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Top Chef All-Stars - Ep. #8 - 02/02/11 (Spoilers)

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Ya know, shoveling is for the birds! I'm pooped after shoveling and chipping ice off the driveway all day! But it's Top Chef night - and we were sans TC last week, AND I still have electrical power. So onward. :-)

The bar scene after last week's competition - Mike reiterates that he wasn't going to let Marcel get away with pulling out details about problems with service, so he piped up. Antonia says that there's a list of people she wants to go home, and Mike is at the top of her list!

For this QuickFire, the cheftestants' plating and presentation skills will be on display. Isaac Mizrahi is guest judge. When he sees Mizrahi, Fabio says he's thinking "Oh no! I think he going to say 'Chefs - you going to make a great dish - and I will have to wear it!'" LOL

The Quickfire is all about Inspiration - plate's presentation, per Padma, is designed to attract the palate. As such - she and Isaac will be judging on the plating only - they *will not* be tasting it!

During the cooking, Blais says many of the chefs seem to have problems with the fact that the judges aren't going to be tasting. But he knows Mizrahi wears black a lot, so he's making a black ice cream.

Antonia isn't cooking anything - it seems she's using all raw foods.

Per Fabio, Angelo's dish looks like a bag of vomit. Tee hee! It really does look kinda gross - and he writes "Crocodile" across his table. And then tells Mizrahi that his favorite designer is Roberto Cavalli. Nice way to suck up to the guest judge, Angelo. NOT!

OK - for judging, lots of the plates LOOKED beautiful, but would you want to eat them? Mizrahi did NOT like Dale's dish at all. Dale says he doesn't care what a fashion designer thinks about his food. MEOW!!! Mizrahi also really disliked Angelo's dish and writing on the table was completely unnecessary.

Bottom group - Dale, Tre and Angelo
Top group - Fabio, Carol and Richard

And Richard wins, and gets immunity!

For the Elimination, they will have to create a traditional 3-course Italian meal. They draw knives - Frankie No, Junior, and Dino the Chef. They bring in Frankie Pellegrino, owner of Rao's, his son, Frankie Jr., and Dino, the Exec Chef @ Rao's.

Frankie Team - Antonia, Carla, and Tiffany - Antipasti/Appetizer course
Junior Team - Dale, Tre and Mike - Primi/Pasta course
Dino Team - Richard, Fabio and Angelo - Secondi/Meat course

They will be judged on their *individual* dish, although they'll be cooking within their course. They have several hours to prep, and then they head over to Rao's to finish cooking and plate and serve.

Antonia, Carla and Tiffany are up first with their Antipasti. And the three women all seem to be working well together - all of a sudden, Tiffany's polenta is burning on the tray!

Guest judges? Designer Isaac Mizrahi and actress Lorraine Bracco - she's a repeat guest judge from many seasons past! Joe, the GM of Rao's, Nicky, the bartender at Rao's, and someone else from Rao's NY (sorry fella, didn't catch your name! LOL) Bracco talks about coming to Rao's the first time with Joe Pesci when they were studying to film Goodfellas.

Carla's soup gets called "something you can get in Wisconsin" by the Rao's GM. Ouch! Tiffany's polenta seems to go over VERY well. Antonia's mussels were VERY well received as well - no one had a bad comment. And it looks like they all three got the "family style" idea.

Next up - Primi course - Dale, Tre and Mike are cooking. And upon bringing the dishes to the table, I have to say Dale's dish looks WONDERFUL! But it doesn't get good reviews - no sauce, and Bourdain says "someone in the Witness Protection Program is eating this right now".

Tre's risotto also didn't do well. Rut-roh! Meanwhile, Angelo, Fabio and Richard are in the kitchen cooking. And Mike's pasta is now reviewed. It was the LEAST pleasing of the three, according to one of the Rao group - his pasta wasn't just al dente, it was way undercooked!

Blais has said he always thinks that Fabio's not going to make it in finishing his dish in time, but at the end, he said "Fabio's a magician - he pulls a rabbit out of his hat and Whoop! He's done!"

Angelo's pork chop is swimming in sauce, and Nicky the Bartender says you're full by eating all of the garnish before the pork. Fabio's pan-fried polenta gets rave reviews from the Rao's group, and Blais's cacciatore dish also gets good reviews.

In the in-between, Mike shows the cheftestants how to make gnocchi in Top Chef University (back at the house). Antonia seems impressed that he's hand-cutting them vs. using a gnocchi (cutter?), but tells him to not let it go to his head. Then Angelo walks in and asks "What's burning?" LOL

So who's in the bottom? I'm thinking Angelo, Mike and probably Tre. And the top, I'm thinking maybe Fabio, Antonia, and maybe Richard?

Padma comes into the Stew Room, and asks to see Antonia, Carla, Fabio and Tiffany. After they leave, Richard asks "Have they ever called the bottom group 2x in a row?" Dale replies "It's All-Stars - they can do whatever they want!"

And they ARE the top group! Carla's soup was well liked by Lorraine Bracco, despite the dislike from the Rao GM. :-) And Antonia wins! Now her father won't be disappointed in her! Fabio's pissed off, saying he made the most traditional dish, and Antonia beat him with a "French dish." And when they go back into the Stew Room, Mike says "I'm surprised that Antonia won - she did just steam some mussels." Ouchie.

The bottom group is Mike, Dale and Tre...all from the second course. Mike knew he'd be there because of the undercooked pasta. Bourdain said if he had used pasta from a box, he wouldn't be there - and Mike said he had thought about it. REALLY? You KNOW the judges would have called him out for using a boxed pasta!

Dale's dish was faulted for no sauce, and they didn't seem to like the pasta either. Tre's risotto was made stiffer than the way it should be - it wasn't creamy enough. Tom Colicchio said when it's spooned onto a plate, it's supposed to spread out. And Bourdain said that it was buried in garnish.

Tom said back at Judge's Table, good Italian food should be simple. And THAT is probably why Antonia won! I'm thinking it's going to be Mike going home....or Tre. I really hope it's not Tre *or* Dale. And MAYBE, just MAYBE - the Elves gave us a hint at the beginning of the show with Antonia saying Mike's at the top of her list to go home...and SHE won - so maybe Mike's going home? LOL

OK, we're back at Judge's Table. Tom tells Mike the sauce was fine; but the pasta wasn't good. Tre's rice wasn't good either, and Dale's pasta wasn't good. Yowch.

DAMMIT! Tre's gone. Shoot, shoot, shoot! I was so hoping he'd stay longer.

And next week, looks like Jimmy Fallon's the Guest Judge - THAT ought to be fun, based on the previews!

Well, that's all she wrote, boys and girls. It's time for Linda to go sleepies. :-) See ya next week, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel. (Actually, I'll see you tomorrow morning after reading what everyone else writes!)

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  1. Lorraine Bracco is the Paula Abdul of Top Chef IMO. I'm always like wow WTF is she on...look back on her other appearances I swear.

    5 Replies
    1. re: chris2269

      i agree with that.

      but this was a good episode i thought! lots of dishes that id love to try!

      1. re: chris2269

        I think that's just the way she is. If you ever saw her on The Sopranos, she was almost always very laid back in her demeanor.

        1. re: LindaWhit

          With all respect Linda, her laid back demeanor on The Sopranos is just acting. Check her out in Goodfellas when she has a gun to Henry Hill's head, (Ray Liotta.), or when she's screaming and leaning on the buzzer of Henry's girlfriend as in, "Mr. Superintdent, you have a whore living in 3r, Janice Rossi..."). I like her as a judge, she adds an Italian slant to home cooking. I'm a big Lorraine Bracco fan. I don't get the comparisons to Paula Abdul because I don't watch Idol.

        2. re: chris2269

          she always seems drunk to me. nothing to do with her acting skills in her movies - she just seems a bit brassy on the show. have always liked her acting, on Goodfellas and Sopranos.

          1. re: mariacarmen

            Yep.

            She seemed toasted last night

        3. Hmm...sad to see Tre go. Would have liked to have seen Mike, out of that group of three, go.

          Glad they judged individually rather than by "team".

          But overall...

          Kind of bored by this episode. Or, perhaps more accurately, really bored by this episode.

          1. I loved how often the guests used the phrase "Italian food is all about simple ingredients...letting the ingredients shine". You can replace the word "Italian" with virtually every other cuisine. Such a throwaway sentence.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ooroger

              I thought so, too. And they said it like 10 times.

              1. re: ooroger

                You never hear anybody describing a cuisine as "indifferent to ingredients." That said, I think the "simple ingredients" catchphrase is really code for "not French" and "not requiring refined technique."

                But then, what was Trey ousted for, if not lack of technique? Nevermind. It's all B.S.

                1. re: LaPomme

                  Actually, French cuisine can be "simple," depending on the region.

                  And while every cuisine is about the ingredients, if you think about it, many Asian cuisines use long lists of spices and ingredients and layered flavours, so they're not quite so simple. Maybe that's what they meant?

              2. I'm glad that you have power and were able to do the recap after two weeks off!

                On the QF, I agree that Angelo's dish did not look attractive. Plus he spelled it "Crocadile". I'm with Fabio on this one--it's pretty silly to just judge a dish on its attractiveness and not even check that it's edible.

                1. This is one of those episodes that leaves me scratching my head.

                  For the winning dish, Antonia gets the nod for mussels in a broth. Huh? I'm not a chef but like to cook and yet I avoided mussels for years, thinking they'd be complicated. It turns out they are simple to make. The mussels part it easy (if you can source them fresh)... and the sauces/broth part is limitless. Fabio (and the rest) were rightfully irritated. He, for example, cooked a much more involved 2-part course. Simplicity is nice, but you shouldn't win a chef's competition by hitting a bunt.

                  Likewise, I don't get the judge's hate for Mike's dish. Yes, he's an annoying personality. But he actually attempted fresh pasta. Maybe he failed. Maybe it didn't work. But there were several comments that implied he'd be smarter if he cooked the boxed stuff. What?

                  To me, this episode seemed to reward non-creative food and penalized attempts at creativity/authenticity. Strange.

                  173 Replies
                  1. re: tastyjon

                    I disagree, moules/frites are a Last Supper meal for me and I have mussels almost everywhere I go that serves them (and I make them). There are vast differences in the bowls of mussels that one gets when ordering out. Some are a miracle in a bowl and some ruin your day. To make them that well, to impress that panel, I say "Bravo Antonia!" And if that edit was accurate how classless was it for the guys not to congratulate her?
                    One more thing; what was that designer on? How in the world did Fabio's plate get in the top 3? I thought Carla's was by far the best of the quickfire.

                    1. re: tofuburrito

                      What about Fabio's complaint that steamed mussles, moules as you wrote, is actually French? I agree with Tastyjon that any competent chef should be able to make some mussels. Apparently the other chefs feel the same way - too shocked to give her much credit.

                      I thought Richard really nailed the QF because he paid attention to who his target is, i.e., a guy who wears black all the time.

                      1. re: tofuburrito

                        She didn't make moules frites. She made moules. That's it. Steam them for 2 minutes with butter, shallots and wine (+ whatever) and that's a fine dish. I agree its often a wonderful meal, but I don't get how the win celebrated her uniqueness. What was her signature spin? Did she do anything that made them her own brand? Are you rushing out to find her unique twist?

                        That's my point. She won with a dish that's likely been done a 1,000 times before by a 1,000 chefs. They rewarded sameness. That was the strange theme of this show. Usually one is rewarded for creativity and ambition, but this episode seemed to reward one for being safe and meeting expectations. Meanwhile the folks who tried to make fresh food from scratch were chided for not buying dried, pre-made basics. Blah.

                        It celebrated karaoke. Even more, it suggested taking short cuts and being content with mass produced products.

                        I'd hate to say it but maybe "Top Chef" has jumped the shark,

                        1. re: tastyjon

                          I'm aware she didn't make frites, I was just mentioning something I like, sorry for straying. Are mussels specifically French? There are several recipes that include mussels in the Mario Batalli cookbook I have. Not being an expert on Italian cooking, I don't know how prevalent they are or if they are region specific but it seems just about every country with a coastline eats mussels.
                          As for Fabio and Mike dismissing Antonia's cooking; when did chicken cacciatore and fresh pasta become rocket science? I've made both and they don't seem any more complicated than steamed mussels to me.

                          1. re: tofuburrito

                            Antonia even said that mussels were something she liked to order at Italian restaurants. I've found them on many menus IN Italy.

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              I've found Chinese food in Italy, does that make them Italian?

                              1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                Are you saying that people in Italy never ate mussels until they were brought in by people from somewhere else?

                                1. re: tofuburrito

                                  Mussels (cozze) are eaten everywhere there's a coastline. They're French, Belgian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and probably a whole lot more. I have recipes from all these genres in my recipe file.

                                  I'm a mussel lover, and prepare them often in many different ways. Some preps are very similar. But then, Provence used to be part of Italy, and Liguria used to be part of Provence.

                                  1. re: tofuburrito

                                    I didn't say that. I'm looking for educated reasons as to why Fabio is right or wrong.

                                    1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                      In reference to Fabio's dismissal of Antonia's dish as being French, Bourdain (in his blog) recommended that Fabio take a trip to Sicily.
                                      I assume this is what you're talking about but I'm not really sure. You (on Fabio's behalf) seem to be questioning whether mussels are an authentic element in Italian cooking. Although I think Fabio was questioning the use of fennel. Again, going to a Mario Batalli cook book, I see plenty of recipes with fennel. So I don't really get the authenticity argument.

                                      1. re: tofuburrito

                                        I thought Fabio was referring to the steamed mussels with fennel as a French dish but I don't really know for sure. Is it possible that Fabio doesn't consider Sicily a part of Italy? I know Sicily is geographically a part of Italy but I don't know what the Italians think of Sicilians.

                                        As for Batali, you're citing a guy who is American. Doesn't mean you're wrong or Batali's wrong - just want to understand whether Fabio had a legit gripe.

                                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                          Just had a look at the recipes and found it interesting that Fabio used Shitake mushrooms in his dish.

                                    2. re: tofuburrito

                                      Italians never ate pasta until it was brought in by Marco Polo from somewhere else.

                                      1. re: chicgail

                                        <Italians never ate pasta until it was brought in by Marco Polo from somewhere else.>

                                        That is SO not true. I can't believe you are resurrecting that old myth. there's not enough room here to cite the food history to disprove you, but you really ought to already KNOW that.

                                        1. re: ChefJune

                                          Ok, but Italians didn't have tomatoes until sometime in the 16th century.

                                        2. re: chicgail

                                          That's been greatly disproved. Pasta was in Italy for centuries before Marco Polo. I've been reading the Encyclopedia of Pasta and there is large source list for reading up on the subject in it.

                                          1. re: gastrotect

                                            Yowsa, folks. I stand corrected, my head bowed in shame. I am newly informed of this.

                                      2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                        Uh, yeah, WWD, that's what i was saying. i can't tell the difference between chinese food and italian food if i eat it in Italy.

                                        mussels aren't Italian. they are just mussels. there some preparations for mussels that are more typically italian, or more typically chinese, or more typically french.

