Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Top Chef: New York, Episode 9

Restaurant Wars

I would like to start this episode review with a side note, and after that I'm not going to discuss it any further (at least in this review). I am totally annoyed by this whole Hosea/Leah romance sideshow Top Chef has going this season. The whole reason I like this show (and Project Runway for that matter) is that they are about talented people working hard to display that talent. They are not The Real World, where the whole premise of the show is following around a bunch of drunk teenagers waiting for them to hook up with each other.

This is why I am so irritated by the Hosea/Leah hook-up. I want the only drama on Top Chef to be, "Did she put enough salt in that?" or "How many scallop dishes will Jamie make this season?" I don't need sexual tension to make the show interesting, and I don't want to hear grown-ups whining about how they've really messed things up with their girlfriend/boyfriend back home. This is about the greatest professional opportunity these chefs will ever get, and squandering it like a couple of drunk teenagers at their first frat party is insulting to everyone on the show and everyone at home wishing they were on the show.

That being said, nothing can ruin Restaurant Wars for me. It has been one of my favorite challenges every year, and this year was no different.

So, Padma announced at the beginning of the QuickFire that this week was Restaurant Wars, and therefore, the "prize" for winning was that they would be the chef/owner of one of the two restaurant concepts they chefs would open. The challenge was to come up with a dish that would reflect the style of the restaurant they would open.

The first winner was Radhika, who made Pan Seared Cod, Chorizo, and Cream Sauce (pictured above). I thought her explanation of her concept (globally influenced cuisine) was cohesive and interesting, so I wasn't surprised she was picked.

The second winner was Leah, who seemed to have no direction whatsoever when she was cooking. I also found her explanation to be kind of vague. She made Tempura Fried Poussin with Dashi Soy Sauce (pictured above), which could either be gross or great. I have to admit that I've never tried Poussin, but I might in this concept.

Did anyone else get the feeling that Radhika was in trouble from the second this challenge got started? First mistake - never run the front of the house if you're the chef/owner. She should have been back in the trenches making sure the food turned out perfectly, according to her vision. She did absolutely no cooking whatsoever. She also let her teammates (Jamie, Jeff and Carla) walk all over her throughout the planning process. She should have made Jeff work the front of the restaurant (the ladies would have loved it). Radhika doesn't have the temperament to greet guests and manage the wait staff. Most of all, she should have paid more attention to what Carla was doing in the kitchen. Yikes. Carla pretty much (with a little help from Radhika's lack of front of the house skills) cost the group the competition by completely screwing up the desserts. Both of them. Pretty much to the point of inedibility (once again, I reserve the right to make up words).

Leah's team (Hosea, Stefan and Fabio) seemed to be in trouble from the beginning as well. Mostly because Leah seemed to have no idea what she was doing. What was with the whole fish/bones thing? Seemed like a bad choice on her part, although I was kind of confused about how exactly that happened. Did she just buy a really bad, bony cut of fish? This team did have two major things going for it, though: Fabio and Stefan. If I were either one of the team leaders, I would have picked Fabio with my first or second pick strictly to run the front of the house. The guy was a natural, and everyone loved him. Stefan was the last pick of the draft (presumably because he can be kind of a douche to work with), but he's also clearly one of the most talented chefs of the show. He proved it tonight by producing not one, but two outstanding desserts.

Leah's team won the challenge by the skin of their teeth, thanks to Stefan's desserts and Fabio's charms. Leah was told that if her team had lost she would have been the one booted - no question. But she lives to cook (and annoy me) another day. Stefan is named the winner, and wins a kitchen full of the appliances they use to cook on Top Chef. Not too shabby! Certainly beats an autographed book.

Poor Radhika. She never had a chance, did she? If only Radhika had concentrated on the food instead of running around like her hair was on fire, she might have been around for awhile. I think she was pretty talented - what did she win, like three or four QuickFires? But I think it was when she had too much time on her hands to over-rotate on her decisions that she tripped herself up. Carla once again screws up royally and slips through the cracks. I'll bet she felt pretty guilty, because if her desserts had been even half-way decent, her team probably would have won.


Classy&Sassy said...

I agree on all points, FP. See below:

1. Hosea and Leah - ew. And what was up with Hosea's slimy excuses after they hooked up? "We were sitting next to each other on the couch...and then we kissed." Huh? More like they were sprawled out, arms and legs entwined, heavy petting for the better part of the evening.

2. Carla, while fun to watch, just doesn't seem to be able to cut it under pressure. I would stick up for her and say that the freezer was broken, but Stefan seemed to jump that hurtle with a little chef-y MacGuyver-type stuff.

3. Stefan may be difficult, but he is totally talented. If there is another team-related competition, everyone should keep that in mind.

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