Last night, I watched a show I normally don’t like or watch on the Food Network. I watch a lot of the stuff on Food Network and Cooking Channel, but “Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell” hasn’t been something I’ve particularly enjoyed. It’s shot and edited like crap compared with other stuff on the network, and the premise of the show and how they go about the judging just doesn’t jive with my preferences.
Last night, a local chef was featured vying for a position at a Long Beach, California restaurant on the show, and being that I’ve eaten this chef’s food a number of times, I was interested to see things turned out for her. Chef Adryana Washock was one of the four chefs competing on the show, and if you’re not familiar with her, you don’t eat at Illium Cafe enough. Chef Washock was even nominated as one of the areas rising star chefs in the Albany Food and Wine festival for 2014 (she didn’t make it as a finalist, though).
Unfortunately, Chef Washock’s perfect looking gnocchi with Bolognese sauce didn’t make it through the first round on the show. It is what it is, and if making gnocchi and Bolognese in an hour to produce a plate of food that looked as good as hers wasn’t going to win her the job against a plate of “grossly overcooked” mussels that were dumped together with penne, I’m going to say she’s all the better for it, especially since it sounds like she’s back in NY working with Chef Ortega at Illium again.
But it was something Anne Burrell said to Chef Adryana that really angered me. During the show, as chef Adryana explained her dish to Burrell, Burrell criticized her choice of dish and made the snide comment, “you’re not in upstate NY any more.”
I take that to mean that Anne Burrell has little respect for upstate NY chefs, and that’s a whole bunch of bullshit. Not that I want to get involved in the whole hubbub over the food scene upstate being inferior to others, but there are a number of chefs and restaurants doing awesome things in upstate NY. For one, Chef Ortega (along with her brigade including Chef Adryana) has done wonders to elevate the weekend brunch and standard deli fare in the area; their inventive and sometimes playful specials make the dining experience at Illium unique while staying very affordable.
Of course, there’s a lot going on at the higher end, too. Yono’s was recently nominated for a James Beard award for its outstanding wine program, and chef Yono was even invited to cook at the James Beard House last month (international honors!). Ric Orlando (who has been on the Food Network) has two of the most popular restaurants in upstate NY, and is doing things with fresh ingredients that blow Burrell out of the water. There are also chefs like Marcus Guiliano (of Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville) who brings the seasons of NY to his plates and is an advocate for clean food.
I’m sure there are plenty of other examples, but coming up with them is an exercise in futility. Burrell said what she said. She probably said it to get cheap heat to create drama for TV; maybe she said it to light the same fire under chef Adryana that she lit for me. Either way, the little respect I had for Burrell went away with that sentence.
Moral of the story: just because someone has a spot, that doesn’t mean you have to respect them.