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Top Chef Premiere (spoilers)

spkspk Nov 12, 2008 10:57 PM

Okay, seriously? That's how you're going to represent Chinatown? With a freaking Chinese chicken salad? Or with mirin basted salmon over black rice noodles? How is that Chinese? Oh yeah, I forgot... there was bok choy on the plate. Good Lord, I cannot believe the pair that got Chinatown!!

  1. iluvtennis Nov 16, 2008 07:01 AM

    The caterer, Carla Hall, reminds me of someone i have seen on tv before, but i cannot think of who it is! It's driving me crazy...anyway, i don't think she's going to go very far in this competition, but maybe she'll surprise me.

    6 Replies
    1. re: iluvtennis
      chicgail Nov 16, 2008 06:00 PM

      That's funny. I had the exact same thought.

      She reminds me of someone else, too, but I don't know who. I don't think it's a chef or Food Network personality, but man, she sure does hit a chord (or maybe it's a discord). If I think of who, I'll post it.

      1. re: iluvtennis
        Hurner Nov 17, 2008 07:35 AM

        I thought the same thing also. Carla reminds me of Tracee Ellis Ross, the daughter of Diana Ross and star of the tv sitcom "Girlfriends."

        1. re: Hurner
          LindaWhit Nov 17, 2008 10:49 AM

          By jove, I think you've got it!


          Look at Carla's picture gallery - especially the 1st one in the second row, and compare it to Tracee Ross's picture below.


          1. re: Hurner
            iluvtennis Nov 17, 2008 01:24 PM

            YES! I think that's it!

            1. re: Hurner
              amethiste Nov 17, 2008 02:52 PM

              I was thinking the same thing. Tracee Ellis Ross also has that same eye thing going on as well

              1. re: Hurner
                momjamin Nov 20, 2008 03:32 AM

                amuse-biatch has the same comparison to Tracee Ellis Ross. http://amuse-biatch.blogspot.com/2008...

            2. Sandwich_Sister Nov 14, 2008 07:23 AM

              Anyone have any early favorites? I'm a sucker for an underdog and I really liked Eugene, not classically trained he started out as a dishwasher. It's the kind of success story Bourdain might write about. I hope he continues to do well. Josea looks like another one that will be around for awhile. I think it's way to soon to for someone of the others There were a few that just weren't featured as much but I'm, sure we'll get to see more of there personality as the show goes on.

              Hello when your butt is on the line and your in danger of going home NEVER make a salad.

              No Bourdain , No Rocco? Who am I going to crush on now?

              7 Replies
              1. re: Sandwich_Sister
                tofuburrito Nov 14, 2008 07:46 AM

                My early favorite is Eugene also.

                1. re: Sandwich_Sister
                  farmersdaughter Nov 14, 2008 08:45 AM

                  I think Rocco is coming up next week.

                  1. re: farmersdaughter
                    Sandwich_Sister Nov 14, 2008 09:10 AM

                    Oh yum! Thanks my dvr cut off before the "scenes from next week's episode".

                    1. re: farmersdaughter
                      LindaWhit Nov 14, 2008 09:12 AM

                      No, I think he was shown as a "future guest judge" - it looks like they serve lunch fare to actual customers in a restaurant "founded by Head Judge Tom Colicchio." Guest judge is "celebrity restauranteur Donatella Arpaia". (Who's she for the uninformed?)

                      And the Foo Fighters get into the action on the night before T'giving - "cheftestants create cuisine for the rock band, Foo Fighters" in a Thanksgiving-themed episode. Grant Achatz is the guest judge for that episode.

                      1. re: LindaWhit
                        tofuburrito Nov 14, 2008 01:10 PM

                        A profile on Fabio in my local paper.


                        1. re: tofuburrito
                          soupkitten Nov 14, 2008 01:17 PM

                          If Viviani were to win, he would apply the prize money to the creation of his Firenze4Kids Foundation, which will be devoted to the promotion of healthy eating.


                        2. re: LindaWhit
                          farmersdaughter Nov 14, 2008 08:38 PM

                          Thanks for the correction! Rocco is good eye candy, so I'll just have to wait patiently. Donatella Arpaia has a couple restaurants in NYC, davidburke & donatella and I can't remember the other restaurant's name right now. She's been a judge on Iron Chef America as well.

