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Top Chef-Kids

Nastiness!!! 15 minute Quickfire. Interesting. And also plugging Uncle Ben's at the same time. How convenient! Oh, and I now hate Antonia, what an idiot, you messed up, and you got saved, thank you lucky stars and move on!!

Nikki's fried rice looked good. Well, you know, lowered expectations and all that.

Mark, Stephanie and Lisa is the bottom on Quickfire/

Dale, Richard and Antonia is top three, and Antonia wins. Yeah, I hate her even more.

More nastiness. dinner for four for just ten dollars. Awesome. They might want to snag some of the Uncle Ben's given how expensive rice is these days.

Stephanie is overthinking it. Hey, I thought they weren't supposed to have cell phones?

Awwww, how cute. Little helpers.

Ok, they've been giving Antonia the up close and personal treatment, portent of things to come?

Beets for Richard. Big gamble with kids.

Kind got an ixnay for Steph.

Tom is sticking around the kitchen for the whole time, he is getting into Mark's head.

The kids like the beets!!! Hey Mikey!!

Richard wans kids? I thought he was gay?

This one is a little underwhelming, not really exciting but the idea is very cool, getting kids to cook. Now they are blasting Mark's curry.
Gail goes after Stephanie.

They liked Nikki and Antonia so far. Lisa and Steph gets ripped.

Nikki gets her ass saved, Antonia and Andrew rounds out the top three. Freaking Antonia wins. OK not happy here. Her dish looked boring to me. Andrews looked better. I like one pot meals too, so I thought Nikki finally stepped up.

Stephanie, Mark, and Lisa are the bottom. Mark gets defensive. Lisa gets super defensive. Stephanie admits defeat and throws herself on the mercy of the court. Peanut butter couscous? Yech.

Mark is called sloppy. I am thinking Mark is gone. Oops, now they are really ripping Stephanie, please let it not be so....

Um, so who else is sick of the Step It Up and Dance promos? Not the show, just the promos.

Mark goes home. Yep, good choice. Fun mate, but the sloppiness killed him.

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  1. I'm thinking the show's done, and Bravo throws in Andrew's "I've got a culinary b-ner" ??? what was that???

    I know this was filmed a while back, but I thought it was pretty interesting to watch a $10 (at freakin' WHOLE FOODS) challenge, given all the news nowadays about food costs etc.

    14 Replies
    1. re: gyozagirl

      I heard that as well and said "WHAT was that???" Completely unnecessary.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        OK. Yeah. Unnecessary, but funny!
        Maybe because I'd noticed how little cussing and swearing there was during the whole show (due to the kiddies in the kitchen, no doubt). I was lulled by the wholesome G-ratedness. Andrew's final comment was so unexpected that I busted out laughing. I'm 12.

      2. re: gyozagirl

        I thought the same thing about Whole Foods. Once they said "$10 only" I was like "At WFs??? Good luck man!"

        1. re: Elyssa

          I totally agree! $10 is the price of admission at WF!

          1. re: Gingerleen

            Actually, the big announcement of the $10 limit and all the drama at the cash register turns out to be very disengenuous. If you read Lee Anne's blog on the TC web site she writes: "I think it was great that certain contestants were able to utilize their time and the pantry to create extra dishes, like Spike and Stephanie." Looking at the list of ingredients in the recipes and knowing the price of food at WF, in particular, I suspect several contestants blurred the distinction between using the ingredients in the pantry to make an extra dish and the challenge dish. Why announce a specific dollar amount yet build in escape clause opportunities?

            1. re: Indy 67

              I'm wondering if it might be because that's similar to what a lot of families already do. They might only have a limited amount to go to the store with, bu they have staples and non-perishables at home that they can use in addition and spend their money on the fresh stuff.

              1. re: rweater

                Yeah, but those staples need to be purchased initially, and they need to be replaced when they've been consumed. So it's really just a gimmick: you may be able to make *today's* meal for $10 out of pocket, but that doesn't reflect the true cost of feeding your family.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  If you took that logic to its end, then they would have to budget for the pots and pans, cleaning liquids, utensils, china, energy used in the cooking, the stove, the lights, etc. I think what they did was a decent compromise.

                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    Someone with a better memory for detail than I have can probably supply the episode from a different season that had the following situation: The contestants were given a dollar limit along with a clearly defined list of allowed ingredients from the TC pantry. I find that model to be a very reasonable one for a competition in which budget is one of the central elements. I don't understand why it wasn't followed. As long as the contents of the pantry remain unspecified -- as long as it is unclear how much in the pantry meets the classic definition of a staple and how much was simply extra ingredients -- it feels as if the show was playing fast and loose with the constestants' budget.

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      Ultimately the show has to show case it's expensive sponsor. We can all agree that love it or hate it WF is no in way the place to go to feed a family of four. Despite every one knowing this the producers have to somehow make it seem like it is just that kind of place. That is why IMHO opinion the lines were blurry leaving a huge gray area rule wise.

                      Perhaps the real challenge of the week wasn't for the contestants but the producers.

                      1. re: Indy 67

                        I don't know how many people watched the Scrapyard Wars on the Discovery Channel a few years back.

                        The premise is that two teams are given an entire scrapyard, i.e. junkyard for material and they are to build some very specific machine in order to perform a function. Some of the projects were cannons, submarines, wreckers, etc. They weren't allowed to go out and buy anything and they are given a pretty spiffy set of tools picked specifically for what they would need for the challenge. Well, no junkyard, however well stocked could meet the wishlist of people trying to build these machines, so the property master for the show once came on one of the anniversary shows and discussed how he had to listen to the design discussions and then try to sneak the desired parts into the junkyard and then discreetly hint at where these people could find the parts that they needed. If he hadn't done that, there would be no show, because they would just sit around and twiddle their thumbs because they did n't have any thing to work with. I think this is a similar situation: give them enough material to be creative with but not give them too much so that there is no challenge involved.

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          I liked that show and alway wonder about how so much stuff could be in one spot.

                2. re: Indy 67

                  I freeze framed the shot with the cash register screen close-up - it's right after Antonia removes leaves from her bok choy- and it reads 10 items, $1.93 in tax, and a total balance of $52.95????

                  I don't know if this means it was $10 per person and they had to serve 6 portions, or if multiple contestants ring up on the same tab...just wanted to share the fruits of my fun with TIVO!

                  1. re: yamalam

                    The blog at www.skilletdoux.com addresses this $50 shot at length. To summarize, the register also showed "...navel oranges, figs and half & half (among others). None of the dishes this week put those ingredients together, so I'm inclined to think the shot was from another episode, or from a roving camera that grabbed a few random register shots that the editors worked in."

          2. OK Phaedrus - you and I were writing at the same time - so I've copied my other post over here and will ask TPTB to remove my thread. :-)

            My original comments were:

            I *loved* the sous chef help from the kids from Common Threads! The kids initially look nervous to be on camera, but get into helping their chefs prepare the meal. I was very impressed that while they might have initially been uncomfortable with trying new things (beets and fennel and the curry come immediately to mind) I loved that they ended up really liking what they made. This is exactly what I'd hope that most parents would do - at least get their kids to try something new - and by helping out in the kitchen, the kids begin to "own" the meal and are more willing to try something that they'd previously have said "Ewww!!! No way I'm eating that!"

            So Antonia gets a double...the Elimination challenge was definitely right up her alley. I'm really disappointed to see Stephanie so scattered in the supermarket...my fear is that with the concentration on her early on in the show, she's a goner. Please not yet!

            Although the guest judge was *not* happy with Lisa's attitude in being judged. So maybe it's her?

            Ahhhhh - it's Mark. :-( Very sad to see him go. I think they're going to miss him in the house as well.

            And next week's previews...14 hours of straight cooking, what seems to be a time challenge with Tom on the whistle....and they're cooking/baking for a wedding? Oh THIS ought to be interesting!

            And in reply to your comments above - I was a bit surprised at Richard's desire to make "little Blaises" - definitely not something I was expecting to hear. But even if he is gay - he can still have kids. :-)

            I had the warning bells go off about Stephanie as well...but I'm glad to see her live to cook another day. I *really* thought that Lisa was going to go over Mark or Stephanie - when the guest judge was pretty adamant about being able to take criticism for her underseasoning, and after watching her YET AGAIN stand there with her arms crossed, head tilted, and her stance like she was ready for a fight - I thought she might be the one to go. But Mark's dish just didn't look good to me.

            I thought the same thing about Antonia's dish - but she did exactly what she was supposed to....simple, healthy, under $10. I figured it would be her or Nikki. Can't believe that Nikki's actually made it this far to have actually made it into the top 3 for this episode. She shoulda been gone weeks ago, I tells ya.

            ETA: BTW - after re-reading your post, Phaedrus, I noticed - the same 3 were in the bottom for both Quickfire and Elimination. I can't recall that ever happening before.

            10 Replies
            1. re: LindaWhit

              Linda, maybe we ought to coordinate. I was working on my laptop in front of the tube so it was just easier to type as I watched rather than trying to remember.

              Yeah, as you read, I too, was rooting for Steph to not get dropped.

              OK, point taken about Richard, and I guess what threw me off was when he said he wanted to go home and make babies, so I assumed, you know, he'd do it the old fashioned way.

              I was very impressed with the way the chefs worked with the kids. Very patient, very cool with all of them. I am impressed with them as people this episode.

              In hindsight I think the comments on Andrew's dish was pretty insightful. Getting the kids to like fennel? That took as much guts as serving beets.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                LOL! My computer is in the living room (desktop) but I'm usually ensconced on the couch watching until the end of the show. I'll just wait for your initial comments as I kinda like your running comments all-in-one post. :-)

                And see below re: Richard and his wife making babies the old-fashioned way. :-)

                This was one of my favorite episodes...the chefs really had to think to get a complete meal for $10 (purchased at WF, no less!) and then had to slow down a good bit to work properly with the kids. I liked seeing Tom in the kitchen and hearing his comments that *all* of them worked well with the kids - agreed, very impressive on all their parts. They really made the kids feel like they belonged. I'll bet the kids were tickled pink to see themselves on TV!

