Thursday, March 20, 2008

Weekly Dish: Top Chef Episode 2

Sometimes trains are late and that makes you angry. Last night, it allowed me to watch the second episode of Top Chef. Let's dish!

A the opening of the show, we see a more confident Stephanie. After last week's win with her Duck a L'orange she is happy that now the other chefs know that she's a "force to be reckoned with". While I am glad to see a female chef gain more confidence, I don't quite think she should be counting the ducks before they hatch...


Being someone who has recently been privy to an open air market, I can honestly tell you I got excited at the prospect of what the chef's would find while scavenging through Chicago's Green City Market. The challenge was to create a dish with the local ingredients for only $25. The other catch? There can only be 5 ingredients total used to create their masterpieces. (With the exception of Salt, Pepper, Sugar & Oil.)

Shopping notes: Richard spots eucalyptus and snatches it up immediately-he's going to use it to flavor his chicken. Being someone that was taught by a chef who's philosophy was to always put 1 ingredient in that makes people ask, "What did I just have in my mouth?" I get using new flavors. But eucalyptus? I'm not sure I'd want my food to smell like the dried flower arrangement in my doctors office. But maybe that's just me...

Spike, though appearing to be nervous at the thought of creating a dish with only 5 ingredients in it, took his time relaxing and listening to music while the others shopped. Mark (remember the Marmite guy?) was extremely impatient and rude to the vendors, often ditching a line that he was previously in, or reaching over a counter to help himself. His lack of patience made him forget the produce he bought. He realizes this before leaving the market, but is out of time and resolves to make the dish without the fancy lettuce he bought. Dale complains about the freshness of ingredients.

Back in the kitchen:

The chefs are introduced to this weeks guest judge: Wylie Dufresne, chef of NY's WD-50. While all of the contestants are excited about his appearance, Richard is almost giddy as he thinks he is a shoe in. (Wylie is a molecular gastronomist too, you see.)

While Spike was calm and cool at the market, we now saw him running around complaining about the meat he bought, calling it "dog food". Now, I'm not sure if you know this, but in culinary school there's a whole class about spotting fresh ingredients, how to inspect them and how to reject them. Next time, Spike, spend a little more time looking at your meat (that sounds dirty) than dancing in the park.

Side note: I'm no wus. Working in a kitchen unfortunately means you hear LOTS of vulgarity. The "F" word is as common in a kitchen as salt and stock and when you're not talking about partying, you are talking about sex. It's just the way it is, and being a woman you have 2 choices. Take it, or leave it. We've got enough to prove in the industry and so most of us take it. Outside of the kitchen though, most of us revert back to "normal". So see, I'm no wus. HOWEVER: Does anyone else notice that there are a lot of Jesus C's and GD's flying around? I'm just surprised that it is not edited out. That's all I'm sayin'.

Of note: Richard's chicken in oily and Wylie says it could be more refined. Spike's dog meat was paired with apples and the judges think he should have made a sandwich instead to cover the quality of the meat. Mark is told that he has nice sideburns. Oh, and his dish is given praise as is his ability to work around a missing ingredient. Eric is told he does not have a composed plate because he basically just plopped the food separately in a row. (I think he's going to be going home soon).

Bottom 3: Spike, Eric, Richard (he almost cries...)
Top 3: Ryan, Valerie, Mark
Winner: Mark. The bitterness of the turnip was well balanced with the sweetness of the peaches. And also-way to go for forgetting an ingredient! You're safe.

Elimination Challenge:

Drawing knives reveals teams of 3, each broken down into animal categories. Teams will prepare dishes for a cocktail party at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Their food must be created from a list of their animals diet. The teams are: Vulture, Bear, Lion, Penguin and Gorilla.

Standouts: Nikki is on team Bear and is trying to prove that women can be chefs too. Only instead of being assertive but polite, she's just being a crazy bitch. Instead of buying food she wants to buy flowers and berries to decorate the table. Nikki, there's a place for people like you, and it's called Martha Stewart's house. Dale is angry and is having trouble giving her control. (He's kind of a jerk anyway-remember last week he stayed away from the group instead of trying to get to know them?) Nikki produces stuffed mushrooms that "look like turds" and Dale tops them with cheese to try to make them better. No one tastes them before serving them, and they are awful.

Team Gorilla is having trouble with their Bellini's. Valerie knows they should be done a la minute (right there) but instead they make them ahead of time. NOT good. Meanwhile, Stephanie deals with soggy chips and watered down (too early dressed) salad. Their banana bread however, is top notch.

Team Penguin: Andrew, though seemingly having withdrawal from the crack, takes charge. He decides to make a pallet cleansing gel glacier in addition to his squid and balsamic tapioca. This ultimately makes him the winner of the challenge. I think it was the balsamic tapioca balls. Man I want to learn how to do that!

Who's going home? If you haven't watched yet and you don't want to know...this is a SPOILER ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT...ok, fair warning....

Valerie is send packing. Why? Because she's weak. If she knew that Bellini's would not work in the situation she was in, she should have spoken up in the planning stage. But she did not, and therefore, her dish was the yuckiest (yeah, so?) of them all. I personally was glad to see her go, as I think (as was Nimma) she was too much of a pushover and not assertive enough to truly work in a successful kitchen. Next week, I hope that Eric or Dale go home, though I think Dale will hang on for a while. And also, wouldn't it be cool if a woman wins for once?

Next week-FIELD TRIP!


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