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Top Chef Season 5


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Hopefully this choice of Leah vs. Stephan might cause a slight revision in the "judge only on the dish" attitude, because as you point out OA, Stephan probably should have gone home under normal circumstances with those rules being what they are.

But it seems so clear that this was the right call. Leah was in every way an inferior chef and if she skated by this time she'd be right at the chopping block next week probably. Her heart clearly wasn't in it, she admits it, and her dishes were reflecting that.

I understand that the judge by that dish alone rule should probably be the general frame of reference and stuck to certainly early on in the season when there's alot of fat to cut. But as things wear on how can you not look at the chef's overall performance? Leah's mistakes seemed to speak to more to a lack of passion and even skill and she kept screwing up throughout the season. Stephan botched the dish but is there any doubt he wouldn't knock it out of the park if given a second chance?

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People underestimate how difficult it is to produce a damned good roast chicken. Although it's very easy to do a passable chicken, it is not so easy to do a great one.

Thank you. And it is exactly what Lidia ordered. Next time you get exactly what you order, and it's exactly perfect, and it's in a restaurant, please let us know.

Why do those who scoff at the roast chicken think it not odd that a French chef will ask someone to cook an omelet as a test of his/her skills?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Whew, I just spent the past few nights catching up on 5 weeks of Top Chef!

So I'll just give some generalities:

-Super Bowl episode SUCKED. That was just a boring and useless ep.

-Le Bernardin was an inspired episode. That was just brilliant and a real challenge worthy of both the chefs and the viewers.

-Last Meal was also awesome, I wish the rest of the season had been half as good as these last two shows. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and seeing all those masters of the culinary world at the same table was pretty cool. And honestly it's always a cool thing when Jacques Pepin's around, he's a class act.

-Carla is a real dark horse and she seems to really be in "The Zone" with a Zen-like attitude. I started the season not really caring for her and her hijinks, but she's earned my respect in the kitchen (I could do with less sending out the love with the plates, though; just get the food right).

-Fabio is funny as ever and when he keeps it simple he gets it right.

-Stefan is in a great position, somehow his salmon was overlooked and this competition, frankly, is his to lose. It was pretty apparent the judges were looking at the chefs' performance since the beginning at this point or he, not Leah, would have gone home.

-Hosea's the weakest of the bunch, and his constant jabs at Stefan during the interviews will get him in trouble. He's running off his mouth without the skills to back it up, frankly.

-While it did seem like Leah had a target on her back, she also deserved it for her overall performance, and she was always making excuses, which is something I can't stand.

Anyway, it looks like TC is back on track, New Orleans should be interesting.

Cheers! :cool:

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People underestimate how difficult it is to produce a damned good roast chicken. Although it's very easy to do a passable chicken, it is not so easy to do a great one.

Thank you. And it is exactly what Lidia ordered. Next time you get exactly what you order, and it's exactly perfect, and it's in a restaurant, please let us know.

Why do those who scoff at the roast chicken think it not odd that a French chef will ask someone to cook an omelet as a test of his/her skills?

In fact, I don't doubt that that is why Lidia chose it - albeit a daring one to ask for if the scenario were real. I wouldn't want to risk that kind of disappointment for my last meal.

And, it's all that much harder to do with a broken finger.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I continue to be incredibly bored by this season. Roast chicken and peas? How is that the pre-finale Top Chef challenge? The show has become an exercise in who screws up the least. As Chris pointed out upthread, there isn't a Richard or Stephanie among this group.

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Here I am in salmon seared on the outside/raw on the inside country and I like my salmon as sushi as well, but I wonder how much of the world cooks salmon through? Were the judges looking for a little bit of tender rawness in the middle and Stefan cooked it through intentionally, or did he dry the beast out to choke it down dry? I have eaten with people who leave anything not thoroughly cooked on their plate - that includes fish, lamb, steak...

The two ways spinach seemed like the bigger error in some ways - love the idea, the execution failed.

