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Top Chef - D.C. - Ep. #10 - 08/18/10 (Spoilers)

In the house before heading over to the TC kitchen, it looks like most people are avoiding Alex. Interesting - a lot of confessional chatter from Kevin and Alex. And Alex is realizing that he's not getting along with anyone in the competition (DUH!) but he doesn't care.

The title of this episode is "Covert Cuisine"...how apropos with a "mystery box" Quickfire Challenge and later serving the EC challenge at the CIA headquarters with Director Leon Panetta and Wylie Dufresne doing the judging. (Added halfway through the episode - AND Eric Ripert is there as a judge! Woot!)

For the Quickfire, Wylie's there to guest judge. They start out with one mystery box, but during the course of the challenge, another Mystery Box will show up at each station, and they MUST utilize all of the ingredients in the Mystery Box. And it's a high-stakes QF - $10K to the winner.

Fish (assorted choices in the various Mystery Boxes), fava beans, and a blank can, which is hominy. Angelo seems completely ferklempt with the ingredients. The next Mystery Box arrives, and there is squid and black garlic. And then a 3rd Mystery Box comes in! It's ramps and passion fruit...Ed says "What the f***? I don't want that!" LOL

And holy crow - Mystery Box #4! They were jicama - Amanda said "I julienned it and threw it in there!" (Thanks for the correction, lisavf!)

They look EXHAUSTED...all of them - Amanda, Angelo, Ed most of all. Having all of those additional ingredients added all within 20 minutes of starting out with the first box's ingredients had to be tough.

Least successful - Alex and Amanda
Most successful - Tiffany and Kevin

The winner? Tiffany - YAY!!! :-)

On to the Elimination Challenge, they must transform famous dishes into different culinary fare. Padma has to go all super-secret agent man talk on the cheftestants. Oy.

They draw knives, and they have to re-imagine the following dishes:

Tiffany - Gyro
Amanda - French Onion Soup
Angelo - Beef Wellington
Alex - Veal Parmesan
Kelly - Kung Pao Shrimp
Ed - Chicken Cordon Bleu
Kevin - Cobb Salad

The winner gets a trip for two to Paris. And Angelo bought puff pastry at Whole Foods instead of making his own - rut-roh!

How amazing would it be walking into the CIA Headquarters! They have 1-1/2 hours to cook; Ed notices that the corner of the kitchen there are speakers and cameras. (I wouldn't be surprised if you're watched in the bathrooms as well!)

So is Kelly making regular Kung Pao Shrimp when she's supposed to change it up? And whoops - Kelly was using her 8000 feet above sea level usual manner of timing things and cooked her rice in the rice cooker for 1 hour. Rut-roh! Tiffany helped her out and said make more the old school way!

And Tiffany helps Kelly a LOT to get her dish plated - good for her! She wants to compete on an even playing field.

And ROFL! Amanda said "I don't think I disguised my dish enough - even Helen Keller would be able to tell what it was!"

Leon Panetta said they would have captured this guy immediately in reference to Angelo's Beef Wellington. :-) Not a good disguise.

And Wylie said to Panetta "I know what it is" in reference to Kelly's Kung Pao Shrimp and then said "For once, I know something you don't!" :-)

Tiffany's up - she has the Gyro. And Panetta figures it out. No real comment on how it tastes. Kevin's Cobb Salad is figured out as well, but Chef Colicchio really liked it.

And then out of the blue, Director Panetta is called out of the dinner when an employee hands him a folded note.

Amanda's and Alex's dishes are up next. And Amanda is talking about liking Alex; that he's like the wise old Jewish uncle she never had, and she doesn't want to see him fail.

Amanda's French Onion Soup disguise was a good idea, but didn't get good reviews on flavor. Alex's Veal Parmesan was universally panned as very poor on execution. (Maybe he goes home?)

Ed's Chicken Cordon Bleu is the last up - Chef Ripert figured it out immediately, but it seems like the flavor was well received.

How much is the disguising of the dish going to weight the decision as to who wins/who goes home? This isn't going to be an easy one to figure out - but in the preview before commercial, it looks like Angelo is in the bottom group.

LOL!! In the in-betweener, they're talking in the house about what Leon Panetta knows - Alex says "he knows who killed JFK" and Kelly said "He knows where the aliens are living!" Angelo responds to her saying "There's one in L.A." and then shoots a thumb at Alex sitting next to him. :-)

Now they're in the Stew Room...Padma asks to see Tiffany, Kelly, and Ed. Kelly REALLY owes a lot to Tiffany helping her with the rice, especially after Chef Ripert complimented her on it.

Tiffany and Ed both get very good reviews as well. Wylie says the winner is TIFFANY! Another double-win for her! She gets to visit the Hilton Arc d'Triomphe in Paris.

The bottom group is Alex, Amanda, and Angelo - the Three A's. Amanda knew her dish wasn't disguised as much as it could have been. But the marmalade was too sweet in her dish as well.

Angelo gets called out on the frozen pastry, and knew he hadn't disguised it well either. Ouch - Chef Ripert said "You ended up with something sad."

Alex and his big pocket spoon get called out on using sous-vide by Wylie when he hadn't ever used it before, and Chef Colicchio said "I've had better frozen tortellini" in reference to his main dish.

OK - Judge's Table - all three aren't doing well on either execution, disguise, or flavor. This is a toss-up - but I think it's going to be Alex and his beyond-tough Veal Parmesan or Amanda and her dishwatery French Onion Soup.

AND it's Alex! Finally. Will be interesting to see how he's greeted in the Stew Room - not well. Kevin looks like he doesn't get up, and only Kelly is shown hugging him.

LOL! They're serving food at National's Stadium next week....and THERE might be a great tee-shirt line from Rick Moonen: "Raw fish at a stadium - that takes real (base) balls." :-)

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    1. re: lisavf

      Thanks - will make the change (couldn't figure out how leek was just julienned and thrown on there!)

    2. Anybody notice Wylie eating gyro off his knife?

      14 Replies
      1. re: mnosyne

        Yeah, also saw Ripert eating off his knife at one point. What was up with that?

        Dang, I have an early day tomorrow - can't wait to catch up on all the commentary

        1. re: lisavf

          Noticed that too. Weird. I would feel self-conscious doing it at home, let alone in front of chefs and television cameras.

          1. re: guster4lovers

            Done in Europe. Foodies do it. "Can get more sauce to mouth". (Agree it is odd in general in America)

            1. re: huiray

              I have some friends who grew up in Europe and the way they use the knife is odd at first when you eat with them. They use it more than just for cutting.

              1. re: Manassas64

                Interesting aside. Europeans use both hands to cut and eat, Americans tends to cut, set aside the knife and change the fork to the right hand and then stab or scoop with the fork. The was how some American POWs were captured while in transit out of nazi occupied territories during WWII. They managed to speak French or German well enough to go unnoticed but got caught because of their eating habits.

                1. re: Phaedrus

                  Interesting, I never knew you're supposed to put down the knife and change fork hands. I've always just used the left hand for forking when I'm holding a knife.

                  1. re: dmckean

                    It's not a matter of "supposed to" or not. You eat the European way, as I do most of the time (having watched the way my father ate as I was growing up...he picked it up from his business travels). I found it much easier to eat the European way. (There's a very long thread on General Topics about European vs. American way of eating).

                    1. re: dmckean

                      My mom used to yell at us for not putting the knife down and changing hands - so I think it must have been a rule when she was kid....

                      I noticed both Wylie and Eric eating off the knife - it made me laugh.

                      1. re: dmckean

                        My husband is ANAL about that! I never learned that, but fortunately I am left handed, knife doesn't end up in my left hand, so he doesn't get on me. But my poor kids! I think it originally had something to do with superstitions about left handed knife weilders...

                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                          Maybe it was to separate the Americans from the English..

              2. re: lisavf

                That really struck me too-- both of them eating off their knives, a couple of times-- really odd.

                1. re: DGresh

                  I eat my peas with honey
                  I've done it all my life
                  It may taste kind of funny
                  But it keeps them on my knife.

              3. re: mnosyne

                Yes, I noticed it and it bugged me! ALSO...Wylie shook hands with at least one if not two people with his LEFT hand. I was left wondering if he was trying to somehow "protect" his chef-knife-wielding hand or something, LOLOL.

                1. re: elisssabeth

                  Yep saw the left handed hand shake too.

              4. Woot! Alex gone!!! Tiffany double win!!! What a great episode!

                I'm all about Tiffany now. It's been building for several weeks and now I'm all there.

                1. hooray! i'm so glad that Alex's luck finally ran out. BTW, during their little alien discussion, i couldn't help thinking that Alex really does look like one of the human-like aliens from the Men in Black movies :)

                  Tiffany is going to have one *very* happy fiancee when she gets home, title or no title...the wedding is paid for, and now they've got a free Parisian honeymoon!

                  pronunciation peeve of the week...gyro. arrrrggghhhh!!!!

                  looking forward to Bayless' judging next week.

                  31 Replies
                    1. re: SDGourmand

                      Yup. After what an overbearing ass he was on Masters, I have lost a lot of respect for him. Sad, petty little man.

                      1. re: SDGourmand

                        (I can read this post now since the episode was spolied for me on another post!)

                        I always confuse Moonen and Bayless - even now in my head - I'm not sure which one is which ...

                        1. re: NellyNel

                          Awwww, Nelly. :-(

                          And Bayless is taller than Moonen. Which probably only helps if they're standing side-by-side. :-)

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Thanks Linda! It's cool. No worries!

                            I Googled and was trying to post the photo's of the 2 Ricks - but I couldnt do it...
                            (at least I can post though ay??!!!)

                            1. re: NellyNel

                              And we're glad to have you back, Nelly! :-)

                              Bayless on the left, Moonen on the right...