                    2. f
                      forsythia Nov 13, 2008 08:33 PM

                      Here is what baffles me: Don't the Top Cheftains watch the preceding seasons' epsidoes? The two CIA friends both made salads out of their apples. No! Not salad! Didn't they recall Tom Terrific's classic "But he didn't cook anything!" about Sam in Season 2? Then, in the Elimination Round, we encountered yet again the Grain Drain when someone (sorry, too many Cheftains keep track of) made a mess of risotto. Even though he was obviously the weakest link, I was sorry to see the young 'un leave because he was so darn cute.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: forsythia
                        pitu Nov 15, 2008 08:38 AM

                        How did the guy win the Russian challenge by stacking up ingredients and NOT COOKING ANYTHING? Quality shopping, great plate of caviar and smoked fish just like in Russia . . .

                        I think the judging favors what tastes great as opposed to what is cooked, what is authentic, what is inspired by -- those are reasons given when they have to 'splain the decision

                        1. re: pitu
                          Caitlin McGrath Nov 15, 2008 03:05 PM

                          Actually, according to Lee Ann's blog, each of the three stacks included a differently flavored potato pancake and a coordinating sauce. So yes, cooking and plenty of thought went into the dish.

                      2. Withnail42 Nov 13, 2008 11:35 AM

                        The other things I noticed:

                        Too many bald dudes.

                        And last year they seemed to have hit their faux-hawk peak. This time around it seems to be the year of the beard.

                        1. goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 10:19 AM

                          any thoughts on best quote of the episode? for me it was Jean-Georges' comment about the lamb sliders...

                          "your technique of over-cooking the lamb didn't work for me."


                          btw, did anyone else notice that they spelled Jean-Georges' name wrong on-screen? they left off the "S." it's not the first time that's happened on this show...someone needs to get on that.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                            Caitlin McGrath Nov 13, 2008 10:36 AM

                            They're terrible with those chyrons. They misspell people's names and names of ingredients, and sometimes the dish descriptions are different from what the contestants are describing.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                              goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 10:44 AM

                              thank you! it's called a chyron...i had a temporary mental block & couldn't remember the term for it.

                              i'm glad i'm not the only one who noticed how bad they are about that...it drives me NUTS.

                          2. Sloth Nov 13, 2008 08:05 AM

                            I wanna know how the out of towners knew where to go or how to get there? Were they given specific directions to a particular shop or left to their own devices? I ask because the Astoria Ave. stop on the N/W train is not where I would've gone to shop for Greek ingredients (I work in that nabe). That team would have done better to take a bus through Astoria and get out where all the shops have signs in Greek, don't you think?

                            Anyone else familiar with the boroughs share my puzzlement?

                            33 Replies
                            1. re: Sloth
                              a_and_w Nov 13, 2008 08:16 AM

                              Don't think they had the time or knowledge to brave the bus.

                              Have to say, I let out a whoop when the Indian crew hit Kalyustan's. Someone should have told them to grab some mujadarrah at the cafe upstairs (where they were buying the olives).

                              1. re: a_and_w
                                MMRuth Nov 13, 2008 08:20 AM

                                Also loved that they went to Di Palo for Italian food.

                                1. re: MMRuth
                                  a_and_w Nov 13, 2008 09:04 AM

                                  Totally! It's going to be a blast this season seeing so many familiar spots...

                                  1. re: a_and_w
                                    goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 09:52 AM

                                    i wanted to be at Kalustyan's with them to drag them around & make sure they found all the good stuff! i got unreasonably excited about seeing Kalustyan's & the facade of the Union Square WFM on the show :)

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                      Miss Needle Nov 13, 2008 09:57 AM

                                      Wasn't that the Whole Foods on Bowery?

                                      1. re: Miss Needle
                                        Hurner Nov 13, 2008 10:27 AM

                                        Yes, it was Whole Foods on Bowery.

                                        1. re: Hurner
                                          goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 10:39 AM

                                          wow, really? i thought the facade they showed during the opening sequence was the Union Square store. i stand corrected.