              2. re: LindaWhit

                Question: Do you think "Wedding Wars" is replacing "Restaurant War??" I sure hope not!

                1. re: Elyssa

                  Elyssa, I wasn't sure when Restaurant Wars happened during TC3, but Wikipedia said it was Ep. 9. So...the fact that Common Threads was Ep. 8 for TC4, I'm going to assume that Wedding Wars is going to be replacing Restaurant Wars in this season.

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    In other words, it's when they have 8 chefs to have 2 teams of 4, no? And we're now down to 8 this season. It kinda makes sense, given that smart contestants are starting to come with ideas for Restaurant Wars themes and all, so this would be an interesting curve ball.

                    1. re: momjamin

                      Exactly. They're expecting one thing if they've watched the past seasons, and whoopsy! - the rug gets yanked out from under them. Or as Padma likes to say with her big grin "Annnnnnd there's a twist..." :-)

                    2. re: LindaWhit

                      Boooooooo! I so much prefer Restaurant Wars. They did a wedding during the first season. It was pretty much a disaster if I remember correctly.

                      1. re: Elyssa

                        It will be interesting to see how they changed the parameters of the challenge, since I think they pretty much knew that season 1 wedding was a disaster. The promos don't promise much success!

                        1. re: momjamin

                          I'm sad that restaurant wars would go, but that makes sense now that I SWORE I saw a PRIEST and parts of a Jewish wedding.

                          I wasn't sure if I was reliving parts of a bad joke told me earlier in the day, or if it was two seperate weddings.

                          1. re: sommrluv

                            Perhaps they are having to cater 2 seperate weddings...only because of the "wars" part.

                            The 1st season wedding challenge was 1 wedding (a gay wedding in CA with a cake that came out of a box and pretty sad looking food options) and more of a group challenge.

                2. I usually watch the show in silence. I just broke that policy when I saw Mark taste his food with the large spoon and stick it right back into the pan. Totally disgusting. I wonder how Mark cooks in restaurants in the real world. In the real world, restaurants have to comply with health regulations. How have Mark's bosses let him develop such terrible sanitation habits? How can they let his behavior put their business in jeopardy?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Indy 67

                    It looked like Richard did the same thing with the spoon. When Big Tom came into the kitchen he said hello to Richard who was in starting to taste his dish slight cut the conversation continues as Richard tells him about the menu and the spoon is back in the pot. Based on the audio it would seem Richard double dipped.

                    1. re: Withnail42

                      I counted several double dipping incidents including the two you guys mention above. DISGUSTING!

                      1. re: Withnail42

                        After Mark's stunt, I watched for double-dipping obsessively. Richard's behavior seemed more ambiguous. The instance that caught my attention was one in which Richard was tasting a grain. He lifted some of the food out of pan, brought the spoon towards himself, and grabbed a pinch of the product in his fingers. He ate the grain out of his fingers -- not off the spoon. Of course, there was no evidence he washed his hands afterwards. Is the instance you've described a different one?

                      2. re: Indy 67

                        To be practical, there's no problem with tasting from a spoon and putting the spoon back in the pot *IF* the pot is simmering, boiling, or frying. Heat kills bacteria. If the chef's got prions, well... We're all hosed.

                        Along these same lines, but on other shows, that Zimmer guy (I'm abominable with names) and Bourdain have been doing a lot of shows from all over Asia, and in NO CASE did I ever spot anyone using the wrong end of their chopsticks to take food out of the communal bowl. It's always everybody dig in, eat, and dig in again. So much for etiquette. AND germs!

                      3. no real surprise that mark went home. he had it coming for a couple of weeks now.

                        hopefully lisa will be next. how can someone be so negative ALL the time? it's exhausting & infuriating to watch. i wish one of the judges would point out to her that she's the only one who stands in front of judges' table with her arms crossed like that. it's obnoxious. anyway, it appears from next week's promo that she & dale will be paired up again - judging by his outburst, perhaps she makes a huge mistake...? [please, oh please.]

                        i'm still not impressed with nikki. one successful dish does not a winner make.

                        i would have liked to see andrew get more kudos. his looked delicious, and was obviously very successful. it appealed to me much more than antonia's did. not quite sure how she won with that.

                        bummed to see steph in the bottom 3 in both challenges. bad week for her, but thank goodness she didn't go home!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          I had to give props to Nikki at least for this round. That was a good dish---a well thought out dish.

                          If you noticed I believe all 3 of the Top 3 either were raised by a single parent or were a single parent themselves. I think its good that they put thought and heart into their dish. I would love the recipe to Nikki's dish...it's smart cooking.

                          Do I think she should still be there based on her past performance though? Nope.

                        2. Does anyone else think that food cost more than $10? I don't believe that was the price for one second. Not at WholePaycheck.

                          24 Replies
                          1. re: Adrienne

                            While I'm sure it was difficult, I do believe it's possible. All of them went with chicken or pasta, and then look at what they were doing at the check-out - stripping off bok choy leaves, removing half of the spring onions from the batch until the weight got down far enough so they would be under the $10 limit.

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              I saw that, and I want to believe my own eyes, but I also saw the bag of apples Dale brought back. A dozen wholefoods apples could easily be half their budget if not more. And 6 sausages? I just don't see how that could cost $10 without some kind of special top chef discount.

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                I don't know, I've bought whole chickens before at Whole Foods, and the chicken itself cost more than $10. Maybe they had a "sale" on chicken going on? I mean, I buy the vegetables, but that sounds really cheap for chicken at WF.

                                1. re: JasmineG

                                  You're probably buying organic chicken, which is what I do. I end up spending anywhere from $12 to $20 on a chicken. They probably were purchasing the "naturally raised" chicken which is cheaper. As I don't buy that stuff, I don't know how much it is.

                                  And about the sausage -- their sausages are generally $5 or $6/lb. If Dale limited his serving size to 4 oz or so (which really is a more realistic serving size than the gigantic portions we're generally served at restaurants), it's definitely possible as possible to keep within the budget.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    But does Whole Foods even sell chicken that hasn't been fattened with wildcrafted ramps and plucked by Tibetan virgins? I don't think they have a "trashy cheap meat" section.

                                    1. re: newhavener07

                                      They do have some relatively inexpensive non-organic chicken.

                                      1. re: newhavener07

                                        I am ROARING over here. My dogs are looking at me funny. OMG.

                                        I have to take a sick dog to the vet, and you have made my day.

                                        1. re: newhavener07

                                          LOL! newhavener, your comments get better every week. i'm still giggling over the one about asparagus...

                                          1. re: newhavener07

                                            LOL!!!! My last chicken at WF cost $15.

                                          2. re: Miss Needle

                                            LOL I was trying to post last night I was in a NJ Wholefoods recently and the sausage was 6.99 a lb...and I'm ALMOST positive that was four sausages.

                                            I grazed past produce because it's local in pa here, but apples were nearly $4. I have a cousin in Moorestown and Trader Joes was closed, I can't remember what I was looking for, I'm normally way to cheap to shop there. We like Wegmans but they are a discount place compared to whole foods.

                                            1. re: sommrluv

                                              I agree. There's NO WAY the stuff they had in their carts at WF was under $10. MAYBE you could buy enough chicken for 4 people for less than $10, but you certainly wouldn't have much money left over for anything else, such as vegetables or fruit. Give me a break.

                                              1. re: jaydreb

                                                Keep in mind that we don't know how much they were able to scrounge from the TC pantry...the staples that are there could have added a lot to each dish without any cost to the cheftestants.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  I've been wondering about that. They cooked off-site -- did they get to prep at all in the TC pantry? (I was listening more than watching last night until they actually served.) Lee Anne's blog is up and didn't mention anything about olive oil, pepper, salt, etc.

                                                  1. re: momjamin

                                                    Maybe they were allowed to bring stuff from the pantry, or the pantry was packed up and brought to them. It would have been impossible if they'd had to buy pantry items, although I suppose you can always buy two cents worth of salt and other spices from the bulk bins. For example, I doubt on that budget that Stephanie bought a jar of peanutbutter -- either there's peanutbutter in the pantry or she bought a small quantity of bulk peanutbutter.

                                                    1. re: momjamin

                                                      I had forgotten about that - I don't recall if they went directly from WF to the Common Threads kitchen. But they know they're able to take from the pantry, so as Ruth said, perhaps a partial pantry was packed up (or provided to them at the other kitchen site) from which they were able to take food items. Agree - a jar of peanut butter would have taken close to half of Stephanie's budget, so I have to believe they got part of their ingredients from the pantry.

                                              2. re: Miss Needle

                                                You know, I take it back -- I thought Nikki bought a whole chicken (that's what it sounded like from her description) but the recipe on the site is for bone in chicken breast, which are much cheaper. That's possible.

                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                  The recipes on the site aren't always exactly what was prepared on the show. I believe it was a whole chicken -- a whole chicken is cheaper than four servings of chicken breast anyway.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    Usually true, but I cannot imagine getting a whole chicken at Whole Foods for less than $10 (the ones that I've gotten -- usually the smallest ones that I can find, are $12-15) and they often have breasts with the bone in and skin on that are a lot cheaper (especially if the chefs got two breasts and split them in two to make four servings).

                                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                                      My whole foods very often has whole chicken on sale for $1.99 a pound. I believe they are usually $2.99 a pound.

                                          3. re: Adrienne

                                            Good point. They said a dinner for four. But there seemed to be more than four plates of each dish going out.

                                            1. re: Withnail42

                                              At least 7 plates were going out that I counted---4 for the kids, 1 for Tom, and it seemed like 1 or 2 were going to the judges.

                                              1. re: Elyssa

                                                The ten dollars had to cover the total price of four servings. They did cook more than four servings though.

                                            2. re: Adrienne

                                              If you listen carefully to the challenge you will understand that they have a budget of $10 for four complete meals ($2.50 per plate). But they have to make more than four plates for the challenge. By my count they had four plates for the children, one plate for the judges, one plate for Tom in the kitchen and one "Hero" plate (the one that gets photographed). So they clearly had to be allowed to spend more than just $10 at WF which explains why their baskets looked like they had more than $10 worth of food -- they did. Apparently they must have had some limit at WF (hence the contortions at the cash register) but it had to higher than $10.

