It can’t be denied that in general the whole “Top Chef” series is one of the best cooking competitions on TV. I’m not going to say it’s the best since I was a contestant on The Food Network’s “Chopped”. Anyway “Chopped” aside I always enjoy watching “Top Chef”. There’s just something about watching Chefs at their craft that you can find interesting whether you are certified Chef, as I am, or if you aren’t. So now “Top Chef” enters new territory stepping it up a level with their contestants. This time instead of using good, established Chefs they are trying to use the best of the best. I really enjoyed watching the first episode of “Top Chef Masters”. It shows that no Chef is perfect. I’ve always hated those snotty Chefs who turns their noses down at other Chefs they don’t deem worthy. I’ve also met several Chefs (like one of those last night) who claim they don’t know how to use a microwave. Oh come on! Everyone I know uses a microwave every now and then. Do I cook dinner in a microwave? No! Do I reheat leftovers and lean cuisines in one? Of course. It’s not a crime. Anyway the use of the microwave was a funny twist on the first episode.
WHAT THEY MADE The Quickfire challenge was very entertaining. When these pros were told they had to make dessert their jaws practically dropped. It cracks me up that dessert can be a Chef’s achilles heel. I actually specialized in baking before cooking so this is always a mystery to me. I just think you should be able to make a complete meal from beginning to end. Mark my words when I get my own restaurant I will be crafting every part of the menu and that sure includes dessert. Dessert isn’t a throw away course and that was proved. When you think about it the Quickfire ended up being the deciding factor in “Masters” because the winning Chef was 1 and a half stars above his competitors and after the elimination challenge the score was still 1 & half stars apart. By the way they had 60 minutes to whip up their dish. I would have loved to have 60 minutes for my first challenge on “Chopped”, but I only had 20 minutes. So with 60 minutes they should have been able to kick some major butt, but that sure wasn’t the case for all of them. Kind of makes me feel a little better because like me one of the Chefs wasn’t able to finish his dish and he had triple the time I had. The Chef that just couldn’t get it done was Michael Schlow. He attempted to make a chocolate cake with peanut butter chocolate candies. His chocolate cake was kind of a disaster because this was the item that wasn’t done in time. So you knew right away he wasn’t going to take the cake here and he didn’t. A group of Girl Scouts judged this round and Schlow was first to come to the table and he came out on the losing end with the worst score 2 and a half stars. Next up Chef Tim Love (who I met when I appeared on the Early Show earlier this year). Love put his daughter’s love into his dessert making strawberries three way. I have to be honest this looked the most tasty to me, but the scouts said the shake was too tart so I can’t fairly judge. They did seem to like the chocolate covered strawberry though. In the end he was in the middle of the pack with 3 and a half stars. Chef Hubert Keller served up his dish next and you could tell right away the gals loved it. He pulled off a meringue swan, fruit with orange sabayon and a whipped cream “mous”se. They loved the mouse above all with it’s chocolate tail. I have to give him credit I was surprised he pulled this off. It was inventive and the plating was obviously top notch. Plus after the raves from the scouts it was no surprise Keller walked away with a perfect 5 stars. Lastly Chef Christopher Lee presented his plate which was basically French toast and bananas on a stick. Looked tasty, but for breakfast, NOT for dessert. It was like he didn’t know how to make dessert so he settled on breakfast.
THE ELIMINATION CHALLENGE I’m not going to recount what they all made during the Elimination Challenge because if you are reading this that probably means you watched the episode so I’ll just give my opinon. First they were told they were going to be cooking in a dorm with a microwave, toaster oven and hot plate. Again jaws practically dropped. I thought this was pretty funny. As I said earlier the whole “I don’t know how to use a microwave” thing is a joke. Another joke Chef Keller acted like he’d never been in a grocery store. Really???? I’m sorry if you are a Chef you should peruse grocery stores and green markets periodically to see what new products, produce, etc. are out there. Ordering online or in catalogs just isn’t the same. Chef Love was also bummed at Whole Foods to find out there wasn’t any ground pork in their meat case. He then panicked wondering what he would make. What the heck is the obsession with pig products. Seriously it’s so not original anymore either because bacon is all the craze right now. I, of course, hate this craze, but Chefs should get away from it too. It’s just so not original. Get over it! He did and instead make some sort of salty beef course. Didn’t exactly win him points with the judges. So he placed third. Chef Schlow did find pig products, two to be exact. Bacon in soup and some sort of pork dish. Hmmm maybe that’s why he lost. Came in dead last. Guess what Chef Lee made? Uh pork chops. Did he win? Nope. So Chef what do we learn from this? Say bye bye to pork. I did it 10 years ago and it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. Who didn’t use pork? Keller! Who won? Keller. Coincidence? I think not. The pea soup Keller made with cinnamon was out there, but the rest of the dish proved to be pretty perfect for the judges. The mac and cheese looked great and the best of all the dishes.
THE OTHER REASON TO WATCH Beyond the food and the personalities, the other reason to watch the show is that the winner gets money to give to their charity. Keller’s was the Make-a-Wish foundation and I for one was thrilled to see this charity benefit from a little TV fun. I look forward to next week and the week after that and the week after that….