November 23, 2008

Top Chef New York: Show Your Craft

I really enjoyed this week's episode. It was a lot less frantic and focused much more on the food. We began with the introduction of this week's guest judge, Donatella Arpaia. If you've watched more than one Iron Chef America than surely you recognize this successful restaurateur. She is a frequent judge on the show. The quickfire was a hot dog challenge with a real New York hot dog vendor in the house. Most of the chefs decided to whip up a sausage with the exception of Jill who crazily wrapped a standard dog in rice paper wrappers. Was this served hot or cold like a summer roll? I couldn't help gagging at the thought that it was a cold hot dog inside! Eugene who peaked my interest last week had nori with boursin cheese, another unappetizing combination. Nods were given to the success of Fabio and Hosea but Radhika's Indian lamb hot dog earned her immunity.

For the elimination round the contestants were given the task of running Craft's kitchen for lunch. The added spin was the 50 guests they had to serve just happen to be chefs that tried out and failed to get a spot on Top Chef, a sure to be critical crowd. The contestants divided themselves into appetizers, entrees, and desserts (5 each.) It was nice to see a set of Top Chef contestants that didn't moan and groan about making dessert. Finally they have learned! The Whole Foods shopping trip and night before prep fly by. I immediately know that Hosea has set himself up for failure. Being sure of the quality of your ingredients and being flexible with your recipe are cardinal rules in cooking and he breaks both of them by choosing canned crab meat he can't taste. The chefs arrive at Craft and get ready for service. Ariane give the other chefs a taste of her dessert when she unsure of it. They give her mixed answers but it seems like she knows there is a problem with the dish. Yet she proceeds anyway. Fabio displays an interesting technique where he remakes olives in a pasta-less ravioli type preparation. Everyone gets through the lunch and it's clear that there are more and less successful dishes. On to judging...

Fabio, Hosea, Carla, Ariane, Jamie and Jill are called in to be questioned by the judges. The judges praise Carla's pastry, Jamie's corn soup and Fabio's carpaccio. Fabio takes the win for his creative dish. Hosea, Ariane and Jill are critiqued next. Ariane's overly sweet dessert and Jill's poorly executed ostrich egg quiche seem to be the worst and it looks bad for one of them. They are called back in and Jill is the one eliminated!

I liked that we got much more details about the food in this episode. The chef's individual styles are developing. Jamie's comment about wanting to "celebrate the season and use good product" endears her to me tremendously. Fabio and Stefan are being portrayed as fierce competitors. Ariane seems to be on her way out. It'll be interesting to see if she can turn that around. Next week's episode will be a Thanksgiving themed meal with the Foo Fighters. I'm sure it'll be entertaining.

This week's winning dish: Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio