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Top Chef Season 4

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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 (http://tinyurl.com/yteudw) 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: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/500699

                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 Parmigiano..as 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 for.ev.er.

                                  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.

                                    2. Bourdain did seem much toned-down. But I believe the overall tone of this season will be more serious and food-focused than ever. This is part of what makes the show great. Great chefs are coming out to compete and great judges are coming out to taste. Bourdain may have wanted to show a more serious, food-focused side for the show.

                                      Bourdain and Rocco don't hate each other. They blogged on the issue last season. Bourdain sees Rocco as one of the gifted chefs of our time, and questioned why Rocco left cooking to shill Bertolli frozen dinners or whatever he's up to. Rocco responded that he can leave cooking and do whatever he wants just like Bourdain. Something to that effect. That's all.

                                      20 Replies
                                      1. re: Budget Palate

                                        The souffles were both disasters, but given that challenge, I would personally be scared shitless. I suppose one or both of them could have cruised into the baking section of Whole Foods to see if there would be any help, recipe, or other reference to basic souffle techniques, but working on the fly with no reference is tough. Maybe I would have done a "souffle" using a choux dough. At least it would have been light and it would have risen properly. With some gruyere cheese and a thyme creme anglaise that may have worked. Still . . . tough tough tough.

                                        What on earth does cauliflower have to do with shrimp scampi by the way? You could smell her losing dish a mile away. Bummer to be the very first contestant dismissed, but it has to be somebody I guess.

                                        And for reference, Caroline1, I believe they always start each season with 16 contestants. I think. I could be wrong.

                                        R. Jason Coulston

                                        1. re: Jason_Coulston

                                          I like the statement they were making here on the first challenge: Know The Classics. Tom said in an interview that some of the cheftestants are coming in not knowing the classics.

                                          If they had been caught looking up info on a souffle they would have been disqualified. I agree: a souffle on the first challenge would have been tough.

                                          But the souffle chefs didn't get eliminated. The chef that got eliminated didn't have enough salt in her pizza in the Quickfire, and then had way too much salt on her shrimp. This doesn't even get into technique yet, but it questions her basic understanding of providing the correct amount of medium-range seasoning to satisfy the average palate. Clearly she should have been eliminated right off the bat.

                                          1. re: Jason_Coulston

                                            well, you wouldn't have made a souffle with MASHED POTATOES? Whatever happened to pastry cream/bechamel? Both those souffles were awful. My 15-year-old nephew makes better souffles than that!

                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                              The mashed potatoes thing just defies any sort of logical explanation. I felt he could have just as easily been asked to go for that offense.

                                            2. re: Jason_Coulston

                                              I almsot thing what saved Erik was his "nachos" comment. He realized his mistake and realized he basically screwed up, where as Nimma tried to sound like she knew what she had done and it wasn't her fault.

                                              1. re: jhopp217

                                                agreed. bourdain smirked appreciatively at the nachos comment - i think erik really did save himself with that one.

                                              1. re: Docsknotinn

                                                Docsknotinn, did you ever eat at Union Pacific? Rocco is or at least was one of the best young chefs in America and no one who ate there will dispute this fact.

                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                  That's true, altho they treated women like they knew less than nothing, especially about wine.....

                                                  had two unpleasant experiences there, and never went back, even tho the food was stellar.

                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                    KT beat me to it. when he was at union pacific, rocco cooked me one of the best meals i've ever eaten in my life. and yes, he was doing the cooking...and came out to talk to us during the meal. sure, many people think he's a sell-out, but he's an unbelievably talented chef.

                                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                                      Jfood agrees on the talent of Rocco. It is unfortunate that the only thing people know are his silly "The Restaurant" and his ads for Bertolii. If anyone listened to his comments, he raised the bar at the Chef's table.

                                                      As far as jfood is concerned they can keep those four judges (yes we have to keep what's her name) for the season. Jfood thought their dialogue was the highlight of the show.

                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                        Agreed. Based upon Union Pacific alone, Rocco's talent as a chef has been proven and his reputation is justified.

                                                    2. re: Budget Palate

                                                      If you have ever tasted a Bertolli frozen dinner, you will understand Bourdain's disdain. If all Italian food tasted like that, Italy would be the land of anorexics!

                                                      I thought episode one was a light comedy. I cannot imagine anyone who has gotten past prep cook in a restaurant not knowing you can't make a picatta without butter, lemon and capers, much less skip the breadcrumbs. OR that you don't use mashed potatoes in a souffle, and never never never pile stuff on top of one. LOL!

                                                      I was cheered when the deconstruction failed! You don't deconstruct classics. To me it's like going into a bookstore, buying "War and Peace," then having a gazillion pieces of confetti fall out with one letter printed on each. I want my food ready to eat and my books ready to read. No reconstruction required!

                                                      Other than the crabcakes (which I don't particularly like. Why ruin crab?), I didn't think the new versions of classics did much to honor the originals. But the viewing audience is always at a disadvantage from not tasting the dishes. Still, I think it would be an interesting approach to do something of the opposite. Just say to the contestants, "Go, create a unique and original dish of your own, and you'll have points off if any of our judges have ever tasted or seen anything similar before." Hey, that potatoe souffle with the tortilla chips and salsa on top might have won! '-)

                                                      1. re: Budget Palate

                                                        If the show is going to be serious and food-focused, they shouldn't have Bourdain there at all. He's famous only for his books and personality, not his cooking. Les Halles is hardly in the top tier of NY restaurants. I want snarky Tony back!

                                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                                          I thought you were going to boycott the show for its apparent lack affirmative-action recruitment practices?

                                                          Oh well, if you still plan on watching... I would say that you are probably right that Bourdain is not as famous for his cooking as for his personality, books, and touring. And, anyway, in his travels he has tasted, well, pretty much everything. He was brought on the show as a taster-judge and is more than qualified to preside as such. The judges do not really need to be the best cooks in the land (although increasingly they are), they need to the best tasters in the land.

                                                          And don't worry, it's not as if "serious" Tony and "snarky" Tony can't both be food-focused. People are just clamoring for that typecast version of Tony that they like. But I thought he was sort of giving the show some respect, as in, "this is a great show and I am toning down my Tony-ness because it's not about me here." We'll see if it lasts past the first episode... I think they wanted to start off with a somewhat professional, restrained episode that focused on what the show will be about -- food. And the creator of the worst dish, regardless of race, color or creed, will be sent packing.

                                                          1. re: Budget Palate

                                                            I agree - I liked Tony's comments - it wasn't all snark - it was good, valid judgment of the food and plating, and I liked hearing his honest comments. He doesn't need to be "all snark, all the time."

                                                            And the same *could* be said for Bobbie Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Paula Deen, etc. Would they be as famous as they are without their television shows and subsequent cookbooks? Not so sure. What about Padma? She's "famous" because of this show. So newhavener07's assertion that Bourdain shouldn't be there seems a bit far-fetched.

                                                            1. re: Budget Palate

                                                              agree that a.b. is a thoroughly qualified judge based on his extensive palate at this point, & he worked in the trenches long enough to have a little empathy for those who may be in over their heads a little.

                                                              on a.b.'s non-snarkiness the first time out: snark is to some extent wasted on the inexperienced. what good would it do for janos starker to tell a twinkle-twinkle playing suzuki student that they have no chops? it's obviously a waste of everyone's time, unnecessarily hurtful, & it's not like the snark will make them improve overnight to concert level. . . save the snark for someone who has talent & chops but is missing vital elements that would make them successful, as snark can be extremely motivating for many competitive individuals.

                                                              this opener was just to get a feeling of what the cheftestants were capable of (or incapable of, in the cases of souffles & picattas). it's very possible for these people, flown across the country to perform for judges, to have missteps or try to do too much in the opening salvo. bourdain is being "nice" to them while he feels them out and gauges their competence exactly in the same way an exec chef will be "nice" to a new hire for three days or a week, before s/he starts breaking them down and remolding their skill sets to meet the needs of the restaurant. trust me, the snark will come later, and depending on how the cheftestant handles the criticism/input, a grudging respect-- and even affection, will follow. or else a.b. will get the hapless fellow's head on a platter-- it's an old story that loses nothing in countless retellings!

                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                Great post. I really liked your take on the eventual return of A.B.'s "snark", as well as your take on the correct use of "snark" as a motivator of professionalism. You are probably right, he will bring it out later when it counts - heads will roll and the story loses nothing in the retelling!

                                                                Then there's just the fact that his one-liners can be so funny/memorable; "buffet of horrors", "lobster with the texture of doll-head", "you couldn't serve it in prison" etc etc

                                                                1. re: Budget Palate

                                                                  that's true too-- about missing his one-liners! i do look forward to a.b. hitting on one-liners that make me fall out of my chair laughing! anyone know whether he's on for the whole season, or just intermittently?

                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                    He's not mentioned as a permanent guest judge. But at least Bravo TV knows how well he's liked by the viewers (at least most of us, unlike that "other" food channel) - and it would be good ratings to have him on the opening episode (although I don't think I read anywhere that he was mentioned as a guest judge.)

                                                        2. FYI there are LOTS of blogs up. Leanne's is funny and the others are pretty interesting. Still waiting on Tom's. And Padma's is a video - no way I could bring myself to watch. They seem to give a surprising amount of opinion about the contestants as a whole and how long they think they might last.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: AMFM

                                                            http://www.smallswope.com/?p=66

                                                            The Top Chef Drinking Game (or at least one version) to which LeeAnn refers.

                                                          2. Neither was even close to be a piccata, I was completely baffled on both dishes and how they related to the original. I thought it was bizarre that they didn't know a traditional piccata, seriously.

                                                            I was a bit amazed that they chose the Duck L'orange as the winner, I have had that served to me before in many different preperations and restaurants (very similiar to how the winner -Stefanie??- it did not seem new or inventive, just safe. Maybe it was the best tasting dish, I'm sure it had to have been...I just think it was a very boring and a "been there, done that" kind of winner.

                                                            20 Replies
                                                            1. re: cocktailqueen77

                                                              As for playing it safe, for me, that would really be my goal in the first episode. This isn't the finale. It's not even the half way point. I'd have to control what would probably be an overwhelming desire to come out of the box swinging like a previously caged fighter, but the right play, I'd think, would be to delivery a lovely and classic plate of food.

