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


Reignking
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Are you talking about "foundational knowledge" or "doing a little prep?"

I'm talking about both. I don't think that it's unreasonable for "top chefs" to know a few basics (foundational knowledge) about most of the world's cuisines, and I don't think it's unreasonable to think that they'd bone up a bit on them as they head off to the US center of international diplomacy. I mean, I would.

But, hey, this season, I certainly can understand the need to set the bar a bit lower.

Understood. Your requests are not unreasonable, but I guess I personally didn't find it as appalling as you may have.

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I'm with Chris and the rest of the disapointed. For Top Chef they should have enough exposure to these somewhat mainstream cuisines to adapt a dish on the fly. I mean I've made something decent from all these countries with no professional exp.

This episode only reinforces my sentiments that this season has been the worst re talent and creativity. And why is creativity a factor? (Oak will/has asked) Because when they do classics and and they're not perfect they get ripped. How many times have we heard Tom say "well at least he attempted something different but it just didn't work" while the other shmo couldn't execute a crème brule or grill a flank steak with a classic chimichura and rice n beans.

That wasn't chicken

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The lack of creativity in general is striking. The carpaccio and boeuf bourguignon may have been very tasty indeed, but it's pretty sad that those two cliches were chosen at all. Think of what the brothers Voltaggio would have done with that challenge, or Richard Blais, or.... You get the idea.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Herpe girl (Amanda)...

The "herpe girl" thing has grown beyond tired for those of us who are out of highschool.

Patrick O'Connell looks like a character from family guy. He is also insanely close minded. I drove from NYC to the inn for a kitchen trail and they were suppose to put me up. Upon arriving i was given a uniform and then in the middle of my tour i was told by HR that they could not have me work there or put me up that night after a six hour drive because i had some visible tattoos. They sent me on my way and offered me what they called a "bag lunch" but then they were out so i received a cookie. Great 6 hour drive for a cookie.

His place, his rules. At least you got a cookie.

I agree with Chris on the creativity thing. I can live with a chef not having working knowledge of every cuisine, even among the major ones. It's the boring predictable dishes that are sucking my interest in the show away this year. There hasn't been a single episode that sent me to the Bravo site to check out a recipe or technique. I was doing that pretty much every week last season.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Herpe girl (Amanda)...

The "herpe girl" thing has grown beyond tired for those of us who are out of highschool.

Patrick O'Connell looks like a character from family guy. He is also insanely close minded. I drove from NYC to the inn for a kitchen trail and they were suppose to put me up. Upon arriving i was given a uniform and then in the middle of my tour i was told by HR that they could not have me work there or put me up that night after a six hour drive because i had some visible tattoos. They sent me on my way and offered me what they called a "bag lunch" but then they were out so i received a cookie. Great 6 hour drive for a cookie.

His place, his rules. At least you got a cookie.

well then his rules are as ancient as himself and his cooking. Anyone who thinks that doing that to a professional deserves to not be in the industry..

This year there is no creativity. The chefs are just scraping by trying to survive. Maybe a few weeks from now we will see a dish with some thought behind it from someone other than Kenny and Ed.

Edited by BPBNY (log)
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The kitchen is not upfront, they have two chef tables in the kitchen though. I wrote a letter to the residing chef Stephen Lyons stating how uncouth it was to not warn someone of this and not only say you can't work here, but not even have the decency to go through with ones commitment of providing shelter for the night. I received no response. Like I said earlier, it is what it is, I got a far better job opportunity.

Also, there are no two sides of the story. There was nothing said about appearance over the three telephone interviews.

But we are losing focus of the topic!!! How horrible Alex is!

Edited by BPBNY (log)
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When Angelo said the name of the restaurant was EVOO I immediately thought of Rachel Ray. I'm surprised nobody said anything.

I really thought Amanda was going home. But Kenny messed up two dishes and he was the executive chef.

The Blue team was sore losers. Instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes they had to bring up Alex and what a mess EVOO's kitchen was. They needed to worry about themselves.

I hope Alex goes next week...

And where has Eric Ripert been? I thought he was supposed to be a regular!

