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Dec 17, 2008 07:02 PM

Top Chef -- 12 Nights (spoilers)

Thought I'd be first to start the thread, even though judge's table hasn't yet begun. Liked the quickfire -- a one-pot dish is a solid task. I would have given the nod to the paella, which really is a one-pot dish, over the cauliflower with something seared over it, maybe one pot, but two stages with the first part put aside.

What I liked about the episode is how the cheftestants came to the assistance of those who were most hurt by the fridge fiasco. Funny how both of those ended up near the top; really made me feel good. [yes, judge's table is occurring as i type] I'll get out now.

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  1. Agree on both of your comments - the paella is the true one-pot dish. So many of the others were cook one thing, take it out, cook another thing, take it out, cook the third thing, and then put them all on a plate. Stews, paella, chicken pot pie - those were one pot dishes.

    When I saw the previews of people saying the food temps were too high, I knew some people were in trouble. But wow, I'm very impressed that absolutely everyone came together for the two people whose food was ruined and they helped them out. My thought was "there was no way this would have happened in Season 2 with Ilan." Very glad that those two were in the top group.

    And JT was interesting - it sounded like there was more than just those 3 people that they would have wanted in the bottom group. (The deviled eggs comes to my mind - when Tom said what he said - they're just deviled eggs, you're not going to win TC with them!), I was nodding my agreement. I was really surprised that that was what that cheftestant chose to make. But then again, immunity does allow for some easier, less imaginative choices.

    Oh - and I have to say I like the way Jamie and Ariane are still friendly, despite Jamie's loss to Ariane over and over again. Although both she and Eugene are sending out that Lisa vibe from last year with the crossed arms and the "those judges don't know what they're talking about" comments.

    There will be more to comment on tomorrow, I know; those are my first impressions. I'm still not sure who my Top 3 are yet, although I'm beginning to center in on them.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      I actually disagree with collicchio there. I think that you could make a deviled egg that could win a challenge. IF you made it a unique, perfectly executed, and scrumptuous dish. I think it's possible for a deviled egg to transcend expectations about hors douvres in general. however, those that ariane made did not look like what Im talking about. i think if she didnt have immunity she should have gone.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        RIP Natasha -- I regret badmouthing you.

      2. a few observations:

        When jamie ended up in the top three in the QF, I immediately hoped she's lose, if not only to keep the pity streak alive. Those were some huge scallops though

        Fabio saying he was a "bad boy" so his grandma made him stir the polenta...too cute.

        when fabio drew ladies dancing, I immediately thought do something with "ladyfingers!" The same goes for Eugene, I totally thought calamari rings fried golden would of been good...although a deep fried app probably wounldnt of worked.

        I'm so glad WF doesnt have frog legs for Jeff's sake. i cant imagine that being too popular a dish

        I also loved how everyone came together to help radhika and hosea. If i were radhika, i would of sat in a corner and cried.

        the new judge looks well, harsh. I loved it when carla called out for gail

        13 Replies
        1. re: asiansensation007

          My favorite quote, "When I was six, I was evil." I have a 6yo. Might have to start making daily polenta ;-)

          1. re: momjamin

            Polenta one day, risotto the next. Make sure the kid alternates stirring hands, or one wrist and biceps is gonna get lopsidedly big. (When he hits puberty shift exclusively to the off side.)

          2. re: asiansensation007

            Me too on the ladyfingers. Golden rings I thought of golden beet rings...

            1. re: asiansensation007

              The new judge is Toby Young. After reading a bit about him, I'm wondering if Top Chef may have jumped the shark. He seems to be someone who is famous for being obnoxious and little else. Not sure Top Chef really needs a Simon Cowell. We'll see.

              1. re: Chimayo Joe

                Hopefully he'll just be there til Gail gets back from the honeymoon.

                1. re: Chimayo Joe

                  Does any television program "need" an obnoxious regular? Not IMO.

