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Foods I would like to see never return to Top Chef....

Can we say scallop?

Sometimes I get the impression that solid cooking techniques and good product are actually taking the place of creativity and good use of whole proteins.

We all know a seared scallop is tasty, and quick. We've seen seven years of them on Bravo alone.

Any others?

Lamb, Lobster, Short Ribs...those are all on the list.

I'd love to see a group of chefs given any cut of chuck meat or fish heads and actually having to show some real skill.

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  1. I'm with you on the scallops. Doing a search on the Recipe Finder on Bravo comes up with 45 recipes using scallops over 7 seasons. :-)

    And wow, lamb has 46! I love lamb, so I don't mind that so much. :-) But I guess there are a finite number of "proteins" they can use or get at Fresh Market or Whole Foods, so their limitation is essentially what stores they're buying from happens to have in the store on their shopping day. (Now there's a thought - do the producers of TC tell that particular store "we'll be sending in 16 cheftestants on May XX - double up on your meats and seafoods as they'll clean you out!")

    What I'd LOVE for them to be able to do more often is be directed to an ethnic market of a city as they did in NYC and only shop from that one store.

    ETA: I really wish that Bravo would tighten up the Recipe Finder on their site. It's gotten WAY better over the years, but it's still a mess, IMO.

    13 Replies
    1. re: LindaWhit

      <I guess there are a finite number of "proteins" they can use or get at Fresh Market or Whole Foods, so their limitation is essentially what stores they're buying from happens to have in the store on their shopping day.>

      Have you ever shopped for meat at Whole Foods? Ever just informally counted the number of different cuts of meat and fish? The selection is VAST! However, I think the chefs have memorized a certain number of recipes, and try to make them fit into the various challenges as they occur. Plus, they will likely go with dishes that are big sellers. They're going for what they think will be the biggest WOW. Scallops and lamb tend to fit into that category. At least, in 21st Century fine dining.

      1. re: ChefJune

        Yes, I shop at WF a lot, so I'm aware of what they carry. Not sure I'd call it vast, though. A local Asian market, H Mart, carries a helluva LOT more than WF does in both meats and seafood (especially seafood). But perhaps different WF carry different quantities.

        But yes, they (the cheftestants) go with what they're familiar with - scallops, lamb, beef tenderloin, filet mignon. But their limitation is *still* what the store carries at any given time. But the "lowly" beef shank or chuck roast can still make for a WOW! meal IMO (not that WF wouldn't be carrying either cut).

        1. re: LindaWhit

          Kind of a turn around of the topic. But how about doing something with a different cut of protein. For example, I would love to see TC hand over a tray of pig parts and tell the chefs to have at it. This would put the high end guys who have access to the best proteins at a disadvantage, thereby giving them a chance to show what they are capable of making. How many times have we heard that the best dishes comes because people had to make do with what was available and use their ingenuity to creating tasty dishes.

          Another thing would be to have challenges where they would not have access to the tools of molecular gastronomy or things like sou vide, take away that crutch that so many of them seem to think is their claim to creativity. On the other hand, you can also force them to experiment with the new methods and tools, make them be creative with the sou vide or foam, i.e. take them out of their comofrt zones in ways different than making a crapoad of food for a bunch of people.

          1. re: Phaedrus

            Phaedrus, perhaps that's what they do when they have the offal challenge or the "odd food" challenge....it's not something that the chefs are used to, and they just have to wing it, hoping they're going to hit it out of the park.

            But I like the idea of using what isn't usually used in high-end restaurants and let them figure it out.

            1. re: Phaedrus

              Are you serious? Taking away sous vide?

              That's like taking away frying pans and butter. It's a tool, and it's one that is used a lot for a good reason - because it's the best way of cooking a lot of things.

              1. re: guster4lovers

                They do enough challenges where the chefs don't have access to sous-vide...or even a frying pan for that matter..for sous vide not to bother me. It's like a braise in my mind...a good way to insure a cut of meat is tender, without babysitting it. It's not foolproof, but it's easy.

                Regardless...love the screen name!

            2. re: LindaWhit

              WF carries "lowly cuts." However, they often don't have time to properly cook some of those tougher cuts of meat.

              1. re: ChefJune

                Yes, I know they carry lowly cuts. That's what I said - "not that WF wouldn't be carrying lowly cuts."

                As for the time frame in which to cook, they DO have access to pressure cookers, right? That speeds up the cooking process a lot.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  I agree with Linda. Something like Sirloin tips, chicken, etc....something that's not a high-end "go to" protein.

                  I think my issue is that there are many dishes the first few years that I found visually exciting enough to explore, want to replicate, or just plain drooled over.

                  I think now I'm almost tired of seeing certain proteins over and over again...regardless of whatever beautiful foam, vegetable, hand made pasta, etc is paired with it. I might not be tired of eating lamb or scallops...but I've seen it done enough that while I'm sure there are "new" dishes...I'm not inspired.