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I really thought Amanda was going home. But Kenny messed up two dishes and he was the executive chef.

I'll be particularly interested to read Colicchio's explanation on that one. It certainly didn't appear that Kenny's errors were as significant as Amanda's. What's more, I sort of agreed with Frank Bruni's comment that if you are making only one thing, you have less of an excuse for not getting it right. On top of that, it seemed to me that her dish had a low degree of difficulty.

The Blue team was sore losers. Instead of taking responsibility for their mistakes they had to bring up Alex and what a mess EVOO's kitchen was. They needed to worry about themselves.

I agree. There is no precedent for sending home a member of the winning team, so they were just making themselves look foolish.

And where has Eric Ripert been? I thought he was supposed to be a regular!

All they said is that he would alternate with Gail Simmons as a member of the panel. Unlike Gail, Eric has a restaurant to run. As it has turned out, we're getting Eric about a third of the time, instead of half the time.

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Phew, finally got caught up last night (why do hotels never have Bravo?). First off, much as I dislike Alex (or his portrayal by the Elves, at least), my money's on his making the pea puree in question himself. The logistics of stealing someone else's just seem like too much of a stretch.

As for knowledge of the world's cuisine... Chris A, are you seriously suggesting that all of last year's top nine contestants could pull out something from every one of those countries? Sure, the top three or four, but so could this years' top three.

Next up: the overall creativity of this year's batch. I maintain that last year was simply an anomaly, the Elves got lucky and it turned out that the Volts were both fantastic chefs. Every previous season was much more like this one, with wild inconsistencies in even the top chefs' performances, and general lack of creativity until the last episode or two, with only a few exceptions (Blais comes to mind, but "creative" pretty much sums up his whole style). I liked the show before last season, and while I loved last season, I still like the show now that the contestants are mere mortals again.

Re: "restaurant wars" (which is that in name only, I think, now that they got rid of all the silly crap like decorating the space)... Kenny started out strong, but he really did need to learn how to edit himself down. I can't say I was too terribly surprised to see him slip up here, though they were playing up his rivalry with Angelo which seemed like would make a fun finale. Amanda is not long for this contest, she is too inconsistent: she may survive another week or two or three by getting lucky, but she's not finale material.

At this point in the season, my hope is that once Alex is gone, the creativity will start to ramp up because they can't wait for other chefs to fail anymore. We'll probably start to see even more inconsistency across the board as the competition heats up and the chefs have to do more work to get the win, or to avoid the loss. I'm not sure how many of these chefs are really capable of pulling out all the stops and getting it right at this point, but I hope we are about to find out.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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i think that was red herring puree, not pea puree. little has been mentioned in subsequent episodes--i'm suspicious that they edited it into something it wasn't. so little of interest in this season, they had to stir up a tempest in a peapot, if you ask me.

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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I think creativity is overrated. If all you do is prepare classics well, you'll go a very long way in this competition and could conceivably win it.

Even in the broader restaurant world, probably 98 percent of dishes you find are not creative at all, or are only very slight riffs on familiar things. And restaurant chefs have the luxury of experimenting for days, weeks, or even months before putting something new on the menu. Wylie Dufresne, next week's guest judge, has been known to spend a year or more experimenting with a new item before serving it to the public.

On Top Chef, where your first attempt is your only attempt, successful creativity is, at best, a crapshoot. I agree with Chris Hennes that the Voltaggio brothers were an aberration, and what we're seeing this year is the more normal level of talent that Top Chef can attract.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I think creativity is overrated. If all you do is prepare classics well, you'll go a very long way in this competition and could conceivably win it.

I don't get that. Unless the're pulling off a perfect recreation (pretty tough given the challenge constraints) they'll get called for lack of creativity every time.