                  1. re: Chimayo Joe

                    Does any one know if he has any culinary experience? He seems to be a writer who is famous for writing about being a failed writer.

                    1. re: Withnail42

                      It does seem that way, doesn't it? This quote from Vanity Fair's editor kind of says it all:

                      Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair editor: "Those who can't teach, write. Those who can't write, write about themselves —-- in Toby's case, endlessly".

                      Wikipedia says "Toby competed in the Channel 4 TV series 'Come Dine With Me.' He also appeared as one of the panel of food critics comprising the titular "enemy" in the 2008 BBC Two series Eating with the Enemy."

                      Looks like "Come Dine With Me" is a show with amateur chefs competing against each other hosting a dinner party for the other contestants. But it was a single episode in which he appeared in Season 3 and he won it. If those are his "qualifications", it doesn't bode well.

                      I really hope they're not bringing this guy on to be the "new" Bourdain. At least Bourdain's snarkiness has some merit in that he has been there, done that. This guy doesn't seem to have done much of anything.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        Oh dear. A guy who won a celebrity cooking show. And they only use a-listers for those don't they?

                        I was reminded of the 'restaurant wars' episode, (cant remember the season) when for some reason they brought in Madonna's brother) All he did was sit there and make bitchy little comments with no real value. Haven't seen him since which is a good thing.

                        While I am hopping for the best I am a little apprehensive about this guy.

                        1. re: Withnail42

                          Just read online the premise for the Jan. 7th show - I'm assuming this description is for the QuickFire, or is Toby sitting in for Gail Simmons and Tony and Jean-Christophe Novelli will both be there?

                          "The epic epicurean odyssey continues with a sweet feat: The chefs must create a sweet dish---without using sugar. Chef and restaurateur Jean-Christophe Novelli is the guest judge."

                          Don't know the guest judge, but based on what I've read/viewed online, it certainly won't be harsh viewing. ;-) Looks like he was on the British version of Hell's Kitchen as "head chef" as well.


                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Novelli is actually a well established UK chef.

                            Wondering why they sudden shift to the UK?

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              agree about the pleasant viewing! :)

                  2. -The soup lesbian lives up to her name. Does she make a soup every episode?
                    -Stefan was nicer than usual, must be the Christmas spirit.
                    -Eugene is chocking big time, that's like 3 challenges in a row that he's in the bottom.
                    -Michelle Bernstein seems very anal.
                    -Judges wondering why the chefs are inhibited in their cooking? LOOK AT THE DAMN CHALLENGE lol. 5 golden rings? 9 ladies dancing? How are you suppost to cook freely and in your style when you have to abide by your "12 days of Christmas" day.
                    -My faves are still: Radika, Jeff,Leah and Stefan.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: Evilbanana11

                      I agree about point five. i think they could of gotten really creative if given more time, even with the challenge at hand. Case in point: Jeff. Lords a leaping is not something so obvious like say a partridge in a pear tree or geese a laying. He started freaking out as soon as he found out WF didnt have frog legs so he starts tossing cheese in the cart. 300 people is alot and they have barely any time from conception to execution. To sit there and ponder a clever alternative would of been wasting precious time.

                      That said, I am looking forward to next week. I wonder what sponsor got the shaft since this "freestyle" cooking will be product placement free

                      1. re: Evilbanana11

                        "-The soup lesbian lives up to her name. Does she make a soup every episode? "
                        from the looks of next week's preview, she's now the scallop lesbian.

                        QF - as far as the top dishes, Hosea deserved the win for his paella. Ariane's may have tasted great, but it wasn't a one-pot dish. the second Eugene mentioned cornstarch, i knew he was screwed.

