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I have to admit that when the topic "Chekhov's Gun" was announced for the writing contest I'm in (LJIdol Season 9), I was a little stumped. I thought "Oh shit...well this has been a fun ride. Looks like I'm going to be bye-ing out of this competition" (i used my 3 byes like in the first 6 weeks of the competition due to life getting bat shit bonkers) and then I was also thinking that some people might be thinking "Oh, she's an actress, she's going to have an unfair advantage with this one". I'm not that kind of actress. I have no intense theater training. I was just a model in Los Angeles who one day got told "you're funny. read this script" and somehow that morphed into an acting career.

Baffled about the topic, I brought it up to my actor boyfriend (you might remember him as Prince Charming from last week's entry). He is classically trained, studied Meisner, done Shakespeare. We went out to eat on Wednesday to celebrate my signing with a new agent & this topic became part of our conversation. That's when inspiration struck. I thought he was going to drop some acting knowledge bomb on me and instead he basically said that Chekhov's Gun could be applied to food. WHAT?!?!

Simply put, One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it.. Well, we hear it time and time again with the food shows that we love to watch (Top Chef, Chopped, Iron Chef, Next Food Network Star) If it's not essential to the dish, it doesn't belong on the plate. For example: if the garnish isn't edible, it doesn't belong on the plate (we've heard that from more than 1 culinary judge, but there is a great example to breaking this rule that I will show later). Not only do my boyfriend and I like to watch a lot of celebrity chef food shows, but we also like to eat at their restaurants when location, time and money permit it.

One of my top 5 chefs is NYC-based Alex Guarnaschelli of Chopped/iron Chef fame (and if you watched Gossip Girl, her restaurant Butter is where some serious drama went down about season 2). Well, on our last trip to NYC, we went to Butter and i had an amazing cocktail called a Calamansi. it is Grey Goose vodka, fresh watermelon ice cubes, torn mint and calamansi lime juice.

This cocktail is a great example of If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there..

Chapter one: you get the drink shortly after you order it. there are those ice cubes. just hanging out in the glass like the rifle on the wall. You take a sip. this is kinda strong vodka-y. Chapter two: you've let it sit for a couple minutes as your appetizer has arrived & you're enjoying it, but it's time for a sip. you stir it a little. not as vokda-y this time. Chapter 3: The ice cubes are about 1/2 melted. Take a drink now....yes that rifle definitely fired. This drink is incredible and you completely understand why this woman is one of the best chefs in the freaking world (and I might add, the only active female Iron Chef). Everything comes together to form a balanced, tasty cocktail.

Another great example is at Richard Blais' San Diego eatery, Juniper and Ivy. If you're a fan of Top Chef, then you know that Richard was runner-up in season 4 Chicago (only because he let his nerves cause him to choke) and then triumphantly returned to win Top Chef All-Stars about 4 season later.

Pictured is a sweet corn agnolotti with cotija cheese and walnut gelée (that's the brownish-black dollops in the photo). In this case, the gun is the walnut gelée. Chapter one is when it hits your table & the dollops are like little balloons just resting on top of the pasta. However, in Chapter Two (meaning: when you eat it) The gun/balloon must be "fired" (eaten) by popping it and smearing it on the agnolotti. Otherwise, you end up with a dish that is too sweet and unbalanced....as my boyfriend found out when he tried to do so. The nuttiness in the gelée counteracts the sweetness of the corn.

Now Blais is a bit of a rebel in the kitchen at times and does some insane stuff with molecular gastronomy. Remember what I said about "if the garnish isn't edible, it doesn't belong on the plate"? Well here's a case where while the garnish isn't edible, it's actually essential to the plate's concept.

This is raw oysters with a salsa verde and horseradish beads that have been frozen with liquid nitrogen (thus serving as the chilling agent for the oysters rather than ice) served on a solid piece of wood with seaweed garnish draped over them. Now a video would do this much better justice than the photo, but that is actually fog coming from the liquid nitrogen used on the dish. When it is placed on your table, it looks like something that was ripped straight from the cave of Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid which is why the seaweed (despite not being edible) is the Chekhov's Gun of the dish. You wouldn't get the same visual effect and emotion response if this dish was just fogging on a simple white plate.

Now that I think of it....fine dining is very much like theater. You have a beginning (appetizer, drinks), middle (your middle courses) that come to a climax (your main entree) and the end/resolution (dessert, coffee, after dinner drinks). The director/writer is the chef, the plot is the coursing of the meal, the set is the restaurant aesthetics, the actors are the ingredients and the props are the plating/garnishes.