                  Than again, I guess the majority of the audience aren't watching for the food, but the fights.

          2. re: LindaWhit

            In TC Season 2 (LA) Episode 2 they had to do sushi in the QF then did a Team Vietnam vs Team Korea EC. (This was also the episode when Otto withdrew over his not speaking up at the checkout and "made off" with the box of lychees without paying) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...

            In TC Season 5 (NY) Episode 1 for the EC they were divided into teams of 2 with a designated ethnic neighborhood (knife draw) and sent out to that neighborhood to shop then cook with what they bought. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...

            They should do this again.

            1. re: huiray

              Wow, I don't even remember that episode from Season 2.

              That NY neighborhood challenge was one of the best ones!

              1. re: sommrluv

                sadly that was the only challenge that whole season that was NY specific. they wasted a great food city doing things that didnt reflect NY at all

            2. re: LindaWhit

              Back when Lee Anne was producing and blogging, I think she made a comment about them working with suppliers to have some good stuff on hand, but I don't know to what extent.

            3. Bacon...

              Many of the chefs use bacon as a crutch. Don't get me wrong. I really, really enjoy bacon, but TC goes overboard with the bacon.

              5 Replies
              1. re: dave_c

                I second the bacon. there's bacon in just about everything those chefs create. I too enjoy bacon and all other meats but I'd like to see a gluten free or a vegan challenge....

                1. re: trolley

                  @trolley, there actually was a challenge last season that was both gluten-free AND vegan when they cooked for Zooey Deschanel's birthday. i agree with you, i'd like to see more challenges like that.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    That was actually Top Chef Masters, but I agree it was a great episode. They really stepped up and delivered wonderful flavorful dishes that Deschanel & guests appreciated.

                    She also couldn't eat soy....

                    1. re: 512window

                      oops - thanks for the correction. i accidentally combined memories of the vegetarian challenge with Natalie Portman and the vegan/GF challenge with Zooey Deschanel! i had a mental picture of Kevin's smoked kale and the large table of guests at Zooey's party.

                2. I HAVE to co-sign on the seared scallop! The lamb and lobster don't bother me when the contestants do something creative.

                  1. Part of the problem is that show is often too focused on creating a frenzied atmosphere with the clock ticking down. Thus a majority of the meals are those things that can be cooked very quickly.

                    I know it's good for the TV "drama" element, but there are so many good foods that take time... tough cuts of meat, stews, stocks, smoked and cured foods, moles and other sauces that do best with long simmers, etc.

                    Let's see what these chefs do with a giant turkey or whole pig. I'd much rather eat a 10 hour bolognese sauce than a pasta dish whipped up in 20 minutes. Likewise, I think it would be good for viewers to learn to appreciate that a lot of good food takes time and not everything needs to be cranked out in a frenzy that flummoxes even professional chefs. It's not as though they can't edit the show to have a lot of drama... just don't make every challenge a 20 minute store-to-plate sprint.

                    1. australia's master chef does exactly what many of you have asked for
                      check it out

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: celfie

                        And we'll be getting that towards the end of August - albeit with Gordon Ramsay as the host. I do hope they don't Americanize or Ramsayize it.

                          1. re: Janet

                            you'll have to watch the Australian & UK episodes online - they don't air in the States. but the US version will be on Fox starting July 27th.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              oh man that american version is going to be horrible!!! I can feel it. is it really hosted by gordon ramsay ??? man that's going to be awful!!!!!! man, fox drama blehhhhhh

                              1. re: celfie

                                yep. GR is hosting the US version, and Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot Bowles are joining him as judges. but i have to say, judging by the promos i've seen on Fox, the Gordon on this show appears to be a mellower version...not the abusive Hell's Kitchen potty mouth with a mercurial temper.

                                1. re: huiray

                                  VERY interesting take on the Aussie version - it seems to be all about the drama, while someone comments that the U.K. version is more about technique and food.

                                  Here's hoping that the U.S. version is patterned after the U.K. version....but I'm not holding my breath.

                                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  The Australian masterchef is awful. Truly awful. It was an embarrassment to home cooks, and even the "experts" were woefully lacking.

                                  Apologies to the aussies out there. I have no problem with you, your country, or your television programs other than MC.

                            2. In terms of food contest shows in general, I could do without ever seeing the ubiquitous tuna tartare again.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jackbauer

                                Right! (but I do enjoy EATING a good tuna tartare. :) )

                              2. I'd say ceviche is a dubious choice after the S6 cowboy challenge.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: momjamin

                                  Oh GOOD choice, momjamin! Yes, there was entirely too much ceviche over the past few seasons. I don't believe we've seen it at all yet in TC7...and hope we don't.

