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Mar 12, 2008 08:13 PM

Top Chef Season 4

let's discuss it (:

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  1. Some INCREDIBLE looking dishes in the elimination challenge from the winning group ... and some incredibly AWFUL looking dishes from the 4 in the losing group. I think any of those 4 could have had to pack their knives and gone home.

    LOVED seeing AB as the Gail/Ted replacement (thank you, Top Chef Gods, for not having Gail on the first show!), and I thought Rocco had the best line of the night in his criticism of one of the dishes...which, of course, I can't remember. But even Tom Colicchio said "Wow!" as a response. AB was rather tame in his criticisms - wonder if his wit will sharpen as the season goes on.

    And Rocco and AB seemed to have put things behind themselves with their kvetching at each other last season.

    Looking forward to seeing what others think - and more of the shows!

    27 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      Something about the only thing denser than the gnocchi was Ryan's head? I *was* amazed that a) he didn't know piccata and b) he didn't try to learn something from the judges. I think he was very lucky Nimma's shrimp was inedible.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        I think Rocco said something about Ryan(MythCafe) being as dense as his gnocchi for not knowing what picatta was.
        What the hell is that BS about Zoi & Jennifer from SF being a couple? Highly doubtful that was a coincidence them both being picked.

        Have to agree that AB was a little soft tonight.
        Seeing that Uno pizza made me homesick.

        Also it was pretty obvious that Nimma was going to be the first to go.

        1. re: sugarbuzz

          She seemed out of her element among an obviously very strong field. I felt bad for her, tho.

          Nice to see Stephanie do so well. she's a Chicago girl.

        2. re: LindaWhit

          I could be wrong, but it seemed like they still showed Ted Allen and Gail as being judges this season, but maybe later on? There were a few scenes during last night's episode (and the trailer for the season) that had them in it

          1. re: gyozagirl

            Ted and Gail will definitely be alternating on shows - blogging as well on Bravo's site. I'm just glad the chose AB to sit in that seat instead of Gail. Just my personal preference. :-)

            1. re: LindaWhit

              Oh believe me, I totally agree with the decision for AB to be there- I mean god forbid we have to witness Gail's reaction for another challenge involving eggs, a la 2 seasons ago.. haha!

              1. re: gyozagirl

                "NO MORE RUBBERY EGGS!" (Wielding a spatula instead of a wire coat hanger, of course!).

                1. re: gyozagirl

                  That's exactly what I thought when those eggs benedicts were served ;-)

            2. re: LindaWhit

              A few things I noticed when reading the bios. Dale and Andrew have some serious resume fodder. Erik is self taught, which kinda explains the Souffle debacle. MArk is self taught also, which makes me almost impressed by his deconstructed duck l'orange. Richard has actually trained under Keller, Boulud and Adria (which explains a lot). Ryan works in a french restaurnat, so not knowing Piccata is even worse. I know it may be Italian, but it's a classic European dish. Zoi is also self taught and I think her lack of experience will knck her out very soon.

              1. re: jhopp217

                <Zoi is also self taught and I think her lack of experience will knck her out very soon.> It nearly did that last night. Her soufflé was the best of two terrible renditions...

                Manuel is classically trained, worked in France with a couple of top toques, in New York with Batali, and is Exec Chef of Dos Caminos now. I'm interested to watch his progress on the show.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  I looked over Manuel's menu ( and.... Well, it's interesting, but I didn't find anything that triggered that, "My god, I've got to try that!" kind of reaction. But there in the heart of NYNY, I do wonder how many servings of grasshoppers they put out a day, and who his supplier is... '-)

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Dos Caminos is not a well regarded restaurant. It's a place you go if you want guacamole and drinks and large portions. There are two or three of them in Manhattan.

                    1. re: Felixnot

                      Yes. There are 18 reestaurants in the group, according to the website, not all in NYC. I'm just curious how hot the sales are on grasshoppers. '-)

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I mentioned this in a post before the premiere aired, but for those who read Heat, Manuel is actually "Memo" the former sous chef at Babbo. If I remember correctly, he left Babbo for an Executive Chef position because he thought that Andy Nusser would never leave Babbo, and probably lived to regret that decision when Casa Mono opened. I think that Buford went to visit him at a restaurant he was working in later and it was clear that he regretted the decision.

