Did the Right Chef Go Home on TOP CHEF? - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Did the Right Chef Go Home on TOP CHEF?

December 16, 2010 by  

In the aftermath of Jen-gate, the all-stars are shocked and undoubtedly making mental notes to hold their tongue if and when their time comes at Judges’ Table. What an emotional and mental wreck it must be for them to see who they deemed a primary competitor of the group be picked away so soon and so suddenly. But the show must go on.

The cheftestants march into the kitchen, to see David Chang, who is kind of a big deal, and a bit of a step up from Joe Jonas. Padma informs them that for the quickfire, they will be broken in to teams based on whom they are already standing next to. (This is why I always sat by friends in class, in case teachers would pull stunts like this when splitting us into groups!) Fabio is happy with his team, even with Angelo, though he “wears his pants a little too tight” for his liking. (Pot, meet kettle.) Spike is happy to be once again teamed with his idol/love of his life Richard Blais, but Stephen he could do without. “He can open a bottle of wine for us,” says Spike. Ouch. But true.

The quickfire is a mise en place challenge, which I always look forward to, but this time is slightly different from the regular relay format. Team members get to work on their respective prep jobs simultaneously and upon completion must create a dish using the ingredients they prepared. Not only that, the first team to finish prepping gets 15 minutes to cook, and the other teams get however much time is left of that 15 minutes once they finish their prep. Holy crap. I don’t think I can even make a sandwich that I’d be happy with in less than 15 minutes.

The ingredients they are working with are lamb, garlic, and artichokes. Having worked in Greek cuisine for five years, Mike is more than comfortable with the lamb. Marcel employs a new technique he learned to french the lamb racks, which involves hammering the meat in between the bones, and looks awfully destructive to me. Casey is breezing through this challenge, which as her buddy Dale L. points out, is a far cry from her performance of the onion slow-chop in their season.

Angelo, Tiffany, Fabio, and Mike are the first team to finish prepping, so they begin cooking, the fifteen-minute timer starts counting down, and all hell breaks loose. Aware that precious time is ticking, the other teams are in a whirlwind of panic. The two teams that finish last choose to make lamb carpaccio, since time doesn’t allow them to cook the lamb.

When time runs out, Padma and David Chang make their rounds tasting the dishes, two cooked, two carpaccio. Padma greets the team consisting of Casey, Antonia, Jamie, and Dale L. with “hello, ladies.” To be fair, Dale has been sticking to groups of girls for the past few challenges. J

Despite finishing first, Angelo’s team was in the bottom half. The winners? Team Blais! (And Spike, Stephen, and Tre). Instead of immunity, they each win $5,000. Cha-ching.

The elimination challenge is to dine at one of the best restaurants in New York and make a dish that the superstar chef would be proud to serve there. What do we have here? A challenge that is actually legitimate, gimmick-free, challenging but makes sense as far as showcasing a chef’s abilities? A rare treat! Also a welcome change of direction after last week’s museum shenanigans. Adding a dash of drama: this week will be a double-elimination.

Restaurants in play are David Chang’s Má Pêche (which, I have the pleasure of sharing from first hand experience, serves an awesome banh mi). David Burke’s Townhouse, Michael White’s Marea, and Wylie Dufresne’s wd~50. The all-stars will be dining at the restaurants in the same groups they competed in for the quickfire, except their team members are now their competitors.

Some are happier with their restaurant assignments than others. Angelo is in his element with French-Vietnamese cuisine at Má Pêche, and as usual, sufficiently annoys his fellow diners with all his Asian-flavored commentary. It just isn’t Fabio’s year I guess, since he, also assigned to the David Chang restaurant, could not be more out of place. Marea, which is simple, suit-and-tie, elegant Italian, is right up Stephen’s alley. That is where he gets to cook, and where he happily plays the arrogant bastard role at his table. Richard is mindful that he might have to restrain himself a little to suit the restaurant, since his style is more “out there.” See? The guy is always thinking. That’s why I like him. David Burke’s cuisine is like cooking “with jazz hands,” and the whimsical, larger than life dishes are typical of Dale L.’s style, while it scares the girls a little bit. As we know, for better or worse, Marcel loves the molecularly gastronomical, and king of that realm is Wylie Dufresne, so he is more than happy to be placed at wd~50. Carla is all about the classics, so she is worried, but says she’s going to integrate the classic with the modern. I hope she pulls it off. Needless to say, it becomes very apparent that some people will struggle with this challenge more than others.

The chefs get to serve their dishes to the judges, including their host chef, at each restaurant. This involves Padma, Tom, Tony Bourdain, and guest judge Kate Krader catching a cab from one restaurant to the next. Of course, they make Padma hail the cab, with her up to here, falling-off dress. For the most part, everyone seems to be serving up delicious food and keeping in the style of their assigned restaurant. Dale T’s dish was particularly impressive, with an egg dumpling and a broth that tastes like breakfast. How could you go wrong? Without getting to taste the food, I’d say the one that seemed least appealing was Dale L.’s french toast with veal on top (“what the french, toast?”). He is the perfect example of how being presented a challenge that seems right up your alley could severely backfire if executed improperly. And meanwhile, Dale T. was able to be influenced by Wylie Dufresne’s style without actually having any familiarity with the techniques that are used. Even Carla managed to pull off a dish suitable for Wylie Dufresne’s restaurant, and I am very impressed. By the looks of it, she was equally proud, bragging “you shoulda seen me with the circulator, y’all!”

As Bourdain put it, Dale T. was aware that “Wylie Dufresne is a notorious egg slut” and used that knowledge while maintaining true to his own style to beat Marcel in what seemed to be a challenge made for him. The judges agree with me that Dale T.’s dish was the best and they award him the win – and a trip to New Zealand. Dale T. sends in the bottom four, and somebody calls out “Be strong! Fight back! Fight back hard! But not too hard! Don’t pull a Jen!” What a (hilarious) shame it would be if Jen Carroll’s legacy became the talk-back of All-Stars, episode 2. The judges also agree with me on the worst, and they send the other Dale packing for his veal French toast, along with Stephen for his aromatic, sandalwood-scent emitting salmon dish. Tom’s scripted comment on this was the oddest one yet: “You may have great knowledge of Italian food. I have great knowledge of Led Zepellin. That doesn’t make me Jimmy Page.” Um, okay? Probably could have made the same point in fewer (and better) words.

For once, I think two of the weaker chefs were eliminated. Stephen has been a consistent disappointment, and Dale has never wowed me, even on his season. I think he’s great entertainment, and I will miss his friendship with Casey, but I think he got to be runner up of his season by being consistently good, never outstanding.

* Jazz Hands! *

Do you agree? Who would you have sent home?

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2 Responses to “Did the Right Chef Go Home on TOP CHEF?”

  1. Jess on December 19th, 2010 4:40 pm

    Totally agree with your assessment. I thought Dale was adorable…not necessarily a great chef. And Stephen never should have been brought back. It just goes to show how shallow the pool of talent was on season 1 that he was one of the two picked to return for All Stars. Or maybe he was just the only one available for the show…considering he isn’t really doing much these days.

  2. Your Friend Steph on December 22nd, 2010 3:48 am


    *Dale’s egg dish looked SO GOOD. But I’m also kind of an egg slut too.

    *It gets hard to remember who cooked what.

    *Casey looks like Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights. Like seriously. Twins.