Top Chef New York = The Next Food Network Star?

4 Dec

Oops, it’s finals season and I’m totally slacking on the blogging!  Just some quick thoughts about the last two episodes.

Episode 3

The quick fire challenge involved cooking an item from the Top Chef cookbook, but then halfway through the cooking the judges threw a curveball: make it into a soup. 

Leah is climbing on my list of favorites with her quick fire challenge win, I think she’s slowly proving that she’s more than just an Italian chef who cooks Italian food.  Working with an ingredient that she hates (white asparagus, per the recipe from the cookbook), she still managed to make an impressive chilled white asparagus soup with brioche, tuna, and tapenade.

Jamie is definitely now on my list of favorites.  She and I share that passion for soup.  She says if she could cook one thing for the rest of her life, it would be soup.  I say if I have to eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be soup, and her chick pea soup with pickled chiles, yogurt, and crispy shallots looked divine.

The elimination challenge involved the cheftestants breaking into two groups to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters, with only toaster ovens and one burner per team.  The challenge felt gimmicky to me, it’s like they’re running low on curveballs to throw so now they’re doing things survivor style.  Nonetheless, even with crappy equipment, some of the mistakes were unforgivable.

I was sad to see Richard go home.  Doing a bad banana S’more is probably reason enough to be sent home, but out of the bottom three (Jeff, Richard, and Daniel), I thought Daniel’s act of mixing the undercooked potatoes with the cooked ones was the least forgivable.  I guess the judges didn’t agree.  Oh well.

There was no singular winner from the episode, the winning team attended the Foo Fighters concert while the losers stayed behind to clean up.  Some winning dishes from my perspective:

Jamie’s vegan stuffing – it had meat eaters claiming it was their favorite dish?  That’s impressive.

Eugene’s maple smoked pork loin – done on a DIY smoke pit, it was resourceful and according to the Foo Fighters, tasty.

Fabio’s pumpkin tiramisu – sometimes it’s good to change up tradition, and this dessert sounded like the right change.

Episode 4

Is it just me or do the episodes seem to be getting shorter?  This one had some crazy long commercial breaks.

The quick fire challenge was to make a breakfast amuse bouche, to be judged by Rocco DiSpirito, who declared himself a bacon lover before the challenge began.  As Leah is quick to point out, few chefs actually did an amuse bouche, a singular bite that excites the taste buds.  And because Leah did just that, a tasty breakfast stack of quail egg, bacon, and bread fried in the bacon grease in a single bite portion, she won.  Jamie had a similar concept with a duck egg and added tomato slice, but it was definitely a two biter, and she came in the top three.  Stefan rounds out the top three with his huevos rancheros served in a perfectly cut egg shell (using some nifty tool).  I liked Jeff’s idea of a mini loaded potato with yogurt sorbet and fresh fruit, but alas, it is two separate bites, not the amuse bouche concept the judges were looking for.  Radhika’s potato cake with bacon and egg also looked tasty.

The elimination challenge was the worst one I’ve seen so far on Top Chef.  The cheftestants have to do a 2 minute demo suitable for live television, and they would be judged on the food and their TV personality.  A little flashback to The Next Food Network Star, anyone?  Since Bravo isn’t giving the Top Chef his/her own TV feature, I don’t see why the chefs have to compete on the TV suitability front.  There was also little coverage of the food compared to other episodes.

Ariane wins the challenge with a beefsteak tomato, watermelon, and feta salad.  It’s do-able in the time limit of the demo, the ladies of The Today Show loved it (since when has Kathie Lee Gifford been considered a culinary expert?), a recipe for success for this odd challenge.

Fabio was also in the top three with his sesame crusted tuna with asparagus and carrots and amusing Italian accent.  And Jeff rounds out the top three with a malfouf roll (what is that?) that Katie Lee later spits out on The Today Show.  I thought it was hilarious when Fabio mocked Jeff’s dish with “these average housewives don’t know these ingredients you’re working with!  My mom only knows tuna, asparagus, and carrots!”

The bottom three were Alex, Melissa, and Jamie.  Jamie did not deserve to be in the bottom three.  Whereas the other two had a major conceptual failure (Alex wanted to do a creme brulee with the hour time limit and Melissa did a torturously spicy habanero shrimp), Jamie served an undercooked egg because she didn’t know which was worse, to serve raw food or to run out of time on the demo.  I think her dilemma just proves the stupidity of this challenge.  Oh well.  Alex ends up packing his knives to go home, like Rocco said, the math just didn’t add up for the creme brulee when it comes to cooking time.

Did anyone else find it odd that Hosea jumped behind the seafood counter at Whole Foods with Eugene to cut his own tuna because he “wanted the freshest and the very best ingredient?”  Isn’t this the same guy who used canned crab meat two episodes ago?

My top five are now Jamie, Leah, Eugene, Jeff, and possibly Fabio, his personality is growing on me.  Jeff suffers from the fatal flaw of always wanting to do too much (being the group leader and serving three dishes for the Thanksgiving challenge and serving two separate bites for an amuse bouche), but his food always sounds interesting to me.  I hope he learns his “less is more” lesson soon.  I think Jamie has the most sophisticated palate out of the chefs.  Her dishes are always simple but focus on bringing out subtle characteristics of the ingredients.  Leah is showing more Top Chef traits with each episode, and her dishes frequently remind me of Stephanie’s from Season 4 (particularly with the unlikely but tasty combination of seared duck breast with corn and blueberries she did for the elimination challenge).  And I’m still rooting for Eugene for his ability to pull off some unexpected stuff (making his own smoke pit for the maple smoked pork loin) and his Bourdain-esque career ladder of dishwasher that worked his way up to chef.

Even though Ariane won this TV demo challenge, I still think she’s one of the weaker contestants.  She’s won so far on a salad and a decent turkey breast.  It’s more Top Mom than Top Chef.  Melissa is hanging on by a thread.  Danny’s got a great TV personality but hit and miss dishes.  Who will have the next fatal misstep? Can’t wait until next week!

4 Responses to “Top Chef New York = The Next Food Network Star?”

  1. Deacon-Frost 12/04/2008 at 12:41 pm #

    “cheftestants” best word of the day.
    You win 1000 experience points young lady!

  2. donnaaries 12/04/2008 at 4:27 pm #

    Wish I could take credit for the word, but I had seen it used in many blogs for previous Top Chef seasons (not so much this season…)

  3. Sharon 12/06/2008 at 2:21 pm #

    I definitely agree – I find Ariane one of the weaker contestants, and doesn’t really take much risks. I’m not a big fan of her.

  4. Pasta Aromatizzata 12/28/2013 at 2:19 am #

    Thanks for another wonderful post. The place else may just anyone get that type of info in such an ideal means of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am at the search for such info.

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