Over the weekend L'Espalier sous chef Mike Bergin beat out the other competitors to win on the chef edition of the TV show The Big Time. The show takes contestants of various skill levels and gives them a chance to succeed at their chosen passion. Of course on reality TV, being given a chance to succeed actually means suffering through a series of kooky, nail-biting challenges designed to make the weaker participants flounder.
Bergin stays cool through some hefty feats, including having to beat the clock to find as many of the 25 ingredients that he can identify in an unfamiliar recipe from an unknown kitchen and finding ways to infuse Budweiser (which is also the sponsor) into his cooking.
Bergin was up against two others: one spills mushroom stock all over his jacket in the first challenge, the other has limited use of her hand due to an old injury. Immediately you think "um, the L'Espalier chef is going to win." Then you think "wait a minute, that would be too obvious." Then you think "ok, there is no way that the L'Espalier chef isn't going to win," which he does, passing the final challenge with flying colors.
Bergin takes over chef Huber Keller's Vegas restaurant Fleur for a night and manages to sell more patrons on his own menu than on Keller's. "Heaven help Michael Bergin," says Robin Leach, who is among the industry and critic-packed house. But later in the episode it is a very full looking Leach who waddles into the kitchen, stuffed with Bergin's Jonah crab salad, roasted lamb loin and apple panna cotta, to personally congratulate the chef on his victory.
But by far the most entertaining aspect of the show is a representative from Budweiser, who waxes poetic about the glory of beer whenever possible. His complaint with Bergin's cooking? It didn't use enough Budweiser. Things he says:
· "The old rule is beer should be the humble servant of the food."
· "Beer was part of the staples in every chef's kitchen for thousands of thousands of years."
· "Lobster is a natural with Budweiser."