Aight let’s knock this thing out. I know there are only a handful of you who are actually going to read this and I’m ok with that because I am confident it will reach the audience for which it is intended! Last week or whenever I hit on part one which was Jimbo’s desire for a fusion cuisine that didn't work out well. Enough looking to the past, let’s look to the future.
PT 2: EAT WITH YOUR EYES
Something I love about Top Chef is going back 10 years and watching the earlier seasons to see how trends change. I’m not just talking about fashion trends (although that’s fun to see what contestants are wearing in comparison to today’s fashions) but also what the food looks like...like the design elements associated with a fine dining meal in say 2011 vs 2023. So let’s look at a quick example.
This is an example of a winning dish from Season 4 (2008) cooked by Chef Lisa Fernandes
Looks great right? A little fussy with the right type of cup on a platter with a spoon and probably more complicated than it needs to be but it looks solid enough. Takes some work to eat but when you look at it you know it’s fancy. Pay attention to the plating, the utensils. It’s not just about what’s on the plate it’s about the plate itself.
Just for posterity here’s another one from Chef Richard Blais in Season 4
The judges went nuts for the bananas which were cut and seared to look like scallops. But look at how fussy this is. We’ve got smears, drizzles, and a giant lump of something that could look like poop at the bottom. It’s just so damn busy.
Now let’s take a look at something from a more recent season this is Chef Kelsey Barnard Clark’s winning dish for Season 16
Super simple. Elegant. You can see every single ingredient (perhaps an unfair comparison given that we were looking at a soup earlier), but you can't see how they all go together to create the finished product. It’s ingredient-forward just by showing you everything that you’re going to be tasting. It’s not fussy, it’s not pretentious it’s just a good plate of food.
So how does this relate? It has never been easier to coordinate an offense than in the year of our lord 2023. There is no reason for a super fussy super complicated offensive scheme—indeed given the proliferation of the transfer portal offensive coaches who are able to get players up to speed quickly and produce schemes that are easy to understand but still effective as hell have an advantage.
Petrino’s last really prolific offense was years ago. Can he make the transition from a very fussy offense, (which he was rewarded for because that was the style of the day!)d to something more simple, elegant, and easy to learn?
Will it be an improvement over Jimbo’s fusion bullshit? Absolutely. I’d take any one of those above plates over a poor effort of combining ingredients, but the level to which it can really be good depends on his ability to adapt to today’s style of play
PT. 3: OLIVE GARDEN
Let’s be real for a second too. We averaged 22.75 pts a game last year. Did you know that if we had gotten to 25 points per game we would have won 3 more games? App St, lost by 3, Bama, Lost by 4, Auburn, lost by 3. The defense had its issues but it kept us in some games. We could have gotten to our comfortably numb place of 8-5 with even just a mediocre offense.
Which brings me to the Olive Garden. The Olive Garden is mediocre food but what’s great about it is that you know what to expect. That Chicken Alfredo is going to taste the same whether you eat it in South Carolina, Iowa, or Oregon. You know what you’re going to get and it’s going to be fine. It’s not going to be great but it’s going to be fine.
And that’s the thing...we just need “fine”. “Fine” isn't good enough to win a conference title or anything but it would have been good enough to win 8-9 games last year.
But here’s the thing. The big key thing. If you were to take all of the same OIive Garden recipes, and go to like a farmers market and get fresh ingredients, and top-grade meat, and fresh herbs and vegetables, it doesn't matter if it’s the same line chef at the Albuquerque, NM spot...it’s going to taste better. It’s going to taste pretty darn good. Mainly because the quality of the dish provided is something that makes sense and not some Jimbo bullshit fusion nonsense, regardless of how you put it together, is going to taste better with quality ingredients.
You can see where I’m going this. Conner, Evan, Moose, Moss, Amari, Donovan, Bryce being back, Fatheree, Kam etc... are some pretty damn good ingredients. Can you fuck em up? Sure. Try and make some sort of nonsense indo-french combo when you don't have the ability to do so. But you even just try to make a simple spaghetti bolognese with those ingredients and I guaran-damn-tee you it’s going to taste pretty good. You don't need to do a ton, you just need to put the ingredients in a position to shine.
What does this all mean? I don't know but it’s been rattling around in my head and I needed to get it on paper. Essentially it means that Petrino doesn't have to do much to make up for what was done last year. Be focused, have a point of view, and let the ingredients shine, and the Chef will likely produce quality plates of food.
Go watch Top Chef tonight at 8 on Bravo.