My TiFaux taped the last few minutes of Project Runway and boy is that leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Boo Jeffrey. Luckily Top Chef appears to be my reality tv palate cleanser. We open with the dulcet voice of Salman Rushdie's Trophy Wife (SRTW) who explains the premise of the show. In voice over she's showing ten times the life of Billy Joel's Child Bride. Her makeup is looking very un-hoish unlike Billy Joel's Child Bride and the bitchy Gail.
Josie - A sexy butch lesbian. She has a Lee Ann vibe to her with a sense of no-nonsenseness.
Betty - A former actress (and I mean former because girlfriend looks a bit rough) who became a waitress and got sucked into the food business.
Ilan - Looks like a younger version of Ted Allen. Nerdy and adorable. I am hoping he doesn't piss me off. But I don't like I want to be famous schtick.
Marcel - Wow. His hair looks like Hugh Jackman's as Wolverine. He's already pissing me off with his molecular hoo ha. It's one thing to be a science nerd about food a la Alton Brown. It's another thing to be an insufferable prick a la Stephen from last season. I think Ilan and Marcel might hook up. Marcel shows Ilan his knives. HoYAY!
Elia - Saucy latina who works at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas. Trying to decide whether that is good or bad. She is the token Mom.
Sam - Proclaims himself the youngest executive chef in New York City. Already getting an arrogant ass vibe from him.
Frank - Rough and tumble guy who looks like he was a firefighter in a past life. He sensibly brought earplugs.
Marisa - Working my last nerve with her whole using her sexuality bit. Seriously, you are going to give Tom Colicchio a blow job (look away mom!)? SHUT UPPPP!!!
Suyai - a cute blonde who is clearly the Candice Kumai of this season. Had an eating disorder. Betty thinks they could be sisters but really Betty, you are her maiden aunt at best.
Michael - Clearly the frat boy of the pack. His wife put her panties in his suitcase. He wants to open up a sports bar. I am seriously hoping he ticks Frank off so Frank can give him a whooping. He supposedly has balls.
Carlos - Ok I am loving Carlos. The not so token gay because he is awesome. He owns a restaurant with his life partner and seems to be fairly laid back and confident. He's self taught so I am hoping he doesn't develop a chip on his shoulder as the season goes on.
Mia - The other Mom of the group. Also gives off the no-drama vibe. Good on her. has her own restaurant.
There's an unidentified guy who we are hoping to meet at some point.
When they go to the Kenmore kitchen, a very badly dubbed SRTW voice-over welcomes them. The more things change. Joining SRTW are Chef Tom and last season's winner Harold! Chef Tom, who obviously knows he isn't holding a candle to the divine Tim Gunn announces that he isn't their mentor, he's the head judge. The first quickfire challenge is to make a flambe dish.
Otto - Another elder statesman in the group. He has gravity defying gray hair. He explains what flambe is. Does anyone who watches Top Chef not know what flambe is?
Suyai is nervous because flambe wasn't taught at her cooking school. She's really getting the Candice edit here. Contestants scramble. Who's the dude they haven't introduced????
Emily - Another Vegas Chef (this time at Nob Hill). Her droopy eyes make her look depressed.
Eeeew! Marcel is putting bananas and avocados together.
Cliff - Finally we get to meet Cliff who is another 28 year old executive chef in New York. So much for being the youngest SAM! He seems fun and excited.
Lots of flames and we're not talking about the gays. Sadly Elia chooses red wine to flambe which even I know doesn't have a high enough alcohol content.
Harold judges. Marcel's banana avocado thing doesn't look as bad as I thought. Harold seems indifferent. Elia's red wine and strawberry thing looks like a hot mess. Betty makes a spicy curry. Suyai makes a tequila lime shrimp.
Harold is just rocking as a judge. He gives everyone props for using seasonal ingredients. He dings Carlos for his use of jalepeno as a garnish (you can't eat it), Elia for her strawberries, Suyai for her flavorless shrimp. He loves Sam's complex dish, Emily for her pork with apples (which brings him back to his childhood), and Betty for her curry. Sadly the winner is Sam. Sam is stoked. Elia is sad.
Back at the chef house, people are drinking product placed beer, especially Mike who is getting shitfaced. That's going to be fun the next morning. Speaking of the next morning -- hangover city. Ilan and Marcel are sniping about each other but we know they so want each other.
At the Kenmore kitchen, Harold, Chef Tom, SRTW are joined by the bitchy Gail Simmons who is seriously sporting her Jaime Geicher bitchface. We looked at Food and Wine and can't find Gail's name in the list of writers, contributors or editors. I'd say Gail is as much a food expert as Katie Lee Joel. The contestants divide into two groups - black and orange. The chefs are shown boxes with five ingredients inside. They have to use those ingredients and the KENMORE appliances. Did you hear that Kenmore is sponsoring Top Chef.