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                great stuff!!

                                thanks Linda!! I'm excited to be back!!!

                            1. re: NellyNel

                              Bayless is the sexy one. Moonen is the snarky one.

                              1. re: NellyNel

                                Ha! I didn't realize how much they look alike until now! Bayless is the calm one and Moonen is the hyper one.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  Yes Bayless has a calm, zen kind of vibe. I really like him.

                                2. re: NellyNel

                                  I always get them confused! I solved the conclusion by calling then "Rick Bayless" and "Evil Rick Bayless."

                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                "pronunciation peeve of the week...gyro. arrrrggghhhh!!!!"

                                Totally agree, but when the head of the CIA calls it a JAI ROH, it's probably best not to correct him...

                                Didn't he see the Jack in the Box commercial explaining that the correct pronunciation is YEE-ROH? That's how I learned!

                                1. re: soypower

                                  I was couldn't stop myself and I gently corrected someone who ordered JAI ROH in a YEE-ROH joint. She looked at me like I was crazy. After seeing this episode, maybe I am.

                                  1. re: chicgail

                                    I think it's regional...remember the Seinfeld ep when Elaine wanted Jai-ros from a particular subway stop?

                                    In Detroit it's yee-roh or yee-rohs.

                                  2. re: soypower

                                    i thought Eric Ripert pronounced it the same way. Jai-roh.

                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                      He can pronounce it any way his lovely heart desires. ;-)

                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                        As much as I like Eric, his pronounciation was such a Turn OFF. For a European chef he should know better. At first, I figured he was just going along with the CIA director,but he pronounced it the same at the end of the show. It is amazing how many people pronounce it wrong. We are having lunch at Le Bernardin in two weeks and I joked that if we see him, we should teach him the right way to pronounce it.

                                        1. re: mrsjoujou

                                          He's going to have to work harder than that to be a turn off fo rme. :)

                                      2. re: soypower

                                        I think either is correct in the US, you hear both about as often, and I doubt the owners of the places that sell them really care how you say it as long as you pay for it.

                                        That being said, I always feel a bit self conscious when ordering one, I don't want to come off like a lout, but neither do I want to come off as an ill-informed elitist just in case they actually prefer the 'Jai-ro' pronunciation. Usually I just point and say 'I'll have one of those' or order the Souvlaki...

                                        1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                                          ha ha-- I have exactly the same problem (and solution) as you

                                      3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        BTW, during their little alien discussion, i couldn't help thinking that Alex really does look like one of the human-like aliens from the Men in Black. ;)

                                        YES!!! LOL

                                        And let's have a pronunciation lesson for gyro - YHEE-roh? (I *know* it's not JAI-roh)

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          d'oh! that's what i meant. my sleep deprivation is showing :)

                                          clearly there are some haters here, but i like *both* Ricks - Moonen and Bayless. i'd be happy to see either one!

                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            I was a huge fan of Moonen on tc masters. I think he showed real passion and seemed to be having a ton of fun.

                                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                            I was surprised that Eric Rippert pronounced "gyro" that way. You would think, being from Europe, he would pronounce it better.

                                            1. re: lenwood

                                              I'm from New York, and I have never heard it pronounced any other way!!
                                              Hubby from England never even heard of a gyro!

                                          3. Did anyone actually see Kelly use peanuts, peppercorns, chillies or chili paste in her dish during her prep and cooking of it?

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: huiray

                                              Why do you ask? Are you trying to start peanut-gate? : )

                                              1. re: dmjordan

                                                No, just curious.

                                                I'll have to watch the episode again, but it seemed she said she 1) had never cooked Chinese food; 2) had no idea what Kung Pao Shrimp (KPS) was supposed to taste like. This last remark also implied she had never eaten it.

                                                It seems she found a list of ingredients on a commercial bottle of Kung Pao sauce – clever of her! - but we don't know what that list said. I wonder if there is film footage of her writing down that list or showing that bottle label list. ☺ According to the recipe posted on the bravo website the long list of ingredients includes peanuts, dried chillies, chilli sambal, rice wine vinegar, AND Szechuan peppercorns. These ingredients would have been appropriate for Kung Pao Chicken (the more traditional protein) or Shrimp in the Szechuan style [except that rice wine is missing - I suppose the sherry substituted for that], rather than in the Chinese-American style (which would tend to use oyster sauce and no peppercorns)

                                                Although the idea was to “disguise” the original dish, so it would not look like the original (so of course an “authentic” dish in all senses was not the point), the proportions of the various ingredients would affect the final taste of the whole, and I doubt that list on the bottle she found would have given the amounts of each ingredient. I would assume she just put them together in a way that seemed to agree with her - assuming the list did show all this stuff - and came up with what Ripert called (nicely) spicy, avoiding saying KPS-like. This was smart of him, as according to his blog he himself did not know what KPS was. On the other hand, Colicchio said it had all the tastes of KPS there, or words to that effect. Not entirely sure what Colicchio was thinking of, however, when he said that - what taste did he really have in his mental files? I do note that the lady diner (the personnel director, I think?) guessed it was 'originally' KPS. So the taste Kelly achieved was identifiable to other people too as what they thought of as KPS, at least as would be eaten in America… OTOH, a “generalized” KP sauce would amount to a “generalized spicy ‘Chinese’ ” taste in a way… Do some people think of “Kung Pao” something-or-other when they taste this “generalized spicy” taste?

                                                (For myself, it also seems that the 1/4 cup of soy sauce she poured into the stock at the end according to the recipe would have changed the profile a bit away from what I would have in mind when I think of KPS)

                                                Sooo....I'm just curious about the whole thing.

                                                1. re: huiray

                                                  I am pretty sure there is footage of Kelly looking at the ingredients on the bottle while simultaneously writing them down on her list. While the ingredient list wouldn't have given her the exact amounts it would have given her a general guide. I know I couldn't describe the flavors of Kung Pao if asked point blank, but after buying a bottle and tasting it, like Kelly did, I might have an "a ha" moment. Also she is a chef, tasting the sauce and determining what ingredients are involved is part of the job description.

                                                  1. re: lizzy

                                                    Hmm, was she shown tasting that commercial Kung Pao sauce? If she did I missed it.

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      Please someone correct me if I am wrong, but I believe she wrote down the ingredients in WF and then she tasted the sauce at her station in the TC kitchen with all of her purchased ingredients unpacked and around her. I will try to watch again to confirm.

                                                      1. re: lizzy

                                                        I know she wrote down the ingredients in WF; I didn't see whether she purchased the bottled sauce to compare against her homemade.

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          In the store, she used a bottle for an ingredients list. She purchased said bottle and used it in the kitchen as a tasting base to build her soup. They showed her tasting the bottled product in the TC kitchen (furnished by Kenmore....sorry couldn't resist the product placement). While you can guess how the ingredients are proportionately included in the product by referencing the ingredients list, tasting is the way to confirm.

                                                          She did not use the bottle in her soup.

                                                          1. re: Dee S

                                                            Thanks. I also watched Ripert's video blog, and he thought it was smart of her to have bought the bottle so as to use it as a taste test against her dish. He said he probably wouldn't have thought to do that. Score one for Kelly. :-)

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              I thought it was smart as well!

                                              2. Yes! Amanda dodges yet another bullet!

                                                (I do realize I am probably the only one that likes her!)

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: skoolpsyk

                                                  Wrong, I like her too. I'm afraid she'll catch hell for befriending Alex.

                                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                                    I like her too and I think it's admirable the way she stood up for Alex. I found the way the other chefs piled on Alex more telling about their character than his.
                                                    I don't think Amanda's misses are too far off the mark and I think she's capable of winning this if she gets in the zone. She also seems to be the only one to take the judges criticisms constructively without getting offended by their comments. It seems she is there to learn more than to project her ego. Also liked her comment about the 22 in the garter.

                                                    1. re: californiabeerandpizza

                                                      Any time you have a group of people confined together for any length of time, sides are going to be chose, you will have cliques and insiders and outsiders, cool kids and uncool kids. It's human nature. The way to deal with it is to have a common enemy and Alex was it. Now that he is gone, they will turn their attention to someone else or implode a as a group.

                                                      1. re: Manassas64

                                                        OR, perhaps, not. Perhaps now that the cause of the friction is gone, perhaps everyone will just settle in and COOK.

                                                        One can hope. :-)

                                                      2. re: californiabeerandpizza

                                                        I agree about their treatment and attitude of Alex; as juvenile and obnoxious as the way Robin was treated last season. I don't think it is human nature, except maybe at its worst. Very offensive to me, and turns me against the offenders.

                                                        1. re: Parrotgal

                                                          I thought Robin did not deserve the treatment she got. Alex has provoked at least some of the reaction, regardless of 'pea-gate'.

                                                    2. re: skoolpsyk

                                                      While I'm not a huge fan of Amanda, I think she's being perceived as stupid or unintelligent when she is probably just immature and air-headed. I've scored in the 98th percentile, but if I had cameras following me around, I'm sure they could capture at least 10 boneheaded things I do per day. And with enough editing, I'm sure any one of us could be portrayed as an idiot.

                                                      Also the comments the cheftestants make appear to be prompted by the producers. I don't think most of them go out of their way to criticize their peers, but when asked questions like, 'what is X's biggest weakness?' or 'what's the thing that bothers you most about X?, the reply is undoubtedly negative.

                                                      Which is one of the many reasons why I love watching reality TV but would never participate in it.

                                                      1. re: soypower

                                                        Also the comments the cheftestants make appear to be prompted by the producers. I don't think most of them go out of their way to criticize their peers, but when asked questions like, 'what is X's biggest weakness?' or 'what's the thing that bothers you most about X?, the reply is undoubtedly negative.

