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Top Chef Season 5


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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.

Being a chef is certainly about more than being able to bang out perfect execution. But I'd like to see SO MANY MORE chefs be able to perfectly execute some relatively

simple dishes, before they move on to their creative genius.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Being a chef is certainly about more than being able to bang out perfect execution.  But I'd like to see SO MANY MORE chefs be able to perfectly execute some relativelysimple dishes, before they move on to their creative genius.

It's a fallacy to think that classics are easy. In New York, in the last 12 months we've seen both David Bouley and Alain Ducasse open French brasseries where classics were botched with amazing frequency. Of course, it happens at other restaurants too, but you'd figure Bouley and Ducasse could have their pick of promising young chefs, and they still got it wrong. The idea that any culinary graduate can do this in their sleep is utter nonsense.

Of course, you wouldn't want replication of classics to be the only skill tested on Top Chef. But should it be among the skills tested? Absolutely.

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I don't think anyone is arguing that they are easy, regardless of how simple they are. Not much is simpler than a roasted chicken, but it's by no means easy to do properly! I am mostly just relating my pie-in-the-sky belief that a show that purports to be looking for a "top chef" should start with a set of contestants who can all bang out "the classics" and are ready to take things to the next level. Sure, some skill challenges are fun early on, but by this point in the competition I would have hoped that everyone left had already surpassed that level and we were ready to really hammer away on their ability to be creative and still make great food, instead of "just" replicating stuff that has been around for hundreds of years.

Chris Hennes
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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.

That's definitely not the way I prefer to eat my fish. At the restaurant where I work, medium rare to medium is the norm for salmon, unless the guest specifies that they want it cooked through. We don't ask for a temperature. We just cook it that way.

I think the little fish sandwich shop around the corner cooks their fish all the way, but all of the upscale restaurants around here cook their fish rather lightly, though they do get a good crisp sear on the outside.

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There is a book out called MY LAST SUPPER when chefs are asked about what they would like for their last meal. Pepin, Bastianich, Dufresne, and Samuellson have sections in the book. Not one of the last meals were at all similar to what appeared on Top Chef.

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There is a book out called MY LAST SUPPER when chefs are asked about what they would like for their last meal. Pepin, Bastianich, Dufresne, and Samuellson have sections in the book. Not one of the last meals were at all similar to what appeared on Top Chef.

I'm glad you brought that up. I pulled that book off my shelf last night during the show because I was curious to see how many of them matched up. As I said upthread, Lidia probably chose roast chicken because it reveals the true worth of a chef. Same with Dufresne with the egg. What culinary student DOESN'T know about the famous (and harrowing) omelet test?

By the way, did anyone catch HOW Fabio broke his finger?

Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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There is a book out called MY LAST SUPPER when chefs are asked about what they would like for their last meal. Pepin, Bastianich, Dufresne, and Samuellson have sections in the book. Not one of the last meals were at all similar to what appeared on Top Chef.

I'm glad you brought that up. I pulled that book off my shelf last night during the show because I was curious to see how many of them matched up. As I said upthread, Lidia probably chose roast chicken because it reveals the true worth of a chef. Same with Dufresne with the egg. What culinary student DOESN'T know about the famous (and harrowing) omelet test?

By the way, did anyone catch HOW Fabio broke his finger?

In that book, by the way, Jacques Pepin's last supper would be:

The menu for my last meal would be ecclectic [sic], relaxed, informal, and would go on for a very, very long time - years!  I would eat all the things that I love in any order that I desired.  I cannot conceive of anything better than the greatest baguette, deep golden, nutty, and crunchy, with a bock of the sublime butter of Brittany and Belon oysters.  I would consume tons of the best beluga caviar with my wife, dispose of the best boiled ham and the most excellent Iberico ham, and would eat eggs cooked in butter, scrambled, mollet-style, or sunny-side up, with the ham.  Roast squab with the tiniest and freshest peas would be part of the menu, along with a lobster roll and a perfect plump hot dog.  I would gobble down tiny fingerling potatoes just out of the ground and sauteed in goose fat, along with a white escarole salad loaded with garlic and sprinkled with cracked pepper, just like my mother used to make.  I would devour aged beaufort cheese that had a crystallized, salted surface, and fresh, white farm cheese covered with thick creme fraiche seasoned with chives, garlic, and cracked pepper.  I would enjoy my friend Claude's pate of pheasant (faisan) with black truffles and cognac, and super thin slices of salted lardo on thin, crusty farm bread covered with white truffles.  I would eat roasted hazelnuts with bittersweet chocolate (gianduja), and the best apricots, cherries, and white and wine peaches, just off the tree.  I would pile homemade apricot jam onto thin, buttery crepes, hot from the pan and accompany them with a Bollinger Brut 1996 champagne.

I think - if for no other outstanding reason - EATING this meal would cause it to necessarily be anyone's last. Goodness.

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Wylie couldn't believe Toby like his egg white runny, either, according to his blog on bravo.

There's no chance Toby is around next season.

I'm excited that the semi (and final?) is in New Orleans -- that would be a great place to have an entire season -- IF they actually used the city in the show. This season could've been Top Chef Soundstage for all I know.