                                              1. re: kmcarr

                                                I agree with that -- but I think the show was trying to make us think it was literally $10 because we could see the cash registers at whole foods ringing up at $9.xx. I'm going to have to watch that section again though because it was only shown for a second.

                                            3. My husband and I called it at 9:02 (Central Time) - "Mark's going home." However, I do have to admit to having many "Please don't let it be Stephanie" moments.

                                              I really expected to dislike this episode. The promo from last week turned me off (but not in the phallic shaped peice of bread turn off kind of way). I have young kids - love 'em to death - but Wednesday nights are a....put the kids to bed, pour myself a extremly large Vodka Gimlet, and escape from the Soccer-Mom-life-that-I-lead kind of night. I don't wanna see kids - I see them every day.

                                              BUT - I really enjoyed this episode - even though it was totally ridiculous.

                                              15 minutes to get together a dish for the QF? Geez...it takes me 15 minutes to get all my ingredients out of the cupboard and/or refridgerator. BUT...these guys - for the most part - really pulled it off.

                                              Seriously - $10.00 for a family of four at Whole Foods???? I'm a family of four! My husband and I both said "per person, right?" I hope Lee Anne Wong indicates in her blog what was available from the pantry. I have no idea how these guys managed it. Amazing.

                                              A few comments from a home cook...

                                              my kids love a curry... it didn't seem weird to me as a family dish...I just don't think Mark made a very good curry.

                                              cracked me up about Lisa not letting her girlfriend's kid use the big knife - my eldest can't wait for the day I let her loose with my chef's knife. (Never! She'll poke her eye out!)

                                              Pasta Puttanesca (Spike's dish) is one of our family favorites. My husband and I were brainstorming for a $10.00 meal idea - when Spike said "pasta puttanesca" we both said "Of course!" Fairly inexpensive (depending on what's in the pantry) and super tasty.

                                              I enjoyed the episode. Dale is probably my favorite - still a lot of love for Steph & Richard. I'm trying not to "call" any finalists. If I remember correctly from last year, Casey didn't really start to shine until the last part of the season. Antonia, anyone???

                                              18 Replies
                                              1. re: Mushroom

                                                While obvious what Antonia made was good, it bothers me a little bit that BOTH dishes she won with, both quickfire and elimination, were dishes she said she's made multiple times before.

                                                I realize there's nothing in the rules about new dishes, but it just loses points in my esimation, and raises other chefs higher for their creativity and risk factors. She really got lucky on this, and nothing else, IMO.

                                                Rice and Salad that she's been eating since she was a child...she could probably bang that out in 15 minutes at home with leftoever rice. It took her no brainstorming, and she knew the flavors worked.

                                                Her elimination dish was a dish she told Tom that she's made multiple times with her daughter. Again, something she KNOWS a child can make, a child can eat, etc etc. I give much higher points to Richard, with the beet, who doesn't have a kid, Lisa who wanted garlic, but said, do you like garlic, no? in the trash it goes. She won my heart a little with that move. I wonder how much of her 'underseasonded' dish was playing to her mini-chef's palate.

                                                Not that that's an excuse in the grand scheme of things, but maybe she thought that was part of tonight's challange, just like cooking for the audience, etc. I think that was why she fought so hard. I'm not her biggest fan, I really love Richard and Stephanie, personally, but I could put myself in Lisa's shoes tonight.

                                                1. re: sommrluv

                                                  What Antonia did doesn't bother me at all. She's just being smart.

                                                  1. re: sommrluv

                                                    Why is what Antonia did any different from Spike or Dale or Nikki who also relied to their personal experiences? Or why is it any difference than the cheftestants who anticipate the challenges they will face and practice in advance. Besides, Antonia still had to execute the dish. We've heard previous season chefs brag about the dishes they could "execute in their sleep" who end up putting inedible food on the plate.

                                                    Finally, Antonia's combination of ingredients was, in fact, risky at least in the Quickfire challenge. Remember, the guest judge said he had been doubtful about a rice salad and that Antonia had made a believer out of him.

                                                    1. re: Indy 67

                                                      I guess I felt that what they have done, or at least what I have been shown from what they have done, were elements of a dish or techniques of a dish, not an entire dish.

                                                      And not two dishes in one episode. I personally feel a Top Chef needs to think on their feet, and be able to conceptualize a new dish quickly if possible..this proved to me she's rather put out two safety dishes than think of something new. She could have easily said my daughter and I do xyz at home, but to make it new I substituted this and this.

                                                      1. re: sommrluv

                                                        I think they do have to think on their feet, but it still remains a competition -- with the extreme time and budget constraints imposed this episode, I think the only reasonable path *was* to go with the tried and true vs. experimentation. For the quickfire, they only had 15 minutes, and if an improvisation failed, there was absolutely NO time for a do-over. With a $10 budget, one would be foolish to experiment. As a counterpoint to Antonia, who came out on top in both challenges, look at what happened to Stephanie, who did try to "think outside the box."

                                                        There is a time for improvisation and a time to play it safe. Given the constraints in this episode, I don't think the winning chef should be faulted for doing the latter.

                                                        1. re: DanaB

                                                          I liked the quick fire. But I feel the fifteen minute time frame was really there to showcase the versatility and convenience of the Uncle Ben's rice.

                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                            Really? I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you!

                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                              Yes. They are very subtle about this 'product placement' concept. You might have to look carefully, when they are leaving the Kenmore Kitchen in their Toyota Rav 4s one their way to Whole Food to buy food that will go in the Gladware to be cooked over Kingsford Charcoal but it is there.

                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                I knew there was a reason I love talking to you all, you're all as cynical as I am. God love ya!!!

                                                                1. re: Withnail42

                                                                  Toyota would not be pleased on your recall...they're driving Highlanders.

                                                                  1. re: harrison

                                                                    actually, they drove rav-4's in previous seasons...apparently it was time for an upgrade. i'm just waiting for them to drive their highlanders to a nightclub where they'll have to set up a makeshift bar outside and use breville blenders to whip up specialty cocktails with bombay sapphire for the late-night revelers. the winner gets a mac laptop computer and 2 round-trip tickets anywhere continental airlines flies.

                                                                    anyway, we're clearly not the only cynics watching. even the folks at VH1 have something to say about it...

                                                                    http://www.bestweekever.tv/2007/08/16...

                                                                    http://www.amateurgourmet.com/the_ama...

                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                      this is all OLD stuff... pertaining to last season, at the most recent.

                                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                                        well i had never seen them before, so they were new to me. i found them pretty amusing to read regardless of the seasons to which they pertained.

                                                                  2. re: Withnail42

                                                                    Oh, the most subtle of all is what I refer to as "The Great Wall of Gladware". All of those shelves stocked with Glad products in the room they wait in while being judged. I don't even think the shelves in my Super Stop & Shop have that much plastic ware.

                                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                                      I don't think the product placements are subtle at all. The camera lingers long and lovingly over a shelf of Glad products or the logo on the refrigerator or the way back of the RAV4. I think it's annoying.

                                                                      Anyone happen to know which Whole Foods (another product placement) markt the participants shop in? I'm a Chicagoan and have been trying to figure it out. Is it Lincolnwood? Chestnut St.?

                                                                      1. re: chicgail

                                                                        >>>I don't think the product placements are subtle at all.<<<

                                                                        I think Withnail42 was being facetious ;-)

                                                        2. re: Mushroom

                                                          I too thought curry was fine. I know the judges kept saying "don't dumb down the food, don't dumb down the food." But not giving a kid curry or other more "exotic" tastes is dumbing down the food. I believe in exposing children to various taste profiles at a young age.

                                                          Plus not all families in America eat burgers and tuna noodle casserole for dinner. Some children grow up with curry for a variety of reasons, other have tabasco on food, or chutney or gefilta fish etc. It's a little closed minded to assume curry etc is not a children's food.

                                                          Just my 2 cents. I don't have kids yet so maybe I'm totally off but I see how my parents raised me and I'm glad that no flavor was off limits.

                                                          1. re: Elyssa

                                                            I don't think the problem with Mark's dish was that it was a curry, it was that it was a poorly executed curry (too sweet), it only had two vegetables in it, which seems pretty limited for a "vegetable" curry, and it wasn't a well-balanced meal (i.e. not enough protein).

                                                        3. I'm staring to lose my faith in Stephanie. Oddly it's happening as I'm starting to think Spike is more than a one-note character (I liked his meal for the second week in a row.)

                                                          Glad Antonia is breaking out at last. Sad Mark is gone but that was getting to be three lackluster meals in a row and I was starting to feel he didn't belong there after all.

                                                          Guess it's Wedding Wars instead of Restaurant Wars this year. Hmmm.

                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: HarryK

                                                            lol i had to laugh when i saw spike made soup AGAIN...its like he has some kind of soup complex after the whole blowup (at least its better than andrews double appearance of faux cavier)

                                                            1. re: asiansensation007

                                                              Did anyone else think making a bowl of soup and a bowl of pasta was a little strange??

                                                              1. re: elayne5

                                                                Why? Because it's "easy?" Or because you don't think it goes together?

                                                                1. re: elayne5

                                                                  I think it's strange that they were able to buy what they needed for under $10.

                                                                  1. re: elayne5

                                                                    I did. I thought exactly that. I guess it would not have seemed so unusual if they had the chance to serve in courses, but it was really odd to me to see a big bowl of soup right next to a big bowl of pasta. Are ya supposed to eat one while the other gets cold? Or are you supposed to take a taste of soup...a taste of pasta...back and forth? 'Cuz that would be weird.

                                                                    1. re: Justpaula

                                                                      maybe you are supposed to eat the combo soba style? dip strands of the pasta into the soup with chopsticks then sluuuuuuuuuuuuuurp!?

                                                                    2. re: elayne5

                                                                      YES! That really bugged me--when he put that out I thought that the judges were going to rip him for serving things that didn't go together, and I was surprised when they didn't.