                                                        Which is one of the many reasons why I love watching reality TV but would never participate in it.
                                                        ^^^^^^ That. :-)

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          Magical Elves partnered with Bobby Flay to produce a new reality/competition show airing on NBC this Fall called America's Next Great Restaurant, and at the urging of pretty much every one of my friends and relatives, i actually went to the casting in Burbank to pitch my idea for an environmentally conscious and certified 100% gluten-free restaurant...but i told them all that even if i was chosen, i didn't think i could bring myself to do it after seeing how the competitors are portrayed on other shows like TC!

                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                            Ahhhhhhhhhhh...another "building a restaurant" competition show? How many of those do we need.

                                                            P.S. I would have totally watched if you were on, though!


                                                      2. re: skoolpsyk

                                                        I like her too, and I think she is a lot more intelligent than she comes off in the show, she certainly has shown a few moments of brilliance. Until this episode she has pretty much been able to stay out of the interpersonal drama in the house, we'll see how it goes next time.

                                                        She will need to step it up a good bit, though. She hasn't made anything really awful yet, but I can't seem to recall her knocking anyone's socks off either, she seems to be skating by week by week in the middle.

                                                        As the contestants dwindle down there will be fewer people to hide behind. I'd say she's still a better chef than Ed easily, and if Angelo keeps self destructing, she could take him too, I just hope the judges don't try to keep him around to have a villain in the finale. A few weeks ago I would have said Tiffany was one of the weakest chefs in the competition, but she has really come out swinging lately.

                                                      3. I thought I heard compliments about the taste of Tiffany's food... I think I heard "Wow!" ... but then I'm her "fanboy".

                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                          Linda was right -- they didn't say much about how Tiffany's dish tasted, but I think I did hear Ripert make an approving "Ummm" sound and he pronounced it "elegant."

                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                            If Eric Ripert says "Ummm", that's good enough for me. :-)

                                                            And I'm on the Tiffany Train as well! She's been rocking it...and she's more than right about Angelo - he's fallen into a slump midway through the competition with his lack of confidence. I don't think I've ever seen him look in such disarray while cooking or depressed after presenting his dish.

                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                              Count me in on the Tiffany love! I have been waiting to see if she could sustain her momentum, and so far she has been doing an excellent job. She is happy, a joy in the kitchen and, most importantly, she has been making some serious food. Go Tiffany!

                                                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                              There were actually at least two positive comments about Tiff's dish. One of the diners said "he'd order it anytime" or something like that. And ER said it was the most elegant Gee-Roh he'd ever had.

                                                            3. re: Shrinkrap

                                                              When the cheftestants were tasting in the kitchen, they seemed to like Tiffany's hummus. And they thought Amanda's soup was too sweet. This is the first season I've watched TC, and I only came in halfway through the season, but I like Tiffany a lot, too.

                                                              I respect Amanda for sticking up for Alex. With editing, etc., is so hard to know how much of the flak he's getting is deserved.


                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                I believe it was actually baba ganoush (what was described as "smoked" or "smoky" eggplant). It was interesting to actually see them tasting each other's food in the kitchen after service. You often hear the contestants say that they did (or more often, didn't) taste the others' food, but you rarely get to see them tasting the finished dish.

                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                  Yes, I think you're right that it was baba ganoush!


                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  I was *very* confused about where that baba ganoush came from! wth???

                                                              2. I would have given Angelo a pass on the frozen puff pastry if the dish had been otherwise well done. They only had 2.5 hours to prep and cook -- I've never made puff pastry, but my understanding is that it would take longer than that, even if you happened to know how to make it without a recipe. And since they were supposed to use the same ingredients as the original dish, he was sort of stuck using it (unlike John, who could have made anything he wanted and chose to use frozen puff pastry in a poorly conceived and executed dish).

                                                                17 Replies
                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                  I didn't think the ultimate problem with Angelo's dish was the frozen puff pastry, but that it wasn't particularly well conceived or executed. Angelo seems to be losing it in the pressure of the competition. Or maybe he's just one of those flash-in-the-pan types of guys of does a few things really well but can't sustain it.

                                                                  1. re: chicgail

                                                                    I've been thinking for a while now that Angelo isn't very creative. He has good skills, and he can put together a good dish, but he doesn't seem to be able to conceptualize new dishes easily. For example, for the Ethiopian quickfire he made a good dish, but it was -- according to Samuelsson -- a faithful rendition of what is perhaps *the* signature Ethiopian dish. There wasn't any "interpretation" in it. He stays in his comfort zone, and when he's forced out of it, as he was in this episode, he doesn't do nearly as well.

                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                      Ruth--totally agree with you. He's smoke and mirrors. And he's whiny. Over him. Only good part about him early on was the rivalry w/ Kenny

                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        perhaps. Although I thought I saw that he put chopped tomatoes on top of his deconstructed beef wellington. Personally, I think that is a bit too creative, and I thought it looked distracting, probably tasted distracting as well (and I am a big tomato lover...)

                                                                        Or was it something else red? Chopped red bell pepper? (even worse).

                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                          I should also mention that apparently he works with a lot of Asian flavors, but I was really offended by Kevin's remark in an interview that Angelo makes "Chinese food" all the time. I thought it was ignorant and borderline bigoted (dismissing all the wealth and variety of Asian cuisine as "Chinese food").

                                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                          It strikes me as unlikely that he is not creative under normal conditions (presumably all chefs at a level to be on this show have some degree of creativity). However, I would readily believe that he has difficulty being creative under pressure and on the fly.

                                                                          Many people do their best creative work when they have time to experiment a lot and then create a final work based on putting together the best of their experiments. Take a look at the amazing chefs on Top Chef Masters and how much difficulty some of them had with the challenges. It's not that they're not skilled or creative, but that it's very difficult to perform at your best under the conditions Top Chef creates (which is what makes it fun to watch).

                                                                      2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                        The thing is, he didn't have to use puff pastry. He chose to take the easy way out when he was offered an opportunity to really be creative. I think it's evidence of him not being as great as people say he is.

                                                                        And most pastry is a simple formula: 3:2:1. 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water (and sugar for sweet pastry). That's easy to memorise and can be customised for any application. For puff pastry, you just need to add some more butter in between folding. Not that hard, especially when the only thing you're really having to cook is pastry, beef, and mushrooms. But again, he could have made any kind of pastry application and they would have accepted it.

                                                                        But as crappy as Angelo was tonight, I am still entirely relieved that Alex FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY went home. That comment at the end about how he never considered NOT winning just made me question his sanity, on top of questioning his ethics and honesty.

                                                                        And can I just say that I was SOOOO happy to hear Tiffany say that she wanted other contestants to do well so that they're at their best and thus the victory means more. And helping Kelly, even when Kelly has refused to help other contestants in previous challenges. I'm really done with her. But I'm more and more impressed with Tiffany. I don't think she would have been a serious competitor in previous seasons (except maybe the Marcel/Ilan and Hosea/Stefan/Carla seasons), but in the midst of this mediocrity, she's got a really good chance.

                                                                        1. re: guster4lovers

                                                                          I feel like the editing for Tiffany is building up for the Fan Favorite vote.

                                                                          1. re: Manassas64

                                                                            Agreed! As much as I like to think I would like her as much anyway, I didn't know quite WHAT to make of them "letting her" win so much lately. ...wait...if you are the fan favorite, do you not get to win?

                                                                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                              Stephanie won fan favorite and S4, IIRC.

                                                                          2. re: guster4lovers

                                                                            And can I just say that I was SOOOO happy to hear Tiffany say that she wanted other contestants to do well so that they're at their best and thus the victory means more.
                                                                            She reminds me a LOT of Richard Blais in that regard.

                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                              I am much more interested in Top Chef now that Tiffany is moving up in the ranks, and that silly Angelo/Kenny thing is over. I am waiting for Kelly to emerge, too - I think she has more to show us, too.

                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                Yeah, that was a very impressive remark. I like her attitude and her generosity.

                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                  I was also very glad to hear that remark as some of the other contestants have seemed too keen for the "threats" to go home. I want to see the crappy chefs go home. Previous seasons have seemed to have more people keen to beat the other contestants at their best, which is what makes it an interesting show and that attitude seems a little lacking in this season (e.g. Angelo's scheming early on to get Kenny sent home, comments made by contestants like Ed).

                                                                                2. re: guster4lovers

                                                                                  I think Tiffany is very much in the Stephanie mold: her food is well made and consistently tastes good. Maybe it isn't innovative, a la the Voltaggio bros., but they've been more the exception than the rule when it comes to Top Chef winners. Good, solid cooks have usually beaten out the more "cutting edge" types, going all the way back to season one.

                                                                                  In addition, Tiffany seems to have a solid approach to challenges and avoids the pitfall of trying to give up too much of her own style in order to meet the parameters of the challenge.

                                                                                3. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                  I think it was said they had 4 hours total (they had 1.5 at the CIA, so they would have had 2.5 to prep). Regardless, I pretty much agree - except that he didn't even treat the pastry well, so that was an execution error. Both he and John used Dufour, which is an *excellent* product, in my experience, but neither was able even to bake it in a way that impressed the judges. It looked like Angelo baked his rounds in advance, then topped them and baked them again. No wonder they were hard. And as noted, Wylie said he didn't have to use it. He could have made a crouton, a wonton chip, or something else to be the "pastry." He just lost his mojo this episode. At least he was well aware of that.

                                                                                  Regarding the episode as a whole, I thought the QF was awesome. Definitely one of the more challenging ones they've had over the years. And I'm happy to see Tiffany bringing it. I like her a lot, and she seems personable and confident.