                                        1. re: mariacarmen

                                          This eating Chinese food in Italy analogy doesn't make any sense to me. Mussels are used in some regions of traditional Italian cooking because Italy has coastlines that include mussels. Fennel grows in Italy and presumably has for a long time so one would expect to see it used in Italian cooking in the regions where it grows. Using two native ingredients in a dish makes sense when asked to prepare a dish from that region. Why is that such an issue?
                                          If you say mussels aren't Italian you would have to apply that to every ingredient, nothing is Italian, it's just food. No one said mussels were Italian exclusive.

                                          1. re: tofuburrito

                                            i don't think you meant this to me - it was WWD's analogy. I disagree with it too.

                                          2. re: mariacarmen

                                            "Antonia even said that mussels were something she liked to order at Italian restaurants. I've found them on many menus IN Italy."
                                            ***
                                            That implies that because you've seen them on menus in Italy, the dish must be Italian. What if I say I've seen beef and broccoli in Italy, that dish must be Italian? My point is that seeing somethin on menus in Italy proves nothing. My question has always been does Fabio have a legit gripe. I'm looking for educated answers, with documentation, not guesswork simply because there're mussels and fennels in Italy. There're mussels and fennel in China too but they they put them together in a steamed dish.

                                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                              broccoli and beef, by themselves, are not italian or chinese. it is the PREP that makes them into some ethnicity, if at all. I was talking about the preparation of a dish, not the ingredients themselves.

                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                broccoli and beef, by themselves, are not italian or chinese. it is the PREP that makes them into some ethnicity, if at all. I was talking about the preparation of a dish, not the ingredients themselves.
                                                -----
                                                That wasn't what you wrote. In any case, you don't seem to know anything about Italian mussel dishes.

                                              2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                Fennel may be available in China but it is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean.
                                                I think you can infer if someone say's they found mussels and/or fennel on menus in Italy they are referring to restaurants that serve local cuisine, not a Chinese restaurant in Italy.
                                                If Bourdain & Ripert saying Fabio is wrong, the judges not questioning the appropriateness of the dish and similar recipes being found in Mario's book on Italian cooking isn't enough for you, you'll have to dig up your own evidence.

                                                1. re: tofuburrito

                                                  @ tofuburrito regarding Fabio's comment about Antonia's mussels dish not being Italian in nature:

                                                  Have a look at larkinaita's post just below:
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7636...

                                                  You might also be interested in what alidrum had to say further below:
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7636...
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7636...
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7636...

                                                  Cheers. :-)

                                                2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                  Fabio has a very legitimate gripe. Of course mussels are found anywhere there's a coast, but Antonia's preparation was NOT Italian. Although someone will say that butter is used in Northern Italian cooking (for sauteeing meats, for making risottos, etc.), butter is NOT used for seafood. I lived in Italy for 5 years, my husband is Italian, and I learned to cook from my Italian mother-in-law, and I can tell you that the GOBS of butter she was adding to the pan as the mussels were opening would send chills down an Italian's spine. I haven't read Bourdain's blog, and of course you can find mussels in Sicily, but in butter like that? no. (And, as an aside, Bourdain may know everything about asian cooking, but I've heard him say pretty bizzare things about foods of certain regions in Italy [I'm thinking specifically of a special on Sardegna I have seen]). Mussels with fennel and butter just isn't an Italian preparation (and especially this southern Italian homey feel Rao's wants to replicate). The judges should have called her out on that (as well as the novice-level of the dish...THIS is top chef material??), but they didn't. Neither did they call Carla out on the fact that minestrone is not an antipasto. (I mean, Tom got all judgy about the consistency of Tre's risotto, which I get, but no one bothered to explain to Carla what an antipasto is and is not??) I can imagine it was difficult for Fabio to see that not only these points were not addressed, but that Antonia won for a dish so easy to prepare and off the mark geographically!! Fabio may not be the most talented chef of the group, but this had to have been grating (and the fact that Antonia was somehow waxing on about being of Italian descent while making this NON Italian preparation....) I am a huge fan of Top Chef, but the judges really lost credibility in this episode (because the producers want to back certain contestants, because they can't speak poorly about the food/owners of an establishment like Rao's, who knows?)

                                                  1. re: larkinaitana

                                                    There was no authenticity requirement.

                                                    jb

                                                    1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                      What does that even mean? If the task is to cook a French meal, then McDonald's french fries should win because they taste good? They have potatoes in France. This is a cooking competition, of course fidelity to the cuisine is needed. Mussels cooked in butter is not an Italian preparation; it should not win at an Italian restaurant challenge.

                                                      1. re: larkinaitana

                                                        thanks larkinaitana...if you read my posts below, this was the point I was trying to make...dairy and seafood and italians don't mix. I think Fabio was irritated because he thought the challenge was about preparing a proper course in the proper Italian style..

                                                        and I wholeheartedly agree with your take on carla and her minestrone as an appetizer...what's up with that?

                                                        1. re: alidrum

                                                          There's hardly a red sauce place I've ever been in that doesn't serve shrimp parmigiana. So while I don't doubt your information about authenticity of the mussels dish in your experience, the dairy/seafood "don't mix" rule doesn't apply in Italian American restaurants in at least one case/dish.

                                                          1. re: alidrum

                                                            "Neither did they call Carla out on the fact that minestrone is not an antipasto. (I mean, Tom got all judgy about the consistency of Tre's risotto, which I get, but no one bothered to explain to Carla what an antipasto is and is not??)"

                                                            "and I wholeheartedly agree with your take on carla and her minestrone as an appetizer...what's up with that?"

                                                            When the contestants tasked with preparing antipasti were talking with the chef from Rao's, they asked him about the menu, and cold vs. hot antipasti, and he said they typically would offer one hot antipasto, a soup. This opened the door for Carla to serve what she did. As others have pointed out, Rao's is Italian American, not Italian, and they were tasked with creating food inspired by Rao's. Minestrone is very typically offered as a first course in Italian American restaurants.

                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                              yes..."first", meaning "primo". Soup with short pasta is not an appetizer!! Who knows what soup was served on their menu as an appetizer. I'm sure there are Italian-American restaurants that serve god knows what, but that doesn't mean it's Italian, and Carla should have known better.

                                                              1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                "I'm sure there are Italian-American restaurants that serve god knows what, but that doesn't mean it's Italian, and Carla should have known better.

                                                                Again, this challenge was about Italian-American food, not Italian-Italian food, so if what Carla served was appropriate in an Italian-American context, it was appropriate to the challenge. The same is true of Antonia's dish, regardless of whether Italian cooks would use butter with mussels. I don't believe either failed to honor the challenge, even if the way they cooked and/or served their dishes isn't true to what's done in Italy.

                                                                There are many old-school Italian-American restaurants in the US, and there is also a thriving culture of regional Italian restaurants in a number of our cities, including in NYC. If one of them had been the setting for this challenge, and the brief had been to cook dishes that would fit in with and be inspired by its menu, the conversation here might be different if Carla and Antonia did the same things.

                                                                1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                  "I'm sure there are Italian-American restaurants that serve god knows what, but that doesn't mean it's Italian, and Carla should have known better."

                                                                  I'm confused about why you keep insisting she did something wrong. She was told by Rao's, the location and inspiration for the challenge, that soup was a perfectly appropriate choice. She's not cooking it in Italy for persnickety Italians, after all! :-) Rao's house, Rao's rules.

                                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                                    Well, according to the detailed recipe on bravotv she actually cooked polenta. [ You need to go to the recipe and see what they wrote as the subheadings :-) ]
                                                                    http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe...

                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                      Very strange error.

                                                                  2. re: larkinaitana

                                                                    Why should Carla know better? Do you think the chefs need to be well versed in every cuisine? There was the dimsum challenge where some chefs had no idea what was dimsum food. The challenge was about Italian American food that Rao's serves, not Italian food and if the owners and staff of Rao's were impressed, that says it all--more than if her dish would work in Italy.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      While I don't think that the contestants should know the intricacies of all cuisines, I think we can absolutely expect them to be well versed in what an antipasto is!! (as opposed to a primo or secondo). Shouldn't we raise the bar a little? If they are expected to know how to make a souffle (remember Eric?), shouldn't they at least be able to distinguish the components of a course? This is, after all, *top chef*!

                                                                      1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                        Why is knowing what an antipasto important? I don't expect them to know what constitutes all the different courses of every meal. I wouldn't expect all the chefs to know how to prepare the first course of a Chinese banquet and what is traditionally served even if this is Top Chef.

                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                          Why is knowing what an antipasto is important for a chef? Ummm...respectfully, are you serious? You have to learn the alphabet before you learn to read. There are things a chef needs to know before calling him/herself that! This is a competition, a prestigious competition, and I think that we are confusing talented home chefs and what they know, with what these competitors, who are professionals and who have and obligation to know their stuff! Do you think Thomas Kellar or Eric Ripert didn't have to actually study the funadmentals at some point? Creativity is important; talent is important, but too much "creativity" without actual preparation and you get Angelo's "crocadile".

                                                                          1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                            Carla was told by the Chef at Rao's that they serve a soup as an antipasto. You are assuming Carla didn't know that that was non traditional. She was told a soup would be fine for her course and she made a soup.

                                                                            jb

                                                                            1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                              A chef who studies the fundamentals of Italian cuisine should have better understanding of what an antipasto is. However, not every chef is well versed in every cuisine. Do I expect Ripert to be able to make a great dim sum dish? Fabio a great starter for a Chinese banquet? Keller a great Native American dish? How much knowledge are you expecting them to have? Chefs specialize and I can't think of one who would have worldwide knowledge. While some Italians might think they're the center of the culinary world, they're not.

                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                A student of cuisine of course would learn the basics of European cuisine. Division of courses is basics. And yes, I would expect Ripert to make a great dim sum and --if Keller had some point of reference, a good Native American dish. That's what this competition is about--a group of chefs with different specializations being thrown into various unsettling situations in which they have to rely on their knowledge and be challenged. Of course I would expect the undisputed top chefs to be up to the task (I'm not saying be perfect, but yes, be up to the challenge...again, that's the point of the competition!! And I think that there needs to be some acknowledgment that French Cuisine, Italian cuisine have had the influence that they have here in the US . Center of the world , no. A very important part of the tradition? Of course.

                                                                                1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                  So Fabio should be out because he couldn't make a traditional dimsum dish, although he made an excellent enough of a dish to put him in the top?

                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                    But isn't there a different between riffing on a basic theme (a traditional dimsum dish, ravioli, etc.) and violating the basic fundamentals of its preparation (serving fish when the challenge is pork); what Carla did (and I LOVE Carla, I'm sorry to keep using her as an example) was just wrong; not soup in general, but THAT soup, that hearty pasta laden soup, is not an antipasto.

                                                                                    1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                      But larkinaitana, you keep on ignoring the fact that Rao's serves soup as an antipasto. Truly, it is not usually considered as such, but this was a cooking challenge at Rao's, following their model -- they explicitly said that they serve soup as an antipasto. Doesn't that change things considerably?

                                                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                                                        I'm not belaboring a point to be obtuse, but as I said before, there's soup and there's soup. Could Rao's serve a light zucchini soup with truffle shaved on top and call it an antipasto? I guess. But when you put pasta in it, it becomes the thing that one of they themselves called "what you get at an Italian restaurant in Wisconsin" (no offense, Wisconsin has some great food...but Italian isn't what I think of). Soup...I guess that can be a riff, okay. But you put pasta (or rice, or gnocchi, gnudi, whatever) in it, and it becomes something else.

                                                                                        1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                          I have eaten at Rao's and believe me, they cleave to their own model, which was obviously the jumping off point for this challenge, whether you think it should be or not. It is what they do thereby encouraging others to do likewise -- without limiting the type or kind of soup. No one said -- no soup with pasta or only "light" soups. Nope, they said soup. 'Nuff said.

                                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                                            you got to eat at Raos?? wow - how did that happen? so who do you know? (hope you know I don't mean that disrespectfully, just so curious!)

                                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                                              Wow, cool! I too am curious to hear more about your Rao's experience. Was it amazing, foodwise? Presumably it was amazing experience-wise... Inquiring minds want to know!

                                                                                              On their Bravo blogs, Tom said he'd only been to Rao's once before and that was because someone won a reservation for 6 at an auction (or something along those lines) and invited him to come along. Bourdain said he'd never been.

                                                                                              I'm very curious to read about your experience!

                                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                I used to have a very senior job at CBS in programming, and there was a producer who was always trying to get me to buy his shows and he was a regular. I have no idea if he still is a regular, and since I can no longer do anything for him, I doubt he'd invite me again anyway! I remember Lorraine Bracco was there once when we went, but I already knew her since we had the same manicurist at the time. The dish I remember most vividly was the pasta fagioli, and I also had a veal saltimboca (I think ). I went back a second time, but truly I don't remember what I had. This was in the mid to late 80s, so a very long time ago. I always remember the pasta fagioli since it was so much like the one my mother used to make, and she had passed away a few years before. It almost made me cry when I ate it-- it was that Proustian for me then.

                                                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                  Neat story. Thank you for sharing.

                                                                                                  ~TDQ

                                                                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                    pasta fagiola? i hope that wasn't an appetizer

                                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                                      LOL

                                                                                                      Well played.

                                                                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                                                                      Roxlet, that's a really sweet story about your mom....
                                                                                                      Thanks!

                                                                                                2. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                  there are soups with pasta in them in italy. that are soups

                                                                                                  1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                    One thing that is being forgotten is that Bravo and Top Chef make the rules and can do as they wish.

                                                                                    2. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                      But, as several people have already pointed out, this was not an Italian cuisine challenge. It was an Italian-American cuisine challenge. So there they are, at what I guess is supposed to be a great Italian-American restaurant, told that soup is fine for that course. Whether or not soup is considered part of the antipasto course in Italy seems completely irrelevant to the challenge.

                                                                                      1. re: debbiel

                                                                                        Point isn't being taken.

                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                          Exactly. The fact that this was an "Italian-American" challenge AND the fact that the Chef from Rao's *said* that a soup would be an appropriate course are BOTH being ignored completely.

                                                                                          Which just means the conversation is just going to go around and around if those points are not accepted as FACT for this episode.

                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                            I think you are both right.

                                                                                            Carla made a soup, fine by both the rules of the road and the house, in this case. Nothing wrong with making a soup.

                                                                                            I think Lark's issue is her choice of soup. While there are a bevy of soup that are appropriate for opening course, minestrone is not one of them. Because of the pasta inclusion, it is more suited as a pasta course item, I suppose.

                                                                                            (BTW, not saying I'm on either side, just trying to recap what I'm hearing. I think you both are right.)

                                                                                            1. re: Pylon

                                                                                              Yes, that's what I mean. Clearly, Rao's does "cleave" =) to its own style.
                                                                                              I'm interested in hearing from people who have actually eaten there. It seems like typical italian-american fare closed behind this golden door. Is that unfair?

                                                                                2. re: alidrum

                                                                                  Alidrum--yes, I read top-down, and I got to you saying the same thing only later. The Dairy-seafood mix is a good analogy.

