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S17.E11: Michael's Santa Monica

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I ate at Michael’s in Santa Monica several times (when parents would visit). I remember liking it but not loving it. There were some neighborhood restaurants in SM that I liked a lot better and were much cheaper.  
 

I was sorry that they did not select a vegetarian dish to highlight: California cuisine is well situated for vegetarian food given how it showcases local fresh produce. This was a missed opportunity by the show. I was also surprised that a veal dish was highlighted: many places consider that a no no. It really did feel like the dishes selected were a throwback and would not tempt me to go to Michael’s at this time for fear that the restaurant had not updated the dishes themselves. 

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22 hours ago, dleighg said:

I kind of smirked at the QF, with the whole "airline food has come a long way." Like it's now a purchased box of cheese and crackers on any flight shorter than 6 hours!

Of course Padma and Jonathan probably never fly steerage class like most of us do.

Cheese and crackers?  How about a bag with 3 pretzels and half a can of coke?

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9 hours ago, dewelar said:

Melissa, who picked first, won. Gregory and Malarkey, who picked next-to-last and last, finished next-to-last and last. How often does that happen, I wonder?

According to topchefstats.com:

"With an advantage, 67% of chefs were safe from the bottom and 24% won the challenge."'

I don't see anything regarding picking last and finishing last.

 

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7 hours ago, Ashforth said:

Scoot over, honey, I'll sit with you. But you have to stay for the finale.

Oh, very well, if I must 😄 . I mean, it's not that I dislike any of the remaining chefs, it's just that I don't really find any of them interesting to watch. They're either super-low-key (Melissa, Gregory, Bryan) or bring negative energy (Stephanie, Kevin), which for me portends a flat finale.

Anyway, I've been rooting for Melissa pretty much all season, so will continue to pick her to win.

Edited by dewelar
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9 hours ago, Vermicious Knid said:

Tom liked Kevin's bacon jam so much he started using it at one of his restaurants. I believe this is the one and only time a judge has taken an idea from a cheftestant.

But bacon jam is not a new idea. It's one of the featured items on Sang Yoon's notorious Father's Office burger (which I love, btw). I've had it at a lot of not necessarily high-end restaurants. Maybe it's because I can't imagine it being all that much better that it doesn't impress me that much.

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I know saying "nuts" made Champagne Padma giggly (she really IS the best Padma), but seriously y'all -- the little bowl of warm mixed nuts that they serve to snack on pre-meal in AA first class is better than the food by a long stretch (and, unlike the stern denial you get in steerage if you ask for an extra tiny bag of pretzels, or one more biscott cookie, they'll actually bring you more!). I mostly find the food these days odd -- like, they're trying to be fancy, but it doesn't work in the environment, and you wind up picking out what you like from the unwieldy tray that usually has a bunch of disparate items in an attempt to look like you're actually getting your money's worth.

I think the tiny kitchen situation was actually a bigger hindrance than misplaced plates in this case -- Gregory couldn't even find his prosciutto in the confusion, and people seemed to be having a lot of issues prepping and plating in the space. 

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12 hours ago, dewelar said:

I may even skip the finale.

Well, don't quit watching yet.  Next week isn't the finale.  It looks like there will be several shows in Italy. 

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9 hours ago, caitmcg said:

The judges’ dishes were all plated at the same time, but not the dishes for the whole room. Melissa and Malsrkey were the last two to present their dishes to the judges, and when they return to the kitchen and he talks about how mad he is about the plate mixup, he’s right next to Kevin, who’s slicing and plating duck, then we see Stephanie finishing plates that are lined up on the pass. 

He was the only person doing that and since it was after the final dishes I am pretty sure he was just doing that to eat an extra breast. You can see the dishes being delivered to the other tables while judging is happening and how many plates they plated. No one else was playing any other dishes once they were done and all standing around talking.