                                2. re: a_and_w
                                  Miss Needle Nov 13, 2008 09:41 AM

                                  If one isn't familiar with Indian food, Kalustayan's could have been really confusing as it's got so much more than Indian goods. Props for that guy with the tats for doing so well.

                                  1. re: Miss Needle
                                    MMRuth Nov 13, 2008 09:44 AM

                                    I thought the exact same thing when I saw that.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle
                                      pitu Nov 15, 2008 08:46 AM

                                      Totally agree -- I was thinking the challenge disrespected ethnic cuisine (what those dodos did with Chinatown) until that guy pulled off the lovely feat of Indian without knowing Indian - it really separates out the natural talents to deal with the unfamiliar.

                                      I thought the first quickfire was well-designed, although a cruel culling of the pack from the start. Knife skills followed by cooking skills, excellent!

                                  2. re: Sloth
                                    milklady Nov 13, 2008 08:18 AM

                                    My guess is that they were assigned one store in a particular neighborhood, and sent there with a camera crew.

                                    1. re: milklady
                                      yamalam Nov 13, 2008 08:29 AM

                                      LeeAnn explains in her blog...she says that they had to get the store to agree to interrupt business with camera crews, etc, plus they had to pick a store that was technically in the assigned neighborhood. She also mentions they didn't get their first choice for certain ethnic neighborhoods, e.g., the producers thought "Curry Hill" might be offensive.

                                      1. re: yamalam
                                        a_and_w Nov 13, 2008 09:04 AM

                                        What do you mean they didn't get their first choice for ethnic neighborhoods? They were in Curry Hill, they just incorrectly called it Little India.

                                        PS: Does Jamaica actually have a significant Jamaican population? I would have gone to Brooklyn for Caribbean food...

                                        1. re: a_and_w
                                          Miss Needle Nov 13, 2008 09:39 AM

                                          Yes, Jamaica does have a Jamaican population. But it's got a whole bunch of other groups as well. I guess they thought that Flatbush for Jamaican wouldn't have had the same cache has Jamaica for Jamaican.

                                          1. re: a_and_w
                                            yamalam Nov 13, 2008 10:30 AM

                                            They were referring to Little India - 6th St in the East Village- but featured Kalyustan's in Curry Hill.

                                            And I thought Jamaica for Jamaican was lame.

                                      2. re: Sloth
                                        ClaireWalter Nov 13, 2008 08:36 AM

                                        Sloth - Re "I wanna know how the out of towners knew where to go or how to get there? Were they given specific directions to a particular shop or left to their own devices?" They have a whole friggin' TV crew w/ them. They are no more left to their own devices than "Survivor" participants are on a deserted island or jin a jungle. I don't know, but I'll bet they were either accompanied on the train or, more likely, taken around by limo or van.

                                        1. re: ClaireWalter
                                          Sloth Nov 13, 2008 09:05 AM

                                          Yes, but the production team doesn't have to be helpful, just record what happens. It seems silly to base a challenge on neighborhoods and then not let the chef-testants see more of the neighborhood than just one store.
                                          I guess I just want a little bit of Amazing Race mixed with TC. Allowing them to get lost and not make it back to the studio kitchen for start time would have been a nice twist.

                                          1. re: Sloth
                                            goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 09:55 AM

                                            "Allowing them to get lost and not make it back to the studio kitchen for start time would have been a nice twist."
                                            i was thinking the same thing...but then it would be more like a challenge on TNFNS, and we don't want our beloved Top Chef to turn into another one of those, do we? ;)

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                              Sloth Nov 13, 2008 10:14 AM

                                              LOL Absolutely not! I could never make it through an episode of that show.

                                              1. re: Sloth
                                                goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 01:40 PM

                                                but see, i actually watch it, for the same reason rubberneckers slow down when they pass a crash site even if the cars have been moved to the side of the road...morbid fascination. that show's a train wreck.

                                          2. re: ClaireWalter
                                            Ruth Lafler Nov 13, 2008 10:09 AM

                                            Of course they were taken in an SUV -- no one who has ever watched the show thinks otherwise. The only thing that was different was that they didn't actually show the vehicle -- no Toyota product placement this season, I guess. Not only do they have a camera crew with them, but they have time constraints and confidentiality contraints -- reality show contestants are only allowed minimal contact with the outside world.