                        My impression is that he is seriously talented chef who through a series of bad decisions has ended up cooking at a lower level place than his talent warrants. I think he could be a big dark horse.

                        In honor of Top Chef, I made cheese souffles for breakfast Sunday, which in my humble opinion were much better than what either chef offered (not that it was hard). Although they rose beatifully, they also fell pretty darn fast once out of the oven, which highlighted to me the problem with having those dishes served last to the judges (is it just me or do savory souffles fall much faster than sugary souffles?).

                        1. re: Megiac

                          Let's wish Memo well. It is SOOOOO annoying to try to cook while some cameraman is trying to get his lens inside your stock pot! Cooking without cameras is so much easier.

                          As for deflation, back when I used to make souffles on a regular basis, my instinct was that it had more to do with how "well done" they were than anything else. Those that deflated really fast had softer "innards" than those that held their loft for a bit and then deflated more slowly. And it is not actual time in the oven that determines how well done they are deep within. Every souffle is different. Pity.

                          But how the egg whites foam, how fresh the eggs are, how gently the cook folds the base and whites all have to be factors too. I suspect the way you prep your souffle for the oven plays a part too. I always put my souffle batter in the bowl, smooth it a bit (but not too much), then stick my thumb down inside the bowl and turn it to make a trough around the rim. Helps the souffle rise straight up without too much effort. Whenever I forgot to do this, the souffles wouldn't rise as high and would have more "dome" to the top.

                          But the most important thing in controlling how fast your souffle deflates is having hungry mouths already at the table when it comes out of the oven! '-)

                          And hooray for you for the breakfast souffles!

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            I made a blue cheese and bacon souffle for brunch once. Yummmmm! Who cares if it deflates if it tastes that good!

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              OK, you two, how about a recipe now that you have made me CRAVE a breakfast souffle! sounds soooooooo gooooood.

                              1. re: EliAnnKat

                                Thanks, Caroline! I didn't use a particular recipe. I think I used a recipe for a breakfast souffle with bacon and used blue cheese (but it might have been vice versa: added bacon to a blue cheese souffle). Souffles are surprisingly forgiving when it comes to adding/subbing ingredients.

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Yes, very forgiving. I'm just not sure how "forgiving" my recipe would have been with only half the butter! It's a basic basic souffle. Leave out the cheese, add sugar and flavoring of choice and you have a dessert souffle. Just don't brown the roux. You can turn it into any kind of souffle known to man, and with a little imagination, some that aren't! '-)

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Easy, impressive and cheap. My first attempt at a souffle was when I needed something for a veggie potluck I was hosting and I was flat broke. I had to make something from what was on hand, so I looked in my cookbook and found a recipe for onion souffle with rosemary. Everyone was very impressed by a dish that cost me about a dollar.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Eggs are a broke cook's best friend! Have a crowd in for lunch and toss a salad and make two or three quiches and they think you're a rich genius! A souffle blows their minds. '-)

                                2. re: EliAnnKat

                                  Caroline1 shared her souffle recipe, and we've moved it over to the Home Cooking board, so more of our Home Cooking hounds can enjoy it. You can find the recipe here:

                2. re: LindaWhit

                  He said: "Let's just say the gnocchi wasn't the only thing that was dense." It was pretty damn harsh!

                  1. re: Chew on That

                    I guess it's more harsh when you think it was made after only a brief discussion with the cheftestant.

                    But in reading Rocco's blog on TC, I guess they had gone back and forth and back and forth with that cheftestant, and he just refused to agree with their comments (I believe about the potatoes and/or rice being part of the "classic" dish?), so the comment was related to his stubbornness. Makes sense then.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      "I guess it's more harsh when you think it was made after only a brief discussion with the cheftestant."