                                                              Picatta? I wouldn't try anything other than what's classic. Shallots, lemon, butter, capers.

                                                              Lasagna? Probably veal & pork bolognese with besciamella layered in hand-made pasta.

                                                              Steak au Poivre? Pepper-crusted steak with a cognac cream sauce.

                                                              I'd really want to deliver a standard that shows good technique and excellent execution without going over the top. Really, all you have to beat are some over-salted shrimp and some cauliflower custard that ended up in a non-stick skillet. Why take a big risk?

                                                              R. Jason Coulston

                                                              1. re: cocktailqueen77

                                                                I say congrats to Bravo for having the first elimination challenge NOT be product-placement driven! I really liked the 8 head-to-head competitions format, it made it easier to stay focused with such a large number of cheftestants and it was fun.

                                                                Compared to the "rework American classics" challenge last season (recall Micah's weird meatloaf and CJ's pond scum tuna casserole?) I think these chefs on the whole did a great job making interesting versions of classic dishes.

                                                                It was so sweet to see such a nice, nervous chef win it all and get such high praise from Bourdain. That dish may have looked safe, but Stephanie must have skillz because the chances that you will make mediocre, sweet, boring duck dish are huge (ever tried the crispy duck at your local random Thai restaurant?). Bourdain, Rocco & Co know duck and that duck must have been juicy, balanced and perfectly cooked. Telling, isn't it, that she cranked out that perfect multicomponent duck dish in 90 min when a certain SEASON 2 WINNER demonstrated total incompetence with duck, huh? (In the Season 1 vs. Season 2 challenge.) Looks good for Season 4!

                                                                When the show started at first I was just missing all the Season 3 folks but by the end warmed up to this group and am really looking forward to seeing what they can do. Ryan's doofiosity was just embarrassing. He has to step up or he won't last long!

                                                                1. re: kenito799

                                                                  What product placements did we see? I saw Whole Foods and Glad bags. What else did I miss?

                                                                  1. re: Minger

                                                                    Ummm...Pizzeria Uno....at least it was just the quickfire.

                                                                    1. re: kenito799

                                                                      And the winner of the Elimination challenge said they got out of their "Top Chef RAV4's" or something like that. Plus a nice fat closeup of the GE Momentum ovens.

                                                                      1. re: kenito799

                                                                        Yeah, and it worked. I went and bought an uno pizza to have for my lunch today. haven't had one for YEARS...haven't wanted to. But it just looked so good last night. That or the subliminal messages worked!

                                                                        1. re: heathermb

                                                                          heather, if you're ever in Chicago, please be sure to go to the "real" Uno's. The pizzas there bear no resemblance to any I've ever seen in the franchise joints.

                                                                          1. re: heathermb

                                                                            Update: had the pizza (or some of it) and remembered why it had been years. That said I'm sure that if I had it freshly baked in Chicago it would be delicious!

                                                                            1. re: heathermb

                                                                              it was a very good sign when the pizzeria uno franchise in the east village in NYC closed...the relentless march of the chains halted at least once!

                                                                              i have also heard that the original location in chicago is better than the franchises. But despite growing up in chicago, I am not a fan of that style. when i was a kid we did really like giordano's stuffed pizza though...pretty much a cross between a pizza and a calzone.

                                                                          2. re: kenito799

                                                                            I missed the first 9 or 10 minutes, caught the end of the pizza making.

                                                                            I wonder if they chefs knew they would be in Chicago with sufficient notice to prepare for specialties of that city and region. Eg, was that peach pizza conceived for the competition?

                                                                            1. re: Minger

                                                                              I agree. I figured they would have to do a pizza or hotdog challenge at some point. For those who had never made deep dish pizza before, one would have hoped they would have at least done some research online prior. You know that they always like to encorporate the regional specilties (which I think is great!) so doing a tad bit of research is always a smart idea.

                                                                              1. re: Elyssa

                                                                                (imagine Homer Simpson voice) Hot Dog Challenge. Mmmmm.... Hot Dogs.

                                                                          3. re: Minger

                                                                            Yeah, it looks like Whole Foods is going to be a big sponsor this season. I predict we'll see them shopping there every week, and lots of close ups of WF products.

                                                                            1. re: ajs228

                                                                              Guess they won't be imposing any spending limits on the contestants, then. Instead of Whole Paycheck they'll rename it Whole-Top-Chef-Production-Budget.

                                                                              1. re: ajs228

                                                                                I know they filmed at the Green City Market (farmer's market) for at least one episode. It would be nice if they held off on that episode until the market opens in May, but there seemed to be a lot of contestants there so it is probably an early episode.

                                                                                1. re: ajs228

                                                                                  Well the shopped in Fresh Market one season and then Wild Oats for other seasons. With WFM's purchase of WO last year, it makes sense for WFM to be the grocery store of choice. Great marketing for them, I'd say.

                                                                              2. re: kenito799

                                                                                He was just lucky that Nimma's scampi was so bad, AND that her pizza was also terrible... I think that's why she was the one who was sent packing, because the other 3 in the "Bottom 4" were, I thought, pretty equally dreadful.

                                                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                  It's probably a matter of time before they each weed themselves out, unless one is a helter skelter genius who had a bad day. Would that be the deconstructed duck l'orange chef??

                                                                                  But Nimma was so nice!

                                                                                  1. re: Minger

                                                                                    Yes, Nimma was (an probably still is) nice, but I had to wonder if she didn't get her "self fulfilling wish" by being illiminated. The first night there, she ignored everyone and went to bed early. She talked about her father wanting her to win. I can fully understand the "I'm not here to make friends" attitude, but that first night was absolutely top game time to size up the enemy, and she passed.

                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      She definitely seemed the introspective, sensitive type, and would have kept to herself or be isolated, making good drama for the show. At the same time, she probably lacks Hung's or Marcel's egocentric toughness.

                                                                            2. I thought the winners of the quickfire got screwed this episode. The losers of the quickfire got to pick what dish they prepared which seems to me to be a bigger advantage than the winners getting to choose who they cooked against when they probably know very little about each other at this point in the competition.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                                                You know, I thought the same thing about the 'losers' choosing the dish to make for the first elimination round. The 'losers' of the quick fire really got the best advantage in the end - which seemed unfair. I like the one-on-one element, but they could have set it up in a fairer way.

                                                                                Also, deep dish pizza seems like an unfair first quick fire because it's so regional. I mean, would it be fair if they made the first quickfire cheese grits from scratch if they had it in Atlanta or five-way chili in Cincinnati -- and three of the participants were actually from the area?

                                                                              2. Here are my initial thoughts.

                                                                                1) Enough with the faux-hawks, Beckham made the cut famous....over TEN years ago.

                                                                                2) Having a couple be on the show reeks of producers trying to create some drama. The producers may not be able to influence the judges decisions but this move is just so transparent. they couldn't find 1 other cheftestant that wasn't having a relationship with another?

                                                                                3)Andrew, you are awfully cocky for someone who needs his competitor to tell him what goes into mayonnaise

                                                                                4)I think this season's crop may be the most talented yet. I don't think there are any caterers or personal chefs with no professional kitchen experience.

                                                                                81 Replies
                                                                                1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                  Whoa... "chefs" who don't know how to make a souffle, a piccata, or something as basic as mayonnaise, and you "think this season's crop may be the most talented yet?" You lost me on that one.

                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                    I agree. That said, I think they were going for a younger demographic this time--seems like everyone was under 40--and many of those "classics" are definitely of an older generation. Showing my age, I made a piccata dish last night, with seitan. Yay Veganomicon!

                                                                                    1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                      While I will readily admit to no longer being a junior, I really don't see where age comes in to play with basics. I learned to make mayonnaise in a home ec class in junior high. Regardless of where you learn to make it, it is something that *should* come very early in one's culinary training. It's the basis for so many other things.

                                                                                      Souffles are also a basic, and not a food of the past. Egg dishes -- all egg dishes -- are the most versatile and economical dishes in any chef's repertoir. A souffle is not complicated unless you prefer to be frightened of them. A basic bechamel sauce and beaten egg whites. Add flavors with cheese, shellfish, fruit, flavorings, all sorts of things are possible. They can be sweet or savory. They aren't as fragile as most people believe. They do not have to be baked in a traditional deep souffle dish with the top hat that rises over the rim. Souffles make fantastic sweet or savory fillings for crepes, baked in the oven and served sauced, either as a main course or dessert Souffles make a marvelous top layer to a vegetable caasserole. If a restaurateur needs to tweek the profit margin of his establishment, look to egg dishes. So anyone who has been identified as a rising young culinary star that doesn't know how to make a souffle (or an omlette, or poach, coddle, or fry an egg) makes me sit back and wonder if it's just plain PR that got him there because it raises serious doubt about his "talent." You have to know your tools!

                                                                                      Now, as for the piccata, I fault the lack of capers, lemon, and butter a lot more than I fault the use of bread crumbs. In my opinion, that's just Tom Colicchio being Tom Colicchio. Remember his ridiculous stand on coq au vin last year? When both LaRousse Gastronomique and Julia Child call for a young chicken, that says to me that Chef Colicchio needs to brush up on his knowledge of classics.

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        I understand what you're saying about the basics. However, I don't think everybody on the show is necessarily classicaly trained. And if you are not classicaly trained, you're probably not learning dishes like souffles at the restaurant as you don't see them too often on menus anymore. And even if you have been trained to make souffles at one point, I can see how somebody would easily forget if he or she doesn't practice. If you don't use it, you lose it. I used to take a lot of advanced mathematics courses and did some research. However, as I don't use this stuff anymore, I've forgotten at least 90% of it. Hey, I even think I'm a bit slow with calculating the tip these days.

                                                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                          Look at it from this perspective:

                                                                                          Your phone rings, and it's The Call--you're chosen to be on Top Chef.

                                                                                          You've got at least days, if not weeks or months of lead time before you have to show up at the airport. If you've watched the show previously, or at least checked it out on bravo.com or YouTube or TelevisionWithoutPity.com or even here on CHOW, you know the show will ask to you prepare a wide range of dishes.