Edited by Reignking (log)
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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.

I disagree if you are saying that a restaurant chef whose kitchen consistently turns out perfectly prepared classic dishes is not a great and likely very successful chef. Improvision and creativity may make a chef exciting (or dangerous), and sometimes great and/or successful, but they are neither the sole criteria of nor essential criteria for greatness.

That Jacques Pepin can so appreciate perfectly cooked green peas (real peas, not molecular pea globules) and the potential of classic tomato provincial (go for the flavor first not the presentation), demonstrates that perfection without creativity is still perfection.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

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That's fine, but is it better to avoid allowing those who deliberately seek out spoilers to find them, or to make the show enjoyable to watch?

They're called spoilers for a reason, though. I'm not sure I would find the show more enjoyable if I got to see more of city but had read or heard about most of what had happened already by way of gossip columns, blogs, etc.

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

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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Many people have complained about the lack of NYC this season.

I think you're misunderstanding my point: it seems as though you read these gossip columns and blogs that contain spoilers. Not everyone does. I don't. They only "spoil" if you read them. My point is that if your viewers are complaining that the show isn't showcasing the locations properly, isn't it important to showcase them more appropriately? Or at least stop pretending to showcase them. A choice needs to be made between pretending to showcase a location and failing to do so, or stopping the pretense altogether.

Personally, I'd prefer them to highlight the locations they film in. However, I'd be ok with it if they didn't, as long as they stopped emphasizing where the seasons are filmed.

Edited by MikeHartnett (log)
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By the way, did anyone catch HOW Fabio broke his finger?

That's the question of the week. No word yet.

Not sure why this is such a mystery. As I mentioned yesterday, per Fabio's blog on Bravo:

Bravotv.com: You really hurt yourself — what happened?

I took a corner and I did fall due to the wet floor and my pinky was dislocated, so it got very swollen and I coud not move my whole hand.

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That's fine, but is it better to avoid allowing those who deliberately seek out spoilers to find them, or to make the show enjoyable to watch?

The lack of NYC-specific "scenery" hasn't made the show un-enjoyable. Ultimately, the show is about finding the best chef (at least from among the group that they have, which may or may not be the best available). The scenery is incidental. It wouldn't fundamentally alter my enjoyment if the challenges took place on the Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, etc., instead of the secluded kitchens they've been using.

Spoilers, once they are out, are extremely difficult to avoid. You could steer clear of http://www.topchefspoilers.com/, but a lot of the sites that discuss Top Chef are general food-interest sites that people visit for other reasons.

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Overall an outstanding episode, I thought. I'm so totally JAZZED that Carla is shining, I liked her from day 1, even though I don't see her in the final 2. Final 4, though, way to go Carla !

I had hoped that Stefan would show some humility after overcooking (!!!!) his salmon for that sextet (swoon.......Jacques ! Lidia ! Marcus ! Wylie ! Tom ! Susan !) of culinary icons........but I guess *that* was too much to hope for.

The guest panel were all so gracious and seemed to be really striving to not trash anyone's dish, even if it wasn't up to their expectations. How any of the cheftestants could've cooked for those people.......I have no clue. I'd have been in a puddle in the corner. Talk about an all star team. Just Jacques & Lidia......they're who I want to be when I grow up. Everything, absolutely EVERYTHNG those two make, I want to eat. I really enjoyed tonight.

And Toby has *really* dialed it back from his debut. But I still can't wait for Gail to return next season and say buh-bye Toby.

Speaking of next season - is there any word on if/when it will be? :blink:

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More and more, however, this show feels like "Top Cook"—the dishes that keep winning are never really creative, never go out on a limb, never show any chef-like qualities. They are simple food well prepared. Great. I'm happy for you, you can roast a chicken. Make something interesting!!!

Really? All the creative dishes were shot down in the quick fire.

I don't follow... I think we agree, but I'm not sure! Any time one of them tries something creative, they lose to someone doing a damned roast chicken. Being able to make a good roast chicken does not mean you are a good chef, it means you're a good cook. Whereas, being able to successfully invent a new/unique/interesting dish seems much more applicable, at least to me. Alas, none of them seem to be able to do it. Where are this year's Richard and Stephanie? Absent, IMO. All we have is a room full of decent cooks. Not a chef among them.

You are so right. Stefan keeps shining because of no competition. There is no one there that is creative at all!

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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.

It would be a serious hooty-hoo!!! :laugh:

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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?

Well, I don't know if you're nuts or not, since I don't know you, but,yes, it was the other way around. Older chefs like game birds more done and the young chefs like it less done. :smile:

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When I have salmon in a restaurant they ask me how I want it cooked. I presume because everyone likes it differently.

Carla's a sweetheart and a good cook. I think New Orleans will bring out her best. I'm glad she's starting to be respected on the show.

In which cities would you guys like to see future finales?

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Did anyone else notice how perfectly matched the knife draw was? Fabio got the italian chef, Stefan got the swedish chef, Carla had the old school french chef, Hosea had the seafood dish and Leah had the dish right out of culinary school.

I always wonder if somethings are staged. This and the fridge breaking down on the Christmas show and no one went home. Just seems too set up.

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