                                                                      I'm also surprised, looking at the recipe, that he called that sauce "puttanesca", which isn't a sauce that's topped with cheese. I was trying to see if it included anchovies, but the Bravo site doesn't even include capers or olives in the recipe, which I'm sure that it had. Two things bug me about the recipe when I look at it online: first, for a sauce that's supposed to be something that a working girl can whip up between clients, it doesn't make sense that he simmers it for 45 minutes; second, that he got credit for using lots of vegetables by putting carrots in his puttanesca, but since he was also serving a carrot soup that totally seems like carrot overkill.

                                                                      1. re: Nettie

                                                                        it wasnt that a working girl could cook it up between clients.. it was that the house had it cooking to serve to clients.. not the same thing at all

                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                          It was also a form of marketing. There was a pot of the sauce kept simmering next to an open window to attract clients to that particular house.

                                                                      2. re: elayne5

                                                                        In Fukienese style, we like lots of soups, we drink soup instead of having water or soft drinks. So we eat the dishes family style and have a bowl of soup next to out plate. So its not so weird from my stand point.

                                                                  2. i was kind of sad to see mark go, but glad it want stephanie. i know tom has said in the past that past wins dont factor into their decision, but he even commented on her strengths at the judging table in her defense. ted allen even admitted in a blog earlier back that spike's past dishes factored in his favor when he ended up in the bottom 3. and correct me if im wrong, but doesnt some african cuisine incorporate tomatoes and peanuts or peanut butter?? im sure other flavors are there to balance it better, but maybe she wasnt SO far off the mark (unlike illan and his liver and chocolate truffle...belch)

                                                                    I thought this episode was adorable and really great for "normal" homecooks. With food prices spiking its not like we go home and make lobster and prime rib everynight. Yeah, 10 is not alot but close its more realistic to everyday budgets. I actually feel like I could go and try some of these recipes as opposed to others that have been showcased. Although at buying at whole foods at retail 10 dollars isnt much at all. I was kind of surprised to see everything they were able to buy and am just a little suspicious. Also, it seemed as if there were actually 6 or more plates going out--one for tom, four for the kids and a couple for the judges. Maybe it was more like $20...same cost per plate but easier to streach food .

                                                                    I didnt think antonia would win with her pasta stirfry...shoot i do stuff like that all the time at home. I thought andrews was much more original if you look at the recipes online, antonia is basically noodles and veggies in a teriyaki sauce. andrews looks great (although im assuming he didnt purchase all these things and most was pilfered from the top chef pantry) and it looks as though it has alot of flavor. Nikkis dish looks decent ingredient wise as well. By looks alone, antonias looks really pedestrian over the other two. maybe thats why she won because it looks like she didnt use anything from the pantry and truely stuck to the 10 budget..i mean geez theres not even salt pepper or butter!

                                                                    i had to laugh because i dont remember whos dish it was, but some contestant was saying how much they thought the kids LOVED their food and the camera did a close up of a boy and he looked miserable. in another frame he looks like he is kinda picking at his food.

                                                                    I though nikki's dish in the quickfire was super boring...fried rice?? com'on other people were doing things much more interesting. However, i am surprised she was the only one doing a one pot wonder dish. so easy and complete. I do it all the time and its a huge money saver.

                                                                    overall good episode. I think next week is complete crap, it looks like that ridiculous wedding challenge in one day thing. Thats so unrealistic and just plain cruel. every past contestent of season one has absolutely slammed that challege saying it was complete bs. i think they were just doing it to put people on edge for better drama.

                                                                    BTW: did you notice the cursing was absolutely zilch (if i remember correctly) maybe they should have a kid standing in the kitchen for every future episode i know i enjoyed it much more. i thought they did a great job with the kids and i liked it when the chefs let the child explain the dish instead of just butting in themselves imo.

                                                                    oh and negative nancy lisa--she is really getting on my nerves she stood there with her evil eye like 'if you eliminate me, i'm gunna go postal" i cant stand her arrogance and total self righteousness. i am now getting to the point where i want to see her go above nikki, cause even if nikki's food is sandra lee at best, at least she is upbeat and nice. lisa is just a real drag.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: asiansensation007

                                                                      I was also really surprised that Antonia won when I saw the recipe. I think they gave points to her for ease of preparation. That's probably why Tom was in the back monitoring them to see how involved these dishes were.

                                                                      1. re: asiansensation007

                                                                        <i mean geez theres not even salt pepper or butter!> with teriyaki, there's no need for any of those!

                                                                        My guess is that all the chefs often do dishes from their past experiences when they fit into the format. Either they dont all comment on that, or it's not always picked up by the editors...

                                                                        Lisa needs a reality check. I also hope she's next to go. wonder why the judges havent asked her to unfold her arms. What a nasty, defensive attitude.

                                                                        1. re: asiansensation007

                                                                          re: the lack of cursing - keep in mind that Chef Colicchio was there as well. When Dad's hanging around the kitchen, the children obviously are on their best behavior. :-)

                                                                          1. re: asiansensation007

                                                                            "and correct me if im wrong, but doesnt some african cuisine incorporate tomatoes and peanuts or peanut butter??"

                                                                            absolutely correct, A.S. stephanie might have bungled her flavors and mangled couscous, but tom c.'s comment was either ignorant or edited completely out of context. many african stewed dished with both tomatoes and peanuts/peanut butter are delicious, healthy and very kid-friendly.

                                                                          2. I loved the kids cooking! And eating! How better to prove the proof of the... Well, you know.

                                                                            I don't know why -- God knows I've tried to find some sparks -- but I find this season's chefs to be singularly blah. Not one of them makes me feel he or she could come up with an entire restaurant menu that would make me say, "Hey, let's go THERE!" Maybe I'm just becoming jaded.....

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              Right, I found the kids so much more appealing than the chefs! Come on Bravo, Top Chef Kids!

                                                                            2. I wasn't surprised that the single mom won the challenge. Who better would know how to put together a great meal for less than $10?

                                                                              Steph seems to have lost her mojo. I hope she finds it again.

                                                                              The curry didn't look great, but I thought Lisa would be the one to go. Either way didn't matter much, though; neither of those 2 is likely to win it all.

                                                                              Reality check here: families that have to budget that tightly for meals are actually very likely to shop at Whole Foods. Nor is WF likely to take kindly to shoppers disassembling bok choy at the register to meet their budget. I know- it's just TV.

                                                                              1. I'm actually surprised Stephanie is not gone... Peanut butter, tomatoes, lemon juice over mushy couscous.

                                                                                Mark's dish must have been a complete disaster if he lost to the weird peanut butter dish.

                                                                                LOL on the double dipping. There were quite a few chefs tasting and stirring.
                                                                                Also, I kept thinking... Did those kids wash their hands? Don't touch your nose and the food!

                                                                                What's up with Antonia's knock-knock joke? She had to explain it to her daughter.

                                                                                During checkout at Whole Foods, what's up with tearing leaves off the veggies to come within the budget? After which, all the produce still ended up in the shopping bag. It's Enron accounting methods all over again.

                                                                                I wonder if the kids ate everything that was presented to them and how much was tossed.

                                                                                8 Replies
                                                                                1. re: dave_c

                                                                                  I don't know. People seem to be ragging on Steph's dish -- but peanut butter, tomatoes and lemon juice can work. Hasn't anybody had Sengalese peanut soup before? It's delicious.

                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                    I agree - I thought it sounded like a potentially interesting flavor combination.

                                                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                      I believe it is a fairly classic flavor combination from northern Africa. The restaurant she closed just before Top Chef began filming was focused on Mediterranean cuisine, so it's not surprising that she would be familiar with flavor combinations from that area. I hope she gets her self confidence back soon and makes it back to the top! (well, I hope she DID get her self confidence back and made it back to the top!)

                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                        I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought this! As I watched them tear her apart for her dish, I felt really bad because I could have sworn this was a fairly common combination for some African stews. A few years ago I had a stew with chicken in a sauce of peanut butter and tomatoes (and some spices of course, chile being one) that my friend's mom from Ghana made for a potlock. And it was DELICIOUS! I agree with the other poster below who referred to Tom's provencialism, and Gail's too for that matter. The more I think about it, the more angry I become.

                                                                                      2. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                        Agreed - it's not far off...a couple of vegetarian stews with tomato/peanut butter combinations:

                                                                                        http://www.veg-world.com/recipes/afri...

                                                                                        http://www.congocookbook.com/soup_and...

                                                                                        http://www.relishmag.com/recipes/prin...

                                                                                        Granted - not seeing any lemon in any of the recipes, but the tomato/peanut butter combo isn't odd.

                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          Yes! I posted this somewhere else I think, her choice to add lemon might have been the real mistake here -- though overcooking her couscous didn't help, and either way it was a stretch to make an African stew for a bunch of kids, though I guess it's like with fennel and beet: if she had succeeded it would have been more impressive than stir-fry or puttanesca.

                                                                                        2. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                          Right, and what about Thai curries with peanut and tomato? Tom C was showing his provincialism there. Seems he's pretty blinkered by his classical French ('no hens in the coq au vin') training.

                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                            Well, every once in a while, Colicchio just goes "out to lunch." Did it on the coq au vin, and there was something else he went deep end over but I can't remember what it was. Starting from childhood and to this very day one of my favorite sandwiches is home grown beefsteak tomatoes, super chunky peanut butter and Hellmann's mayonnaise with a little salt (on the tomato) and lots of pepper on crusty French bread. Deeelicious! I suspect Colicchio suffers from parilyzed taste buds.

                                                                                        3. It looked to me like Stephanie got a free pass this episode. Tom obviously didn't care for her food at all, and one of the other judges(I think it was Gail) said it was disgusting. I think they let her slide by because they thought she has more potential(and a better track record) than Mark. I would have preferred to see Lisa get the boot.

                                                                                          14 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                                                            I think they don't want to get rid of the entire home team of Chicago chefs. But Mark definitely deserved to go, seemed pretty clueless in general and his Kiwi charm was wearing thin. Although I think the curry could have worked with the addition of some nuts for protein. That said, Americans eat far too much protein and fat, as evidenced by Tom's girth. Much of the world eats meat only a few times a week, if that.

