Rocco DiSpirito

The eliminated chef scared Rocco DiSpirito. Let him explain.

on Mar 26, 2008

Elevating street food to fine dining requires a deft hand and some clever marketing skills. You need to embrace the streetiness of the original flavors while at the same time make it entice like something for which you'd pay 10 times the street price. A few came close -- Spike captured the soul of the street, and Andrew made one of Rick's favorite tacos, but it was Richard who broke the code with his combination of a great filling and a fancy jicama wrapper. Jicama is nothing like a tortilla. It's starchy, but it's not made by hand with anything resembling wheat or corn. Sometimes called the Mexican potato, it's a tuber known for being at-once creamy, crunchy, and juicy -- and you eat it raw. It's a great choice for a new spin on a wrapper. Obviously, Rick felt that way as well.

Richard, the Quickfire Challenge winner, gained immunity and immediately picked his team. Of course, he picked many of the early superstars. He's no dummy. Strategy is as important as skill in any competition. Stephanie with one win under her belt, Antonia, who made a thrilling pasta dish in the first episode, and Mark who can lose ingredients and still win a Quickfire Challenge are already very impressive contestants this season. Spike seemed to think their choice to team up with the guy who is immune to elimination was a bad one. I am so tired of hearing cheftestants hypothesize that somehow the person with immunity will take a dive in the Elimination Challenge because that's just not how chefs operate. We always put too much effort into our work.

When Richard steered the Blue Team in a fine dining direction, it was clear he knew who he was cooking for. Hearing that you're cooking for 40 adults and 70 kids, it's very tempting to get out the burger buns, hot dog relish, PBRs, M&Ms, and lollipops. But as Zoi said, you're not going to win Top Chef by making pasta salad. Poor thing. Dale also sensed he needed to "push," and, in fact, his pork skewer was the best thing the team made. And while fun is always paramount at any gathering of any kind (and, as Andrew points out, chefs must know how to entertain), trying to win on the "fun" ticket isn't wise, this isn't really a gathering. It's a televised competition with 100K at stake. Eyes on the prize, kids. Another thing to remember is that even though the cheftestants are often divided into teams, they're always judged on individual talent. I bet many of them are happy they each chose to make a dish of their own in this episode.

Someone like Nikki should be very thankful she was on the winning team.