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Top Chef : Season 7 - Washington, D.C.


Reignking
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Slightly off topic, but I'm curious nonetheless. Is this something you're testing that could be implemented as a new feature of the site or is it just for, say, things like this? Because, in all seriousness, I'd definitely be subscribing if a live chat option was available for subscribers. I'll pop in tonight (even though I can't watch Top Chef anymore with no cable) to see what it's like. :)

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Great to see you in the chat room, Mary.

I rarely watch Top Chef, or any other food television, in part because I don't have cable. Last night's episode, viewed at my mother's apartment, was the first one I've watched this season. I really enjoyed watching it with a group of Society members, including one who was actually in Singapore. I hope to do this again next week for the final finale.

At one point my mother wandered through and commented that Ed has poor posture.

It seems clear to me that Angelo is far and away the best chef in the group. I've been to several restaurants where he was the chef and he's right up there. He has even done time with Alain Ducasse. Whether he's a good enough tactician and decision-maker to beat Ed is an open question. Ed, who is a decent journeyman chef with plenty of experience -- much of it with Daniel Boulud -- is a very capable cheftestant. Because the gamesmanship aspects of Top Chef are as important as the chef-ability aspects, Ed can beat Angelo if he plays the game better. I guess we'll see.

I don't think the other guy is a serious contender, but you never know.

I was shocked at how poor the wok skills of the cheftestants were. Only Angelo seemed remotely comfortable with a wok. You would think, they had some time to prepare to go to Singapore, they would have practiced a little more with that utensil.

The food they cooked for that Food & Wine dinner was pretty impressive, though. I actually can't believe they pulled it together in an hour. Do you think they really did? Or when Tom said they each had to do two dishes, do you think they got extra time?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In addition, none of the judges were qualified to say how these dishes would taste under the conditions that astronauts actually eat them.

One of the panelists, Vickie Kloeris, has been with the ISS food program for 20 years, and almost certainly can make such predictions.

She was not a judge, i.e., she was not among those who decided the winner and/or loser of the challenge (Colicchio, Lakshmi, Ripert, Bourdain).

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It seems clear to me that Angelo is far and away the best chef in the group. I've been to several restaurants where he was the chef and he's right up there. He has even done time with Alain Ducasse. Whether he's a good enough tactician and decision-maker to beat Ed is an open question. Ed, who is a decent journeyman chef with plenty of experience -- much of it with Daniel Boulud -- is a very capable cheftestant. Because the gamesmanship aspects of Top Chef are as important as the chef-ability aspects, Ed can beat Angelo if he plays the game better.

That's a crucial, and often-overlooked point: the show rewards a good chef who plays the game well, not necessarily the best chef.

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It seems like this year's finalists all knew they were playing a game, saving their best, riskiest food for the last stages. Only Angelo seems to be falling apart at the seams; the other three seemed pretty cool, as if their strategy was working just fine. Should make for an interesting final episode -- but this strategy tends to produce a lot of middling TV until the final stages.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Yeah I was somewhat surprised that, for chefs, they seemed awkward around a wok (though not as stunned as I was when Kevin confessed he'd not ever used a wok, despite having known for some time he was going to Singapore). Although Angelo (who I must admit creeps me out a tiny bit with what seems to be his fixation on "things Asian" (despite Asia being a HUGE and disparate place) and the fact that he reminds me of what the hilarious website Stuff White People Like calls "being an expert in someone else's culture" :) went on about the elusive "wok hay" (the "breath of a wok", a la Grace Young), it was disappointing to see how many of them didn't take advantage of the sheer, concentrated high heat and necessary accompaniment of continuously moving your (bite-size if possible) ingredients around in great, sweeping actions. Making a stew, or letting your food sit around in a huge amount of liquid, in a wok just does NOT cut it :)

Which leaves me to wonder - maybe Ed won because his noodles managed to acquire at least some veneer of the requisite "high heat sear" that wok cooking imparts?

