Friday, February 11, 2011

It's Late Night with Top Chef!

Let's start off this week's recap with a guest opinion. My brother's friend Tim had this to say:
I think the problem I have with Top Chef right now is these are some of the best chefs they've had, but they keep throwing them into rather mundane cooking challenges. These chefs should be expected to put out Michelin quality food, instead they're getting time constraints and team challenges. They cook pedestrian comfort food week after week for celebrities, not top culinary minds. No wonder Carla wins so much, or Antonia wins with a bowl of mussels. Or Dale wins every Asian-related challenge. They are too much into their comfort zones. The only time this year these chefs were really put to the test was that challenge with the 4 executive chefs at those really nice restaurants. That is what they need to do more, force them to take their craft to another level, not just finish the job due to time constraints. Hell, give them all the time they need. These are some of the best chefs in the country, but their cooking has been pretty uninspiring so far. Not what I expect from the best of the best.
I sort of agree with this, but really, this is just par for the course with Top Chef. This is still a reality show, so the time constraints are unavoidable and even on Top Chef Masters they have to cater parties and cook for celebrities. It looks like next week will have the requisite lowbrow challenge (are they shopping at Target?) and while this won't produce fine cuisine, I don't think Top Chef would be Top Chef without making the chefs do some ridiculous things.

Speaking of ridiculous, Fabio apparently can neither pronounce nor cook a hamburger. The elimination challenge this week was to cook a birthday lunch for Jimmy Fallon. The chefs went to a taping of Late Night where they played Cell Phone Shootout (I gather this is a regular feature on the show...I like Jimmy Fallon but I don't watch late night TV) to pick a dish. The choices were collected from Jimmy's friends and family and were generally in the comfort food category. Carla literally jumped for joy at picking chicken pot pie while Antonia got stuck with beef tongue (which Richard told her how to cook and basically helped her into the top group).

Most of the chefs stuck pretty close to tradition with their dishes, although there was no specific direction to do so. Carla took the win (and her third trip!). It looked pretty classic but I loved the sound of the dehydrated "pea salt." Tiffany and Fabio strayed the furthest--Tiffany with a chicken and dumplings that was more of a tortilla soup and Fabio with his "boo-ger" that was more of a dry meatloaf sandwich--and the judges knocked them pretty heavily for it.

In the end, it's Fabio who's eliminated. I can't say that I'm too surprised or disappointed...he's a great personality and Italian chef but he hasn't shown himself to be very versatile.

So with over half the chefs gone, let's check in on some stats (I love the handy little color-coded elimination charts for reality shows on wikipedia):
Quickfire wins: Richard (3), Dale (3), Antonia (1), Mike (1)
Elimination wins: Carla (3), Richard (2), Dale (2), Angelo (2), Antonia (1)
Carla, Richard, and Angelo have only been in the bottom once, Tiffany and Antonia have been in the bottom 4 times. Mike has been coasting safe for the most part, with only 1 appearance in the top group, while Fabio has been called out in either the top or bottom group every single week.

So looking at these stats, it looks like Richard and Carla are the frontrunners at this point. Dale and Angelo could be in that group too, but Dale's been slumping lately and Angelo hasn't won since the first two weeks of the season. Antonia's been building up some steam lately, so that leaves Tiffany and Mike as the weak links. But no one is running away with the competition, which is the way it should be since this is All-Stars after all.

- Disturbing: fondue makes Richard think of his parents at a nude party?
- I thought the Quickfire was pretty forgettable in general, even if they did get to judge each other. With Marcel and Jamie gone, there just isn't a whole lot of animosity among these chefs. That's not necessarily a bad thing...the producers have been focusing a lot more on funny rather than drama.
- I've heard that a lot of chefs don't really cook for themselves but seeing them eating those prepared Buitoni pastas was really...sad.
- Apparently you can download the Beef Tongue Song as a ringtone. Um...yeah.
- Does anyone else feel like this season has been really long already? I think it's because they did Restaurant Wars earlier usual (5 person teams instead of 4, or even 3 like in season 1). I feel like that challenge is usually the turning point where people stop just trying to survive and start trying to win but that didn't happen so the past two weeks have been dragging.

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