                        EC - where were the "4 calling birds?" i was glad to see the way the chefs banded together & helped each other. of course Stefan's reasoning was completely narcissistic, but at least he pitched in :) i'm glad Hosea got the win, though i would have been happy to see Jeff get it as well - i thought his idea was the most original and inspired. and it was nice that Radhika made it to the top as well, considering the fridge fiasco. Eugene needs to get a clue...take the criticism and keep your mouth shut - i thought Michelle Bernstein was gonna blow a gasket! i'm sick of Melissa, get rid of her already. she's in the bottom three every week. Jamie's still cranky, but you could tell by the expression on her face at JT that she knew what they were talking about with the temp of her dish. she really needs to move on from the scallops, but based on next week's preview apparently scallops are her new "thing." Ariane was lucky to have immunity. she wouldn't have gone home, but she should have at least been at JT with the other bottom performers. deviled eggs? seriously? yawn. and Fabio is starting to worry me, he's not putting out good food anymore.

                        so, is anyone else unreasonably excited about next week's holiday cookoff special? woo-hoo!

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          THe holiday cookoff is a repeat, you do know that? Having see it a couple of seasons ago (or was it last season) I do know who wins. But I'll still be glad to see Tre again. :-)

                          And I agree with you - Melissa *so* needs to go. When I saw previews of next week, I saw Jamie and the humongous scallops and thought "Not again!" Doesn't that make 3 challenges in a row? I can only imagine what Lee Anne is saying on her blog about the damn scallops. :-)

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            i know it's a repeat - which is why i feel ridiculous being so excited about it...but like you, i'll take a dose of Tre whenever i can get it ;)

                            plus, it'll be nice to take a trip down memory lane since the next new Season 5 episode doesn't air until after New Year's (boo).

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              Amen to the scallop thing... I think my favorite moment of the entire hour-plus was hearing Fabio say "This is TC, not top scallops".

                              And please let's get rid of Melissa...please?

                              1. re: Daniellabelle

                                Just posted same about scallops.... you beat me to it. Best Top Chef line... ever.

                                To quite Larry David: prettty.... pretttty....prettttyyy funny.

                                1. re: Daniellabelle

                                  Or, can we at least get rid of Melissa's bangs?

                            2. re: Evilbanana11

                              What Christmas spirit? It was filmed last summer!

                              Having snarked that, I am happy that the Boulder chefs are still in the running -- and I am rooting for one of them to take it all.

                              1. re: ClaireWalter

                                I'm pretty sure it was actually filmed a year ago and edited over the summer. That's why the Thanksgiving episode and the Christmas episode were a realistic couple of challenges apart.

                                1. re: gastrotect

                                  Umm, if that was the case, why wasn't it actually Thanksgiving and Christmas during the challenges?

                                  Actually the series was filmed in the late summer/early fall this year. That's why both holiday episodes were out of synch with the seasons.

                                  1. re: rjka

                                    That's my bad. I definitely thought I'd heard they were filming in the fall, not the summer. Guess I can't win 'em all.

                                  2. re: gastrotect

                                    There were lots of comments on various NY-based blog sites (I think Grub Street was one?) as to filming in late August/September time frame. They were asking for readers who might have spied the cheftestants to report back. :-)

                                    1. re: gastrotect

                                      The only problem is that everyone in NY is wearing summer attire, like shorts and t-shirts. Perhaps it was a "Christmas in July" party?


                                2. Interesting problem with the product placement fridge. At first they seem to hint that too much hot stuff went in all at once, which can certainly challenge any cooling appliance. But then they seem to blame someone leaving the door ajar -- somewhat hard to believe. Just before they finished their prep, didn't they show a bunch of quart containers being filled with hot puree or soup or sauce? C'mon, you can put that sorta thing in a walk-in, but enough hot product for 240 times so many cooks into a fridge? That's gonna challenge the best SubZero.

                                  24 Replies
                                  1. re: nosh

                                    Anyone see the previews for next week? Fabio actually made me laugh out loud when he said (about Jamie) this is top chef not top scallops!

                                    1. re: dorian

                                      between that, and Carla yelling for Gail to come back, it was a good preview...and we get the bonus holiday cookoff special. yay, Tre!

