leave your inhibitions at the door
Last year, I started noticing that the production quality in Top Chef has improved. The editing has gotten much smoother and every episode is faster paced. There isn’t as much of the manufactured drama (at least not yet) and the challenges aren’t hokey. They’ve even cut down on the “Top Caterer” challenges where the contestants have to cook for a thousand rubes.
One improvement that I really like is how they’re using their sponsorships. I can recall an Elimination Challenge in New Orleans where each dish had to use that staple of haute cuisine in the South – Philly Cream Cheese. Or how a goofy challenge had them choose mystery ingredients that were all wrapped in Reynolds-brand aluminum foil.
Now we only see flashing images of them drinking San Pellegrino and riding in BMWs. What I really like are the commercials for Patron tequila where former contestants demonstrate a cocktail recipe.
Kwame made a Clean Green, with tequila, cucumber, oregano and lime. #NEED #NOW
In this episode, they brought back a challenge that failed them miserably in the final of Top Chef Seattle. In that episode, Kristen and Brooke’s courses were individual head-to-head battles where the winning dish won a point. The first to four ended up winning the contest. Where it failed was when Kristen was winning and it was apparent that Brooke had no way of winning the remaining challenges in the remaining 5 minutes of the show. Any element of surprise was gone and we didn’t get to see the rest of the meal.
They resurrected that idea in this episode, but with much different results.
This is their classic “mise en place” challenge where they have to race each other doing various kitchen prep tasks. They were split into teams at random and had to mince garlic, dice onions, trim artichokes, shuck clams, and prep shrimp. Tons of each. When prep was done, they had to create a dish from those ingredients. The MVP from the winning team gets immunity.
Green Team: stuffed clams with shrimp, fresh herbs, sambal, chili, fried artichoke and bread crumbs
Blue Team: fried clam bellies and shrimp with shaved artichoke salad
Winner: Blue. Sheldon was the MVP, showing skill and being the ultimate team player.
Using the same teams, each chef had to make a course as part of a full seven-course meal served to a room of fans of the show. Each course was a head-to-head battle and the first team to four wins won. On the losing team, those with who lost their individual battle would be up for elimination. Each dish, including dessert, had to feature radishes.
Winning Team: Blue
Favorites: Sylva and Brooke
Winner: Brooke for her purple daikon panna cotta with sour pineapple curd, white chocolate pop rocks, and pineapple black radish juice
Losing Chefs: Sam, BJ, Sylvia, and Casey. Sylvia and Casey had excellent dishes, but just lost to a better one. This was between Sam and BJ, who had some flaws with theirs.
Gone: Sam, making him the first veteran to get booted. His Banh Mi inspired appetizer was weak on radish usage and his choice of brioche (instead of baguette) didn’t go with the rest of the ingredients.
– After the first five rounds, the blue team was winning 3-2 and it looked for sure like they would win. But then Padma voted for the green team’s dish in a tiebreaker. I had a suspicion that she picked that way so that the competition could keep going. Not that I can prove it.
– That said, whether it was chicanery or pure dumb luck, the head-to-head challenges were interesting and brought out the best in the chefs.
– Dish of the Night: Katsuji’s radish enchilada looked and sounded great, but Brooke’s dessert is too intriguing
– What I thought was interesting was that, more often than not, the judges voted the exact opposite of the “superfans”.
– Interesting, not surprising. Just because you’re a fan doesn’t mean you know shit about food.
– In Last Chance Kitchen, Sam went up against Gerald to create a dish that featured celery. Many times the dishes in LCK end up being much more interesting and better than what’s on the main show. Not this time. Sam won for a celery soup.