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OK, so I'm a happy camper that (1) Fabio didn't get chopped, and (2) actually WON an elimination challenge - with a broken finger! He won't be Top Chef, but if he makes it to the top three I will be ecstatic. You could see he was thrilled to be cooking Italian food for a paesana, and that it would be straight out of his nonna's (grandma's) playbook.

I was shocked by Stefan's misstep, but I never thought they'd send him home. Leah? Sorry, she was expendable.

And Carla continues to ROLL! You GO, Carla, girl! I thought the squab looked a little bit done, but then figured it was the lighting and the sauce. It was interesting to hear Colicchio and Pepin discuss how the old school cooks prefer game birds cooked rarer,and the younger cooks go for more done, and I was glad Pepin did not hold it against her.

I'm thinking Carla, Stefan and, yes, Fabio for the final three. I had thought Hosea was stronger initially, but he doesn't seem to have quite the technical grasp I originally thought - and brain fog seems to be setting in. Whereas Fabio, who was previously put off here and there with small elements (like avocado) seems to be undergoing a personal culinary renaissance - he's GETTING it, now.

It'd be a serious hoot if Carla took down Stefan in the final battle. He is technically a good chef and pretty creative, but Carla's classic training is finally coming out and working nicely with her off-the-wall creativity - she is rapidly becoming my favorite cheftestant EVER.

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OK, so I'm a happy camper that (1) Fabio didn't get chopped, and (2) actually WON an elimination challenge - with a broken finger!  He won't be Top Chef, but if he makes it to the top three I will be ecstatic.  You could see he was thrilled to be cooking Italian food for a paesana, and that it would be straight out of his nonna's (grandma's) playbook.

I was shocked by Stefan's misstep, but I never thought they'd send him home.  Leah?  Sorry, she was expendable.

And Carla continues to ROLL!  You GO, Carla, girl!  I thought the squab looked a little bit done, but then figured it was the lighting and the sauce.  It was interesting to hear Colicchio and Pepin discuss how the old school cooks prefer game birds cooked rarer,and the younger cooks go for more done, and I was glad Pepin did not hold it against her.

I'm thinking Carla, Stefan and, yes, Fabio for the final three.  I had thought Hosea was stronger initially, but he doesn't seem to have quite the technical grasp I originally thought - and brain fog seems to be setting in.  Whereas Fabio, who was previously put off here and there with small elements (like avocado) seems to be undergoing a personal culinary renaissance - he's GETTING it, now.

It'd be a serious hoot if Carla took down Stefan in the final battle.  He is technically a good chef and pretty creative, but Carla's classic training is finally coming out and working nicely with her off-the-wall creativity - she is rapidly becoming my favorite cheftestant EVER.

For personality: :wub: Carla :wub:

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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How is that the pre-finale Top Chef challenge?

I can tell you how...try to prepare squab and peas for Jacques P. and roast chicken with potatoes for Lidia B., on TV, in 2 hours.

But that's the TV/celebrity element, right? Look, I love Lidia and Jacques. But where is the food/creativity/talent part at this point for the remaining 5 contestants? They didn't even do a bang up job while omitting creativity as a requirement! The judges tore apart the salmon (and not in a good way), disliked the hollandaise, and . . . . do you know that I can't even remember what Hosea made? Something with a tomato that Jacques said wasn't properly seared. That's how bored I am.

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I understand that the judge by that dish alone rule should probably be the general frame of reference and stuck to certainly early on in the season when there's alot of fat to cut. But as things wear on how can you not look at the chef's overall performance? Leah's mistakes seemed to speak to more to a lack of passion and even skill and she kept screwing up throughout the season.  Stephan botched the dish but is there any doubt he wouldn't knock it out of the park if given a second chance?

