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S6 - Ashley Merriman: At Home on the Range


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#31

polarbeet

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Posted Oct 8, 2009 @ 4:46 PM

During the season I've seen her handling food in ways that are most definitively NOT the way I would want to eat food.


I'd like to hear some examples of this. I haven't noticed her doing anything different than the other contestants.

When Merriman left Tilth, the red criticals stopped showing up, but they've been dancing around the kitchen in Branzino since she's been working there.


We'll have to see if your theory holds up now that she's transitioning out of Branzino (see Stranger article). I've talked to many people that have eaten at Branzino and loved it (and did not get sick). I've eaten at Tilth but I'm not sure it was when she was still there. My food was lovely.

and her pure attitude of "I am teh Seattle Hipstah Girl, bow before my awesome slackitude" makes me wonder how the hell she managed to make it even this far.


I have very low tolerance for the Seattle hipster vibe and I don't get this attitude from her at all. Throughout the competition she was courteous to the other chefs and didn't even hype herself up when it might have saved her from being in the bottom (or, as the case last night, eliminated). YMMV, of course.

#32

dobbler79

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Posted Oct 8, 2009 @ 4:56 PM

I have very low tolerance for the Seattle hipster vibe and I don't get this attitude from her at all. Throughout the competition she was courteous to the other chefs and didn't even hype herself up when it might have saved her from being in the bottom (or, as the case last night, eliminated). YMMV, of course.


I absolutely agree with this. Ashley was one of my favorites and I was sad to see her go. She seemed warm and approachable, not only with her fellow chefs and the judges, but with the other people she was serving to. The military and ranch challenges both come to mind; I remember thinking how genuine she seemed, not show-offy (looking at you, Mike I.) or artificially cheerful, just low-key and seemingly at ease. The reaction from the other chefs at her departure (especially Jen, who is not exactly emotive) would seem to support this impression. Her goodbye was totally classy and heartfelt too.

#33

melos

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Posted Oct 8, 2009 @ 8:50 PM

I just finished watching her exit video, and I am fully convinced of what a class act she is. She really does seem courteous and good-natured. I am really dissapointed in seeing her go, but I wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.

#34

Rai

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Posted Oct 8, 2009 @ 11:09 PM

*sigh* I really liked Ashley, and I'm not sure why exactly, since she had a pretty quiet personality as well as being hit or miss with her cooking. But she always seemed to be trying to think of something interesting, yet clean and simple to do with the food, and her deconstructed dish was one I still dream about tasting. Good on her for being so honorable a player, but I would've been fine with her tarnishing her character a bit in favor of getting Eli sent on home.

#35

niquodemus

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Posted Oct 8, 2009 @ 11:31 PM

I'd like to hear some examples of this. I haven't noticed her doing anything different than the other contestants.


Check her technique on some of the other shows. While you're not "seeing" the health code violations, some of the temperatures she kept the food at (and failed to follow through with temperature gauges on some of the food cooked) are pretty much textbook commercial cooking practices that are required if you're going to sell food to people.

I don't want to sound patronizing, but I've worked in a kitchen, and I've had people both in my immediate family as well as close friends who have worked in public health. Merriman isn't the only one who scared the unholy fuck out of me, but the brothers and Kevin are the only two who seem to actually practice good kitchen hygiene, even when the cameras are rolling and the people are watching and the timeframe is very, very, very short.

We'll have to see if your theory holds up now that she's transitioning out of Branzino (see Stranger article). I've talked to many people that have eaten at Branzino and loved it (and did not get sick). I've eaten at Tilth but I'm not sure it was when she was still there. My food was lovely.


Glad you liked it. I got excruciatingly ill from it.

"Transitioning" in Stranger-speak is usually "she done gone fired and nobody wants to be rude about it". This -is- Seattle; home of the passive-aggressive, cheerfully coded and linguistically accurate but completely counterintutive to the meaning. And The Stranger is definitely (pardon the pun) no stranger to that kind of pun-ishment. I could, of course, be wrong, but I'm also highly suspicious of the changes especially right after her appearance on Top Chef and her rapid migration to another gig. It's possible someone decided she was the new best thing to haute cuisine and shoved her front and center into a brand-new hip restaraunt for the added cash eaten and fifteen seconds of fame celebrity to milk another $5 off each entree.

But what I based this on was not a "theory". It was a gauging of her work record through publicly available inspection records and two food-borne illness incidents at the restaraunts. Your mileage is different than mine, and I have recently eaten at a place that got two red criticals on the health inspection records that I forgave as soon as I ate a bite of their omelette. (because oh, dear god, if you can get me to eat eggs, I'm DEFINITELY going back). I simply don't want to go back to her restaraunt again, while she's working there, and get sick. Again.

The phrase "fool me once, shame on you" comes to mind....