                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                    Yes I really loved the Quick Fire. It really worked on their calm under fire, it definitely revealed Angelos's deficiencies and I thought blew up his mojo for the elimination challenge. he was slowly disintegrating the last few shows but he blew up big this time.

                                                                                4. This was a fun episode, though the quickfire looked exhausting. I don't really think that it was a big deal for Angelo to use frozen puff pastry here -- I'm sure that Dufour is better quality than anything that he could make, especially in the short time that they had. I think that the problem was more that the execution and the disguise weren't great. But I'm very glad that Alex left before him; none of what he made looked at all good, and I'm really so tired of him.

                                                                                  1. Great recap.

                                                                                    But please explain: what is "rut-roh!"? Must be too early or too late for me.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                        Well, I think it started out with Astro the Dog from the Jetsons, but everyone usually attributes it to Scooby-Doo. :-)

                                                                                        I also think I misspell it - it's supposed to be "ruh roh". :-)

                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          Yes, I hear the Jetsons reference a lot, too, but while the Jetsons may have started it, Scooby made it famous ;o)

                                                                                    1. Not to belabor the pea puree controversy, but if nobody knew about said pea issue until the episode aired (according to Tom), why would Alex mention it in his closing interview? It had to be an ongoing discussion/point of friction in the house and among the contestants if he brought it up.

                                                                                      He says "there were frustrating certain situations, you know, that pea puree conspiracy and anger about Restaurant Wars. I was frustrated as well, I choose not to vent and create hostility, I'm a different kind of person. Each person has to live with themselves. You know I just try every day to make myself a better person."

                                                                                      And if 3 people (again, according to Tom) have come forward now to say they saw him make the pea puree, why was it a conspiracy at the time this was filmed? Did the other contestants not believe the 3 people who said they saw him make it at the time it happened? Do they (the other contestants, the ones who apparently were part of the conspiracy) now believe these 3 people?

                                                                                      This story still just doesn't sit right with me. There's a piece missing. Maybe they can walk us through the timeline in the reunion show, because, for me, this just isn't adding up at all.

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                        The reunion show is going to have to be where we *maybe* get answers about Pea-Gate. Because they're just not going to talk about it on the regular show again, it seems.

                                                                                        As for the ongoing friction in the house - you saw the way everyone was avoiding Alex in the house; Kelly didn't even respond to his "helpful suggestions" in the TC kitchen; Kevin and Ed were both giving him sideways looks during the QF judging after comments by Wylie on Alex's dish - it seems NO ONE liked him.

                                                                                        The reunion show *will* be interesting. :-)

                                                                                        1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                          Even at the end, Alex never admits outright that he didn't use Ed's pea puree, instead he just made the usual vague references. I'm sure they will discuss it on the Reunion episode but I am just soooo glad that Alex is finally gone!

                                                                                          Can't believe Amanda was his friend - he was the one that didn't tell her she had cartilage in her chicken terrine on one of the early episodes and the judges called her on that. Wonder if she'll still think of him as a friend once she sees that footage?

                                                                                          1. re: SeoulQueen

                                                                                            I don't fully recall the cartilage episode, but would she have been able to do anything about it that point? I thought it was already done and made.

                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                              IIRC, it hadn't been molded yet. she still had a chance to check for any noticeable pieces...though it was certainly too late to pass it through a chinois or tamis.

                                                                                        2. I thought Ed was going to get slammed for his not so disguised cordon bleu.

                                                                                          And didn't Alex make a puree out of fava beans? was he trying to make the point that he was capable of making a puree? Just saying....

                                                                                          11 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                            I, too, was shocked to see Ed among the three winners. They thought his dish was good, but not at all disguised. But, maybe they just go back to it's most important to cook a good dish...


                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              I think the history of Top Chef has shown that it's always by far the most important to serve something that tastes good. Sometimes they get called out for not following the theme sufficiently, but I've never seen someone go home for a dish the judges enjoyed eating.

                                                                                              Edited to add: If you think I'm wrong, I'd be interested for some specific examples of eliminations for good dishes ... obviously at the very end, there is more nitpicking because everyone is generally cooking good food, but for the bulk of the competition if it's a choice between a good tasting dish that didn't match the assignment and a dish that had something wrong with it, the choice is consistently the latter.

                                                                                              1. re: eoj

                                                                                                Nope, I don't think you're wrong. In the end, it's better to have a good dish than to try to slavishly follow the rules of the challenge.

                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  <<In the end, it's better to have a good dish than to try to slavishly follow the rules of the challenge.>>

                                                                                                  Not sure that's always true. I'm thinking of the fuss over the coc au vin that disputed as being authentic. And I know there have been plenty of other examples of people who were taken down for having not actually followed the rules.

                                                                                                  1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                    But Casey didn't get sent home in that challenge. Tom was just being pedantic and he seemed to be the only one who really cared about what the dish was called.

                                                                                                    That was the challenge at the French culinary institute in NYC (to select the 4 finalists who would travel to Aspen). Hung won the challenge, Brian and Casey's dishes were scored high, Dale and Sara M. were at the bottom; Sara M. was eliminated.

                                                                                                    1. re: kmcarr

                                                                                                      That's correct, and I agree with your assessment about Tom just being pedantic. As I noted above, in order to make it seem less obvious which are the top and the bottom dishes (and which one is the very worst), the editors pick and choose comments to make them seem more important than they actually were in the context of the whole discussion.

                                                                                                      I can't remember a single instance of someone who made a good dish that was sent home for not adhering strictly to the guidelines of the challenge while a less well-made dish was saved because it was more "correct." Even when it seems that might be the case, if you read the blogs afterward they'll make it clear that the dish was sent home because it was the worst dish, not for some technical reason having to do with the parameters of the challenge.

                                                                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                        Didn't Betty get dinged for using sugar in her meringue in the sugar-free challenge?

                                                                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                            But she didn't get sent home for that. IIRC she was eliminated over her soup in the seven sins challenge. I'm not saying that contestants have never been "dinged" for not meeting the parameters of a challenge, only that I can't remember one instance where a contestant with an otherwise good dish was eliminated because it didn't fit the parameters of a challenge.

                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                              That's right - three soups that hadn't been strained properly and looked to be the consistency of baby food. That should send anyone home.

                                                                                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                    I think a WELL prepared, good tasting dish wins over everything. Make a technical flaw and it's lights out.

                                                                                            2. As uninspired as I am finding this show every week, I am totally on Team Tiffany. Love her. Love how Leon Panetta conveniently escaped eating the rest of that crap with a totally planned interruption. Also love the awkwardness of Padma trying to make conversation with him. And the black guy who refused to smile at the end of the table. can't wait for Moonen next week. maybe he'll add something to this insipid season!

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                Didn't it seem like the interruption came as soon as Padma started asking him details about who ate in that room.

                                                                                              2. Boy, that CIA group was a barrel of laughs, weren't they? =) Didn't look like much fun for the judges.

                                                                                                Team Tiffany here too - although I really like Kelly and Kevin also. Barring unforseen catastrophe for one of the other contestants, I think Amanda will be the next to go - I think she's only made it this far by luck.

                                                                                                32 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: aching

                                                                                                  aching--ha, totally. people you definitely need at your next dinner party.
                                                                                                  I'm with you and like Kelly and Kevin very much as well.
                                                                                                  Amanda has overstayed her welcome big time. No clue how she's made it this far.

                                                                                                  1. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                    'Fraid I don't share in the Kevin love. I think there's something of a cad and a bully about him. Also - why the hostility towards - and blatant mischaracterizations of - Chinese food?

                                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                                      I'm wondering if you're not combining him and Tim? Because I distinctly remember Tim, when talking about Angelo's cooking, saying "Chinese food" with the most awful sneer. And I know Kevin has thrown some attitude, but nothing as hateful as Tim's comment sounded.

                                                                                                      1. re: Papuli

                                                                                                        No. Both Tim and Kevin sneered at Angelo's "Chinese food", in my recollection. True, Tim was more pronounced in his comments in this regard, keeping in mind Magical Elves editing. An example of Kevin's comments was his calling Angelo's cucumber cup with spiced shrimp as "Chinese food" with curled lip while glowering about his cooking Chinese food all the time in that aside after Angelo's win in the "Power Lunch" episode. (Even Kenny I seem to remember has rolled his eyes and curled his lips a bit from time to time when remarking on Angelo's "Asian food"/"Chinese food", although he uses Asian flavors himself...)

                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                          The instance I noted above (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7285...) was definitely Kevin, as it was in the last couple of episodes well after Tim was PYKAG'd. Didn't Tim and Kevin hang out before Tim was eliminated? Maybe they talked trash together about Angelo when they were both still competing.

                                                                                                      2. re: huiray

                                                                                                        I see what everyone's saying but I really think both Kevin and Tim were intentionally phrasing it to be dismissive towards Angelo (which itself I feel was excessive) ... I don't think either of them intended to be sneering at Asian food itself or saying that all Asian food is Chinese, more than Angelo seems like a one-trick pony. Maybe I'm being too generous. But I guess I also find Angelo to be a one-trick pony -- it sortof bothers me that he sees himself as doing more cutting-edge food but then when they actually ask him to be truly creative when different ingredients are getting thrown at him, he kindof freaked out.

                                                                                                        1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                          "But I guess I also find Angelo to be a one-trick pony -- it sortof bothers me that he sees himself as doing more cutting-edge food..."
                                                                                                          agreed. hardly cutting-edge when it's always the same and within your comfort zone. then again, he doesn't advertise his food as cutting-edge so much as "sexy"...though there was nothing sexy about that truly lame beef wellington interpretation!