                                                                                  I agree exactly...I'm not defending Fabio as the top competitor, but you do have to feel for him...in an italian food challenge, to see what he saw and not have the judges mention that so many of the dishes were off or wrong had to have been frustrating.

                                                                                  1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                    ".in an italian food challenge, to see what he saw and not have the judges mention that so many of the dishes were off or wrong had to have been frustrating."

                                                                                    It was a USA food challenge, with Italian-American inspiration.

                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                      But why is this an exception? The contestants were berated for making "american" dim sum; the French certainly have rules to their cooking? I find it annoying that Italian cuisine is a free for all, when other cuisines are treated differently, with a respect for tradition, ingredients and preparation.

                                                                                      1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                        "But why is this an exception?"

                                                                                        Perhaps you are new to TC? I've watched every year, and chefs are usually challenged to make dishes "inspired by" but not rote reproductions of regional cuisines. This was one such challenge; they were not asked to reproduce traditional Italian dishes. I don't see this as an exception. Perhaps you might understand the challenge better if you read the blogs?

                                                                                        Antonia won because she made the best tasting dish, that's the bottom line. She obviously cooked with great respect for her family tradition, her ingredients and preparation and her dish tasted best of all. Wah lah! :-)

                                                                                        Fabio was clearly operating under the misapprehension that the challenge was to make old world Italian food from Italy, as he kept reeling off dish after dish he knew how to make from his Italian upbringing til another contestant asked him to let them speak and get some questions answered. Fabio made an apparently very good dish that was beaten by one that tasted better. Since Italian American judges grew up accustomed to non traditional Italian ingredients in their Italian households, cuisine from Italy wasn't what they were rating it against.

                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                          Thank you, mcf, for the welcome. I'm new the the blog. Top Chef I've watched since its inception, and I believe that I understand the challenges. While we cannot ourselves know the taste of the individual dishes and must take lightening vest's word for it, there are rules to not only the challenges, but that govern cuisines as well. I'm not sure what you mean by "old world" Italian (?), but --i'll say it for the last time--Antonia's preparation is not Italian; nor is it Italian-American (butter and fennel is NOT Italian American--even if someone somewhere can find it on some Italian American restaurant). It may or may not have tasted good, but it was not an example of either! I am from an Italian-American family, and I lived in Italy for 5 years and on and off the last 4. The food I grew up with is very different from what I learned how to cook in Italy. I do understand the different. If Dale had made dim sum, or RIchard some mustard ice-cream, that might have tasted good, but neither would not have been Italian. Just because mussels are found in Italy (and in LIS next to Rao's, for all I know) does not mean that the way in which they are prepared is Italian. Hence, my perplexity as to how she could have won.

                                                                                          1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                            Read Colicchio's blog and you'll know how and why she won.

                                                                                            1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                              As i've pointed out, Fabio was in the top for his dim sum but it wasn't a dim sum dish. You apparently expect every chef to understand every cuisine but Fabio was very open in saying he had no idea how to cook Chinese food. Does that make him less of a chef? I can't think of any chef who knows all the intricacies of every cuisine, especially when presented with a challenge of making food that Rao's, an Italian American restaurant in the US, might.

                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                It made Fabio--in that instance--a quick study. Someone who knows the fundamentals and can "figure it out"...that is, a Top Chef! This is again the point. Fabio didn't prepare his gnocchi for the dimsum. It makes him--in this instance--an embodiment of what the competition stands for. I've said this before--of course not every chef can know everything. But the really good ones have such a preparation that, when they taste something or see a dish, they can figure it out. That's my point

                                                                                                1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                  That's gonna depend on whether they are familiar with the basic ingredients in said dish, for starters. If you don't recognize the basic ingredients, you have no chance. Likewise, some ingredients need elaborate processes to transform that even a very skilled chef wouldn't know unless he had studied the cuisine in question - Chinese style chicken feet for example. Or try to recreate some of the cliches of molecular gastronomy without some time studying that style.

                                                                                                  The 'fundamentals' of cooking aren't really universal.

                                                                                                  In short, I disagree.

                                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                    Agree to disagree. =) The show is assuming basic knowledge of a number of dishes and ingredients (no one forced Casey to do chicken feet, and the wisest among them knew they they didn't know enough about them to do them well). But I think we can agree that that is why it's compelling television...who cares when Fabio makes great gnocchi? He can do that in his sleep...what's interesting is when he makes dim sum and the judges think he does it well. The contestants with the best overall preparation and familiarity with a wide range of dishes, preparations and traditions(I'm thinking Hung and Stefan) are the most exciting to watch. The ones with the least versatility (like when they said idiotic things like, "ugh, I never do ______" and the fill-in is usually something not too out of the way, like pasta, vegetarian, red meat, etc.) are the least exciting. Ilan would be a good example of that. It seems to me pretty accepted that he was not the most exciting win, because he can do Spanish, Spanish and more Spanish. and not much else.

                                                                                                  2. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                    So you're saying Fabio making a non-Chinese dish, a non-dimsum dish for a dimsum challenge makes him a quick study but Carla making an Italian dish, although not necessarily an antipasto, makes her wrong. It's not as if Carla made hot and sour soup for the Rao's challenge.

                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                      ITA. I was going to make the exact same point! I'm glad I read the whole thread first!

                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                        The judges said that Fabio's "take"/riff/whatever on dim sum was intuitive and a great dish. The owners of Rao or judges, I don't remember who, said that Carla's minestrone tasted like something on a menu at an Italian-American place in Wisconsin. I'm thinking that was not meant as a compliment, so yes, I think it makes her wrong, and not only by me but by the judges!
                                                                                                        (and in whatever cuisine, serving something as heavy as minestrone as a *starter* (I'm emphasizing the real meaning of the word) doesn't make sense.

                                                                                                        1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                          One person said it, and it was not universally agreed upon.

                                                                                                          1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                            The judges also put Carla in the top and called it a great dish.

                                                                                        2. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                          It appeared to me the mussels were cooked in white wine and the butter added at the end.

                                                                                      2. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                        It wasn't an Italian food challenge. It was an Italian American food challenge. Further, it was an Italian-American INSPIRED challenge.

                                                                                        It doesn't matter if she used butter with the mussels or if soup isn't an antipasto. The point wasn't to recreate an authentic meal straight from the south of Italy.

                                                                                        1. re: ac106

                                                                                          the judges clearly said that the mussels won because they TASTED the best, not because they adhered most closely to Italian cuisine. Italian/French, irrelevant.....

                                                                                          1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                            That's what challenges often come down to--it's not how closely you follow the rules but how good the food is. I think it's unfair when contestants win and don't follow the rules. That said, since Antonia said this is how her American Italian family ate and that's what Rao's cooked, I don't think it's the case here of not following the rules. I think Antonia is a better judge of what is Italian American food than Fabio.

                                                                                            1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                              would that have been the case if Fabio decided to do gnocchi at the dim sum challenge? Of course not... And of course it matters.

                                                                                              1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                Fabio did not do a traditional dim sum dish but prepared something that wowed the judges and he was in the top for it. It didn't matter.

                                                                                          2. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                            Given this thread, is anyone else totally amused to see the Buitoni "Italian Masterpiece" commercials during Top Chef (not to mention the interlude in the TCAS house) push the "lobster and shrimp ravioli with garlic BUTTER sauce" product?

                                                                                            1. re: momjamin

                                                                                              and it wasn't even shrimp scampi or parmigiana?

                                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                                Nope. You can check the products at buitoni.com ;-)

                                                                                  2. re: tofuburrito

                                                                                    Mussels aren't specifically French. I think the fennel might be more French than Italian preparation, typically.

                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                      Ripert said that if the preparation was French it would have cream in it, although the Italians also use cream sometimes.

                                                                                      1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                        I've never had cream in my mussels meuniere, so that kind of doesn't make sense to me. Maybe he was joking?

                                                                                        1. re: mcf

                                                                                          Beats me. He could have been joking. Lots of people do think of French food as always having heavy sauces - lots of cream and butter, etc. Check out his vlog, though. In the first half he had quite a bit to say about the QF. The second half, he was also talking about Fabio and his remarks about mussels being French.
                                                                                          ER says that to some it might seem strange for a French chef to be talking about what's authentic Italian, but he's Italian on one side and French on the other. It's always good to listen to him, anyway. :-)

                                                                                      2. re: mcf

                                                                                        Bourdain commented on this in his blog actually, that it was a dopey comment for anyone that has been to Italy to say that fennel was strictly "French".

                                                                                        Bourdain's blog was fantastic as always, great writing. He is up there with Linda's recaps. Both almost as good as the show itself.

                                                                                        1. re: yankeefan

                                                                                          "Bourdain's blog was fantastic as always, great writing. He is up there with Linda's recaps."
                                                                                          ~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                          OK, now THAT is just crazy talk! I appreciate the vote of confidence, but holy frijoles, Batman - Bourdain's blog is WAY better than my recaps, by a NYC mile! I couldn't hand out the snark like AB can if my life depended on it.

                                                                                          I may be pretty decent in getting the deets down on paper, so to speak. But AB reigns supreme as Snarkmaster. :-)

                                                                                          1. re: yankeefan

                                                                                            Who said fennel was "strictly French?"

                                                                                      3. re: tastyjon

                                                                                        I agree. Fabrio was robbed...

                                                                                      4. re: tofuburrito

                                                                                        Glad someone else noticed that lag before Antonia received any congratulations. I also wondered if it was real or an edit. I think the delay was actual since I thought I heard Antonia say something about the lack of courtesy. Did anyone hear precisely what Antonia said?

                                                                                        1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                          Unless Antonia is a particularly good actress, and could have anticipated the editing, the delay appeared to be real, based on her visible reaction.

                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                            I missed that. Very disappointing to read what you and Indy wrote, if the lag in time frame is true.

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                              agreed - i thought it was very rude of the guys to not congratulate her right away and also for the eerie quiet that was given.
                                                                                              mussels to me are pretty classic italian and a first course. she did them well and that's what counts. i also noticed a lot of backlast online last night on twitter with everyone giving antonia slack for winning, that was just plain rude...and i don't even really like antonia this season (loved her, her original season though).

                                                                                              1. re: pie22

                                                                                                I thought it was weird that she didn't seem to get any prize...or maybe it was announced earlier and I missed it> Usually the winning chef gets SOMETHING...she just kind of stood there and finally people congratulated her. Strange.

                                                                                                1. re: janetofreno

                                                                                                  No, sometimes they don't win anything. And I don't think Antonia did. I wish they'd fix that. VERY unfair that sometimes people win a great prize, sometimes you just win.

                                                                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                    Probably b/c there was no obvious sponsor for the EC challenge.

                                                                                                    Maybe Colavita turned them down?

                                                                                                    Padma: "The winner of this EC challenge gets a custom made 5 gallon drum of Colavita extra virgin olive oil!"

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      Sad but probably true! That's probably also the reason why, as someone else mentioned, they didn't say "Now it's time to get into our (insert name of vehicle) and go to Rao's."

                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                        it wasnt sponsored by crayola?

                                                                                            2. re: Indy 67

                                                                                              I noticed that too..It seems like the contestants this season are sore losers. I'm pretty sure the past season's winners would get a moment of congratulations from those facing impending doom and then the winner would say, 'thanks. i'm sorry, but they want to see ***, ***, and ***.' Maybe it was just the editing? But the current editing makes these guys look like rude, petulant children.

                                                                                              1. re: soypower

                                                                                                Especially the male contestants. They seem to resent anyone winning who isn't part of their "boys club." You'll notice that they never give the women any credit, never mention them when they talk about who they think their competition is, etc., always bad-mouth their wins. There's a lot of sexism in Top Chef, and a lot of it spills over into viewers, who tend to take on faith that the male chefs are being legitimately dismissive of the female chefs.

                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                  Actually, it appeared that Tre left with much more class than did Jen. I could be wrong though.

                                                                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                                                                    It's not the attitude of the losers, it's the attitude of the other contestants to the winner that annoys me.

                                                                                                2. re: soypower

                                                                                                  Eh... I think the guys were just honestly surprised that Antonia won. We did see them convincing themselves that the judges called in the bottom four first again. And remember that they didn't taste most of the winning dishes - all they knew was that Antonia had made something quite simple and easy.

                                                                                                  I see no reason to think they were trying to be rude - seemed like they just lost themselves in surprise for a few seconds. Not exactly the height of politeness, but probably no harm intended either. They congratulated her once they got their composure back.

                                                                                                  I certainly don't see any basis to start throwing around claims of misogyny due to a few seconds of stunned silence (not that you did, soy).

                                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                    Their congratulations were very subdued. And I think part of the reason they thought that group might be the bottom is that they don't think the three women chefs are as good as they are, despite the fact that they regularly beat them. It's not that few seconds, it's that those few seconds are part of a pattern of the way they talk/act about the women. IMHO :-)

                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                      That's plausible. Several of the chefs seem pretty convinced that they're the best in the room. To some extent that seems to come with the territory for chefs, at least in a competition - if they weren't a bit cocky, they probably wouldn't be there.

                                                                                                      I'm still unconvinced that there's much of a sexist vibe in this case, though of course there is quite a history of sexism in professional kitchens in general. The guys talked plenty of smack on male chefs they found undeserving (Marcel, Steven, even Fabio at times though that was more of a general attitude and less outright smack talk).

                                                                                                      In Carla's case in particular, I think there's a bit of an unspoken attitude that a caterer couldn't be as good as/better than restaurant chefs. She's won a couple this season, so that attitude has had a chance to bubble to the surface. In her case, I suspect being female is incidental.

                                                                                                      In Antonia's case this episode, I think it was the sheer simplicity of the winning dish that surprised the others. If one of the fellas had won with the same dish, I bet eyebrows would be raised just the same. But obviously, we'll never know for certain.

                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                        People who dismiss Carla as "just a caterer" are simply ignorant. Look at her resume. Beyond that, she made it to the finals of her season, and she's done very well this season (much better than Mike I, for example, although you'd never know it from the way he talks). The fact that they persist in looking down on her just shows how ingrained their prejudices are. Just what does she have to do to earn some respect from them?

                                                                                                        In fact, I just looked up Mike I's record: he came in 7th in his season and he's never (in two seasons) won an elimination challenge. He's only even been in the top group three times over two seasons, as opposed to Carla who has won five elimination challenges and been in the top group five more times! And yet, he still thinks he's one of the best chefs -- based, apparently, on nothing more than his own ego since it certainly isn't based on his performance on Top Chef!

                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                          I love Carla to death, but I sure wish she was cooking somewhere I could eat! When in DC I was sure I'd go to her resto, until I realized she wasn't at one.Any scoop about her career choices?

                                                                                                          from an old interview!

                                                                                                          Arlington, Va.: When you entered, did you have specific plans for what you'd do with the money if you won? Do you want to own a restaurant? You know we'd all want to eat there, but maybe we just need to start having catered events, because your cooking looks wonderful, and you, madam, are a delight.

                                                                                                          Carla Hall: thank you! My plans are not to open a restaurant but what I would like to do is open a kitchen somewhere in D.C. proper and have a chef's table where people can come and taste my food without having to have a catered event.

