November 20, 2008

Top Chef NY: Week 2 - Hot Dogs, Canned Crab and Ostrich Eggs

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Quickfire Challenge

Make a hot dog, competing against a famous hot dog vendor from NY. I love it when they do challenges based on simply/"lowly" foods, where they have to not only be chefs, but be COOKS, to understand the challenge of making good food no matter what situation they're thrown into and not trying to make something really fancy that doesn't need to be fancy to be good.  I thought the bacon & roasted onion one sounded DELICIOUS.  I also liked Stefan's 'world dog' concept.  I don't know about the flavors, but I really liked the concept a lot, but unfortunately the flavors didn't hold up to judging.  I also thought that Carla's dog was good - sauerkraut & onions, sticking to traditional ingredients, but throwing the lamb in.  What was Jill thinking using a pre-made hot dog?  Sometimes I wonder if the people who compete have actually SEEN the show before.  It's never a good idea to use pre-made stuff when the challenge specifically calls for you to MAKE something.  

Elimination Challenge

The chefs will be opening a Top Chef restaurant in Manhattan.  Chefs must create a 3 course New American lunch menu.  Each chef is responsible for one dish.  50 New Yorkers will be eating the food.

The first thing that happened is everyone started screaming desserts.  Which seemed funny.  Kudos to Jeff for taking over and getting everyone organized!  The first thing that happened in my house is that I googled "New American Cuisine".  Here is what Wikipedia said:

New American cuisine a term for upscale, contemporary cooking served primarily in restaurants in the United States. Combining flavors from America's melting pot with traditional techniques, New American cuisine includes ethnic twists on old standbys, Old World peasant dishes made from luxury American ingredients and molecular gastronomy.

It developed in the 1980s from fusion and California cuisines and features significant creative use of in-season produce and sauces. It is somewhat related to the French Nouvelle cuisine and often incorporates influences from Latin American, Mediterranean and Asian cuisine.


So, I'm watching them shop and it's like watching So You Think You Can Dance and wondering what the hell the dances are supposed to look like.  Beef carpaccio?  Ostrich eggs?  The crab meat in a jar seems to go nicely with American, but perhaps not the 'upscale' part.  I'm interpreting the cuisine as traditional, but stepped up a notch.  Come to find out during judging that the chefs didn't really GET it either, Tom said they set back American Cuisine 20 years!

Again, what's up with using ingredients you've never used before?  Why would you buy an Ostrich egg if you've never used it before?  It's like a gimmick.  Why not just use regular eggs, which you know about already?  

Tom comes in and says they're cooking in his restaurant, Craft.  Carla has crazy eyes.  Then he announces that the people eating the food are people who auditioned for Top Chef and didn't make it.  Carla has more crazy eyes.

I love watching them use weird or different techniques like that weird olive thing.  It's so interesting to watch.  The diners arrived and it was very obvious that they are going to be VERY hard on the food.  They're going to be the hardest on the food because they think they should be there, but at the same time because they're not there, they don't know what it's like to be in the position of the competitors.  Tom explains how they're going to do the tickets, and I realize that Carla's eyes are ALWAYS crazy.  It was fun watching Tom run the kitchen the way he runs it, kind of seeing a different side of him than just the judge, the head chef side.

Jamie was really conceited about her soup... well, does it still count as being conceited if you're right?  I dunno.  Hosea's crab from a jar didn't work out too well.  Surprise, surprise?  I mean, why would you buy crab in a jar when you usually use fresh?  It seems like an unnecessary risk, just like the Ostrich egg (judge: "it tastes like glue") or the farro last week.  Jeff's chicken dish looked SO good.  Avacado mousse?  What the hell?  The lemon merangue martini looked disgusting.  And Padma almost vomitted after tasting it, shich was funny in a way.  The weird banana sandwich was just... weird.  I think that Carla's dessert looked the best, althought the plating was weird with the cheese on the plate.  The pies looked really delicious.  I feel like it was the only dessert I would have wanted to eat.  The pound cake looked okay as well.  

Fabio wins the challenge with his beef.  That left Hosea, Arianne, and Jill in the bottom three.  I felt like they should have said something more about Hosea's pre-packaged crab meat, because it seems like that is a lot of the comments that I heard.  I don't really understand why Arianne made a dessert, it seemed like she kept saying that wasn't her forte, but she still did it.  And, Jill is burned by using a giant gimmick egg that she never used before.  Really...  and it ended up getting her sent home.

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