                      It's hard to say just how much conversation they had with that group. I think I read on one of the Top Chef blogs some time last season that the judge's table process lasts as many as a few full hours but is edited down to less than 10 overall minutes for television. Maybe they talked with the cheftestant about his picatta problems for 10 straight minutes but realized at the end he simply wasn't going to get it. Or maybe not? Who knows?

                      R. Jason Coulston

                      1. re: Jason_Coulston

                        My impression from Rocco's blog was also that they'd spent quite a bit of time talking to him about this piccata problem.

                        1. re: Jason_Coulston

                          Yeah, that's one thing you have to realize about all these Bravo competitive shows: these judging sessions go on for hours, and in the end, the editors have to find a sound bite from those hours of discussion that sums it all up for the viewers. So often you end up hearing something that sounds overly heated or mean-spirited, or that seems to be sort of random, and you need to keep in mind that it was taken from a much larger context. I remember, for example, episode of Project Runway where one of the contestants (Santino) had a very acrimonious exchange with one of the judges (Nina Garcia) that seemed disproportionate in the context of we saw, and then it was revealed that Santino had gone off for 90 minutes on the panel, and this one snip was just an encapsulation of that extended discussion. It was also widely rumored this last season, that when one of the Project Runway contestants (Victoria) was eliminated she threw a tantrum and stalked off, and they had to bring her back hours later and reshoot it; if you knew to look, you could see that in the shots just before she's told she's eliminated, she looks like she's been crying and she's looking at her feet instead of the panel, the camera, the other contestant, etc. She's clearly a very unhappy camper. That also, by the way, demonstrates that Bravo is not necessarily looking primarily for "drama" -- I'm sure if that's what they wanted, there's lots of footage that they choose not to show that would be much more "dramatic."

                          That's also why sometimes when the judges are giving their final comments it's in voice-over: if the editors don't have anything they can edit together coherently, they'll have the judges summarize the discussion and dub it over. It sounds fake, but I think it's probably necessary sometimes in order to distill hours of discussion into a few seconds. I think as the judges have gotten more experienced on all these shows, at least the regular judges have gotten better at making sure they include some kind of summarizing statement on camera.

                  2. SPOILERS:
                    Great, they kicked off the best looking person right off the bat. Not to mention, with America about to elect its first black president, they couldn't find a single decent black chef in the entire country. Badly done, producers.
                    But worst of all,did anyone notice that warm, nurturing look in Bourdain's eyes? He didn't have a single mean or witty thing to say the entire show. Spawning and marriage has stolen Tony's mojo!
                    Rocco as the heavy? Ugh, I miss the last season already.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: newhavener07

                      I'd bet a cutting Bourdain comment could decimate of one of these chefs. Do you remember when in Season 3 he said that CJ's broccolini tasted like something found in Bob Marley's closet? It was funny, but I can only imagine that CJ died a thousand deaths.

                      But about this season: When they got to challenge (2?) the winners of the previous quick challenge drew knives and had to choose their competitor who in turn got to choose the dish they would be making from a list on the board. The judges tasted the Chicken Piccata recipes and harshly censured one competitor because he had breaded his chicken, however Padma had clearly stated that they could prepare their dishes as a classic, or "reimagine the dish entirely." Not fair to change the rules and then excoriate the competitors for playing along.

                      1. re: MysticYoYo

                        Well, by now, Tony knows exactly what kind of crack house Chef Tom is running ;-)

                        1. re: MysticYoYo

                          I don't think Ryan's dish could have been described as a reimagined piccata. It was clear that he didn't know what piccata is and he probably still doesn't. Weren't the chefs doing the same dishes working right next to each other? Certainly the crabcake guys were. You'd think Ryan would've seen the capers going into his competitor's dish and something would've clicked. I think he should've been eliminated for not knowing the basic elements of the dish, which to me is a worse infraction than oversalting.

                          1. re: MysticYoYo

                            I'ts pretty funny you aid that comment about Padma, as I was thinking the same thing. Although the lack of capers and lemo was a big mistake, I have seen many "classic" cookbooks that show bread crumbs in teh recipe for Chicken or Veal Piccata

                            1. re: jhopp217

                              There are no breadcrumbs in piccata. That's Parmigiano! and often there is no egg. that's regional.