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                              yamalam Nov 13, 2008 10:24 AM

                                              Hmm...now that I'm thinking of it, there was very little product placement in this episode. I can only remember an extreme close up of Korbel being poured. Are they just trying to get us hooked? How will we learn about the '09 Gladware line up, or which Bertoli's frozen dinner to buy, or why Uncle Ben's is so healthy yet delicious?????

                                              1. re: yamalam
                                                MMRuth Nov 13, 2008 10:37 AM

                                                I noticed the same thing about the lack of excessive product placement - I figure they'll lure us back in slowly!

                                                1. re: MMRuth
                                                  goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 10:41 AM

                                                  give it time...by the end of the season we'll be boycotting all items in "The Glad Family of Products" and vowing to never purchase a GE appliance ;)

                                                2. re: yamalam
                                                  farmersdaughter Nov 13, 2008 11:27 AM

                                                  Other than the appliances in the beautiful kitchen!

                                                  1. re: farmersdaughter
                                                    Ruth Lafler Nov 13, 2008 11:51 AM

                                                    Korbel "champagne" in their apartment was clearly a product placement. Maybe they're just getting more subtle.

                                                    It looks like Whole Foods isn't doing product placement with them, because although the bottles I saw from the Top Chef pantry looked like they had Whole Foods 365 lables on them, they were arranged so that the lables were partially hidden.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                      spkspk Nov 13, 2008 12:54 PM

                                                      I don't know, didn't show a Whole Foods store front in the opening NY montage scene?

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                        tex.s.toast Nov 13, 2008 12:56 PM

                                                        Pretty sure the 365 brand olive oil labels were prominently displayed and not obscured in the least. And the ever conspicuous zoom in on the GE Monogram label was very subtle.

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                          a_and_w Nov 14, 2008 07:01 AM

                                                          I thought it was a little odd -- and disappointing -- they didn't similarly publicize the names of the stores they visited for the ethnic challenge.

                                                          1. re: a_and_w
                                                            LindaWhit Nov 14, 2008 07:15 AM

                                                            Only if those stores wanted to pay for the product placement, I'm sure.

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit
                                                              pitu Nov 15, 2008 08:35 AM

                                                              yup. I thought it was downright criminal not to have Kalyustans' and DiPaoli mentioned.

                                                            2. re: a_and_w
                                                              susancinsf Nov 16, 2008 05:38 AM

                                                              I thought they showed the name of at least one store by taking a shot of the entrance as they went in: though I don;t know NYC well enough that I could remember it anyway....

                                                        2. re: yamalam
                                                          silvergirl Nov 13, 2008 05:47 PM

                                                          Did you notice the cases of Dr. Pepper in the purgatory room?

                                                  2. LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 05:34 AM

                                                    BTW, blogs are up on Bravo's website. Tom, Gail, Stephanie (winner from Season 4), Richard Blais, Malarkey!, and "Team Top Chef" - someone who works at Bravo, I think.

                                                    ETA: Richard's is especially good. His comment to Lauren (kicked off without even putting on a TC chef's jacket) was priceless:

                                                    "There are two good things to know here, Lauren. First, losing doesn't discount your career. Second, the 14 or so others who will be told to PYKAG will be scarred with an incident that people will remember. There are so many contestants whose names people don't remember. Did you really want to be the girl who always made pasta? The guy who shaved that other guys head? Or the angry lesbian on "that cooking show?" You'll be alright."


                                                    17 Replies
                                                    1. re: LindaWhit
                                                      ChefJune Nov 13, 2008 06:04 AM

                                                      no Lee Anne?

                                                      1. re: ChefJune
                                                        LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 06:12 AM

                                                        No. There is still the Wong Way To Cook link, but no blogs from her. :-(

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit
                                                          tofuburrito Nov 13, 2008 07:24 AM

                                                          I thought the chefs did quite well on opening night, it looks to be a strong competition. The chefs who had the Russian and Jamaican challenges both excelled.
                                                          Is salmon used in Chinese cooking? I may be mistaken but I don't think I've ever seen salmon on a Chinese menu. I realize Chinese-American isn't the same thing but Bourdain has done shows from China and I don't recall ever seeing salmon.
                                                          The kid mentioned he had a class on Chinese food and the judges didn't bust him on it so I guess it must be part of the cuisine.

