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Top Chef


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Getting rid of Insufferable Boy right off the bat makes me want to tune in again. I didn't think last night's episode had all that much to do with the food. Not sure the worst dish 'won' - there's taste and then there's...dirty kale? So it sounds interesting to me, La Civilian, that the process may get the same weight as the product. At least in the beginning.

And as with PR, most of the drama should stay with the contestants, not the overbearing celebrity chef. I'm not that big a fan of reality TV, but I'll give this one another viewing. If only to see Cynthia follow up crazy rice with lunatic linguine. She's hilarious.

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tasted a sauce with his finger and put it back into the pot.

Ok, thats gross.

But it got me thinking, how do people taste sauces in restaurant kitchens? At home I use teaspoons, and can go an awful lot of 'em with a new recipe 'seasoning to taste'. In restaurant kitchens, are there little stacks of ice-cream sticks everywhere, to use and toss? Do folks just wash their hands before and after sticking them in the pot? Inquiring mind would love to know. Thanks. :smile:

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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But it got me thinking, how do people taste sauces in restaurant kitchens? At

Most chefs use a spoon that's stuck in their chef pants dirty back pocket, taste the sauce then put the spoon back in the dirty back pocket. :blink:

I knew a chef whose dog kept chewing through the back of his chef's pants because the pocket tasted so good. :laugh:

Many chefs stick their fingers in a sauce. Sorry. This is done all over the place. However most chefs are also washing and wiping their hands constantly too.

I did think the Sommelier guy was absurdly pretentious

I don't think he's going to last long. I was pleasantly surprised by his Lamb 3 Ways preparation (and the Tempranillo was a great choice to accompany) but the wine pairing being de riguer is going to get old really fast.

Being a sommelier implies you have a good palate. Even if you're a brilliant home cook, it doesn't necessarily mean you can cook. Especially in the commercial big leagues. I wouldn't last five minutes on the line in any restaurant I've ever worked in, nor would I try to. Those guys do their job and I do mine.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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It's more fun than I expected. Bravo's website is interesting too. I notice that Insufferable Boy's bio actually brags about what a blowhard he is. I'm not sure why they would bring in the non-chefs but his dismissal ahead of them increased the Schadenfreude.

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I watched a rerun today (I knew I couldn't get into a new show after the Project Runway finale left me drained and elated at the same time), and frankly, I found it less than compelling.

The format is interesting, but because I can't judge the food other than on looks, I feel like me, as part of the audience, is being held at arm's length. It's the same kind of detachment I feel when watching Iron Chef.

I'll probably watch anyway because there's not much else on Wednesday nights, but I'm not going to clear the schedule. And I'm not going to pretend it's anything more than a game show that requires some specific skills, because that's what it is.

Oh, and if Katie Lee Joel were any more wooden, she'd be a junior high school shop project.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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Some questions:

What the hell is a gastrique?

I know that plating is a skill but I wasn't clear on why some people were kicked off for nerves.

How slow is "slow"? (I'm talking about the quickfire challenge where quite a few were booted for not being quick enough when it came to plating.)

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Oh, and if Katie Lee Joel were any more wooden, she'd be a junior high school shop project.

Marcia.

Perhaps her website would be more aptly named "Wooden Spoon?" She does kind of have one of those heads that appears larger, er, head-on, than it does sideways.

But she IS a gorgeous spoon, isn't she?

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

--Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

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I thought the show was awful. I watched it with a small group of foodies and one professional after our spirited PR post-viewing debate. Maybe it suffered by comparison. Anyway, none of us liked it, not even a little bit.

Only a handful of the contestants seemed to really belong there. They search the country, and this group is the best they can muster? Like PR did oftentimes, it seemed more about generating conflict among the contestants than about assembling the best talent. They get a softball challenge of "signature dish" (which could be anything) and this was the best they could offer? The dinner thread on eG is often more impressive.

The professional among my viewing group noted that being put on the line without getting a chance to at least observe the drill, etc. was pointless, of course most of them would fail.

