Chomping at the Bit

Season 3's Casey Thompson disagrees with the judges' decision. Let her explain.

Getting the ball rolling and wasting no time was clearly Bravo's plan when they created the second episode. I am attentively watching my television, trying to learn everyone's names (sorry Ryan for calling you Brian last week), and remembering how difficult it was with 14 left. With everyone running around on this episode, I found myself frantically taking notes in order to keep up with their dishes. Bravo is on a mission, to find the next Top Chef -- and the chefs are going to earn it.

Quickfire: These are the challenges that are set up to show the key players and who the weak links are. The chefs are given only certain ingredients from the kitchen that they are allowed to use (pay attention!) and the remaining ingredients are to be purchased at an outdoor market. We really enjoyed these opportunities. We could pick through specialty produce so fresh the dirt remained on the roots. Specialty butters, meats, and honeys make this a great chance to make an inventive and creative dish. Off they go in the "Highlanders" to a market that apparently only sells meat and potatoes! Let's go over this one more time: They were given a limited amount of ingredients. They were not told to do colorless dishes!

Richard, impressed by today's judge, Wylie Dufresne, shot out of the gate with a believed surefire winner. The menu consisted of molecular gastronomy -- with a side of chicken and apples. Richard explains his plan to take simple, good ideas and apply science to make them better. His face looked like the new kid in the kitchen just seasoned his all day bordelaise with sugar instead of salt! Chef Dufresne did feel sorry for him. "The dish is not terribly overpowered by eucalyptus." WHEW! Sorry Richard, the Chef himself was apologetic for his own lack of interest in your dish! MY two cents: I have a feeling that most of the cool things that Richard has in store for us will be continually foiled by time restraints, crowded kitchens, and awkward situations. That is unfortunate because I believe that the fans are ready to see some cool things.

Valerie simply won't engage herself in this competition. She admits it!

I see trouble coming here -- and I will have to say it's fast approaching. Her dish, steak and sweet potato. Ryan's dish: steak, potato and dijon. Erik: lamb, carrot and potato! And, I mean in that order. Pattern here anyone?

Mark, who left his mizuna at the market, lacked color in his dish (the mizuna would have added SOME). Even with the brown sauce, brown meat, and turnip puree, he pulls off a win. Nothing else really struck me as inventive or even worthy of noting. No one is really chomping at the bit! Come on guys!

Now, you've got to love the quirkiness of Bravo when they throw out the big party events. We've got chefs pulling knives with animal names on them thinking they are about to cook up some vulture! -- Oh, the things CJ would have come up with to say about this challenge! Broken up into teams named Lions, Tigers, Bears, and I think there might have even been a Three-Toed Sloth in there somewhere, the chefs learn about TEAM challenges -- always a toughie. Let me explain why: We are chefs that are accustomed to working in kitchens where you have become familiar with each other and in most cases share or at least understand each other's philosophy on food. In the Top Chef kitchen, you find yourself in a competition with other chefs that you don't know and have no clue where they even come from! From the get-go on this challenge you start to hear the groaning. "Aww, hell!"

Stephanie and Antonia of Team Gorilla are immediately worried about their team member, Valerie, and her ability to "get in there" and execute. And with all due right -- an immediate RED FLAG! You want your whole team to do well, though it is the best dish that will take the prize. In their situation, you can only help the team member stay afloat before you yourself turn for shore! At this point, worry about your own dish help others where you can.

Two huge problems from two teams right off the bat here: Valerie's over-crowded pans of blinis, and these flipping, hideous dried blueberry "turds" of Nikki's. I sense Valerie knew she was in trouble but did not have the cojones to tell her teammates she clearly "had never made blini!" As for the blueberry mushroom -- I don't even think I need to discuss this further. In the beginning of this challenge, Nikki enlightened us all with her belief on how women have to prove themselves harder than their male counterparts. Blah, blah, blah .... The only things we learned about any of that was that out of a $500!!! budget, $200 must be spent on table decorations, AND that mushrooms and blueberries do not a tasty dish make! In the end, the table decorations are not necessary -- IT IS ABOUT THE FOOD. The judges don't care about your table decorations! I've seen this before! And, it was going to take way more than "perfume on a pig" to make those mushrooms better! Cracking me up!

Stephanie's chips were soggy. Even if they had been crisp, it sounded as if the salad wasn't up to snuff. She realizes this. She actually could have been sent home, IF two other people had not made worse dishes!

Antonia really stepped up to help her team. I've got my eye on her. She has a sense of assertiveness that a chef should possess. All in all, these teams deserve to be on the bottom and they know why.

Some of the winning dishes stood out from the beginning. Team Vulture and team Penguin had lovely ideas. Chef Dufresne's favorite -- charred squid and soy-balsamic tapioca -- looked and sounded appetizing. Mark's stuffed anchovy was a bute! This was my favorite dish and I also am keeping my eye on this chef. I think that we will continue to see interesting, composed dishes from Mark. Anchovy was a real risk, but I love it when a chef can make a believer out of diners! Chef Colicchio was real quick to find a favorite in the lamb meatball which sounded good. Anyone wonder where Zoi's coat went during the event? Very strange!

The effort of the chefs in this Elimination produced clear choices for top and bottom. They really jockeyed for positioning in this challenge.

It is the second episode and we can already tell which chefs are going to out-cook the rest.

Judges' Table: I must say, the three people that should have been called out for their dishes, were. Now the judges have to decide one at a time who SHOULD go home. I was a little surprised that it wasn't Nikki. The thing that bothered me about the ultimate decision to send Valerie home was that at LEAST she had a composed dish to serve. Nikki, didn't even end up serving hers! Though Valerie's did not taste good, nor was it executed well, I would only assume that it would win points over a blueberry mushroom with Pecorino cheese! Oh well -- they only asked me to write a blog, right?? (Laughing) So long Val -- I just don't think this was your game. This doesn't define you as a chef.

Congratulations Andrew on the win. I was in a toss up between this dish and the anchovy. I think it was a close call. This is awesome! Can't wait to see what they come up with next!

Well, until next week ... thanks for reading guys! Now get off your computers and go COOK! Cheers!

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