                                                                                          Wouldn't you think to yourself, "Hey, I better make sure I know my fundamentals! I'll spend time reviewing basics like stock-making, mayonnaise, mother sauces, knife skills, fish prep, charcuterie, pastry, bread making, and others. I'll review classic dishes like souffles, omelettes, lobster Thermidor, oysters Rockefeller, beef Wellington, spaghetti and meatballs, peach Melba, even try a few dishes from different regional cuisines: Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Italian, French/French bistro, Pacific Islander, South and Central American, African, middle Eastern, et al, even make sure I know how to build a cooking fire outdoors!"

                                                                                          Or am I being unreasonable in this expectation?

                                                                                            1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                              I think you're being perfectly reasonable, and that's certainly what I'd do. Plus maybe making LaRousse Gastronomique and Jullia Child my recreational reading in the interim so I'm ready for Tom Colicchio! '-)

                                                                                              But as I pointed out in another post, three of these people are self taught. Culinary literacy is just like any other form of cultural literacy. Without directed education, it's all hit and miss. Even with a set curriculum, there is still a pretty good margin of hit or miss. Time will tell how many of the three self-tuaghts make it over the long haul. As I used to tell my kids when they were studying for a test, there are no hard questions if you know the answers. I wish them luck!

                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                wasn't Casey from last season self-taught? she almost won the whole thing. so it IS possible, but you have to be very thorough. Kinda like reviewing for your PhD orals....

                                                                                              2. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                That would be true, if you were not totally into yourself and thougt you walked on water!

                                                                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                  The problem with cultural literacy, culinary included, is that you don't know where your own gaps are. <sigh> Life is a cramming session.

                                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              But still, we can hardly say that a souffle is comparably universal to lasagna -- some of the things on that list (lasagna, eggs benedict) I could have easily made without a recipe when I was 12, others would be more of a reasonable challenge (duck a l'orange, crabcakes)... but souffle is both known for being hard to get right and is veering towards being a food of the past even if it is not there yet -- in fairness, that might be a regional difference; I had never had souffle until I moved to the South two years ago.

                                                                                              1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                Soufflé are a throw back to the past but they aren't that hard to come by on menus. I certainly agree that not everyone knows how to make one. It is certainly not universal. However the mechanics are certainly well known. The concept of adding mashed potatoes just boggles the mind.

                                                                                                1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                  I disagree strongly. In fact, when Padma was talking about "classic dishes," I was surprised to see lasagna on the list. The term "classic" when used in a culinary framework, almost always refers back to the days when French cuisine and techniques were the basis for cooking. Lasagna wouldn't have made the list. Nor would Piccata, at least under that name.

                                                                                                  As for souffles being extinct, they live on. Often as a component of another dish, but they are still a culinary basic..

                                                                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                      Don't think you can blame Padma on terming Lasagna as a "classic" dish. Blame the producers or whoever (Lee Anne Wong?) who made the choices for the blackboard picks.

                                                                                                      I don't think Padma has that much input as to the choices of what they were going to cook...she's more of a talking/eating head. :-)

                                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                      I said nothing about Lasagna's classic-ness. I'm just saying it is SO much easier to make a lasagna! I don't think I know anyone who couldn't make a passable lasagna. Souffle might be offered in some restaurants, but it's hardly something Moms make once a week.

                                                                                                      But, Withnail -- I do agree that the mashed potato addition was crazy, I cannot imagine what gave him that idea. That's the opposite of what souffle is supposed to do, and even for those who, like me, think of souffles as something primarily in older movies, I think everyone should know they're supposed to be light and puffy.

                                                                                                      1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                        "Souffle might be offered in some restaurants, but it's hardly something Moms make once a week."

                                                                                                        Thank the stars Bravo isn't running a show about what mom's cook.

                                                                                                        R. Jason Coulston

                                                                                                        1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                          However, it's not easy to make lasagna when you're making the pasta from scratch...and completing the whole thing in 90 minutes. I think Nikki deserves some credit for that!

                                                                                                          1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                            Absolutely; I think Nikki appreciated that there were items on the menu of different difficulty levels and knew she had an easier one to just get done, so she understood that to really impress she had to work harder.

                                                                                                            To all the other comments here, I'm sorry but I think if you're trying to pick apart what I said, your comments may be true, but if you're trying to argue that lasagna is not easier than souffle... you simply must be joking.

                                                                                                            1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                              <but if you're trying to argue that lasagna is not easier than souffle... you simply must be joking.> Souffles are really easy, in terms of technique, and if you are accustomed to making them they are not at all difficult. they have a bad rap because they fall so easily.

                                                                                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                Very true and the prep of lasagna of the can be very time consuming. But the baking is very straight forward.

                                                                                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                  I agree that souffles aren't that hard. But in the context of this competition, where the food has to be cooked and plated some indeterminate time before it will be served, souffle is incredibly difficult. The only thing that made it slightly less unfair was that for the purposes of deciding who would be up for elimination, the souffles were being judged head to head, and not against the other dishes. Lasange is the polar opposite, in that sitting won't hurt it much, if at all.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                    In fairness weren;t the souffles judged late in the round, or it could be editing, they're going to fall as they wait..

                                                                                                                    But also in fairness, Mr Souffle is the luckiest guy on the show. He made soufle with rice and puts nachos on top? Who the heck puts nachos on top of a souffle? has he not heard of gravity and weight? Start stupid, skip school, cross an interstate with a blindfold and jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. And yet he was lucky enough to survive and probably did not even finish penultimate, thank you deconstucted duck phlegm.

                                                                                                                    Jfood hopes there is another head to head and he has the guy who took two pans. The big guy will "smoke" that yutz with that little tool.

                                                                                                                  2. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                    Well, in my opinion, the fact that a souffle even made it onto that list is indesputable proof that someone on that show has a streak of perversity a mile wide. Probably more than one person for souffle to have remained on the list. Were they so concerned about sending someone home they had to have a couple of guaranteed failures?

                                                                                                                    But I have wondered what the outcome would have been if the two guys preparing souffles had said, "Okay, when our souffles are ready, we serve within one minute or we're not playing your silly game."

                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                      I know it looks like everybody cooked their food at the same time, but I have a feeling there's quite a bit of editing involved -- or it really wouldn't have been fair. I'm thinking the cooking times were staggered with perhaps the Bravo crew having the people pretend to cook and drop their utensils when time is called for the illusion that everybody cooks at the same time. Makes for better effect.

                                                                                                              2. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                I guess whether a mom makes souffle once a week depends on the mom. My kids grew up loving cheese souffles, chocolate souffles, and I think I even winged it once on a banana souffle. I didn't think much of that one, but the kids loved it. Naive tastebuds love anything their mom makes. '-)

                                                                                                                For the record, Erik (losing souffle) is one of three self taught chefs on the show this season. I am self-taught in several things (cooking is not one of them), and my philosophy is that when you are self-taught, your scope and knowledge damned well be over the top if you want to gain the respect of your professionally trained peers. Bottom line: In my opinion, Erik has one very heavy strike against him.

                                                                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                        It shocked me that he did not know that mayonnaise is made out of eggs and oil! Not knowing how to make a souffle I understand a little bit more, but that fact of mayonnaise is so basic.

                                                                                                        1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                          I too was surprised by the mayo thing. Yeah, a souflee is more like pastry baking -- you need to know recipes and proportions. You can't just tweak here and there. And I agree with newhavener that a souffle and piccata are more old school dishes and the crowd seems to be on the younger side.

                                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                            Piccata is something I never see on the menu anymore and to that fact that Tom thinks you have to know the "classics" is crap. This is a completely Eurocentric dish. There are plenty of dishes from other regions of the world that I bet Tom has no idea how to prepare. Does this mean he isn't a good chef?

                                                                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                              How can you say that is crap. Chicken ir Veal Piccata, Francaise, and Parmigiana are classics that every beginner chef masters. Saltimbocca, Cacciatore, Milanese, and Marsala are also dishes that anyone trained in French or Italian cooking masters. Sure there are varied ways to serve them, but the essential ingredients have to be known. It's not just Tom that feals that knowing how to cook European dishes is the basic lnowledge that all young chef's need to know. Why do you think we always hear the phrase "classically trained?".

                                                                                                              1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                Those are all Italian (and in some cases Italian/American) preparations. Most "classically trained" chefs would NOT know them, unless they also studied Italian cooking, or grew up/hung out in Italian households or restaurants in US. Parmigiana is not italian.... like Spaghetti and meatballs, it's American.

                                                                                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                  You know, after this thing, DH looked up in his CIA book whether there was a recipe for chicken piccata. None to be found. He feels that if it's not in that book, it shouldn't be considered a classic.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                    Miss Needle I think I have figured out why Piccata isn't in CIA's books. Because it is. It's basically the base for Chicken Cacciatore (although not usually cutlets), Chicken or Veal Marsala, and is the same as Chicken or Veal Scallopine, without the addtion of Parmigiana Reggiano. I guess they figured why put the base in, when you have all these other dishes.

                                                                                                                  2. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                    Chef June, I'm not picking on you, but where did you hear this? Parmigiana is named after th city it was believed to be first made from which was Parma, Italy. While this is disputed, it is not an American invention. Actually parmesan which is sold in the supermarket is not the real Parmigiana-Reggiano at all. That's why real discerning tastes refuse to buy it. Personally if I'm cooking I want the real stuff, to dump on top of someone's lame sauce, gimme anything! And you saying most classicaly trained chefs wouldn't know how to dip a piece of chicken in flour and cook it? I don't know if Chicken Francese is considered French or Itlain, but with the addition of an egg wash, it's basically Piccata.

                                                                                                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                      The dish "Chicken Parmigiana" is Italian American. check out your authentic Italian cookbooks. Francese is also Italian American.

                                                                                                                      And there's very little Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in Chicken Parmigiana it's mainly mozzarella.

                                                                                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                        Yes, chicken parmigiana is Italian-American, but it is based on the Italian method of cooking vegetables such as eggplant in what is called in Italy "parmigiana" style. For chicken parmigiana, there should only be a little parm. in the breading, enough to make the crust brown and crispy, but the rest of cheese, as Chef June correctly states, is mozzarella. In eggplant parmigiana and other Italian variations, I've had it with a lot of parmigiana in some homes/restaurants in Italy and very little in others, so I think it must be personal style.

