I stand by what I said last week. I still think this season is the best yet. Are the chefs technically as talented as Hung? Probably not, but then again, he is the secretariat of Top Chef contestants.
However, I find the tasks and personalities this season so utterly creative and entertaining that I really think it is the best show on Bravo. So about last night's episode: I thought the Quickfire Challenge was incredible. First of all, what a great plug for Uncle Ben's. Who would ever think of so many creative dishes from the mother of all minute rice products. They only had fifteen minutes!!! I was laying in my bed with panic feeling completely incompetent wondering if I could have pulled off any of those dishes or ideas in that short of a time. That is stress!
Once again, Dale and Richard did me proud. Richard never misses a chance to be daring and creative and I often doubt him. When I saw that tuna, I wasn't so sure how it would go over. I have a soft spot for Dale, so I thought his fried rice was inventive although Nikki had the same idea as well. I thought Andrew's dish using ground rice as a coating was inventive, but Oprah's chef was correct: 15 minutes isn't long enough to pull that one off. Antonia's mom's rice and salad was the ultimate winner.
Sorry I'm not more enthusiastic. I really do like Antonia, but I just don't think she is top chef material. This week's behavior notwithstanding, Stephanie is a better chef. I was disappointed that Stephanie couldn't pull that seafood pancake together because I thought it was the most creative of all. She was off to a bad start, and still she hasn't won a Quickfire yet. Richard pulled it off yet again; I was really impressed with what he did. I could discuss Mark and Spike (with that unappetizing looking tomato) or Lisa with her tougher than tough attitude but truly none of it was even worth mentioning. Now to the main competition. Bravo to the producers for bringing children and nutrition into this episode. Not only was it wonderful and adorable to see those children taking pride in their dishes and really contributing in the kitchen, but I loved the focus on making a healthy, affordable meal for the whole family. This is a huge part of what I do for a living: making food accessible to all.
Spike's puttanesca was great, and I loved how all of the chefs were so sweet and inclusive to the children. No one fell short here.
From worst to best: Mark's dish was a mess, and his disorganized nature from the tailgate shone through again here. He's a bit frenzied and frazzled, and it shows in his dishes. Curries for kids is not going to be a new trend anytime soon, and I agree with Tom that he didn't make good use of his funds. I don't think Tom doesn't like him. Nice guy, but he's no top chef.
I think Lisa has a major attitude, and it is really starting to grate on everyone's nerves. Her food just wasn't up to snuff and it showed. Nikki's "one pot wonder" was a hit, and I do give her huge props for getting children to eat brussel sprouts. I really do like her, but I'd be shocked if she can outdo Dale, Richard, and even Stephanie. I give Dale credit for going outside of his comfort zone. I didn't love the sound of his dish, but he skated by.
Richard is the man. He got children to eat beets!!!! I can't get adults to do that. Antonia expanded upon the pasta concept, and made it interesting by making it Asian and healthy by using whole wheat pasta and vegetables. The kids loved it, and I give her more credit than simply doing well because she has a daughter. She was on her game, motivated, and hit it out of the park.
Andrew surprised me this week. I loved how he said to his little one: "Honor to work with you Chef" and he warmed me up to his personality by how great with kids he is. Andrew came up with the Chicken Paillard with Fennel, Apple & Orange salad -- it was a big hit with not only the judges but the kids as well.
Last and unfortunately least in this case was Stephanie. She looked tired, she was frazzled at Whole Foods, and she didn't have her act together. Maybe another Quickfire defeat threw her off, but Stephanie was a disaster this week and I love her. I'm the queen of putting odd combinations together, but peanut butter, tomatoes, lemon juice, and couscous? Huh? First of all, peanuts are a huge allergy for children, so using it in this dish (and Lisa using it as a dessert) wasn't the wisest choice. I really love Steph, so I'm going to let her slide.
All in all, another phenomenal show and it really should be Dale, Richard or Andrew at the finish line with one girl -- maybe Stephanie or Antonia?