Colicchio's blog:

"I’d like to take a moment to discuss what it actually means for a chef to “be inspired by” a particular cuisine. What it does not mean is to simply copy wholesale some dish or other from the country in question. First of all, there is no creativity in that process; it is merely an exercise in reproduction, and where’s the joy in that? Paul Simon went and spent time in South Africa and didn’t return intent upon recreating South African music. He got busy songwriting, and worked with South African musicians in collaboration with musicians here to bring to fruition his own music inspired by the music that had so moved and motivated him there. This is actually what chefs here in the States tend to do with foreign cuisine anyway — they use the spices, the flavors, the ingredients from a place they’ve been without being intent on a narrow recreation of the dishes they’d eaten while there. As much as I love Chili Crab, I’m not going to return from Singapore intent on making a straight-up Chili Crab dish….."

"Furthermore, where Top Chef is concerned, we knew that a lot of these chefs had never studied most of the cuisines we were asking them to draw from, so “inspired by” was a more reasonable challenge, and fitting for a competition in which we’re asking them to show us who they themselves are as chefs"

In this challenge, a few chefs did do something more conventionally of the country they’d selected. Amanda did a traditional bouef bourguignon that didn’t ask her to think too hard or apply her own stamp. It wasn’t very good, and she’s lucky that three other dishes faired worse than hers, and she didn’t wind up in the bottom. On the other hand, Kelly did a fairly authentic dish as well, but she was bearing in mind the equipment restrictions when making her decision, and the dish itself was very, very good, so it was OK that she’d adhered so closely to the cooking of her selected country. It’s when you try to do an authentic dish and don’t pull off the cooking that you’re not pulling off the authenticity

That wasn't chicken

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I think creativity is overrated. If all you do is prepare classics well, you'll go a very long way in this competition and could conceivably win it.

I don't get that. Unless the're pulling off a perfect recreation (pretty tough given the challenge constraints) they'll get called for lack of creativity every time.

Colicchio's blog:. . . .

I saw that on Colicchio's blog before posting, and that's very well and good.

But if you look at their de facto judging process, the winner of practically every challenge is the chef who cooked the most enjoyable dish, regardless of originality. Conversely, the loser is the one who cooked the least enjoyable dish.

If it's a tie, the creative dish will win, but that seldom happens, except perhaps near the end of the season. An uncreative dish practically never gets a chef sent home, unless there is something wrong with it beyond merely being unoriginal. Usually, chefs are sent home for technical mistakes (over/under-cooking, over/under-seasoning, etc.), having nothing to do with creativity.

Chefs are sometimes called to task for doing something too easy; but hardly ever for being uncreative -- again, assuming the dish is done well. In contrast, chefs who try something truly new are losers far more often than winners, simply because the experiment fails and there is no opportunity for a second try.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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As for knowledge of the world's cuisine... Chris A, are you seriously suggesting that all of last year's top nine contestants could pull out something from every one of those countries?

No, I'm not suggesting that at all. I said:

I don't think that contestants should be expert in "every cuisine in the world." But, c'mon: Mexico, Italy, France, Thailand, Spain, Japan, India, China, and Brazil? I daresay that most of the amateur enthusiasts here in the eGullet Society, not to mention every chef I've ever known, would have some foundational knowledge of those key world cuisines. ...

I don't think that it's unreasonable for "top chefs" to know a few basics (foundational knowledge) about most of the world's cuisines, and I don't think it's unreasonable to think that they'd bone up a bit on them as they head off to the US center of international diplomacy. I mean, I would.

This week's episode was pretty interesting to watch, even if the food wasn't terribly intriguing. There are clearly a lot of folks who were cruising along with a lot of self-satisfaction, and the show's editing is clearly setting up Angelo as some sort of quasi-Svengali, quasi-Mussolini manipulator. Lots of tasty twists, back-stabbing, and more as the winners were announced -- but if you're a long-time TC watcher you saw that coming, I'm sure. :wink:

A note on Angelo: the guy grabbed that kitchen by the neck and got them the win on the plates. If I were anyone else in that contest, on either team, I'd be pretty scared about that: seemingly "out of control," yet his team executes his plan and he lulls the other team to sleep. I sniff a bit of "Survivor" in him, as if he knows it's a game and he's out to get a psychological edge. Sure worked on cool, calm, collected, and canceled Kenny, who is still probably wondering what happened.