                                                                                                                        Not only is Chicken Francese Italian-American, I rarely see it on menus in California. I guess it must be much more popular back East. In fact until I checked a recipe for it, I wasn't sure exactly what it was.

                                                                                                                        1. re: farmersdaughter

                                                                                                                          Traditional Eggplant Parmigiana does not have mozzarella as you stated. The cheese isn't mean to be the main part of the dish, but to add a nice crust and contrast to the eggplant.

                                                                                                                          I have made chicken and breaded it in parmigiana, so what would that be called? I consider that chicken parm but not the traditionally American Version. .

                                                                                                                          I have to agree with you with the Francese actually. It's almost difficult to find recipes for it in any cookbook.

                                                                                                                        2. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                          This isn't intended for you specifically, ChefJune, but I always find it interesting when folks on these boards insist on differentiating what is Italian-American, or Chinese-American, Greek-American, Whatever-American. The dishes in question are (almost?) always the creations of cooks of the specific nationality that preceeds "American." In all cases, these dishes use cooking techniques native to the creator's native cuisine, and frequently the same can be said for the ingredients. And if the recipe is good (and bad recipes don't survive), they make their way back to the creator's homeland where they are enjoyed. For me, that makes the dish as Italian (or Chinese, Greek, French, German, Vietnamese, Maori, etc.) as any other dish in that cuisine's repertoir. The cook/creator may be "Italian American," but to my way of thinking the dish is Italian. But maybe I just think funny.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                            It's a nice way of thinking but my impression is that Italians (as in the ones in Italy) have very particular ideas about how food should be prepared, and do not recognize many Italian-American dishes as Italian.

                                                                                                                  3. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                    Agree that piccata and souffle in particular seem more like 70's/80's dishes.

                                                                                                                    I've had chicken piccata only once in my life. I admit it: in the heat of the moment I might have screwed up and made a Milanese myself. Although I would have been smart to accept the judges' criticism unlike Gnocchi-Head Man.

                                                                                                                    A souffle all you have to do is create something cheesy-herby, hope it rises, and hope it tastes good and that someone else makes a tragic mistake, say, way too much salt, etc

                                                                                                                    All the others: crabcake, lasagna, steak poivre, I could make. These are all basics still very much eaten today.

                                                                                                                    Point being the challenge was fair. Even not knowing the "classic" dish really well, they could have gotten by with just good food sense -- make it taste good -- and the notion that you don't argue with the judges. And in fact many of them got by in this way.

                                                                                                                    Your argument that it was actually unfair to present them with "Eurocentric" classics as a challenge is surprising to me. I am sure it's the type of topic that could spark lively debate. I'll just say here that, like it or not, French and Italian are the "mother cuisines" of the Western culinary world, in which we live.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Budget Palate

                                                                                                                      I've take this debate about the importance of knowing recipes to it's own thread on General Topics.

                                                                                                                      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/498861

                                                                                                                    2. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                      not completely sure, but wasn't tom's comment re: knowing the classics addressing deconstruction? as in "before you choose to do an overly cute deconstruction of duck l'orange, make sure you understand what the classic dish consists of, otherwise you come across as pretentious, and your dish loses the diners' interest?"

                                                                                                                      could have been 2 separate references to the classics, but i recall that this was basically what tom said to the mop-headed new zealander, whatever his name was-- and i thought tom was quite correct.

                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                        Tom pulled the same "coq" whiner shtick that he pulled last year.

                                                                                                                        But didn't Tom state that Piccata was flour then egg? If he did, then let's call his bluff. Chicken Piccata is NOT flour then egg, it's flour then into the heat.

                                                                                                                        And one more point, could you imagine if Ina Garten was on the show? It would have been an interesting discussion since she breads her Piccata

                                                                                                                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...

                                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                          Good call Jfood, I missed that one, but now that you said it, you are correct. No egg in Piccata, thus giving it an even lighter coating and letting the lemon and capers do their job.

                                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                            i am again missing the reference to former top chef seasons, as i didn't have cable before this season. so i don't know what tom said about "coq"-- help me out?

                                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                              last season Tom gutted a constestant because she made coq au vin with a chicken instead of a coq, literally translated as a rooster. He was over the top obnoxious about it to cause many to think the only old coq was at the judges table.

                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                lots of posts about it if you do a search re: TC 3...but to recap, last season, casey served a dish she called "coq au vin," only she used a chicken instead of a rooster, tom colicchio called her out on it, and it became a source of debate whether you really can call a dish coq au vin if you don't use a rooster.

                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                  thanks Jfood & GHG-- now i am sheepish, because even in my former habitat in no-cable-tv-land, i actually did hear about that coq au vin incident. i would agree that that season 3 situation was lame, particularly if the contestant only had 90 minutes to prep, cook & plate something *tasty,* and in the spirit of the classic dish (i probably would have used a young chicken too under those time constraints).

                                                                                                                                  i agree with Jfood that there are no bread crumbs, *or egg* in a classic chicken piccata. tom seems confused on that-- perhaps he'd like to rewrite fn's own chicken piccata recipe, which calls for neither.

                                                                                                                                  i did think that the deconstruction of the l'orange appeared to be overly cutesy and fussy (i also thought the "sake martini" was a very transparent, blatant attempt to appeal to a.b, the perceived lush, as if he might down the liquor and give the rest of the plate a pass-- & a.b. was not having it, in fact he wholly rejected the concept of a "sake martini"!) , and although i did not taste the plate myself, if the taste of the plate as a whole did not do it for any of the judges it's good enough for me. i do see the coq incident and the l'orange incident as two different events and thought that in the l'orange instance, the kid should have been taken to task if he sacrificed the soul of the classic dish to achieve his deconstructed presentation.

                                                                                                                                  i think that the main problem with the piccata egg&breadcrumb guy was that he was not accepting criticism well or admitting to the shortcomings of his dish. rocco went off on him quite as much as tom did, & for the reasons relating to his "thick head," over the failings of the dish. in contrast, big dude who admitted that "he made nachos and wasn't proud of it" succinctly kept himself in the running by not letting his ego get in the way. just my take.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                    I disagree with that characterization of AB(he enjoys his alcohol---good for him!---but you have to draw the line somewhere and that's the cliche' abomination of a "saketini")...then there was the "deconstruction" for "deconstruction's" sake...not to mention...there was no narrative progression...it was just elements lined up on a plate.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: aelph

                                                                                                                                      we agree, i think Aelph-- tony likes a drink, but not any ol' drink, any ol' time, and apparently certainly not while he's judging a competition.

                                                                                                                                      i was put off-- and i think tony was too-- at what seemed like an obvious suck up. it was like deconstruction boy thought he could buy bourdain off with the booze (any booze), and tony wasn't having it. he wanted the plate to have more "narrative progression" as you put it. more of the verbal exchange would be helpful here, of course-- perhaps i'm reading too much in where the editing makes it tough.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                        I'm pretty sure Tony said something along the lines that he liked sake. And he likes a martini. But combining them together was an abomination.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                          oh i definitely heard him say that too-- & agree!

                                                                                                                                          really? nobody else thinks that the boozy element of the deconstruction plate was a deliberate suck up to tony, because deconstruction boy has the perception that bourdain is a bit of a lush? i'm the only one who thinks this?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                            "really? nobody else thinks that the boozy element of the deconstruction plate was a deliberate suck up to tony, because deconstruction boy has the perception that bourdain is a bit of a lush? i'm the only one who thinks this?"

                                                                                                                                            I see your point here but I don't know necessarily that he was buttering Tony up specifically. Maybe it was a general buttering up to the entire judging panel? I notice a lot of the contestants on Iron Chef do the same thing these days. They seem to be shoving alcolhol at the judges at the onset of their tasting, maybe as a way to soften the blow of the food they're about to drop? Maybe the "saketini" (ugghh) was meant to "bribe" everybody into giving him a pass?

                                                                                                                                            R. Jason Coulston

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jason_Coulston

                                                                                                                                              right, that's certainly what i thought was going on-- in this case, i think the "saketini" did a good job of turning the judges *against* the deconstruction plate, though tony was most adamantly opposed to the idea of a "saketini"-- strategy backfired in this instance.

                                                                                                                                              okay thanks-- again, it was just my take on what was going on, probably speculation, as we'll never really know. . .

                                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                The drink idea was not that outrageous. Much was made of the alcoholic drinks offered to Padma even in the breakfast challenge in S3.

                                                                                                                                                Mychael Symon (can't remember where the Y is) offered a drink with almost every challenge in The Next Iron Chef and the efforts were well-received.

                                                                                                                                                I think the problem wasn't that a drink was offered--it was that the particular drink, as a part of the concept of deconstructed Duck L'orange, just plain failed.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: kenito799

                                                                                                                                                  I agree. Stephen Asprinio also served his food with wine at times.

                                                                                                                                                  The deconstructed duck l'orange didn't make sense as he did not deconstruct the actual components of the dish. He just had duck l'orange on one side with butternut squash in the middle and enoki mushrooms on the other side.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                    i wondered if the cute thing he was trying to do was make that ball of squash look like an orange? lame, but maybe he was trying to be witty in that way. Still, I can't understand what the mushroom/leek bundle was supposed to be. And i think there was a mandarin orange slice in the saketini. But obviously I have already thought about this way more than it deserves.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                              Re: a deliberate suck-up to AB - did the cheftestants even *know* that he was going to be a guest judge? I think they could safely assume that Rocco would be there, having had him judge the Quickfire with Padma. But usually Gail or Ted is in the other seat - so I'm going to have to say no, I don't think it was a deliberate suck-up.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                thanks for all of the responses. i'm willing to let my idea of a deliberate suck-up to bourdain go-- i clearly may have read in too much there.

                                                                                                                                                i do feel that deconstruction fellow thought that he had some sort of ace-in-the-hole with his booze addition, though. he seemed very proud of himself, and after the judges started ripping his plate apart, the poor thing lost all the color in his face. i actually thought he might puke right there on camera. he looked much better when they brought him back later on with the other three.

