Thursday, November 20, 2008

Season 5 Elimination 2

The producers of the show wasted no time at all thrusting the contestants into hostile territory and a professional kitchen. I can appreciate Tom’s charitable nature to allow them to use the kitchen of his flagship restaurant to serve a meal to pissed of runners-up. But at some point he had to be gritting his teeth thinking “I can’t believe I let this go out of my kitchen!” They say no press is bad press, but considering Craft as a corporation has already enjoyed success, not to mention everyone who’s seen more than one episode of Top Chef knows that Tom owns Craft, he probably could’ve done without crappy food leaving his kitchen.

Touching briefly on the Quickfire, everyone was asked to make a hot dog. Some hit, and some missed, but Radhika ends up winning the immunity. And what did she make? After professing several times in the first episode that she didn’t want to be typecast as the chef that only makes Indian food because she’s Indian, what does she do? She draws on her roots to make a hot dog inspired by Indian cuisine! Go ahead and email your thoughts on the topic to www.youarefullofcrap.com. And no, that’s not a real link.

On to the elimination challenge, I was yet again confused by a number of people’s choices? Every single time there has been a dessert-oriented challenge in Top Chef history, everyone rolls their eyes or grinds their teeth, because by the chef’s own admissions, they don’t like doing desserts in general. Yet, as soon as the challenge was presented, a bunch of people jumped all over doing desserts. Why? Do they think that doing one now will prohibit them or win them favor when they will have to make one later? Or are they unsure about their confectionary prowess and figure they will take their chances now with more people around them thinking that they will hope someone else screws up and their dish can slide by being marginal? I’m thinking it’s the latter because as they are in the kitchen, a number of them kept reiterating in the confessionals that they didn’t like doing desserts. So why then did you volunteer for it?!

The challenge was to make dishes that were consistent with “New American Cuisine”. Read the blogs posted by the judges or Tom himself, and they will all admit that is a pretty nebulous idea. And unfortunately, a lot of the contestants fell short on meeting the judge’s expectations. Now, I can understand how they can be confused by the concept. But that’s no excuse to make food that just doesn’t taste good.

Highlights:
Fabio make a very impressive-looking carpaccio with olives, and won the challenge. Oddly enough, he didn’t win anything additional for winning the day? Didn’t they used to get stuff?

Crazy Carla made an apple pie with a piece of cheddar that seemed to go over really well too. But I just can’t get on board with cheese on apple pie?

Lowlights:
Good thing Radhika had immunity because an avacado dessert? Essentially sweet guacamole with chocolate chips? Well, and least you didn't do two Indian-inspired dishes in one episode.

Ariane yet again found herself in the bottom of the group serving a dish they she knew and freely admitted was too sweet before serving. She had time to manipulate it and didn’t. She sobbed in the back room saying she didn’t think she deserved to be there…and she’s probably right. She’s not long for the competition.

My boy Hosea… he’s still my pick but dude, canned crab? I mean, did he really think he was going to sneak that by the palates of the judges? Props though, on the line up. He took the judges comments. He didn’t piss and moan and woe is me. He didn’t make excuses. He just took it well.

Unlike Jill, who when put on the spot couldn’t remember her own name. Her ostrich egg quiche just didn’t seem to make sense. It seemed like she decided to shop for an ingredient and make the dish around it instead of putting a meal together then doing the shopping. And when asked “how would you go about doing better next time?” she may have well responded by saying “well, ya wanna play good…and ya hope ya play good. And ya just gotta go out and give 110% when the chips fall where they may.” Actually, when it came right down to it, her complete lack of coherent thought in her response may well have talked her right out the door.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Top Chef is Back!

The majesty and glory of the greatest cooking show on TV is once again upon us! Top Chef has returned with it’s fifth season from the culinary epicenter of the known universe; New York City.

17 contestants were welcomed into the new season, but with only 16 spots to fill, someone had to be eliminated right away. Slow knife skills proved to be the undoing for Lauren, the CIA grad. Sorry about your luck, but Jags still rocks. Having eaten there, I can say with all confidence that for someone to be able to cook there means there’s serious talent in them yet.

With 16 remaining contestants, I really don’t have the memory to have something to say about them all. That said, let me hit the highlights…or lowlights as the case may be.

Stefan- Got skills, but seems like a dick.

Fabio- Mediocre skills, but seems like a dick.

Ariane- Really? The best thing you can think to say when facing elimination is “when I’m cooking something I don’t know I have a book to look at”? Maybe you’d be better off commenting on something that doesn’t illustrate your utter lack of ability? Perhaps the glare coming off Tom’s head? Retard.

Patrick- Picking your first elimination challenge to use an ingredient that you’ve never worked with before was just not smart. You don’t have to have gone to CIA to know that. Also, adding steamed bok choi doesn’t automatically make something Chinese. Don’t need CIA for that either.

Radhika- It takes you 20 minutes to get your knives out and your spices arranged? Sweetie, you are on the wrong show.

Danny- Aside from the oddly cut facial hair, I liked this guy right away. But Tom caught him in a very uncomfortable situation. I know that with as many variations on this, that, and the other in cooking these days, fewer and fewer dishes are completely original. But the higher up the ladder of haute cuisine you go, the more likely you are to find these truly original dishes. Tom looked at the salad Danny put together, had a taste, and immediately said “I recognize this salad. Wolfgang Puck has been making it for 20 some-odd years.” At least he took his inspiration from the very, very best.

There are two caterers on this season, Stefan and Carla. Carla got a little kooky with her “spirit guides” statements. And while she’s entertaining, I don’t think she’s going to have the chops to hang around until the end. Stefan, however, seems to have some pretty sick skills, winning both the Quickfire and Elimination challenges. His kung fu is strong. However, previous contestants Brian Malarkey (season 3) and Richard Blais (season 4) have said in their blogs that a caterer will never win this competition. I guess we’ll see.

Personally, I like Hosea. He seems like a pretty even-keeled guy with strong knife skills and a good eye for presentation. After the first night, he’s my pick to win it all.