Top Chef Watch: Neighborhood Nonsense

Aah…so that’s why they casted so many contestants this season: because they planned to eliminate 2 in the first episode! Very sneaky Top Chef, very sneaky and…obnoxious. For those of you who didn’t watch, Bravo decided to eliminate contestants in the elimination challenge and the quickfire challenge, leaving 15 contestants left at the end of episode 1. Couldn’t they have started with 16 instead of getting one extra chef’s hopes up?

Warning: Spoilers after the jump!

Aside from the brutal extra elimination, I had a problem with the set up the quickfire challenge. I didn’t think it made sense that we saw less skill from those that advanced to the elimination challenge by succeeding in rounds 1 or 2 than those that had to continue on to subsequent rounds.  Sure, Stefan kicked ass at speedily peeling apples with a knife, but how are we to know if he’s good at the brunoise chop or making a dish out of apples? We don’t. In other words, the challenges became harder with each round but the supposedly ‘better’ chefs never had to participate. Anyone agree with me?

This picture  was sort of a foreshadowing, kind of like a “bad luck hug” between Patrick and Lauren, the two contestants kicked off in the first episode.

Lauren was kicked off during this quickfire when it seemed like Tom Colicchio chose her randomly over Patrick. I agreed that Lauren and Patrick’s salads seemed far less skillful than Radhika’s chutney and Leah’s scallop apple dish, but there seemed to be virtually no difference between Patrick and Lauren’s dishes. It seemed like Tom just picked her for no reason, and well, that just sucks for Lauren. Luckily (sort of) Patrick was kicked off in the elimination challenge, meaning both “weak links” did get their goodbye in the same episode, but that’s besides the point.

Now let’s move on to the elimination challenge. In the end, the judges deliberated between sending Patrick, the culinary student who made a terrible salmon and black rice noodle dish that was supposedly inspired by Chinatown, and Ariane, a 40+ year old mother of two that made a very delicious-looking lamb chop and farro risotto inspired by Long Island City (a home for Middle Eastern cuisine). While I realize that I wasn’t there to taste the undercooked farro, judging by looks and conceptualization – there was really no contest between the two and Patrick should have undoubtedly been sent home. Obviously, he was, but for a minute there, I thought the judges were going to make a big mistake. I’m not sure how long Ariane is going to last (based on previews of Episode 2) but I at least believe that she seems more talented than a heavy-looking piece of salmon atop gummy black rice noodles. To me, that dish says “random” and “bad”, not “Chinatown”.

Stefan and his ego seem to prevail through this season, at least for the beginning. He won the quickfire, won the elimination and also seems to win the quickfire in Episode 2 (again, based on previews…but maybe not). Reigning from Europe, he definitely came in with the attitude that he’s better than everyone but for now, the judges seem to agree that his food…is. I agree that his Middle Eastern lamb chop with lemon hummus, and beef onion skewer looked delectable but I also thought he could have chosen one or the other instead of laying two meats side by side. I guess he really nailed down the flavors though, which is, of course, very important. His ego is definitely growing though, not so correspondingly so with traffic to his catering website (according to Alexa, it’s not even rated). Was that rude of me to point out?

Leah’s dish in the quickfire challenge: Seared Scallops with Dried Apples, Vinegar, and Apple Juice

As for the rest of the season, my money is on Leah. Even though she wasn’t fast at the skills quickfire, her dishes in both challenges impressed me. She made a very delicious scallop dish with her apples in the quickfire (with only 20 minutes for concept and prep) and had an equally impressive farro risotto with red snapper and mushrooms in the elimination challenge (based on the neighborhood of Little Italy). Of course, I think Stefan will make it far too. As for who else, I’m not quite sure yet.

Bring on some more yummy food!


Official Episode Title: Melting Pot

Challenges: Quickfire - Relay race! Elimination – Cook a dish inspired by your assigned New York neighborhood and compete head to head with one other cheftestant.

Winner: Stefan Eliminated: Patrick and Lauren

Chefs Remaining: Too many to list! And do you know who’s who at this point anyway? :)

Tune in for Episode 2 next week!

Want more Top Chef? Check our Top Chef Watch page for recaps and reviews of all episodes in Seasons 4 and 5!

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  • Shannon

    I did like the way both challenges tied to the setting of New York. But let’s face it–there’s no reason to get invested in the early episodes while they knock out the people who had no chance of making it.

    I mean, even I know that rice noodles would be soaked or at best, cooked maybe 1 minute. I bet Patrick cooked them a full 8 minutes to get them that gummy. He deserved the elimination, and since he was the most annoying, I’m glad he’s gone.

  • Hillary

    I’m not surprised the inexperienced were kicked out either. The first episode often functions as a “get to know you” episode – who do you think is out next? The previews make it look like Ariane has a hard time again.

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