Thursday, June 17, 2010

"That skin was becoming chewy, and not pleasing to the mouth."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

One can only imagine my horror when, on my daily perusal of, I saw the feature entitled: Top Chef: Where are they now? At first, I was confused. Hmm, I thought to myself. Why would the writers randomly feature Top Chef? Unless…GOOD LORD! I’ve completely forgotten about the seventh season! In the blink of an eye, I landed on Bravo’s website, and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I had not, after all, completely missed the premiere. Top Chef: DC , otherwise known as “Top Chef, Season 7: Hail to the Chef” aired last night, complete with fanfare, political references, and lots of red, white and blue. Predictably, the new season features the three trademarks of Top Chef: ego, insecurity, ego.

Opening Thoughts: Ouch. Gladware is no longer providing the prize. Instead, Dial Nutriskin will take over product placement duties. What on EARTH? Please tell me there won’t be lots of episodes focusing on what products the chef use to wash their hands or, heaven forbid, an actual challenge based around incorporating the essential oils in Dial Nutriskin into some sort of exotic dish.

First Impressions:

Tiffany-seafood from Texas
Stephen-baby twins
Tracey-from Georgia, definitely eats what she prepares (I consider this a GOOD thing!)
Kenny-super confident, cooked his first egg at the age of three
Alex-Russian with funny glasses, seems nice though. Pleasantly humble.
Kelly-hot new chef from Colorado, Amy Ryan lookalike
Lynne-chef instructor? What? This will not go over well. However, I give Lynne points for immediately calling out the stereotypical tattoos and “crazy hair” of most chefs these days. At least the chefs that are picked for this show.
Kevin-chef at Rat’s in Hamilton, NJ. Cute.
Jacqueline-caterer from Brooklyn. Warning bells! Home cooks and caterers do not do well on this show!
Timothy-his wife passed away recently, so he's very inspired to win.
Angelo-painfully arrogant. Mr. Michelin. Timothy calls him out right away.
John-Crazy, CRAZY hair. I find it alarming, in fact. Would not want him preparing my food

Here come Padma and Tom! I'm full of warm and fuzzy feelings! For the life of me, I don’t know why the chefs thought it would be cool to totally dive into those hors d’oerves. For all they knew, their first quickfire would have been to prepare something out of the leftovers, a la Top Chef Miami.

My favorite! The mise en place relay! Points deducted, however, for repeating it as a first episode challenge. It’s a nice one to do midseason.

1st leg-peel 10 potatoes
2nd leg-brunoise (finely dice) 10 cups of onions.
3rd leg-break down 4 chickens.
4th leg-remaining 4 chefs will use the ingredients to make a dish

Points also deducted for what was sure to be a hapless attempt at discovering anyone who can rival Hung when it comes to breaking down chicken. If it’s not Hung, no one wants to see that!

I don’t even want to address the high stakes element of the challenge. We are not in Vegas anymore, Bravo!

As it turns out, Kenny is FIERCE. He tears through his potatoes in approximately two minutes. The five losing chefs from the first round are moved to the side, where they longingly gaze at the pile of onions that Kenny is now racing through. Angelo realizes that he’s a serious competitor and tries in vain to out-brunoise him. A few more chefs are eliminated, and round 3 begins. After sharing his 30 second method for breaking down a chicken, Kenny handily comes in first, again. I’m liking him, a lot. He’s a slow talker, quiet and confident but not exceedingly obnoxious like Angelo.

Angelo, Kenny, Timothy, and Kevin move on to the final round, and quickly start preparing their dishes. Angelo’s curried onion jam and potato noodles prove triumphant over Kevin’s too-salty broth and Timothy’s too-creamy sauce, but barely beat Kenny’s beautifully flavored two-ways Moroccan-spiced chicken. By this time, I already knew how Angelo might respond: by planning to be the first cheftestant to win every single challenge.