                                                          1. re: tofuburrito
                                                            Ericandblueboy Nov 13, 2008 09:32 AM

                                                            I've never seen salmon growing up in Taiwan served in a restaurant. My mom would cook salmon when we moved to the U.S. but not with any chinese recipe.

                                                            1. re: tofuburrito
                                                              Miss Needle Nov 13, 2008 09:44 AM

                                                              I don't believe I've seen much salmon either. But all the Chinatown fish stores carry it.

                                                              They actually went to a Southeast Asian market as opposed to a Chinese market. I'm sure there were production reasons why that market was chosen. And the mirin the CIA student picked is Japanese.

                                                            2. re: LindaWhit
                                                              yamalam Nov 13, 2008 08:17 AM

                                                              Woohoo, LeeAnn's blog was just posted!


                                                              1. re: yamalam
                                                                LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 08:30 AM

                                                                Oh brilliant! So glad she's still going to blog - I *love* getting some behind-the-scenes insight as to how things run in each episode.

                                                                Although I could have done without the political lead-in paragraph. I've had ENOUGH with any and all politics!

                                                                Interesting she says there's not a Marcel in sight. But her calling them a "bunch of boozers" after going through two cases of wine on the first night could prove to be *very* interesting. :-)

                                                                1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                  goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 09:51 AM

                                                                  "Interesting she says there's not a Marcel in sight."
                                                                  i don't know about that. Stefan clearly rubs people the wrong way, and comes off as something of an elitist...to me, that's totally Marcel. or maybe Stephen Asprinio from Season 1...?

                                                                  as for the boozing, let's hope no one goes after Jeffrey, Mr. "My hair has to be perfect," with a razor ;)

                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                                    LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 10:07 AM

                                                                    See, I thought Stephan was very Marcel-like as well - instantly unlikeable (as the Elves have portrayed him, of course).

                                                                    And yes - the boozing could result in some interesting times in the suite.

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                      Ericandblueboy Nov 13, 2008 10:55 AM

                                                                      At least Stefan, Marcel, and Hung know what they're doing and what they're talking about. I personally dislike sniveling whiners like Spike, Ilan, and Lisa.

                                                                      1. re: Ericandblueboy
                                                                        LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 11:02 AM

                                                                        Agree on most of that (which is why I liked Richard's blog) - but then again, we've only seen one episode with Stefan. However, Marcel was too overly reliant on foams and molecular gastronomy techniques, and he didn't *always* get it right - bacon & avocado ice cream, anyone?

                                                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                                      momjamin Nov 13, 2008 10:35 AM

                                                                      Stefan's not a molecular gastronomist, which is how I interpreted Lee Anne's comment. There's plenty of arrogance to go around, and I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunity for people to get aggravated. (Us included!)

                                                                      1. re: momjamin
                                                                        goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 10:48 AM

                                                                        i thought that at first when she said there was no Marcel & no Richard Blais...but he also mentioned Hung, and he wasn't a mad scientist...he just went a little overboard with the sous-vide.

                                                            3. re: LindaWhit
                                                              yamalam Nov 13, 2008 08:16 AM

                                                              Wow, I liked Richard's blog. Well written, insightful and funny.

                                                              "Risotto makes me want to take a nap"

                                                              I miss him- imagine how much fun he would've had with the elimination challenge. I doubt we'll see anything close to the famous beef fat marinated Willy Wonka tofu from last season.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                Caitlin McGrath Nov 13, 2008 11:05 AM

                                                                I chuckled at this from Richard's blog:

                                                                "Besides Tom's approval of Stefan's hairstyle, he seems very happy with him. I think Padma wants to put Lil' Eugene in her purse for nailing the Indian theme. Gail's indifferent. Jean Georges is thinking about his next concept."

                                                                If he keeps it up, his will be an entertaining read.

                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                                  Ruth Lafler Nov 14, 2008 03:00 PM

                                                                  I think the fact that Eugene nailed the Indian theme without knowing much if anything about it is very promising: it shows that he has an innate sense of how flavors and ingredients work together. I think the reason he's risen fairly quickly through the kitchen might be that he has a great natural palate, and if he has an excellent palate and decent technique, he can go a long way -- just look at how far a great palate took Lisa last season. Plus, he strikes me as the kind of guy who will do well in group challenges, as he doesn't have the ego of some of the others and he presumably is well-versed in the in and outs of kitchen teamwork.

