Allee Willis’ Food O’ The Day – As far As I’m Concerned, Top Chef Master Mary Sue Milliken

I’m sure that Floyd Cardoz is a magnificent chef and I should’ve seen his win coming from that constant coming-in-second storyline all season. But having spent at least half of my adult life eating Mary Sue Milliken’s food, I went into the Top Chef Masters finale openly prejudiced that she would reign supreme.  But alas…

The true true winners last night were Mary Sue’s friends, gathered at Border Grill to watch the finale with her and eat the food she made onscreen amidst the skyscrapers downtown.

Mary Sue won more challenges this season than any other chef. We couldn’t believe she lost, especially as we were sitting there chomping down on the food she competed with. Nano-seconds after Floyd was crowned she was gracious as always, despite guests like me screaming she was robbed!

But I’m here to tell you Mary Sue’s final challenge dishes were INCREDIBLE. Not only were we were served all of them during the finale as they were served to the judges onscreen, but a whole round of other tongue-numbing treasures were passed around during the final elimination show Bravo ran the hour before.

My apologies in advance to Mary Sue for the following descriptions as I undoubtably short-change everything by not being able to describe every ingredient or name the dishes by proper title. I am NOT the next Food Network star! (Though let me loose on diner fare and that’s a different story.)

First came ceviche:

Then cheese empanadas with guacamole:

I know that’s not the way to photograph a foodstuff when one is trying to impress the quality of it upon the reader. The guacamole should be neatly dabbed on top so the empanada doesn’t look like it’s been dragged through the guacamole as one would use a scraper to remove ice from a windshield. Here’s a better, pre-guacamole view:

Quinoa fritters came next:

I THINK the following is avocado tacos coated with sesame seeds and quinoa, but I heard someone at the next table fawning over ahi tuna something. So it could go either way. I just know it was crunchy and good. I also know the photo is blurry, but when it comes to Mary Sue’s cooking it all deserves to be seen.

Finally it’s 7 pm. and the actual finale show begins. For their final challenge, the chef’s had to cook a three-course meal-of-a-lifetime based around food memories. Course #1 was a dish inspired by their first taste memory. Mary Sue made Asian steak tartare.

The second course had to represent a dish that inspired them to become a chef in the first place.

Mary Sue made crab and shrimp salpicon with shrimp and chervil mousse stuffed rigatoni:

An inside look at that rigatoni:
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Mary Sue’s chances were looking excellent on TV as a guest chef diner chomped down on the rigatoni.
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Another guest chef diner was Susan Feniger, Mary Sue’s partner at Border Grill, Top Chef Master competitor last season, and owner/chef supreme of Street, the restaurant I co-own and at which my butt is usually parked at table #20.

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Not such a great shot but night was falling and my camera was snapping slower and slower. Susan was in the kitchen last night helping to turn out the never-ending cornucopia of food we feasted on. Here we are with fellow chomper,Troy Devolld.
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For the third course, dessert, each chef was paired with one of the judges and asked to make their favorite dish. Ruth Reichl requested a lemon soufflé. Mary Sue enhanced it with lemon ice cream, lemon hazelnut meringue and rhubarb compote.
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Our version included the lemon hazelnut meringue and ice cream but the rhubarb compote was replaced with a churro with chocolate ganache. I’ll take dough any day over a vegetable, which rhubarb is despite technically being a fruit. This dish KILLED, but using a flash blew the ice cream out so the churro isn’t getting the attention it deserves in this non-flash photo:

Here’s a tighter yet blurryish shot of the churro mid bite:
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The final slurp of ice cream was sliding down my throat as we learned the Queen was not to take her throne. But Mary Sue’s personality is so infectious, and she’s so damn nice that the crowds’ spirit wasn’t dampened and chewing continued through the night.
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If you’ve never been to Border Grill, that’s a MUST. Really, your tastebuds will be thanking you forever.

Long live the Queen!

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Categories: Awards, Celebrity, Creative process, Food, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Los Angeles, People, Place, Reality tv, Self expression, Street, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Detroit Zoo Hat and My Homegirl, Lily Tomlin

When I grew up in Detroit I went to the zoo on 10 Mile and Woodward at least a couple times a year. Although I got this particular chapeau on Ebay, I’m certain I had one exactly like it as I never went there without something separating me from the sun. I was quite fond of theme hats as a kid.