                                                                                                          I found this! At least I can buy her cookies!
                                                                                                          http://www.alchemybycarlahall.com/

                                                                                                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                            Just a guess, but I think Carla, like a lot of women, is drawn to catering because the hours are flexible and it's possible to have a better work/life balance.

                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                              <but I think Carla, like a lot of women, is drawn to catering because the hours are flexible and it's possible to have a better work/life balance.>

                                                                                                              Having been a full-service caterer, I can tell you that is not the case. Caterers don't have weekends or holidays with their families, unless they are not working. The chefs who have the best work/life balance are those who work in Corporate R&D. They work 5 days a week, pretty much 9 to 5. Caterers are always on the job, or hustling more gigs.

                                                                                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                omg +1! corporate chefs also do quite well for themselves. caterers wind up with those fantastic 4 day 16-20 hour/day "weekends," which *suck.*

                                                                                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                  Restaurant chefs work nights, weekends and holidays as well. But yeah, I've known people who've worked the corporate gigs and love the hours.

                                                                                                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                              Lets not overstate things though - they're not calling names and spitting on the floor whenever Carla enters the room. It's just a vibe.

                                                                                                              I'm speculating now, but i suspect it's not just the catering thing, though that's a part of it. It's also her comfort food style of cooking. Now, I like her style and think she's made some great dishes for Top Chef. But the reality of a cooking competition on TV is you look less bad losing to Michael Voltaggio or Richard Blais cooking something enormously complicated with techniques you've never heard of than losing to Carla cooking sweet potato and peanut butter soup. The viewers at home can't taste the food, so it's problematic for the other contestants to admit she's a front runner.

                                                                                                              "much better than Mike I, for example, although you'd never know it from the way he talks"
                                                                                                              ___
                                                                                                              From the way Mike I talks, you would think he's won every single challenge in both seasons. I don't think his biggest fans and best friends would deny that the man's cocky. Aside from a snide word or two, I don't think Carla has gotten especially harsh treatment from him.

                                                                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                Mike is full of himself but that doesn't mean he's sexist. He and Jen are very close and respect each other highly. Just because Carla isn't highly respected on the show doesn't mean it's sexist. When a woman is an excellent chef, as Jen and Stephanie are, they were seen as serious competition. Everyone was shocked when Jen left so early. They wouldn't have been if Carla had. The other contestants don't mention Tre or Dale or Mike (other than himself) or Angelo as possible competition either. No one is thinking Carla isn't a good cook/chef, just that she might not be as competitive as the others. This is a select group and just making it in there is impressive. I think she lost me in her season when she sent out bad food but said she did it with a lot of love. Okay.

                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                  That still doesn't answer the question of why they continue to have no respect for Carla even when she's beating their asses. She's proven that she *is* an excellent chef, but just because she *no longer* works in a restaurant they look down on her.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                    I don't know if I'd say Carla is beating their asses. She's had some wins and she's had some serious disasters. I said before I think she's like the little girl who had a little curl. I don't put Carla in the same level as I would the top chefs on that show. Sure, she's a great cook when she's on. Is she the same as Richard Blais? I don't think so, personally. Just because they don't consider her a contender doesn't mean they look down on her.

                                                                                                                    OTOH, I don't understand where Mike gets his ego, but then quite a few of them seem to have huge egos. I don't think the other chefs see Mike as a serious competitor either and he won the Prius. I really don't think this comes down to sexism--Marcel won a few challenges and many looked down on him, too. I think Jen was seen by many as a force to be reckoned with, though she did crash and burn. When you come down to it, all of them have done well at some time on the show which is why they were chosen. That doesn't mean that they're all worthy of being considered the best.

                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                      Contestant Progress:

                                                                                                                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...

                                                                                                                      Angelo, Carla, Dale and Richard all have two EC wins.
                                                                                                                      Richard has three QF wins, Dale has two QF wins (granted, those include team wins for QF)

                                                                                                                      Mike has ONE QF win and only ONE "High" group notation. Legend in his own mind?

                                                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                        Completely in his own mind. He didn't even do that great in his own season.

                                                                                                                      2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                        The question is: why, when she has performed at the same level as Richard Blais, do you not think she's at the same level? There's no objective evidence (i.e. head-to-head wins and losses) to support that opinion. And if you've never eaten her food, you have no personal experience on which to base that opinion. All you really have is the biased opinions of the other contestants (biased if not because she's a woman, in the very least by the fact they don't consider a caterer to be a "real chef" and that they don't respect her style of cooking). The judges, including Eric Ripert, don't seem to find her to be at a lower level than the other chefs either technically or conceptually.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                          I don't think it's about performance on the show, honestly. It's why they were shocked when Jen was sent home. It's not that Jen is a worst chef than Carla that she was sent home earlier. As I said, my problem w/ Carla (and I do like her, I think she's a riot) is that she seems to underperform often. Her quinoa undonetay was funny but terrible. Her sending out a bowl of bad food last time and saying she sent it out w/ love was, instead of fixing the mistake as Tom pointed out, was poor. Richard Blais never did that. None of us have any idea how good the food they produce is, how nice they are, how good they are unless we've been to all their restaurants. You're assuming all the chefs are biased against her and that's how they got their opinions--maybe there's another reason you're not seeing because it's on the cutting room floor. But, I'm not understanding posters who are telling others that unless they've met the person, tasted their food, etc. that they have no right to an opinion. We're all in that boat.

                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                            I'll agree that quickfires are not Carla's strong suit. I think it takes a certain kind of personality to do well under those conditions. I wouldn't use quickfire performance (good or bad) to judge a chef's overall talent. Lots of chefs have been reemed by the judges for not "fixing" a problem (personally, I find that to be somewhat unfair -- often the problem cannot be fixed within the confines of the challenge and not serving it is not an option), and Richard Blais is not some kind of culinary god who never produces a faulty dish. As for cooking with love -- while it may not be an excuse for a bad dish (a dish that was not bad enough to send her home) it's a good way of defending her cooking philosophy, which is certainly part of what goes on at judges' table.

                                                                                                                            Of course we all have rights to opinions, but not all opinions are equally valid: it depends on whether the opinions are based on facts or misperceptions. I was just suggesting that since your judgment of Carla's cooking skills is not based on any first-hand experience you re-examine whether your opinion is in fact based on a correct assessment of the factual evidence that you do have.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                              I don't think Richard Blais is a culinary god but think he's better than Carla but his loss to Stephanie was well deserved. Why do you assume that the other contestants only dislike Carla because of biases against her or because of sexism? Could it be that they've seen her up close and personal? She's won but as you said below, the judges are fickle and seem to change their criteria on what a winning dish is. In her wins, she's managed to fit in what the judges expect. I remember a few times when she outright failed.

                                                                                                                              "I was just suggesting that since your judgment of Carla's cooking skills is not based on any first-hand experience you re-examine whether your opinion is in fact based on a correct assessment of the factual evidence that you do have."

                                                                                                                              Correct assessment of the factual evidence the way you see it, you mean. If we don't see it your way, we have the incorrect assessment.

                                                                                                                              1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                Maybe the chefs are still steaming over her "Yippie, Look at me, look at me, I won, I won" episode.

                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                  That's not what I said and that's not what I meant. Nor did I say that Carla's fellow contestants "only dislike her" on the basis of sexism. In fact, I listed two other reasons they could be biased against her!

                                                                                                                                  "She's won but as you said below, the judges are fickle and seem to change their criteria on what a winning dish is."
                                                                                                                                  ***********
                                                                                                                                  True, but your evaluation of Carla seems to suggest that you think that only applies to her (and Antonia, see a pattern?): it's a fluke or a whim when they win, but it's an indication of their greater skill when the men win. Why do you think that? Are you even willing to consider it possible that your opinion could have been influenced by the comments of the other (male) chefs, who make similar comments about how undeserving the female chefs are and very rarely do when a male chef wins.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                    I think Jen and Stephanie rocked and are highly skilled. I would love to have seen Jen go further here and was really happy when Stephanie won her season, and as I said, it was well deserved over Richard. I have no desire to eat at Marcel's restaurants or Mike's. I think you're looking too hard to apply sexism where it doesn't exist. You're also assuming I'm letting the other male chefs dictate my feelings about Carla--I'm basing it on the fact that she sent out a horrible dish w/ love and let it go thinking that would be enough, that she made a terrible sous vide steak for her finale, that she made quinoa undonetay and that there have been other times I've seen on the show where she underperformed. I do believe there is sexism in the pro kitchen but think if you look for it and apply it in situations where it isn't the case, you undermine when it really happens. And, I never said anything about Antonia not deserving the win here, so no, I'm not letting what the contestants say, sexist or not, determine my feelings. I'm very happy for Antonia for winning and thought her mussels looked great. She embraced the challenge, I thought. You're the one who said the judges change the criteria for wins which is what gave her the win this time.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                      I love that you're taking this position and I tend to agree. I also think people respect the more aggressive female chefs -- like Jen and Stephanie -- more because they act more "masculine." It's true in a lot of fields, including (I think) cooking.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                        What did you find masculine about Jen and Stephanie?

                                                                                                                                    2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                      <<she's managed to fit in what the judges expect>>

                                                                                                                                      That describes one strategy for a winner. In the Olympics, for example, t's not always the best athlete who wins an individual competition, it's the one who performs the best that day.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                    You're entitled to your opinion, of course. But given her track record in challenges, how do you figure that she "seems to underperform often?" At least, relative to other chefs and how far she's gotten in her competitions so far? Also, being a great chef is a very different thing from being a great competitor. Jen is a great example of that.

                                                                                                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                I'm a little late to the party, but where is there an indication that the other chefs have no respect for Carla?

                                                                                                                                I don'y think the response to Antonia can be automatically categorized as a sexist response.

                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                  Think back to the Restaurant Wars episode. Who was chosen last? Carla. In fact, I don't even think Marcel could bring himself to utter her name.

                                                                                                                                  Do you recall chosing teams at sports? Who was chosen last? There's one indication.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                    i understand but i think even we here have her wrong and i do think it might be a bit of sexism - i AM prepared for the backlash to this - just trying to think it through. she does do some comfort/simple dishes and so did stephanie and kevin who people loved. she USUALLY does them well. she also often shows great creativity. i still think her plating was gorgeous and looked like good food, her bagels and lox dish was creative and apparently divine...
                                                                                                                                    when she bombs she totally bombs. but so does richard. and sometimes dale. and goodness gracious that angelo vomit bag mess. but we write theirs off as creative go big and then sometimes fail big creations, and hers as lack of skill. i think it's because she talks so much (or the editors choose to show so much of her talking). easy to look flaky and unskilled when you open your mouth - which is usually a more female thing - than when you coldly stand by.

                                                                                                                                    fyi, i love richard and dale. just analyzing. not judging. that said, i love carla too. they've been my 3 faves since before the season started. the ones whose food i'd most want to eat.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                                      -but we write theirs off as creative go big and then sometimes fail big creations-

                                                                                                                                      i totally agree with that assessment. i think you definitely get judged a little more closely when you are doing homey dishes like carla does. if nothing else, she makes alot of dishes that we all grew up with and have a idea what our ideal version of that dish is like. when that happens, you REALLY have to nail it to stand out. dale and richard have the benefit of making alot of things that people dont experience very often.

                                                                                                                                      personally, i would love the opportunity to eat anything any of the three of them cooked.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                      Carla being chosen last does not necessarily indicate a lack of respect for her. It might be a lack of respect for her cooking however. She didn't do so well on her previous restaurant wars episode.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                        i do and don't agree-- i'm more inclined to think that chefs can respect other chefs who don't cook anything like their own style, but they may not be all gung-ho to pick them for their own "team"-- they are trying to put together a cohesive stylistic "theme" for their restaurant after all, and all the elements should click. dale and blais have a strong stylistic affinity, carla's style is different. the fact that she wasn't immediately chosen may have more to do with her style of cooking not immediately "clicking" with dale's vision of a cohesive menu. . .and marcel obviously doesn't like the way carla does foams, so he didn't immediately pick her, either ;-P

                                                                                                                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                          I just don't buy the angle that Carla doesn't get any respect from the other contestants.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                            that's the part i agree w you on! :) i think she is respected for having her own style.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                          The fact is that someone will be picked last. And if we really look hard enough we can always find an 'isim' (sex, race, etc.) or 'the real reason' why that was so. And as much as I hate the expression sometime it just is nothing more than 'it is what it is.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                            "Her" is just a shorthand way of saying "her cooking." Marcel is the only contestant this season whose personality was mentioned as a legitimate issue when deciding who to include on a team. Otherwise, the decisions have been all about who can deliver the cooking skill for the win. Carla repeatedly earns less respect than her wins would suggest using objective standards.

                                                                                                                                            The one dimension we haven't talked about with Carla is her age. I think there's more than a hint of Young Turk contempt for older contests, most of whom were also women:
                                                                                                                                            Season two: Betty (then age 44)
                                                                                                                                            Season five: Carla (now age 47)
                                                                                                                                            Season six: Robin (then age 43)

                                                                                                                                            (I know there's another older female -- a teacher at the French Culinary Institute -- whose age was an issue. This became quite an open issue to Dale? Hung? during a team challenge. I can't remember the contestant's name and my quick research didn't produce results.)

                                                                                                                                            The only one who seems to have escaped the ageism contempt is Ariene (Season 5) who appears to have adopted/encouraged a Cougar persona to be accepted by the younger chefs. I seriously doubt that a married woman who is chef/owner of a restaurant is a Cougar in real life.

                                                                                                                                            Lots of posters mention one particular quote ("Cooked with Love") as a reason to dismiss Carla's seriousness or professionalism. I thought it was a pretty goofy 60s comment, but I have a slightly more charitable interpretation. I think she realized her food was inedible and she tried to escape elimination by being cute and calculating.

                                                                                                                                            Carla is a classically trained chef. She knows that love doesn't replace competence. I think she was tying to up her likeability factor with the judges so she could live another day. Nothing more. No grand declaration of philosophy. That strategy was shot down the first time she said it at Judges' Table and has lingered as the quote everyone uses to dismiss Carla's legitimate cooking skills.

                                                                                                                                            If you look at Carla's bio, she's had a much wider array of life experiences than most of the competitors. I'm assuming she has learned and grown from each of those experience and at some point, she learned that cuteness and sweetness works in many situations. I think many of the younger contestants mistake Carla's cuteness for weakness.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                              you also have to remember that robin just legitimately did poorly most of the time though if thats your theory

                                                                                                                                              1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                No argument; she often did poorly. Still, there was an unnecessarily cruel tone to the contestants treatment of Robin -- nonsense like how much cooking space would be alloted to Robin.

                                                                                                                                                If a chef isn't a strong competitor, he/she should be a treasured commodity! After all, it's far more likely for a weak competitor to be eliminated than a strong competitor. The strong chefs should concentrate on their own cooking -- on their own success -- and should ignore the weak chefs. Instead, season after season, I've observered a lot of chefs putting a lot of energy into putting down the weak players, often with results that backfire.

                                                                                                                                                This strategy even works on team challenges. If you're on the losing team and your group includes a weak chef, it's likely that's the individual who will be told to PYKAG. However, when chefs squander a lot of their attention and energy looking for ways to communicate their contempt for a weaker team member instead of cooking, those better chefs often turn out to be the ones packing those knives.

