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Friday, June 12, 2009

I Heart Hubert Keller

Anyone who's obsessed with Top Chef knows exactly who Hubert Keller is: the dignified, no-nonsense chef/owner of Fleur de Lys in San Francisco, and the first guest judge ever to appear on the show. He memorably tossed the most aggravating contestant out of his kitchen for dipping his finger into a sauce rather than tasting with a spoon. Keller (or, Hubert, as I always think of him) has that peculiarly French attractiveness--it's not his somewhat angular features or his silvery gray mane of hair, per se, but some combination of looks, manner, and of course, the killer accent. I was immediately smitten and started making plans to stalk him visit his restaurant.

And now he's back, and on the business end of the judges' table! Hubert was one of the first round of contestants on Bravo's new spinoff, Top Chef Masters, where the chef'testants are all seasoned, successful chefs, many of them James Beard Award winners, and they're all playing for charity. The first episode was fun, even if I missed Tom and Padma more than I expected. Kelly Choi took over hosting duties, and she lacks Padma's appealing warmth and serenity. And the rest of the judges, or critics as they're called on this show, seem not to have been briefed on the show's ethos--meaning that the conditions imposed by the competition shouldn't be taken as mitigating factors. The chefs are supposed to rise above the fact that they had to make risotto on a hot plate in a dorm room. But there was a lot of "Considering the minimal tools they had to work with..." and "I can't believe how well they did with what they had at hand..." Gael Greene, legendary New York Magazine food critic, occasionally approached the take-no-prisoners attitude that made her famous, as did the British critic whose name I've forgotten, but James Oseland showed the same evenhanded, almost sleepy tone he often takes in his Letters from the Editor to Saveur Magazine.

All in all, it was still a pleasure to watch true top chefs at work. Their demeanor in the kitchen, their inventiveness and commitment to the task was fascinating and engaging. And of course, Hubert proved himself completely crush-worthy by trouncing everyone. Soft-spoken Frenchman for the win!

I'll definitely be tuning in next week.


It was a great episode, wasn't it? Hubert Keller is a genius. I've been lucky enough to dine at Fleur de Lys in Las Vegas. It was wonderful!

Really? *squeal* I'm totally jealous!

I really liked it, but you hit the nail on the head about Tom and Padma.

I totally loved the dynamic with all the chefs. They were funny, brilliant, and you can tell there is a type of professional friendly camaraderie even though they were competing. It was refreshing and I love how tough the show made it for the chefs to perform. I'm totally hooked!

Not related to your post, but I wanted to let you know - I am reading Ain't She Sweet right now per your suggestion on twitter, and I am 100% a smitten kitten. kept me up till 3am last night!!
It reminds me quite a bit of Hope Floats, which also chokes me up.

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