Top Chef New York: Melting Pot

Cast-New York

Starting in San Francisco, and then moving on through Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, Top Chef has finally found its way back to "reality" in one of the world's greatest food meccas - New York City. I think that many will agree that this has been a long time coming. And, if last night's season premiere was any indication, I think we're in for an interesting ride!

Since the episode starts out with seventeen cheftestants. That should have been my first clue that something was up. Bravo really amped up the drama quotient in this season's first episode with an unprecedented twist. For the first time ever, a cheftestant was eliminated in the Quickfire Challenge! The challenge was to peel 15 apples using a knife (no peelers here). The first nine to accomplish this task to Chef Tom's standards were automatically safe. The rest had to brunoise (a fancy name for small dice) two cups of apples. The first four to finish successfully were safe. The remaining four had to wow Chef Tom with a dish they prepared using the diced apples - outside, in sweltering heat - with a hot plate and a saute pan! WTF?


I don't even remember who won! I was too busy having an empathetic anxiety attack for the poor slobs that were the bottom four! In the end, "fresh out of the CIA, didn't even get to unpack her suitcase" Lauren got diced. That's gotta hurt, people! Can you imagine making it all the way through the audition process, telling all of your family and friends, buying a whole new hot wardrobe for TV (that's what I would do), and then getting cut within the first 17 minutes into the season? I'm with Gail on this one. It was heartless. Good bye, Lauren. We hardly knew ye!


For the Elimination Challenge, the old knife block was brought out, and the cheftestants were paired up and sent off to randomly assigned ethnic neighborhoods around the city to soak up local color and shop for ingredients. They then returned to the Top Chef kitchen to create a dish inspired by the neighborhood they visited. Each pair would compete head to head. I thought it was a great challenge to kick off the season. New York is a true melting pot of ethnicities and cultures. What better way to experience it than through its food.

Now is probably a good time to give you a rundown on who exactly these cheftestants are.

Team Astoria has Richard and Jamie cooking Greek food. Richard wants to make sure that no one forgets he is gay, gay, GAY, so he announces it about ten times during the course of the episode. Jamie is from San Francisco, doesn't like to chat while she cooks and also guessed it, gay. I don't know what relevance this has to the show, but they made a big point of putting it out there. I'm just sayin'. Richard serves overcooked lamb sliders with an orzo salad and Jamie serves a Greek salad with eggplant and sea bass. Jamie wins.

Team Brighton Beach has Hosea and Carla, cooking Russian food. The only thing I remember about Carla is that she's very tall and has big hair. The only thing I remember about Hosea is that he's bald. Hosea serves a smoked fish plate with caviar, creme fraiche and apple chutney. Hosea wins.

Team Jamaica has Radhika, an Indian chef and Jill who cook Caribbean food. Radhika is worried about being stereotyped as someone who only cooks Indian food. That's probably why the dish she prepared in the Quickfire challenge featured chutney. And, who? Radhika serves a jerk rubbed halibut with some kind of a rice cake underneath, while Jill comes up with jerk seasoned scallops with plantain fritters. Jill wins.

Team Little Italy is Leah (from New York) and Melissa. Obviously, they are dishing up some Italian food. Luckily, Leah works in an Italian restaurant already, so we know she's in. Melissa not only doesn't work in an Italian restaurant, but she says she is unfamiliar with Italian food altogether. Huh? Oh boy! Quick! Somebody call Pizza Hut! Leah serves farro risotto with red snapper, topped with mushrooms and Melissa serves a ribeye steak with tomato sauce, arugula salad and fried mushrooms. Leah wins.

Team Ozone Park had "Pretty Boy" Jeff from Miami and Firenze-born Fabio bringing some Latin food. Jeff is pretty confident about Latin cuisine seeing that he is from Miami and all. He frolics around the Top Chef kitchen at a leisurely pace until he realizes that that he has about 30 seconds to plate all twenty elements of his dish. Then, he turns into Speedy Gonzalez, but still doesn't get half of his components on the plate. Fabio's English iza notta so gooda, so he reads the description of his dish from a cheat sheet. Jeff serves Cuban coffee seared tenderloin and smoked plantain with black beans and rice. Fabio serves pork with a mango jalapeno demi glace, roasted mushrooms and avocado salad. Jeff wins.


Team Long Island City churns out some Middle Eastern grub by Stefan from Finland, who seems just a teensie bit full of himself, and Ariane from Montclair, New Jersey, who isn't. I was actually kind of hoping that a smidge of Stephan's excess of confidence would rub off on Ariane, goddess of low self-esteem, but it didn't. Stephan prepares a lamb chop with tabouli and beef skewer with onions over hummus. Ariane prepares a crusted rack of lamb and an undercooked farro risotto with dates and chick peas. Stephan wins.