                                                                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                            of course his food is cutting edge. he is elevating south east asian street food to high gourmet caliber. certainly interest in this type of cuisine has been growing in north america over the last decade and it still has not reached main stream status made evident by how completely unique and innovative his restaurant is in new york. yes there are vietnamese restaurants in new york but few are doing it with his level of refinement. most of what he has put out on top chef has been light years above the rest in both presentation and technique. he is the only one who is operating outside of the box. there have been so many recent complaints about scallops and short ribs on this forum and yet the only chef who is doing something different is criticized for being different.

                                                                                                            1. re: celfie

                                                                                                              we're not (or at least i'm not) talking about his restaurant, but rather about the food he's been putting out *on the show* - it's not as cutting-edge as one might expect.

                                                                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                Well, he may be the only chef doing what I guess could be called modern Pan-Asian this season, but he's certainly not the only chef to do this style of food on Top Chef. It's not that original. Also, even though it's a different "box" than the other chefs are working from, it's still *his* box and I don't see him stretching beyond what he's already comfortable with. When he is confronted with a challenge that requires him to do something outside *his* box he hasn't done very well.

                                                                                                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                Adrienne & ghg,

                                                                                                                Apart from he discussion about his career outside of TC, could you explain exactly what it is about his dishes on TC that you find makes him a 'one-trick pony', or what makes it 'all the same', other than his use of ingredients common to a kind of cuisine much as you might use, say, potatoes or tomatoes or parsley or mustard in another kind of cuisine? Here's a link to the 21 dishes he has put out so far that have been posted on bravotv...http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe...


                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                  by my count, 15 of the 21 dishes relied on flavors from Southeast Asia - most notably China, Thailand and India. all of them involved soy sauce, or fish sauce, or garlic & chilies, or curry, or some combination thereof. several of the non-Asian dishes were collaborations so clearly his partners had some say in the flavors as well, and the ones he did on his own - like the Beef Wellington interpretation - didn't exactly go over well.

                                                                                                                  i get that chefs tend to stick with their own style/cuisine/comfort zone, but they also need to exhibit versatility and depth to win this thing, and i just feel like Angelo's food hasn't been as *remarkable* or inspired as i imagine he's capable of producing.

                                                                                                                  mind you, it's not like he's not the only one who's ever been guilty of this on TC - there are chefs every season who tend to trot out the same methods, flavors or ingredients for nearly every challenge. but i think Angelo's taking more flack for it because many people see him as the one to beat.

                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                    by your account kevin gillespie is a one trick pony for mostly making heavy southern food. tiffany too draws most inspiration from soul food. it is so silly to lambast a chef for sticking to their preferred style.

                                                                                                                    1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                      a) i wasn't the one who even initially said he was a one-trick pony, i said his food didn't strike me as particularly cutting edge.
                                                                                                                      b) i *just* said Angelo isn't the only one who sticks to his comfort zone.
                                                                                                                      c) i never lambasted him, i made an observation...which is pretty much the point of these discussions. we're all entitled to our opinions, so why you feel the need to ask everyone to defend theirs when it differs from yours is beyond me. you feel one way, i feel the other, and the Earth continues to spin on its axis.

                                                                                                                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                      Thanks for your analysis.

                                                                                                                      To me, it seems more like 12 out of 21 are clearly "Asian-like" and even there most are what I would consider Asian-fusion. Maybe one or two more I would call Asian-influenced, including that cucumber cup. None are what I would really call Chinese. Amongst the rest would be things like his highly-regarded solo Ethiopian dish and the tomato soup besides the joint dishes you point out. He has usually been OK or good. His two clear failures were his celery+peanut butter thingie (Ick) and that Beef Wellington that people are currently obsessing over. Yes, he's not producing as well as he probably could, as I am glad to see you allow; but neither is he doing the same thing all the time.

                                                                                                                      As for others who keep using a set of skills and styles they are most comfortable with, indeed there have been many as you mention. I wonder if it might be that "Asian flavors" tend to stick out more and get commented on more (rather than "Southern Low Country style/flavors", for example, because the latter merges more with what most of the viewing audience here "knows" and are familiar with whereas the former seems more 'alien' or 'unfamiliar'?

                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                        "I wonder if it might be that "Asian flavors" tend to stick out more and get commented on more (rather than "Southern Low Country style/flavors", for example, because the latter merges more with what most of the viewing audience here "knows" and are familiar with whereas the former seems more 'alien' or 'unfamiliar'?"
                                                                                                                        maybe so. but look at someone like Tiffany, definitely a Southern cook, yet only 3 or 4 of her dishes have been identifiably *Southern* - you can't even count the hominy dish among them because she didn't choose the ingredient, and actually turned it into a fish stew, which is far different from any traditional dish in which you'd see hominy in the South.

                                                                                                                        i guess i just look at Angelo and see *so much* untapped possibility given his background - CIA trained, Dominican and Italian heritage, experience at Italian, Indian and French restaurants...the guy is a walking melting pot, and i'd like to see more evidence of those other influences in his cooking.

                                                                                                                        as i said earlier, he's not necessarily any more guilty of predictability or sameness than the others, everyone just seems to expect more of him.

                                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                          ITA. I expect more of Angelo than the others. He's the only chef that I hold out hope for creating a wow, eye-popping dish, something significantly beyond a mainstream restaurant dish. Though Tiffany has been successful showing off a variety of styles, making it her own, from her tamales to ethiopian.

                                                                                                                2. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                  And in all fairness, if the only thing I knew about Angelo's restaurant is that it's called Xie Xie, I might call his food Chinese too.

                                                                                                                  1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                    take a look at his menu and tell me of someone else doing something similar (particularly in montreal ; ) )

                                                                                                                    1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                      I thought it was located in New York? The menu seems to be an amalgam of tawainese and vietnamese. We actually have quite a few higher end vietnamese and fusion restaurants here in Seattle, so I guess that's why his food doesn't exactly knock my socks off in it's creativity. We also have a couple great Tawainese shops, though I understand ours are nothing compared to the stuff in Vancouver BC and Calfornia.

                                                                                                                      I was just saying that most people would think that a restaurant named after the Mandarin word for "thank you" might assume it's a Chinese restaurant and shouldn't be castigated for doing so.

                                                                                                                      1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                        It is in New York, and we do have a bunch of similar places here -- these Asian-themed sandwich places in particular are very hip here now. That said, I've been to Xie Xie and thought it was quite good, but not crazy amazing (other than the dessert - 1000 year old ice cream sandwich was amazing!). So I simply disagree that his food is on another level, given his peers in Manhattan.

                                                                                                                        But I think Ruth made the real point here best -- clearly there is a big difference between having an unusual or even unique point of view and actually being flexible and able to think outside your own point of view when the moment demands it. He has been mostly very stuck in his one specific corner of cuisine, which in a restaurant concept is good, but on this show has turned into a liability for him.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                          Okay, now I have to know what 1000 year ice cream sandwich is about. EDIT: http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/good_day_n...


                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                            Thanks for the link. I'm fairly disgusted that they're calling it by such a sensational name when it's really just an ice cream sandwich with black caramel sauce inside. Now I don't like Angelo just a little bit more.

                                                                                                                            1. re: guster4lovers

                                                                                                                              It's a poor take-off of "Chinese Thousand Year Old Eggs" ...

                                                                                                                              1. re: guster4lovers

                                                                                                                                " Now I don't like Angelo just a little bit more.

                                                                                                                                BWAH!! Me neither. I think he's a poseur of sorts

                                                                                                                            2. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                              Egg, Bacon & Cheddar Broth
                                                                                                                              Poached Tuna with Fenugreek Broth, Tomatoes, Soy Sauce & Honey
                                                                                                                              Beef Slivers, Jicama-Asian Pear Salad, Mint, Cilantro & Kimchi Vinaigrette
                                                                                                                              Smoky Hominy Grits, Squid, Rockfish Tataki & Passion Fruit Gel
                                                                                                                              Berebere Spiced Dora Wat Chicken with Egg, Mango Yogurt & Mint on Steamed Injera
                                                                                                                              Arctic Char with Pickled Shallots, Chillied Tapioca & Smoked Bacon Froth (Rural Connecticut)
                                                                                                                              Roasted Thigh with Roasted Wing, Curry Onion Jam with Potato Noodles

                                                                                                                              those are just some of angelo's dish. these hardly sound asian to me. perhaps an asian ingredient here or there.

                                                                                                                              this is really a stupid argument. you folks just dont like angelo. there's nothing wrong with his food.

                                                                                                                              just because he made an uninspired beef wellington does not mean he couldn't make a beef wellington

                                                                                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                If he can make an excellent, inspired beef wellington, why didn't he do so?

                                                                                                                                My take on what it takes to win: outstanding (or perhaps, if the competition isn't great, just excellent) effort that also hits the theme spot on.

                                                                                                                                What it takes to avoid going home: a tasty, well-prepared dish (whether or not it hits the theme right on or not).

                                                                                                                                1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                  he had a bad day?

                                                                                                                                  this is getting ridiculous. look at the restaurants angelo has worked at, and you all are going to tell me he is a one trick pony? he isn't even making exclusively asian food. so what exactly is his trick, making the food look beautiful?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                    Agreed, Celfie. The claims to even understand a person's range as a chef based on a television programme let alone a single episode are puzzling (especially in the light of the Richard 'Banana Scallop' Blais love on display).

                                                                                                                                    He may well rely on the sorts of techniques and flavours that he has completely mastered, but that doesn't scream 'one trick pony' to me.

                                                                                                                                    And yes, it really looked as if he were having a bad day. That seemed to be the narrative presented, and based on interviews with former contestants, a bad day can throw a person's performance.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Lizard

                                                                                                                                      If I recall correctly, Jennifer - who came out of the box in Season 6 (Vegas) very strong - had a bad day at about this point in the competition that turned into a loss of self-confidence and a whole lot of bad days that ultimately cost her the competition. Now, were there other strong chefs on that season? Absolutely. But the pressure can make a difference for someone. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

                                                                                                              3. Amanda is hanging on purely because of her looks.

                                                                                                                24 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                  looks? through heavy beer goggles, if at all. I don't see it!