                                                                                                                                                like wine pairing, cocktail pairing does take some basic knowledge and subtlety of palate that this contestant evidently hasn't mastered. i think he was dismayed that he may have to come up with a whole new strategy. of course if you can pull off cocktail pairings with finesse, as symon evidently can, it really can be an ace in the hole.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                  You'd think everyone would give up on the cocktail and wine parings after Steven from a few seasons ago basically shot himself in the foot constantly discussing his wine.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                        Yeah, but when you say something like "I'm not proud" of your dish, you risk being reamed out for not standing behind your dish (another common criticism). Basically, if you make a bad dish there's nothing that's going to save you. I can't think of one instance in three-plus seasons of Top Chef where, in the end, the cheftestants' explanation or excuse for their dish made a difference in the decision.

                                                                                                                                        I don't quite understand the whining about making a souffle. I've made souffles -- it's not that hard. Unless the unspoken concern they had was the fact that souffles need to be served right out of the oven, which I don't think was possible in this scenario. That's undoubtedly why both of them chose to try to stabilize their souffle with a starchy solid (rice, mashed potatoes) -- one did it well and got recognized for it (I think it was Rocco who said it was "clever") and the other didn't, probably because it was not only a technical failure but also not very tasty. Basically, though, I think that a souffle a really unfair assignment in this context. I mean, when they've been sitting for half an hour (or more) waiting to be served, which is going to be better: lasagne or a souffle?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                          In my experience, the best way to "stabilize" a souffle (if you must) is to almost overcook it. It's a very fine line. Actually, I take that back. The BEST way to ensure a souffle's loft is to have people gathered around the table ten minutes before it's done! But I agree completely. It was the "Hobson's choice" on the list of classics. Whoever put it there is just plain perverse!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                            Actually, in Rocco's blog on bravotv.com, he says he was being very sarcastic when he said rice was a good idea in the souffle. I, too, thought from the show that he sincerely giving her props, but I have less experience than these guys when it comes to making souffle.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                              Well, rice is a good idea if you're making rice pudding. There are old fashioned rice puddings that are basically a souffle with rice, sugar, and raisins added. And a little nutmeg.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                That actually makes sense now. I was a little confused when he said that and thought perhaps she had stumbled across something interesting

                                                                                                                                      3. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                        Yes - I thought that egg thing was odd. I'm not sure I've made Piccata, and I may never have eaten it, but I sure didn't think it had eggs in it. And TC sounds so self righteous about it.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                      i think it's weird that no one knows piccata. i seem to see it lots of places - now it's not great everywhere (i happen to really like it done well) but i see it. maybe i've only been to backwards italian restaurants! :)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                                        We go to this divey bar in Studio City and they have an Italian-ish menu with lots of seafood, pasta and chicken dishes. I get chicken piccata there all the time because believe it or not, it's one of the least fattening items on their menu. Sure it's probably sauteed in lots of oil and/or butter, but at least it's not breaded or covered in cheese or a big honking plate of pasta. And yes, it has tons of capers - always a good thing IMO.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Debbie W

                                                                                                                                          agreed = butter, lemon, and capers - if done well, what isn't to like?! sometimes the sauce is gloppy though - ugh. :) never tomatoes though!

                                                                                                                                      2. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                        Although they talked about it as a "classics" issue, I think the bigger issue is that Piccata is a simple dish to make with relatively few ingredients. It's not asking that much for someone to know what those are.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                        count me in as another who was completely baffled that he didn't know the ingredients in mayo. HOW is that possible?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                          I really think he was being sarcastic and he knew how to make mayo. But can you really make it with an immersion blender?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Debbie W

                                                                                                                                            absolutely! that's the easiest way to make it at home.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                              2nd the immersion blender. My bammix has a blade specifically made for mayo but I'm certain any blade would work.

                                                                                                                                            2. re: Debbie W

                                                                                                                                              No, this was one time where he wasn't sarcastic. If you listen carefully, the other guy (Stephen Asprinio/Marcel look-a-like) said that he taught him how to make the mayo.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                i thought the same thing. had he known the ingredients, i believe his first instinct likely would have been to make it himself instead of wasting valuable time looking for some...but that didn't become an option until someone else told him the components.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                          it actually shocked me that he thought he didn't have to either make or purchase mayo, that there would just *be* mayo (or *any* other prepared sauce or condiment), somewhere lying around-- what-- the contractors left some in the fridge? imagine if the eggs benny people had assumed there would be jarred hollandaise for them to use and hadn't bothered to buy butter & eggs?

                                                                                                                                          sure there are a lot of restaurants that use shortcut ingredients, *especially* mayo, but to expect not to have to cook from scratch during a competition, which causes you to improperly shop for ingredients vital to your dish--wow. pretty much nothing makes you look dumber-- except when you don't know what's in a bone-basic classic preparation, like mayo. what a doofus.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                            Lee Ann's blog specifically says that each cheftestant is given a very detailed list of what's in the pantry that she stocked. The person who read it bought mayonnaise; Andrew obviously chose not to do so, so he had no idea that mayo was *not* on the pantry list.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                              Did anyone but me think the way richard offered him the mayo was classy. He first told Andrew there was none, then gave him the recipe. I think Andrew knew and was being cokcy when he said he didn't know the recipe. Then once he started to make the mayo, Richard realizing that despite his foes mistake, he figured why burn bridges the first night. I personally would have left the guy stranded, it's a competition, but I think Richard has the confidence that he can beat anyone there with or without them messing up. Some may say he was slick, but like LindaWhit said, they new what was in there and he read and remembered the list.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                            Me too. Who doesn't know how to make mayo??

                                                                                                                                      4. No one has jumped out to me as 'the front runner'. There do seem to be thick heads about.

                                                                                                                                        Be part of the show was when Richard(?) noticed the he and Patricia had the same hair cut.

                                                                                                                                        And does 'Spike' appear to be a Kevin Federline wanna be?

                                                                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                          It'll be an interesting season. Seems like some primo egos in tow on this one. It still remains to be seen who has the chops to back them up. So far, Andrew come out on top for most obnoxious (I think the "thanks for the mayonnaise recipe" comment was sarcastic). As mentioned in another thread, I think his four-letter vocabulary is tiresome and shows a lack of maturity rather than "edginess". Richard, despite the distraction of the hair, LOL, seems to be one to watch. Then again, I've been fooled before. I have to give him points for being somewhat humble and low-key on a show like this.

                                                                                                                                          I dearly hope the producers haven't fallen into a gimmick and product-tie in rut for this season. there seems to be some evidence of both to a degree. The product placement/mention I can live with to a degree. These shows aren't particularly cheap to produce and can use (appropriately good) freebies and so forth. The gimmicks, well, not so easy to ignore. The couple bit reeks of it and I hope it doesn't become a focal point of the show.

                                                                                                                                          Waiting for the next one, no matter what!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                            Richard has charisma and obvious telent. He's going to be in the final four if he doesn't get to chemistry set on us.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                              Didn't Richard appear on an episode of Iron Chef as a challenger?

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                                yep, season 3. he lost battle chickpea to mario batali.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                  wow - so he is not new to food tv, celebrity or cooking under pressure. it does tell you that for someone young and green like nimma there can be a big disadvantage.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                    If he is accomplished enough to be a challenger on 'Iron Chef'. I am surprised that he would even bother with TC. I would have imagined that he would have other projects to attend to.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                      probably figuring a better than 1/16 chance of winning $100,000 might be worth a shot.

                                                                                                                                                      for example, depending on the city/location, that's enough dough to open up your own restaurant, or buy out your current investors, etc. lots of chefs make < $30k/year. heck lots of chefs make <<<$30k/year.

                                                                                                                                            2. I think Dale is the one to watch. He's got the the Pan-Asian thing going that none of the other contestants seem to be doing. He also seems very focused.

                                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: empecot

                                                                                                                                                Note that I said Richard was "one to watch" , not "THE one to watch". With fellow chefs like, yes, most certainly, Dale in there, it's way too early for me to choose a "ONE".

                                                                                                                                                I look forward to trying to though!

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Scortch

                                                                                                                                                  The past two seasons have both featured the "cocky southeast asian guy", I find that slightly peculiar.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                                    As opposed to what? Cocky white guy? Are you sure you weren't doing what I caught myself doing during the show? Singling him out for comparison because he's Asian and stands out a bit because of simply that and then drawing the personality comparisons? As a (not so cocky) white guy, I honestly catch myself doing that all the time. Be it Asian, African American, female, person with (insert nationality here) accent, odd hairstyle, I notice the person a bit different from me just a bit more due to those differences. No evil there, just human nature.

                                                                                                                                                    As for the Dale/Hung comparison otherwise. Eh, a bit, but no more than any other super confident chef. Show me Hung's technique and skills and then we can talk!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Scortch

                                                                                                                                                      If Dale & Andrew had a love child I think it would come out to be Hung; minus the cursing of course. Top Chef is really starting to give NY natives a bad name - Joey last season and Andrew this season, no wonder I can't wait to get out of here for grad school!

                                                                                                                                                      It was also really nice to see some of the chefs showing team work and confidence in their skills from the onset. Only a couple of the chefs seemed to be "all about the competition." It's not as if intimidating the other chefs is going to improve your outcome like say in a boxing match, confidence in one's skills and looking to help others will go much further than staying to yourself. I think it's going to be a great season.

                                                                                                                                              2. I am surprised that there wasn't more uproar from the other cheftestants about a couple being on the show. I think it is a supremely unfair advantage. In previous seasons many cheftestants have expressed how being separated from family and loved ones has just added to the difficulty of the whole situation - now these two don't have that problem to contend with. While they are certainly in a unique situation in competing against one another it seems to me that this is not as much of a challenge as the sadness/homesickness/loneliness etc. that the others will be experiencing. Does this ramble make sense?

                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: heathermb

                                                                                                                                                  i don't know. given that it's a competition that is crammed into about a month's time, it seems like a potentially volatile situation. i think it would take a really dedicated, understanding, compassionate couple to survive it intact; no clue at this point whether the couple on the show meet those criteria.

                                                                                                                                                  during the past seasons, all the contestants i recall playing the "i miss my family" card seemed destined to lose (with the exception of the older woman who's father fell ill - she was going to lose, but i think her dad's illness preempted her cognizance of that), and this complaint has seemed like more of an excuse than a real issue.

                                                                                                                                                  the only way i can really see it as an advantage is if they went in as an alliance with the plan that one would somehow help and support the other, then take the fall when necessary. don't know if it's feasible or how the logisitics would work for a plan like that.