Alex and Eugene end up in Little India gathering goodies for - you guessed it - Indian food. Alex is another one I barely remember. Thank goodness Bravo has all of the cheftestants' pictures up on their site! Eugene is from Hawaii, (How cool is that!), and has never been to culinary school. He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up. Eugene kind of scares me at first. But, I think he's growing on me. Alex serves a lamb chop with curry stew topped with basmati rice. Eugene intends to serve a masala-rubbed lamb and basmati rice with a tandoori glaze and tzatziki. He missed the mark on the tzatziki, but inadvertently made a popular Indian dish, curds and rice. Padma is way impressed. Eugene wins.


Last, but not least, we have Team Chinatown. Well, was least. Patrick and Daniel, with the wonders of Chinatown at their feet ended up with baked salmon and chicken salad. Don't get me started! Daniel wins.

At the Judges' Table, we find that the guest judge this week is über great Jean-George Vongerichten. The judges pick Stefan, Eugene and Leah as the top three, and give Stefan the win.


Patrick and Ariane find themselves on the chopping block. The judges debate over which is worse - lack of imagination or lack of technique. Fortunately for Ariane, they think lack of imagination is the bigger sin and Patrick is sent to pack his knives and go.

So, what did you think about last night's episode? How do you feel about the new crop of cheftestants? Who did you love? Who did you hate? Who did you love to hate? Here is the place to let it all hang out! Be as snarky as you want. I swear, I won't tell a soul.

Let's dish!!!

I have to tell you, I was really torn about doing these recaps again. That's why this one is so late. They really take a lot of time to write and my blogging time is limited! I'm going to try to keep up with them as best I can. I will have to miss a few during the Holidays because I'll be out of town. I'm also hoping to do some giveaways this go-round as well.

I would really appreciate your feedback on this. Do you want the recaps? Or, would you rather stick to the regular format of food, recipes and my crazy stories about what a klutz I am? You readers are the best ever, and I want you all to enjoy visiting SGCC. So, please take a few seconds and let me know what you think. I'd rather not spend hours and hours to post something that only a few care about.



ocm said…
Since I don't have television...I have no clue about the show. :)

I only recently stumbled into your blog and have enjoyed it immensely!

: )
Anonymous said…
I discovered your blog this summer, and its fabulous!
I'd rather hear about your life, and share recipes.
Your writing is stellar, but I'm just not interested in television food competitions.
Just my opinion, since you requested.
Thank you for hours of reading pleasures,
and wonderful recipes and pictures!
Jennifer Blome
St. Louis, MO.
Snooky doodle said…
I really like top chef :)
Anonymous said…
Top chef looks like a show I' like to watch (if only I had access to US channels....), but it seems like a really long work for you, and I'd rather read about your stories, recipes, etc... Maybe you could just write something about the show when there's something you really like?
Thanks for sharing anyway!

PS : I hope your foot doesn't hurt anymore...
Manggy said…
Well, I love the recaps, but we don't get the current episodes of Top Chef-- it's late by a few months. I'll let the others chime in. But if your heart tells you that you still wanna talk about it, you might think about just recapping the biggest blunders or greatest dishes ever that they produce per episode to save time.

By the way, those "Chinese" dishes? What the hell? But- one of the loser dishes, the pork with mango jalapeno demiglace, actually sounds nice :)
Anonymous said…
Hey Susan,

I can't believe that season 5 is already here. In Italy they still haven't aired season 3 (although thanks to TWoP and Youtube and you I am up to date with all the seasons). I think that you should only continue to do the recaps if it really, really gives you pleasure. Otherwise you will end up resenting doing it and that won't be fun for anyone!
Looks like a a great cast...I will be watching!
Heather B said…
I enjoy your recaps but I think you should only continue them if you really enjoy it. If it seems like a chore then it's not worth it to you.
Patsyk said…
Susan - do what feels right! If doing a full recap is too much, just talk about what you most enjoyed (or didn't like) in the episode and keep it simple. And, if nothing strikes you that week - just skip it!

Carla is a bit of an odd bird with her letting the spirits guide her... that should make for some interesting dishes over the next few weeks.

Stefan is so full of himself I imagine everyone will be ready to give him the boot soon.

