever heard: people think that it is unfair for chef Grueneberg to make it to the finale cooking pasta, because anybody can cook pasta, how difficult is that? 

Well, now: if cooking pasta was so darn easy, how come that the pasta I have eaten in 99.9% of Italian restaurants in my 15 years abroad has always been disgusting? Seriously people: I make home made pasta, at times with some success. But can I make it excellent every time? Is it Michelin worthy? Nope, it ain't.  Pasta is one of those things that people assume can me made to taste delicious very easily. This is so stupid: you can make pasta taste good, at times very good. But can you make it delicious every time? Not unless you are a very gifted chef. 

And that's all there is to it, really. You may not like her, you may prefer other chefs, and frankly, I don't care. But when I hear "cooking pasta is so easy anybody can do it" my BS detector goes crazy. 


Anonymous said...

" ...always cooked the same style of Asian cooking"
Asia represents an entire continent, for you to suggest it's all the same shows how little you know about some of the world's best cuisine.

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Anonymous, I know Asia is big. And I know I don't know it all. But That's why I had specified that she cooked the same "style" of Asian cooking. Unlike Paul, who really cooks pan-Asian.

Anonymous, arrogance in commenting should be sustained by understanding what is written, at the very least. But hey: your life.

Anonymous said...

The reason Sarah gets called out for always cooking pasta is because she complained that Bev always cooked Asian food. It hows that she was a hypocrite and she and Heather and Lindsey bullied Bev to no end. By the way, calling yourself a "foodie" is pretty pretentious.

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

Anonymous, as I wrote in my post - have you read it? - I don't know / care if Sarah is a bully. I know how tv editing works. My point is that saying thay making excellent pasta is super easy is a load of crap. That's it.

As for the rest, judging me (or anybody you don't know) is not pretentious at all...

Not Just A Pretty Dress said...

Back to the focus of the post (because I genuinely dislike reality TV): "Cooking pasta is so easy anybody can do it". I completely agree with this sentence, but - to support your point - there is a huge difference between doing things and doing things well.

A Tuscan foodie in America said...



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