Saturday, November 15, 2008

Top Chef in the big city

So wow, Stylista went down the tubes incredibly fast. There's really no one tolerable left in the competition, and honestly, I can't believe how catty everyone is. I've watched a ton of reality shows but I can't remember one where all the contestants were constantly sitting around openly attacking each other and saying why everyone else basically sucks. Perhaps this is what happens when all the contestants are in their twenties and think they're smarter than everyone else?

Anyway, thankfully the creme de la creme of reality competition shows, Top Chef, is back. And this time they're finally in New York, my hometown!

Eliminating someone right off the bat in the Quickfire was a surprise but they did get to actually cook something and the bottom two made SALADS. Yes, it's 20 minutes, but have they not watched the show? Salads do not win challenges! It's funny how the weakest emerge right away though. Lauren's salad was especially lame--what, greens with bacon and balsamic? What skill or creativity did that require? And no surprise, Patrick gets himself eliminated later in the episode. It's interesting to note that these two were the youngest cheftestants, 21 and 24. I wonder why Patrick especially was cast...they keep saying that the caliber of the chefs has only been increasing but then they pick a culinary student? Oh, well, they're gone.

I'm glad that they brought back the head-to-head format from last year for the elimination challenge. Sixteen people is a lot to introduce in an hour and I still don't remember a lot of names but the format helps. I was looking at the results from last season and the winners of the matchups were pretty telling -- Stephanie, Richard, Lisa, Antonia, and Dale were all winners. This time, the winners were Stefan, Eugene, Leah, Hosea, Jamie, Jeff, and Daniel. Stefan's obviously distinguished himself as a frontrunner, winning both challenges. He's irritatingly overconfident but at least seems to have the talent the back it up. Eugene's my early favorite, he's scrappy and worked his way up from being a dishwasher, and I thought it was really smart how he tasted some prepared food at the market to try and recreate since he wasn't familiar with the cuisine. Leah rebounded nicely from the Quickfire, though she did get lucky and was assigned her own cuisine. Hosea seemed to impress Tom and he had some nice plating, and Jamie successfully pulled off the ever-popular deconstruction trick.

I love that the show has enough credibility to attract people like Jean Georges to be guest judges (his sniffing the dishes kind of cracked me up). I'm expecting a lot of big names this season since so many live in New York. And exploring all the different ethnic neighborhoods was fun, though I was unaware that Jamaica is actually a hub of Jamaican food, and where's Little India? I thought Italian, Latin, and Chinese were a little obvious but amazingly a lot of the chefs had trouble with those...

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