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12 hours ago, Kindred Spirit said:

I have to admit, I do suspect shenanigans with Malarkey's plates. The servers know what the timer represents! The plates that the chefs are slaving over are intended for the judges, and only the judges! Why would those particular servings go anywhere other than the most significant table in the place? Especially because this wasn't a Restaurant Wars situation, with tables ordering. Every diner may be getting the same course, but the ones the cheftestants touch go out first, and to the most important table. I refuse to believe that either the professional servers who work at Michael's, full time, or actors hired to staff the night of filming would make such a mistake. Particularly when they got it right for every other course!

I certainly like Brian enough to wish that he hadn't been upset and thrown off like that. What a terrible disadvantage! Even if the judges claimed that he wasn't penalized in their estimation, he didn't seem to feel the same about his food as he did before the "mishap". And I agree that Padma doesn't seem to be kindly disposed towards Mr. Malarkey. Which he bears like a champ! I don't think I could be so gracious in the face of such scorn. 

On a side note, I enjoy Malarkey's food. I lived in San Diego, and have had the privilege of dining at a couple of his restaurants. They're fun places to eat, in the sense that the atmosphere is well-chosen and designed to encourage a good time, and the food's delicious.

Looks like I'm the last person wholeheartedly rooting for Kevin, which is fine. I still think his food looks wonderful, and would love to try it, though my chances of doing so are slim, since I live in LA. He does seem less sunny than he was in Las Vegas, but he's gone through a lot since then, so I'm not surprised. I guess I'm still bitter that Kevin lost to the arrogant and unpleasant Michael Voltaggio, whom I never liked. The contempt in which the younger Voltaggio brother held Kevin and his food always rankled.

At any rate, this should be a great finale. I'm thrilled that both Melissa and Stephanie are doing so well at just the right time! I'm not surprised that Gregory made it to the end–he's been a strong competitor throughout. Bryan's struggle to get to Italy actually has been a revelation, since he hardly put a foot wrong, his first time competing, and on Top Chef Masters. The hard part will be seeing who gets eliminated.

Everyone is not going to get along  Maybe he did have contempt for his food, but I would  not image that Kevin is above having contempt for other food the way he has been represented.   I would bet that fans are out here upset about things that the chefs themselves laugh off.   They are probably friends....or maybe some of the things that people are saying on this board and they don't even know Kevin are true and they were things the "arrogant" Voltaggio also did not like?  Or maybe he was/is unpleasant...but he is not on this season.

If nothing else he is memorable as people can't seem to stop bringing up his name.....whatever he  is...he will always be able to say he won Top Chef....for whatever that is worth....

We all have to remember that this show as all reality shows are heavily edited and frequently show things out of context. 

 

6 hours ago, Ashforth said:

Scoot over, honey, I'll sit with you. But you have to stay for the finale.

He didn't bother me as much as he does some.   I just think he really wanted air time and to use this on his audition reel for other opportunities. 

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21 minutes ago, biakbiak said:

He was the only person doing that and since it was after the final dishes I am pretty sure he was just doing that to eat an extra breast. You can see the dishes being delivered to the other tables while judging is happening and how many plates they plated. No one else was playing any other dishes once they were done and all standing around talking.

I’ve rewatched the episode, and while Malarkey’s talking about the plate mixup in the kitchen, you can see Kevin and Stephanie plating their dishes on rows of plates they’ve got lined up with sauces already on them. The groups of plates we saw each of them doing when their timers went off were enough for the 10 or so needed for the judges' table but not for the whole dining room.

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I’m gonna miss this show so much, especially if the new normal makes it obsolete. 

I have nothing against Malarkey (Kevin is the only remaining cheftestant I actively dislike) but admit my heart was in my stomach waiting for the PYKAG because I’m so Team Gregory. But I also adore Melissa, love Stephanie and her dry humor, and have really liked Bryan V. This season (I actually don’t think I saw his original season ... though I did go to Volt with Mr. Snappy and we were both underwhelmed). 

I’m still laughing at “Champagne Padma.”

Back when I was gainfully employed, for about a 15-year span of my career, I traveled a ton for my job, though strictly domestically, and as we could book our own travel, I was strictly American Airlines ... I flew enough that I’d estimate I got upgraded to 1st maybe 25% of the time ... but I don’t recall that big an upgrade in the food. My dream before I die is to take a vacation somewhere far away and fly first class (a sleeping pod?) even if the trade off is sleeping in a lean-to. And getting all the Biscoffs I can eat. Did you know they make Biscoff ice cream? It’s to die for. 