                                                                                            1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                              My Dh said last night that the producers have decided a woman will win this year, regardless of how many times they screw up.

                                                                                              Obviously it WAS Mark's time to go, but that allowed for Steph's "disgusting" dish to get a pass over "sweet" curry.

                                                                                              Didn't Sara go home for bad couscous? I had to laugh when the guest chef said couscous isn't hard to make...if you've ever made REAL couscous, not instant...it takes HOURS and has to be cooked several times, it's steamed, fluffed, resteamed, fluffed, etc.

                                                                                              1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                Yeah, I think what tipped the scales in favor of Stephanie was that at least her dish had the nutritional profile they were looking for, while Mark's didn't taste good, didn't fit the nutritional profile they were looking for, and also didn't make good use of the budget. Stephanie probably got full marks for the non-taste elements of her dish.

                                                                                                I think when it came to the chicken that some of the chefs took advantage to the economies of scale. Sure, they were supposed to cook for a family of four for $10, but clearly they had to make six portions (four for the kids, one for Tom and one for the other judges). So I wonder if it fact they were given $15 to make six portions, which would help a lot, since you can get six portions out of a whole chicken at the same cost as four.

                                                                                                Personally, I would have gone with eggs. Some kind of frittata with sausage and veggies, and then used the rest of the eggs to make dessert. The chefs also have the advantage over us in planning, in that they knew what they had available in the "Top Chef Pantry."

                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  ruth, you & i think alike. my first instinct was a frittata...i assumed that everyone else would immediately go for pasta or rice to stretch their dollars without ever considering eggs. [of course i also happen to love frittatas, and make them for dinner pretty frequently.]

                                                                                                  speaking of eggs, was anyone else perplexed by nikki's comment that she chose not to use a protein....right after she said she used eggs in the dish.? ummm, hello...? i couldn't believe none of the judges picked up on that.

                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                    Yup -- I caught that one. I even yelled at the TV.

                                                                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                      heh, i yelled too. i tend to do that a lot during this show. i'm a sports nut, so neighbors may very well assume i'm watching a game at 10 p.m. every wednesday :)

                                                                                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                      It may have been edited out of sequence, but it also seems that on Top Chef they use "protein" as shorthand for the "meat/poultry/seafood" component of a dish, which the dish is usually designed around (showing a rather inflexible idea of what a "dish" is).

                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                        i just wish they'd be more consistent. tom calls casey out for her coq au vin just because she didn't use the traditional bird, but eggs aren't considered to be a protein?

                                                                                                        seriously people, get your semantics straight.

                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                          After that Colecchio hissy fit about coq au vin (wich I've been making for at least fifty years now), I did some research to see if I had been making it wrong all these years. Turns out a tender young chicken -- male or female -- is the traditional bird in that pot and NOT a "coq." Checked out about a dozen classic cook books including the '60s version of LaRousse Gastronomique, Julia Child, and others of similar ilk. Escoffier doesn't give a coq au vin recipe. I think I found one book that actually called for a rooster. A tender young bird is by far the most common (therefore trqaditional?) ingredient in classic cookbooks.

                                                                                                          Personally, I've always suspected the French just call coq au vin "coq au vin" so aspiring young American cooks will wonder when you add the cocao. '-)

                                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                            Coq au vin is traditionally made with a rooster. It's a French peasant dish. They wouldn't waste a young chicken. If you'd watched The French Chef with Julia Child, she even makes note of this and explains why she substitutes chicken.

                                                                                                            If you follow the traditional recipe for coq au vin with a young tender chicken it will not be good. There simply isn't enough collagen in the bird to stand up to the super long cooking process. You can make a much quicker braised chicken in a red wine sauce with the traditional garnishes (button mushrooms and pearl onions) but it is a different tasting dish. It's still good, and I would not object to someone calling it a coq au vin (although I understand why someone might not want to).

                                                                                                            You don't necessarily need a rooster though. If you go to the farmers market and ask one of the egg purveyors they can probably give you and old stewing hen. It will be old and tough and contain the right amount of collagen to make a superb dish. Plus it will be cheap.

                                                                                                            1. re: vanillagorilla

                                                                                                              Sorry to be so tardy in responding. I'll blame it on all of the computer problems I was having around the time you wrote this.

                                                                                                              According to my sources, you're wrong about Julia Child. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and in The French Chef cookbook, she goes into no detail about the chicken beyond specifying "a frying chicken," which is a young bird, and absolutely not a rooster. I don' t think I missed an episode of her original black and white "The French Chef" series on PBS during the first run, and have no recollection of her ever saying that.

                                                                                                              James Beard (Menus for Entertaining), Henri Paul Pellaprat (Everyday French Cooking), and Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything) simply call for a "chicken" in their respective coq au vin recipes. A "chicken" does not equate with a rooster, or even a hen, for that matter. At least not in cullinary terms.

                                                                                                              Ali Bab (aka Henri Babinski) in his highly respected "Encyclopedia of Practical Gastronomy," which he wrote circa 1906, calls for a "young tender chicken."

                                                                                                              And my 1961 translation of Larousse Gastronomique calls for "a young chicken cut up in 6 pieces."

                                                                                                              While your argument sounds knowledgeable and authoritative, I can find asolutely no support for it in vintage (or relatively new, as in the case of Bittman) cookbooks. Sorry. If you can cite authorities as knowledgeable as these to counter their terminaology, I would welcome the information. Otherwise I stand by my original post.

                                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                Thank you for posting that, Caroline. I, too, was surprised when Tom went off on the "rooster" issue. I never found a recipe for Coq au vin in any of my french cookbooks (Olney, Child, David, Larousse, etc.) that called exclusively for a rooster.

                                                                                                                1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                  You're welcome. But I've never found a classic recipe (or new one) that even mentions a rooster as an alternative to a young chicken. Decades ago, in a fit of wanting to be correct, I made a coq au vin using a real cog from farmer friends. What a terrible waste of wine, lardons, mushrooms, and pearl onions...!. The flavor was about as inviting as rancid butter, and the flesh was tough and stringy despite the cooking time. That was back during my frst marriage, and that husband would eat road kill if I cooked it for him. He ate the rooster, I ate French toast.

                                                                                                                  But in Colecchio's defence, I've never met nor heard of anyone who is 100% culturally literate in their chosen field of expertise. However, considering that he's gone off on more than one thing he didn't have a brilliant grasp of, you'd think he'd be a little cautious about voicing such opinions so strongly. But then he wouldn't be Tom Colecchio, would he?

                                                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                    >> I never found a recipe for Coq au vin in any of my french cookbooks (Olney, Child, David, Larousse, etc.) that called exclusively for a rooster.<<

                                                                                                                    >>But I've never found a classic recipe (or new one) that even mentions a rooster as an alternative to a young chicken.<<

                                                                                                                    Your comment is pretty much what I meant to say. Nobody even mentions a rooster.

                                                                                              2. Main criticism: too much product placement!

                                                                                                Sorry, it's getting to me... the content/advertisement ratio is more and more of a turn-off to me. (Also, I'm glad Stephanie is still here. Even though she has had some glitches, I think she has shown a great combination of Top Chef skills; I wouldn't mind cooking for her).

                                                                                                1. Like many people, I was very relieved that Stephanie was still there (I was chanting"please not Stephanie" when the judges were about to say their decision), but I was disappointed in her - she should have trusted her instincts and put the chicken back and gotten something a little more original. I loved that the kids were helping, and also loved how appreciative all of the chefs were about the kids, and how they talked about how much they enjoyed their help. I was very impressed about the more unusual ingredients some of the chefs used and got the kids to try and like (beets! fennel!).

                                                                                                  Next week looks like it will be stressful.

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                    I'm curious, I haven't been re-watching many of the episodes or reading the blogs much, but I read Tom's first blog.

                                                                                                    Are the other judges complaining about seasoning, or just him? Because his first blog, he wrote about how he visited MANY chicago eateries, here and there and everything...I think everything from street food to fine dining.

                                                                                                    Maybe he blew his palate. lol

                                                                                                    1. re: sommrluv

                                                                                                      Would have loved Padma and Art complaining about what must have been the excessive saltiness of all the quickfire dishes made with Uncle Ben's.

                                                                                                  2. Fried rice? Fried rice drowned in soy sauce? Why didn't she just round out the meal with some General Tso's and a flaming rum drink? My mother would've thrown her houseslippers at the tv if she saw what Nikki tried to pass off as Asian, let alone top chef material.

                                                                                                    And while I did think Nikki's judges' table dish sounded like something nutritious I'd make on a weeknight, am I the only one who thinks it ironic that the only competition Nikki has excelled in is how to cook like a kid?

                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                                                                      This was the worst episode this season by far....15 minutes and Uncle Ben's?, disgusting

                                                                                                      interesting that next weeks team challenge is broken up by Nikki, Spike, Andrew and Richard vs. Dale, Antonia, Stephanie, and Lisa.

                                                                                                      no one wonder Dale looked so frustrated

                                                                                                      1. re: attractivekid

                                                                                                        I bet you can't wait till next week's PAM special then

                                                                                                        1. re: Icantread

                                                                                                          Dale needs some female energy; perhaps he'll synch up his cycle with the girls and mellow out. PAM special? Please tell me you're joking. As for the Uncle Ben's, I was initially all snooty about it then realized I had some bags of Trader Joe's microwaveable brown rice in the freezer. It's not as good as fresh, but sometimes you don't want to wait around for 40 minutes, or gack up a pan with rice goo.