I really wanted Ariane to do well - she's from NJ so I wanted to root for someone local to me. Not sure I can if she doesn't step up and show something great next week.
Anonymous said…
I love that you do these recaps! I'm interested in the show but don't always remember to watch it, so it's nice to be kept in the loop about it.
Mary said…
I love the recaps, they read like a soap opera. It should be said though that I would feel terrible if you were going through all this work just to get them out there for me. See I like that I don't have to watch the show because I have your recaps. Although last season I did turn in for the final show because you brought the contestants to life.
Johanna B said…
I don't have cable so I don't get to see Top Chef. I love your recaps. I vote keep them.
Ginny said…
I couldn't stand the early elimination...seemed so evil! As for everyone else, I was not blown away by anything. When the judges were saying how excited they were for the new group, I was hoping they saw something a bit more because I was bored by it all. We shall see!
Dana Treat said…
I am a big fan of the show and watch every week, so I have to admit I skim these recaps. I would much rather see your humor come through in your writing about your life and food.
ummm, I just read this whole thing. every word. I was totally captivated by everything you said — I've never even made it through a whole Top Chef episode. That said, I can't imagine how much time this took you and will take you to do throughout the season. Do what makes you happy. Blogging shouldn't be a chore. Whatever you post — food or recaps — will be interesting.
Unknown said…
Please, please, change your font from comic sans back to Trebuchet. Comic Sans is a terrible font to begin with, and even less readable online. In my opinion, it's actually detracting from your lovely content.

Overall, I do love your blog, but that font is just bad, no matter where or how it's used.
Anonymous said…
ok....i spent hours last night going thru all the blogs that do recaps and discuss top chef....yours are BY FAR the best on the net....i would be really sad if you didnt do are thorough and funny and have great insights into the chefs without loading it all down with snobby bullshit.....i swear tc should be paying you to blog on their site now that they lost all their best bloggers please dont stop.

my comments for this episode are;#1 my daughter is at CIA right now and after spending $30,000 a year in tuition she better be able to cook better than the CIA grads im seeing in this episode or i am gonna be pissed. #2 im picking stefan as top 3 even though he is a jerk...i cant distinguish from the rest of them yet...gonna need a few more episodes before i get a handle on them. #3 the level of creativity is pretty darn high for the first episode....way better than the last 2 im looking forward to learning a lot. #4 speaking of getting sick of Tom saying chefs dont learn to cook from cookbooks....he has said this several times over the years....we cant all go to fancy culinary schools or work on the line at high end restaurants with the stars of the food world.....we who actually do cook and cook well DO learn from cookbooks....and blogs and cooking shows and dining out....of course instinct and inborn talent is important like any artist but i learned a lot about drawing from reading books about drawing and looking at art in all adds like to see tom do a complex dessert with surprise ingredients and 30 minutes to pull it together...and if he thinks people dont learn to cook from cookbooks then why does he keep writing them?
At 10 PM I am usually out cold because I am just a total day person, so I depend on recaps like yours for my instant Top Chef gratification. Please keep it up.

Queens certainly was the star of this show, wasn't it? Long Island City, Astoria, Jamaica? I felt sorry for The Bronx. Maybe they should have shifted Little Italy to ARthur Avenue?

After last season's huggly lesbians, I think it's a Top Chef requirement now to have a contestant who is out and proud!
taste memory said…
am surprised Eugene has never had Indian food/flavors....he seemed to nail in one try tho. Cuisine in Hawaii is such a melting pot; perhaps that is an inspiration....they showed splices previewing the next show...only show#2 and someone is already crying!

Love that speedy gonzalez ;-)
Nanc Twop said…
Just blog as much 'TC' as you want - no expectations on this end.

I know it seems to me that there are 'too many chefs' in the first few episodes... so I don't tend to do much until I get to know them all better, anyway.

* My first TC NYC post is just about their condo - I'm deep that way. ;-)
Lori Lynn said…
I haven't seen the show, but I sure want to now!

I can appreciate how much time it took to post this re-cap. Thank you.
Anonymous said…
You know how you go the movies nowadays and there are commercials mixed in with previews for other movies?? If I wanted to see commercials, I could've just stayed home & watched tv. My analogy/my opinion. Thanks!
grace said…
i totally want the recaps--i love hearing other people's take on the show!
Lucy said…
Hmmm it seems a little mixed about the recaps right now!

Personally, I enjoy reading them because we dont have Top Chef in England and it sounds like a great TV show so I like to know whats going on! But on the other hand blogging should be something you really enjoy and I can watch the show on youtube! Do what you would be happiest doing :) x
Anonymous said…
I've first started reading your blog because of the Top Chef posts, and am very excited to be getting into this new batch of cheftestants with your commentary.
Anonymous said…
I'm just glad the guy who lopped off his finger didn't have to cook anything. That would have been disgusting.
PS I have left something for you over at my blog. You can cherish it close to your heart or pass it along whichever you wish to do...just know that you are appreciated:D

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