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                    Phaedrus Nov 14, 2008 03:18 PM

                                                                    I think balance is the key Ruth. Training balanced by innate sense as you said. Enough ego to go for it and humility to accept criticism. Technique balanced by imagination, as poor Patrick so amply demonstrated.

                                                              2. Withnail42 Nov 13, 2008 05:06 AM

                                                                I enjoyed it. Felt bad for the girl who lost the quick fire and 'didn't even get to see the kitchen.'

                                                                One lady does seem, for lack of a better word, endearingly insane. Others seem very intense.

                                                                But I am already bored with the whole 'team rainbow'. Ten minutes into the new series do we really need to start up with this? I'm just not interested in what anyone's orientation happens to be.

                                                                11 Replies
                                                                1. re: Withnail42
                                                                  LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 05:36 AM

                                                                  "Endearingly insane" - perhaps that's Carla the Caterer? I thought the exact same thing when she said she's letting her spirit guides tell her what to prepare. ;-)

                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                    momjamin Nov 13, 2008 05:40 AM

                                                                    I immediately thought of Elisa on PR4, who spit-marked her fabric.

                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                      a_and_w Nov 13, 2008 08:13 AM

                                                                      She's got the crazy eyes like that Runaway Bride a few years back -- you can see white all the way around the iris.

                                                                      1. re: a_and_w
                                                                        roxlet Nov 14, 2008 09:10 AM

                                                                        OK, you really made me laugh out loud. WHite all the way around the iris! LOL

                                                                        1. re: roxlet
                                                                          a_and_w Nov 14, 2008 09:25 AM

                                                                          LOL! For purposes of comparison:


                                                                        2. re: a_and_w
                                                                          asiansensation007 Nov 27, 2008 10:59 PM

                                                                          oh my gosh...i totally thought the same thing. her eyes kinda bug me out. she seems nice enough but like someone on the verge of a crack binge

                                                                        3. re: LindaWhit
                                                                          goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 09:43 AM

                                                                          i think we all have pretty much the same take on Carla the Caterer...she's definitely quirky, that one ;) if nothing else, at least she brings entertainment value.

                                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                                            melly Nov 15, 2008 10:27 PM

                                                                            Her "spirit guides" didn't help her out much with those apples. :)

                                                                        4. re: Withnail42
                                                                          Ruth Lafler Nov 13, 2008 11:58 AM

                                                                          At least that young woman and her buddy can hang out in sequesterville. Or can they? I know that sequestering eliminated contestants is standard practice for some competitive reality shows to keep people from figuring out who got eliminated early and who was still in -- The Amazing Race even has a video segment about theirs on their website. But I don't remember anyone talking about that happening with these Bravo shows. Does anyone know what they do with the eliminated contestants? Do they get to go home? Or do they get to sit around and party for the rest of the time?

                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                            Withnail42 Nov 13, 2008 12:47 PM

                                                                            Two class mates: not a banner year for the cooking school.

                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                                                              Caitlin McGrath Nov 13, 2008 01:38 PM

                                                                              Project runway sequesters eliminated contestants, so I'd bet Top Chef does, too, since they've had the same production company through this season.

                                                                          2. c
                                                                            ClaireWalter Nov 13, 2008 03:33 AM

                                                                            Two chefs from Boulder, CO, where I live are on the show -- Hosea Rosenberg and Melissa Harrison. I'll watch as long as one or both are in the game. I don't get the appeal of this show (or any other so-called "reality television" for that matter). I really like more cooking and less "drama." I found even the opening round -- 17 chefs at folding tables on what I think might have been Governors Island peeling apples with paring knives! Stupid and irrelevant, IMO.

                                                                            The cooking-as-competition and soap opera in the kitchen concepts have infected a lot of 'Food Network' shows too. I don't watch it too much any more.I far prefer PBS food programs to most of the FN programming.

                                                                            18 Replies
                                                                            1. re: ClaireWalter
                                                                              Phaedrus Nov 13, 2008 04:12 AM

                                                                              "The cooking-as-competition and soap opera in the kitchen concepts have infected a lot of 'Food Network' shows too."

