My Assistant Editor and I both said the same thing after watching this week's total food porn-fest: "I am hungry!" Seriously, I can't get over the level of food this week. I've always thought the entertainment value of the show is really not about the chefs' personalities (although, obviously, I'd take a more colorful chef over a dud any day), but it's really all about the level of food. The better the food, the better the show, and I'm already digging this season.
Before I get into the episode I just want to answer two questions that came up in your comments from my blog last week. Well, actually, first, thank you for the kind compliments — I always love a good ego boost. A lot of you asked about Lee Anne's Blog, and guess what? It's on its way! She has actually been in Japan for the last two weeks. So hold tight, and check back for her commentary on the first two episodes. Secondly, I'll let you know when any episodes of Top Chef are available online. I'm going to go ahead and venture to say we should have a full episode available in September, so stay tuned.
Onto the episode: First, the chefs are introduced to their guest judge for the week, Todd English. You can get more intimate with our guest judges with our new Webisode series, Strip'd. Here's Chef English's. In the Quickfire, the chefs had to roll a pair of dice, and cook with the number of ingredients they rolled. I actually thought this was an exceptionally hard challenge because there was no real focus. They could make anything they wanted, as long as they used the right number of ingredients. The chefs were worried about getting too many (12) or too few (two or three). Chef English seemed fairly happy with the majority of offerings, although I think I heard an "interesting" in there, which is the kiss of death for any chef. The winner? Michael Voltaggio's "gazpacho." His brother was worried that he was whipping out the nitrogen, but after speaking with Bryan, it appears he now thinks the decision was a smart one. On a side note, I'll be visiting D.C. the second half of September and plan on eating at VOLT. I'll obviously report back with all the delicious details. I'm so psyched -- the menu looks amazing. Also, shout-out to the D.C. viewers: I know you are currently in the midst of D.C. Restaurant Week, and I implore you to take advantage, and definitely visit our cheftestant and guest judges' restaurants, including those offered by Bryan Voltaggio, Spike Mendelsohn, Jose Andres, and Eric Ripert!
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to cater a bachelor and bachelorette party. Ashley was pretty upset because gay marriage is not legal. Tom addresses this issue in his blog, so I encourage you to check it out. The women cooked for the men and vice versa. It seemed like the engaged couple actually gave really specific instructions, which is actually a good thing. Oh, and all the food had to be paired with shots. I honestly don't know how the judges did it! I'm going to assume they only took sips of the shots, but even if I did that, I would be out of my gourd by the end of that tasting since one of the shots was pure tequila ... and I have the tolerance of a newborn. OK -- I hate to be so petty, but seemed like the bachelorette, well, was not the most fun bride I've ever encountered, but it seemed like she knew what she was talking about in terms of her food. There are so many chefs right now I don’t want to go into each dish, but there were a food standouts. First, on the women's side the judges seemed to like Ashley's carpaccio, but not her second dish. Note to chefs: DON'T MAKE MORE DISHES THAN YOU HAVE TO! It never works out! Also, shocker, Jennifer Carroll's dish was a good one. Unfortunately it was time for Eve to go home. I felt kind of bad for her because when she was trying to explain why her shrimp didn't work out, Tom gave her a "You've got to be kidding me" look. I just don't think she had the skin for this competition.
I certainly hope you make it to VOLT, but you seem to be suggesting it is in DC.
"I'll be visiting D.C. the second half of September and plan on eating at VOLT."
It is not in DC, it is not even in the DC suburbs, it is in Frederick, Maryland, which might be generously termed the *greater* metropolitan region. There are certainly lots of people who live there who work in DC, but it's a trek. It is 55 miles away.
On another DC note, it was strange that you didn't mention Mike Isabella, since he is a chef, at Zaytinya, in DC proper and is a 6th season contestant on the show. That is a Jose Andres restaurant, one of many, but why not mention the name of the actual cheftestant who works there?
I was bemused by your statement "the judges seemed to like Ashley's soup, but not her second dish." That was so bizarrely wrong I wondered if you had wandered off to the fridge during those moments in search of some nosh. And apparently your alleged assistant editor did too, since he or she did not correct you. The judges liked Ashley's watermelon version of carpaccio, which is a dish traditionally made with very thin sliced beef. It was not a soup. It did not in any way resemble a soup. It was an appetizer. They liked it. The second dish they hated resembled a soup because it did not set.
I'm no foodie, and certainly no cook. But I love Top Chef. It, along with Project Runway, are two reality shows I never miss. So I watch it with some attention, but with no special knowledge. This is why I can't understand such mistakes made by someone who works for Bravo, who is blogging for Bravo, who refers to herself as an editor, who has an assistant editor present, and who presumably had access to the episode in every which way, transcript, video, whatever, long before the rest of us unwashed masses. Wouldn't it be a good idea to factcheck so as not to appear to not have watched your OWN network's program. The DC stuff would have been nice to get right too, but the mistake on the actual content is very very odd. Like using salt instead of sugar. Even if for some reason you decided only to watch it at the last minute, how could you think they liked a soup when it was slices of watermelon? Sure hope that nosh was good.
Anyway, love the show.
Editor's Note: Thanks for the catch on the carpaccio! I will indeed be making the schlep to Frederick.
I believe it was Eli and not Kevin in the Elimination Challenge Top 4.
Editor's Note: Thanks for the catch! For some reason, I think I'm going to get these two mixed up all season!
The Voltaggio brothers are obviously great cooks, but it's only the second episode of the season and I'm already tired of the rivalry thing. The show is about all the chefs and their food.
Great blog Monica! You are one of my faves to read..but I was disappointed this week that you missed out on calling us a foodie pet-name :( Oh well, I know you'll make up for it next time! I, unlike some of your other readers, don't take offense to you using a wrong word or name here or there..I've seen EVERY TC blogger do it at some point. I really think it must be unavoidable when you are trying to squeeze it a quick blogging session. I always love hearing your take on the more behind-the-scenes action! Past cheftestants are good for that in some way also, but you always have the dish on the current season which is more fun to hear :) Thanks for your time, great blog and can't wait to watch next week!
Thanks for pointing out Volt's location to Monica. I was just about to do the same. Not that she couldn't make a side trip to Frederick, but it's certainly a lot closer to the Penn-Mar border than it is to DC proper.
And I agree that Zaytinya deserves a mention.
I'm liking your blog, Monica. A lot better than some of the other "stiffs" in this blogosphere. What a great season this is starting out to be. I had high hopes for Eve. Her resume is very impressive. But every time the camera landed on her, she looked like a deer in the headlights. Poor dear, she really doesn't have the skin for this. Keep up the good words ... I enjoy reading you.
looks to be an exciting season. will the past shows be coming out on dvd? so many of my friends missed the first few seasons and are now addicted. i myself have been watching since season one and would love to see them again. would be happy to buy the dvds.