If the host of the show knows anything about food, it wasn't apparent. She certainly didn't have anything of interest to say.

Enough griping, here's a final question-- maybe we were too busy hating the show or pouring more wine, but I missed entirely the unforgivable footwear transgression of one of the contestants. What was this woman wearing on her feet that got her booted off the line?


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She was wearing standard white sneakers. --which were the least of the show's problems.

I've found Project Runway to be faintly entertaining when my brain is working, and mildly interesting when hopped up on codeine-laced cough syrup (the last week), so I was surprised when I watched Top Chef and discovered I hated it as much as I did. That led me to conclude that perhaps the only reason I didn't have a problem with PR is that I don't give a crap about fashion. Food, however, is a different kettle of shoes entirely.

chefwoody put it very nicely and succintly upthread....

"She would of been a good woman," The Misfit said, "if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."

--Flannery O'Connor, "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

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Some questions:

What the hell is a gastrique?

I know that plating is a skill but I wasn't clear on why some people were kicked off for nerves.

How slow is "slow"?  (I'm talking about the quickfire challenge where quite a few were booted for not being quick enough when it came to plating.)

Gastrique used to mean a sauce based on a vinegar or game stock reduction (or so I was taught), although the current fad is to apply it to almost any reduction.

'Slow' is whatever your chef tells you it is(usually at the top of his lungs), and that can have more to do with his mood at the moment than your speed on the line.

I'm so awesome I don't even need a sig...Oh wait...SON OF A...

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Go to the cast bios page and look at the guy playing with his turkey neck! It is a scream. I think if I was ever forced to pose like that, sober, I would kill myself first!

As for comparisons to PR, thankfully at least as of yet, there is no one chanting one of you will win and one of you will be out, in a German accent every two minutes. I think that will be phrase will form that basis for a new drinking game.

I had trouble understanding why the beef duo was passed by, it seemed, well received. While I have had some knee buckling enchiladas before, if the target was restaurant quality high end food, why was the beef duo overlooked?

If the bios are to be believed, many claim to have cooked for the stars, whatever that means, I am surprised that their "signature dishes" were such a mess.

Did the Caribbean plate suck? That plate seemed well thought out. There is a lot that doesn't make a whole lot of sense and appears contrived.

If we continue the PR comparison, is the Crazy rice women Top Chef's Santino, who for his big show dumps all the frills and trots out a conservative but nice line of work. Will she suddenly just overnight roll out some show stopping food that the Hilton's deemed worthy to serve their little princess?

It will be amusing to watch. I think Top Chef is more interesting than restaurant or the cooking under fire but nothing to go out of the way for.

I was hoping Daniel would show up on the show. I think he and many of the folks here at EG would blow these guys away.

Edited by handmc (log)

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Ah, it's been way too long since I did a butt. - Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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After reading some other posts here I tried to think more about what loses me on this show. First, I thought Ramsay was a hoot, but his show wasn't...and that PBS show didn't grab me either. I loved original Iron Chef, and am now just warming up to new IC because I really want to see some of the challengers. They are fascinating. It is less about the food.

Top Chef is about food...and we can't taste it...which is a critical part of judging it... Project Runway was about (when it wasn't The Santino Show), fashion, which I could understand by looking at it.... I could judge it vicariously.

Since the producers of both shows are the same...I suspect there will be much more behind the scenes drama to get the audience engaged. It will be heavily dependent on the cast grabbing people's attention.

Compared to PR--Cynthia reminds me of Heidi (the Appalachian contestant, not Ms. Klum). I think she was brought in as the lowbrow factor to entertain the crowd. She's not mean enough for Santino... that honor will mostly go to what's his name, David? The guy with blondish/whitish hair? In one of the promos he turns to a contestant and says "I'm not your bitch, bitch!" in a bitchy way.... Hey David, lighten up it's just cooking! Sheesh now I'm mimicking Santino...

Also, Handmc, there is an annoying tagline on the show, like "You're in or you're out..." I believe I heard "Put away your knives..."