                                                                              That's the bulk of their evening programming now, the Food Network Challenge and the reality shows.

                                                                              1. re: Phaedrus
                                                                                mondog1 Nov 13, 2008 04:28 AM

                                                                                How much did you expect from the kid that was still in culinary school? When I heard he was still in school I hoped that he would lose, plus it made the show look dumb for putting an rookie in with seasoned pros.

                                                                                1. re: mondog1
                                                                                  LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 05:06 AM

                                                                                  It's not like they haven't done that before. They also have the caterer - they always seem to have one each season. Who knows? Maybe one time, there will be a brilliant culinary school student or caterer that will go far in the competition. This year? Patrick's gone, and I'm thinking that Carla the Caterer won't last long either.

                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                    yamalam Nov 13, 2008 07:41 AM

                                                                                    Yeah, and don't forget The Successful Suburban Restauranteur, e.g. the pasta girl with the Amy Winehouse bouffant from last year, and Ariane this year.

                                                                                2. re: Phaedrus
                                                                                  ClaireWalter Nov 13, 2008 08:26 AM

                                                                                  Phaedrus - Indeed it is, which is why I don't watch very much of it. I don't find dumbed-down TV shows with super-artificial stiuations presented as "reality" to be entertainment -- and they certainly are not enlightening. But different strokes. More people enjoy this "basura' than not. Still, because they are local, I'm rooting for Hosea and Melissa, tho' barely mentioned in the first episode's assembled dramatic moments.

                                                                                3. re: ClaireWalter
                                                                                  LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 05:08 AM

                                                                                  "I found even the opening round -- 17 chefs at folding tables on what I think might have been Governors Island peeling apples with paring knives! Stupid and irrelevant, IMO."
                                                                                  Skills tests have always been a part of TC competitions. Why is it irrelevant? Because everyone usually uses peelers instead of paring knives? Why not see how they can deal with it as a skills test?

                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                    ClaireWalter Nov 13, 2008 08:28 AM

                                                                                    LindaWhit - It was the setting that I found contrived. And to me, the ultimate skill test is what a finished dish is like -- not whether a chef uses a peeler or a paring knife.

                                                                                    1. re: ClaireWalter
                                                                                      LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 08:47 AM

                                                                                      Yes, but that's to you - who doesn't seem to like the reality show format. But obviously to the show's producers, judges, and usual viewership, the knife skills are an important test to see what knowledge they have/don't have, as well as making for more interesting TV (to most viewers).

                                                                                      1. re: ClaireWalter
                                                                                        Rocknrope Nov 13, 2008 08:55 AM

                                                                                        Knife skills are always a fun part of each season. Everyone talks about how Hung butched those chickens like a buzzsaw, and prepping the steaks last year was fun too.

                                                                                        Maybe you should just stop watching regardless if elements like this annoy you so, and stick to Lidia Bastianich. There'll be plenty more to come this season, i'm sure.

                                                                                        1. re: ClaireWalter
                                                                                          Miss Needle Nov 13, 2008 10:24 AM

                                                                                          Can you imagine how many TV sets in the US would be clicking off if the show was all about a bunch of chefs making a bunch of dishes all the time? You need variety with this type of format to engage the audience. And I really didn't have a problem with Governor's Island -- not sure exactly why you thought it was contrived. It's just a lovely setting with the skyline in the backdrop. As a native NYer, I am still awed by the beauty of the skyline. Contrived would be to do a challenge in Times Square with Applebee's, a Disney store, a Broadway theater, a peep show booth, drug dealers and a prostitute in the background.

                                                                                          Personally, I'm not a reality show fan. But I'm really hooked on Top Chef. However, I've promised myself that I won't get too obsessed about it this season.