                                                                                                                  1. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                                    she may not be your type, but she is mine! she's a cutie and a hottie at the same time.

                                                                                                                    1. re: skoolpsyk

                                                                                                                      I'm with you skoolpsyk. Even her horrible personality can't change that fact.

                                                                                                                      1. re: donovt

                                                                                                                        Why do you think Top Chef has the intro with Amanda doing the peekaboo thing with her lingerie ...

                                                                                                                        1. re: donovt

                                                                                                                          I think she's a cutie/hottie and I don't mind her personality either. Sticking up for Alex showed some guts.

                                                                                                                          Then again, I also think the quiet Kelly is extremely hot.

                                                                                                                          Cookingwise, though, I hope Tiffany wins. I thought her QF stew looked really good.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Bob W

                                                                                                                            Not a fan of Amanda, definitely of Kelly, very hot and very even keeled personality.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                              ya i find kelly hot too
                                                                                                                              amanda not

                                                                                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                I recall seeing the very first episode this year and thinking I wanst going to like Kelly at all..but she has become my favorite. I think she's adorable.
                                                                                                                                (I wasnt crazy about the salt hording though- not very nice of her really - but I guess we all have our moments)

                                                                                                                            2. re: Bob W

                                                                                                                              Contrast Amanda's peekaboo act in the show intro with Kelly's intro, where she manages to keep her clothes on!

                                                                                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                        She's telegenic - look at how much confessional material they use from her! But she looks like a deer in headlights in the kitchen. She just doesn't seem to be in the same league as the others.

                                                                                                                        1. re: aching

                                                                                                                          hey aching ... wonder who was manning the stove at Water Grill in her absence .. ?

                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                            I'm almost certain she wasn't employed at Water Grill until after taping finished. When the cast was first announced, her bio on the Bravo site listed her profession as "restaurant consultant."


                                                                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                              I'm sure they're managing to get by without her - but I only make it Water Grill about once every two years, so i wouldn't know! =)

                                                                                                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                            Seriously? You really think that's why the judges are keeping her? Not because, perhaps, someone else made a worse dish than hers?

                                                                                                                            Come on.

                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                              I just think she's flying under the radar because she's neither here nor there in terms of personality or talent. She should be next to go. Her exit has been long overdue

                                                                                                                              1. re: HabaneroJane

                                                                                                                                On flying under the radar because she's neither here nor there as it relates to talent, I'll agree. She's nowhere near the best, but say she's there because of her looks is rather ridiculous.

                                                                                                                              2. re: LindaWhit


                                                                                                                                Yes, seriously.

                                                                                                                                Take yesterday's episode.

                                                                                                                                She came out in the bottom on the Quickfire / Mystery Box challenge.

                                                                                                                                Then came the elimination challenge. I think her dish, even by the judges' comments, was probably the worse of the bunch.

                                                                                                                                All three of them, Alex, Amanda and Angelo made dishes that were very good in the "taste" department, but what separated Alex from the other two was that at least he tried to disguis his dish.

                                                                                                                                I know Alex got the boot, but all three judges admitted that of the three bottom feeders, "only" Alex embraced the challenge by trying to disguise his dish.

                                                                                                                                Amanda had French Onion Soup and tried to disguise by ... making soup! Hers was the worst disguise (even Angelo made a feeble attempt to make beef wellington into a "pizza"). Amanda disguised soup, as well, soup. Good cover, there.

                                                                                                                                This is sort of why I was sort of surprised Alex got the boot. Of the three, he atually had the "best" disguise, which sould have saved him because all three of them were equally poor on the "taste" department.

                                                                                                                                But then what do I know, I don't even watch the show serially ... I just caught the farm episode yesterday before watching this one.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                  We only heard a smidge of the judges' comments at JT about all three dishes, we have no idea if hers was "probably the worst of the bunch." However, Alex's veal was inedible.

                                                                                                                                  And according to Eric's video blog, Angelo was dangerously close to going home. Drag over to the 2:00 minute mark on the video here: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...

                                                                                                                                  "Angelo didn't go home because Alex REALLY cooked for us something terrible. In between Angelo and Alex, Angelo was definitely a winner. Alex's dish was borderline inedible. We had a hard time to swallow the first bite, and I don't think anyone went for more than two bites on his dish. That saved Angelo because if not, Angelo would have gone home because using the pastry was definitely a shortcut."

                                                                                                                                  Sorry - just can't believe that Colicchio or Ripert would stand for a "keep the cute one on the show for ratings" push by producers.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                    I really thought Angelo might be going home instead of Alex because at least they respected the way he approached the disguise ( and I loved Ripert's comment that his disguise turned out to be bad execution, funny) but, in the end, it seems the worst sin on TC is to put out bad food and it's clear (the way it was edited anyway) that they were unhappiest with Alex's food.


                                                                                                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                    Nah - there was a really stunning woman a few seasons ago who didnt last long at all...
                                                                                                                                    I guess thats why I dont remember her name...
                                                                                                                                    but she was really hot....

                                                                                                                                    1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                                      Season 3's Camille? She liked to flavor things with tea...

                                                                                                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                      I, for one, thought Alex was going home before they announced it. It just sounded like the judges had a harder time finding anything to enjoy about Alex's dish, regardless of how well he disguised his veal Parmesan.

                                                                                                                                      Reading his recipe, it looks like he cooked his veal (sous vide) to 162.5 F and then seared it. I don't know if he rested it in between, but especially if he didn't that would explain why it was a tough.

                                                                                                                                  3. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                    Looks? hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... I would need beer goggles, too.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                      posing as what? a chef with excellent credentials?

                                                                                                                                  4. i, for one, did not share the alex hate - except for how he treated the staff in restaurant wars. i think he was a capable chef, and one of the few this season willing to step out of his comfort zone and take a chance. i think there will be a lot more dull food from here on out

                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                                                      I agree thew..and I have said the same in a few of my posts..
                                                                                                                                      I still cant get over how many folks accused him of stealing pea puree!

                                                                                                                                    2. I missed the quick fire.Was surprised they were allowed into the CIA to cook.
                                                                                                                                      Don't know how much longer Amanda will be there,nothing striking about her soup.Also, for some strange reason her face looks familiar.Not that I have eaten where she has cooked, but I get the feeling she has been on before, or i saw her on Hell's Kitchen,or maybe it's my imagination.
                                                                                                                                      The reason I think Alex got sent home over Angelo was because the veal was too tough to eat.more than anything else.At least he did try to disguise his dish.
                                                                                                                                      Love Tiffany,glad she won. On the subject of the pea puree.I wonder if one of the chef's made it up and say put it in the fridge. Then he (forgot who it was asked where the puree was at) decided to maybe not use it for their dish.Alex may have thought that well since he ,she or it wasn't going to use the puree I will and went ahead and took it. Later on ,this other chef decided to use it after all, and that's why he asked where it went.
                                                                                                                                      Really have no idea, and there has t be something missing from the pea fiasco episode we didn't see.

                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: HollyDolly

                                                                                                                                        I feel the same way about having seen Amanda before. I think she may look like someone I know and that's why I feel that way when they show her, especially in her interviews with her hair down.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                                                                          IMO, she looks like Leah from Season 5 of Top Chef.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                              Honestly, I'm jealous of her healthy, shiney hair.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Manassas64

                                                                                                                                                No kidding, huh? Would love to have thick hair like hers. I inherited my Mom's thin hair. Bleah.

                                                                                                                                      2. Random thoughts from this week:

                                                                                                                                        Having just watched Michael Voltaggio's video demonstration of the winning dish, i noticed something interesting. Tiffany's deconstructed gyro used charred eggplant in pretty much the exact same way that Ed's winning dish did last week. I wonder if she had just learned that trick from him.

                                                                                                                                        Also, in retrospect I really don't know if Alex was a jerk or simply one of the most wrongly maligned contestants in Top Chef history. Honestly, I was starting to feel bad for hating on him. IF he wasn't a cheat, he sure dealt with his accusers with grace and restraint.

                                                                                                                                        On a similar note, I'm starting to like Amanda more after she pledged her support for Alex. Some of the things that annoyed me about her earlier on have faded. She's out of her league at this point though, but who knows. Pretty much everyone left has shown that they can and do mess up, so she might be able to squeak by Lisa-style (of season 4) all the way to the finals, where of course she wouldn't stand a chance.

                                                                                                                                        Re: pronunciation of gyro... if I went into most gyro shops in Pittsburgh (where I live) and ordered a yee-roh, I would expect some strange looks.

                                                                                                                                        Finally- probably my favorite thing about this season has been Michael Voltaggio's online videos making the winning dishes. He's really good at breaking down complex preparations and making them approachable without watering them down like Fabio did with last season's winners. Michael may say 'basically' every third word, and the videos may be a bit dry, but it's nice to watch what the food network no longer has - good, ambitious recipes and techniques explained to you in detail by a chef who really knows his stuff.

                                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                          Thanks for pointing that video out...If he had his own show, I would definitely watch it!

                                                                                                                                          p.s. Did you see the amount of oil and butter he used? Now I know why restaurant food tastes so great and why I seem to gain weight when I have it too often!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                            Charred eggplant is pretty standard for middle eastern food.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                              I'm not saying it isn't. But that's beside the point. And I didn't mean it as a criticism, btw.