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PSA: Costco sells Biscoff biscuits! (Frequently.)

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We saw Malarkey pounding something thinner and then cutting his pork chop down to make it fit, noting all the juices would run out. Then, well look at that, it's A-OK for Kevin just to ignore the size rule and the judges laughed it off. 

For this reason, and others, arguably less objective, Kevin’s win, assuming Tom makes it happen, will always be tainted.

Tom, that will stick with you, too, sadly. P.S. I made bacon jam years ago. Straightforward, a bit time consuming, but it was a huge hit. So not new.

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21 hours ago, biakbiak said:

I have grown from indifference to actively disliking Kevin.

The fact that he used that phrasing in a challenge where his competitor’s concept was all about the slave trade says a lot about Kevin and none of it good.

I'm not defending it (and I actually didn't see the episode where they pitched the concepts), I just think what he said is a little more than talking about "plantation food." My sense is that Kevin was trying to evoke mid-20th century Southern gentility with his concept, which is why it's important to note that he talked about "the plantation South," as opposed to saying he wanted to cook the food that was served on plantations.

All of that being said, mid-20th century Southern gentility came with horrific oppression itself, so again, I think it was a stupid and tone-deaf thing to say. But it somewhat exemplifies why I've never really warmed up to Kevin - he's always had an air of entitled smugness about him, and IMO, just throwing out there that he wants to promote the culinary heritage of the "plantation South," without thinking through what that means and how that heritage comes with a whole lot of damaging baggage, is another example of it.  He is, of course, a talented chef, but his persona has always left me a bit cold.  

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The problem I had with Malarkey's duo was that apparently the tastes of each part didn't go together.  Even if they were meant to be eaten separately, it seems they need to at least complement each other if they are part of the same entree course.

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On 5/29/2020 at 2:29 AM, CatWarmer said:

I’ve been thinking for weeks that Malarkey never meant to go to the finals.  I think he was on because (1) the producers wanted him for entertainment value and (2) he enjoys bringing attention to chefs, cooking, and restaurants in general.  So I suspect that was the agreement to get him to participate, i.e. let him leave before the finals.  I think a lot of the drama has been, if not actually scripted, at least planned in some way.

He obviously knew that plating two unrelated dishes would be a problem - it sounded like either one on its own was a great dish; but they didn’t invoke the original, and they didn’t go together.  So unless someone else blew it, he knew it would make sense for him to be sent packing.  I think he might really have been concerned that the missing prosciutto could unexpectedly send Eric home, which is why he was thrown.  It was almost like he was saying, hey guys, remember our deal? Did you see his fist pump when Parma said “Malarkey”?  (And yes, she doesn’t seem to like him - maybe some history?)

The misdirected plates could have been a production ploy, or a true error.  Either way, it makes sense that as a very experienced restaurateur, Malarkey would be upset.

I like everyone else except Kevin; learning about his father’s career helps explain his sense of entitlement.  Delighted to see Melissa and Stephanie do so well!

Sorry I missed what Kevin’s father’s career is? And what was his comment about “plantation food”? Thanks!

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1 hour ago, Flip Flops said:

Sorry I missed what Kevin’s father’s career is? And what was his comment about “plantation food”? Thanks!

Me too....probably because I fast forward through most of it and mostly just watch the judging parts. 

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1 hour ago, Flip Flops said:

Sorry I missed what Kevin’s father’s career is? And what was his comment about “plantation food”? Thanks!

It's not his dad, but his grandpa - his grandpa was an executive for one of the airlines, so Kevin always got to fly first class.

In Restaurant Wars, when waxing rhapsodic about the food he wanted his restaurant to serve and the aura he wanted to evoke, he referenced "the plantation South".  As if it was a wonderful thing.

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Three newschoolers, two oldschoolers in the final 5 is at least better than Survivor. Not that I expected Malarkey to make it to the finale, but still.

