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Top Chef Favorite Challenges

Given the rather pedestrian challenges given the chefs recently, I thought it would be cool to list all the challenges that made the show great just to remind us of what is possible.

The Snow White challenge. Cook a dish that reflects the story of EVIL in the Snow White story line. Outside of the fact that Charlize Theron was the guest judge, I thought this really gave the chefs a way to express themselves and do some outrageous things visually and thematically. it allowed them to go off the reservation for once and most of them rose to the challenge.

The tribute to the person who inspired you to cook. With Patti Labelle. I thought the emotional content of the challenge really inspired the chefs to cook and show where their passion comes from.

All the challenges involving kitchen prep work. It is really impressive to see some pros do their thing. Spike was never my favorite, but man can that guy butcher!! It was amazing to watch and admire.

I like the challenges where they threw in a change in plans so that they had to be creative and be flexible, not too many changeups, just one or two and that is it.. This year it was the conveyor belt challenge. in LCK where they had the switch their work station, ingredients and dish. There was the team challenge where they had to make a dish as a team, where one person prepped and got the dish started and then the next chef came in and had to make do with what the previous person had left them.

restaurant Wars is always fun, it feeds the imagination and the chefs really had to scramble to put something coherent together in a short tiem. I wish they would just leave the front of the house and the decorating stuff to the pros with input from the chefs but leave them to do their stuff.

The mystery ingredient challenge is always kind of interesting, which brings me to why I dislike Chopped. the concept is great, but it is a one trick pony kind of a show where they take just one challenge from many and work it to death. Now Iron Chef is the same way, but the kitsch and fun involved in Iron Chef makes it much more appealing than Chopped. They are just wa too serious.

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  1. -Tag team cooking skills challenge(Good times with Casey and the infamous onions).
    -Famous dish replication challenge(think it was Hung's season where the contestants had to replicate a potato encrusted halibut dish from Le Cirque)
    -Offal or exotic ingredients challenges.
    -There was one challenge where they had to last as long as possible on the line in Hubert Keller's kitchen during rush hour. That was a lot of fun to watch(think it was Lee Anne's season).

    3 Replies
    1. re: Evilbanana11

      That tag team challenge you mention was actually a QF Mies en Plas challenge. They have done some sort of knife skills QF just about every season I believe.

      The challenge where the contestants were cooking in Hubert Keller's kitchen occurred in the first episode of the first season of Top Chef. Keller kicked out of the of the contestants for sticking his finger in the sauce to taste it. The offending chef was also the first ever to be eliminated.

      1. re: John E.

        The freaky martial arts obsessed English guy.

        1. re: Phaedrus

          Of course I don't know if it was intentional or not, but to call and Irishman and Englishman, them's fightin' words. I looked him up, Ken Lee, from Dublin. The only reason I ever saw that first episode is because it was free in iTunes.

    2. I like the quickfires that are ingredient identification tests.

      I like when chefs are made to use canned or processed foods (unless it is annoyingly blatant product placement...basically, it's okay when there are several options), such as the vending machine challenge (Season 2 or Masters Season 1) or the cornfield challenge from the current Season 9.

      I like when they are forced to confront unusual ingredients that may be unfamiliar to them, such as the exotic surf and turf or being made to use cactus (season 6).

      I like when chefs are made to update mainstream American food such as the family favorites challenge from Season 3 or the 60s classic dishes from Masters Season 3. I do like to laugh whenever a chef demonstrates that they live in a bubble and are out of touch with middle America.

      1. The Ellis Island challenge on all-stars was a good one. I actually like the cookig out of the vending machines and the one were Hung did the Smurf dish!

        1 Reply
        1. re: wincountrygirl

          that's what i was going to suggest. dishes that mean most to the chef's.

          like that, i also liked the cooking for the mentors from tonights episode.
          seems like anything really emotional will work well.

        2. i generally am the biggest fan of the challenges that allow contestants to actually cook within their wheelhouse. The creative and strange challenges are all well and good, but i like to see what the chefs are really apable of when they are at full-power

          1. I like the blind taste test challenge. A nice twist would be to make a dish using only the foods the chefs could not identify.

            2 Replies
            1. re: dave_c

              i always like when they do this one on Hells Kitchen. because the contestants are always just awful at it.

              A twist on this one i like that they have done is the Identify the Ingredients challenge, where the cheftestants are given a dish and told to identify as many ingredients that went into it as possible