I have very low tolerance for the Seattle hipster vibe and I don't get this attitude from her at all. Throughout the competition she was courteous to the other chefs and didn't even hype herself up when it might have saved her from being in the bottom (or, as the case last night, eliminated). YMMV, of course.


Again, that's a matter of interpretation, and the Cap Hill-esque vibe that bothers me more is the lack of interest in what she was doing. Some might see it as a lack of pretension. She didn't hack on everyone. But there was a sense of entitlement throughout her entire appearance that bugged me; and that's pretty much what bothered me about her - as much, if not more than Mike's flagrant dickery towards his fellow contestants.

I won't deny that I was hoping for the last five episodes that she'd be cut from the group - less because she did the cooking that eventually washed her out, but because of my personal prejudices against my experience with her and her bitching about the bachelor/bachelorette party she had to serve*. But also, realistically, I wanted her to be cut because I spent two hours after eating her cooking clutching my stomach on top of a porcelain throne, having paid around $120 for the priviledge.

*Don't get me wrong, I'm all for marriage equality. However, if someone thinks that the noble thing to do is to whinge on cable TV rather than, say, shoving hard against the idiots systematically plaguing YouTube with commercials implying that Armageddon is just around the corner if gays are allowed to commit themselves to legal monogamy contracts, then I too am a cake made of marzipan.

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#36

alizarinc8

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Posted Oct 10, 2009 @ 11:58 PM

Specifically, what records are you looking at? And what is the timeline for when she worked at which restaurant? Cause from what I can see, the violations at both restaurants happened mostly in 2009, between Feb and June. Was she working in both places during those times?

And how are you judging the temperatures she's using on the show? Do they show her dials and thermometer readings? Have I missed those somewhere?

I understand your bad experiences leaving a bad taste in your mouth, but it sounds more like you have a personal bias against her.

Edited by TWoP Nikita, Oct 11, 2009 @ 2:09 AM.
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#37

safranal moeity

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Posted Oct 11, 2009 @ 2:09 PM

You've just voiced exactly what I was thinking, alizarinc8. I checked out the Kings County restaurant inspection records and noted the same codes at both Tilth and Branzino at relatively the same time -- I'm also unsure of where the responsibility lies for certain codes such as inadequate food worker cards, which is a common code between the two. I'll admit that I don't have experience in the food industry, however, but those are just two things that stood out to me.

Either way, seeing the records doesn't convince me that Merriman is endangering public health through her handling of food. I guess I'd need more definitive evidence to conclude such a thing.

I don't want to sound patronizing, but I've worked in a kitchen, and I've had people both in my immediate family as well as close friends who have worked in public health. Merriman isn't the only one who scared the unholy fuck out of me, but the brothers and Kevin are the only two who seem to actually practice good kitchen hygiene, even when the cameras are rolling and the people are watching and the timeframe is very, very, very short.


I'm interested in what you're seeing in the food handling process of some of the chefs that has caught your attention. Could you provide some examples?

It does really suck that you had such negative experiences at Tilth and Branzino, though, niquodemus. Merriman comes across as someone that would be sincerely upset and apologetic to hear that someone had a bad experience with her food. That's just my impression -- but based on all footage of her on the show and from extra clips she seems like a genuinely caring and sincerely polite person.

#38

nnxs

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Posted Oct 11, 2009 @ 3:55 PM

During the season I've seen her handling food in ways that are most definitively NOT the way I would want to eat food.

Like polarbeet and safranal moelty I would also like to hear from niquodemus specific examples of where and what s/he saw. I understand that niquodemus thinks Ashley cannot cook and that s/he got sick at her restaurant - all of which are valid reasons to not like a chef. You also don't like her sense of entitlement and her Seattle hipster attitude and so on, all of which is fine.

I am particularly eager to see specific examples on the show.

niquodemus

But there was a sense of entitlement throughout her entire appearance


Again, I am sorry but I didn't sense this at all.

Edited by TWoP Nikita, Oct 11, 2009 @ 8:56 PM.
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#39

MissusDe

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Posted Oct 11, 2009 @ 5:21 PM

I agree. I've never seen any sense of entitlement from Ashley during Top Chef. If anything, she sabotaged herself by not sticking up for herself and playing the reality game of laying blame elsewhere, even when in her case it would have been justified. Both Mattin and Eli failed in their part with her on team challenges. Ashley had opportunities to make it known at JT, and she chose not to, either from a moral high ground or an inability to confront others. Either way, that certainly doesn't translate into a sense of entitlement.

If there were issues with hygiene related to her cooking, I am more than certain that the editing would have found a way to exploit it. The only chefs that came close were Mattin and Robin, both during the camping challenge. Mattin's problems seemed to stem from preparation, and Robin's may have been more due to the way the refrigerated items were handled by production (i.e. not icing the seafood properly overnight), although she should have realized it. Someone in the stew room mentioned that something smelled off, so I don't know why Robin didn't notice it while prepping her dish. At any rate, neither Ashley or any other chef has ever been accused of doing anything that could cause illness through careless preparation.