I can't help it, I'm Team Oldschoolers, although I have come to really enjoy Melissa and Gregory (Stephanie is on borrowed time for me).

The show going to Italy is bittersweet, especially knowing how hard that country got hit with COVID-19. I don't know why seeing LA is an escape, but going to Italy isn't. Maybe it's the whole getting on a plane and flying across the ocean that's become near impossible now.

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I first had stroopwafles as an airplane snack. And it comes as a liqueur!

I didn't say bacon jam was a new idea, but it was specifically Kevin's Tom was inspired by and  used after he made it for a challenge. People were wondering if Tom favored Kevin, this is an example.

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9 hours ago, buttersister said:

For this reason, and others, arguably less objective, Kevin’s win, assuming Tom makes it happen, will always be tainted.

But Kevin didn’t win the QF, so what is supposed to be tainted? For all we know, that was the reason he didn’t win.

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I was sorry that they did not select a vegetarian dish to highlight: California cuisine is well situated for vegetarian food given how it showcases local fresh produce

They already did the vegetarian challenge in one of the earlier episodes.

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8 minutes ago, FinnishViewer said:

They already did the vegetarian challenge in one of the earlier episodes.

I think the idea would have been for one of the courses to be vegetarian. Makes sense to me. Melissa might even have chosen it as her first choice.

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2 hours ago, dleighg said:

I think the idea would have been for one of the courses to be vegetarian. Makes sense to me. Melissa might even have chosen it as her first choice.

Exactly. Vegetarian entrees are not bizarre and outside the norm these days. They are part of many menus without inciting pearl-clutching over a lack of meat. There is no reason that they should be relegated to one challenge in an entire TC season.

California Cuisine is definitely not "fatty meats" as Kevin inexplicably asserted.

Given the chance, Bryan V may have chosen a veggie dish so he could make his carrots again LOL. 

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22 hours ago, PamelaMaeSnap said:

I’m gonna miss this show so much, especially if the new normal makes it obsolete. 

I have nothing against Malarkey (Kevin is the only remaining cheftestant I actively dislike) but admit my heart was in my stomach waiting for the PYKAG because I’m so Team Gregory. But I also adore Melissa, love Stephanie and her dry humor, and have really liked Bryan V. This season (I actually don’t think I saw his original season ... though I did go to Volt with Mr. Snappy and we were both underwhelmed). 

I’m still laughing at “Champagne Padma.”

Back when I was gainfully employed, for about a 15-year span of my career, I traveled a ton for my job, though strictly domestically, and as we could book our own travel, I was strictly American Airlines ... I flew enough that I’d estimate I got upgraded to 1st maybe 25% of the time ... but I don’t recall that big an upgrade in the food. My dream before I die is to take a vacation somewhere far away and fly first class (a sleeping pod?) even if the trade off is sleeping in a lean-to. And getting all the Biscoffs I can eat. Did you know they make Biscoff ice cream? It’s to die for. 

I agree.  Malarky's fine with me, and he is very entertaining, but when I saw Gregory on the bottom I was like: "No, No. Dear God. No."

I knew Kevin was getting back in.  I believe Tom is very biased when it comes to certain male chiefs.  That's how we got Richard Blais' redemption win after he lost to Stephanie Izard in S4. She is the only woman to win in the first 9 seasons.  Then someone finally had the Come to Jesus talk with Tom.  And finally women began to win.  

I think no matter what Kevin wins.  And they are using his cancer story to sell him.  The fact that his illness is not enough to sell his story line - because I do find him unlikable and entitled - is probably not something Tom would have expected.

 

 

Edited by Macbeth
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So, I watched it again and what was the deal with the $400 budget at Whole Foods? What was included at the restaurant and what did they buy? There is no way Malarkey could get veal and truffles for all those people for $400! We saw Bryan V get like one piece of lamb but there is no way that was enough, right? And I don't think that Stephanie had enough coin for the scallops and caviar in her dish....and you cant count on Whole Foods for top quality quail.

