Friday, November 14, 2008

Top Chef - Way Too Long...Just Like This Post

Well, here we are again. It seems like just yesterday when I was dissing Lisa and drooling over Dale.

Here’s a test. Okay, quick, tell me who won last season. I actually kind of forgot, until I watched the last few minutes of last season’s finale.

On to the new season... Oh gosh, there are SEVENTEEN of these folks. That’s way too many. Weren’t there only 16 to begin with last season? That was already onerous. 17 is even worse.

They’re in New York this season and, apparently, one of them wore a bikini in her audition video.

OMG. The credits alone with all their names (Alex, Ariane, Carla, Danny, Fabio, Gene, Hosea, Jamie, Jeff, Jill, Lauren, Leah, Melissa,
Patrick, Radhika, Richard, Stefan) take 5 minutes. We see Whole Foods Market and Grand Central Station.

These are the ones I like:
Eugene, born in Hawaii, is kind of tough. He didn’t go to culinary school, which seems to give him a bit of a chip on his shoulder. But I don’t care, I like him. (He reminds me of Dale, my early pick last season).

Lauren, chef in a Savannah steak house, seems lovely. She has a military husband, who is currently deployed in Iraq.

Ariane, owner and chef in a NJ restaurant. I just hope she doesn’t play the Mom card too much. It looks like she has enough other stuff going for her that she doesn’t need to.

Daniel - Long Island chef who says he’s been under the radar for too long. I’m not sure why, but I like him.

I don’t like:
Jeff – Sweet, but a little white bread kind of dull. He looks pale and he has an unnatural relationship with his hair.

Stefan – I can’t understand a word Stefan is saying. I know this isn’t Shakespeare, but it took me three rewinds to figure out he was born in Finland (I think).

They’re on a ferry to Governor’s Island. They arrive. Padma and Tom are there. Padma YELLS out her intro. Really, we can hear you! Tom: There are no prizes for second place here. Yeah, except the exposure in front of millions, okay thousands, of viewers, which doesn’t hurt in the restaurant business or, actually, any business.

First Quickfire:
They’re getting rid of one of them almost immediately. Huh? They have to peel 15 apples with a knife. Is that really such a big deal?

The first nine contestants do fine and are safe. Richard (I think) cut his thumb, but keeps going. Stefan is immune from the next challenge.

The next 8 go on to the next challenge. They have to cut 2 cups of apples into a brunoise. The losing four will have ANOTHER challenge. My fav Eugene is safe and some bearded guy is real fast and safe as well.

There are 4 remaining chefs, including Lauren (with the soldier husband), who have to cook a dish in 20 minutes. The chef with the worst dish will go home. Since I don’t know these folks, I don’t really care, to be honest, but I like Lauren. There’s a culinary student there too, Patrick, who thinks he can make it with these other experienced chefs.

Lauren makes a spinach salad. Patrick, the student, makes apple slaw with yogurt dressing, mint, cinnamon and honey. Yuck! Radhika makes pan-seared pork with apple chutney, raisins and chili powder. That sounds really good. Leah, from New York, does seared scallops.

My prediction: Either Leah or Patrick will go home. They probably want to keep the kid around for a bit longer just to humiliate him, so I’m guessing Leah.

WAIT, I’ve forgotten the cardinal rule of reality television. The person that has the most airtime is the one going home. So that would be Radhika or Lauren. NOW I don’t know who to pick. I’m still saying Leah, but I may be wrong.

Oh gosh, Tom said he really like Leah’s dish and Radhika’s dish too. That leaves Lauren and Patrick. I AM THE WORST GUESSER. (You should see how bad I am on House Hunters.)

Patrick’s dish looked the worst to me… Let’s see. I give up…Oh this interesting, Lauren and Patrick knew each other in culinary school. Then why is Patrick still in school? I guess he started later.

Tom, don’t send Leah home, she needs to keep her mind off her husband in Iraq… Commercial...OF COURSE!

Patrick stays! Lauren is going home. That stinks. Now we know for sure, without a shadow of a doubt, that the most highlighted person goes home. (Didn’t I learn anything from last season?)

Lauren doesn’t even get to see the kitchen. That’s a bit brutal and pointless. WHAT was the point of that? Seriously I’m PO’ed. That was MEAN for the sake of being mean.

The chefs pick knives that have different areas of New York on them. Each pair has to design dishes inspired by that area.

They arrive at a gorgeous apartment with a magnificent view. There are 3 gay chefs that seem to care a lot that we know they’re gay. There are 2 chefs with very thick accents - Stefan and Fabio.

Here are the teams of two and the areas they go to. There will be a winner and a loser in each team.

Richard and Jamie

Astoria / Greek Cuisine
Why do we care that they’re gay? I’m more interested in the fact that Jamie has millions of tattoos.