Edited by TrishCT (log)
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PR had a so-so first season in the sense that the ratio of fashion school graduates to professionals in the industry was on a 2:1 basis. Since this is the first season of Top Chef, I expect things to be the same.

If the show does well enough for a season 2, perhaps things will be reversed going forward.

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I watched this yesterday, and I have to say, FANTASTIC. This is what "Hell's Kitchen" should have been -- more about the food than about Ramsay's yelling.

I found it refreshing to see Ken kicked off. Don't come on national television acting like an ass -- ESPECIALLY to a chef in his own restaurant. What the hell was he thinking? He just burned bridges across the U.S. with that display.

Tom makes for a great host, too. Any host who's ready to tell a guy he's being "rude and obnoxious" (when others would just let the rest of the contestants deal with it) gets major points in my book.

And as far as Katie Lee Joel? I didn't know who she was when I watched the show (I came into it about 10-15 minutes in), but lord, it seemed like she just learned how to say those words and was practicing them on-camera.

For next season? Lose her, and let Tom handle all the hosting/speaking.

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I was hoping that the part of the episode where the cooks all critiqued each other's work was the actual challenge or at least an element of it. It is a test of whether or not you have a palette and if you are honest instead of holding back or being catty.

The show for me was so-so. I'll give it another chance but I doubt I'll DVR it.

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All in all, not great but still entertaining. Stephen is a fantastic character. Unbelievably pretentious, he's amusing to watch. I love the suits he wears too. It was funny to see one of the other contestants call him "professional bullshitter" (no disrespect to somelliers. Harold also seems like a pretty solid guy.

One other point to mention, kitchen they're working in is pretty low-brow. I understand that Kenmore or whoever is sponsoring the show but the overall setup of the kitchen was disappointing.

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So I'm watching it now.

Tom Colicchio (Gramercy Tavern, Craft) is one of the judges of the series.  Each episode there are two challenges, an immunity or "quickfire" challenge, and an elimination challenge.  Tonight's quickfire was to hold the line for 30 minutes in Chef Keller's kitchen at Fleur de Lys without being told to leave; tonight's elimination is to create a signature dish for $30 or less food cost.

One thing that surprised me so far was Ken, who though with 13 years of restaurant experience, tasted a sauce with his finger and put it back into the pot.

i've personally seen a lot of famous chefs do this. i thought they were just making a fuss because its on camera.

I have the show on my Tivo; I hope to get around to watching it tonight.

But reading about this, and other gross things, reminded me of a really nasty instance on the first series of Charlie Trotter's PBS cooking show. It was the show about fowl, and there was a little segment where he was talking about all kinds of birds. This particular segment was done in one continuous camera shot, so everything happened in order. First, Charlie T caressed some raw birds (quail or something like that), cupping them in his hands, stroking their breasts and wiggling their feet. Then, without even wiping his hands on a towel, he turned to some cooked birds that were resting, and touched them with his dirty mitts! :shock: (We'd eaten at his restaurant a few years before we ever saw this on TV. And I can safely say that after seeing that, if it's the sort of thing that goes on in his kitchen, I'd never eat there again!)

MelissaH

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Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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PLUS:  When I was in culinary school, Lee was one of my chef instructors!  I think everyone in my class would agree that he was the worst (in regards to his temperament, lack of cooking ability, and huge, unsubstantiated ego) chef that we had through the entire program.  I cracked up when I saw him for the first time on the preview.

Which one was Lee? which was his "signature dish"? The whole thing was so forgettable that only two days later I remember none of them.


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I have to agree I found the level of talent that was showcased disappointing. I am looking at it from a culinary prospective as opposed to a television show producers. Why else would the culinary student who isnt even done with school yet be on the show. She is attractive and people will want to watch her.

It was very cool to see them in the kitchen at Fleur de Lys. It really showed Kens ignorance to speak to Herbert Keller that way.

BTW: Gastrique at its base level is a vinegared caramel. Sweet and sour basically.

