As I've been an unforgivable bum about blogging so far this season, I shall share the first paragraph of the Episode 1 blog I started writing:
Holy crap, you guys, Season 2 is finally here! I have to say that although I love all of our shows equally — they're like my children after all — well, I don't. I've always been partial to our food shows, so to have one back is well, exciting. And, I'm happy to be able to share my adventures in amateur foodie-ing with you all too! I've had some pretty fabulous meals since we last "spoke," and I'm sure you all have too. So feel free to describe them in the comments below!
OK -- back to the present. Now, aren't you happy I'm back sharing such gems of wisdom with you? I sure hope so! OK -- now let's get back to the episode, shall we? This week was truly unique in that six Season 1 cheftestants returned to try to redeem themselves, and I think whether they won or lost they all did for the most part. For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs had to create dishes to complement Stolichnaya cocktails. Although Stoli is actually one of my favorite vodkas, like Gael Greene, I'm not a big fan of drinking cocktails while I eat unless it's a margarita or a mojito and I'm eating Mexican or Cuban food. (P.S. I recently ate Cuban at Calle Ocho, and I highly recommend it, especially the plantain-crusted tilapia.) So, I might have been just as turned off by some of the combos as the Real Housewives of Orange County were.
Although many of you no doubt that the choice of the Housewives as judges was an unwise one, they're restaurant patrons. And at the end of the day, chefs need them to like their food. I was also very surprised at how open-minded they were, especially Alexis. If you're not a Housewives fan, you won't remember this, but on one of the final episodes of Season 5 of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Alexis actually spit out food at Hubert Keller's Fleur de Lys. Sooo I was a little nervous about the 'wives' appearance as well. But, I think they rallied, and honestly it was worth it just to watch the chefs mock them. Say it with me: ed-a-mam-e
Ultimately, they gave the win to Jonathan Waxman, a chef who finished his dish 20 minutes before his competitors. I don't think I've ever seen anyone as relaxed in the kitchen as Jonathan Waxman. His quiet confidence is positively magnetic. And, I'll let you know he's that laid back in real life. The first time I went to his West Village eatery, Barbuto, I wanted to finally introduce myself. I was sitting eating with a small group of friends, and looked over at the bar and spotted him. He wasn't wearing a chef's coat or even a dress shirt, but just a t-shirt and shorts. If you didn't know what he looked like you would have no idea that he was one of the most accomplished chefs in New York City. I called him over and he was an absolute delight. I've had the pleasure of interacting with him a few times after that and recommend Barbuto to anyone looking for a delicious and hearty meal. There's a reason there's a picture of him above the bar at Joey Campanaro's Little Owl. For this challenge, Jonathan knew exactly who his audience was and went for it. Although it may have sounded just a little sarcastic when Ludo said that Chef Waxman was truly a Master, he meant it.
He proved that fact once again in the Elimination Challenge. For the Elimination Challenge, we once again asked the chefs to get crunked, which if you've learned anything from our Top Chef Stew Room behavior isn't too difficult. They had to recreate traditional pub dishes. Honestly, I think the only dish featured that I've ever tried was Shepherd's Pie, but all of the dishes sounded pretty good to a carbo-junkie like me. Let's start with Ludo Fefebvre who just cracks me up. Whether you love him or hate him, he's passionate. He lives for cooking and competing, and you have to respect that. Ludo took his recreation of Irish Stew a little too far, making it almost unrecognizable. But you know what? I like what he did. He took a traditional stew and made it something you could see in a fine dining restaurant. I don't know if there was anything wrong with that. He obviously could have worked a little harder to keep the essence of the original dish, but I don't know if his thinking was that off.
His arch-nemesis Rick Moonen created fish and chips. Although I love Rick (also a great guy), I'm going to side with Ludo on dish selection argument. I would have liked to see Rick step out of his underwater comfort zone. If you read Jay Rayner's blog, he echos this sentiment. But either way Rick's new fish and chips was liked by all the diners and was liked enough by the judges to have him move on to the Championship Round.
Wylie Dufresne attempted Bangers and Mash which seemed to go over well, but not well enough to get him to the next round. That reminds me, I need to get back to wd~50 soon! A colleague just had a fabulous meal there, and I was jealous to say the least! Wylie's friendly nemesis, Graham Elliot Bowles made his version of Steak and Kidney Pie. I knew the second he said he was going to mask the kidney flavor he was dead in the hole. I honestly can't say that I've ever had kidneys, but if I've learned anything from Top Chef, the goal is to make ingredients shine, not to hide them. So, it looks like it's 1-1 in the great Dufresne vs. Bowles rivalry!
Finally, we have Mr. Mark Peel. He just kinda ran out of time with his Toad in a Hole, making his Yorkshire Pudding somewhat inedible. His seafood sausage seemed like a nice twist on the traditional preparation, but it just wasn't enough. In the end, Jonathan "Obi-Wan Kenobi" Waxman wins again, and moves on to the Champions Round. Yay!
Perhaps my two favorite moments of the entire episode were when Real Housewife Lynne asked if Rick's Quickfire dish was frozen yogurt. Honestly, there may have been some on her strawberry shortcake, but the way it was edited, with a look of confusion on Rick's face immediately following her statement, I died of laughter. The fact that she couldn't pronounce the word "edamame" only made the moment more hilarious. Also, the Magical Elves did a great job of putting together that little package about Chef Waxman talking to his food. It was so weird, yet so endearing.
Next week, the chefs cook for the motherf---ing cast of Modern Family! This should be pretty amazing. Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson was on Watch What Happens Live this past week with fellow guest Bethenny Frankel, and he was hilarious, so if it's a taste of what's to come during next week's episode, I can't wait! Watch this after-show we taped with him, and you'll see what I mean.:
I'll be sure to address some of your comments and questions next week, so keep sending 'em in! Also, If you care to stalk me a bit and find out where I'm eating, friend me on foursquare. And, of course, friend Bravotv on foursquare too!