I think it's very apparent that they considered Stefan's overall performance to date, even if the official rules say they can't do this.
But that's the TV/celebrity element, right?  Look, I love Lidia and Jacques.  But where is the food/creativity/talent part at this point for the remaining 5 contestants?  They didn't even do a bang up job while omitting creativity as a requirement!  The judges tore apart the salmon (and not in a good way), disliked the hollandaise, and . . . . do you know that I can't even remember what Hosea made?  Something with a tomato that Jacques said wasn't properly seared.  That's how bored I am.

The ability to do classics well is a major part of being a successful chef. The creativity element was very much present in the Quickfire. I don't know if they planned it that way, or if it just happened by dumb luck, but it made sense to juxtapose wacky dishes for Wylie in the quickfire with a bunch of classics in the elimination challenge. Edited by oakapple (log)
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Hosea made shrimp with beurre blanc.

He was supposed to make scampi. I loved when the judges spoke of broken butter with tons of garlic. Just like my mama used to make and one of my favorite dishes as a child.

Edited by tsquare (log)
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It was interesting to hear Colicchio and Pepin discuss how the old school cooks prefer game birds cooked rarer,and the younger cooks go for more done, and I was glad Pepin did not hold it against her.

Am I nuts, or was it the other way around, with Tom saying he prefers the game birds rarer?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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It was interesting to hear Colicchio and Pepin discuss how the old school cooks prefer game birds cooked rarer,and the younger cooks go for more done, and I was glad Pepin did not hold it against her.

Am I nuts, or was it the other way around, with Tom saying he prefers the game birds rarer?

You're right -- Tom said there was a generational divide, with the older chef=done and the younger=rare.

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It was interesting to hear Colicchio and Pepin discuss how the old school cooks prefer game birds cooked rarer,and the younger cooks go for more done, and I was glad Pepin did not hold it against her.

Am I nuts, or was it the other way around, with Tom saying he prefers the game birds rarer?

you are correct.

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Why do those who scoff at the roast chicken think it not odd that a French chef will ask someone to cook an omelet as a test of his/her skills?

I do not scoff at roast chicken, I love it, and agree that it is challenging to execute correctly. Nor do I scoff at an omelet as a test of a COOK. But being a CHEF is about more than being able to bang out perfect execution. That's the absolute minimum skill set that should be required to even be in the running. Every single contestant should be able to do that. Now, show me what you've got! Let's see creativity. Let's see out-of-the-box thinking. Let's see uniqueness.

The fact that what the judges appear to be looking for is perfect execution of simple dishes is exactly my point: I think it's a BS criterion for choosing a top chef. They had all damned well better be at that level. So stop constructing challenges that can be won by perfect execution without thought given to any level of creativity. I think it makes for a boring contest: no one is pushing themselves flavor-wise, so we get a lot of tasty roast chicken and overcooked salmon. What about taking risks? Of course they have no incentive to do so, they risk failing, and there is no upside! The prizes for the winner are by and large garbage, at least compared to the possibility of getting kicked off. I think to encourage risk-taking, you need to find some way of convincing the chefs it is worth it to go for the win, and not just compete to not lose.

Chris Hennes
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Why do those who scoff at the roast chicken think it not odd that a French chef will ask someone to cook an omelet as a test of his/her skills?

I do not scoff at roast chicken, I love it, and agree that it is challenging to execute correctly. Nor do I scoff at an omelet as a test of a COOK. But being a CHEF is about more than being able to bang out perfect execution. That's the absolute minimum skill set that should be required to even be in the running. Every single contestant should be able to do that...

The fact that what the judges appear to be looking for is perfect execution of simple dishes is exactly my point: I think it's a BS criterion for choosing a top chef. They had all damned well better be at that level. So stop constructing challenges that can be won by perfect execution without thought given to any level of creativity.

But unfortunately, as we have seen, too many of the cheftestants DON'T have fundamental techniques in their pockets.

We've seen everything from a butchered (instead of filleted) fish to an ill-trussed leg of lamb (even I can do that!) to watery Hollandaise...