By the way, why didn't they make it clear that the cheftestants were  cooking for not only judges table, but all of the other special guests...some of whom got Malarkey's dishes.

I am very glad that Malarkey didnt up and quit...that would not have been respectful to Gregory and the other cheftestants.

I'm a Bryan Voltaggio fan and get that others love Gregory, while others worship Melissa and there is a whole group that loves and/or hates Kevin, but one thing is clear.....Uncle Jonathon Waxman is just great and does a great job explaining the dishes and helping us appreciate the flavors.....and he is even better with Champagne Padma.

Edited by AriAu
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33 minutes ago, AriAu said:

We saw Bryan V get like one piece of lamb but there is no way that was enough, right

I noticed that as well! He asked for one lamb shank-- I gather to make his sauce or demi glace-- but seriously? one shank?

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1 hour ago, AriAu said:

By the way, why didn't they make it clear that the cheftestants were  cooking for not only judges table, but all of the other special guests...some of whom got Malarkey's dishes.

When Champagne Padma was describing the parameters of the elimination challenge, she said they would be cooking for chefs who had worked at Michael's and ALSO for a panel of editors and writers from Food and Wine magazine.

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On 5/30/2020 at 1:32 AM, ShawnaLanne said:

I got bumped up once, better service, lots more room, better access to a bathroom and warm towels to clean my hands. It's different.

I don’t drink but I’ve seen many appreciating the adult beverages in first class too which are included. They also take your drink order while people are still boarding. 

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But Kevin didn’t win the QF, so what is supposed to be tainted?

I was referring to the title, not the QF.

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I think the idea would have been for one of the courses to be vegetarian. Makes sense to me. Melissa might even have chosen it as her first choice.

The dishes the cheftestants needed to pick to be inspired were created by various chefs who had worked at Michaels. So I think it also depends on if the chefs they could get for the episode had 'signature' dishes from the past, that was vegetarian.

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On 5/29/2020 at 3:53 PM, albarino said:

 

Also scratched my head at "airlines food is now good."  Nope.  MY husband and I have enough frequent flyer miles with AA that we only fly first class. Sorry, Jonathan Waxman, the food isn't all that great.

 

I realized a while back that the way to go with airline food is Southeast Asian vegetarian - hard to overcook and holds well on long flights.  (I also take a sandwich with me!  And chocolate.)

 

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More cheffy ego on display from the guest judge: "We were beginning to pioneer baby asparagus."

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7 hours ago, Brookside said:

I realized a while back that the way to go with airline food is Southeast Asian vegetarian - hard to overcook and holds well on long flights.  (I also take a sandwich with me!  And chocolate.)

 

Years ago when we were flying home to L.A. from Boston, we took out the outrageous brownies we'd bought from a vendor in Faneuil Hall and made everybody jealous!

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After several crazy nights watching too much news, I finally caught up.

Champagne Padma is a delight, and it was so obvious immediately that she wasn't completely there.  How or why would producers let her get tipsy prior to filming?  I know it's fun to see her like that, but it would seem to not be the most professional of things to do.

Michael's is an institution in Santa Monica.  But everything I heard from the judges and contestants fits how it's viewed in this city.  Yes, been around 40 years.  Famous but not one of the "must eat" places anymore.  Padma said she hasn't "been here in 15 years".  Everyone commented about the tiny dated kitchen.  I'm shocked that Brooke was there 22 years ago.  She's 41 now.  So that would have made her 19.  Amazing.  Youngest sous chef ever at Michael's.  They recognized talent early on.

I like Malarkey, he was loud and at times obnoxious.  But he made for good tv.  But why oh why if he knew that duos were the "kiss of death" would he still insist on doing one?  The original dish wasn't a duo, so obviously there is a way to pair those ingredients without making it a duo.  It sucks that the freaking wait staff brought the plates to the wrong table, I think that's a first for the show in terms of judges' plates.  How could they be so idiotic?  And then he was just so flustered.  He could easily have said, "This is a duo, they are meant to be eaten separately and not mixed."  But that wasn't the original dish.  As a non-chef, it's easy even for me to tell that the dish was incongruous and didn't go together.  Poor decision from him that could have easily been corrected from the very beginning by just choosing to update the original dish.