#40

niquodemus

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Posted Oct 14, 2009 @ 9:18 PM

I said previously that this is a YMMV situation, and that many people may have had different experiences. I had an extremely negative experience in real life, and watching her performance on Top Chef made me less enthusiastic about her food.

She might be a total sweetie. She might seem to be an incredible chef with tons of talent. She might be an absolutely amazing person with plenty of personal graciousness, but MY personal experience is that I got sick eating her food, and that colors my perception of what I was looking at in the show with her food preparation.

As a note, having a food handler's card may not SEEM like a big deal, but if you don't actually have one, you don't have proof that you know simple concepts like "don't store chicken above vegetables" and the proper cooling methodology. I've seen places store soups in five-gallon buckets to cool them instead of cooling them in flat pans (a very fast way to create a breeding ground for bacteria). If you have a food handler's card, it proves that all of your employees have taken and passed a basic health inspection test.

It's like running a package delivery service using large trucks with drivers who don't have their driver's license.

As a side note, if you're the executive chef or lead chef at a restaraunt, it's your house. You need to be the one whose name goes on each and every plate, and each plate of food that goes out the door is your responsibility. If it's not excellent from start to finish, it's your butt. Not the sous chef. Not the dishwasher who didn't get that scrap of pasta off the bowl, not the waiter. It's your name on the food. So if you don't keep the back of your house clean and well-managed, it's gonna be your butt on the line.

I also find that a lot of people don't think much about the food prep requirements of most restaraunts as opposed to what they cook at home - if you wash off the chicken when it falls on your floor in your home, or eat raw cookie batter, it's not a big deal. If that happens in a commerical kitchen, it is VERY much a big deal.

I haven't seen anything that would cause the chefs to get kicked off the show, either, but compare that to Hell's Kitchen - where the things Ramsey finds are most definitively full-on kitchen shutdowns.

Anyway, I'll agree that for the most part reality television shows don't pay attention to the cleanliness of the prep process, and that, as my significant other who introduced me to the series, will note, I'm a freakin' germophobe who freaks out if there's raw food on any plate we get served and I prefer open kitchens that i can see into.

Edited by TWoP Nikita, Oct 14, 2009 @ 10:00 PM.
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#41

Babamama

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Posted Nov 9, 2009 @ 9:50 PM

Check her technique on some of the other shows. While you're not "seeing" the health code violations, some of the temperatures she kept the food at (and failed to follow through with temperature gauges on some of the food cooked) are pretty much textbook commercial cooking practices that are required if you're going to sell food to people.


I don't want to sound patronizing, but I've worked in a kitchen, and I've had people both in my immediate family as well as close friends who have worked in public health. Merriman isn't the only one who scared the unholy fuck out of me, but the brothers and Kevin are the only two who seem to actually practice good kitchen hygiene, even when the cameras are rolling and the people are watching and the timeframe is very, very, very short.


Interesting. I have worked in kitchens and managed restaurants that have kitchens. I have never, ever, ever seen anyone stick a thermometer into food. Cold lines, ovens, cold storage, etc. have to be kept at certain temperature; hence, the product stored would be maintained at a certain temp, but actual thermometers/gauges in the food? Loose thermometers in a busy kitchen? In ten years, I never encountered such a rule. Sure, a cook might use a gauge for certain things, but not as a health code matter.

Ashley seemed rather sweet to me; some of her little rants seemed more idealistic immaturity than anything else. I wish her luck.

#42

chefashley

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Posted Feb 4, 2011 @ 5:38 PM

The only kitchens I've ever worked in that actually stuck a thermometer in food was back in the day when I flipped burgers at McD's.

Anyway, I was watching the Reunion today, and I had no idea that Ashley was voted for the Rising Star award in the past. In my opinion, she must be a badass cook if she got that kind of recognition. She was my favorite, and I wanted her to at least make the finale.

#43

VirginiBound

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Posted Nov 21, 2011 @ 6:43 AM

Seems Ashley has moved to NewYork. The first time I only thought it was her. However on yesterdays show she got more face time, and even spoke, on the The Best Food I Ever Made, so I knew it was her. She's working at Butter whose Exec Chef is Alexandra Guarnaschelli.
http://www.butterrestaurant.com/#

#44

sammiekay

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Posted Dec 26, 2012 @ 8:45 PM

.

Edited by sammiekay, Jan 29, 2013 @ 5:34 PM.


#45

biakbiak

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Posted Dec 30, 2012 @ 12:31 AM

It's not uncommon, also there doesn't appear to be any hard feelings given that she is also acting as sous chef for Alex in her first battle as Iron Chef.