                                                                                                                                              2. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                I don't know why you responded to me with all the info about Carla but I didn't see anything that indicates she is being disrespected or doesn't get respect by the other contestants. On her last restaurant wars experience she legitimately could have been sent home.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                  In your 11:27 p.m. post (February 5) you wrote: "Carla being chosen last does not necessarily indicate a lack of respect for her. It might be a lack of respect for her cooking however. She didn't do so well on her previous restaurant wars episode."

                                                                                                                                                  My 7:08 a.m. (February 6) post is a direct response to what you wrote. I disagreed with your seeing a distinction between Carla and her cooking and with your opinion that Carla is not disrespected. The detail in my post was intended to support my point of view.

                                                                                                                                                  Incidentally, I don't think you're correct when you write "On her last restaurant wars experience, she legitimately could have been sent home." Are you referring to this season? If so, she was a member of Team Bodega, the winning team. She didn't do well in the Quickfire Challenge that same episode but that's not grounds for PYKAG.

                                                                                                                                                  Even if she had been close to being sent home I don't understand your point. If you look at the convenient Wiki chart that tracks Wins, Outs, Highs, and Lows there's not a contestant who hasn't been in the low group at least once, several as many as three times. Low status once, twice, or even three times doesn't necessarily track with disrespect. I see something distinctive and different in the way her peers talk about Carla, and I've cited incidents to back up my conclusion.

                                                                                                                                                  I wonder if you and I are focusing on two different aspects of the Top Chef competition: the judges' opinion and her peer's opinion. Obviously, from her number of Elimination Challenge wins, the judges respect Carla's cooking. When Carla's peers talk about her in confessional remarks, they often mention her comment about "cooking with love." If her peers respected Carla, they wouldn't be bringing up a remark that, although ditzy, was long ago overtaken by positive events (e.g. going to the Finals in her season and two wins in this season.)

                                                                                                                                                  I think we'll simply have to agree to disagree.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                    I think the comment about RW was in reference to her first time through, but I don't recall how it came out.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                      I was of course referring to her restaurant wars when she could have been sent home for two bad desserts. I was not referring to this season since the discussion was about choosing teams for restaurant wars, the competition had not yet been conducted.

                                                                                                                                                      When I mentioned they may have disrespected her food my point was they had a legitimate reason for a lack of respect and that sexism (or age) did not necessarily have anything to do with her being chosen last.

                                                                                                                                                      I do not recall any more contempt for Carla in the confessionals any more than for any other chef's food. The chefs had q problem with Marcel's attitude. I don't see what you are seeing in relation to Carla. I don't recall any contempt f any of her wins. The closest thing to contempt for a win that I rcall is for the mussels' ease of preparation.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                        "When I mentioned they may have disrespected her food my point was they had a legitimate reason for a lack of respect and that sexism (or age) did not necessarily have anything to do with her being chosen last."

                                                                                                                                                        Even if you're talking about Season Five, your point doesn't make sense. Being in the low group and, therefore, being close to elimination applies to everyone. It doesn't legitimate disrespect unless you believe everyone should disrepect everyone else.

                                                                                                                                                        Most viewers would agree that Michael Voltaggio was one of the strongest chefs ever to compete on Top Chef, but even he earned a low rating in an Elimination Challenge. Using your logic, that near-PYKAG is legitimate grounds to disrespect Michael V. Sorry not buying it.

                                                                                                                                                        Just FYI... Of the three Season Five finalists, Hosea had four low ratings and Stephan and Carla, each had three low ratings.

                                                                                                                                                        You're not seeing what I'm seeing and vice versa. We'll agree to disagree.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                          You are picking my posts apart and splitting hairs. Bottom line: I don't believe Carla is getting disrespect because she is a woman, is older or is a minority. If her getting chosen last in restaurant wars constitutes disrespect, it could have been because she had a poor showing in her last restaurant wars effort. That is essentially my point that I have been making all along. I really don't care that much about it, so if you wish to pick apart this post too, have at it.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                    Honestly, I've always thought the way JT is set up makes it hard to be a honestly graceful loser. at the same time that you are finding out who won, you are confirming the fear that you very well could be the person going home in just a few minutes. not exactly a time you wanna be celebrating for someone else!

                                                                                                                                  3. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                    I don't think they were trying to be rude, but they don't seem to know how to be polite. From the way it was presented it looked like they were so wrapped up in their own fates that they couldn't even fake a little celebratory 'good for you'. I was raised to be happy (or at least fake it) for other people when something good happens to them.

                                                                                                                                    But I'm fine believing it was just the editing.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                      They're held in that room for hours, and then in front of the judges for a long time being berated, etc. I'm guessing a big part of that is exhaustion and having too much to drink and being sick of being in the same room w/ each other for8-10 hours.

                                                                                                                                2. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                  I wonder if it was a delay because they were surprised to find they were in the bottom? They had no idea when the first group was called out whether they were top or bottom three and which chef said he was sure the first group was bottom because it was a soup, salad, basic stuff.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                    also i think fabio had so set himself up for the win that it got to everybody subconsciously-- "oh what, they were the winners? but wait, that would mean. . . we're the losers!" it can take a few seconds for the mental double-take, accounting for the real-time lag :)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                                      That's the feeling I got, too. It wasn't that they weren't happy for Antonia but were shocked to learn they weren't the top. I said the same when Marcel made his comment to Carla about not being too excited--it's a shock to learn you're in the bottom when you think, or are assuming you're in the top.

                                                                                                                                  2. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                    I thought the lag reflected everyone trying to come to grips with what had just happened. They were realizing who was in the bottom and who was in the top...and then Richard. That was what confused me about that part of the show. I didn't think Richard was in the bottom. I couldn't figure out what it meant to be called, and I don't think they could either. And why didn't Richard get called at all? Because he had immunity? He doesn't get to hear how his dish was reieved?

                                                                                                                                    What soupkitten and chowser said....

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                      Only the top and the bottom chefs get called. Richard was neither on the top or the bottom, and therefore he did not get called.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                        Richard and Angelo were apparently in the middle of the pack for the EC.

                                                                                                                                        I thought the lag time in congratulating Antonia was slow, too, but I think (hope) they weren't trying to be jerks. Just caught off guard and reeling from the realization that THEY weren't the winners and might actually be the losers. Even Richard, normally a good sport, seemed slow to congratulate.

                                                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                          It's b/c everyone felt like Antonia's dish wasn't up to snuff for an EC win.

                                                                                                                                          Like toasting bread to win a QF challenge.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                        after the bottom 3 trundled into JT, someone in the middle (Angelo maybe?) congratulated Antonia and she replied with *thank you* with a tone that was all, "that's what I'm talking about, knowwhatimean..." I don't remember her explicitly mentioning the lack of courtesy, but it was clearly implied in her response to the later congratulations.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: tastyjon

                                                                                                                                      I imagine that she won for the mussels because they tasted the best of all of the dishes that they tried. Fabio cooked a much more complicated dish, but if they liked the taste of hers the best, then his complexity doesn't really matter.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                                                        You don't think complexity and difficulty and originality should count for something in a competition setting though? I mean, I can make a cobb salad that tastes absolutely fantastic... but I wouldn't expect to win a challenge on Top Chef with that dish.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                          Read Bordain's blog. He offers a very clear explanation about why simple won over complex.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                            Read my post below. I elaborated. At any rate, complexity and difficulty should at least be a factor, though perhaps a minor one in comparison to taste.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: tastyjon

                                                                                                                                        Here's my theory. All the talk from the dining table about family and memories and all? They were looking for a "Ratatouille" moment -- remember when the critic ate his first bite, after the entire kitchen staff and he himself had sneered at the idea of ratatouille (which everyone makes)? He was transported back to his childhood...and when Tom said "this reminds me of fishing with Nonno," well, Antonia nailed it.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                          I like that theory, momjamin! :-)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                            So do I!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                              That's exactly what I was going to point out.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                bingo. Tom reacted exactly like that critic in the ratatouille movie. This reaction is more valuable than loads of complex techniques.

                                                                                                                                                I think antonia is the dark horse and may win the entire competition. If I had to pick one of the remaining chefs to cook my meals for a month, I'd choose antonia in an instant.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                                                                                  Agree with TheFoodEater. Razzle dazzle may look nice on a plate and show mad skillz but is it appealing to eat? I think sometimes the chefs (Marcel in particular) miss that point. The thing that was amazing about Michael V's cooking was he had amazing technique and the judges loved eating his food.
                                                                                                                                                  The Hammer can cook for me any time and it won't surprise me if she wins this competition.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: tofuburrito

                                                                                                                                                    Razzle dazzle may look nice on a plate and show mad skillz but is it appealing to eat?
                                                                                                                                                    ~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                    which is precisely why i thought the QF in this episode was so silly.

                                                                                                                                            2. i KNEW in my bones that Tre was going home the second they showed that clip of him winning that S3 challenge with risotto. boo.

                                                                                                                                              i'm too bummed to talk about it all, but just one note about the QF...could Angelo be more of a bonehead? for the record, he wrote "crocAdile." so he insulted Mizrahi AND spelled the word wrong!

                                                                                                                                              18 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                How did Angelo insult Isaac?

                                                                                                                                                And how is it possible for Tre to win a risottoe challenge if he didn't know how to cook risotto? Did his risotto "spread" during S3? All of a sudden everyone is focused on whether his rice spreads and whether the rice shines.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                  How did Angelo insult Isaac?
                                                                                                                                                  ~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                  he told him pint-blank that Roberto Cavalli was his favorite designer and that's who inspired his dish. i saw it as a bit of a slap in the face.

                                                                                                                                                  re: the risotto, i think it's bizarre that Bourdain was also a judge when Tre *won* with a risotto dish, but tonight he questioned whether Tre even know what real risotto was.

                                                                                                                                                  the whole episode just rubbed me the wrong way. stupid QF, strange judging, and too much inane table chatter about Marty Scorsese, Joe Pesci and the good-old "Goodfellas" days.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                    Interesting point about Bourdain.

                                                                                                                                                    Agree about the inane chatter. It seemed that it all came from Lorain Brocco.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                                                                      They were probably at Rao's for several hours, so there was lots of chatter. Lorraine Bracco was guest judge so naturally the edits featured her.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                        i understand where the chatter came from, i just don't care to watch/hear it. i'm tired of the producers taking time away from action in the kitchen or at JT to show us stuff like that - it has nothing to do with Top Chef...if i want to get nostalgic about Goodfellas i'll watch my DVD of it.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                          "it has nothing to do with Top Chef"
                                                                                                                                                          ******************

                                                                                                                                                          Sorry, you're wrong. That's not what Top Chef is to YOU, but Top Chef is an entertainment television program based around a cooking competition, and the producers can put any damn thing they want to that they think will make it entertaining to the broadest possible audience. YOU want to see more cooking. Many of us would like to see more cooking. But the producers are trying to appeal to a broad spectrum of viewers not just people who are cooking fanatics.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                            fine, add IMO to the end of that sentence and there should be no problem with what i said.

                                                                                                                                                            man, everyone's awfully touchy this season. sheesh!

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                              I've come late to the party. But I too am struck by the vehemence of the posters.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                                I like to think just testy after a week without....

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                This thread, anyhoo, yeah. Testy, unpleasant and not much fun.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                                  Agreed. Very argumentative this season. Not fun for me, but I think some people enjoy that.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: sharonlouk

                                                                                                                                                                    I'm fine with argument (ask anyone! ;-)), but not so much the nasty edge or personal stuff. Linda creates this great fun thread for us, and discussing the show should be fun and friendly.

                                                                                                                                                                    Adding "IMO" for those who don't think that fun and friendliness are important.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                      In the quick clip of that initial risotto, it did look much creamier than the TC All Stars risotto which appeared to have the consistency of mashed potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                    3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                      I knew Tre was gone by the editing, too. I thought it was obvious.

                                                                                                                                                      Angelo insulted Mizrahi by mentioning his favorite designer, whom I have forgotten, as the tie in to the mispelled crocodile....

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jeanmarieok

                                                                                                                                                        I just don't see that as an insult. Did Mizrahi ever design a men's line? Angelo was just being honest.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                          Maybe insult is not quite the right word (maybe it is tho). It just seemed a bit...rude-ish? Sometimes saying nothing is more polite than being honest. And yes, Mizrahi has designed mens lines.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                            Cavalli designs for both men and women. In women's wear, the two are direct competitors.

                                                                                                                                                            With that new information, perhaps you see why folks are saying "insult." Imagine walking up to anyone who has achieved respect in a particular field and telling that individual that you admire the work of someone else in the same field ( e.g. telling Eric Rippert that you prefer the cuisine of Joel Robuchon.) At the very least, it gains you nothing. And in a competitive situation, it's a huge blunder.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                              but Mizrahi did make a comment or a sound about it - even if playfully.

                                                                                                                                                        2. The quickfire in this episode was the worst in the history of TC. I understand bringing fashion into the dessert show but this confounded me. Does this guy have a fashion show on Bravo? A cross-promotion is the only reason I think of for him appearing tonight.

                                                                                                                                                          Was Fabio's polenta pan-fried or creamy?

                                                                                                                                                          I understand why Tre was sent home, but maybe Mike should have gone home for being a paisano that made and cooked pasta incorrectly.

                                                                                                                                                          I wasn't enamored with this episode. I am disinterested in the whole mafia thing. I care so little about mob-related movies that I have never seen any of the Godfather films or Goodfellas. I've never seen The Sopranos. I suppose it's more than disinterest, more like annoyance because avoiding mafia/mob movies and TV has become an intentional thing for me.

                                                                                                                                                          I think that if Fabio would have thought about his comment about Angelo's quick-fire dish a little more, it could have been one of the best lines in TC history. (He said Angelo's dish looked like a bag of vomit. He was correct).

                                                                                                                                                          The fashion guy reminded me of when Marcel said Chinatown was full of Chinese (a "challenging challenge", really?)

                                                                                                                                                          10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                            Does this guy have a fashion show on Bravo? A cross-promotion is the only reason I think of for him appearing tonight.
                                                                                                                                                            ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                            bingo.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                              The promotion was mistimed. The last episode for Fashion Show was two weeks ago.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lenwood

                                                                                                                                                                i wouldn't know - i've never seen it. i was just confirming John E's question/suspicion about whether Mizrahi has a show n the network.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                  Mizrahi was a frequent guest on Molto Mario, and always asked pertinent questions. Plus he's sort of a New York institution. Just my $.02.

                                                                                                                                                            2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                              Fabio's polenta certainly looked creamy when they served it, not pan-fried.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                Sorry. There *was* a pan-fried dish put down in that round, but I was busy typing and didn't see exactly what it was.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                  I thought that the show described the polenta as pan-fried at one point, but I could be wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                    OK, I remembered that as well. So I'm not THAT crazy. Just a little bit. ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                    Blaise did a pan fried pancetta "cutlet", Fabio did the cacciatore with the creamy polenta that Frankie Raos said was exactly how he like his polenta.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                  Agreed, I was horrified by a QF where edibility played NO role. When Angelo talked about wanting to be a food stylist, he hit the nail on the head. The QF was Top Food Stylist and not Top Chef.
                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, Mizrachi co-hosted The Fashion Show, Ultimate Collection, Bravo's replacement for Project Runway. I don't mind the cross-promotion, but maybe the edible fashion design challenge from TC: Just Desserts would have been a better fit.