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                Chef June, traditionally Piccata does not have any cheese in it. It's floured scallopine chicken lightly cooked with a sauce of broth, lemon juice, and capers. At the last minute you whisk in the butter and pur over the chicken. Simple, yet elegant. No breadcrumbs, no egg, and definitely no cheese.

                                1. re: jhopp217

                                  Did you misread ChefJune? She says nothing about cheese being used in piccata.

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Wondering the same here. ChefJune is correct.

                                    1. re: Docsknotinn

                                      Correct. She says that breadcrumbs are used in in chicken parm.

                                2. re: ChefJune

                                  Chef June,

                                  I was very embarrassed that I -as I was watching- also did not know what piccata was, off the top of my head ... and I've made it!

                                  Tell me, the recipe I normally see served in restaurants (and have made) includes green olives, capers, and lemon zest. Also, I've seen it on the bone.

                                  Clearly, this is not a piccata. Do you know the name of the dish I am describing?

                          2. Any clear winners out there who will make it to the top 5 or less? So far nobody really stands out to me. Also what was up with Bourdain and Rocco getting together to judge? I thought they hated each other?

                            Also that one souffle dish looked like someone took a huge shit on it and smeared their big toe in it ): so sad

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: bitsubeats

                              That was one of the least appetizing dishes I've ever seen. Truly horrific.

                              1. re: bitsubeats

                                i was thinking it looked like vomit, but i guess we're at least on the same page about just how vile that presentation was. and who the hell puts mashed potatoes in a soufflé? if ryan should have gotten the boot for being so dense about a classic like chicken piccata, eric deserved it just as much for that bizarre choice.

                                fortunately for both of them, nimma aoparently has salt issues, and as we've seen in past seasons, the judges don't have much patience [and rightfully so] for chefs who can't appreciate how crucial it is to salt a dish properly. but i think they might have made a different decision had she not compeltely omitted salt from her quickfire pizza.

                                she probably wouldn't have made it much farther in the competition anyway. she just seemed too sweet, unsure, and very green. maybe in a few years...

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Well, I suspect that every chef walking the planet has goofed on oversalting something at leat once in his career, so in my opnion, at least Nimma knew that you do use shrimp in Shrimp Scampi. But not to have a clue about what goes into a piccata, or using mashed potatoes and piling things on top of a souffle to turn it into a frittata? I think they sent the wrong person home.

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    They also took into consideration the quickfire challenge where she undersalted her pizza. Salting a dish properly is considered a fundamental of cooking. So she screwed up twice. One of the blogs said that the mashed potato thing, while not representative of a souflee, tasted good while Nimma's dish was difficult to eat. So I think they sent the right person home.

                                2. re: bitsubeats

                                  The guy with the spiked hair knows his stuff. The only knock on him, is the last two seasons, the runner up and the winner were into the whole molecular gastronomy angle, and I think these judges might be sick of it, and want more classicly designed dishes.

                                3. Is itr me, or is this the largest number of competitors they have ever started a season with?

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Per the all-knowing Wikipedia, there were 12 contestants in season 1 and 15 in seasons 2 and 3. So you're right - 16 is the largest number yet.

                                    1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                      Did you see the shot of all of them lined up in the kitchen at the beginning? It seemed like the line went on

                                  2. Why do Zoi & Jennifer have a blog on Bravo site? I thought contestants weren't supposed to have any public interaction while the show was on?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: sugarbuzz

                                      I love this show, whoo hoo! :)

                                      Now personally, I don't know a picatta. But I saw him put the plate down and went "Gasp, he made a milannese!' (sp?) And my husband responds.."That's it, I'm throwing out the TV. But I would imagine if I were entering a cooking competition, I would get out my Joy of Cooking, or a fundementals book, and cram it like a midterm.

                                      We've seen people get eliminated all the time for not knowing fundementals, be it a classic dish, classic ingredients, or classic preperation skills.

                                      Looking forward to my months of marathons.