Friday, November 03, 2006

Top Chef goes to TGI Friday's

This week's episode put a lot of the chefs out of their element: cooking for the general public. I applaud this effort, because it's true, a large percentage of Americans don't eat at fine dining restuarants, and sometimes it's just because it's not really an option. I live in the suburbs, where it seems like nearly every restaurant is a chain, even the higher end steakhouses. If you look at where the Top Chef contestants are from, nearly all of them are from New York, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, because that's where fine dining is concentrated. And then there's the monetary side. I grew up in New York and go back to visit often, but I just don't have the money to eat at the more expensive places. Luckily there are tons of great cheap eats in New York too. But to be honest, I like eating at generic chains too. TGI Friday's, Applebees, Olive Garden, Red Lobster...there's something comforting about how you pretty much get what you expect at those places.

I didn't like the ice cream Quickfire very much. It wasn't very much about creating something new and different, because they were going to be feeding it to kids! Of course Cliff won, his ice cream was the most normal and kid-friendly, with cookies and marshmallows. Just because they put avocados on the table doesn't mean you have to use them.

The elimination challenge was interesting. Of course I can't speak to taste, but if all the chefs' dishes were on a menu, I think the only ones I would even consider would be Cliff's fish sticks, Elia's fish tacos, Josie's BBQ Skewers, and Carlos' chicken fried shrimp. I'm sure Betty's tasted great, but I would never order grilled cheese at a restaurant. I can make that at home. Overall, I think I was kind of dsappointed. A lot of the chefs were obviously out of their element and even though they had been instructed to recreate a childhood favorite, I feel like they kind of went a little too simple.

One last thing: what is up with the recipes on the Top Chef website? The recipe for Ilan's corn and bacon dish indicates that you basically fry up some bacon and cook some frozen corn in the fat drippings and mix it up. That definitely can't be right. I'm pretty sure he started with fresh corn on the cob, and one of the bonus videos also shows Ilan making some compound butter that he told Tom Colicchio that he was going to freeze and shave over the dish, which I imagine enhanced the dish quite a bit. I don't know how Bravo gets the recipes or if they do any editing, but it's a little disappointing that they're not all that complete.

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