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Categories: Animals, Celebrity, Detroit, Drink, Food, Hats, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Mumford high school, Music, Musical Instruments, Place, Songwriting, Street, Travel, video

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Vintage “Sexometer” and Dinner with Michael Patrick King

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A few nights ago I had dinner at Street with Michael Patrick King.

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Cheerleader Wall Plaques, Toni Basil and Dinner at Street

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Whenever I look at these metal cheerleader wall plaques made by Sexton in the 1960′s I think of Toni Basil because you can see how happy these girls are doing their cheers. In 1982, the year that “Oh Mickey you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey” was all you could hear on the radio, Toni, singer, choreographer extraordinaire and the woman responsible for making cheerleading ultra cool, and I were best of friends. She was one of my first girlfriends when I moved to LA in 1976 and I’ve always loved my collaborations with her because she’s fearless, decisive and eternally ahead of the curve.

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Categories: Celebrity, Dance, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Self expression, Sports, Street

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – “Party Jocs” Coasters and Top Chef Masters at Street

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In anticipation of the Memorial Day holiday tomorrow and the many glasses that are about to be lifted these Party Jocs drink cozies make it easy to keep track of your drink and keep your hands moisture free as you chug it down.

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Categories: Bar accessory, Creative process, Creativity, Drink, Food, Kitchen, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, People, Street, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – The Extendable Fork and Top Chef Masters

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Last night I found myself in the middle of another food fest, this time at Ciudad, another one of Top Chef Master competitor Susan Feniger’s restaurants in LA which she owns along with co-stupendous Chef Mary Sue Milliken.  Border Grill in Santa Monica and Las Vegas is theirs too.  As long as Susan remains on Top Chef Masters there’ll be a screening of the Bravo show each week at one of her restaurants, including my beloved Street.

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Categories: Accessories, Food, Furniture and Housewares, Gadgets, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Place, Street, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Snack Master Tube and Real Tube

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The Snack Master, a 1-1/2″ long aluminum tube with a wooden plunger, is the vintage quintessential kitsch kitchen accessory that cuts holes in food, making teeny round, bite-size appetizers. Which means that you can turn a slice of American cheese into a slice of Swiss cheese with one simple plunge not to mention whipping up little toothpick skewers of bologna, liverwurst and other festive lunch meats to impress your friends!

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Categories: Art, Celebrity, Food, Furniture and Housewares, Gadgets, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Music, Party, People, Street

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch’ O The Day – Vintage Shrimpmaster and Dinner at Street

shrimpmaster_2005

I am so absolutely not a cook so the fact this 1950′s kitchen tool de-veins and peels a shrimp in one fell swoop isn’t what I cherish most about it but, rather, the gorgeous aesthetics that grace the box. From the pre-psychedelic background pattern on the lid…

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Julie Brown, the Astroturf Golf Couch, Food and more…

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From 1989 through 1991 I art directed and hand built the set and props for “Just Say Julie”, MTV’s first ever clip show starring (Uptown) Julie Brown. Julie was one of my best friends and we had a ball, especially as it was so early in MTV’s scripted show evolution that no one from the network paid much attention to what we were doing so we just went nuts.  We shot 10 shows in three days each of the three years. The art direction budget was insanely small, something like $500. It made no sense financially to do it so my deal was that I could keep everything once the shoot was over. This is when my collection of Kitsch went into serious overdrive. I still have just about everything but none of it so close to my heart as the 14 foot long astroturf couch with sandtrap ashtray and golf club feet that sat in the middle of Julie’s living room.

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Categories: Art, Furniture and Housewares, Hollywood, Kitsch, Kitsch O' The Day, Party, People, Street, TV/Radio

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Allee Willis’ Kitsch O’ The Day – Get Full

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Last night I ate at Street with (L-R) Nancye Ferguson, Buck Henry, Prudence Fenton, me, Susan Feniger, Irene Ramp and Jim Burns. For those of you who might not know who Buck Henry is he’s an hysterical actor who wrote things like The Graduate and Get Smart, which he also created with Mel Brooks.

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