Each group will cook and the other group will judge. Orange goes first. Scrambling in the kitchen is my F1 (that tv behavior tht happens so much it becomes cumbersome to keep writing about it). Marisa is dismayed at the contents of the box which includes - artichokes, processed cheese, potatoes, snails, and peanuts. How's that sexuality working for you? Suyai is also at a loss. The chef's F1. Carlos and Ilan are kind of adorable. If there were the Real World Carlos would hook up with Ian and be pissed off at his partner back home isn't more accommodating. Marisa cuts her finger and Carlos helps bandage it up. Chef Tom comes over and Marisa shows him her cut finger and tries to flirt with him. He's kind of embarrassed for her. Elia is befuddled by the cheese. Suyai is flogging her own cooking. More F1.
Carlos - The Robert Best of this group. He made a well presented potato cake with fire roasted artichoke with escargot. Gets a bitchy comment form the lesbian.
Frank - Makes ravoili with the escargot and cheez.
Marisa - Actually makes a nice pastry with carmelized onions and uses the escargot as a garnish.
Michael - Makes fried shoestring potatoes with a cheez sauce and a peanut pesto. That gets a bitchy comment from Mia.
Elia - Makes snails with a ginger butter and mashed potatoes. Cooks the artichokes with lime and the "delicious" cheez. Eye rolls. Betty likes it.
Ilan - escargot with white wine and peanuts over a palm puree. Deep fried artichokes on the side.
Suyai - Poor Suyai. She keeps on adding all of these adjectives to her description of her dish like delicious and wonderful that totally lets you know her dish is anything but. It's braised potatoes and artichokes with sauteed escargot. Marcel doesn't like.
The black team puts Carlos and Suyai at the bottom. There is a unanimous ruling that Ilan was the top dish from that group. They also pick Frank (yay!) and Elia as their favs but the editors won't let us know who gets to be in the top two. I like the judging from the competitors. It seems fair and drama free. And you know Ilan seems to be cut from the same cloth as Harold.
Then it's time for the black team to cook. In the Black team's box is: frog legs, chicken livers, cornflakes, eggplant and peanut butter. Wow. This challenge rocks. F1 F1 F1. Betty purees the chicken livers and says she will make a flavorful cake from the puree. Um. EWWWW! Chef Tom does his usual sniff and sneer (TM Keckler from Televisionwithoutpity). Marcel is making frog leg lollipops. Mia is bringing the love for me as she's excited about the challenge and cooking the frogs legs like chicken wings. I like people who aren't intimidated by unusual food. I say this as a person who grew up eating pate and brie for breakfast and congealed pigs blood with peanuts on a rice cracker. And I have eaten both escargot and frogs legs and both rock. For those who are wary of escargot, its like a softer, yielding version of abalone or clam that is drowning in garlic and butter.
Michael is also rocking as he is breading the chicken livers. Another aside, in college a friend of mine had a condo in Park City Utah where we would go skiing for spring break. On the way to Park City, we would always make a detour to St. George to the KFC which was the only KFC in the west that served Kentucky Fried chicken livers. Wow, pate and brie for breakfast and skiing in Park City? I sound like Paris Hilton. Please forgive me. Chef Tom comments that there are a lot of breaded frogs legs. Marcel is confident.
Marcel - Frogs legs lollipop with a garlic and parsley puree. Great presentation. Seems like the second coming of Stephen. The orange team hates the dish.
Betty - frog leg/chicken liver cake Asian style served on a salad with a peanut butter ginger sauce. Nice to go the satay route.
Sam - another breaded frog leg served over eggplant and capers.
Josie - Another breaded frog leg. I guess you need to use the cornflakes somehow.
Cliff - braised and shredded frogs legs with five spice and eggplant salad with the chicken liver. Way to bread the chicken liver and not the frog leg.
Emily - Dear god another breaded frog leg over grilled eggplant.
Otto - Guess what he made? Yeah, breaded frog leg. Ilan says the dish is underflavored.
Mia - A Southern Sunday supper with a breaded frog leg. At least she has a point of view.
The favorites are Betty with her cake and Mia with her strong point of view. I totally agree. In the bottom two are Otto and Marcel. Marcel gets dinged by everyone except for Elia who loved his dish. Poor Cliff also gets dinged.
Harold is just too awesome. He's looking kind of James Bondish. I hope he and Lee Ann are having some hot sweaty Top Chef Sex (look away Mom). All judges talk about the difficulty of the challenge and cooking for the other competitors. The judges agree with the choices of the competitors evaluating the orange group. The love Ilan and Elia and liked Frank but said his dish was badly presented. In the black group, the judges disagree with the love for Betty's dish but LOOOOOVED Mia's dish. SRTW called in the Mia, Betty, Ilan, and Elia. The judging back and forth is my F2. Loving Mia for her enthusiasm. She seems friendly and genuine and invites everyone to her house for Sunday dinner. Harold announces Ilan as the winner. Overall a satisfying victory and all of the people in the top are fairly likeable as competitors.
Oh the elimination. Carlos, Suyai, Otto and Marcel (BUUUUURN!). Lots of F2. Suyai is just digging her own grave. Gail tries to be nice but Chef Tom is laughing. Marcel is a total tool. Chef Tom fingers Carlos as someone who hated Marcel's dish. Marcel is all kinds of defensive. The judges hate Carlos' dish in a big way. Gail points out that the other competitors are gunning for Marcel but his dish wasn't TOO bad. The do heap the hate on Suyai and Otto. In the end, it's Suyai and her pile of self-hatred.
Overall I am loving this season.