                                                                                                                                              I was just pointing out an instance of the chef-testants seeming to be at least inspired by each other if not learning from each other during the competition. Neither one seems to specialize in middle eastern food. Tiffany may have been familiar with the technique before Ed used it last week, and she may not have been -- the point was just that it was interesting that two winning dishes in a row by two different chefs used the same somewhat esoteric technique.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                I watched the 7 most recent videos last night where you see each component of the winning dish, and you are right. It felt like I was watching the same thing over and over because the ingredients/techniques were the same as the previous. I saw a bit too much of the charred eggplant and the fennel/red onioin/radish slaw.

                                                                                                                                                Also, the way that Michael demonstrated the pea puree, it looked like it would take about an hour. So Alex could have definitely made the pea puree the day of the challenge.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                  Charred eggplant=this year's scallops?

                                                                                                                                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                  See, I don't think it's an esoteric technique. And it's not as if she chose to make it out of all the possible world of things to make -- she was supposed to make gyros, and baba ganoush is a typical accompaniment to gyros. It might have been more noteworthy if she hadn't made it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                    It's esoteric enough for the sake of the conversation - I can't recall charred eggplant coming up in another Top Chef recipe (although Kenny made some sort of eggplant that won an earlier elimination challenge - maybe eggplant really is this season's scallop).

                                                                                                                                                    Babaganoush wasn't much of a stretch to serve on a gyro plate, but i don't think it was obligatory either, especially given the nature of this challenge. Just because you deconstruct meatloaf doesn't mean you absolutely have to make mashed potatoes with it.

                                                                                                                                                    Seeing her familiarity with the spice profile of gyro meat, it was probably wrong of me to wonder whether Tiffany was familiar with using charred eggplant this way in middle eastern cooking. Still, I don't see the harm in wondering whether she'd have done the same if her closest ally in the competition hadn't left it fresh in her mind from the previous challenge. There were a lot of ways that dish could have been conceptualized.

                                                                                                                                                    If nothing else, I think it qualifies as an interesting coincidence.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                      It's possible she got the idea from what he did, even if she had done it frequently in the past. How many times have you (general you) gotten an idea or craving from someone here for something you make all the time and make it for your next meal? We get ideas from many sources, whether it's conscious or not.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                    Just because he made it first doesn't mean that Ed originated the idea. We don't know if Tiff planted the suggestion in Ed's mind in the first place...off-camera.

                                                                                                                                                    When I watch Top Chef, I always try to remind myself that we are only seeing a tiny bit of the interaction. Some of the comments here make me think that many people forget that fact!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: chrisonli

                                                                                                                                                      Also entirely possible. No way for us to know at this point.

                                                                                                                                                      I want to stress again that I never meant it as a criticism of either chef to speculate whether they were influencing each other. In an environment like Top Chef, I think you're a bit of a fool if you don't let the knowledge and skill of all those talented chefs influence you in one way or another. Example - the beloved Kevin Gillespie won the Bocuse D'or challenge last season with a sous vide preparation after Brian V walked him through the technique... and that's a good thing. Sous vide is great technique and someone as creative and talented as Kevin could surely find some excellent uses for it should he chose to.

                                                                                                                                              2. Questions for veteran TC fans: I'm new to TC this season, and only started watching mid-season (the episode where they cooked and served on the farm), so, I'm curious about a couple of logistical things:

                                                                                                                                                1) JT--it seems to me that the first people the judges ask to see are always the winners. Then, they send the smiling winners in to ask for the losers. But the winners always look so somber and uncertain when their names are called until Padma says "Yours were our top dishes" or whatever. Why do the winners not seem more excited when their names are called? I mean, if Padma came in and asked for the top 3 losers the same way she did with the winners, and they mixed it up where sometimes she asked for the losers first and so on, I could understand the uncertainty, but the formula seems so clear: Padma asks for the winners, the winners ask for the losers. Is there something going on I'm missing?

                                                                                                                                                2) Over what period of time are they taping these shows? How can so many of these chefs be away from their restaurants for such an extended period of time? If there are, say, 14 episodes, are they doing the taping on back to back days of intense taping, say,2 weeks?

                                                                                                                                                Thanks! Sorry if these are dumb.


                                                                                                                                                18 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                  totally agree with you on the "no surprise what it means to be called first". I wonder if it's just that it might be bad luck to assume it, if they switch it around some day.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                    It's also possible that they do call them in different orders and then edit the order later for the actual show. Judges table takes several hours -- who knows how much shuffling back and forth they do during that time.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                      True, but they seem to always have the winners ask for the losers...so, that seems to be the giveaway to me. Or is that not really the case?


                                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                        They do, but I still imagine there might actually be multiple trips to judges table to discuss their dishes for various groups that are then edited into a sequence.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                          That seems like a logical explanation.


                                                                                                                                                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                    I remember that they changed it up once. I don't remember the season but they did call out the worst dishes early at least once.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                                        actually, it was *this* season...maybe Episode 2? i was so excited that they FINALLY changed it up, and of course they haven't done it again since then!

                                                                                                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                        They have called in the losers once or twice FIRST (including this season). It was interesting to watch those left in the Stew Room - they were STUNNED that they were there, thinking they were on the bottom, when they were actually some of the winners.

                                                                                                                                                        The main episodes are filmed over a period of 30 days, IIRC (per several times Tom Colicchio has mentioned it on his blog), so they have to leave for at least that amount of time (they get sequestered in a "kicked off house/apt." until the final 3 or 4). Then they go home for a month or two and come back for a 2- or 3-day finale film, which is done very close to the actual airing - and ALL cheftestants (I think) come back for the finale, even if they aren't cooking as sous chefs for the finalists. Just to keep things as undercover as possible.

                                                                                                                                                        If the cheftestants aren't chef-owners, I'd say that most owners will be glad for the resulting publicity (although that could backfire depending on how a cheftestant does, I suppose!), so as long as the restaurant has a good sous chef to take over, they're able to manage.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                          Ah, okay, thank you for filling me in, everyone!


                                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                            TDQ, i just want to point out that those of us who have been watching since the inception of the show have all concluded that this is the *worst* TC season ever, so if you're not loving it, don't give up just yet...hopefully Season 8 will be better!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                              Hmmm....."worst" is perhaps not the best word, at least for me. "Boring" fits the TC7 season, however.

                                                                                                                                                              TC2, despite the asshattiness of Marcel and Ilan, had GOOD COOKING. And Sam Talbot, of course. :-) And TC5, with the Hosea/Leah showmance, had the "fun" teasing with Stefan and Jamie, and Carla and Fabio.

                                                                                                                                                              I'm just not seeing the fun, or the superb cooking we've seen on past seasons.......OK. I stand corrected. It's the worst season. :-)

                                                                                                                                                              I did figure that there was going to be no way they could sustain the high of TC6's season. There was bound to be a bit of a slip. I just didn't think that the slip was going to be into a crevass hundreds of feet deep, with no way out.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                I really didn't see the cooking in season 2 as very strong. I mean Sam had some moments, and Ilan was able to pull (err.. rip) off some competent bu minimally creative Spanish flavors, but I don't think the season 2 cooks were any better than the season 7 cooks. Probably a bit worse on average.

                                                                                                                                                                At this point in that season, Betty 'What's a Chinois?' Fraser was just eliminated, Michael 'Fry Cook' Midgley was still around, and Marcel had yet to make a single impressive dish (though he did later in the competition). Seriously, the highpoint of restaurant wars that season was a vegetable tempura served with cornichon mayo. Sam was really the only saving grace for season 2's cooking talent, especially by a comparable point in the season.

                                                                                                                                                                I think season 2 just seemed better at the time because season 3 hadn't yet raised the bar, whereas this season seems worse because last season set the bar too high.

                                                                                                                                                                I agree though that this season has not been as much fun to watch. For me, worst season to watch is a toss up between this one and season 5.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                  i agree with you that expectations might not have been as high for Season 2, so it's all relative, in a way. but i still thought Marcel had some skills even though i couldn't stand his personality, and Elia, Sam, and Cliff were all talented.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                    Fair enough. Arguing who's best is all pretty subjective anyway. And there have been talented chefs on every season - the Top Chef challenges surely look easier from my vantage point on the couch than they are in a real kitchen with time constraints and pressure.

                                                                                                                                                                    I actually was quite impressed with a couple of Marcel's dishes, though if I remember, he didn't make those impressive dishes until the last few episodes of the season. Elia and Cliff were probably decent chefs, though none of their dishes stand out in my memory. Still, I got the impression that the season 2 crop were less experienced, well rounded, and skillful than this crowd.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                      "Still, I got the impression that the season 2 crop were less experienced, well rounded, and skillful than this crowd."
                                                                                                                                                                      agreed. there was actually some press and quite a bit of speculation about the possibility that the producers and casting people started looking for higher-caliber applicants after season 2, apparently seeking out and recruiting some chefs to audition for the show based on their reputations.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                  I know I am going to get slammed for this -
                                                                                                                                                                  But Last season for me - was the most boring..
                                                                                                                                                                  I hated the Vegas scene, and I was completely bored byt the chefs personalities last year.
                                                                                                                                                                  Since I am not actually eating the food, I do like a bit of entertainment otherwise.

                                                                                                                                                                  Thisd is my personal opinion and I can understand people not agreeing with me.
                                                                                                                                                                  As far as the food - i still find what the chefs are making to be exciting and interesting.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                            They have switched the winners/losers at JT once during TC history. And when you have team competitions, there have been at least one instance where the first team they called in were not the winners because no team performed well enough to win.

                                                                                                                                                            The taping takes about 5 weeks. Yeah, it's probably tough for a lot of them to be away for such a long time. They are hoping that they do well enough on the show that it will open up doors for them (like it did for quite a few contestants).