                                                                                                                                                                3. re QF: Angelo's - I wonder if Mizrahi even caught the misspelling? Yeah, i agree, nothing appealing about that plate. But Fabio's looked ridiculous to me, and calling the women figurines "tuna"?? please.

                                                                                                                                                                  i was excited about the EC because it was finally back to pitting one chef against another instead of teams vs. teams.

                                                                                                                                                                  In my opinion, Antonia won with her simple dish because it TASTED THE BEST. so what if it was simple? so what if anyone can do it? yeah, any one of those chefs "could" have done it but they chose not to, and what they did, while maybe more complicated (although what's complicated or innovative about mike's rigatoni and sauce? just that he made fresh pasta? so, they can all do that too - AND he screwed it up! By the way, one of the Rao guys SAID that he had stressed to them that they absolutely could use dry pasta - meaning to me they would not be penalized for it.)

                                                                                                                                                                  i actually thought Dale should have gone home, much as I like his cooking so far.... bland flavors, not properly cooked pasta either, no sauce, no depth it seemed like....

                                                                                                                                                                  But i'm watching the repeat, and Tre's risotto is shown as a round lump on one of the judge's plates!

                                                                                                                                                                  I love that Tiffany pulled it off after burning her first batch, and that once again, even tho the Rao's guy pooh-poohed her soup, Carla came though.

                                                                                                                                                                  Linda, a slight correction - Blais made some kind of pancetta cutlet, not the cacciatore - that was also Fabio's dish, along with his polenta. I am sure you were worn out by the snow! Thanks again for rallying and posting your fabulous summary.

                                                                                                                                                                  49 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                    Great recap, Linda! Thanks so much!
                                                                                                                                                                    Didn't the guy from Rao's say that they sometimes used dried pasta? It went by so quick that I wasn't sure. If so, I sure wouldn't advertise it. Then again, they're not looking for business.
                                                                                                                                                                    I was upset that Tre went home. I thought that Mike should have been the one to PYKAG - as someone said earlier, an Italian who doesn't know how to cook pasta? Give me a break! He also made a snide remark about Tiffany's polenta and sausage not seeming like an antipasto to him, but it was one of the judges' favorites.
                                                                                                                                                                    And it looks like Antonia has finally beaten the "curse."

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                      I don't get what's so wrong with dried pasta. I remember watching Mario Batali on "Molto Mario" back in the day and practically every episode he would talk about how in Italy dried pasta isn't viewed as inferior to fresh pasta at all. They're just different. And I agree with him. Fresh pasta can never get the al dente bite that dried pasta gets. Some sauces are better with dried pastas (aglio e olio or a simple marinara), and some are better with egg-based fresh pastas (butter and parmesan).

                                                                                                                                                                      This episode was somewhat lame. Lorraine Bracco is pretty annoying and I agree with the previous poster about the overkill fo the whole "Italian food is about letting the ingredients shine."

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: CoconutMilk

                                                                                                                                                                        From the episode it seemed like italian food is about sitting around talking about goodfella's and making mafia jokes.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                                                                                                          ... and about exchanging pasta for sex.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                            what ? where did that come from?

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                                                                                                              Lorraine Bracco's comment (if memory serves correct) about Tre's risotto.

                                                                                                                                                                              Something to the effect of "if he made this for me, he wouldn't be getting any tonight"

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                not about Tre's risotto, about Dale's pasta dish. Tom asked her if she'd break up with her boyfriend for making her that dish, and she said he wouldn't get laid that night.

                                                                                                                                                                                ...and Tom's question stemmed from Dale's explanation that he got the idea for it from a dish he makes for his girlfriend.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                  Ah, yes ... thanks for the clarification.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                    And, they milked that line for all it was worth--with every preview, commercial, etc. "Well, he wouldn't be getting laid!"

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                          When Mike, Trey, and Dale were facing the judges, the editors managed the footage so that the person to PYKAG was anybody's guess. However, the minute Bourdain praised Mike's sauce during the judges' discussion, I figured Mike had lived to cook another week.

                                                                                                                                                                          I've decided Mike is on a very slow learning curve when it comes to maturity and getting along with others, but he is learning. The look on his face when he realized he would not be the one to PYKAG communicated deep humility and gratitude. Let's see how long the lessons of that moment last!?!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                            Some pastas are not meant to be made/served from fresh. Rigatoni is one of those. Many, many Italian restaurants -- fine ones -- serve dried pasta as well as fresh. It just depends on the type of pasta and the dish it's being used to make.

                                                                                                                                                                            For some reason, many Americans have gotten the notion that dried pasta is "BAD" and fresh pasta is "GOOD." It's not a system of absolutes.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                              FWIW, I use dried pasta almost exclusively. I'm no good at making it (I know my limitations, and pasta is one of them), don't much care for the "fresh" ones sold at the supermarket, and find dried pasta easy and consistently good. There are some really fine brands out there.
                                                                                                                                                                              I questioned their promotion of dried pasta precisely because so many Americans do think that only fresh pasta is good, and because people have been chastised on TC for not making their own pasta and praised when they have done so. Remember one gal, I can't remember who or which season, was the pasta queen? She made it beautifully and with no apparent effort, always winning gold stars at JT.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                I agree, I much prefer dried pasta myself...I really have to be in the mood for fresh...

                                                                                                                                                                                However, I think the judges would have totally citicized Mike if he didnt attempt to make hiw own pasta!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                  IMHO, fresh pasta is good when it's sheets of pasta like lasagne, filled pasta like ravioli, or ribbons like pappardelle--things that you make by passing the dough through rollers. You almost never see fresh extruded pastas formed by pushing the dough through a die like Mike was making. I guess I've assumed that's because the machines to make extruded pasta aren't nearly as inexpensive and easy to use as the rollers.

                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                  <For some reason, many Americans have gotten the notion that dried pasta is "BAD" and fresh pasta is "GOOD.">
                                                                                                                                                                                  ----------
                                                                                                                                                                                  IMO it's no mystery. For many of those who declare that this supposition is universally true without qualification - It's snobbery, it's "I spend more money than you do" syndrome (even though this is not correct, some dried pastas cost much more than fresh), it's "FRESH so by definition is better" syndrome, it's "Oh you poor thing, you don't have FRESH pasta to eat?" syndrome.

                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                  Didn't the guy from Rao's say that they sometimes used dried pasta? It went by so quick that I wasn't sure.
                                                                                                                                                                                  ~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                  yes, when they were discussing Isabella's failed rigatoni at the table, one of them distinctly said "I told them it would be okay to use dried pasta."

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                    I believe this episode proves that Mike Isabella did not make the bucatini in the early episode (was it 2?). Tom asked Mike if he 'made' the bucatini and he said he 'made' the bucatini as in making the dough and extruding it because that's the only way to make it. Mike then had a guilty, sheepish look on his face. He cooked the bucatini. If he had used a pasta extruder they would have shown that for sure. Is KitchenAid one of the sponsors?

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                    I just rewatched. I think what the guy from Rao's said (in the consultation part early on) was that "you can use dried pasta-- we don't-- but you can". I think a statement like that would make if *very* hard for Mike to use dried. And anyway, at the point where he saw his pasta wasn't cooked enough, there's no way there's time to use dried anyway. He's just stuck. That's one thing that annoys me a bit about the show-- a real chef would and should take the extra couple minutes to get the dish right, but the game show format forces them to send something out underdone. I know, I know, it's "drama", but when Tom chides them for "sending out something bad" it's a bit silly. "I know it was bad, but I couldn't fix it chef, 'cause the timer was up!"

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                      I think it's worth noting that there is a difference between "dried" pasta and "boxed" pasta. All boxed pasta is dried, but not all dried pasta is boxed.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I agree, he was stuck at that point. Sending out dried pasta might have kept him in the game, but despite AB's blog, I don't think it could win. But he could have at least cooked a small batch early to judge proper cook time on his rig. Then he could have adjusted or switched if needed.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                        Really? I don't remember that he said that they don't used dried pasta at Raos. I've eaten there, and I am 100% certain that the pasta in my pasta fagioli was dried pasta.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                          i agree. i thought he said they sometimes did.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                                                                                            I stand corrected-- I rewatched that section and he said "we *do* do that at the restaurant". I thought he had said "don't"

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                                                                                                              they do have their own line of dried pastas- very expensive ( for pasta) and very good

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                                                                                                                                I've only seen their bottled sauces. I'll have to see if I can find the dried pasta, just to give it a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Have y'all tried the Cipriani line of dry pasta ?

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                    no, do you like it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I like it very much. Amongst the best I've had (IMO) whether dry or fresh. I particularly like them with simple accompaniments (like just truffle paste, light sauces, etc).

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'll have to look for this brand. ummm, I love pasta:-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                                                                                                                                          The ones I use [and am referring to] are the extra thin egg pasta ones in boxes (8.82 oz). What they call 'Tagliarelle' (plain variety) is my favorite. You can get them from various online places including Amazon (!) if your local market does not carry them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I just looked them up online ( I live in a teeny, tiny town, so none locally) and saw Amazon had it. Now on my list for food splurges - I love a splurge that is under $10.00. The " extra thin" intrigues me. thanks so much for the tip!

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                                        "Although what's complicated or innovative about mike's rigatoni and sauce? just that he made fresh pasta?"
                                                                                                                                                                                        _______
                                                                                                                                                                                        It requires a lot more technique and finesse to make it well than mussels in white wine sauce. Its a more difficult dish. Though still not particularly innovative.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                          Yeah, but he didn't make it well.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: donovt

                                                                                                                                                                                            Ahh but he did make the sauce well, the judges commented that the sauce tasted good, but it was the pasta that killed the dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jcattles

                                                                                                                                                                                              True, I would think making the sauce well would be the easy part of the dish though.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: donovt

                                                                                                                                                                                                There's calamari in Mike's sauce. That ingredient alone would put the sauce in the challenging category. Think back to all the calamari you've had that was overcooked to the point that eating it was equivalent to eating rubber bands. Think about all the episodes the Cheftestants have failed cooking calamari specifically or, even, in failing to season properly.

                                                                                                                                                                                                In a situation in which all three chefs doing the primi course failed to deliver, Mike got the sauce spectacularly right. All we're discussing is why that was enough to save him -- certainly nobody is promoting him for the win.

                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Indy 67

                                                                                                                                                                                                  There are two ways to cook calamari. The most notable is very quickly. However, calamari can be stewed long and slow in sauce (gravy) and it comes out amazingly tender. It's that in-between time that produces the "rubber-band effect."

                                                                                                                                                                                                  (In fact, I'm making calamari in gravy for friends on Super Bowl Sunday.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                                    You can't say Super Bowl, it's the big game. The NFL police are probably preparing a warrant as I type this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                                                                                                                                      I don't recall either by commentary or footage of the cooking which technique Mike used to prepare his calamari. Did you catch this detail?

                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: jcattles

                                                                                                                                                                                                  I never said he did.

                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: donovt

                                                                                                                                                                                                  That's just the problem. He didn't make it well, and it was the PASTA course, not the "sauce" course.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's actually not the pasta course, it's the primi. It doesn't have to be pasta at all as evidenced by the fact that Tre's risotto was not liked because it wasn't good, not because it wasn't pasta. Growing up, we always had a primi. I was surprised that Carla made soup for the antipasto since soup is a perfectly acceptable primi. Our primi might have been soup, pasta with peas or various kinds of beans or other vegetables, or a simple marinara, or, of course, pasta with a long-simmered sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sorry, I meant it was "his" pasta course. Making undercooked pasta would be like serving an over/undercooked steak with a nice sauce. The main ingredient should be the star, and absolutely needs to be edible. If the sauce was to be the star, he could have changed it around a little and made a soup with some crostini or garlic bread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hmmm. Just read AB's blog and he calls it "the pasta course." Love Eric Ripert's vlog! Bu then, I'd be happy listening to him read the phone book. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                          The chef from Rao's told them that the one hot antipasto they offer is soup, thereby opening up soup as a good bet for that course.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm curious about the way food is served in Italian homes. How often did your family have meals like this with three distinct courses? How long after the primi was the secondi served? The part that seems difficult is when there is a last minute preparation like steaks. Who cooks the steaks (I know Tuscany has steaks) while the primi is being served/eaten? Or are they just resting thorugh the anti-pasti and primi?I'm not trying to be a smart-aleck at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            In our family if we had three courses that were served separately it was salad, main, dessert. We infrequently ate dessert growing up and now don't have it at every meal either. My mother was once asked how we ended our meal if we didn't have dessert, she replied "we just get up".

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I can only speak for my relatives in Italy, who actually stick fairly close to this pattern. Generally, the meat is cooked ahead of time and rests while the other courses are served.But it's not uncommon for there to be some course crossover where someone is eating both primo and secondo at the same time. (Personally, since I don't eat meat, I usually try to stretch out the primo as long as possible so I'm not staring at an empty plate while the others are still eating.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                              We often have a salad after the secondo, but rarely any dessert beyond coffee.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Of course, my family here (Canada) doesn't really do courses that much -- we just put everything on the table at once and let everyone help themselves.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We ate like this virtually every day. We rarely had an antipasto at home, so it was primi, secundi and then almost always a salad. My mother cooked everything except for things that were grilled outside, which my father did. Twice a week (Thursdays and Sundays) we would have pasta with meatballs, so the meatballs (and other meats like braciole, sausage, and a piece of pork). Sometimes the red sauce would be made with chicken in lieu of the red meats. Other secundi were steak pizzaiola, chicken done a variety of ways, veal -- usually Milanese but sometimes veal birds, etc. This was how we ate every day, and as a very picky eater as a child, there was usually something I hated!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We started to serve the salad last (sans kids) last. We used to either do the American thing and eat the salad first or at the same time as the rest of the meal. I decided to have salad last because if you eat the meal and don't put dressing on the salad and are full, you can save the salad for the next day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks, mc. THAT was the "fried" something or other. I remember Fabio talking about cacciatore, and I guess that stuck in my tired brain. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. Thanks Linda!. Husband now insists on reading your write up before the show, and saying things like "who does Linda like? ..... she was disappointed...." I said "Linda doesn't have favorites!"Then I guessed for the next hour, but wouldn't let him tell me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                                                                                          LOL! I'm honored - but reading BEFORE watching? I don't know if I could do that if I wasn't writing them! :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          And yes, I *do* have favorites! Now that Tre's been knocked out, Blais is my pick for the win. Or Dale -he's grown on me this season as compared to his original season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                            +1 on Dale. I used to hate that guy, but he seems to have matured and his food looks interesting to me. Was he on the season that Hosea won? I hated that season, so it's a complete blur to me. I also never really felt good about Antonia, but she seems much more likeable this season. Could it be the editing? Maybe the producers are setting them up as finalists? And see how suspicious you've all made me? :o)

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Dale was on the season with Blais and Stephanie, as was Antonia. Fabio and Carla were on with Hosea.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Husband doesn't really watch the show, but MY watching it, and all the ones leading up to the new one, is my Wed ritual. HIS Wed ritual is teasing/harrasing me about it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I always read your recap and the responses before I watch. I wake up at 5:00, so I don't like staying up until 11:00 or 11:15 to watch. Then again, I've only known about CH since the last, DC season (yawn) and don't much care who takes this season, so I guess the suspense isn't the real draw it used to be and reading this gives me a guide of what to look for as I'm watching.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                In fact, I have yet to see yesterday's episode. I was without power most of yesterday (thanks ice storm) and catching up on other stuff. I plan to watch after catching up with CH.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No pressure....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    No, none at all . . . as long as it's a hell of an entertaining, full accurate recap ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Because you know if there are any errors, someone is going to notice and point it out. At some point, we can all just stop watching the show altogether and read Linda's Cliff note version for a more in depth analysis. And, don't forget about being grammatically correct, too! Linda's weekly thesis on Top Chef--much appreciated.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Noooooooooooooooooo! You cannot stop watching! I don't catch everything! I wanna hash it out ad nauseum with all of you (at least until the next week's show when we start the roller coaster all over again!).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I wanna go over

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        every.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        last.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        minute.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        detail.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        with you all!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It is hereby declared that you are all forbidden from NOT being glued to your television on Wednesday nights at 10pm (or your DVR'd show the next day) and you are required to come here to discuss.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Let it be written. Let it be done.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        ::::waving my antique wooden spoon at you all to make it so::::::

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Okaaaay....