                                                                                                                                                  one of the blogs on the bravo site does note that the producers dropped the requirement that contestants have no prior relationship due to the insular nature of the food world at the level from which they're seeking talent; apparently many of them know one another, at least tangentially.

                                                                                                                                                  i won't be surprised at all, although i'm not hoping for it, if this show is the death of that relationship. i seem to recall once reading that couples that go on competitive reality shows together rarely survive the experience. obviously, we'll have to wait and see...

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mark

                                                                                                                                                    I'd guess the whole phony setup is was part of some producer's pervy catfight/foodfight fantasy.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                      All they need next is a lie detector segment.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: mark

                                                                                                                                                      A teaser for Episode 2 makes it look like they are focusing a bit on the couple and how they are handling it.

                                                                                                                                                      You make good points - either way I'm looking forward to seeing all that unfolds this season!

                                                                                                                                                  2. I just read a couple of the judges' blogs on the Bravo site. I am so happy to read that there are some who just don't like deep dish pizza. I'm sure there will be a culinary fatwah issued by lunch. I have had it from the "best" places (including Uno's from the ep) and it is a big hunk of heavy bread. Plus you feel like you have a brick in your intestines for 12 hours.

                                                                                                                                                    Help, me, 'Hounds. What am I missing? Is there somewhere that will change my mind?

                                                                                                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                          Agreed. The only time you might want a slice would be in the deep grip of a Chicago winter, say, mid-February.

                                                                                                                                                          I thought Rocco showed characteristic honesty when he came out and said he didn't like it, in his blog right after the episode.

                                                                                                                                                          Even the Chicagoans on the show didn't seem that interested or engaged in preparing it.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Budget Palate

                                                                                                                                                            Your average Pizzeria Uno pie would be better fuel for the fireplace than something warming on a cold night. Or perhaps you could put it in your pants.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Budget Palate

                                                                                                                                                              Most of us Chicagoians don't eat deep dish pizza very often. It's more of a tourist thing.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LabRat

                                                                                                                                                                Um, just because YOU don't eat it doesn't mean OTHER Chicagoians don't. That said, the calories are really what took it out of the constant food rotation for me.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: EliAnnKat

                                                                                                                                                            There are two types of deep dish (give jfood some leeway here guys who know). There is the single crusted deep dish a la Uno and there is the double crusted, "Stuffed", pizza a la Giordanos.

                                                                                                                                                            Jfood is not a fan of the deep dish but loves the giordano's stuffed. It is more a cheese pie than a pizza though.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: EliAnnKat

                                                                                                                                                              You have to be a Chicagoan to appreciate it!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                I'm a Chicagoan and never had deep dish until I was in my 20's, always had thin crust from any of the neighborhood places we went to. Like someone said upthread, deep dish is for tourists.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                  I sincerelly hope not. The notion that you have to be a tourist to appreciate is silly. Deep dish or stuffed pizza is pure Chicago. I hope others don't skip deep dish, Maine Lobster rolls, Chili Dogs, Cheesesteaks or fudge because it in select cities becuse it might be tourist food.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Just reading Rocco's blog about the pizzas ... "Nimma’s was salty. (And as you know, it was the salt that spelled doom for Nimma.) ". Didn't they say that her pizza completely lacked salt (where as her shrimp were too salty)?

                                                                                                                                                                http://www.bravotv.com/Top_Chef/seaso...

                                                                                                                                                                9 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                  It was an error in Rocco's blog. I recall that on the show he says he wanted salt in the pizza.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                    Correct MM. The pizza lacked salt and the shrimp went the other way.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                      I didn't like Nimma because she said she wasn't there to make friends...well she didn't have time, but did anyone pick up on the fact other than MMRuth that her pizza lacked salt and the shrimp was overly salty. Possible she tried to make up on one dish for another and never tasted either?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                        Hung often said he wasn't there to make friends also and it didn't hurt him in the end.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                                                                                          Saw it again tonight...Nimma said she wasn't there to "have fun" which seems a little different than not there to "make friends." "I'll have fun when I've reached my goals," which sounds kinda sad to me. She may have only been referring to drinking and playing pool with the gang in her definition of "have fun," but I didn't see her have fun in the kitchen, either. I think Hung did have some fun, and it was great to see him on the occasions when he really did.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                                            She also said she was Muslim, and they traditionally don't drink at all. Maybe she just didn't want to be around everyone else while they were.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                          Nimma = deer-in-headlights. In my mind she was doomed almost after I heard the first words out of her mouth, Scampi and *cauliflower flan*, what the hell was that? She really seemed clueless as to what the big time chef gig is all about and now I won't have anyone to look forward to oggling in future episodes.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                            There's always one person on these types of shows, who's 'there to win not to make friends.'

                                                                                                                                                                            I like Nimma but felt she was a bit of a lost soul being somewhat out of her element. I hope she dose well. She certainly seemed to have the passion if not the experience.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                              I'm glad she's gone too, she was beyond dull and apparently can't cook either. Shrimp scampi is relatively simple and why would you want to pair cauliflower with shrimp?

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Jfood is still getting his arms around the contestants but there were two items that seemed unfortunately included in the episode:

                                                                                                                                                                            1 - The "couple." This was sheer exploitation on Bravo part and they should be ashamed of themselves. Who cares about this stuff. And to make matters worse they did a poll where the TV audience can vote on whether this made a difference? Jfood is waiting for the outrage from the gay community on Bravo's treating these two chefs like particpants on Noah's Ark versus a find a great chef show
                                                                                                                                                                            2 - The format of choosing the dish. Totally unfair. The winners of the quick fire chose a knife and then the loser of the "draft" chose the dish. So a person who looses the quickfire but fortunately gets chosen first came out the winner (jfood does not remember who that was). And the big guy who was part of the winning quickfire team got stuck with the last choice on both competitor and dish (let's not even discuss the silliness of his poof-fay).

                                                                                                                                                                            But a couple of contestant already irk jfood:

                                                                                                                                                                            1 - Smoke man- takes two pizza pans. Jerk
                                                                                                                                                                            2 - The guy who did not have the pan. Please go home and have a bar of soap for dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                            Jfood thinks there will be great dishes by a few and absolute clunkers by others. Looking forward to another season, especially since it is right after Idol.

                                                                                                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                              Bar of soap indeed! I live in a DINK household and the lack of little ears generally makes me impervious to foul langauge on the televsion. But geez, this guy needs to clean it up. The "beeps" were so annoying and made it harder to follow what he was saying.

                                                                                                                                                                              And taking two pizza pans? That's cheating in my book.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                The spastic whiner who didn't have the pan -- I would not be able to tolerate him in real life. But I think a person like this makes for good TV. I don't think that most people who watch Top Chef are foodies. They want some good old fashioned reality TV with some backstabbing and drama.

                                                                                                                                                                                It seems that this season Bravo tried to cast personalities/situations (the lesbian couple) that would make for "better" TV. After the debacle with Season 2, I think the producers were very careful with casting Season 3. I think Hung was cast as the villain of Season 3, and he wasn't a bad guy at all. I think Bravo wants some more personalities for Season 4. And it certainly seems like there are.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                                                  I haven't really noticed anything specific about any of the contentstans. Not yet anyway. There were 16 personalities all being edited here and there to show us certain "characters", but there were just too many people to digest. We were "arm chair quarterbacking" the show last night by calling people out by their dishes, not by their names. I correctly predicted the bottom four would be "New Zealand dude", "Mr. Nacho Souffle", "cauliflower disaster", and "chicken not picatta".

                                                                                                                                                                                  R. Jason Coulston

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                    The loser chose the dish, but the winner got to choose which loser he would face head-to-head. I think the winner got the more powerful choice. The last winner was indeed shafted - fortunately he made it through, at least he could laugh at himself and his nachos.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                                                      The fairer process would have been for a second knife being pulled for the dish, instead of having the quick-fire losing team choose the dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                                                                                        Or even to simply reverse the order - i.e. all the opponents are chosen first by winners 1 thru 8, then each chooses a dish, from 8 thru 1. How would the duck pair have fared with souffle?

                                                                                                                                                                                        All this speculation and discussion over something that was taped months ago... just watching this show is foolish indulgence - it leaves you wondering where you cross the line between reality tv and soap operas.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, but it's still fun to watch. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                            The producers must have their painful attempts at inserting "drama" and other shenanigans. Bringing a couple onto the show was likely one of them. There will be more. I think it's mostly obvious when/where it crosses the line into soap opera.

                                                                                                                                                                                            It's no more of a foolish indulgence than watching anything else on tv, or posting here about anything else, in my opinion. It's a good thing we're all free to choose our foolish indulgences.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Budget Palate

                                                                                                                                                                                              "It's no more of a foolish indulgence than ... posting here about anything else..."

                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, in terms of being the noise part of the signal to noise ratio, I'd agree perfectly. We're all guilty. But as long as we're productive in providing at least some real information once in a while, we ought to be forgiven our indulgences. LindaW's right - it's fun to watch and it's also fun to beat up on them.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Here's another interesting wrinkle (that was brought up on a comment to Harold's blog):

                                                                                                                                                                                    The city of Chicago has banned foie gras.

                                                                                                                                                                                    My question is this - how hard is it going to be for the TC cheftestants without it? Foie has been a pretty strong presence on previous seasons and is often the go-to ingredient to add luxury, richness, etc. to dishes on the show.

                                                                                                                                                                                    (ETA: I do not intend/want to ignite) a debate on the right or wrong of foie and the very strong feelings on both sides of the issue. I just thought it was an interesting wrinkle, as i said above!)

                                                                                                                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: heathermb

                                                                                                                                                                                      well wf market bans foie gras in all stores, so even if it was "top chef sheboygan" and they still did all their shopping at wf, they couldn't obtain foie gras.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                        I've been watching them serve foie for three seasons. As you noted, they will have to turn to other ingredients for luxury/richness. Just makes it more interesting to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                          Didn't WFM also stop selling lobster? If so, how was it included in one of the eggs bene dishes as well as shrimp scampi (iirc)?

