Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Bacon Effect

If there is one thing I have learned from watching many seasons of Top Chef, it's that a little bacon on your dish will win points with the judges. Whenever a contestant seems a little nervous about what they are serving to Tom, Padma, Gail and the guest judge, they hedge the description of their dish with "a little bacon." It occurred to me that if I were to cast my own family in the roles of Top Chef judges, here is how the casting would look like at our table.

My husband, Geoff, is Tom Colicchio. He is a gentle guide in the kitchen. He checks in with the cook, samples a bite, and offers kind words of encouragement and guidance. He smiles when he hears what I'm making and carefully crafts his questions so as not to alarm the chef (me). All similarities aside, Geoff has great hair.

I am Gail Simmons. I tend to love a good glass of wine before and during dinner. I grin happily when greeted by the the other judges and always wonder aloud what is being served for dessert. I pretty much never have a bad thing to say about the food and am there for a good laugh (often at my own expense).

My two-year-old daughter is the guest judge. She is the one you never know where her tastes lie at that moment, or for that matter, that day. She is the judge who picks at her food, finds an errant bone, fish scale or piece of chicken skin and declares the dish utterly inedible. Imagine if Anthony Bourdain, Happy Fun Ball and Wylie Dufresne bore a toddler together, then that would be my 26 pound force of nature: Do not taunt the guest judge. Do not make eye contact with guest judge while they are eating.  

My six-year-old son is Padma Lakshmi. He often utters the final words that will sends a chef into a spiral of failure and despair. While Padma delivers a career-shattering "Please pack your knives and go" blow. My son will say things like "Please don't ever make this again" or "Where is the pasta? We haven't had it.... IN...SO...LONG!"

So in order to avoid criticism with my fellow judges at our dinner table, I tend to think like a nervous Top Chef contestant and wonder to myself, "What will make this dish seem more appealing to the judges without taking away from the intent of this meal?"


Just a little, maybe a strip or two just to set the tone that this meal will have an ingredient that will not be argued with. That is how I pulled off the chicken stew with white beans and tomatoes... and a little bacon for dinner last night.

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