Coincidentally, when Chekhov passed away, his body was transported to Moscow in a refrigerated railway car for fresh oysters. (interesting fact I discovered why researching the topic)

Bon Appétit!

And this photo just for good measure because i'm still stoked we met Richard Blais:


( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 28th, 2014 09:48 pm (UTC)
Huge Food Network fan here - hi! Love the way you applied the topic to food and all the photos and descriptions (and lucky you for meeting Richard)! I think if there was a little less meta at the start this would be stronger, but otherwise great job with it!

Edited at 2014-07-28 09:49 pm (UTC)
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
sometimes I have to put a little bit in the beginning because my posts also go out to non-livejournal people (cross posting to my twitter/facebook following) and then they're like "what the hell? why are you writing about this. yadda yadda yadda). Sorry for the delay in replying...was on a massive tour of Ohio (no, not with Gary)
Jul. 29th, 2014 01:27 am (UTC)
Okay, it might just be that I'm a sucker for oysters, but even without video, those oysters look amazing!
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:24 pm (UTC)
i'm not a fan of horseradish, but when you suck these down....it forms a taste that reminds me of the awesome salsa verde from trader joe's
Jul. 29th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC)
I'm a food show fan. My favorite date nights of late involve sitting on the couch watching Top Chef. :D

Glad you found great stuff you appreciate.
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:25 pm (UTC)
have you set the dvr for Top Chef Duels....i can't wait to start watching. i was on vacay though so i have to catch up on the first ep i missed
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:13 am (UTC)
An interesting take on the topic. I too love watching the various cooking contests on television ... Master Chef. Personally I love decorating food and feel it is as important the food looks good as it much as it tastes good. Some useful tips here .... and by the way love of food shared is long lasting love. Good luck
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
they filmed an episode of Master Chef jr at my bf's old restaurant. the one where they cooked the lunch in the fine dining restaurant and didn't tell the patrons
Jul. 29th, 2014 04:39 am (UTC)
Sounds like a lovely meal! It all looks fantastic.
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)
thanx. they were both great meals.
Jul. 29th, 2014 05:37 am (UTC)
I would never have thought of the presentation of food fulfilling the prompt, but this entry demonstrated that really well. In the hands of a really good chef, no ingredient is incidental. :)
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)
i owe the topic all to my boyfriend. he's a damn genius.
Jul. 29th, 2014 02:11 pm (UTC)
Wow, I did not know they did this with cooking (the first two dishes especially). I really enjoyed you reading your entry :)
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
thank you. cooking is sometimes like chemistry...but with far less complicated math.
Jul. 29th, 2014 02:46 pm (UTC)
This was a really fun entry! And illustrated!
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:03 pm (UTC)
Food looks amazing, I'm so jealous! And I loooove Alex! She's definitely one of my favorite celebrity chefs. :)
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:28 pm (UTC)
i love when her and Anne Burrell start chatting each other up on twitter. it's hilarious.
Jul. 29th, 2014 07:12 pm (UTC)
Speaking as a gastronomic enthusiast, I enjoyed reading this quite a bit. And for what it's worth, I have to rate the seasonal tasting menu at Morimoto (Napa) as the best I've ever had. Just a staggering combination of color, technique, and presentation.
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
my bf ate at Morimoto's....i couldn't go with him on the trip. I'm so jealous, but then he's jealous of me because I've eaten at 2 of Michael Symon's places and he couldn't go with me.
Jul. 29th, 2014 11:56 pm (UTC)
I like your take on the topic. Now I'm starving, even though I just ate! AW
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
thanx and....sorry
Jul. 30th, 2014 01:56 am (UTC)
I know nothing about fine dining. This was really interesting to read.
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:29 pm (UTC)
Jul. 30th, 2014 06:22 pm (UTC)
Those dishes look very tasty! I would come over and try them if I had a chance ;)
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:44 pm (UTC)
Butter: NYC; Juniper & Ivy: San Diego.
Jul. 31st, 2014 08:31 am (UTC)
Clearly I have been to the wrong restaurants. This was an interesting take on the prompt, and a gentle reminder that I need to hop on the 5 south.

Molecular gastronomy intrigues me, but I've never had the opportunity to try it. Someday, perhaps.
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:46 pm (UTC)
if they give you the option for the Chef's Counter at Juniper & Ivy...that's where all the action happens. It's amazing cuz you are right on top of the kitchen
Jul. 31st, 2014 02:40 pm (UTC)
Wow..that was some amazing information laid out there...quite tempting for a foodie like me..;) Thanks for sharing this..Good take on the prompt!..:)
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:46 pm (UTC)
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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