The near-universal consensus among Top Chef watchers this week was that Stefan and Brooke were saddled with the worst possible artisan ingredient. Here, a small sampling of the anti-rose petal jelly sentiment that surfaced online:
"If I was told I had to make a meal featuring rose petal jelly, it would take me more than an hour just to stop crying." -- Grub Street
"To me, there is nothing worse in the kitchen than rose water or rose anything..."
Eliza and Josie: Cardamom Bitters
(sucks for them)
Brooke and Stefan: Rose Petal Jelly
(double sucks) -- D Magazine
"Rose petal jelly tastes like "eating somebody's grandmother," according to Hugh. Watch out Mee-maw! (He's also kind of right.) -- L.A. Magazine
But Robin Nelson, owner of producer Woodring Northwest Specialties, says Americans just haven't caught up to Europeans in their rose petal appreciation. Woodring frequently sells the $8.75 jelly to European tourists and French chefs, who fold the jelly into crepes spread with mascarpone and spin it into into ice creams. Nelson likes a teaspoon at the bottom of her Prosecco glass.
"We do mostly desserts with it," says Nelson, who was surprised to see the cheftestants wrangle the subtle jelly (which tastes nothing like anybody's grandmother) into a savory duck dish.
For Debra Music, who represented Theo Chocolate in the episode, the story was flip-flopped. When she learned the producers had selected Theo's coconut curry bar as a challenge ingredient, she apparently assumed the chefs' imaginations would bend toward the soups or noodle dishes typically associated with the chocolate's featured flavors. But the cheftestants couldn't get past the standard conception of chocolate as a sweet treat, preparing a tart.
"I was surprised that Danyele and Lizzie chose to feature it in a dessert, as the spice blend lends itself to more savory applications and it would have been fun to see them explore that," she e-mails.
Nelson was equally disappointed by the chefs' creativity. Woodring also provided the spicy pickles which CJ and Tyler put atop a burger after CJ impersonated Tom Colicchio pleading for simplicity. At the episode's end, they were told to pack their knives.
"I wish they would have done something more unique," she says. "You can do relish or aioli. I don't think anybody took it seriously. All of their dishes are really fancy, and once they got to Seattle products, they didn't do a unique thing."
While both Nelson and Music described the filming as a very positive experience, the botched dishes weren't very effective sales tools for the artisan products. Music reported "the Theo order team saw modest orders" yesterday, and Nelson said there was no uptick in rose petal jelly purchases.
"A lot of people don't know it aired," she says.