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: heathermb

                                                                                                                                                                                            ha! iirc, whole foods stopped selling *live,* in the tank lobsters, due to cruelty concerns, but they still sell the tails & meat frozen-- apparently cruelty is fine as long as it takes place somewhere else, not right in front of paying customers!!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                            i'm with Budget Palate on this one. i am so sick of seeing chefs use the fois crutch or the truffle crutch every time they are in doubt about what to do, so they sprinkle some truffle salt on mac & cheese or stuff a burger with fois to "elevate" it (when it was just fine how it was, thanks for boring us). i'd like to see some good, inventive cooking with the local ingredients on hand, now, please! :)

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                              I'd like to see a pork belly challenge or something, using only Chicago sourced stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                                                                                                                pork belly challenge -you just made my mouth water!

                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: heathermb

                                                                                                                                                                                            The ordinance in question only prohibits the sale of foie gras. It isn't illegal to buy it outside the city and prepare a dish using it as long as you are not selling the product at a "food dispensing establishment".

                                                                                                                                                                                          3. On a somewhat related note, I picked up the Top Chef cookbook that was in a commercial last night- it's very cool looking (the outside cover is similar to the canvas "top chef" jacket they wear on the show, with another plastic cover over it), lots of great show tidbits, and great photos/recipes!!

                                                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: gyozagirl

                                                                                                                                                                                              Have you tried any of the recipes yet? I'm not sure anything from last season floated my boat, except Dale's deconstructed ratatouille.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: gyozagirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                I thought it wasn't available until 3/20, gyozagirl? And where did you get it - B&N?

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Literally picked it up during my lunch break about an hour ago, at a Barnes and Noble... and yeah, I thought it was coming out next week too (according to that commercial), but after a little digging around online (Amazon, B&N, Bravo) I noticed they all said "Buy it now", rather than pre-ordering. I happened to have a coupon for B&N, and I'm rediculously impatient when it comes to something I want, so I got it there instead of online.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've been looking through the book, and I think I'll start with Hung's sauteed shrimp, corn pudding, bacon and corn salad, and shrimp foam... I know the corn won't be that great right now, but it looks like a good starting point to try out a recipe. Who would've thought, making foam in my kitchen, haha!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: gyozagirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Good luck! Keep that foam away from open flames.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: gyozagirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Excellent news! I wanted to get a copy for a friend who's done some restaurant cooking, loves the show, and has just turned 50yo. TC is one of the things we always chat about when we get together, so this will be a great b'day gift when we get together in a few weeks - thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      No B&N coupon, but based on an earlier thread here re: buying from B&N, I think I'll order from Amazon.com, just in case he buys he for himself before the end of the month. Easier return policy vs. B&N's 14 day return only.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. The first episode never really knocks my socks off. Inventing a deep dish pizza (which, judging by the looks of the crusts, many failed at) and doing a riff on a classic aren't especially illuminating. Although I do have to say Richard's peach pizza Mark's marmite sauce sounded pretty inspired. All I really learned on the show is to be a successful chef in New York, you have to have a huge ego, probably be a hipster and be nimble with the excessive use of the word m*therf**ker.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. is there some kind of speed record for # of posts on a thread? 120 posts & counting, not even 24 hrs. . . wonder if anyone non-chowhoundy is paying attention to our rehash of this show. great conversation, though!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                      i was just thinking the same thing..but i can't say i'm surprised. we've all been going thru TC withdrawal, so everyone was chomping at the bit to start talking about it again!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I think it's a reflection of just how good the show is. I know it can be nitpicked (!), but if you look at it in the context of the other crap out there, it's the best show on tv, food related or even non-food related. I have been a big fan from the first season, and I don't get into shows much. I think I've seen each episode at least a couple of times.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        This season I think they stepped out with a very strong first show. I have a feeling the show got the bugs out the first three seasons and is really hitting its stride. They got it... it's about the food, stupid. They kept it about the food and now all these great chefs want to come judge on a reality show. I view this show as a kind of cultural phenomenon (much like this website/forum.) We'll see, but I have a feeling we're in for a great season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        ...In my opinion, a new thread should be started for each episode, because this thing is getting outta control!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Budget Palate

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Historically, we have done one thread for each episode. This is all for epi #1 this season ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sometimes we've even had 2 threads, one for general discussion and a second to address a particular topic OR to volunteer our ideas of what we would have made for the various challenges, which has produced some really great conversations as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. I have yet to red through all the posts...but my goodness....can we just give a warm welcome back to Wedsnesday night!

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I see there's another post related to this....but seriously, will someone please tell Andrew from Le Cirque that he is 30 and not 15? I sat cringing listening to him speak.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Switching up from this Piccata debate, did anyone else think it was a little unfair that the Duck dish won? I mean, if they were all average, wouldn't the duck dish have been the tastiest? Aside from the Kiwi's who decided to cut the fat out! How is souffle or lasagna or Piccata or crab cakes or scampi gping to hold up against duck. Duck is one of those amazing things where even when it's average it's magnificent, as long as it's not overcooked. The only thing for my palate that could compare would be a perfect steak au poivre, but even then, it's gotta have an awesome side to win this battle. I was surprised when the guys who got the Steak saw the dishes they were up against, they didn't just keep the steak to what it was, and then hit the judges with some amazing side dish!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I really think it's a matter of taste. I like duck l'orange but would rather eat crabcakes, lasagne or steak.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I don't think the judges saw it that way about the duck. Didn't one of them (I think it was AB) say something about how 'we've all had average duck, and it is a tough dish to get right' (I am very much paraphrasing, but basically, don't think they would agree with you that duck is magnificant even when average. Seems that they were particularly impressed that she used the various parts of the duck and got it right in all diferent forms.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I thought the winning duck dish certainly did look wonderful.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Of course, I happen to think that steak and lasagna are both dishes that are very tasty even when average (as long as not overcooked, as you say about duck). Shrimp too. Indeed, about the only thing that could ruin shrimp for me besides overcooking is too much salt....

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Susan, I was actually saying if all the dishes were average. If all were a 7 out of 10, let's say. I'd rather eat a 7 out of 10 duck than a 7 out of 10 crab cake. I'd definitely rather have a 7 out of 10 duck than a 7 out of 10 lasagna. Now Rocco said Antonia's pasta dish was a 10 out of 10, but she made papardelle with lobster and shrimp. She too didn't really make a scampi. Which leads me to believe that she had no chance to win, despite possibly having the best dish. Editing room floor perhaps? Rocco made it clear when he voted for Stephanie, that she was not his choice. I think where these chefs go wrong is they think they have to reinvent every dish. Stephanie made a standard duck l'orange and took it down. But seriously, if Erik had made the bst souffle they ever tasted, would it have been better than a great duck l'orange, or a great steak au poivre?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  rocco said somewhere, i thought, that the lasagna was his favorite.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Suffering a f'en hard time with withdrawals. The first episode hit the f'ing spot. I can already tell that there are some f'ups and some really f'en good chefs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The the f is up with the cook since 11 year old that doesn't know what the f picatta is? I'm an f'n 'tard in the kitchen and I even know what the f picatta is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Also, what's up with those f'en bed-head haircuts? Are they f'en Shriner's or something?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I hope the show keeps givin' us the f'en good stuff. If not, I'll just watch Hell's Kitchen. That's f'en straight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Good one, dave c. F'ing brilliant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  LOL! Good one. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  And IIRC, the new Hell's Kitchen starts on April 1st - so you don't have to wait long for more f's and f'ups. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Speaking of, have you ever heard Anthony Bourdain wax poetic about Gordon Ramsey. Calls him the most giving and caring chef around - after the kitchen is closed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Good pointer, thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "One night Gordon decided we should eat at Club Gascon [in London]. He had about 12 courses of foie gras prepared in different ways. He was careful to thank the staff profusely. As rude as he is to civilians, he is actually gracious with fellow labourers in the restaurant subculture - when he's not eviscerating them during service. It's no accident his cooks tend to stay with him year after year. People are very loyal to him."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: dave_c

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The TC crew swears less than f'in gordon ramsey, that's for sure...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. I'm just throwing this out there because I just read this while looking up something about Howie from last season. It may be old news to all you TC experts, but did you know that the week he got voted off last season, the guest judge happened to be his Miami rival? Howie was the chef at the restaurant that basically was the competition for Michael Schwartz's restaurant. When Howie got voted off, he was asked if he thought that had something to do with it. He said, that Schwartz was quoted in an interview badmouthign Howie's cooking. Howie said this is after Schwartz found out he was going to be on Top Chef. Apparently, Howie knew the notoriety would benefit his current employers recogniton and this drew the ire of Schwartz. Howie said when he walked out and Saw Schwartz as one of the judges, he knew his time was up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I know a lot of people didn't like Howie, but I thought he was immensley talented. Howie said all along that Tre was the best cook in the competition (better than him), but he felt that Hung was more inventive, but not nearly the cook that either Tre was.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: jhopp217

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It's hard to say what the reality is beyond what participants see through their primal filters. Miami is a two restaurant town?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      If Tre is so great how did he bungle the trivial bread pudding?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I read through this long thread and at times thought I was going nuts (for example I didn't remember them going shopping at all and even watching jsut assumed they were well stocked with all the ingridents). Turns out Bravo re-editted between the original Wed night airing and later reairings of it (I caught it Thursday at 9). Anyone else find that itneresting?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        the first two airings were 1:15, subsequent airing were just an hour, hence the editing

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I saw the repeat and thought I lost my mind, as well...I thought, wait a second, where's the grocery store!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I remember them showing Nimma in her audition tape cooking in some crappy non stick pan. That's when I voted her off, lol. But it was cut.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Will all the Wednesday night airings have an extra 15 minutes? That makes for some late nights.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sommrluv

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              i'm pretty sure the extra 15 minutes were just for the season premiere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I seem notice that they did that through out last season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Looks like episode 2 will be the farmer's market one. They also did some filming at a Bears game last fall, so expect a tailgating challenge at some point this season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LabRat

