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Top Chef Train Wreck: What Do You Think?

Welcome to my first recap of Bravo's Top Chef. Sure, it was a train wreck, but that might be the point.

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Did anyone else get a kick out of this week’s episode of Top Chef? I thought it was a mighty entertaining train wreck of a show.

Was there ever a more staged quick fire challenge than Padma and the Domestic Goddess herself, Nigella Lawson, ordering breakfast in bed from the contestants? Of course, the ladies were luminous in fluffy white bathrobes, with full makeup and perfectly tousled hair. Ridiculous.

Jen seems to have a self-sabotage impusle that gets stronger with every episode. For her breakfast offering, she chose “”s@#$ on a shingle” (known in more polite company as chipped beef). Nigella had to visibly steel herself to take the first bite. I’ll be the first to attest that chipped beef can be absolutely delicious, but, well, there’s a time and a place.

Then onto the elimination round: building a challenge around the theme of casinos was a forced attempt to incorporate Las Vegas into the show if I’ve ever seen one, and can you really blame Eli and Jen for failing to find inspiration in Circus Circus or Excalibur?

But Dale Chihuly’s gorgeous glass sculptures at the Bellagio could actually be a great inspiration for a dish, so when Robin competely failed to pull it off by attempting a spun sugar garnish she’d never made before, you could see the writing on the wall. Still, her overly firm panna cotta did make Nigella utter probably the best line ever on Top Chef: “A panna cotta should quiver like a 17th century courtesan’s inner thigh.” Brilliant!

The one dish that impressed me was the delicious-sounding confit “Buffalo wing” with curry and a blue cheese disc, which won the night for Michael. As a Buffalo girl born and bred, I was dying to try it. (For a taste of the real deal, check out this recipe for Buffalo wings that I published in Saveur several years ago, or this tasty grilled version.)

But I want to hear from other fans. Weigh in: Was it right for Robin to go, or should Eli have been sent home for his crazy peanut-caramel apple soup? Or Jen for her too-tough steak?

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  • User avater
    DMickelsen | 11/17/2009

    Griselda, it's funny bc I hadn't thought of the Buffalo wing representing NYC in the same way... but you're right, why was a Buffalo wing representing NYC? Good point. I think I was sidetracked by how pleased I was that Buffalo wings were getting some good press, and an inventive update.

    Chefnina1, I am with you on so many of your comments! Robin should have gone LONG ago because she was a cook, not a chef (and a touchy whiny, too). In fact, that's what I like about this season... the cream is really rising to the top and the people that are left now have the cred and the skills to actually be called a top chef. Finally! The last couple of seasons had nowhere near this caliber of chefs, in my opinion. And I love Kevin too. He reminds me of Rick Bayless in Top Chef Masters this past summer... calm, modest, and extremely talented. If only every chef could be like that!

  • User avater
    chefnina1 | 11/17/2009

    I'm still reeling from the show last week! Absolutely ridiculous! I really don't know why Jen did the sh** on a shingle...you have to be really hungover and hungry for that dish! I mean c'mon, poach an egg, you're making breakfast in bed for Padma and not knowing it would be Nigella but even if it was just Padma, would you really want to serve her chipped beef? I think robin should have gone sooooooooo long ago! She keeps making the mistake of trying to make things that she's never made before. She obviously doesn't have the experience to be in this competition. She definitely doesn't know how to work on the line and it is called Top Chef, not Top Cook! I'm loving Kevin more and more. He has proven to be consistent and calm. I'm all for the calm! I've worked with aggressive chefs and you know, they burn out. I hope Jen gets herself together and I don't know why she does meat, it's not her strong point and she needs to stick to what she's good at and gain her confidence back. I think the brother's are talented but WAY too moody! Eli is a bit of a wild card. We'll see what happens! And yes! It's kind of disappointing that there is so much product placement on the show.

  • Griselda | 11/15/2009

    I think Eli should have gone home - from the judges comments, it seemed to be totally inedible, and it looked lousy. At least Robin's presentation was better, and even though her dish lacked taste, it wasn't as bad as Eli's. As far as Michael's wing, as a near-Buffalo native myself, it really made me angry to have a dish that is Buffalo's signature represent New York City.

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