                                                                                                          1. re: newhavener07

                                                                                                            It's light and tasty and keeps the judges nasty comments from sticking! Also, Lisa may or may not use it in her hair

                                                                                                    2. Big shift in my rankings this week.
                                                                                                      I think Stephanie has used up all her passes now after suffering near misses on consecutive weeks. Peanut butter and tomatoes, what the heck was she thinking?
                                                                                                      Lisa also continues to free fall after being solid in the early going. If she can skate through the next couple of weeks without being on the bottom I think she'll get her confidence back. She seems to be going through salt/pepper angst.
                                                                                                      The bottom dwellers have been tightening the gap over the past couple of weeks but I still think their time is limited.
                                                                                                      Richard and Dale were mid-pack and based on Stephanie's near death experiences they are looking more like the ones to beat.
                                                                                                      I'm not sure if Antonia was that great last night (winning both challenges) or if Oprah's chef just liked her. Either way she has been fairly consistent throughout this competition and I think she's a legitimate contender.
                                                                                                      So long Mark, you seem like a good guy but your plates looked sloppy and unappetizing.
                                                                                                      1. Richard
                                                                                                      2. Antonia
                                                                                                      3. Stephanie
                                                                                                      4. Dale
                                                                                                      5. Andrew
                                                                                                      6. Spike
                                                                                                      7. Nikki
                                                                                                      8. Lisa

                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: tofuburrito

                                                                                                        Close, but my "Power Rankings" would be:

                                                                                                        1. Richard
                                                                                                        2. Dale
                                                                                                        3. Antonia
                                                                                                        4. Stephanie
                                                                                                        5. Andrew
                                                                                                        6. Spike
                                                                                                        7. Nikki
                                                                                                        8. Lisa

                                                                                                        1. re: tofuburrito

                                                                                                          I'm not sure that Antonia lucked out this week having both challenges play to her strengths. I don't think I'd put her in the Top 2 quite yet. I still see Richard/Dale/Stephanie (even with her recent gaffes) in the top group, Antonia and Andrew in the middle, and Spike/Nikki/Lisa can all go and I won't miss them. And at this point, I'd rather Lisa get the boot than Nikki. That attitude just grates on me.

                                                                                                          1. re: tofuburrito

                                                                                                            My top three are:

                                                                                                            1. Richard
                                                                                                            2. Stephanie
                                                                                                            3. Andrew

                                                                                                            Fourth spot in the final four I think will be between Antonia and Dale. And I think we will see Nikki, Spike, and Lisa go next, in that order.

                                                                                                            1. re: Megiac

                                                                                                              I like this power ranking thing...here are mine:

                                                                                                              1. Dale (Richard is obviously good but I have wanted to eat Dale's food more often)
                                                                                                              2. Richard
                                                                                                              3. Andrew (I think he should have won this week--he definitely did not "dumb down", I am sorry, Nikki and Antonia really DID. I also loved the kid-friendly activity of whacking the chicken filets to make paillard)
                                                                                                              4. Stephanie (2 weeks on the bottom knocked her down a rung)
                                                                                                              5. Lisa (she's annoying but I think her food has often looked good)
                                                                                                              6. Antonia (I am still not impressed...it is hard to believe her whole wheat pasta was really better than Andrew's paillard and fennel salad)
                                                                                                              7. Spike (still not impressed)
                                                                                                              8. Nikki (really really still not impressed)

                                                                                                              Uh oh--I just ranked the men 1,2,3 and 7; the women 4,5,6 and 8. I must have creeping subconscious sexism...

                                                                                                          2. I can't remember now what Gail was eating, and she remarked..."There's a lot of vegetables in here "Carrots, Capers, Olives"

                                                                                                            Personally, I don't consider capers and Olives heavy on the nutrition scale...can someone enlighten me? lol

                                                                                                            8 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                I think that was more a surprise at what Antonia was getting the kids to eat (capers? I didn't get into those until probably high school). Highly nutritional?, perhaps not, broadening their taste horizons a bit?, yep.

                                                                                                                1. re: Scortch

                                                                                                                  It was Spike with the capers. Personally I would have a harder time with beets and fennel than capers. Iam still not a huge beet fan, even at my advanced age.

                                                                                                                2. re: sommrluv

                                                                                                                  It was Spike's puttanessca. He added veggies to a classic puttanesca which has olives and capers. And capers are high in certain vitamins and minerals. And olives are a good source of the food fat. Problem is that both of these are high in sodium.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sommrluv

                                                                                                                    it was spike's puttanesca...i wondered about that too. capers & olives are both cured fruits, not vegetables.

                                                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                      I laughed when she said it...the olives I use are fatty, not 'good', but I've honestly never looked to see if maybe there are hidden treats for me there.

                                                                                                                      It was just the way she said it...I've never told my doctor I've been ramping up my caper and olive intake.

                                                                                                                    2. re: sommrluv

                                                                                                                      It was the puttenesca pasta -- in addition to the capers and olives, he added carrots to the sauce for more nutrition.

                                                                                                                    3. This elimination is one where I can see the producers getting involved. All the dishes seemed bad. If anything Mark's, from the comments we heard, seemed to be the best of the worst. Perhaps he was going to be safe.

                                                                                                                      So lets say the judges have legitimately narrowed it down to Mark and Lisa. The producers are thinking; 'We have a guy who gets along with everyone and drinks beer in the bathtub. We also have a combative, belligerent, woman who stirs up others. Who will make better tv?' Perhaps a word or suggestion as to who should pack up their didjeridu.

                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                        Mark and Lisa? LOL....please. After her yammering and the judges admission that her dish was nutritious and just under-seasoned, she was safe. If Mark throws any any meat/shrimp or whatever in the curry , he stays against that peanut butter tomato nasty dish. I was so glad that one judge said it was disgusting, because that's exactly what went through my mind. God, not even my kid would eat that, and by the way she loves curry. A lot of ethnic kids, like mine, are brought up on curry, and it looked like a lot of those kids were ethnic in origin. I think it was a fine pick, just done so badly Mark sunk below Stephanie, which is a complete embarrassment.

                                                                                                                        1. re: SDMike

                                                                                                                          They said Lisa's dish had no flavor which is what did in Zoi. She could have just as easily been sent packing. Her bad tude make for conflict = 'good' tv.

                                                                                                                          I was also put off by Lisa's remarks, uplifting as always, something along the lines that a curry isn't a suitable dish for kids and they won't like it.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                            I know. I was like..wow, what a good choice. Too bad. You know, it seems like this season has been all about the common food. I can't believe so many have screwed up so many easy dishes. I think Antonia excelled here because she did just what comes naturally.

                                                                                                                          2. re: SDMike

                                                                                                                            my kids - totally NOT ethnic - love curries too. I don't think it's that weird of a thing to feed a kid. but not THAT one. mine gobble down my easy one with chicken and chick peas and whatever veggie i have handy.

                                                                                                                            1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                              Yeah, I hear ya. I mean, if kids are shown just how tasty it is, especially at an early age, or even later, that's great. It's very inexpensive to make and filling. That's why I was amazed at Mark's choice. I had not even thought of that, but it made sense when he said it.

                                                                                                                        2. Totally missed this episode last night. I didn't figure Mark would be around much longer,
                                                                                                                          can't say why,but figured he would go.
                                                                                                                          I hope they show the episode to night again so i can watch it when i get home from TJMAxx.
                                                                                                                          Boy,beets are rsiky with kids.Don't recall us eating hem much when growing up.Thank goodness they didn't do liver,haha.
                                                                                                                          I never shop at Whole Foods,so I'm sure they must have given them more than 10 dollars for food.

                                                                                                                          16 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: HollyDolly

                                                                                                                            beets risky?, apparently not when Richard uses them...seems he's able to turn any combination of ingredients to gold (wasabi, white chocolate, tofu, etc)

                                                                                                                            1. re: attractivekid

                                                                                                                              i thought that it was great that richard used beets, spike used capers, andrew used fennel, etc. the chefs cooked these so-called "non-kid" ingredients in a way that the kids thought they were delicious. they also demonstrated the proof of the theory that if kids cook with an ingredient, they are more likely to eat and enjoy the flavor of the new ingredient, but that when the option is given to be fussy about a new flavor, kids are apt to be "childish." i think lisa throwing the lovely garlic in the trash when the kid said he didn't like garlic was wrong on so many levels. she should have shown the kid a way to cook the garlic so that he enjoyed its flavor in the finished dish, or at least made sure he qualified his dislike of garlic before she trashed a perfectly good and edible ingredient. the judges saying that curry is not appropriate for kids is also strange. kids love to cook and eat curry ime. if beets, capers and fennel are not "risky," than neither is curry.

                                                                                                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                People have weird ideas about what kids will eat. Kids will eat all kinds of things if they're (1) prepared properly and (2) presented to them as "cool." I don't know where people get the idea that Americans won't eat spicy foods, either. What's more American than a Buffalo wing? Or BBQ? Or a Dorito? Or Tabasco? Most fast food is strongly flavored in one way or another. A lot of those kids appeared to be ethnic minorities -- do the judges think they eat bland Middle American food at home?

                                                                                                                                Lisa absolutely should have used the garlic. But as proven by the "I won't cook cheap Polish sausage in beer so I can't cook any kind of Polish sausage at all" fiasco, she's an "all-or-nothing" thinker and not at all creative.

                                                                                                                              2. re: attractivekid

                                                                                                                                Also I think beets are showing up in a lot more recipes and restaurants in the past few years. I actually only started eating them in the past 3 years or so. It wasn't on my dinner plate as a kid but I don't think its risky.

                                                                                                                                Food and its availability changes. Beets might be more main stream now similar to sushi, goat cheese, edammame and curry powder. I think these flavors are a little more available to the general public now then they might have been when we were kids and therefore parents are more willing to give them to kids.

                                                                                                                                Beets are at least a fun bright color. I thought the brussel sprouts were more "risky" lol

                                                                                                                                1. re: Elyssa

                                                                                                                                  Beets are an old, old food. A classic, if you will. They're root vegetables that grow in poor climates, so they used to be a staple in every root cellar. Harvard beets and Red Flannel hash are both classic New England beet dishes.

                                                                                                                                  They aren't any more available now than they've ever been, but they've certainly been re-popularized in the last 10-15 years. When post-WWII changes in food production and transportation made more vegetables more available year round, a lot of the old winter-staple veggies (beets, cabbage, turnips, etc.) fell into disfavor, especially ones like beets that take a bit more prep than, lets say, a zucchini, and ones that unlike corn, peas and beans, didn't freeze well. But they've always been around. Have you ever seen a salad bar that didn't have canned beets (which are the only way a lot of people have ever had a beet, and which lead many people to think they dislike beets)?

