Friday, November 17, 2006

Top Chef goes low and high

Episode 4:
This episode was overshadowed by a supposed cheating incident (yes, just like on Project Runway!). This time though, no one was eliminated because there was no "hard proof." Kind of anti-climactic if you ask me.

The quickfire was stupid. Although who knew that you could get hard-boiled eggs from a vending machine? A bit sketchy if you ask me. I'm surprised carlos won. Maybe it tasted great but the presentation wasn't attractive and I thought it looked kind of gross.

The elimination challenge was actually pretty interesting and once again put the chefs out of their comfort zone. (I kind of laughed when Ilan said that he's never counted calories while he was cooking because the man puts bacon in everything. And his amuse bouche had a deep-fried piece of salami!) I did like the low-calorie idea but I kind of wish that they were serving adults instead of kids, because it would have opened up the options a bit more. I mean, Betty and Frank were really smart for choosing to make pizza, but in all honesty, it's still a pizza. With the grilled cheese sandwich winning last week and the pizza from this week, you'd never guess that this is a competition for professional chefs. I mean, I know that the Top Chef challenges are about testing the chefs' versatility and creativity and all that, but really, can we let the chefs get back to what they're good at?

Anyway, onto the cheating thing. While I find it suspicious that Betty was the only one who didn't know that they weren't allowed to modify their recipes, I thought that whole rule was stupid to begin with. Could they not have had like one nutritionist there on the second day available for consultations? It's sort of ridiculous to tell a chef that if they see their dish not working out that they can't made adjustments.

Oh, and was the camp really called Camp Glucose? That's both hilarious and horrible at the same time.

Episode 5:
I remember Michelle Bernstein from her outing on Iron Chef against Bobby Flay (which she won, if I remember correctly) and I loved her because she spoke really intelligently about her food and what she was trying to do with her dishes. So when she showed up at the beginning of the episode, I knew that it was going to be a great challenge.

I like watching Top Chef while eating dinner because the show makes me hungry (event though in a lot of cases my food probably doesn't taste nearly as good as the stuff on the show). That kind of backfired on me this week though, because the shots of all those "leftover" animal parts just made me feel queasy. I'm a very non-adventurous meat-eater, and like a lot of people the only weird things I eat are ones that are familiar from my childhood, like Korean oxtail oxtail. Oxtail soup is a tradtional Korean soup and I love it, even though if you think about it, it's not really any less weird than other kind of offal. But I guess back then I didn't really realize what it was made of because we called it by its Korean name and I didn't associate it with its English translation, which is literally "tail soup." Anyway, because of the nature of the challenge I was all that excited about any of the dishes because I probably wouldn't have eaten anything on that table.

The elimination challenge was much more interesting but I was a little disappointed. Despite billing the challenge as working with "leftovers," it was leftovers at a well-stocked high end restaurant which pretty much meant that they had free reign to do almost anything. This is what I've been waiting for, a chance for the chefs to really show what they could do and impress the judges. What happened instead? Nobody collaborated on the menu so nothing really made sense. Most of the courses were these duos and trios of tiny pieces of STUFF. If I was eating at that table I would have kept waiting for like a hunk of meat that never would have come. After 6 courses I probably still would have been hungry!

I'm glad Marisa's gone. Sorry to say but a pastry chef just doesn't really belong on the show, and she annoyed the heck out of me, especially because she seems to think that she's hot and I don't know what guys think but she's really not. I'm more sad about Josie because I thought she was going to stick around longer, but I was a bit turned off by her post-elimination proclamations of her immense talent. Their course was just a disaster though. I laughed when Gail pointed out that they hadn't really cooked anything.

So funny to see that Mike was on the winning team. Ilan and Mike might have seemed like an odd pairing, but I could see it. Ilan's the youngest chef there and he's pretty easygoing, which was perfect for Mike, who needed someone who would force him to focus without being nagging. Cliff and Sam were the dream team, and I wasn't surprised to see them do well. Betty and Mia went too high-concept, and Carlos and Elia? I have no idea what they were going for in general.

Still a lot of chefs left, but I think that Cliff, Sam, and Ilan are now at the top of the pack. Carlos, Elia, and Betty have potential. Frank, Marcel, and Mia haven't impressed me yet, and Mike, despite being on the winning team this week, really has to step it up if he wants to stay in it.

Next week is Anthony Bourdain!!!

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