Top Chef New York City – Let’s Get Started!

November 19, 2008 at 9:39 am

From my colleague at Edible TVPatsy Kreitman:

I’ve been patiently waiting for the premiere of the latest season of Top Chef, and last night I was finally rewarded with a diverse group of people with some interesting personalities.  This year, there are two chefs competing from Europe and I can already see some personality clashes waiting to happen between them and the US chefs.

As soon as they arrived and met Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi, they were faced with the Quickfire Challenge.  Not only was this challenge for immunity, but the first competitor would be sent home.  What did they have to do?  Well, the first round was all about peeling 15 apples with a knife – no peelers this time.  Also, the apples had to be to approved by Tom.  Fortunately, he didn’t have to send anyone back to do more.  Stefan finished first and ended up with immunity for this week.  The first 9 to finish were guaranteed to remain in the competition. 

The second round they were instructed to brunoise the apples (a fancy term for a very fine dice), and the first 4 were safe.  The remaining four contestants had 20 minutes to create a dish using those diced apples that would show Padma and Tom why they should remain to compete.  Both Leah and Radhia had the most interesting dishes, while Lauren and Patrick opted for salads.  Lauren made a spinach salad that was not very inspired, while Patrick made an apple slaw that really took it to an interesting level.  Lauren was sent packing.

The Elimination Challenge required the use of the knifeblock – each chef had to choose a knife that had an area of NYC on it.  They were to prepare a dish inspired by the neighborhood they would be going to shop in.  Their dish would be compared head-to-head with one other person.  I found it interesting that some of the chefs were really out of their element by the cuisine they would be preparing.

The guest judge this week was Jean-Georges Vongerichten and each one of the chefs talked about him with the utmost respect.  They really wanted to do well in this challenge to impress such a world-renowned chef.  Some of them fell a bit flat while others exceeded their own expectations.

If you haven’t seen the show, there are spoilers ahead!

The most impressive of the dishes last night came from Stefan, Eugene and Leah.  Eugene was a surprise to be there since he had never prepared Indian food before, but Padma’s high praise that he prepared a classic Indian dish is what is keeping him in the competition.   Leah was told that she captured what new Italian cooking is all about.  Stefan was deemed the overall winner of the night with his Middle Eastern skewers and carmelized onion dish.

Now for the bad news, the two least impressive dishes were Patrick and Ariane.  The culinary school student vs. the experienced chef of 20 years.  While Patrick has studied Asian cuisine, he chose to use black rice noodles without knowing what texture they would be when cooked.  Also, the judges felt that the dish was uninspired.  Ariane was faced with a cuisine she had never made before – Middle Eastern.  Her main downfall was her undercooked faro risotto.

It was decided that Patrick should pack his knifes and go back to culinary school.

Next week, Martha Stewart will be the guest judge.  Be sure to stop back by here next week for a round-up and to dish on what you liked or disliked about that week’s episode.  Did you watch last night?  Tell me what you thought!  Do you have a favorite yet? Will Stefan follow in previous winner’s footsteps since he won the Immunity Challenge AND was the overall winner last night?

Photo courtesy Bravo TV.

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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."

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