                                                                                                                                  I love them. I loved canned beets when I was a baby, I love fresh and canned beets today. I actually don't understand why they're so widely hated. They aren't smelly like cruciferous veggies, or bitter like a lot of greens. They are a bit earthy, but then, so are mushrooms. It's a mystery!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                    I grew up eating beets. Never did see the problem with them.

                                                                                                                                    Seems to me the old advice about getting the kids involved with the cooking and they'll be more likely to eat what's served has been amply proven true by this episode. And I thought what we saw of the chefs working with the kids was brilliant--no one left their kid standing around, they all let the kids help, everybody was patient with the kids and it seems that a good time was had by all.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                      Growing up in my house beets were a very common ingredient - my mother always had us help her cook, EXCEPT when it was beets as she didn't want the entire kitchen stained pink!

                                                                                                                                      Now i find myself often having a very simple meal of beets that I throw in the oven to roast and slice up with some goat cheese, s, p and olive oil - quick and tasty!

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                      Ruth,

                                                                                                                                      I want to like beets, I truly do. I see Jamie Oliver roast some off and dress them in a nice vinegarette and I say to myself "self, you should cook that", but I never do. And it's all because of "the beet incident". When I was around seven or eight years of age mom cooked some of that nastiness which is the canned, pickled beet. My younger sister and I refused to eat them; Mom dug in her heals and we had a full fledged standoff. Sis and I sat at the table for an hour with that plate of (now cold) nastiness in front of us. Eventually we drowned them in catsup and choked them down. I haven't eaten a beet since that day. I have no proof but I think there are a lot more like me out there, and that may be the solution to your mystery of why beets are so widely hated.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                                                                        Hmmmm ... I don't think any pickled vegetable should be cooked. But I can't imagine that putting catsup on them improved them any. Just like any phobia perhaps you should desensitize your self -- maybe you could cook a beet but give yourself permission not to eat it if you don't want to. Or maybe try with golden beets and convince yourself they're a completely different vegetable.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                          What about fried pickles?

                                                                                                                                          Never had them but enjoy the concept.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                            O love the fired pickle slices dipped in batter and fried, that is great, very subtle and is kind of like eating fresh potato chips. Now I have eaten fried pickle spears, that I didn't like so much.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                              I've had them both. Could eat 'em every day (for awhile at least). Good thing the nearest place to get them is 100 miles away from here...

                                                                                                                                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                            or salad beets! you can eat them raw, like radishes!

                                                                                                                                          3. re: kmcarr

                                                                                                                                            I had a similar moment except for my brother and I it was scallops and it was more like two hours...needless to say I can't eat scallops. According to most I'm missing out, but I just can't do it so I empathize!

                                                                                                                                        2. re: Elyssa

                                                                                                                                          We're also seeing a lot of varieties of beets, such as "golden" ones that don't stain your countertops, cutting board, hands, kids, etc ;-)

                                                                                                                                    3. Can someone expand on Colicchio's comment that the mushy coucous is a mark of a restaurant chef who doesn't cook at home?

                                                                                                                                      18 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: Minger

                                                                                                                                        Was he refering to just the coucous or the entire dish. I think he felt that the entire dish was just confused and too complex perhaps to be an at home dish (it did look rather unappealing...although I might spread some peanutbutter on my tomato tonight just to see what the big deal is :) )

                                                                                                                                        Plus she might have been trying for flavor profiles that were just way too out there for an at home chef. Not really sure it that was his point...perhaps his blog will have more about this.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Elyssa

                                                                                                                                          I like your explanation; I was too fixated on the couscous.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Elyssa

                                                                                                                                            I could be wrong, but I thought his point was, "if you don't know how to make something, don't try to make it in a competition." To properly steam couscous in the traditional way takes hours. And it should be fluffy and light and never ever soggy. And the final steaming is done over the food it will be served with. She didn't make couscous. She made soggy little bitty balls of semolina.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                              There's lots of instant couscous out there -- you can be a purist about what "proper couscous" is, but that is what it's called and sold as. It isn't soggy if it's prepared properly -- it can be delightfully fluffy and light. But I think it was a bad choice to serve something so delicate with such a heavy sauce -- it sounds like the couscous mixed into the sauce and turned into sludge.

                                                                                                                                              I think the point was that she was trying too hard to be "chefly" and in doing so chose an "exotic" ingredient that turned out to be completely wrong for the dish.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                You know, the couscous comment reminds me that I'm definitely sure Steph was going for the Sengalese angle as couscous is a very common grain in Senegal. I've served curries over couscous and works really well together.

                                                                                                                                                I think it's possible that her dish didn't work because her flavors were off. But for Tom to say that peanuts, lemon and tomatoes don't go together is kind of small-minded. Fine, thai curry paste has made it into the mainstream culinary scene. But West African cuisine has not, and I'll bet that he's not familiar with those flavor profiles. I hope what he said was taken out of context.

                                                                                                                                                And I've got no clue what he meant by the mushy couscous is a mark of a restaurant chef that doesn't cook at home.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                  I'm surprised nobody else has picked up on this, even though I'm sure everyone is aware...couscous is not a grain at all. It may be a common ingredient in Senegal, a staple, even. But it's not a grain.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                                    That was my reaction to Tom's dismissal of Steph's flavor combo. I didn't tag it to West African specifically but thought it was something legitimately ethnic that Tom was merely not familiar with.

                                                                                                                                                    I have noticed a few times in the past few episodes Tom make curt dismissive remarks that make him seem small-minded after a contrary positive remark by another judge. I don't know whether it is the editing or weariness on Tom's part. Maybe Tom needs a long vaykay from the show.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Minger

                                                                                                                                                      i don't buy it. while colicchio's response was a bit over the top he isn't ignorant of other cuisines. i think it was probably just nasty.

                                                                                                                                                      im not sure why sloppy or uninspired is more of a dealbreaer than disgusting food.. but thats anotehr story

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                        I don't know ... He didn't know what chicken picatta was (and he never addressed it in his blog -- probably too embarrassed). While he probably knows his genre inside-out, he doesn't know everything.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                          It's because Stephanie is a clear fan favorite and darling of Bravo fan. She should be gone with that dish but Mark's was so bad, she had to stay. I'm betting she's not going to win and will be added to the TC staff as LeAnn was.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: SDMike

                                                                                                                                                            As much as I do like Stephanie and her cooking usually, the series was filmed at least a few months ago, I think? So it's not like they could've kept her based solely on public opinion/fans...

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: gyozagirl

                                                                                                                                                              Ah...that's true. I forgot. Nice point

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: thew

                                                                                                                                                            From Art's blog/Q&A at bravotv, "Stephanie: Peanut butter, tomato, chicken, and couscous, actually sounds bad but tasted great."

                                                                                                                                                            So at least it wasn't unanimous that it was disgusting. I'm trying to remember if Tom actually said it tasted bad, or if the combo was just baffling. And if Gail actually said it tasted disgusting, or the texture of the couscous was disgusting. But in any case, at least Art liked the flavor, and maybe no one liked Mark's curry.

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                        "But I think it was a bad choice to serve something so delicate with such a heavy sauce "............Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                        In Morocco, it's "business as usual" to serve "heavy" sauces and such on couscous. Have you ever seen a light tagine? I haven't. And that's the beauty of them, with whole carrots, other whole vegetables, chunks of lamb or other critter, all in a nice thick sauce! Works great. BUT... You don't mix the couscous into the sauce. You serve the tagine on top of the couscous.

                                                                                                                                                        I don't remember that much about what she did while she was making her entree, but I do remember Colicchio grousing about it being soggy. I assumed she had added too much water and possibly cooked it too long.

                                                                                                                                                        For the record, I've never used boxed couscous because the only kind I've ever seen was pre-seasoned and I'm a do-it-yourselfer.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                          I bought some very nice three-color but unflavored instant couscous the other day. Really, you don't have to cook it at all: just add hot water, let it absorb and fluff.

                                                                                                                                                          If Steph's sauce had peanutbutter it was probably quite thick and gooey, not like any tagine I've ever had.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Minger

                                                                                                                                                      I took this as she overthought the dish. She was asked to make a simple, straightforward dish, and she made it overly complicated.

                                                                                                                                                      I think in the end that is what saved her and killed Mark. Steph overthought the dish, and Mark underthought it. At least her dish showed an attempt to make something interesting.

                                                                                                                                                    3. Tom's blog is up. http://www.bravotv.com/Top_Chef/seaso...

                                                                                                                                                      And I read Lee Anne's blog for this week too. Both blog entries seem to confirm that each cheftestant was given $10 to shop for the challenge.

                                                                                                                                                      25 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: MplsM ary

                                                                                                                                                        Actually, Tom doesn't say that. He says "$10 to feed a family of four?" and LeeAnn says "$10 is a very low amount of money to feed a family of four" -- which doesn't mean they were given $10 to feed a family of four plus several judges. Neither of them says anything about the shopping process.

                                                                                                                                                        I think the money must have been pro-rated for the number of servings they were asked to produce. It's common practice on reality shows to avoid any direct reference to how the logistics of mixing the actual challenge with production requirements are handled.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                            I suppose they have to go to WF because of sponsorship, but I'd have considered sending them to a more economic store, where $10 would have gone further.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                              Yeah, I thought it was funny when Tom was going on in his blog about how most people trying to get by on limited incomes aren't lucky enough to be able to have access to WF. And I thought, what planet does he live on that he thinks people who are pinching pennies can afford to shop at WF, even if it was next door. It's true that many poor people live in neighborhoods where there's very little fresh food available, but Whole Foods is not the answer to their needs!