                                                                                          1. re: Miss Needle
                                                                                            LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 10:48 AM

                                                                                            "However, I've promised myself that I won't get too obsessed about it this season."
                                                                                            Too late, oh Creator of our TC Fantasy Game. ;-)

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit
                                                                                              Miss Needle Nov 13, 2008 12:57 PM

                                                                                              Oh, I was really debating whether or not I should start that group for some time. My obsession got the better of me. : )

                                                                                          2. re: ClaireWalter
                                                                                            applehome Nov 16, 2008 03:06 PM

                                                                                            Lee Ann mentions Iron Chef Sakai's apple peeling in her blog - if you've ever seen that scene of him peeling apples with a chef's knife (more likely a super-sharp, thin gyuto), it's obvious what a real Top Chef's knife skills are all about. By that standard, not one of these clowns is a Top Chef. Or at least, they're not Iron Chefs.

                                                                                            Why is it important? Because you can't execute the really great, creative and meaningful dishes without having the fundamentals so well ingrained in your hands and your psyche, that you don't even think about that level any more - it just comes when you need it, and you can count on it each time you do. It's why sushi chefs apprentice for 6 years cutting daikons. It's why there's a long road of apprenticeship in European kitchens. It's only here in the US (and on a game show) that someone might think, even for a second, that a CIA student, or even a recent grad, might be a top chef.

                                                                                            I've always thought that the title Top Chef is a misnomer - there ought to be some clarification in meaning to say that these are top up and coming chefs, not people who are already top chefs. That becomes obvious as you're watching it, but things like this apple peeling competition, really reveal the level of skills we're dealing with.

                                                                                            I'm not saying that there aren't true top chefs that never developed their skills to the point that Sakai did. But I'm reminded of Yehudi Menuhin, who was a child prodigy, and the world thought he was going to be the best fiddler ever. He went to play for one of the world's most renown teachers at that time, Ysaye, who told him that he had to play scales - to develop his fundamentals better. Menuhin laughed at him - after all, he was already playing the great concertos with the world's great orchestras. He eventually had a breakdown and never played to the level he had played before - never achieved the best in class that had been expected. He achieved fame nevertheless, building on his youthful fame and doing eclectic music - but he was never a Heifetz or a Milstein - true masters of their instrument.

                                                                                            I see a direct parallel with cooking, with sports, with any endeavor where people build continuously on skills and knowledge - without a large, sound base, the pyramid can only go so high without toppling. The chefs in Top Chef are never people who have already done their woodshedding (musical term) or staging (cooking term) in Europe or in multiple restaurants around the world. They are all journeyman chefs with enough experience to show off - perhaps with a few concertos under their belt. They can whip out the first 8 bars of any concerto, but they can't troll the depths of the most intricate parts of the Chaconne. These guys on TC may be able to think up a lamb slider, but execution? Burnt. That's just a lack of experience - practice, practice, practice.

                                                                                            So they got rid of the ones that can't play a scale first - good thing. More to come. For me it's a matter of expectation. As long as I know that I'm going to hear mistakes and listen to mediocre musicality, fine I've enjoyed many student recitals. These shows can be entertaining - you just have to drop the high expectations, just because it happens to be called TOP chef.

                                                                                            1. re: applehome
                                                                                              Phaedrus Nov 16, 2008 05:30 PM

                                                                                              Similarly in Germany, a shop worker is assigned a piece metal and a file and is told to file it down to nothing, the idea is to feel the grain and make up of the metal. They are also teaching the shop worker computer literacy, drafting, etc. all the tools that he will need.

                                                                                              Nope we don't do that here.

                                                                                        2. re: ClaireWalter
                                                                                          tofuburrito Nov 13, 2008 06:26 AM

                                                                                          Hosea was the one chef I took particular note of when I saw all the plates. I was surprised he wasn't one of the winners. Too early to make predictions but I think he'll be around for a while.

                                                                                          1. re: tofuburrito
                                                                                            ClaireWalter Nov 13, 2008 08:31 AM

                                                                                            He was a winner in the recent Denver International Wine Festival's Taste of Elegance competition (http://culinary-colorado.blogspot.com...).

                                                                                            1. re: tofuburrito
                                                                                              goodhealthgourmet Nov 13, 2008 09:39 AM

                                                                                              i definitely think Hosea is one to watch...i lucked out, and on a hunch chose him as one of the three for my Top Chef fantasy team before having seen the show.

                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                                                                                LindaWhit Nov 13, 2008 10:05 AM

                                                                                                :-P I need those kind of hunches. Can't play this fantasy team the way I play my football one (which city/state I'd like to visit). I'm winning on that one. ;-)

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