Tom Colicchio

Head judge Tom Colicchio sheds light on the difference between a chef and a cook.

on Nov 26, 2008

When I arrived in Rochester for this week's Elimination Challenge and saw the rows of microwaves and toaster ovens, I thought, "They've got to make Thanksgiving dinner in this? This is horrible." (No, contrary to popular belief, I do not have a hand in every Top Chef decision. The other producers are responsible for designing the challenges, the curveballs, and the insanity that ensues.) I couldn't believe it. To make matters worse, the electricity kept cutting out. And then it began to rain. Between the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges, this whole episode was rife with curveballs, and our chefs largely swung and connected. So I want to start right off by acknowledging how well our cheftestants did up in Rochester under really adverse circumstances. For the most part, the food was good; as a whole, they did a really good job.

The Elimination Challenge, which was to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for the Foo Fighters and their entourage before their concert in Rochester, presented only two real variables for our chefs to consider: preparing Thanksgiving Dinner, and incorporating the band's likes and dislikes as set forth in their Rider. That rider goes out to anyone who ever prepares food for the Foo Fighters. Our chefs needed only overlap the rider with making Thanksgiving dishes.

You might want to know that the Foo Fighters are really into food; bandleader Dave Grohl is an avid Top Chef watcher and was excited to be on the show. After their Grammy appearance last year, in fact, the band celebrated by dining at Craft LA. These guys were great to work with. By the time we showed up, they had been on the road for around three hundred days; their tour was coming to an end. After that long on the road, it's hard to face the holidays without family, and it makes sense that they would probably want something homey, comforting, and familiar. So, in contrast to last week's challenge, here we were looking for our chefs' takes on the most traditional of American meals.