Top Chef Watch: Crafty Contradictions

Playfully titled “Show Your Craft,” episode 2 was named for the elimination challenge where Tom Colicchio handed over the knives to his own restaurant: Craft (pictured above). But, one contestant’s attempt at being ‘crafty’ with an exotic ingredient backfires and sends [him/her] home. That’s irony number one. Another irony came from the hot dog quickfire challenge. Inspired by the $10,000,000 New Yorkers spend on hot dogs a year, this challenge paved the way for a non-New Yorker to triumph. But that’s not all the irony, read on for more…

Warning: Spoilers after the jump!

So let’s talk about that quickfire, shall we?. I haven’t spent enough time in New York to  have known that the hot dog is as much a part of New York culture as it is Chicago’s but I was proud to see the Chicagoan win the hot dog challenge! Go Radhika! Way to represent Chicago’s famous hot dog reputation.

And speaking of someone from outside New York mastering the New York hot dog…how about that elimination challenge? Cheftestants were asked to serve up appetizers, entrees or desserts based on New American cuisine. And who won? Why, one of the Europeans of course! It seems the non-Americans are better than the Americans at what should be their own “craft.” Or, is it bigger than that?  Could it be that “New American” cuisine is inspired by the more culinarily-advanced or, rather, well-established European technique?

Beef carpaccio (the winning dish) is a well-established Italian appetizer (and go figure, Fabio is Italian!) It isn’t really a new dish per se but it’s something fresh and not ordinarily associated with American appetizers. Not to mention, Fabio took a step further with his gastronomical spheroid olives. I’ve personally never had a spheroid olive before but I’m very intrigued by their description. Apparently, they sort of harden on the outside and congeal on the inside. It was a  new concept paired with a well-executed European dish (I just loved it when Fabio couldn’t understand why he’d be at the bottom and went on about his ingredients “I used aged balsamic, aged Parmesan, highest quality filet mignon beef….”). It was exactly what the judges were looking for, and frankly it was the dish I most wanted to eat right off the screen. With Stefan and Fabio each with a win, maybe the Europeans will prevail this season.

But at this point we know that Jill will not win. You gotta love Bravo for introducing Jill into the footage early in the episode. I knew something was up because she barely made an appearance in the first episode. But I get it, that’s the challenge of editing reality television. No one’s going to care at the end if a girl they didn’t know anything about got eliminated. But, Jill’s ostrich egg quiche..was it really that bad? Of course I wasn’t able to taste it but I wonder if the problem lay more in the ostrich egg or the quiche. On the inside the ostrich egg looks just like a regular egg, it’s just much more massive. So I wonder, does it need special treatment that Jill was unaware of? Or is Jill just bad at  making quiche? Maybe both.

But the judges didn’t send her home without some debate as to whether she or Ariane should go. Ariane has been on the chopping block two episodes in a row now (the only two to be exact) questioning her skills. For some reason, I believe in her, but I was sort of disappointed when she made a dish she admitted to making in her restaurant all the time. That leads me to believe she couldn’t think of something new. Not to mention, when she knew it was too sweet, she didn’t do anything about it. But, to her credit, she did know it was too sweet so she has the right tastebuds.

In terms of the top contestants, my money is on Fabio, Stefan, Leah, Gene and Jeff for now. Of course we want Radhika to succeed too (gotta support the fellow Chicagoans) but really, avocado mousse?!


Official Episode Title: Show Yuor Craft

Challenges: Quickfire - Hot dogs! Compete against a professional hot dog cart chef. Elimination – Cook a New American dish for 50 Top Chef wannabes in Tom Colicchio’s restaurant.

Winner: Fabio Eliminated: Jill

Chefs Remaining:Alex, Ariane, Carla, Danny, Fabio, Gene, Hosea, Jamie, Jeff, Leah, Melissa, Radhika, Richard, Stefan

Tune in for Episode 3 next week where our cheftestants prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for The Foo Fighters!

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

[Images courtesy of and]

Note: Next week’s episode recap will be late due to Thanksgiving weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • Shannon

    I don’t get invested in a contestant until they get down to about 8 people. I figure they knock off all the low-hanging fruit first and it’s never much of a surprise. Ariane will go in the next week or two, I’ll bet.

  • Sorina

    Hi I am new to your blog and I just wanted to say how much I’m loving it

  • Maxine

    I’m sick of Ariane already. Her “I don’t think I’m good enough, but my kids told me I should come on the show” lack of self-confidence is just not going to cut it. I hope she goes soon!

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