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I have to agree I found the level of talent that was showcased disappointing.  I am looking at it from a culinary prospective as opposed to a television show producers.  Why else would the culinary student who isnt even done with school yet be on the show.  She is attractive and people will want to watch her.

This is something I'm curious about, not being in the business. What would be the practical value for anyone more than a few years out of school of being on the show? With Project Runway, the publicity value was obvious even if you didn't come in first. The cash grand prize of $100K would be pretty good for the amount of time spent; however, if it's like Project Runway they don't just write you a check, although they make it sound that way. Jay McCarroll of PR didn't even take the money because (as I understood it) it was in return for licensing arrangements that he didn't think were that good. I didn't know what the equivalent would be with food, but I doubt whether they just get a chunk of money, and that's only if you come in first anyway.

Also, by going on the show you risk humiliation if you are kicked off early, which would be more of a problem for a person who's farther along. Those shows are not completely fair and it could happen to anyone.

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I have to agree I found the level of talent that was showcased disappointing.  I am looking at it from a culinary prospective as opposed to a television show producers.  Why else would the culinary student who isnt even done with school yet be on the show.  She is attractive and people will want to watch her.

This is something I'm curious about, not being in the business. What would be the practical value for anyone more than a few years out of school of being on the show? With Project Runway, the publicity value was obvious even if you didn't come in first. The cash grand prize of $100K would be pretty good for the amount of time spent; however, if it's like Project Runway they don't just write you a check, although they make it sound that way. Jay McCarroll of PR didn't even take the money because (as I understood it) it was in return for licensing arrangements that he didn't think were that good. I didn't know what the equivalent would be with food, but I doubt whether they just get a chunk of money, and that's only if you come in first anyway.

Also, by going on the show you risk humiliation if you are kicked off early, which would be more of a problem for a person who's farther along. Those shows are not completely fair and it could happen to anyone.

While at a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he was asked why people agreed to be interviewed by his "reporters" considering they were going to be the butt of jokes... Stewart replied... "People will do anything to be on television."

Edited by TrishCT (log)
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Doing well on a show like that could give your career a nice boost. I would rather work hard, work long hours and earn my place.

I would guess they are going for the entertainment value for the general public of a well seasoned line cook/chef beating the hell out of a first year culinary student and making her cry.

I truely hope a real cook wins in the end.

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I came across this show totally by accident last night. Hadn't previously heard nor read anything about it; after watching it, I decided to search the site. I have never actually watched a so-called "reality" show before- cooking or otherwise. No, I don't live under a rock- I actually have a "life". This show, however, did catch my attention. I have to totally agree with LindaK. It seems unlikely that this is the best talent they could come up with. I've seen better in some of my recreational cooking classes that I take. Lots of unprofessional behavior. Wonder if these people are selected not because of their "talent" but what controversy and tv presence they can generate with their odd personalities and behavior. Did I just answer my own question? Anyway, like other guilty pleasures, I may be enticed to watch further. At least the judges have some credentials and credibility.

Mark A. Bauman

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tasted a sauce with his finger and put it back into the pot.

Ok, thats gross.

But it got me thinking, how do people taste sauces in restaurant kitchens? At home I use teaspoons, and can go an awful lot of 'em with a new recipe 'seasoning to taste'. In restaurant kitchens, are there little stacks of ice-cream sticks everywhere, to use and toss? Do folks just wash their hands before and after sticking them in the pot? Inquiring mind would love to know. Thanks. :smile:

Well i'm only an 18 year old cook and I cringe when i see dirty and unsanitary cooking practices probabaly because I am very anal when it comes to being clean. If i saw someone tasting something with a spoon and sticking it back into the pot i would be grossed out especially if its an open kitchen. What I was taught to do is use the two spoon method. Where one spoon is you tasting spoon which is always close by (not in your back pocket :S) and have other spoons (that never touch your mouth) to take some of the sauce or liquid and transfer it on your own tasting spoon adn taste from there. It doesnt slow you down that much, its cleaner and its more professional looking.

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