Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top Chef Week 1 Wrapup

So I was pretty excited yesterday when I realized that the Top Chef season premiere was going to show last night. For most of the day I had a culinary boner, well that's not completely true, more of a half truth. As is my custom, I did no preview reading and walked into the show cold, with no information, other than the show was set in New York this time. I don't normally commit to something like this because I don't like gimmicks and I typically only write posts when I have something interesting to say, but I think I can find enough interesting to write a Top Chef summary post every week. So here goes with the first of the season.

Seventeen chefs, sixteen coats, I would be pissed if I quit/left my job for 3 months and didn't even get a sweet Top Chef coat. But that's the scenario one of the unlucky chefs was presented with. A challenge in 3 parts and hopefully you're good at one of them. The first was peeling apples with a paring knife, which is a horrible task. The gude (gude = gay dude, is it wrong to call it out) who almost cut off his thumb sure did a nice job anyway. Then doing a brunoise of apple isn't that much better of a task. I guess they wanted to weed out those that weren't technically sharp. I was kind of shocked that 2 CIA (Culinary Institute of America) alumni/students were included in the 4 with poor knife skills. I don't think the instructors on the Hudson were too thrilled to see the 2 CIA affiliated chefs end up in the bottom 2. I don't think Colicchio much wanted an apple salad as the 2 CIA chefs made. For the record, the Jessica Biel looking girl's salad sure looked better to me. Not to Tom as he told her to take a hike.

Top Chef must not have a gigantic budget because they didn't put the crew up in Manhattan. We learned last night as they were moving in to their condo that there are only 3 gay chefs in the cast this year. But, 2 Europeans will also be involved so that gives us the gay quota we've come to expect from Top Chef. No faux hawks this year which is a disappointment, but one weird facial hair character. Not until about week 6 will I learn anyone's name. I took a couple of notes last night, but sadly none that actually help with anything so I'm stuck with notes like, Jill looks like Geena Davis, Leah looks like Meg Tilly and Jeffrey reminds me of Randall from Clerks. Time will tell if I learn their actual names or just call them by their look alike's names. On a related note, I had a friend in college that I called “Bearded Guy” because I couldn't remember his name. It's an endearing/infuriating quality of mine that I don't actually know anyone's name.

Last night's challenge was wicked hard. Each contestant chose a knife with a section of the city on it. Based on the section of the city, the chefs had to prepare a meal that would fit within that neighborhood; Chinatown – Chinese, Brighton Beach – Russia etc.. 2 chefs got each neighborhood and competed against each other. The loser of the head to head matchup went into the loser bracket and were put up against each other for elimination. This was a tough challenge because if you're not used to a certain ethnic cuisine, you're going to have a hell of a tough time cooking that cuisine. Except in the case of the dude who made the greek food and thought he made one thing, when in reality, he made something completely different. You would think since I took notes while watching, that I would have captured this crucial bit of information, but you'd be wrong, I captured none of that information.

What I did capture though, was Tom's displeasure with the girl that said she could cook any cuisine if she had a book. I think, at that moment, Tom had to be restrained from going over the table and choking the life out of that lady. I was shocked, shocked I tell you, that she didn't get eliminated, instead the gude who made chinese food with a black rice noodle he had neither worked with before or heard of before. I hope by the time he graduates from the CIA he will have learned that he shouldn't make important meals with ingredients he knows nothing about.

While last night's challenge was tough, it was greatly designed to get rid of the weakest link. Top Chef does a great job of weeding out the less talented chefs by making them cook that with which they are unfamiliar. Then when they have 6 or 7 pros they challenge them to cook within their specialties. It always makes me laugh when the chefs get snooty about the vending machine or the convenience store type challenges. I always think f... you loser, 75% of Americans eat out of vending machines and convenience stores, we want to be inspired about what that food can become rather than what fabulous thing the chefs can do to foie gras. Foie gras is fine, but I'm not eating it more that twice a year, I want a chef who can make a good hamburger, pizza, or pasta sauce. To me, that is what a Top Chef can do, take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. For that, Top Chef usually delivers. I can't wait to see what foods the rest of this season give me a culinary boner.


Chimpotle said...

First off, that chick looked nothing like Jessica Biel and you don't deserve the sight you are blessed with for thinking that she did.

And the thought he made one thing and ended up with another was Indian food. You seriously took notes?

Bull E. Vard said...

She had Jessica Biel's mouth and a very weird body.

Greek, Indian same thing. I'm not convinced that it was Indian, it was taziki sauce, which is Greek.

My note taking skills are un legendary. I didn't even take notes in college.

Shane said...

I love that you pointed out that Tom wanted to come across the table when she said "if I had a book..."

I turned to my wife at that moment and said, "He just changed his mind. He's gonna send her home now."

Alas, I was wrong. But still...she's toast in the next 2 weeks.

I loved the premiere. I thought they gave the chefs ample opportunity to save themselves in the Quickfire Challenge and the Elimination Challenge was a carbon copy of last year's with the neighborhood twist. (The fact that LeeAnn from Season One comes up with the challenges is a good thing...she knows when to re-use good challenges.)

My early favorite to win is the gude. But it will probably be Stefan. Stupid Europeans coming to America and taking over our reality shows that we rightfully stole from them...