BTW, Fat Guy - I was an attorney in New York when you decided to quit Cravath and started your new career, and I remember your first writings. Bravo, and congratulations!

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REMINDER: Top Chef chat room tonight during the FINAL episode! See this post for details. Chat Room link.

Also: who is going to win this thing? The previews made it look like Angelo gets ill, which doesn't bode well for his mental stability. He makes some poor decisions on a good day, I hate to see what he does when he's sick. I still think he's the best chef in the bunch, but that doesn't mean he's going to win.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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The whole season leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What bugs me about Iron Chef is that since it's best chef for the night and not for the entire season, someone can consistently be at the bottom, play it safe at the end, and still take the win. Weak season with very low level cooking.

Edited by percival (log)
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The whole season leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What bugs me about Iron Chef is that since it's best chef for the night and not for the entire season, someone can consistently be at the bottom, play it safe at the end, and still take the win.

Although that may be theoretically possible, I don't see your argument that that actually happened here.

Weak season with very low level cooking.

For much of the season, I might have agreed with you, but the level of skill shown in the two Singapore episodes was pretty good. I certainly would not call it "very low level".

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I wouldn't put Kevin in the Voltaggio brothers' league, but I would be more interested in eating his food than Hosea's.

Yeah, maybe you're right. I think the biggest thing that soured me to this season was how unlikeable everyone was (especially Ed and his stupid "head games" in the penultimate episode). I think Angelo, who was billed as the "villain" at the start of the season, ended up being the most likeable contestant in the last part of the season.

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Hung is a prep machine: amazing stuff, that only served to highlight how dull this season was, with its relentless focus on trying to make the competitors seem interesting since their food was not. I'm not sure if my ennui here is just because last season was so great, or if this season really was as colorless as the finale seemed.

I'm hopeful that whatever this gimmick is that they are hinting at for next season is a good one, because I'm afraid that maybe the show's whole format is getting tired. The incoming competitors know too much about what a winning strategy is, and that makes the competition boring.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Sigh.

Can we please get back to "Here's anything you could possibly want: make your best meal"? Even better: two days in Singapore made me glimpse a world in which chefs could have both access to high quality Western/European ingredients -- not limited by whoever has the fastest time in the 40 yard dash to the walk-in to grab the one lobe of foie gras -- and to high quality ingredients from other parts of the globe.

The whole cutesy "here's your protein" business smelled funny, as if the elves were making "challenge component" out of necessity. Tom's bizarre monkey eating joke didn't help matters either.

As for the winner. I'd be very happy to eat food prepared by Kevin -- with Voltaggio doing sous.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I wasn't impressed with Kevin during most of the contest - but when I heard he had resigned from his current position, I wondered if he had won Top Chef. He's planning to open a small restaurant in Philadelphia -- and that's where I live! I'm looking forward to trying it when it opens.

Even though he was billed as the villain, I was mostly rooting for Angelo.

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I can't believe they gave the title of Top Chef to a guy who has never cooked with a wok and is scared to touch a live prawn. And while I will say that his dishes last night all looked top notch, I have about as much desire to seek out his cooking as I do in going to Stephanie Izard's bestiality-referencing restaurant (which is to say absolutely none).

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Interesting. Before everyone gets too down on Kevin, you should go read Tom Colicchio's blog on the Bravo site. While he acknowledges that the food over the course of the season was not always the most exciting, he emphasizes twice that Kevin's food was the best of any Top Chef finale ever. I'm in Philly and looking forward to checking out Kevin's new restaurant when it opens.

(BTW, I recently went to Stephanie Izard's restaurant on a recent trip to Chicago and it was pretty terrific).

Edited by KitchenMom (log)
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Perhaps they should make the quickfires less quick, and less silly, but keep the high stakes prizes. That would encourage people to swing for the fence more often.

With an elimination challenge it's clearly in one's best interest to be conservative. So unless they go to a tournament style competition or something, that won't change.

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