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    Yes, Ceviche! No more! LOL. I'm always a little weirded out by the "any old fish that's at the whole foods counter" being served as ceviche.

                                    I was thinking...has anyone ever WON on a pork belly dish? Casey lost on pork belly, blaise lost on pork belly, Eli lost on pork belly...any more? I'm a big pork fan, so I'm not tired of it just yet.

                                    1. re: sommrluv

                                      And Kevin lost with pork belly in the S6 finale. (I don't remember Eli doing pork belly?)
                                      Blais did win his finale part 1 with pork belly. However, MichaelV won with pork belly in the Thunderbirds challenge.

                                      1. re: momjamin

                                        Eli did a braised pork belly mid-way through his season, but he didn't lose/get eliminated with that particular recipe. http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe...

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          You are both right. I got Kevin mixed up with Eli...I KNOW the difference, my fingers didn't. :) I didn't think there was such a thing as BAD pork belly. ;)

                                          1. re: sommrluv

                                            And of course, Stephanie won (well, in part) by not serving the pork belly Dale left out.

                                2. Well, not really a food per se, but FOAM. Erk, always looks like spit to me.

                                  ITA with suggestions of ceviche, bacon, and scallops.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: coney with everything

                                    Agreeing about the foam.

                                    Not so much a food, but the whole "two way, three way, lets see how many dishes I can add on the plate". This isn't Iron Chef where they need to make multiple dishes. They need to just focus on one and make it good.

                                    1. re: viperlush

                                      i agree. dishes done 2 or 3 ways is going too far this season just for the sake of showing off skills and speed *(kenny!) over food reasons.

                                    2. re: coney with everything

                                      Definitely, regarding the foam(s). Ick. DO NOT like the concept nor the realization of this version of spit on any food.

                                    3. uncle bens rice.

                                      how embarrassing for the cooks to have to serve that, and Padma and the guest judge just pissed away their integrity talking about the dishes like uncle bens rice isn't crap. I felt so bad for padma and the chefs.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: TheFoodEater

                                        Converted rice, such as, Uncle Ben's is very popular in The South. I would bet that a majority of the rice used in restaurants in New Orleans is converted rice.

                                        1. re: TheFoodEater

                                          This reminds me, the only recipe I ever sought and made from TC was the rice with salad and I've made it a few times since. I use a mix of brown and wild rice, with the dressing recipe from the website. It is really is as delicious as everyone said. I've never used Uncle Ben's, although is it really not good? I've considered trying their whole grain versions to be honest, but I just never have.

                                        2. My husband and I started to call the show Top Scallop during Seasons 4 and 5. Thank you Richard Blais (season 4) I will never look at bananas or scallops in the same way again.

                                          Season 6 was dubbed Top Bacon because of Kevin Gillespie.

                                          1. Aside with specific items, here are some tired expressions and clich├ęs that I would like to see avoided:


                                            "Fresh local ingredients"

                                            "Simple Clean Flavors"

                                            "Bring my A game"

                                            An obligatory mention of how they miss their kids, significant other, or a relative who died

                                            How eating healthy and serving school lunches are important for health while they smoke on the patio...


                                            Short Ribs
                                            Pork Belly
                                            Any sort of "foam"
                                            Any dish that has a "shot" of something on the side

                                            I remember back in season 4 that the opening challenge was to cook some "classics" like Eggs Benedict, etc. but very few of the contestants couldn't even deliver these properly. While you certainly get some talented chefs on the program, I often feel they are too pretentious and predictable with using ingredients that are seen as trendy. I remember Tom C. mentioning that if they want to cook modern food, you need to know the basics. I would like to see this challenge again and not while they are cooking on a mini grill while blindfolded and sharing an apron while overlooking the Lincoln Memorial.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: vinhotinto75

                                              "Simple Clean Flavors"

                                              Guess that means no dirty martinis will be served. :-)

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                Good one indeed! It just strikes me as a trite, overused expression!

                                                Season 7 has been a flop for me as I watch on Slingbox overseas, but I wasn't much a fan of Season 6 either even though the caliber was high. I never found the brothers or Jennifer had much personality even though they could cook.

                                                Sadly, some of the previous contestants with annoying personalities like Spike, Jamie, Marcel, and Mike I. seem to keep turning up on the airwaves instead of previous winners like Stephanie or competent people like Antonia or Carla. I'm beginning to think that Spike must have photographs of somebody...

                                                1. re: vinhotinto75

                                                  I think that's because Stephanie Izard is busy running her restaurant in Chicago. Looks like they *just* opened up! Very happy for her!



                                              2. re: vinhotinto75

                                                <remember back in season 4 that the opening challenge was to cook some "classics" like Eggs Benedict, etc. but very few of the contestants couldn't even deliver these properly>

                                                This is what the Quick Fires should be about. Just the basics/classics, the perfect Eggs Benedict, omelet, chocolate mousse, etc.