Before the chefs head out to their posh DC townhouse, Padma lets them in on the details of the elimination challenge. They will be required to create a dish that reflects where they’re from. They’ll be serving their dishes at a large cocktail party full of “Washingtonians.” Each of the top four chefs from the quickfire will participate in a schoolyard pick ‘em in order to choose the chefs they’ll be cooking against. As is usual in early Top Chef challenges, the chefs compete in teams, resulting in four potential winners and four potential losers for the judges to choose from.

Not much occurs at the new digs, except Arnold dividing up the snorers and non-snores, and Crazyhippiehair John writing in his journal about his poor challenge performance. Literally. “Dear Journal, Today was the quickfire.” I could read every word!

The mad rush to Whole Foods was next. It’s a protein panic, of course.

Back at the Top Chef Kitchen, located in the Hilton, Arnold freaks out because he’s never seen a Cuisinart before at his “mom and pop” restaurant in Nashville. Interestingly, he IS familiar with orchids, which he brings to decorate his station. I’m pretty sure they had nothing to with the myint julep kaffir lime cake that he served at the challenge (No, I did not spell "mint" wrong-that just happens to be Arnold's last name).

A few alarming things occur, as usual. Alex decides to make a “deconstructed” borscht. It would appear that an alarmingly high percentage of cheftestants actually don’t understand the concept of deconstruction. Jacqueline decides to “go light” with her pate liver MOUSSE. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure mousse isn’t a diet dish. Crazyhippiehair John decides to make a dessert. On the very first episode. The ominous feeling grows when he burns his first round of macadamia nuts.

At the event, we are introduced to the newest judge, the extremely charming, affable, Eric Ripert. Love him so much. He has had an illustrious career and is highly respected in the culinary world, yet still comes across as a genuinely nice person. Even if he is served “grainy” chicken liver pate, as is the case with Jacqueline the caterer’s ill-fated dish.

Especially voluptuous new mom Padma,“luscious” Gail Simmons (really, Padma? Is that the best word you could come up with to describe the always lovely Gail?) and Tom are rather underwhelmed by most of the dishes. I questioned some of the choices the chefs made, considering their task. Are waffles and Camembert truly a New York dish? Deep-fried ribeye is from O-hio? Baked beans might be Boston, but on Top Chef? Arctic char and bacon foam are native to Connecticut? Kenny’s cinnamon-coffee rubbed trout, black bean mole, and goat cheese polenta was the one winning dish that really stood out to me, and at least he used a river fish, which is somewhat Colorado-like.

Side note: The Bachelor: Officer and a Gentleman Andy Baldwin was present, and declared he wouldn’t serve the food to his kids. What kids would those be, Andy? You mean you actually found love OUTSIDE of a shameless television show?

Kevin, Alex, Kenny, and Angelo proved to have the most palatable dishes, though it seemed fairly obvious that the judges had a clear favorite in Angelo. He claims that everything he does from now on “will be outstanding.” Oh yay. I’m SO looking forward to a season with him.

Stephen, Jacqueline, Timothy, and Crazyhippiehair found themselves on the chopping block. Stephen was dinged for the deep-fried and overdone meat. Timothy was taken down a notch or two, and my beloved Tom rather callously rubbed it in that he was the only winning chef from the quickfire not to have the best dish in the elimination challenge. Not surprisingly, Jacqueline was chastised for her coarse lowfat mousse, and committed a cardinal Top Chef sin by admitting reliance on a recipe. Crazyhippiehair’s maple dessert lacked maple. And was just all around bad, judging from the looks on the judge’s faces as they choked that pile of sweetness atop storebought puff pastry down. He was a shoo-in for elimination. It’s a good thing. No one wants to find a piece of that hair in their food.

Though there appear to be a few likable types present, I must admit that I'm not sure of the caliber of these chefs. They're going to have to step it up. I am really not keen on watching Angelo win challenge after challenge.

So far, Team Kenny.

1 comment:

Hanne said...

I'm team Kevin! Rats -- the restaurant he works at -- is just down the road, and the food is really good. Too expensive to have more than on a special occasion, but really good. And plus he seems sweet. I cracked up at the "Dear Journal" moment too. Also, can we comment on Padma's much curvier than usual figure this season? I love it. Post-baby, she is rocking the fuller look and it's fantastic.