Even though a new winner was crowned on
Project Runway, Wednesday nights will continue to be fierce with Bravo's other flaming hot competition show
Top Chef. I hope you're as excited as I am about the new season, so with 32 dishes to consider in the premiere let's dig in.
The 16 competing cheftestants arrive in the Windy City and head over to Pizzeria Uno to get acquainted and sample the restaurant's signature deep-dish pizza. Serving as a clue to their first challenge, I don't think anyone was surprised when host Padma Lakshmi and head judge Tom Colicchio showed up to announce that the first Quickfire Challenge would be to create a deep-dish pizza.
Miscalculating how dough rises, using too much crust and unfamiliarity with the kitchen were problems to overcome. As someone who was crafty enough to create a tattooed tuna carpaccio for his audition video, Andrew should have thought to gather the tools he needed or he wouldn't have had to compromise and use a cast iron skillet when Richard used two deep-dish pans instead of one. Ultimately Andrew's pizza with smoked marinara and prosciutto wasn't one to win over the judges.
Arriving at their new home with pizzas in delivery bags, the chefs meet Rocco DiSpirito who introduces himself as the episode's guest judge. He and Padma must have fasted in order to tackle tasting 16 different kinds of pizza.
Though considered too dry, Nikki's white pie with mushrooms, truffle oil, Romano and comté cheese would have appealed to me. Also Nimma's, with assorted mushrooms and stracchino cheese but it ultimately was lacking salt. Another creative pie given thumbs down was Zoi's broccoli, pesto and lamb sausage pie that "had a lot going on". And Stephanie used a melon-tomato sauce that sounds good in theory but without getting a whiff of it I'll have to trust Rocco saying it had a "funky smell".
Top pie favorites belonged to New Zealander Mark, using chicken and zucchini with the yeast extract known as Marmite, and Richard, creatively topping with peaches, sausage and taleggio cheese accompanied with a sweet tea sauce. What kind of tea did he use?
For the Elimination Challenge, winning chefs pulled knives and chose an opponent to cook head-to-head and create a classic dish. Andrew was looking forward to squaring off with Richard after the pizza incident. But with no mayonnaise in the kitchen for his crab cakes Andrew was reduced to making it from scratch and rejecting Richard's offer to use his. As a finalist, molecular gastronomist Richard showed "forward thinking" when using his own smoker on the combination of Moroccan spices known as ras al hanout.
Joining Padma, Tom and Rocco at the judge's table was Chef Anthony Bourdain who may be blunt but always has a fresh perspective. When Spike and Lisa both prepared successful Eggs Benedict, Bourdain suggested picking the winner by imagining which dish would taste better if you woke up with a hangover.
Another close call was picking the better lasagna entrée. Nikki edged out Jennifer by making her own noodles - pretty impressive considering she constructed it all within 90 minutes.
While Mark chose to present a deconstructed duck a l'orange, Stephanie won over the judges by using the entire duck. Her seared duck breast over bok choy and mushrooms with duck leg spring rolls and orange glaze was the first winner of the season.
Neither Ryan nor Valerie's Chicken Piccatta passed muster. Ryan tried unsuccessfully to defend using breadcrumbs instead of just an egg-based batter. I thought he might be an early favorite when his accompanying lemon-potato gnocchi aroused my interest until Rocco snarkily commented that it was not only Ryan's gnocchi that were dense. Ouch!
Even if I hadn't taken a soufflé class at Williams-Sonoma last weekend I never would have considered adding potatoes as Erik did.
Nimma did some quick thinking when her cauliflower flan fell and turned it into a scramble. (Who told Tom?) Perhaps overcompensating for her undersalted Hunter-style pizza, Nimma then oversalted her Shrimp Scampi. Whenever you hear the judges say the food is inedible you can bet that no matter how nice the cook is they will be asked to pack their knives and go. And that's just what happed to Nimma.
As Tom said, you have to know the classics before you can expand on them. I'm looking forward to seeing new classics in the weeks to come.
" Even with a lot of restaurant experience, I'm always learning new things on this show. Ras al hanout is a combination of Moroccan spices. Preferring milder flavors, the hot sauce Sriracha that Dale used was new to me. I've had sake and I've had martinis but never a saketini. Did Mark add vodka to the sake to tini-ize it?
" In the previous finale competitions chefs were allowed to bring specialty foods with them but were they also allowed to bring with them $200-worth of items to work with from the start of the season?
" Regarding the text poll, 78% said Jennifer and Zoi didn't have an advantage by being a couple. (Wasn't 22% yes circled?) Do you think competing with your partner can be a comfort or eventually become combustible?
" It's difficult to pick early favorites this season but I think we have to include Richard just for bringing liquid nitrogen and a smoker to cook with. I'm sure Marcel would. Who do you think will be sticking around for the final challenge?
For more tasty treats about
Top Chef, check out our
Online Video Guide.
Even though a new winner was crowned on Project Runway Wednesday nights will continue to be fierce with Bravos other flaming hot competition show Top Chef I hope youre as excited as I am about the new season so with 32 dishes to consider in the premiere lets dig inThe 16 competing cheftestants arrive in the Windy City and head over to Pizzeria Uno to get acquainted and sample the restaurants signature deep-dish pizza Serving as a clue to their first challenge I dont think anyone was surprised when host Padma Lakshmi and head judge Tom Colicchio showed up to announce that the first Quickfire Challenge would be to create a deep-dish pizzaMiscalculating how dough rises using too much crust and unfamiliarity with the kitchen were problems to overcome As someone who was crafty enough to create a tattooed tuna carpaccio for his audition video Andrew should have thought to gather the tools he needed or he wouldnt have had to compromise and use a cast iron skillet when Richa