Recap Top Chef 5 Episode 2

December 5, 2008 at 12:50 am

By Arthur Perkins for
The focus last night was on the ability to present contemporary cuisine. The guest judge was Donatella Arpaia, co-owner of 3 restaurants in the New York area. She had a lot to say, maybe more than any previous guest judge,  due to the format which allowed her to carefully consider each Elimination challenge dish and comment.
Quickfire Challenge
This was deceptively simple. A hot dog cart company owner, Angelina D’Angelo, was introduced and brought a cart along. The 15 chefs were to create a recipe and cook it in 45 minutes to do a hot dog more tasty than hers (which was standard New York hot dog, sauerkraut, relish and mustard in a bun). The creations of 10 chefs were shown, with Jeffrey, Alex, Richard, Melissa and Leah having theirs edited out. Fabio made a comment during cooking that you cannot beat an American hot dog with something similar; you have to do something quite different.
Stefan – Italian sausage on French bread w/ Wisconsin cheese and Irish tartar sauce
Hosea – pork hot dog w/roasted poblano peppers, jalapeno, smoked bacon, red wine vinegar
Fabio – Andouille sausage w/goat cheese, roasted bell peppers, dun-dried tomatoes
Eugene – maki roll hot dog w/pita bread, boursin cheese, red onions
Daniel – pork hot dog, fried onion, garlic powder, horseradish, mustard
Ariane – chicken sausage w/ bacon, celery seed, garlic, white pepper sauce
Jill – store-bought hot dog with chili, soy sauce, red wine vinegar
Radhika – kabob-style sausage, cucumbers, caramelized onions and tomatoes jam
Carla – lamb and pork sausage, sauerkraut, caramelized onions
Jamie – pork and beef sausage w/bacon, onions, cayenne pepper
The losers group was Stefan (how fast the mighty fall) and Jill. Winners group was Jamie, Radhika and Fabio. I thought Radhika would win for her exceptional dessert, but Fabio won.
Elimination Challenge
Teams were then told they had $2500 to create and then cook lunch the following for 50 guests. The divided themselves up into teams of 5 as follows:
Appetizer – Jamie, Hosea, Leah, Fabio, Melissa
Entrée – Jill, Eugene, Stefan, Jeff, Alex
Dessert – Radhika, Daniel, Ariane, Richard, Carla
Dishes were:
Jamie – chilled corn soup w/hot chili oil and mint
Hosea – crab salad w/ citrus vanilla, grilled mango, avocadp
Leah – Yukon potatoes and seared scallops, chives, green peppercorns
Fabio – beef carpaccio w/arugula salad, parmesan, grilled lemons and spherical olives
Melissa – grilled avocado w/white peaches, nectarines, balsamic vinaigrette
Jill – ostrich egg quiche w/ rice-pecan crust, asparagus, aged cheese
Eugene – open meatloaf sandwich w/ciabatta bread, gouda fondue, portabella ragout
Stefan – pan-seared halibut w/ microgreens, ravioli, champagne oil and dill oil
Jeff – southern chicken, honey mustard, chorizo corn spoonbread
Alex – grilled pork over potatoes w/mushroom, tomato and red beet demi-glace
Radhika – avocado mousse w/ chocolate wontons and chocolate milk/Kahlua shot
Daniel – ricotta poundcake w/toasted pistachios, strawberry + lemon coulis
Ariane – lemon meringue martini with lots of sugar, vanilla cookie crunch and cherry surprise
Richard – sandwich of banana nut bread w/ peanut butter and banana brulee w/grape gelato
Carla – rustic apple tart w/ginger peach tea, apple cider reduction, cheddar cheese
The teams were allowed prep time after purchasing their raw materials and they were told they would only have 2 hours to prep before cooking commenced.  Tom Colicchio then told them that they would be cooking at Craft, his flagship restaurant. He next told them that the diners, who are always asked for their comments and judgments, are 50 chefs in the New York area who failed to make the cut to Top Chef 5. Talk about a hostile audience!
As each dish came out, it appeared that Gail and Donatella were tearing it apart, but the diners also had a lot of negative comments. Some would be expected as loser’s jealousy syndrome but these went way beyond that. It looked like the chefs were having a bad day. There were only a few exceptions to this and they ended up in the Winner’s Group.
Judges Table involved a lot of negative comments on how the general level of taste was low for this challenge. Tom likened it to trying to go retro to the 1980s with the flavors. He made is clear that he expects more creativity. The loser’s group was Jill, Ariane and Hosea. The Winner’s group was Fabio, Carla and Jamie. The winner chosen was Fabio, who was a double-winner for this episode, putting him even with his rival Stefan.
Loser’s Table to me was obvious. Jill had lost in the Quickfire, so I felt she was most vulnerable in this group. I must add that Ariane has effectively finished next-to-last for 2 weeks in a row. Her martini was rejected as way too sweet. I don’t expect she will last very long.
I must comment on the amount of raw materials money teams were given. If you add to 50 contestants the 4 judges $2500 is $46 per diner. You might see that for a $150 tasting menu in New York City.


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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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