And it did. A great many chefs delivered interesting dishes in the Elimination Challenge (a challenge that made me think of Congress, where folks from every part of the country come together on the Hill to represent their regions. Though that’s where the similarity ends!); there were just too many dishes to feature in the time allotted in the episode. In fact, it’s interesting to note that given how the challenge was structured, each group needed to have a winner and a loser while, in fact, one of the groups was so uniformly strong that any one of the dishes in that group could have won the whole challenge. Those four just happened to be squared off in a heat against each other, so one edged out the others in that group and emerged victorious while another of those very fine dishes landed its chef in the bottom. As for Angelo’s dish, it won the Challenge because it really did have more finesse than the rest. It was made with a sure hand, and the flavors were great, down to the light bacon sauce (I know, by the way, that it was deemed a “foam,” but a foam is, in essence, a light sauce – by whipping air into a sauce, you’re lightening it up).
That said about Angelo’s dish, and notwithstanding the fact that he won both the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges this week, I’d like to be clear that this is an evenly matched group. Remember: I tasted all of the food. I was glad to see creativity and skill across the board, despite the range in the nature and length of experience of the chefs, from a 51-year old instructor at the Culinary Institute of America to some whom I call "cooks’ cooks” — the type of line cooks who show up at the restaurant every night, roll their sleeves up, put their heads down and deliver excellent food. While these hardworking and reliable cooks are not always the most creative, you never know when one will suddenly emerge from the pack and distinguish him- or herself in a season of Top Chef! This season’s chefs got off to a great start. They talked a lot of trash, as I discovered when watching the edited episode — I’d had no idea how much! — but they got off to a great start. With this group cooking, with Gail and Eric trading off judging, and with some interesting politicos coming on board to judge as well, it promises to be a great season. Thank you for tuning in and logging on!