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Great--tailgating. That's how I would judge a chef's true talent. Of course, that and how they prepare food to be served on an airplane. :^)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            maybe not a judge of talent, but definitely of resilience!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I watched the second episode last night, where Valerie is booted for blini badness. (Gotta love assonance.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I am amazed at the level of ignorance of these cheftestants! They are competing for the title of "Top Chef," presumably a chef's chef, on the level of Daniel Boloud or Thomas Keller or Rick Bayless, yet these people are ignorant of some of the most basic recipes and kitchen procedures! They don't know how to make mayonnaise, a souffle, a deep-dish pizza, or cater a sizeable event! WTH?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Okay, a perspective check--I'm not a culinary professional, so perhaps I'm expecting too much here. If Daniel Boloud, Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, Rick Bayless, Alice Waters, hell, even Tom Colicchio or--let's make it really funky--Guy Fieri were asked to make mayonnaise, a souffle, a deep dish pizza, or cater crab salad or blinis for 200 people, do you think they would be able to do so or not

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          19 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            On the one hand, I think you've bought into the hype too much - despite the term "Top", the winners of Top Chef aren't in the class of the best chefs in the world (which you list - other than Fieri). On the other hand, I agree that at their level, of an experienced, journeyman chef that's ready to open up their own place, they shouldn't be as ignorant as they seem to be of some very basic stuff. These guys are line, sous, a couple of execs - some are formally trained, others are not. But as with the past winners, the presumption is that their winning this contest will allow them to open up their own restaurant or at least get an exec level position at a top end restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            People have been getting let go for some real lack of fundamentals. Letting food out without tasting and preparing blinis 4 hours ahead certainly qualify as goofs. I do think that the judges had to really ponder whether to let go the mushroom guys for letting the cheese go untasted - but perhaps because the blame was spread across two people and the situation could have gotten complex, they chose Valerie as the easier target.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            BTW, you presented a wonderful example of alliteration, not assonance.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Well, when the contest is called "Top" Chef, then to me it ought to mean a top chef--world class or at least close to it. I dunno, perhaps I expect too much. Right now too many of the contestants in this and previous seasons seemed barely able to open a Denny's. I saw waaaaaaaay too much prima donna attitude on season 2 & 3 especially as well as the aforesaid lack of fundamentals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BTW, sorry about the assonance/alliteration error, you are correct, it was alliteration. Thanks for correcting me. My bad. A hazard of posting when I'm sleep-deprived.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                All I can really say is that even olympic calibre athletes and professionals have brain farts and can do an abysmal job. We may not be able to play as well as an NHL hockey player but they can screw up pretty badly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I can't see any "world-class chef" who would participate in something like this except perhaps as judges, which many are doing anyway. Why should they? They've already established themselves, and usually are running one or more restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I consider the "Top Chef" title as the "best of the group they have on the show", not "Top Chef of the World." Yes, you'd hope they'd get a good group of accomplished mid-level to higher-level chefs, and I think TC3 had that (way over TC2, although there were several good ones in TC2). But Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, et al aren't going to be cheftestants on the show. They've already established themselves as world-class chefs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree. I don't take the term Top Chef literally. It's television! I mean, is Hell's Kitchen really like hell? Haven't been there (and not really sure if it exists), but if it does, I'm guessing that getting abused by Ramsey is like a walk in the park compared to hell.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I agree with you on the knowledge and quality of the "chefs." To me, they're hardly out of the puppy stage. But, to my great regret, I think it's also reflective of the food world today, and I think much of it can be attributed to "fusion."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I love language, and culinary language used to have clear and precise meaning. Today, reading high end restaurant menus is like shopping for an ulcer. Things like "carrot confit." A true confit is an animal, usually a duck, goose, or pork, that is preserved in its OWN fat. Where do you find fat on a carrot?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I know I'm a stickler on things others don't think are important. Yesterday I ran across a "chocolate souffle" recipe on these very boards that said the great thing about that particular souffle is that it's stable and can be held for several hours before serving without deflating When I read the recipe, it is NOT a souffle. It's a giant underdone chocolate meringue kiss baked in a souffle dish with a collar. Nothing wrong with that, but why not call it a meringue? Why confuse the culinary language?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    My problem with fusion is that it's making it nearly impossible for young chefs, such as those on Top Chef, to learn exactly what the classics are. I do sometimes wonder what the curiculums of the culinary schools some of them have graduated from are teaching. As discussed before, three of this years participants are self taught. For those poor babies, if they assume they're learning about food by what is available in restaurants today, who can fault them for not having a clue about the classics?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    There's an old saw that says you have to know the rules to break the rules. I subscribe to that. The problem today is trying to find out just what the rules are. I think this season's Top Chef limps along at best. Meanwhile, I think come Wednesday nights, I just may go relax in a corner and read LaRousse Gastronomique.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      BRAVO!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Um, the accolade... not the network.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think of these shows more like the olympics. They're designed for competitors with experience, but who haven't been recruited to the major leagues yet. If you think of it that way, their ignorance is less frustrating... though I still see people making mistakes I can't imagine making (not tasting it? not using salt right?) and I am just a home cook.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Since when is the Olympics about preparing people for the major leagues? There are over 100 sports in the Olympics, and for all but a handful of them, the Olympics is the pinnacle of achievement in that sport.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Perhaps Top Chef was a bad choice for a title. It's clearly not about determining who the Top Chef is in any kind of absolute sense. It's about showcasing talented people who are still building their careers and giving the most deserving of those (at least, in theory) a boost to the next level.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The comparison I meant to be making was that the olympics encourages great athletes to compete, but you can't compete in the olympics if you're already a professional athlete. It doesn't apply to many events in which there is sortof no such thing as a professional, beyond the olympics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Olympic athletes haven't been amateurs for years. Professional athletes, including those at the top of their profession, have been competing the Olympics since at least the original USA basketball "Dream Team" in 1992. The difference is that for atheletes in the premier professional sports, the Olympics is not as important as their sport's championships/major competitions (NBA championships, World Cup soccer, the grand slam events in tennis, etc.) while in other sports the Olympics is most important competition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I don't think professional/amateur sports analogies work very well for cooking at all, since even burger-flipping pimply-faced teens are getting paid, and almost anyone can pick up the skills to be paid to cook, even if they don't have the talent to be a highly regarded chef. And there have been true "Top Chefs" -- Alice Waters comes to mind, although she's more of a restaurateur than a chef -- who never went to culinary school or had a lot of formal training. That's why it's not surprising that among Top Chef contestants you have people who have different backgrounds, experience and training.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Alright, maybe I'm just confused about the Olympics' rules. I thought if you got paid to play that particular sport you couldn't still compete. Apparently I'm 15 years behind the times on that one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            tom c, interestingly, is another highly successful chef who is self taught.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Yes, in the sense that he didn't go to a culinary school. But look at the list of places he worked and people he worked for before Gramercy. He learned the old fashioned way - apprenticing for years, learning on-the-job from the best (like Keller at Rakel).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This show is entertainment - simple - end of story. Reading anything more into it, like it has anything to do with the real career of being a chef, is going to leave you shaking your head in disbelief to the point of apoplexy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Tom Colicchio has a great quote about the whole celebrity chef issue, which is:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Of course no one should go into this business because they want to be the next Emeril. It's not gonna happen. You need to go into this business because you love food and because you love to make people happy. If fame follows that, great."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              But the irony is that this show which he is getting paid to be part of, is all about fame and nothing at all about the love of food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                i myself am all for learning the old fashioned way. some of the best chefs in the world had long, grueling, unglamorous apprenticeships. conversely, the cia a great chef does not make. the "unschooled" chefs in the competition may have plenty of skills that those with diplomas do not. let them all prove themselves-- none of them is necessarily a shoo-in (or out) because of where they studied, with whom they worked, or their personal style of cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have great respect for the school of hard knocks and those who attend. I always did like an underdog.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: KenWritez

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm pretty sure that Andrew was being facetious when he made that mayonnaise comment - the guy's got classical French training after all. Deep dish pizza isn't exactly a standard menu item - if you don't work in Chicago, you have no reason to learn to make it. And it looked to me like the majority of chefs did a fantastic job catering an event for 200 people, the one that tanked was sent home.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The one that tanked? 3 or 4 tanked, actually. The one that got sent home was perhaps the most egregious, but maybe not. Making blini ahead, and with a bad topping vs. salting crab salad too far ahead and with soggy chips (which weren't presented). The salted crab chef only got saved because she also made another dish, her mom's banana bread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Then, there was the terrible looking stuffed mushrooms then topped by someone else with cheese without tasting. This was never sent out to the customers, but it was given (for some unknown reason) to the judges.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        There were plenty of mistakes made here, certainly more than one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Although it is probably still too early to say, I still think the final four from season 3 is way stronger then whoever the final four will be in season 4. While the overall talent may be better this year (according to Tom&Padma) I think any of the final four from season 3 would make it to the final 2 this season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Maybe I'm just biased though cause season 3 kicked ass!!

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: s0memale

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        You think Tom and Padma might say, "Sorry, folks, we just couldn't find chefs of the same caliber as Season 3, but we hope you'll watch Season 4 anyway." Suuuuuuuuuuure they would! '-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Richard Blais is way too overqualified to compete on this show.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        his resume is ridiculous

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: attractivekid

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          ...well, except he should leave filleting the fish to Dale

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. I disagree with those that say that this year's crew isn't up to par. In fact, much of the canon fodder has already left, and starting with Zoe, I think they're hitting some talent. Even one of the better ones, Richard, made a stupid rookie mistake - not checking the fish scales - but that doesn't mean that he is unqualified.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Considering Gordon Ramsay claimed in his autobiography that one of the Michelin-starred places (I think it was Guy Savoy?) he worked at deliberately served one of their fish dishes with scales what technique is right or wrong is not always black and white.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So you're saying that Richard purposefully left the scales in there?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Umm... I don't think so. I merely maintain that some things considered "rookie mistakes" are not always so. Experience cooking and working for a number of chefs teaches one to be adaptable to the situation and be open minded about new ways of doing things, even if they seem absolutely insane and contradictory at first.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Addendum: Of course, when you're cooking the fish sous-vide (again??? Why not just poach it?) and you have the skin on (again, Why???) chances are wet-cooked fish scales would most likely be unappealing. Of course, just an opinion and although chances are it could be good the judges didn't think so.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Hey all, Just wanted to share my interview with Zoi. We talk about The Scale Controversy, her food philosophies, and why she didn't kiss Jen when she was kicked off (that was confusing to me): http://www.chow.com/stories/11057

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Meredith of CHOW