                                      1. re: dorian

                                        LOL! I loved that and thought the same. I don't know, I am just not that impressed with most of these chefs this year. Radhika and Stefan seem to turn out the most creative foods. I had hope for Fabio, and Jamie, but my impression of them is dwindling. Maybe it's the lame challenges? I thought the 12 days of xmas was corny.

                                        1. re: lynnlato

                                          I think I have spied several sparks of greatness. The challenges have been difficult to showcase what arrows the chefs have in their quivers. I think as the challenges improve so shall the chefs. And for me, if not, I always have Padma. -:)

                                          1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                                            You sound more hopeful than I, GFL. I always have..... Tom? Damn, you make out better than me. :)

                                      2. re: nosh

                                        I'm sure putting all that hot stuff in the fridge wasn't the smartest idea. But it is possible that the fridge opened up on its own because it was overstuffed. I think it was last season where they duct-taped a fridge shut to make sure it wouldn't open up overnight because they had so much food in it.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          I think it is possible -- in fact, probable -- that the producers or directors decided to create some excitement by unplugging or turning off the refrigerator. As the late Ethel Merman said, "Ya gotta have a gimmicke," and IMHO, the reality TV corollary is, "Ya gotta have a different gimmick every week."

                                          1. re: ClaireWalter

                                            you know, the idea of producer sabotage crossed my mind at first as well, but i really don't think that was the case. it would have been totally unfair to screw over only *some* of the chefs, and obviously they didn't all have their food in the same fridge. now, had the power mysteriously gone out & affected BOTH refrigerators, i'd have an easier time believing it was a nasty trick pulled by the producers.

                                            the way they showed all the chefs trying to cram containers into every available nook & cranny, it wouldn't surprise me of one of them inadvertently left the door slightly ajar. but as several people have already pointed out, even with the door closed, i'd wonder about the internal temp of either refrigerator with all that steaming hot food jammed in at the same time. that's so *not* safe.

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              I noticed that the chefs seemed to close one door of the fridge, but not the other and in the moment I wondered how that happened, even as they were rushed to finish. I now suspect it was intentionally edited that way, but I wasn't surprised then to see that the returned to find that the food had not chilled as it should have.

                                              Having just read down and learned the Leanne's blog explained the problem and how the producers helped solve it, put a different spin on it.

                                            2. re: ClaireWalter

                                              Right, Claire. "Everything coming up roses" doesn't make for good tv" (I love Ethel Merman). ;)

                                              Gotta have drama. The producers probably hated the fact that everyone pitched in and helped the two affected chefs. Too warm and fuzy, not enough drama. Fortunately though, the viewing public seemed to love it.

                                              1. re: lynnlato

                                                I called shenanigans on the producers in this episode. Too convenient that Radika had the other parts of the duck in another fridge and there was some other pork available for Hosea. And then it was a non-elimination episode? I've read too many behind the scenes stories to believe in coincidences on 'reality' tv.

                                                1. re: Sooeygun

                                                  If you read LeeaAnne's blog on Bravo, she explained the situation pretty well. Because everyone had put their steaming food into that one fridge, it overworked itself and broke down. The producers thought it wasn't fair that Hosea, Melissa, and Radikha were put at a significant disadvantage, so they agreed to go out and buy new products for them. They couldn't go to WF with the amount of time they had and had to go to a place closeby. They didn't have the brie Melissa wanted, so she ended up with gorgonzola, and Hosea ended up with the pork we saw. I think they brought back chicken for Radikha, but she had already started prep on the duck legs when they returned.

                                                  1. re: queencru

                                                    That's interesting about Melissa's dish because she was criticized for having cheese that overpowered her dish. If she had used brie, as originally planned, she wouldn't have had that problem. I wonder why it was never brought up on the show.

                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                      I don't really know how gorgonzola ended up as the requested cheese. It seems from LeeAnne's blog that she had no idea that brie was the original cheese, only that the type of cheese was too fancy to be found at the local supermarket. Somehow another producer requested gorgonzola. Most grocery stores have some type of brie, so why they didn't try to replace it with a cheaper brie first is beyond me.