                                                                                                                                                          3. I thought this was a great episode! So on board with the Tiffany love, and glad she won both last night! I agree that her attitude towards the other contestants is great, and I think she's playing the game really well! :)
                                                                                                                                                            I am glad to see Alex (meerkat man) go. I think he had too many failures, his approach was not very organized. I laughed when Wylie said something about his great plan in the QF, since Alex said he was just throwin stuff together and hoping it worked!
                                                                                                                                                            ITA that Amanda is out of her league, did you see how shocked she looked when they said her marmalade was WAY to sweet? well, she said she was caramelizing her onions with maple syrup... seems way to sweet to me. :\

                                                                                                                                                            12 Replies
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                                              I'm finding Amanda's stock reply to most criticism is to look shocked.....how could they *not* like her food??? :-O Only when she knows she really messed up does she acknowledge it.

                                                                                                                                                              She may have some talent (i.e. sauces) but her overall execution doesn't impress me. I'd be surprised if she makes it through the next EC. She is clearly the weakest one left now that Alex is gone.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Dee S

                                                                                                                                                                i think tiffany is out of her league too
                                                                                                                                                                she's only winning because she is putting out solid but uninspired food which compared to the others was better. her dishes would likely be unmemorable on season 6

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                  I have to disagree that tiffany is out of her league. Angelo might be more talented and creative (though possibly less consistent). But of the other chefs, who has a leg up on her at all?

                                                                                                                                                                  Kevin seems to have some technical skill, but hasn't really made anything mind-blowing and is prone to lapses of judgment and flavor. Ed and Tiffany seem to have a similar style of cooking and skill level, but Ed doesn't draw as heavily or widely from other food cultures and as such sometimes seems to lack flavor and variety. Amanda is clearly less consistent and skillful than Tiffany. Kelly is talented but less varied than Tiffany.

                                                                                                                                                                  The statement about season 6 is probably true but sort of unfair - previous winners of all other seasons would have been unmemorable on season 6. That cast simply had the four best contestants that Top Chef has seen all competing against each other on the same season.

                                                                                                                                                                  Having looked at various winning recipes from this season, I don't think these guys are as bad as most chowhound-ers are giving them credit for. It's true that many of the losing dishes seem to have been particularly uninspired, but the winning dishes have shown skill in line with the caliber of chefs from the first 5 seasons. Season 6 just raised the bar unrealistically high.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                      'The statement about season 6 is probably true but sort of unfair - previous winners of all other seasons would have been unmemorable on season 6. That cast simply had the four best contestants that Top Chef has seen all competing against each other on the same season.'

                                                                                                                                                                      I'd agree that Ilan, Hosea and maybe even Stefanie would have been out of their league on Season 6. But I have faith that Harold, Hung and Richard Blais (though he didn't win) would have been able to make quite an impact on Season 6. Would they have beat out Michael Voltaggio? Probably not.

                                                                                                                                                                      But did I hear somewhere that there was some serious talent-scouting and recruitment for Season 6? And that's why they ended up with so much talent? Perhaps because they didn't want to embarrass themselves for the Bocuse d'Or challenge?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                        I'll have to respectfully disagree, soy. I love debating this kind of thing, so I hope you are not offended on the behalf of the chefs you named. Most of what I'm basing my opinions off of is the recipes that bravo has put on their site or otherwise published.

                                                                                                                                                                        Personally, I think Harold would have been an also-ran on season 6, a less abrasive Mike I (who was no slouch as a cook, btw). He executed fairly classical preparations well, but that's about it. His 2 best dishes of the season were:
                                                                                                                                                                        1) steamed red snapper with squash puree and rock shrimp. And...
                                                                                                                                                                        2) kobe loin with braised kobe shortribs and creamy polenta
                                                                                                                                                                        I'm sure they were fine dishes, but you don't have to be Thomas Keller to conceive of and execute them.

                                                                                                                                                                        Richard Blais was fun to watch. He was very technique-forward, like the Voltaggios. But I don't think Blais had the talent beyond his techniques - the recipes for a lot of his dishes seem under-adorned, lacking in subtleties to me. He was, in my mind, like a great painter with a limited palette. His techniques were too at the forefront of his cooking, rather than supportive of it. A good chef, but not of Jennifer Carols caliber.

                                                                                                                                                                        Hung was maybe my favorite of the chefs you listed. His sous vide duck with truffle broth and his black chicken with geoduck were really amazing recipes. The problem is that most of his dishes in between the first and last episodes of that season were distinctly lower key and more inconsistent. I would have liked to see what Hung would have done if thrown in with a higher level of competition, but based on the majority of dishes he actually made, I doubt he would have been in the final 4 of season 6.

                                                                                                                                                                        I should note that I think Stephan (season 5) deserves mention with the 3 above chefs, though he wasn't any better.

                                                                                                                                                                        Now compare Jennifer, probably the weakest of season 6's finalists. She had been the sous chef at the freaking Le Bernardin. She pulled off dishes in quickfires that would rival the best elimination challenge dishes of the chefs listed above (her calamari, scallops, and salmon roulade). And she was sent home for a series of well conceived ambitious dishes that suffered from, in the words of Tom Coliccio, 'a few extra pinches of salt.' I really think you could have dropped her in any other season and watch her run away with it.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                          Oh, Season 6 - sigh. I miss you, Kevin Gillespie!

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: soypower


                                                                                                                                                                          I'm not sure why the talent in seaon 6 was so high, and I'm sure recruitment had something to do with it. However, I'd point out that some of this season's chef's had resumes just about as impressive as last season - Andrea was a 'food and wine' best new chef, Kelly was a James beard award semi-finallist, Angelo has put in time at some truly world class kitchens, and most of the chefs run their own restaurant, unlike some of the early seasons.

                                                                                                                                                                          There's a gulf between being a great chef and being a great cook (especially for a short-notice contest like this). How well you can cook on short notice is more important for success in Top Chef than how good a chef you are. The skills are related, but different. And I suspect it's quite hard to predict how good someone will be at Top Chef style challenges until they start competing in them. In other words, for season 6 the show got lucky.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                            Obviously, I love debating this thing too...Your points are well taken. I remember whenever I heard the credentials of the season 6 chefs, I kept thinking, 'aren't you already a top chef if you've been awarded a michelin star (M. Voltaggio) or won a james beard award (Kevin)?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                              I suspect that the casting of Season 6 was also a reaction to the disappointing Season 5. I know I certainly didn't think Hosea was at the same level of other winners (in fact, I think he mostly won because of lack of confidence on the part of Carla leading her to take too much of her sous-chef's advice). I'm sure they felt that to maintain its audience, the show needed to recruit really top end participants.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: eoj

                                                                                                                                                                                The thing is, I think Stefan is about as good as any contestant in any season - I honestly think he could rise to the level of the Voltaggio brothers if he had been cast with them. However, when he saw his main competition as Hosea, who is almost mediocre, but not quite good enough to merit the title of mediocre, he got lazy and complacent. That lost him the competition - as he always said, it was his competition to lose. I do remember Toby Young passionately defending Stefan and saying that he had argued that since the final meal was of similar quality (between S & H), they should consider the whole season, and thus award it to Stefan.

                                                                                                                                                                                I do think that Carla AND Fabio also should have been able to beat Hosea.

                                                                                                                                                                                Sorry, but Hosea really pissed me off.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Dee S

                                                                                                                                                                        that look of "duh" on Amanda's face really cracks me up...every time they tell her she sux I can almost see the hamster in her head spinning on a wheel

                                                                                                                                                                    2. So there haven't been many comments about the disguises used in this challenge. Was anyone else super-disappointed with the way most contestants seemed not to go the extra mile in the disguise piece? I was picturing super-creativity a la Blais's Perplexed Tofu and was totally let down by the results -- only Tiffany reconceptualizing gyro as a steak and Alex making veal parmesan ravioli worked for me.

                                                                                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                                                                        I was also disappointed, and I would have loved to see the creativity like Blais' tofu. Part of me is still surprised that Amanda didn't go home for turning soup into soup, especially since I thought the marmalade was a good idea. I didn't think that Tiffany's was all that creative, it is something I've done myself at home. I thought Alex was a little creative and so was Kelly. I've thought about it, and I have no idea what I would have made. I am especially stuck on the Cobb Salad. What about you? Have you come up with any good ideas/disguises?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lizzy

                                                                                                                                                                          I also thought that Cobb Salad would have been the toughest to disguise. But, what about Cobb Salad spring rolls?

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                            Or lettuce wraps with a blue cheese dressing. Maybe cook the center of ham, turkey, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                              i was thinking it would be interesting to reinvent beef wellington into some kind of explode in your mouth dumpling.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: celfie

                                                                                                                                                                                That's what I was thinking for the french onion soup. She could've made a soup dumpling, with a little bit of cheese inside,

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                  I think both the lettuce wraps and the spring rolls are good ideas.

                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: Adrienne

                                                                                                                                                                              I think the skilletdeux blogger hit it with "Biggest. Missed. Opportunity. Ever." He suggested disguising the classics as other dishes, e.g., making a veal parm in a soup crock with the melty cheese on top so it looks like french onion soup, etc. Cobb Salad spring rolls sound good to me, or maybe Cobb Salad tacos? Wrapping cordon bleu in a puff pastry so it looks like beef wellington? Blais would have run away with this challenge. Wish he was blogging this season.

                                                                                                                                                                            3. Kevin and his constant talking behind peoples back, about other people (mainly Angelo) is really irritating. Talk about a jealous loser..

                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: duckdown

                                                                                                                                                                                If you're talking about the interview segments, then you need to realize those comments are being prompted by (unheard by the viewer) questions from the production staff. They routinely ask the contestants their opinions about the other contestants and then edit the answers to look like they're talking smack or being arrogant.