Top Chef, Season 5, Episode 2

Warning:  There are more spoilers in this post!

So this week, I almost missed the new episode of Top Chef because I was busy eating at Ariane‘s restaurant, CulinAriane, in Montclair, New Jersey.  Luckily, everyone was going to a local Irish pub to hang out and watch the new episode after dinner, so I tagged along and not only got to watch the new episode (except the first 5 minutes or so.  I missed the beginning while briskly walking through the freezing cold), but I also got to meet with Ariane and her husband, Michael.  I’ll write about my experiences at the restaurant and what I thought of the food tomorrow.

Tonight’s blog update is mainly possible because of my good friend, Catie, so consider her the guest blogger for tonight.  Catie sometimes leaves comments under the alias “The Editor,” which is exactly what she does for me and this blog — she edits.  She sent me comments through instant messenger, and I’m just reading, transcribing, and reflecting upon what I saw at the pub on TV, so my facts may not be entirely accurate.  If anyone has any clarifications or an additions or comments, please let me know!

TOP CHEF: Show Your Craft, Ep. 2

The quickfire features the lovely and gorgeous Ms. Donatella Arpaia as a guest judge, along with the also beautiful Padma Lakshmi.  Apt, because Ms. Arpaia is so friggin hot in New York.  The challenge features a food that 100 million people consume a year.  Or maybe 100 million of these things are consumed a year.  I’m not sure.  Either way, the food they all have to make is hot dogs, so a woman named Angelina (?), who is apparently famous in New York for her hot dogs, wheels a street cart into the Top Chef kitchen.  Essentially, this is a battle of sorts between the Top Chef contestants and Angelina’s hot dogs.  Everyone has 45 minutes to create their dish and present it to the judges (Padma and Donatella).

People panic.  Ariane, in particular, apparently hasn’t made a hot dog since 1989.  And no wonder — [most] American manufactured hot dogs are disgusting!  Quality made hot dogs are sublime, though (but that’s another blog).

According to Catie’s comments and her recap, Fabio is doing a panini dog. It has goat cheese and roasted bell peppers with it.

Stefan seems to be doing the same thing, I think. He later changes it to a “world dog,” with beer!

Eugene (one of the two competitors I’m really rootin’ for) is making a maki roll, sushi style. Sounds weird to me. I hope it’s good.

Radhika is making a pork, lamb, and ground chuck, Indian-inspired hot dog, which seems like the obvious choice in terms of flavor profile, given her background, but it sounds like it would be tasty. Heavy spices and fatty meats = love at first bite for me.

Jill is making a hot dog summer roll, with a soy chilli sauce, but instead of making her own dog, she’s using pre-made hot dogs.

Danny is making a pork and horseradish dog in natural casing.

Hosea is making a bacon and roasted red pepper dog with some red wine vinegar dressing.

Carla is making a lamb and pork sausage, with kraut and caramelized onions.

My home girl, Ariane, is making a chicken sausage with bacon.

My favorite lesbian, Jamie is making pork and beef, lemon zest and cayenne dog. Unfortunately, there seems to have been bits of bone in her dog. Sucks!

That’s all the info I’ve got so far on the quickfire. On with the judging!

So the ones up on the chopping block are Jill (because she used store-bought hot dogs) and Stefan (apparently the global-dog idea was terrible, especially because it looked so terrible).

The top chefs were Radhika (the judges loved that she was embracing Indian cuisine), Hosea (everybody loves bacon), and Fabio (people loved the flavors and the Mediterranean feel of the food).

And Radhika wins! The judges loved her Indi-dog. Lovely. I want one.

Now, for the elimination challenge:

The contestants will be “opening their own restaurant,” only not really. Rather, they will be working at Tom Colicchio‘s restaurant, Craft.

The challenge is to prepare a 3-course, New American lunch menu. There are no teams. This is all done individually. The guests will be 50 rejected Top Chef candidates, so they will most likely by hyper-critical judges of the food.

The contestants have $2500 to spend at Whole Foods. Hosea goes for crab meat, but it looks like it’s all from a can. Jill goes for ostrich eggs, because she thinks that will make her stand out. Jamie is going for some sweet corn to make a soup with herb infused oil and mint chiffonade. Ariane is going to make a lemon meringue martini, just like the one served at her restaurant. One of the many loves of my life, Leah, is going for another scallops dish (to see why I love Leah, read this previous post of mine). Jill is going for an ostrich egg quiche. Fabio is making beef carpaccio with olives and shaved parmesan cheese, except he’s taking a page out of the molecular gastronomy/avant garde cooking book and gelling his olive puree with sodium alginate and calcium chloride! The bastard *shakes fist*. Carla is doing a dessert made with some sort of laminated dough, maybe puff pastry, with some cheddar cheese on the side. Apparently, it’s very good. Hosea is making a sort of salad-like preparation, I think. He’s pairing the crab meat with a mango salsa type of appareil.

The 50 rejected Top Chef candidates don’t seem as angry and resentful as some of the competitors feared they would be. Too bad, hahaha. It would have been interesting. At any rate, Hosea gets called out on using canned crab meat. Fabio gets praised for having a very good dish. People seem to love Jeff’s dish (some grilled meat, I think. I can’t remember.) and Jill’s soup. Carla’s dessert is a hit, despite the funny looking wedge of plain cheddar on the side of the plate.

So it turns out that Ariane’s lemon meringue was far too sweet. So cloyingly sweet, in fact, that Padma spits out her bite into her napkin. Donatella Arpaia and Tom Colicchio likewise make faces when eating the dessert. Jill’s ostrich egg quiche is bad and Donatella comments that it tastes like glue. Hosea’s crab meat dish doesn’t sit well with the judges either, since the texture is on the slimy side of disgustingness.

Ariane defends herself, saying that she couldn’t tell if her dessert was any good because she kept tasting it and tasting it and it eventually started tasting the same. Hosea had no real, good excuse, since everything on the plate (and Tom Colicchio agreed) should have tasted good together, at least in principle (seafood and a tropical fruit sauce or garnish is extremely common). Jill was unfortunately unable to come up with a good excuse, and purportedly gave the lamest excuse for her dish in all of Top Chef history. Quite frankly, she was just too upset to come up with the words to explain herself.

The judges love Fabio’s dish. Donatella comments that the dish is probably the perfect lunch, and original to boot (gelled purees using sodium alginate and a calcium salt isn’t original, in my opinion, but it sure isn’t as ubiquitous as mango salsa). They also love Jamie’s soup and a couple other dishes.

Finally, the winner: Fabio
The Loser: Jill. Sadness. She packs her knives and goes home.

Other competitors eliminated thus far: Patrick and Lauren.

Again, tune in tomorrow for a review-of-sorts of Ariane‘s restaurant, CulinAriane!.

2 Responses to “Top Chef, Season 5, Episode 2”

  1. The Editor Says:

    jeff did a sauteed chicken breast it looked like. something white. tom had to keep waiting on him and he was frazzled like last time

  2. The Editor Says:

    100 million hot dogs a year in new york alone.

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