Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top Chef Week 2 Wrapup

I was a little bit tired watching last night's episode. A combination of factors really, I had a cold, took a decongestant and drank a Boulevard Nutcracker Ale. I was really worried I wouldn't remember anything from the show in the morning so I took more notes than I did last week. Unfortunately my notes are really just jokes I wrote down while watching the show. My favorite note being, Carla looks like Giancarlo Esposito.

This looks like it may be the year of the shaved head Top Chef. At least 3 of the chefs have a bald dome and another 3 have stubble on their head. Maybe they're all channeling their inner Colicchio. The first challenge was making hot dogs, which I would take to mean they were to create their own forcemeat sausages. I was hoping the expert was going to be Michael Ruhlman, most famous for the Cleveland episode of “No Reservations” where Bourdain declared him the king of forcemeats. Instead it was someone who owns a bunch of hot dog carts in New York, oh well, opportunity missed. Some of the competitors had a different idea of the challenge than I did, they did their take on a hot dog. The chef that made a sushi dog should have had it thrown back in her face, it just looked nasty. Padma and the guest judge looked like they had a difficult time getting some of those “hot dogs” down. I thought the Andouille dog looked the best of the reconceived “hot dogs”, but I'm a well know fan of cajun sausage. The dog with smoky bacon was a great concept, as well as the dog served with a German beer. Since I didn't get to taste any of the hot dogs, I lean towards saying that Radhika's Indian dog was the best, it was well conceived and apparently well executed.

The elimination challenge was a new kind of restaurant challenge where the chefs split into 3 groups; appetizers, entrees and desserts. They were to conceive a menu and run Colicchio's restaurant Craft serving their menu to 50 bitter chefs that didn't make it to this year's Top Chef cast. None of them were going to do the chefs any favors. Very quickly the chefs decided amongst themselves which group they were going to. I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I think at least 2 of the final 3 chose entrees (Fabio, Jeff and Stefan all chose entrees). Of the 5 that chose desserts, none will make it to the final 3. I wrote in my notes at least 3 times, some variation of “use ingredients you know, cook what you know how to cook”. When they went to the store, I knew that the girl who picked up the ostrich egg was going to have a tough time, she chose novelty over substance. I also knew that Ariane was going to have trouble because 1, she sucks and 2, she tried to play it safe. I think she had already given up.

As for the dishes that looked interesting, the sweet corn soup sounded the most fabulous. Since they filmed this season over the summer, sweet corn was a seasonal item and was just a great choice. I don't think I'm the only one who doesn't understand what Fabio did with those olives but it must have been fabulous. The judges really went ga-ga over them. The other dish that I though was well conceived was the crab salad. But since the dummy couldn't find the right kind of crab, he should have scrapped his plans and went with ingredients he knew. I don't know why the chefs get so tied to an idea that they can't get away from it. As I said before, they should be using ingredients they know, especially this early in the season where they're weeding out the weak.

I thought it interesting that Tom was expediting the orders. Jeff wouldn't last long cooking for Tom, it seemed as though Tom was wanting to throttle him for being slow, saying at one point “waiting on you again Jeff”. Why isn't there a show on TV somewhere called “Expediter” where we just watch an hour of a famous chef (it can be a new one each week) expediting orders during dinner rush. I'd watch it, you'd watch it, Bill O'Reilly would condemn it, it's a win-win for everyone, let's get this done. Jeff's saving grace was that his food was good.

This season they're doing the elimination a little differently, they call in the top 3 and bottom 3 at the same time. The competitors don't know to which group they belong, leading to a great moment where Fabio was apologizing for his dish when, in reality, his was their favorite of the week. In my tired state I wrote in my notes, “Fabio not understanding de show bizness”. When they let the top 3 go back to the waiting room, Fabio and Stefan executed a nice lip kiss. I was happy that the 2 I thought would be in the bottom 3 when the challenge began, ended up in the bottom 3. As I said before, I think Ariane has given up, she chose to play it safe and still screwed it up. Padma even said that she had to spit hers in her hand, ever since I found out she was married to Salman Rushdie, I knew she was a spitter (get that image out of your head). I thought the judges were going to get onto her for playing it safe, but they had bigger fish to fry. While we just watched people eat that dog food looking ostrich egg quiche, the judges had to actually eat it. I don't think they can be that forgiving when they're served something crappy. The guy who made the bad crab salad was lucky that his dish was at least nicely conceived, if poorly executed. NOTHING about the ostrich egg quiche (as an entree!) was appealing or well executed. Jill was stupid for thinking it up, serving it up and deserved to be packing it up. Jill pack your knives and go.

Next week, I think Dave Grohl will throw drumsticks at Ariane when she serves up next week's safe pile of crap. At this point I think it's the Europeans' year with Stefan and Fabio leading the way.


Shane said...

The olive trick that Fabio did was something straight out of Marcel's hat. It's all molecular gastronomy. He pureed the olives and then put them into a chemical to form olive-like thingies that looked like olives and tasted like olives, but had a completely different texture.

It bugged me that they thought it was so ridiculously innovative when Marcel did it like ALL THE TIME and they have the creepy Molecular Gastronomy guy (owns WD40...Wylie Dufrene?) on the show once per season.

If Ariane isn't the next to go, I'll eat some of Jill's Ostrich quiche.

I thought it was funny that no one on the panel was able to pick out that the reason Hosea's dish "tasted funny" was that the crab was "out of a can". The Top Chef rejects picked it up, but Gail Simmons of Food & Wine did not.

Muddy Mo said...

I wouldn't have to lose a bet to eat Jill's "ostrich quiche" and it is well known in the biz that Padma gets off on big intellect.

David Dust said...

I would totally watch "Expediter"!

CLICK HERE for DavidDust's Top Chef New York recap.


Brian Rules the World said...

But the question you've left unanswered: Who is your early favorite? Personally I'm leaning towards the girl with the tatoos (Jamie?). I like her style, and while she might not win it (there seem like a lot of really good chefs this year), I expect her to be around for a while...