Top Chef Chicago Watch: Episode #4

Many foodies on Chowhound are complaining that the show doesn’t focus enough on the food and I think that this episode in particular proves them right. The picture above may seem to indicate otherwise but it’s fastly becoming harder and harder to obtain a Top Chef picture of food than it is, say, a face or an expression of drama. While the quickfire’s focus on technique had redeeming potential, that all ‘quickly’ faded when the film-inspired elimination challenge came into play.

In fact, I think the only redeeming quality about this episode was Daniel Boulud, not because of his fame, but because he really stuck to the challenge in looking for techniques. When he talked about his least favorites (Nikki, Manuel and Lisa), he called them out for lack of technique or technique mastery. And as a chef, isn’t that what this is all about (aside from good tasting food)?

For the Quickfire winner, he chose Dale.

While the plate looked great, and the awesome picture of cucumber scaling above was actually of Dale, I’m still not quite sure what his three techniques were. But I guess, since we’re more about the drama, that’s beside the point, right?

And speaking of drama (and Dale), I’m going to create some myself. Is it just me or is Dale putting Richard on a pedestal? He’s pretty much bowing down to him and following him around like that’s what’s going to get him far in the competition. For example, since Dale won the Quickfire (which by the way buddy, you beat Richard), he was allowed the choice of who to work with for the elimination challenge. So, uh, what do you think happened? Let’s take a look:


Photo 1: Dale finds out he can choose his partner. Dale’s thoughts: Yesssss, Richardddd!
Photo 2: Dale asks Richard to work on his team. Dale’s  thoughts: Hey…um, uh, can I work with you?
Photo 3: Dale and Richard seal the deal with one of those “badass” handshake/hugs. Dale’s thoughts: This is the best day of my life.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like Dale! Actually, I want him to go far in this competition, but I don’t think he’ll do that bowing down to other people. He even admitted himself that he was “chomping at the bit” to work with Richard. And yea, Richard is talented too but come on, have some confidence in yourself too man! Make people chomp at the bit to work with you. End of rant.

Maybe I was so fed up because something about Richard bothers me. Smoking can be cool the first time, but don’t use your smoker every episode (he’s already used it so much it broke!) But my feelings of annoyance were not indulged when Richard won the Elimination challenge. Gah. Oh well…I will give him credit for his white chocolate wasabi sauce idea. I obviously didn’t taste it but it’s fairly creative.

But one thing I really didn’t like was the judge’s decision making process. They just go back and forth so much about what matters more: food or criteria. For this episode, they definitely chose criteria when the bottom two dishes weren’t there out of taste or poor presentation. They were on the chopping block because their dish didn’t match their film analogy(Re: Lamb Chops/Talk to Her)…or the chosen film/theme idea was “lame” (Re: Vietnamese Spring Rolls/Good Morning Vietnam). I mean I’m not too upset that Manuel was chosen to go home…but the actual statements they used to justify their decisions I did not agree with.

Oh well, you know I still love the show despite my criticisms.


Title: Film Food

Challenges: Quickfire - Create a vegetable plate that demonstrates skills of 3 different techniques, Elimination – Create a film-inspired dish to be served to 12 people including film critic Richard Roeper.

Winner: Richard (Course 1) Eliminated: Manuel

Tune in next Thursday when we rehash Episode 5!

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  • Emiline

    I did not think that Manuel should have gone home. He was a very likeable guy, and honorable.
    There really isn’t enough focus on the food! It goes by too fast.

  • Kim

    I’m kind of glad Manuel went home. I formed my low opinion of him after his plate presentation in the first episode. It kind of seemed to me like he was in over his head with this show. Its too bad that the nicest guy seemed to have the least experience.

    Also, if I was on the show, I would put Richard on a pedestal too. He seems to be the most innovative of the bunch. And after this episode, its clear he has a great sense of how flavors go together.

    Agree or disagree, I’m looking forward to another review on Thursday :)

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