Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yay for a New Season - Top Chef!

Oh, how I love a new season! It's in NYC this year. I'll try to keep the contestants straight.

Fabio is from Italy, and he's never been to NYC before.

Jamie Lauren is from San Francisco and she's an executive chef.

Eugene is from Hawaii, lives in Vegas, didn't go to culinary school, and worked himself up from a dishwasher.

Jeffrey is a vain surfer dude from Miami. I instantly dislike him.

Radhika is ethnically Indian, but sounds like she was brought up in the states.

Lauren is a chef in Georgia, and her husband is deployed in Iraq.

Alex and Carla got no real intro, but we hear that Carla is a caterer later.

Ariane is an executive chef and a mom from New Jersey.

Daniel is from Long Island, and works as a Chef de Cuisine.

Patrick is at CIA and is a former classmate of Lauren's.

Stefan is from Finland, but has lived all over Europe.

Richard's "inner queen" (yes, he said that) wants to see what Padme is wearing.

Leah vows not to cry.

At least Melissa was not even mentioned. Perhaps others.

Their first Quickfire challenge comes right off. One person is going to be cut right away. Whoever is last, they are gone.

Round 1: Peel 15 apples with a paring knife, no peeler, to Tom's specifications.

First 9 will be safe, the remaining 8 go int the next round.

Hosea says that he has entered a lot of cooking competitions in the past few years and has won them all, so he's not worried.

Someone cut through his thumb (Richard) and didn't quit.

Stefan is the first one done, and won immunity, and then is followed by a slew of others. Blood and all, Richard (I think) made it.

Round 2: 2 cups of brunoise the apples (a very small dice, and Tom says it has to be perfect). 4 will be safe.

Jill, who got no intro, had some issues with her first try, but made it through as the final spot in this round.

Lauren, Pat, Radika, and Leah move on to Round 3: To cook something in 20 minutes with the apples to convince Tom that they deserve to be in the competition.

Lauren made a salad with bacon, apples, blue cheese, spinach, and orange.

Pat also made a salad - an apple slaw.

Radhika made a pork with apple chutney.

Leah made a scallop dish with lots of apple through it.

Leah was immediately safe from elimination. Radhika joined her in safety. The two classmates and salad chefs are in trouble.

Lauren is gone. It's a shame, because I thought she had a good personality, but I guess not the cooking chops.

For the elimination challenge, and they pull knives, each with different locations around NYC, paired up. Each pair will cook against each other with dishes inspired by their part of the city. Chefs with winning dishes will be safe, and losing dishes will be up for elimination. (One

Their apartments are incredible.

Pat, Richard, and Jamie call themselves "Team Rainbow" as the gays and lesbian of the show. Stefan and Fabio bond over being European, but Fabio gets on everyone's nerves, and Daniel thinks they are snobby.

Everyone is trying to get to know their partner, and trying to figure out recipes. Richard and Jamie are going head to head (he calls her "my little lesbian friend"). Carla wants to be led by her spirit guide for her recipe.

Fabio and Jeff are going up against each other doing Latin food. Jeff is feeling sure of himself.

I lost track of who is doing what cuisine, but I do think it is really neat that each group gets to go shopping in their specific area of NYC. I wanted to crawl into the Indian store, because it is my favorite kind of food to cook. Eugene has never cooked Indian food before in his life, she he is nervous.

I can't wait to see what they come up with.

In the kitchen, there is predictable chaos. Some people look right at home, and others are floundering.

Pat was using black rice noodles, which he had never cooked with before, and they turned out gummier than he was thinking of. Jeff was very cocky in the beginning, and then his time rand down and he ran out of time to plate everything.

Jean-George Van Grishman (I'm sure slaughtered) joins Padme, Gayle, and Tom in the judging.

First up is Long Island City - Middle Eastern

Ariane made a Crusted rack of lamb with farro risotto and dates with chickpeas. She told the judges she was completely unfamiliar with middle eastern food. Don't admit you have no idea what you are doing! That is pretty much never ok.

Stefan made Lamb chops with Tabouli Salad and a beef skewer.

Gayle liked the lamb on Ariane's side, but not the farro. The judges really loved Stefan's dish, and he went to the winner's side of the challenge, sending Ariane to the losing side.

Next up is Team Greek.

Richard (who commented in his interview segment that Tom is a cutie with great eyes - and I cannot disagree - saying he would "buy him a drink if I saw him in the bar." I hope that Richard sticks around, because he is a good character) made a Greek Style Lamb slider, and a greek orzo pasta salad.

Jamie made Eggplant puree, seared bass, and a wild arugula salad.

Jamie's dish was a winner, because Richard's lamb was overcooked and dry.

Team Jamaica is up next.

Jill made plantain fritters and jerk spiced scallops, with three sauces.

Radhika made jerk rubbed halibut on top fo three bean rice with a mango salad.

Neither of these is really stellar, but Jill edges Radhika out.

Latin Cuisine is up next.

Fabio made a mango and jalapeno demi-glace pork with mushrooms & avocado salad.

Jeff made coffee seared pork tenderloin with smoked plantain, black beans and rice.

Both are criticized for their plating, and it's a split vote, with Tom prefering Fabio's dish, but Jeff is sent to the higher scoring side of the board.

It's time for Russian cuisine from Brighton Beach.

Hosea made smoked fish trio with caviar and creme fraiche and apple chutney.

Carla made smoked trout and salmon cake with potato latke, with caviar and Russian sour cream.

Hosea's dish was called Culinarily Eloquent. Nice.

Little Italy is up next.

Leah made a Farro Risotto with Seared red snapper and mushrooms.

Melissa made a seared rib eye steak, arugula salad, fried mushrooms, and tomato sauce.

Melissa's lack of enough salt and pepper sent her to the losing side of the board.

Chinese is up next.

Daniel made a poached chicken salad with bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and fried wontons.

Pat made seared salmon, bok choy, black rice noodles, and soy and sesame.

Pat's gummy noodles are a problem. Daniel's salad is called unoriginal, but he's safe.

Next is Indian.

Alex made grilled lamb chops, spicy ragout, and basmati rice.

Eugene made Masala rubbed lamb with basmati & tzaziki.

Eugene's dish is a winner, and Alex is in the bottom. Padma said that without knowing it, Eugene had prepared a dish that is in all South Indian homes. Good job to him.

First back to the judges table, are Stefan, Eugene, and Leah. From the losing group, Pat and Ariane are going back. Stefan is the winner of the first challenge, and the judges say that all but one season, the winner of the first challenge has gone on to be the winner. Wow, didn't know that little tidbit.

Ariane said that when she was planning, she just looked around the store to find what there was the most of, and figured they were popular and would go together. Patrick's problem was that he didn't really make the dish taste Chinese. Tom called it cliche sanitized Chinese. The fact that Ariane is from New Jersey and doesn't know cuisine that is available right in her own back yard works against her. It also didn't help her defense that she said "well, I have books for that!"

The judges said it was lack of technique vs. lack of inspiration. In the end, Patrick is gone, and Team Rainbow is split before it even had a chance to gel. He's so young, he can just go back to school I suppose. He left with a leaping hug for Richard, and I wish he had stuck around because he would have been fun to watch.

Looking soooo forward to this season. Who do you like best off the bat? I think Stefan has a good chance, but of course, I do like Scandinavians. It's a weakness. Some sort of ethnic imperative.

If I have time tomorrow, I will format this tomorrow.

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