Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top Chef: New York, Season Premiere

Because I am obsessed with Top Chef (as I am sure many of you are), I decided that in the interest of feeding my obsession, I would start blogging about it each week. I am going to try to make this a regular column on Thursdays, but this is a make-up since I missed the season premiere last week.

Episode 1: Melting Pot
Well, this was a doozy of a premiere, wasn't it? I think that the Quick Fire and the Elimination Challenge were some of the most challenging I can remember on this show - keep in mind that I've seen every freakin' episode of every season.

The Quick Fire started things off with a bang. Of course, when I watch these shows, I always mentally compare myself to the contestants. The first thing I thought when they announced that the loser of the Quick Fire was going to be eliminated (the first time they have ever done this on Top Chef) was, "Well, I'm sure I could come up with something and scrape by." However, when they then proceeded to tell the contestants that the first round of the Quick Fire was going to test their knife skills, my reaction was, "Holy crap, I wouldn't make it past the first episode this season!"

They then lined all of the contestants up, and had them peel 10 apples with a knife (hello, bloody fingers) as fast as possible. The first nine to complete this task were safe. There is no way I would have been one of them. Knife skills are soooooo not my forte.

The eight chefs that did not pass the first round of the Quick Fire were then asked to move onto round two: preparing two cups of a brunoise of apple. If you are anything like me, you are asking yourself, "A WHAT of apple?" Basically, what this means is that they had to prepare two cups of finely, uniformly diced apples. While this might not sound that difficult, it's the "uniformly" part that makes this so spectacularly hard. Tom Colicchio was not playing around in his judging of this leg of the competition.

The four chefs who did not pass that round of the competition were then finally asked to cook (thank goodness), each of them preparing a dish featuring apples - no surprise there. I was pretty underwhelmed by the sound of all of the dishes, but particularly the two salads. The losing salad, prepared by fresh-out-of-culinary-school Lauren, was basically a mixed green salad with blue cheese, bacon, apples and walnuts. Um, isn't that so basic that it's on the menu at Chili's now? I mean, I know you only have 20 minutes to come up with something, but that is about as boring as she could have gotten. Snooze.

On to the Elimination Challenge...another doozy. The chefs were asked to draw knives that paired them off and assigned each pair a part of the city in which they will shop for ingredients and draw inspiration for their dishes. These parts of the city were: Brighton Beach (Russian Cuisine), Astoria (Greek Cuisine), Long Island City (Middle Eastern), Ozone Park (Latin Cuisine), Queens (Jamaican Cuisine), Little Italy (Duh), Chinatown (Um, duh again), and Little India (I think you get the idea).

My first thought when I heard this was that I would be completely screwed if I got Brighton Beach. I know absolutely ZERO about Russian cuisine, other than that I think Beef Stroganoff is kind of gross. My second through was that whoever got Little Italy would coast through this competition.

I am not going to go through all the dishes, but there were some that definitely seemed to stick out above the rest. I was excited to see Eugene, who had never cooked Indian food before, get such good reviews from the judges. Even Padma seemed to come out of her botox-induced coma for a second to praise it. Stefan's Greek dish was also clearly well-liked, as was Leah's Italian dish (although this one looked like kind of a snooze to me). This week's winner was chosen from these three, and Euro-Stefan walked away with the prize.

There was only one major kitchen oopsie, undercooked Faro by Ariane, who was one of the Middle Eastern Cuisine cooks. However, the rest of the dish seemed like it was pretty decent, and I think that's what saved her.

Poor, sweet little Patrick. I knew he was doomed from the beginning when at the opener he fired off with, "Just because I'm still in culinary school doesn't mean I can't be Top Chef." Yes, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what it means, Patrick. Although his dish didn't look awful or anything, it definitely looked like something that basically any home chef could easily whip up in about 30 minutes. Salmon with bok choy and noodles? Not exactly Top Chef fodder.

So far, my chefs to watch are Stefan, Eugene, Jamie (mostly because I like her tattoos), and Richard. Okay, I admit it, I am in love with Richard. He is hilarious, and has already professed his love for Tom Colicchio. Not sure if he can cook yet, but I hope he sticks around for awhile for the entertainment factor alone.

1 comment:

Ann Martin said...

I missed the premiere too! Thanks for the run-down.