'Cause I Said So…

Scott Conant is a Pompous Ass

Posted in Food, Media by kevinsoberg on July 27, 2011

The other day, I was watching an episode of the Food Network show 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. The host is Scott Conant, a chef/restaurateur. Before he got this show, I was not a big fan of his. Conant had been appearing on the show Chopped as a judge. He may be a great chef and have a great restaurant, but he is a pompous ass. Whenever he was judging, I felt bad for the contestants, especially if they made the mistake of cooking any form of pasta.

Mr. Conant’s big thing is pasta. It seems he went to Italy to study pasta for a while, and he thinks he is the end-all-be-all of pasta. Well, good for him, but that’s no excuse for being an ass. Everybody didn’t go to Italy to study pasta. Everybody hasn’t dedicated themselves to “perfect” pasta. Actually, I know plenty of Italian grandmothers, and none of them is as “fussy” about pasta as this guy. It got so bad I began referring to him as the “Pasta Fascist”, and people knew about whom I was talking. That’s pretty bad.

Anyway, he began hosting this new series 24 Hour Restaurant Battle. Two teams compete to open a “restaurant”, from concept to menu to decorating to service within 24 hours, for a monetary reward. It was a fairly entertaining show. Conant didn’t go off on anybody about their pasta. I started to not dislike him after a while. Of course, he had to go and ruin it.

The other day, I watched an episode from June. I had DVR’d it, and I could find nothing else to watch. The episode had two teams doing Texas-themed concepts, “grilling” versus “smoking”. The smoking team gave them a “traditional, Texas, relish tray” along with their appetizers at the beginning of their service. The relish tray had sweet and dill pickles, raw onion slices, and smoked sausage. Well, Conant and this other jerk, who co-founded Outback Steak House, were two of the judges. They went on about how they hated raw onion, and how it should never be served to a table. Then, when the team came out to get feedback from the judges, this impolite, rude pair ridiculed the team for having been served raw onion.

So, in addition to being rude and impolite, these two showed themselves to be ignorant as well. The team’s theme was “traditional, Texas barbecue”, and that is exactly what they produced. You cannot go to a local barbecue joint in Texas without being given dill pickles and raw onion. They had best consider themselves lucky they weren’t served a half loaf of white bread along with the “relish tray”. (Eh Gads!) The most celebrated barbecue places in Texas have you stand in line (no waiters) for custom cuts of meat served on butcher paper with the usual condiments at a separate station for you to take as you want.

Recently, I had my wife’s family reunion catered by my favorite local barbecue place. Guess what. That’s right. A big jar of dill pickle slices, two plates of white onions cut into rings, two squeeze bottles of yellow mustard and four loaves of white bread were sitting at the end of the service line of smoked beef brisket, chopped barbecue beef, pulled pork, smoked quartered chickens, and smoked sausage. (I don’t know about you, but that’s good eatin’.)

What most upset me was the way the judges so readily dismissed the traditional accoutrements of Texas barbecue as beneath them. Oh, really? I bet you a MILLION DOLLARS that if you were to take either of these jerks to some obscure, foreign, ethnic restaurant which served gelatinous lamb ovaries as a condiment they would go on and on about how “authentic” and “rustic” the meal was (however much they may or may not enjoy it). Guess what? I’m not saying they shouldn’t. My point is that they should show the same respect to the regional cuisines of their own country.

You don’t have to like it, but be respectful. When they tell you it is “traditional”, don’t be so quick to mock them. Just because you don’t know about it (and they are rednecks) doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Get over yourself and your cultural superiority.

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