I think it makes for a boring contest: no one is pushing themselves flavor-wise, so we get a lot of tasty roast chicken and overcooked salmon. What about taking risks? Of course they have no incentive to do so, they risk failing, and there is no upside! The prizes for the winner are by and large garbage, at least compared to the possibility of getting kicked off. I think to encourage risk-taking, you need to find some way of convincing the chefs it is worth it to go for the win, and not just compete to not lose.

It seems to me that there is a problem with younger generation chefs these days - hyper-creativity and no soul... and even less basic skills.

But, after all, this IS a reality show.

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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This is the second challenge where the chefs were asked to reproduce a dish.

Creativity is great, but replicating or just cooking the classics takes skill too.

The spinach wasn't a flaw, it just tasted the same when served "two ways" or that's how I perceived it. So, 1 strke for overcooking the Salmon.

Leah, served a runny egg with a runny hollandaise. That would be two strikes in my book. So for me it was pretty much straight forward on the judging.

This is the second time they made me think Carla was going to win the elimination.

I'm on the Carla bandwagon too. I will be looking to see her take it in New Orleans and she has already done Gumbo!

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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The ability to do classics well is a major part of being a successful chef. The creativity element was very much present in the Quickfire. I don't know if they planned it that way, or if it just happened by dumb luck, but it made sense to juxtapose wacky dishes for Wylie in the quickfire with a bunch of classics in the elimination challenge.

I would say the ability to do classics well is a major part of being a successful culinary student.

The ability to improvise, create and interpret classics is a major part of being a successful chef.

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The ability to do classics well is a major part of being a successful chef. The creativity element was very much present in the Quickfire. I don't know if they planned it that way, or if it just happened by dumb luck, but it made sense to juxtapose wacky dishes for Wylie in the quickfire with a bunch of classics in the elimination challenge.

I would say the ability to do classics well is a major part of being a successful culinary student.

The ability to improvise, create and interpret classics is a major part of being a successful chef.

Then it seems we have a lot of entry-level culinary students on this show, don't we?

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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On a seperate thought, the "Classics" are so well shunned these days in modern kitchens, that it CAN be used as a hurdle to get over. According to Ruhlman's "Soul Of A Chef" the CIA uses it thusly in their master chef cert program. Although my chef chortled at the notion of taking that test.

Veni Vidi Vino - I came, I saw, I drank.
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I do not scoff at roast chicken, I love it, and agree that it is challenging to execute correctly. Nor do I scoff at an omelet as a test of a COOK. But being a CHEF is about more than being able to bang out perfect execution. That's the absolute minimum skill set that should be required to even be in the running. Every single contestant should be able to do that. Now, show me what you've got! Let's see creativity. Let's see out-of-the-box thinking. Let's see uniqueness.
Every single one of them has botched something basic at least once during the season, so obviously those tests are not superfluous. And to the extent the show has a didactic function, it is teaching an important lesson too. I suspect that many professional chefs have such gaps in their resumé. In fact, it's clear they do—because all of these chefs are professionals. In last week's episode, Colicchio made it pretty clear that duplicating a dish from Le Bernardin's kitchen is hard to do. The fact that you think this stuff is easy is awfully telling...because it is not.

But if you want uniqueness, the quickfire challenge had that.

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Here I am in salmon seared on the outside/raw on the inside country and I like my salmon as sushi as well, but I wonder how much of the world cooks salmon through?

Every time I've had salmon in a restaurant, it's been cooked all the way through – still moist, but as far as I can tell it's not raw on the inside. I know the judges said he overcooked the salmon, but did they actually say it should be rare in the middle? or did he dry the hell out of it? The only fish I've had that was rare in the middle is tuna.

I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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I was a little confused on this point as well. A cooked piece of fish is cook all the way through. Not medium or medium rare. Over done is past the point of being cook all the way through to where there the fish is dry and overly firm.

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