Maybe the word "balls" is inadequate -- inappropriate even -- when trying to describe the qualities of strength, fortitude, audaciousness, fearlessness. Particularly since these attributes appear in abundance with most of the women chefs on Top Chef. Antonia has generally been rock solid, rarely wavering -- regardless of the situation. (Last week's undercooked fritatta being a rare misstep). She's consistently cooked smart, kept her head when all around her is chaos -- and, at least in my experience, made delicious food.
A strong, strong contender. Her peas and carrot riff this week was just right for the setting, getting right in the spirit of David Burke's Townhouse without sacrificing flavor for cleverness.
Casey's "Scallibut" was also smart, clever, and very tasty. Carla was faced with maybe the steepest hill to climb at wd~50, a restaurant and a chef with a style of cooking as far from her own as could be imagined. She dug in her heels, fell back on her strengths -- yet managed to honor the spirit of the place to great effect. Tiffany Derry continues to play strong and smart. She may get weepy at Judges' Table now and again, but I'm pretty sure you could take you in a fair fight. The recently departed Jennifer Carroll, though she had a disastrous night last week, was certainly lacking in neither ability, strength, nor -- for lack of a better word -- balls.
This week's challenge was everything a serious Top Chef fan could hope for: It was all about the food and the application of all the chefly virtues. It was a New York challenge that could only have taken place in New York. It included four of the most important chefs and restaurants in the country. It was fiendishly difficult.There were no tween idols, oversized plush toys, projectile vomiting children, or frozen meals factoring in.
To be asked to walk into David Chang, or David Burke, or Michael White, or Wylie Dufresne's kitchen -- and then cook an original dish for them --evocative of their styles? Terrifying.
Other than Carla, the other chef who found himself at the polar opposite of his comfort zone was Fabio. He clearly had no feel for what Chang does. And said so. Sitting at Ma Peche, looking at the cuisine he was expected to riff on, he looked like a man who'd just seen his dog run over by an ice cream truck. His lamb chops were clunky,muddled in concept -- and he inexplicably didn't wrap the exposed bones before grilling. The result was by no stretch of the imagination a Changesque dish. But it didn't taste bad at all. Hell, I'd eat it again. Whatever it was.