July 30, 2009

Top Chef Masters: A Grotesque Huge Ball … Terrifying

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 10:09 pm

Was it just me, or was this week’s challenge kind of too easy? The chefs weren’t obligated to literally mimic the given dish (i.e., this was not Top Chef New York‘s Le Bernardin challenge), so basically the challenge was to compose a dish given a main protein, 3 or 4 key ingredients, and a general idea of how they should inter-relate. The only chef who seemed to sweat if at all was Art Smith, who for some reason was deathly afraid of having to fry an egg (he seemed to think his failure to separate and whip egg whites in the Quickfire had put him under an hex).

The Critics had to make the classic Top Chef choice: what’s worse, the reasonably well-thought-out dish with the cold, overcooked fish (Suzanne Tracht’s grouper) or the horrendously ill-conceived dish that was at least edible (Art Smith’s lamb Scotch egg)? It always ends the same way: you don’t disrespect a protein and get away with it on Top Chef. You can terrify Gael Greene, but you can’t overcook your fish.

Predictions: From now on I’ll predict the opposite of whatever I think is going to happen. I really thought Suzanne Tracht was going to go the distance. Art Smith is obviously the weakest competitor, so he’ll probably win next week. Hubert Keller, Anita Lo, and Rick Bayless can turn out perfectly prepared, refined, and delicious food without breaking a sweat, so obviously one of them will go home next week. Let’s say Anita Lo, since her performance this week was so outstanding (the highest star total yet, by a star and a half!).


July 29, 2009

Top Chef Masters: Now We’re Getting Somewhere

Filed under: Not Tech — Chris @ 6:49 pm

Last week: I found Jonathan Waxman delightful. So much so that I’ve made a note to visit his restaurant ASAP. Art Smith’s food looked delicious, but safe. That’s good gamesmanship: always make something delicious and safe in preference to something adventuresome and potentially disgusting.

This week: The Champions’ Round commences and, with it, perhaps my luck will change. My money is on Suzanne Tracht to take the whole enchilada (even though I think I’ve seen some spoiler-ish insinuations that Hubert Keller is a lock). I think Michael Chiarello and Art Smith are the weakest of the lot, though Rick Bayless seems apt to lose his head in the heat of the competition. I’m going to wear my prejudices on my sleeve and vote against the Lifestyle Celebrity. I’m guessing they ask Chiarello to do something that doesn’t involve Faking Happy for the camera and he chokes.

Now: In honor of Restaurant Week, I’m off to get treated shabbily while eating indifferently-prepared food at a bad table in a slightly better-than-average restaurant.

[UPDATE] And then: It should be noted that the aforementioned restaurant turned out not to be participating in Restaurant Week at dinner time, although the initial announcement included them and they have done so in the past. They did not see fit to inform us of this before we were sitting at our table and handed our menus (unlike Gramercy Tavern, which reminded me on at least two separate occassions before I arrived that they had opted out this summer.) The meal was nearly three times more expensive than the Restaurant Week price and was, really, quite mediocre.

July 22, 2009

Top Chef Masters: In the Weeds

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 10:56 am

Nils Norén, you broke my heart.

Michael Chiarello is creepy, right? He’s go an amped-up, fake-y charm. You can see why it works when it’s aimed straight at the camera on the Food Network, but when the Magical Elves crew take two steps to the left and you have to watch him relate to actual human beings, he’s like a Charming Lifestyle Robot exuding unctuous semi-gayness.

But, damn, it turns out he can cook. And the only guy who had a shot at him—amped-up, twitchy seafood chef Rick Moonen, who could have knocked him off the pedestal with a 3-star shrimp corndog in the Quickfire—just…. didn’t. (What was that about? Has any Top Chef contestant ever failed to get something, anything, onto the plate?)

This week: Art Smith, Jonathan Waxman, Michael Cimarusti, and Roy Yamaguchi. Since none of these chefs are particularly famous or female, I’m going to choose the hometown boy: Jonathan Waxman.

July 10, 2009

Top Chef Masters: Digging a Hole

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 1:30 pm

Wow, 0 for 3. Obviously, the “most famous chef” rule of thumb is not working. I would say one should always choose the stony-faced female chef, but all of the remaining chefs are men. (That’s a total of 3 female Masters out of 24, for those keeping count. And 2 of the 3 advanced to the Champions’ Round. (Cindy Pawlcyn was insufficiently stony-faced.))

Next week: Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson, Michael Chiarello, Nils Norén, and Rick Moonen. MacKinnon-Patterson is young and all the winners so far have been old. Michael Chiarello is a food and lifestyle celebrity, not a restaurant chef (i.e., he’s soft). Rick Moonen is a seafood chef (Rule #3). I’m picking Nils Norén, who was the Executive Chef at a really good restaurant (Aquavit) and who has to look his French Culinary Institute students in the eye.

P.S. Top Chef: Las Vegas will premiere August 26! That will make six seasons and a spin-off in less than four years. Doesn’t Bravo have any more housewives or spoiled rich kids they could put on TV?

P.P.S. Bravo, the unofficial network of The Gays, totally succeeded in confusing me on the point that Neil Patrick Harris’ friend David Burtka is his boyfriend. Why would they be cagey about that?

July 1, 2009

Top Chef Masters Prediction #3

Filed under: Top Chef — Chris @ 12:34 pm

My predictions aren’t turning out so good. I abandoned the “most famous chef” heuristic after the Wylie Dufresne debacle. So I went with Wilo Benet based on, oh, let’s say intuition. Things were looking good in the Quickfire, but who knew the producers would throw Rick Bayless a slow pitch over the center of the plate, offering him the opportunity to make tacos de lengua, which he’s probably made thousands of times (beside which, tongue is by far the most palatable of the four kinds of offal in attendance).

Next week: John Besh, Anita Lo, Mark Peel, and Doug Rodriguez. I’m going back to the most famous chef: John Besh. He beat Mario Batali on Iron Chef, after all (and was almost an Iron Chef himself).

[UPDATE] In observance of the birth of our glorious nation, there will be no Top Chef Masters this week. Feel free to watch a repeat of The Fashion Show instead.

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