                                                                                                                                                                                                            3. Mizrahi didn't eat/judge the main meal did he? I didn't like most of the people at the table for some reason, and I *do* like mob movies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              The guys were douches when Antonia walked in after winning. I loved the look she gave them. I agree with those who say mussels is NOT a slam dunk at all. They can be amazing or boring or a bummer all around (I had surprisingly boring and small ones on Prince Edward Island of all places last summer).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. "What about Fabio's complaint that steamed mussles, moules as you wrote, is actually French?"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Tom loved this dish because he said that he always had it with his grandfather after fishing, and I don't think that Tom's grandfather was French!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                This episode seemed to have killed the theory that Antonia's teammates always go home. I thought the reaction of the other chef's to her announcement that she had won was terrible. They -- and Mike in particular -- looked at her as though she had suddenly sprouted a second head. But I was sorry that Mike didn't go home. His braggadocio is becoming wearing. I truly thought that it was going to be either Mike or Dale since part of Mike's dish (the pasta) was inedible, and neither the sauce nor the pasta in Dale's dish was any good. Unlike others, I was not a big Tre fan, but I thought that his risotto was at least edible even though the flavor was overwhelmed by the vegetables and the texture was not right. Interesting that he claims that is how he was taught to make risotto and that he always makes risotto that way. This is interesting in that he actually won for risotto during his season!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  First of all, IIRC, Tom grew up in the U.S. I have no idea where his grandfather grew up. Second, it wasn't a team challenge so Antonia's curse wasn't lifted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    He was describing last night which Italian cities/villages his parents were from, so I would assume both sets of grandparents are Italian was well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LaPomme

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tom said that part of his family was from Calabria (the toe of the boot) and another part was from a town near Naples, I think, but then he said that he'd never been south of Rome.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I would assume that Tom's grandfather was born in the US, as like hell someone from Calabria would put butter like that on mussels. My mother's family is Italian-American, and food was an important part of family gatherings, but I'm sure I'm not the first Italian American to discover that the preparations they grew up with have little to do with the food that is eaten in Italy today.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Why would you assume his grandfather was born in the US?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            For the reason I mentioned: that it would be very, very odd for an Italian of that generation from Calabria to put butter on mussels.(Calabrese cuisine is known for being one of the few regions that feature spicy cooking --even seafood--and butter would have been unheard of as a preparation for mussels then). .. Unless he was born here in the US and was raised with Italian American preparations (which, I would imagine, would "allow" butter as a preparation, especially in the 50s, where butter was slapped on everything).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              OK, so I just went to read Collichio's blog for the first time this week. He emphasizes that Rao's is Italian-American and further adds:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "When my father's family came over to the States from Italy, absolutely no one was importing Italian ingredients. His family had to incorporate into their cooking traditions the foods available to them here."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I can only assume his grandfather was therefore born in Italy as well?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Even if Antonia's isn't strictly "Italian" to Fabio, she said it's what she grew up w/ in her family, Italian American, which is more closely related to the cooking at Rao's Italian American place than what Fabio might make, as Italian food. It doesn't matter where Tom's family is from, if it brings back memories of his Italian American upbringing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I thought that was the point I was making? Or was that response really directed to lark?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sorry, it was agreeing w/ yours.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sorry too . . .Didn't mean to sound as confrontational as that post sounded :(

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: gaffk

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It was just my guess based on the fact that Southern_Italians_don't_use_butter, especially with seafood. This isn't my opinion. It's very odd that his family would prepare mussels this way; if I had to guess, it was very much the Americanization of the 1950s culture that schlocked butter on everything. (Either that, or he was talking about the consistency, not the flavors?)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: larkinaitana

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, read Tom's blog. There were no Italian imports in America when his family immigrated; they adapted to their American surroundings. Rao's is an Italian American restaurant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I grew up in a city with a large number of 3rd+ generation Italian residents, so I "knew" what red gravy Italian food was. Imagine my surprise when I dined at my friend's off-the-boat parents' house ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    PS--I'm of Irish descent (many generations ago)--corned beef and cabbage is not Irish, it's Irish-American.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      No, I don't agree - I wouldn't call Antonia, Carla and Tiffany teammaates at all - they simply had to work on the same course

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Edit - this was a response to roxlet - not WWD

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Quickfire was really really lame. Stupid in fact. Kind of throw their argument that is is all about how the food tastes out the window.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Knew Tre was going home as soon as he talked about his past successes with Risotto.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Knew Antonia was going to win as soon as Big Tom started reminiscing about how her dish reminded him of a dish his grandfather made when as a boy they went fishing together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      But I did like the elimination challenge. Liked the whole old school Rao's Italian theme.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. A few thoughts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - I'm not all that bothered by the quickfire (ok, that fashion guy was out of place), but I suspect others will be. Given that Top Chef has had quickfires testing knife skills, and extreme speed cooking, and identifying "mystery ingredients," I think a challenge that isolated their plating skills was interesting. Why not? It's just another element of restaurant cooking. That said, I wish it was a little clearer (to us viewers or to the chefs themselves?) whether their plates were also being judged as something the judges would like to eat or if judging was to be based solely on artistic visual appeal... basically painting and sculpture with foodstuffs. From the judging, it seems as though the former was an active criteria, but it seemed like a lot of the chefs didn't know that when they created their plates.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - Above me (and surely soon below) are complaints that Antonia won with a simple dish, an easy-to-make, unoriginal offering that seems either atypical or unworthy of an elimination challenge win. A part of me agrees - if taste was all that mattered, seems like you should be able to win just by supreme-ing a honeybell orange in season and putting it on a plate. At the same time, I wasn't there and maybe Antonia's dish tasted THAT much better than her opponents', while giving the judges a fine rendition of a Italian American restaurant classic that they all seemed to crave at that moment. And that, I guess, is what bothers me more. On previous episodes, challenges asked chefs to be influenced by specific cuisines, but were still free to make the food their own. You all remember Kevin last season winning praise for making a very inauthentic but delicious dish vaguely influenced by Indian cuisine when he didn't know the first thing about it? But now, chefs are made to cook Italian/Italian-American classics, and people such as Angelo are faulted for not holding true enough to the principles of Italian cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        It makes for a lame dynamic, with contestants arguing whether fennel is Italian or French, or whether Tiffany's apparently delicious polenta was appropriate for antipasta, or according to the blogs, Italian enough. It's more pedantry than I like while watching Top Chef. That's what my posts are for ;)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - On another note, here's a quote from Bourdain's blog that I especially liked:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        "I wasn't around for the Quickfire, so maybe I missed why Padma was dressed like a Superfriend."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - I'm a little sad that Tre's gone, but at least he went out with his characteristic grace. You'll get em next time, Tre.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        - And finally, do they HAVE to trot out Jimmy Fallon next episode? Is there any way that I can influence the editing of next weeks show at this late a date? That man is like an amazing swiffer sweeper that uses the mysterious power of science to remove every trace of fun and happiness from the room. What's next - is Carson Daly gonna be hosting the finale? (sorry to all fans of either man - I mean no offense. But I don't understand you at all)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        41 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Great observation about the QF isolating a non-taste skills. But, as in fashion/on the runway, my picks about what was attractive nearly completely missed Mizrahi's picks. I've got no problem with Blais winning, but I honestly thought he was in trouble with the black/gray gravel-looking ice cream...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: momjamin

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I thought tre's plate looked the most spectacular, and he was in the bottom. By far the best, to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Mizrahi appeared to be a charlatan to me. I'm a bullshitter and I know another bullshitter when I see one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You might want to discuss your insight with Eric Rippert who spends a considerable amount of time discussing Mizrahi's food bona fides on his vlog.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                i agree! i actually really liked tre and dale's plates alot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, Tre's and Dale's colors appealed to me. (Maybe because there's so much frozen gray stuff outside right now.) I did agree that Angelo belonged in the bottom, but would have mentioned something about the actual bag of whatever-that-was instead of the Manson scrawl ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    And Mizrahi's first comment to Dre was that he liked the abstraction of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: TheFoodEater

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was drawn to both Tre and Dale's plates as well, but I think in this case it was just a matter of opinion. Mizrahi obviously doesn't care for the style they put forth. There are other designers/artists that probably would have put them at the top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  @ cbyd: Mostly in agreement.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Disappointing episode. Nonsensical, even. Unsatisfying QF. Ridiculous EC. Weird judging at odds with previous so-called criteria for imaginative food etc. They all seemed like giddy Mafioso and Mafiosa. Oh, so now authenticity ("Italian" or bust) of specific notions of American-Italian cuisine and childhood memories are what are required for TC?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Personally disliked Lofaso's win; it seemed like they threw out any other notions of judging other than what fond reminiscences the taste reminded them of.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Note that ALL the other cheftestants not on the "winning panel", (which had all 3 remaining females) - who happened to be male - were incredulous at her win. Ditto Fabio Viviani. Even the vaunted Blais, FAVORITE of so many here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Tre going - fine by me.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mike staying - good.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Dale staying - good for him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Oh, so now authenticity ("Italian" or bust) of specific notions of American-Italian cuisine and childhood memories are what are required for TC?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    **********************

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    That's apparently what was required for *this challenge* -- is it difficult to understand that different challenges have different requirements?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    If you don't like this challenge, how did you like the challenge in Season 5 to recreate one of Eric Ripert's dishes? Or the very similar challenge in Season 3 where they were supposed to create a classically French dish out of a set of ingredients?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    As for what the guys thought, they've shown repeatedly that they don't have any respect for anyone who isn't part of their boys club. I wouldn't put any credence on their opinions at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      "f you don't like this challenge, how did you like the challenge in Season 5 to recreate one of Eric Ripert's dishes? Or the very similar challenge in Season 3 where they were supposed to create a classically French dish out of a set of ingredients?"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ______
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Completely different. In those challenges, the contestants were given a taste of a specific dish, and their technical ability was tested in their ability to recreate that dish precisely.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      In this challenge the contestants were asked (were they asked, or was it unsaid?) to hit the hazy and moving target that was the judges personal remembrances. And unless you grew up next door to Tom or once had an affair with Bourdain's wife, you probably won't know exactly how the porkchops were cooked in their most cherished memories. They were given no real objective to aim for... at least not one that they should all be familiar with.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        No, in the French challenge they were given a set of ingredients and told to make a classic French dish -- basically the same as this challenge. And if you remember, Casey was criticized for calling her grandmother's recipe Coq au Vin when it was made with chicken and not a "cock" -- what part of the "challenge" was that?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The fact is, you don't know why the judges chose what they chose. You only know what the editors chose to show you. The editors chose to show you the parts about Tom reminiscing about his grandfather and not a technical discussion of the dish which may well have occurred in the *hours* of judging they go through. The other fact is that no one, in the history of Top Chef, has been eliminated for producing an otherwise well-done dish that did not meet the parameters of the challenge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I thought the challenge was perfectly clear: make a classically Italian dish, such as you would find in that restaurant. In the end, winning any of the challenges is a "moving target": food is subjective, and no one can tell what is going to tickle the judges' fancy on a particular day. And you do have to satisfy all the judges -- in this very challenge, for example, Carla was in the top group even though the Rao guy didn't care for her minestrone -- so it's not just at the whim of one judge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "No, in the French challenge they were given a set of ingredients and told to make a classic French dish"
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          _____
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It was a while ago, but I'm pretty sure that's incorrect. They were given a chicken, a potato, and an onion and told to use technique to make something simple and delicious. Sara M and Brian, IIRC, didn't make particularly French dishes. Casey was criticized, perhaps unfairly (though it also seemed as though Tom was just nitpicking a dish he liked and scored well), because she chose to serve a young chicken in a way best suited to old roosters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          "The fact is, you don't know why the judges chose what they chose. You only know what the editors chose to show you."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          _____
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This argument never goes anywhere, so I don't know why people still make it. Do you have any more of an inside track than I do? Just like you, I can speculate and make educated guesses. If we couldn't, there'd be no point of these threads. The judges went and made the same observations and criticisms on their blogs... where I'm pretty sure they weren't taken out of context.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Basically, this level of demand for "authenticity" is unprecedented in a Top Chef elimination challenge. Other challenges have specifically made disclaimers that chefs weren't expected to be intimately familiar with any particular cuisine to do well. On this one, contestants were faulted for making food that wasn't Italian enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          You can argue that Italian/Ital-American cuisine is so well entrenched in American culture that it's different from, say, Ethiopian cuisine and the chefs (Americans + Fabio) should be responsible for knowing a bit about it. I'd half-way buy that. But to say that this challenge is no different from other challenges where the chefs were allowed and encouraged to apply their own backgrounds and training in making a dish is simply not true.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I think you are absolutely wrong cbyd- and I have to agree with Ruth Lafler. Italian-American cooking is a certain type of food they were asked to recreate- most of them knew exactly what that meant, whether or not they executed it well . I also have to agree with Ruth about the boys club. Misogyny might be too strong of a word, but there is a definite stench of sexism amongst the guys. I'd love to see all three women make it to the finals for that very reason.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh and as always, thanks Linda for posting and doing such a good recap- one of my highlights of Top Chef is getting to come here and obsess!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: karenfinan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              "Italian-American cooking is a certain type of food they were asked to recreate- most of them knew exactly what that meant, whether ornot they executed it well or not."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ____
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You're welcome to disagree with me. But did you read my post - the one just above at 7:03 PM? Your quote was the problem with this challenge. Deviations from that specific cuisine were penalized this challenge, which is bit of a new thing for Top Chef (the dim sum challenge was arguably similar, but also sorta stupid and unfair, though at least more entertaining).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                How were deviations penalized? That was never said or implied in any of the judging.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: karenfinan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The judges must be colluding then.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Where did the judges make the claim that any of these dishes weren't "Italian enough"? The judges remarked that a couple of the dishes weren't completely Italian in their style -- but that's not the same as requiring them to be "authentic" Italian dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The judges often complain about dishes not capturing the essence of the cuisine in the challenge, but there's no indication they require slavish authenticity. In fact, saying that a dish isn't Italian because it's too fussy is no different than saying that a particular dish is not properly a dim sum dish, which they certainly did in the dim sum challenge, or that something isn't an amuse bouche or canape if it's more than one bite, which they've also done. Finally, I'd see your point more if Tre had been eliminated for "not being Italian enough" but he wasn't -- he was eliminated for making bad risotto.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I brought up the judging because you seem to have decided based on no evidence whatsoever that the judging of the challenge hinged on (1) how authentic a dish was and (2) Tom saying that Antonia's dish reminded him of his grandfather. But in fact, the only person who criticized any dish for not being Italian enough was Fabio grousing about Antonia's win -- an opinion I think we can both agree was biased.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You were stating your opinions as facts and then using those purported facts to claim that the judges have somehow acted unfairly. If you'd state your opinions as opinions I'd have fewer problems with them, but if you're going to make accusations of unfairness, then you'd better have some solid evidence backing up your opinions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "Where did the judges make the claim that any of these dishes weren't "Italian enough""
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ____
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Anthony Bourdain made that statement (i'm paraphrasing, but the intended meaning is intact) on his blog about Tiffany's polenta. It was all he gave in the way of explanation for why Tiffany's apparently delicious dish lost to something I could teach a reasonably intelligent 7-year-old to make quickly and well. Seems like it was a judging criteria, at least for Bourdain (of whom I am a huge fan normally, BTW). The judges also complained on camera about Angelo disobeying the rules of Italian cooking with his pork chop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "You were stating your opinions as facts."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ___
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  No, I wasn't. I was stating my opinions plainly and trusting the intelligent readers of these threads to know which of my thoughts were opinions without flashing signs and neon letters reading 'IMO' each time I chose to give one.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "if you're going to make accusations of unfairness, then you'd better have some solid evidence backing up your opinions."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ______
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Huh? Since when? This isn't a court of law - we're debating the fairness of a challenge from a reality TV show. About cooking. On the internet. Later this same thread, people will most likely be sighing over Tre's stunning pearly whites and making fun of Angelo's skinny jeans. I'm not even accusing anyone of any serious misconduct. I just think it was a stupid challenge and that the judges were inconsistent with their usual guidelines. Do I really need a warrant to investigate/discuss the matter any further?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  At any rate, I feel there is plenty of evidence between the aired show and the judges blogs to question the criteria they used in judging this challenge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7636...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I don't understand why you claim that there was a demand for authenticity in this challenge, when all of the talk both at the table and at Judges Table about the strengths and weaknesses of the food were all about how the food tasted. Yes, Tom said something about fishing with his grandpa, but they all discussed the taste of the soup, the polenta, the chicken and the mussels in why they thought that they were winning dishes, and the taste of the three primi dishes in why they thought they were losing dishes. They even said that the polenta wasn't something that they'd seen before and that it wasn't particularly traditional, and yet they liked the taste, so it was one of the dishes on top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    No one from Rao's did any judging, or did they? Their opinions were heard but probably completely discounted as in the case of Carla's soup. Seriously, how hard is it to make minestrone soup? Yes I'm sure it was good, but Olive Garden probably does good minestrone too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Worldwide Diner

