leave your inhibitions at the door
Top Chef is back and I couldn’t be happier. OK, I could be happier if someone wrote these recaps for me….
But I’m happy to see it back as a distraction to this never-ending electoral cycle. Yes the elections were a month ago, but last week’s news (and subsequent Facebook reactions) were all about Trump’s rallies, journalists spending their time foolishly trying to convince people 98% of what he said made no sense, Democrats saying “WTF?”, and Republicans saying “WTF?”. See? It ain’t over…
And my favorite show, The Walking Dead, has been really, really disappointing. Perhaps because it can’t seem to match to the actual reality of an America filled with mindless zombies walking around eating whatever they can get their hands on who can only really be stopped with a lobotomy. But at least I’ve found a new favorite show – the insanely hilarious Crazy Ex-Girlfriend –
Where was I? Oh yeah, Top Chef.
Top Chef is back and is now in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ll talk more about the city in future posts, but I’m ecstatic about it. It’s a great city with a lot of history, awesome food, and terrific seafood. Great choice.
The big twist this year is that half of the contestants were from previous Top Chef Seasons
– Shirley – New Orleans
– Katsuji – Boston
– Sam – Los Angeles
– John – Seattle
– Sheldon – Seattle
– Amanda – Washington
– Casey – Miami
– and Brooke, who still looks fantastic
I wish I could say the same for Will Smith
Quickfire Part 1
The eight new contestants are in the kitchen, blissfully unaware that the other eight would be the returning chefs. The other group watched as the newbies were tasked with making as many dishes as they wanted out of a chicken. There were no restrictions outside of the 60 minute time limit. The winner gets immunity in the Elimination and the loser would go into a Sudden Death with the loser of the second Quickfire.
I love these challenges because the lack of rules or restrictions allows for creativity. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like any of the new cheftestants were up to the challenge. Only one of them made more than one dish and there were so many miscues and mistakes around. It’s too early to start listing all the dishes, so here are the main results –
Winner – Jim, the nerdy official chef for the State of Alabama who made fried chicken innards with aioli, bitter lettuces and strawberry vinaigrette.
Loser – Gerald’s smoked buttermilk chicken. He said it’s the worst thing he’s ever cooked and it did look and sound pretty awful.
Quickfire Part 2 – Unofficially titled “Step aside newbies, let me show you how it’s done”
New judge Graham Elliot came out and announced the challenge – in 30 minutes, make your interpretation of Shrimp and Grits. This is a little less open-ended but still allowed for creativity. There were a lot of non-surprises – Shirley did something Chinese, Katsuji did an overly-complicated Mexican version, and Sheldon made the version I’d most like to eat.
Winner – Brooke, who ground the shrimp to use as a coating for a Scotch egg. Not sure what that is? Silly you, of course I got you covered with a recipe for it.
Loser – John, who made some kind of weird faux kimchee thing.
Sudden Death Elimination
Gerald and John went head-to-head to see who got sent home. They had 30 minutes to do their take on a traditional oyster roast. John went with a French soup of cream-poached oyster with black truffles. Gerald went with a Thai-inspired mignonette and tomato compote. Both sounded really good, but Gerald was sent home due to weak oyster flavors and not enough spice for a Thai sauce.
– Out of all the things I saw, the dish of the night was the fried innards. I need those –
– The oyster roast took place at a former plantation which they rightfully and soberly acknowledged, especially since Gerald is black. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Something about showing that felt a little like exploiting that dynamic.
– Gerald had to roast a second set of oysters as the first ones had tiny crabs in them. WHAT?!?! that happens?
– Newbie Emily is already being cast as the villain and it seems she’s relishing in that role. She mentioned that she’s been fired several times for attitude and it shows. She made the observation that all of the returning chefs were beat at one point, so they’re beatable now. Good point. However…
– Shirley, Brooke, and Sheldon (not sure of the others) made it very deep into their competitions. So they aren’t like the other newbies. AND, the Shrimp and Grits dishes were far and away more creative and better prepared than the newbie chicken dishes. It may be a bloodbath.
– And don’t think that John Tesar is going to let the title of villain slip from his icy-cold grip. During my Seattle recaps I nicknamed him “Ticking Timebomb”. He claimed several times that he’s changed and that was the old him. Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.
– BMW, probably as there’s a plant in South Carolina, is a sponsor this year. I’m SURE the contestants are happy about being schlepping around in those instead of the usual minivans of past seasons.
– I’m really excited that Graham Elliot is on the show. He had one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago and he curated the restaurant selections for Lollapalooza.
– He’s also the mastermind behind the Foie-llipops (Foie gras lollipops rolled in pop rocks candy) I made a couple years ago.