Hosea and Carla
Brighton Beach / Russian
Carla uses the word yummy a lot and wants to be led by her spirit gods. Okay, she’s ripe for a fall.

Ariane and Stefan
Long Island City / Middle Eastern
Ariane isn’t that confident, because she knows nothing about Middle Eastern food. That could be a problem.

Jeff (with the pretty hair) and Fabio, with the thick accent
Ozone Park / Latin Cuisine
Jeff is happy. He lives in Miami and says he knows “his Latin”. He says Italy (Fabio’s home) is a whole other continent. Good geography know-how, but can he cook?

Radhika and Jill (never heard of her or saw her before)
Queens / Jamaican Cuisine

Leah and Melissa / Little Italy
I thought Leah went home. Oh, sorry that was Lauren. Leah is the New Yorker. I’m still mad about that POINTLESS exercise of having someone get her hopes all up and then sending her home...on the ferry of all things? It stinks.

This one isn’t much of a challenge! Just go to Ferrara’s and get a cannoli or two or fourteen and call it a day.

Leah worked and lived in Italy and works at an Italian restaurant. Melissa is a “country mouse”, so she’s worried.

Patrick and Daniel / Chinatown
Patrick says he’s familiar with Chinese cuisine from cooking school. Okay, who does he remind me of? And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Daniel is amazed that Patrick is telling him what he’s going to do. He’s licking his chops at the thought of beating him so easily.

Alex and Eugene / Little India
Eugene has never cooked Indian food. He seems to be tasting ready-made food and seeing what he can duplicate. Interesting. (Dale would able to do it.)

They walk into the Top Chef kitchen. They have 2 hours to cook. Some bald guy is sweating a lot.

Fabio is annoying when he speaks English. He sounds like Fabio. OMG! THAT’S his name and that’s exactly who he sounds like.

Wait a sec. In front of the judges, Stefan has lost quite a bit of his accent…It seems like he had 3 months of Berlitz since the last time they showed him.

Ariane is not confident. THAT will be her downfall or possibly we’ll be able to watch her grow. That’s always edifying.

Daniel is a great chopper. Carla is not doing well. Some other bearded guy, oh Richard, is making a Greek slider. Ariane is making farro. I don’t like this. They’re showing her A LOT. She’ll probably be gone.

I have NO idea who might win. There are way too many folks to sort through. Fabio can’t believe they have 3 minutes left and Jeff hasn’t even started plating his food.

The judges come in. Ahhhhhhh, Jean-Georges, My FAV!!! Padma introduces him, then Tom and Gail.

Ariane, please DON’T tell the judges that that you know nothing about Middle Eastern food. Too late. Stefan (with his improved accent) explains his dish with confidence. Gail says Ariane’s lamb was nice, but her farro risotto was really undercooked. Jean-Georges likes the skewered something or other. Tom likes that he used cinnamon. Stefan is in the running to win, Ariane is not.

Oh gosh, Richard (is it?) says (to the camera) that Tom is really cute. Not that I haven’t said that a million times before, but Richard should really be concentrating on the job at hand.

JG likes Jamie’s deconstructed salad better than Richard’s overcooked lamb. Richard loses and Jamie wins.

Radhika hopes Jill’s dish is worse than hers. Gail says Radhika’s halibut needed something “texturally”. JG says the contrast between the fish and the rice was “a little mushy”.

They think Jill’s scallops are overdone, but they like the flavor and the “char”. Tom says the sauce made sense. Radhika - losing side; Jill - winning side.

Fabio reads his ingredients, because of his English. Jeff’s coffee sauce looks gross. Tom doesn’t like Jeff’s combo of rice, corn and beans. Jeff explains he forgot a few of the elements. Tom likes “Fabio’s knife work” with the avocado, but didn’t like that he covered it up with mushrooms. JG thinks Fab’s needed more salt. Jeff actually wins.

Hosea does a dumb little trio of smoked fish. Gail thought Carla’s dish needed more sauce….and flavor. Tom liked the style of Hosea’s dish…shows how much I know. Padma: There is “a culinary elegance” to Hosea’s dish.

Melissa’s dish would have been a big hit with more salt and pepper. Let that be a lesson to us all. So Leah wins.

Okay who have we seen a lot that lost this challenge?
Radhika, Richard and Ariane. Because Richard actually overcooked his lamb, he’s gone. Stefan will win. Let’s see.

Oh darn, there are still more people.

JG tastes Patrick’s food and asks about the noodles. Patrick says he never cooked with them before. Padma says they’re gummy. Tom says the dish is one note. JG says it’s too wet.

Tom says Wolfgang Puck has been making Daniel’s poached chicken salad for 20 years. Gail didn’t like either dish, but Daniel won.

There are still more!

I forgot all about Eugene and Alex’s Indian dishes. Tom likes the dishes. Padma says that Eugene, without knowing it, has made one of the most classic south Indian dishes, curds and rice. They all love the dish. I’m good! Really good.