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      It doesn't.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              4. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Just curious, Huiray - do you like ANY of the cheftestants?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LJNew

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sure I do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  "it seemed like they threw out any other notions of judging other than what fond reminiscences the taste reminded them of."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  ____
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Quoted for truth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was going to post the Superfriend Bourdain quote...hilarious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lawgirl3278

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    ok, i don't get the superfriend quote! is that when she was wearing the yellow dress that looked so horrible...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: toncasmo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Yes, and it really did look horrible! She's a beautiful woman, but maybe not so much with the skintight yellow satin until the baby weight's come off! Seriously. I'm sure she was mortified when she saw the footage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wow, really? We're now snarking on the judges' weight?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          no. we're snarking on their attire. on tv,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: AMFM

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, correct. I don't think it's wrong to comment on how Padma looks when her role on the show is to look pretty! As I said, I think Padma is very beautiful, but that dress was incredibly unflattering. And Tony Bourdain started it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As I said, I think Padma is very beautiful, but that dress was incredibly unflattering.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              ___________________

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Agree. Nothing wrong with the "new mommy" weight that she's carrying around. But there are better ways to look flattering than to wrap yourself in saran wrap when you've still got some of the 9 months worth of "pregnancy eating" on you. Should've brought back that toga she wore on the NYC restaurant episode.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think that we can all agree that most women would kill to look like Padma even with the pregnancy weight! The problem is the dress: as Michael Kors is always saying on Project Runway, short, tight, and shiny is not good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  this needs a facebook like button. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ah, but maybe she was going for fecundity as a statement. If she was, she certainly succeeded!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      - I'm a little sad that Tre's gone, but at least he went out with his characteristic grace. You'll get em next time, Tre.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      amen! always a class act...one of the many reasons he was my favorite.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I wasn't surprised to see Tre go, but I was really glad to see him go so gracefully. Jen should take note.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I kind of thought the same thing about Fallon. I wonder what their process is in putting together a season and having interesting guests? Of course they won't be able to please everybody. I think a lot of it likely has to do with availability.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I remember not being thrilled with the vegetarian episode of season 6 when I first heard about it. But I thought it was entertaining and Natalie Portman was great, for a vegetarian. (That's a joke everybody).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Jimmy Fallon...really? When it was first announced that he was taking over for Conan O'Brien somebody said "what, was Carrot Top unavailable"?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            A lot of the guest judges are HUGE fans of the show (See: Joe Jonas) and quite possibly they ask to be a guest judge. The episode next week is Fallon's 35th birthday. From TV Guide Magazine article back in September 2010:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            "Jimmy Fallon recently celebrated his 35th birthday at Manhattan's Colicchio & Sons, where the chef-testants prepared some of his favorite dishes. The dinner party included the funnyman and his family as well as Late Night announcer Steve Higgins and head writer A.D. Miles and judges Colicchio, Simmons and Lakshmi. "It was the most fun I've ever had eating such delicious food," raves Lakshmi. "The food was great, and the company was even better."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The guest of honor returns the compliment: "I'm a huge fan of the show," says Fallon, who emceed this year's Emmys, where Top Chef took home its first trophy for best reality competition. "I said, 'I can get you the Emmy if you put me on the show,'" he jokes."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              what? no ?uestlove?!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Now that would be worth watching.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I agree on the vagueness of the QF-- Personally I would think that it would have to be attractive *and* you would actually want to eat it-- some of the things seemed like random collections of food that you wouldn't want to put in your mouth. And man, Angelo's dish was disgusting-looking.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. i actually kinda liked the quickfire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            HOWEVER. i think it would have been much better if he would have picked the top two or three based on looks and then tasted each to decide the winner. it IS still top chef, not next great artist or americas next fashion designer or whatever the Bravo shows are

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with you and agree that your suggested approach would have improved it. That said, while I did sort of like the theory behind the quickfire, that the food should look enticing (and think that in that respect Blais probably did deserve to win), I also felt that the judging was inconsistent. Angelo was probably deservedly in the bottom group because his bag of whatever *did* look gross: but the writing on the table is a put off and the writing on the plate that Fabio did (that put him in the top group) isn't? Fabio's plate was *not* something I wanted to eat. For that matter, neither was Antonia's tree of whatever, and the judge commented that it was attractive. And how would you even taste Tre's plate? It was artistic, but it barely qualified as food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Several of them would have made different dishes if they had known they might be tasted if they looked good enough to eat. And shouldn't that be the point? Blais was proud he won because he wanted to be the most 'artistic chef', not because he wanted to be the best artist.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Does anyone remeber Hung's smurf village from Top Chef Miami? How would that go over?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Or Frank's magical mushroom forest from Season 2? That's the stuff that bad acid trips are made of...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    speaking of bad acid trips, did anyone catch Fabio's comment about that in relation to his QF dish?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I caught it, GHG, it was one of my favorite lines of the night!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        it gave me a good laugh. sometimes it's so hard to understand him that i think we miss some gems :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  based on looking at it alone, i actually thought i would have enjoyed fabios most. but then again tuna is one of my favorite things ever, regardless of preparation. i think the fact that antonia was in the top for a dish that would not have even been edible was kinda ridiculous. it was a challenge about plating FOOD. not creating a foodscape. its top chef, not food network challenge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    FYI, if anyone wants a closer look at the QF dishes, Eater posted a slideshow:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    http://eater.com/archives/2011/02/03/...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This confirms that Angelo's entry looked really disgusting, and that Carla's entry was very pretty while still looking like something you might want to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The only plates that I thought would be something I'd like to eat were Carla's and Tiffany's. I didn't like the look of Richard's black dish, although I thought it clever that he used Mizrahi's penchant for dressing in black as a theme for his "look".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Nettie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        thanks for posting that link. i was really wanting another look at them without having to sort through my DVR again!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      That would have been a very good way to judge the Quickfire, matt. Then taste *would* have mattered. Padma had specifically said that plating was to entice the palate...but then in this challenge, the palate doesn't matter? Rather strange.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Thought the same thing that the winners food should have been tasted. I'm all for making the plate look good. But we all know that it has to taste good as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: mattstolz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I agree too! That would have made it a much better QF. Was I the only one who thought Blais's winning dish looked like a big pile of black mold? It was the most unappetizing thing I've seen in a while. I thought the irony is that all of those chefs have produced much more gorgeous plates when they were making food that was actually to be eaten!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Fresh pasta cooks so quickly !!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Undercooking fresh pasta as much as Mike did seems like a very major mistake. A worse offense than Tre's clumpy risotto.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Seems to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          And THANKS LINDA!!!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            From what Tom said at JT, and what Tony said in his blog, Mike's pasta may not have ever cooked properly. Tom said it looked like it had too much egg.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Did anyone catch Padma's reaction to Tre's exit? I haven't seen her so emotional when a chef left since C.J.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lawgirl3278

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              i'll have to watch it. i walked away from the TV at that point and listened from the other room because i KNEW it was coming and didn't want to see it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lawgirl3278

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, after she told him to PYKAG, she said in a near whisper, "I'm sorry, Tre" and looked positively pained. Clearly, she was a fan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In my memory, she seemed to tear up a little when she said goodbye to Tre, but I might have imagined that. It seemed a little over the top.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: lawgirl3278

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I did notice that. I thought perhaps she was tearing up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lawgirl3278

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, she did seem particularly sad for Tre. i thought it was sweet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      maybe she was more stoned than normal this episode.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    CH.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Fresh ROLLED or FLAT pasta cooks very quickly. Mike I made and EXTRUDED pasta which is a very different beast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3. Did anyone else think- during Mike's gnocchi-making segment.... "why didn't he make gnocchi, if it's such a strength?" Hand made gnocchi is wonderful, and the dish we saw him plating (briefly) looked great.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cheesemonger

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My impression was that he wanted to make the rigatoni specifically because it is so difficult to make and prepare as fresh pasta. He was swinging for the fences and struck out. IMO, this was a ballgame where the base hits won the game.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I've got no comment on this episode. To me it was just like eating Wonder bread with water.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm posting just to thank Linda for her continued (and remarkable) efforts.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Wonder Bread with water. :-D It wasn't their best, but it wasn't their worst ep yet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But you're welcome. :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I thought the same thing. Ehh, whatever. I didn't mind that Tre was eliminated and thought it was fair. I was surprised Richard wasn't in the top, given the raves he got, but it was fair enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. My 2 cents:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I didnt mind this episode.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I liked the QF, however I do agree that the top 3 should have been tasted, then judged.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I don't know why - but I never suspected Antonia was Italian American (DUH)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was not actually watching the show, I was listening as I got ready for work , but
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          being a fan of "The Fashion Show" myself, I knew as soon as Angelo told Mizrahi that Cavalli is is favorite designer - he was gonna be on the bottom! (designers can be a bit sensitive)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Though, it sounds like his dish really looked awful...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I am on the fence about Antonia winning...I kind of agree that her dish was a bit too simple, but I also agree that tastes matter.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It's just that it's another example of the judges attitude about these things being subject to how they feel that particular moment.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I have heard Tom both praise and criticize a really simple dish.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          What they want seems so ramdom to me.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I am someone who hates to label "men/woman ______________" as I truly believe ones sex is irrelevant and should not ever be called into account in a professional setting...
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          BUT - I must admit - I was tickled to see the 3 girls in the top 3!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. BTW, I recall a few episodes ago complaints that Bravo's website didn't seem to be uploading the recipes from All-Stars. They seem to all be there now; Put in the person's name along with Season 8 and you should get their recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            For instance - Blais Season 8 comes up with 17 recipes: http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ugh - just tried with Tre, and it does come up with some of his Season 3 recipes. Same with Marcel - a lot of Season 2 recipes of his were listed, and Carla - some of her Season 5 recipes were there. But at least Season 8 recipes are up!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Just out of curiosity, I wonder if Tre's risotto recipes for both seasons differ in any way? Will have to check it out. Thanks for the info!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Unfortunately, his Season 3 risotto isn't up there. It's really a crapshoot finding recipes there. According to Wikipedia, Tre won the first EC for "Seared Ostrich Filet with Heirloom Tomato Risotto and Abalone Reduction".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I'm surprised at the hate for this episode. I actually rather enjoyed it. I would have liked more cooking and less unrelated conversation during the EC, but overall I got a kick out of the Italian vibe of it all. Maybe because I'm Italian-American I didn't mind it. I also thought Antonia winning was perfectly acceptable. I think more than almost any other cuisine, Italian really is about staying simple and allowing specific ingredients to shine. Hell, the one guy (the son perhaps?) even spoke in a bit of detail how is grandmother/mother was known for eliminating extraneous ingredients. So in this setting IMO, simple and traditional shouldn't be so frowned upon. Ultimately the best dish is going to be about taste. Simple doesn't necessarily always mean best tasting, but when it does, I don't see why it should be degraded/knocked down because it didn't involve as many steps of preparation/execution. If Antonia's mussels blew the judges away, they blew the judges away.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I see people saying steamed mussels are too easy to be a Top Chef winner, but I'm of the opinion that pasta is easy to make fresh and to screw it up so badly is a bit baffling. I recognize that Mike chose a hard shape to make fresh, but that's just a poor decision. A similar dish with a simpler pasta shape would have most likely been very well received if the pasta was done right.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              As for the QF, I can see why a lot of people hated it. I actually enjoyed it being a designer myself (of buildings, not clothes though). It was interesting to see who really took on the task. I would have, however, liked the three favorites to actually be tasted by Isaak before choosing the winner since the idea of good looking food is to attract the palette.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: gastrotect

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm with you, I enjoyed this episode! perhaps because all the food in the EC looked so delicious to me... right up my alley. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. I am one of the people disappointed by this episode. It just really seemed not about the food.