                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                        And, why didn't she adjust then, since gorgonzola is such a strong cheese? I'm still surprised no one said anything about it. They talked about the duck legs instead of breast, the pork tenderloin change. This seems to be a bigger issue since Melissa ended up in the bottom three.

                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                          If she already had everything prepped the night before with brie in mind, I am not sure what else she could have done to adjust. It sounds like Radikha, Hosea, and Melissa were just rushing to have something to serve at that point since they had virtually no prep time. Even though the prep time was increased to 2 hours, I don't know when in that timeframe the new pork and cheese arrived.

                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                            Hi chowser -- they did mention on the show that she originally planned on using brie (they showed her looking at a pool of liquid brie in a tupperware container), but that there was gorganzola already stocked in the TC kitchen, so she used that instead. I think the problem was that she DIDN'T adjust to the new cheese, which is why her dish was bad with the blue cheese flavor overwhelming all. That's her mistake, not TC's.

                                                    2. re: Sooeygun

                                                      I don't think the producers would have risked food poisoning by unplugging the fridge--that could have been a major disaster and brought in the health department. They can shut you down for losing power and refrigeration! I was glad to hear the chefs reject the products right away--judging by the amount of food-bourne illness I've suffered over the years in various cities, a lot of restaurants aren't so fastidious.

                                                  2. re: ClaireWalter

                                                    i definitely think this part of the show was staged -- after all, the chefs were only there for an hour to pack up their prep from the night before to take over to the venue. an hour is not enough time to assess the situation, find the new ingredients, do all the prep for the proteins, and cook the proteins...

                                                    1. re: nyc_cravings

                                                      Lee Anne also stated that the "1 hour prep time" was expanded to two in order to give the producers time to buy new ingredients and have the cheftestants prep them.

                                                      1. re: queencru

                                                        i was wondering about that - there was no way the other chefs could have all finished prepping their own dishes AND helped Hosea & Radhika completely re-do theirs in a mere 60 minutes. there was just too much to be done.

                                                        i totally forgot to read the blogs this week. off i go...

                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                          I kept forgetting to read the blogs as well. Just did so - Lee Anne's was very inciteful. Looks like she spoke with the cheftestants the morning after Tom Colicchio told them no one would be going home. As I read this comment, I knew exactly who she was talking about:

                                                          "I ended up having another conversation with them the next morning. It was true that they had served mediocre food rather than amazing food. My pep talk came from a contestant's perspective, and while I got the death stare from some contestants (cross arms with the back-the-f***-off-look), I think I was able to get my point across to others."

                                                          The death stare and crossed arms and back-off-look? Yeah, didn't Rocco point that out to a certain cheftestant an episode or so ago? It's the Lisa Syndrome all over again.

                                                          Also, I liked her comments about the Top Chef Scallop Gods coming down to smack you on the hand for using them too much. I'm thinking Jamie's gonna get slapped yet again next new episode. :-)

                                                          ETA: Interesting quick interview link that Lee Anne posted in her blog re: her interview with Zagat's:


                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            Linda, thanks for the link. i LOVE LeeAnne's response to the question about how much input the sponsors have regarding challenges...

                                                            "The money to make television doesn’t grow on trees. I think that’s about all I’m allowed to say. "

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              I know - I *really* wish she was allowed to elaborate a little bit. Does that mean how much product placement is in each challenge? Or actual input into what the challenge entails? I thought that was Lee Anne's and her team's responsibility to come up with them and they and the producers choose which ones are going to be used.

                                              2. my favorite line tonight from Fabio:
                                                "This is Top Chef, not Top Scallops!" regarding Jamie. It was very nice of everyone to pitch in and help Radika and Hosea. And, I give props to the judges to realize that the challenge would have been much stronger if everyone had some help. I'm still pulling for Eugene!