Stephanie is outclassed, but at least on this episode, she presented refined food that looked like it could be served at Michael's.  I think she said she's never been to Europe?  Or did I make that up?  She doesn't seem to have grown up with a lot and doesn't seem well traveled (we know she hasn't been to Japan), so it's great that she gets to go to Italy.

I'm looking forward to Voltaggio knocking it out of the park with his Italian roots.  Melissa is a quiet ninja assassin.  And Gregory is solid.  I'd be happy with any of those three winning.  Anyone but Kevin!

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6 minutes ago, greyhorse said:

The original dish wasn't a duo, so obviously there is a way to pair those ingredients without making it a duo.

If I recall though, he was inspired at the store with all sorts of fresh fruit-- which was not in the original dish. Later he mused that fruit and truffles (was it?) don't go together very well, which is why (I think) he separated the fruit from the truffles.

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I've flown premium classes (business and/or first) on a lot of US carriers. Internationally I've flown Norwegian premium (they don't have a business or first); Cathay business, Emirates business, British Airways business, etc. With the exception of British Airways, which I was strongly unimpressed, the international airlines knock it out of the park over the US carriers in every regard. Food is awesome. Quality of service is awesome. Basically -- everything is awesome (again, with the exception of BA).

I also took a short hop on Emirates in coach and honestly, their coach is equivalent to American Airlines' first on domestic flights. Even when travelling inside the states, I play around with international flights to see if I can fly them (for example, an Emirates flight coming from overseas, with a stop in New York, then on to, say, Miami) -- can I get on that Emirates JFK to MIA flight. HIGHLY recommend it if you can do it. 

Edited to add: I was TOTALLY Champagne Padma on one of the Cathay flights. It was so awesome . . . 😄 Pre-flight champagne is now a required part of all my air travel. 

Edited by SailorGirl
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On 6/4/2020 at 9:19 AM, SailorGirl said:

I've flown premium classes (business and/or first) on a lot of US carriers. Internationally I've flown Norwegian premium (they don't have a business or first); Cathay business, Emirates business, British Airways business, etc. With the exception of British Airways, which I was strongly unimpressed, the international airlines knock it out of the park over the US carriers in every regard. Food is awesome. Quality of service is awesome. Basically -- everything is awesome (again, with the exception of BA).
 

Several decades ago, I used to sometimes fly (cattle class) from London to Paris.  The flight was under an hour and they managed to serve drinks and a three course meal to all the passengers in a jumbo jet.

Edited by Brookside
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On 5/29/2020 at 12:07 AM, Fukui San said:

But if they don't taste good together why plate them together?

Yes! Isn't that a no brainer? Seemed totally intentional to me...plate something you know won't be eaten the way you would want, then carp when it gets bad press.

Not sorry to see fullofmalarky go home.

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I suspect Malarkey wanted to go home, missed his kids, and his regular life.  I think he shorted the number of plates intentionally, or because he just wasn't into staying and doing a good job.    He needed to go home. 

Edited by CrazyInAlabama

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On 6/11/2020 at 7:54 AM, CrazyInAlabama said:

I suspect Malarkey wanted to go home, missed his kids, and his regular life.  I think he shorted the number of plates intentionally, or because he just wasn't into staying and doing a good job.    He needed to go home. 

I don't think they get to go home until the entire show is done.

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Yes, PYKAG'ed cheftestants are sequestered to avoid spoilers.

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I still think Malarkey goofed on the plate count.   However, I think it was so nice that the chefs at the head table agreed to share.    That was very classy.   

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On 5/28/2020 at 11:29 PM, CatWarmer said:

I like everyone else except Kevin; learning about his father’s career helps explain his sense of entitlement.

It made me better understand why he thought "Grandma's meals" = canape course in the Restaurant Wars episode.

The only appetizer-type tradition in my family is the Thanksgiving counting-of-the-shrimp-in-your-shrimp-cocktail to make sure nobody got more than you.

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