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: revsharkie

                                                                                                                                                                Lee Ann's TC blog does state that they had use of the pantry items, so a lot of the "basics" were probably already available and they didn't have to use part of the $10 to cover those items. Without details, we won't know, but based on her previous blogs about how the stock the pantry, it seems pretty complete.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                  During the episode, while they were filming/talking about the dish that each was making, they showed a list of the ingredients that each chef bought -- it was like 1/2 a chicken, carrots, potatoes, lemon, peanut butter, cucumbers and tomatoes. it was in the format of the "menu" that they usually show when they are cooking, but it wasn't in the form of finished dishes. So to me, it looked like each bought their proteins, vegetables and starches, and any special condiment that wasn't in the pantry. Spike's list, for instance, included "pasta sauce," and pasta. Somebody should watch the episode again to compile a list of what each contestant bought, and we can do a price-off to see if it's conceivable on their budget ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                                    It's a lot easier to make eight servings for $20 (which seems likely: four were served to the kids, one to Tom in the kitchen, one for filming, and at least one for the other judges) than it is to make four servings for $10, because there's less waste. In other words, that half chicken was probably a whole chicken, but only half "counted" for the mythical family of four.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DanaB

                                                                                                                                                                      Is that the purchased list of food items, or the main ingredients in the recipe? I always thought it was the main list of ingredients, but never thought it was exclusively purchased by the cheftestant.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                        Typically, when they show that placard, it is the actual title of the menu items they are making (i.e. sauteed shrimp in saffron sauce; roasted broccoli; soup de mer, etc.). On Wednesday's show, it simply listed ingredients, not recipe or dish titles. I took it to mean the ingredients they had purchased.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                      i think that the apples, which were ubiquitous throughout everyone's dishes, were probably definitely a pantry item for this challenge, and most of the contestants figured out a way to incorporate the "freebie" somehow-- even as a dessert afterthought, like stepahnie and spike, to up the nutritional profile of their meal.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                        I actually seem to recall someone buying a bunch of apples at WF - I think it's mentioned somewhere here that buying that many apples at WF could easily run $10.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                                                                          really? i would be really surprised (not at the price at wfm-- it just seemed like it couldn't be a coincidence that almost all the chefs used apples). maybe there was some spectacular sale on the apples and more than one chef decided to buy them? it should be pointed out that the apples certainly appeared to be *cooking* apples rather than apples to be eaten out of hand, and everyone did cook them rather than using them raw. i think an autumn cooking apple sale in chicago at wfm might not be out of the question, but i am guessing. . .

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/51480...

                                                                                                                                                                            And I clearly remember someone putting a bunch of granny smiths in a bag.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                                                          I'm sure that the apples wouldn't be a pantry item -- I can't imagine that they would have fresh fruit as a pantry item in a challenge when it's about buying cheaply. I would guess that the apples were just cheap that day, and an easy and recognizeable fruit for kids, which caused them to incorporate them.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                                                            OK, this has been bugging me (what's in the pantry). I Googled "Top Chef Pantry" and discovered that the new Top Chef Cookbook has a list of various things - and I purchased a copy of it when it first came out. When I got home, I opened it up and found the following information:

                                                                                                                                                                            "Pantry ingredients change for each challenge and revealing a definitive list might spoil it for future contestants, but you can count on a gourmet's dream selection on the shelves pretty much every week, including the following essentials" (I'm only listing the food items, although we know they took away equipment a few weeks ago, and there is equipment in the list as well):

                                                                                                                                                                            Salt & Pepper
                                                                                                                                                                            Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
                                                                                                                                                                            Sriracha
                                                                                                                                                                            Vinegar
                                                                                                                                                                            Booze (rum, bourbon - a "club-worthy bar")
                                                                                                                                                                            Demi-Glace

                                                                                                                                                                            In addition, on the next page, they have a list of other items:

                                                                                                                                                                            Dried fruits and nuts
                                                                                                                                                                            Sweeteners (sugars, honey, maple syrup)
                                                                                                                                                                            Baking staples
                                                                                                                                                                            Various grains (sushi rice, quinoa, couscous, pasta)
                                                                                                                                                                            Spices
                                                                                                                                                                            Dairy (whole milk, heavy cream, eggs, butter)
                                                                                                                                                                            Oils, vinegars, condiments
                                                                                                                                                                            Produce (red onoins, leeks, carrots, lemons)
                                                                                                                                                                            Fresh herbs

                                                                                                                                                                            And *then* - in a few pictures showing the pantry, I'm seeing pics of potatoes and 4 different types of onions, and fridges with their doors open showing what seem to be tomatoes, lemons, limes, leeks, lettuces, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                            So it is NOT unreasonable that apples could have been in the pantry for this challenge. Who knows what the production staff would have removed from the pantry for this particular one? Yes, we saw them carrying bags of apples, but was it a just in case? At this point, unless Lee Ann weighs in on her blog as to the items they actually purchased, we're never going to know. But it sure looks like they get a LOT of items to choose from from the pantry.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                              Except the didn't have access to the actual Top Chef pantry, and it explicitly says that the contents varies by challenge. Of course I don't know for a fact, but it wouldn't be much of a challenge if they had access to ingredients that were actually food (not condiments, flavorings, etc.) so I'm guessing that the pantry that was provided at the site of the challenge was just the basics.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, I know the contents vary for each challenge, and I'd assume they couldn't bring *everything* from the pantry but would still have the opportunity for some of what was in the TC pantry. The production crew isn't there for just shows filmed there; they have to deal with set-up as appropriate wherever they're cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                And when you say "not much of a challenge if they had access to ingredients that were actually food", then *none* of the challenges are really all that, since they've always had access to actual food items from the pantry in other challenges.

                                                                                                                                                                                Again - these are all assumptions. Obviously some feel they had to buy everything they were going to use, in which case, I agree it would be impossible to do at WF for $10. But others feel that production set them up with some sort of a pantry (not just basics like oil, butter, salt and pepper) despite not filming in the TC kitchen. And based on the meals they turned out, I have to go with the latter. Until viewers get clarification from Lee Ann or someone else involved in production, I guess we'll never know.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                  None of the other challenges are particular about what food that they need to buy in the way that this one was, though, so no, it doesn't follow that none of the challenges are really challenges if they have access to the pantry. In this one they had a very specific monetary limit, in the others they usually have plenty of monety to play with.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                                                                    The fresh market QuickFire was the only one I ever remember that was specific about what they could use in the pantry -- allowed 5 items, not counting oil, salt, pepper...was that it? Mark was able to use butter from the pantry because he had only come home from shopping with 4 ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Here's a clue about the pantry ingredients -- Mark's own blog (http://www.chefmarksimmons.com/blog.htm) indicates that he only used a cup of rice from the pantry, and felt the other chefs relied more heavily on the pantry.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for the link, I am just discovering Mark's blog.

                                                                                                                                                                                      " An Entree for 4 people with a $10 budget--I actually asked if we could shop at a bodega as opposed to Wholefoods just to give us a fighting chance, but no luck. I suggest we rename Wholefoods- "Wholepaycheck"; simply because it's an expensive place to shop and unless I win the lottery, I will continue to shop at my local green market."

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the link, momjamin, confirming the cheftestants' use of what sounds to be a well-stocked pantry, even outside of the TC kitchen.

                                                                                                                                                                                        And Mark's blog makes for interesting reading - his wry sense of humor comes out in his writing (although white-on-black screen is very difficult to read!). And he slept through the improv session at Second City! LOL

                                                                                                                                                                                        Interesting to read that he chews tobacco (blind taste test). While I know that many chefs smoke, chewing just seems (to me) that it would blunt the tastebuds even more.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                      By now, Lee Ann has weighed in on this topic. As I posted upthread, Lee Ann wrote: "I think it was great that certain contestants were able to utilize their time and the pantry to create extra dishes, like Spike and Stephanie." It appears that the choices in the pantry went beyond the basics if extra dishes were the result.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks for the reminder, Indy, re: Lee Ann's blog - I had read that but while at work and finishing lunch, so I hadn't remembered when I posted the TC Cookbook rundown of the pantry last night.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                                                          I guess it depends on what you call "the basics" -- Spike's "extra" dish was carrot soup. There were carrots in his regular dish, so perhaps the "basic" that he used from the pantry was chicken stock to add to his surplus carrots. I don't know whether I would consider that stretching the rules of the challenge or not. I certainly have chicken stock in my pantry, but I do think that goes a little beyond seasonings/condiments/small amounts of things like flour and sugar that I think would be fair. Stephanie's "extra" was that toast with peanut butter and apples. I would consider bread and apples to be over the line. Peanut butter would be close.

                                                                                                                                                                                          I guess I would consider anything that was perishable to be clearly over the line: bread, produce, meat, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                        Maybe they stocked the pantry with some of the basics that a person might be expected to have on hand in their own pantry. Even on a budget, most of us can be expected not to have an absolutely bare pantry and have to buy every single ingredient we need. As a matter of fact, many of us will consider what we've got on hand when we decide what to fix and what we need to buy. If we're really strapped, we'll do our best to use up as much as we can of what we've got and buy as little as we have to.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Has anyone else noticed Richard's tendency to refer to himself as "we" when describing his dishes. Especially in the quickfire. He says things like "we did a traditional crab cake and then we smoked a little..." - almost every time he says we.
                                                                                                                                                                        Not as much in team challenges - I notice it most in the quickfires when it is most definitely just HIM cooking. I'm guessing this is a carryover from working in a professional kitchen where there is definitely more we that goes into the dishes but I just find it amusing.

                                                                                                                                                                        That said I think he has amazing talent and should be in the final three.

                                                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: heathermb

                                                                                                                                                                          That universal "we" comes from one who is leader and part of a team. Richard is Exec Chef/Owner of his own business. not sure whether it's currently a restaurant or a consulting business. When you are part of a team, it is acknowledging to your staff who often does the work you as leader get credit for to say "we," rather than "I" I can understand that it is hard to get into another mode. I still often say "we," when I know I'm the only person at this location doing the work.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. im sorry mark is gone. he was sous chef at one of my very fave restaurants in the world.

                                                                                                                                                                          all in all , chef wise, i think this is the weakest season of this show so far.

                                                                                                                                                                          phead.... gay people aren't allowed to want kids?