Anyway, I stick with my top three losers:
Patrick’s dish is amateurish. Gail says that Radhika’s dish missed the mark. Tom says Ariane deserves a trip to the bottom.

The contestants have beer and agree that the judges really like salt.

The winning group is Stefan, Eugene and Leah. Patrick, the culinary student, and Ariane are the losers.

They say that Leah captured what the new Italian is. JG commends Stefan on his technique. Padma is amazed that Eugene never had Indian food before. I really like Eugene, I don’t think he’s going to win this challenge, but I think he’ll show us some great stuff.

We're told that in every season, except one, the winner of the entire competition wins the first challenge. Stefan wins tonight. He wants to be the first European Top Chef.

The losers have to explain themselves. Ariane again says she wasn’t familiar with Middle Eastern food. Tom says her farro wasn’t cooked and that everything on the plate counts. Patrick didn’t show the inspiration of the area. Tom says he had a cliché of what Chinese food is.

Tom is unfair with Ariane. She says in her own restaurant she has books to look at. Tom says you don’t learn to cook from books. Yeah, but they give you ideas, a bit of knowledge and inspiration. JG was nice about Ariane. Tom was a pain.

Send the kid home.

And they do! Patrick goes home. Gosh, whatever cooking school Patrick and Lauren went to (did they say it was the CIA?), it didn’t have a good night.

Too many guys with facial hair make it very confusing.


Emily said...

This whole episode was confusing. I have no idea what happened, it went by so fast.

I know the CIA student had very rosy cheeks.

I'm never a fan of the first few episodes of each season. I'm glad you're doing the review again.

DebCarol said...

I've been waiting for your Top Chef review .... and you didn't disappoint. Loved reading it. Padma has begun to annoy me beyond belief but I get her eye candy appeal (well my husband gets it). I liked the NY neighborhood challenge - a FAR better test of skills and instincts than anything on "Next FN Star". But this is a far better show. I'll be staying tuned .....

DebCarol said...

Meant to comment on the "needs more salt". All 16 of them should be packing a 5 pound sack of salt in their knife bags. On Food Network anyway they throw giant handfuls of it in EVERYTHING. The other day RR threw a full cup of it in some pasta water. Anyway then when they get eliminated, Padma can say; "Pack up your salt and go home".

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I missed the episode because I had the best intentions but I have said before that I'm not a night person so there was no way I...would...stay..awa...zzzzzz.

That's why I depend on my favorite recappers to let me know what happened. Thanks.

Nanc Twop said...

'Ariane, owner and chef in a NJ restaurant. I just hope she doesn’t play the Mom card too much.'

That's just what I thought - remember that woman last year ('Mika'?) that only talked about her daughter?!

'Too many guys with facial hair make it very confusing.'

And bald heads - as someone else said, its the TomC Fan Club!


Thanks for recapping! NancTWoP

Sue said...

Yes, Em, it was confusing.

That's the problem with having 2 baseball teams worth of contestants. (I have no idea how many people are on a baseball team. Maybe they had even 3 or 4 teams' worth...)

That kid did look perpetually embarrassed.

Thank you so much DebCarol,
Come back often!!!

Top Chef has REAL chefs, instead of apron designers or stand up comics or whatever else they have on TNFNS.

Good line for Padma. And I think that is why restaurant food tastes better than ours - there's SO MUCH MORE salt and fat.

Hi Rach,
Thanks. You're my favorite recappee.

Hiya Nanc,

I was thinking of Antonia (isn't that her name?) who was always saying that she cooked this or that for her daughter.

You know, that could be true about the baldies. Do you think they just do that to get in Tom's good graces? He seemed really grumpy. I wonder if he'll be like that all season. Maybe his head is cold...

Adam said...

I'm glad you're extending your musings into Top Chef. I just saw it last night via DVR and agree with most of what you said. I'm happy with the two losers so far.

cindyMN said...

Just now found your blog. LOVE IT!
I don't have a favorite yet. I knew though right away who won last yr!! How could you forget the 1st WOMAN!! to win top chef?? Stephanie?? Loved her, and picked her from the start. I do like the guy from Hawaii, and the 2 dudes that can't speak english and seem all high and mighty NEED to go!!
Looking fwd to reading more of your blog!

Sue said...

I'm afraid I have to disagree with you. How could you be happy that they kicked off that adorable Lauren, before she really had a chance to do anything? I think it was mean, and worse, dumb.

Hi Carol,
Welcome! Thanks for the nice words.

I'm not kidding, I totally forgot who won last season. Probably because I was so fixated on Dale and busy busting Lisa that I hardly noticed Stephanie. I do think, though, that she was more than competant.

I'm glad you agree about Eugene. Yeah, those two full-of-themselves guys don't do it for me either.