We may find out that he's a lot more Hung than Ilan. Or that he's more like Ilan and he'll get the win anyway.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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A note on Angelo: the guy grabbed that kitchen by the neck and got them the win on the plates. If I were anyone else in that contest, on either team, I'd be pretty scared about that: seemingly "out of control," yet his team executes his plan and he lulls the other team to sleep. I sniff a bit of "Survivor" in him, as if he knows it's a game and he's out to get a psychological edge. Sure worked on cool, calm, collected, and canceled Kenny, who is still probably wondering what happened.

I think that may be reading into it far more than is warranted. I watched the entire show thinking that Angelo's team was going to lose and while I understand this was partially due to editing, I still get the impression they only won because they made less mistakes than the other team. After all it appears TC could have run an entire episode featuring only Amanda, a wood-burning grill, a look of confusion, and a pile of over-cooked steaks. To think how exceedingly bad Kenny's beet salad and goat cheese must have been for her to survive.

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One of the judges responded to a contestant something along the line of, "We don't judge you on what happens in the kitchen, just on the finished plate that we receive." Perhaps they should call the show "Top Cook." Especially during restaurant wars one hopes that chef skills would impact the judges' determinations.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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One of the judges responded to a contestant something along the line of, "We don't judge you on what happens in the kitchen, just on the finished plate that we receive." Perhaps they should call the show "Top Cook." Especially during restaurant wars one hopes that chef skills would impact the judges' determinations.

It does...only the prism through which it's judged is the food on the plate. I mean, isn't that what you do in a restaurant too? You judge the chef based on the food that came out on the plate, not based on the drama (or the lack thereof) that went into producing it.

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It was a real shame to see Kenny go. Alex deserved to go but his team wisely threw him under the bus and kept him there.

But despite Kenny doing a good job of being a Chef (in the chief sense), his decision to put aside his ego was fatal. I don't understand either of his dishes. He went down for a bad salad (probably over complicated because he realized that that's all it would be), and a misplaced piece of fried goat cheese. Outside of the context of a dessert, I think that might have flown. But sitting next to another very nice looking proper dessert, it was doomed.

I'll grudgingly (if narrowly) accept the notion that screwing up two dishes is worse than making two mistakes on one.

But, for me, the producers managed another true outrage. As they focused on Alex and his team's problems, I was thinking that surely this would be the most thoroughly telegraphed decision in Top Chef history. Therefore, I expected a twist. And that would've been ok.

But then they go to a commercial break with footage of an angry Kevin saying "It's you who should be going home!" Oh gosh, I wonder which team will lose....

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Does saving his ass really count as throwing Alex under the bus? He lives to cook another day, and no one on that team mentioned his lack of participation to the judges.

Are you kidding me? They were saving him like one saves a chicken for next Sunday.

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One of the judges responded to a contestant something along the line of, "We don't judge you on what happens in the kitchen, just on the finished plate that we receive." Perhaps they should call the show "Top Cook." Especially during restaurant wars one hopes that chef skills would impact the judges' determinations.

It does...only the prism through which it's judged is the food on the plate. I mean, isn't that what you do in a restaurant too? You judge the chef based on the food that came out on the plate, not based on the drama (or the lack thereof) that went into producing it.

For a diner, yes. And I accept that is the premise of the show. That episode was Restaurant Wars - with turnout. Some of the judges are leading chefs and understand that a chef's skills extend beyond the plate that arrives at the table. It was the ideal opportunity for Tom to take chef skills into consideration.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

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Does saving his ass really count as throwing Alex under the bus? He lives to cook another day, and no one on that team mentioned his lack of participation to the judges.

Are you kidding me? They were saving him like one saves a chicken for next Sunday.

I don't think they did anything wrong, and I don't think they mistreated him, which is the implication I get from the phrase "threw him under the bus." They didn't try to blame him for anything, or accept his garbage food and set him up to be the fall guy, or anything like that: they (really, Angelo) set themselves up to win, period. So Alex didn't have much input... is that really mean, cruel, vicious behavior? They worked around his weaknesses, corrected his mistakes, and really did save his ass because you know he was the one going home if that team lost. But not because the team threw him under the bus: if they lost and he got sent home, it would have been because the team didn't do enough to cover up his weakness.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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