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Top Chef S5, Ep2 (JP Recap)


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Before I get into my recap of last night’s episode, I found this interview with Season 3’s leading jerk-off Dale (courtesy of Amuse-Biatch): link here.

For some reason, I really hope his restaurant tanks…he still comes off as a big d-bag in my book. I understand having confidence and standing behind your work (you are going to need that type of attitude if you want to make it in the cooking world) but how about a little humility buddy! Even the best chefs in the world will recognize others, especially one that beat your ass in a competition. To say of Hung, “I won, but he got the check”, to me is such a d*ck thing to say. I understand he’s trying to say that in losing he got the celebrity and cooking recognition he needs to start his own restaurant (at least I think that’s what he’s trying to say, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here cause I can be a nice guy) but don’t dismiss your competitor’s accomplishment so easily. The fact that he’s working with Sara Nguyen and CJ from season 3 makes me want to see them fail even more. (Ok, so maybe I’m not that nice of a guy…) I have nothing against Sara, but I couldn’t stand C “Big Time” J any more than I could stand Dale. And even though my brother-in-law Andy met him on a plane and said that he was a nice guy, I still hold reality-tv grudges. Even though season 3 was the best that Top Chef had to offer, I noticed I really only liked Hung, Tre and Casey, even though she couldn’t dice an onion. That being said, the talent level of season 3 was ridiculous. While I think he’s a major d-bag, Dale had some serious cooking chops. I seriously agree with Dale’s comment about how no cast can top season 3’s skill level. I mean, look at this year’s cast, the first show kicked off two newbies right away that had no business being on the show. If those two were better than every other wanna-be cheftestant, then you know this season’s talent level is way low.

Ok, I didn’t mean to get into that little rant. Time for last night’s episode:

Quickfire Challenge re-introduced us to a familiar face: Donatella Arpaia. She’s been on a lot of different cooking shows, but I really only like her when she does one on one stuff, like when she’s on Simply Ming. Much more engaging, seeing her work with food, instead of just being a judge. A quick interweb search of Donatella for the correct spelling of her last name gave me this link.

I guess they can’t introduce her as Donatella from the famous restaurant “David Burke and Donatella” anymore. (Side note: I like David Burke. Never eaten at any of his restaurants, but damn, he cracks me up every time I see him on TV or read his interviews. Seems like a cool guy to kick it with. I need to try his “flavor spray” on day…ok, that just sounded gross.)

So Padma, in a hideous outfit (per Abby), tells the cheftestants that they will have to make hot dogs and go against a famous hot dog stand owner. Now I really don’t understand why they had to bring this poor lady in (and I don’t mean poor like she’s a beggar…that lady and her hot dog empire is easily pulling in over $500K a year, if not more…I bet you it’s a lot more too) and make her stand there with her cart while the competitors cook up their hot dogs. Their hot dogs weren’t in competition with hers…they were in competition with each other! So strange. I gotta say, Donatella looks absolutely bored right now. So the cheftestants go out and make their own hot dogs. I’m actually impressed by this challenge and am not sure what I would have done. Would I have gone the dumb and easy route, like Jill, and use existing hot dogs and try to spruce it up a little? Or would I try to quickly make my own sausage and put my own little twist on it, even though I’ve never made sausage before? I’d probably go with the latter, but I can’t say I’d be any better than what Jill offered. (Thinking about this some more, I’d think I would have tried to make a “cheddar-wurst”. I’d have taken some ground pork and beef and seasoned it on the spicy side, encase it, and inject it with some melted cheddar cheese. Pan fry it until it’s done, and serve it on a hot dog bun with some homemade relish mayonnaise….damn, I might have to try to make that now…maybe I really can be a Top Chef!) Any way, there were a couple of “sushi hot dogs” which didn’t fare well. Both Euros made panini’s. But the major surprise was from Radhika. The self-proclaimed, “I’m of Indian heritage, and I don’t want them to judge me and think I only make Indian food”, goes against her own proclamation and makes an Indian styled hot dog. I bet you it tasted great…but come on!!!! What’s the old saying: “Don’t piss on my back and tell me it’s raining!”? I’m getting ahead of myself, but in 4 challenges you use your Indian traditions and did well in 2 of them. When you went outside of that ethnic cooking style, you sucked and were ridiculed and beaten up. Ok, maybe not beaten up, but verbally abused by the judges. How in the hell are you showing us that you can cook with non-Indian techniques? I had you pegged as someone to watch, mainly because of your experience with Vikas (a world reknown Indian chef, who cooks amazing Indian food) but you can’t seem to step out of your comfort zone at all and do well.

So Radhika wins, with some props to Fabio. They get their elimination challenge and they will have to perform in a real live kitchen during the lunch rush and do a 3 course menu. With Jeff’s styling skills (he has good hair, dontcha know), they all separate into 3 groups of 5, doing apps, entrée and dessert. Why some of them (Ariane) openly volunteer for dessert and not have a world-class dessert in their recipe black book, I have no idea. This show has shown time and time again that if you don’t do desserts correctly, you are going to be part of the bottom 3 each and every time.

The make up ideas, go shopping, and start prepping their dishes. Tom walks in and lays the egg on them, that they will be in his own restaurant Craft and will be serving 50 chefs that didn’t make the cut to be on Top Chef. (It would have been neat if one of the 50 was recently kicked off Lauren, who technically didn’t get to compete either…) The chefs talk, cook, then go home. In the middle of the commercial break, something strange happens. It looks like the show is back on, with Leah talking about being single or something, then it shows her and Hosea flirting, then it cuts back to commercial. All that in like 1 minute and 30 seconds. WTF? Bravo, that was just weird.

Anyway, just as I feared, having 50 chefs that weren’t good enough to be on this show (and like I said earlier, the talent level of this season isn’t the greatest) was going to lead to a few camera hogs that will go overly negative in their critiques just to get some airtime. Sore losers the bunch of them. One chef is overheard saying how he doesn’t use animal fat or butter in his restaurant…that’s a restaurant I will never step foot in. Hey buddy, maybe at your glorified Soup or Salad joint you are king, but that aint going to cut it to be on Top Chef. As lunch is being served, one chef remarks how he could make something better, which I respond, “Apparently you couldn’t or you would actually be on the show instead of hamming it up to be Bravo for 5 seconds and hoping that will lead you to your own cooking show.” They even showed some 50+ year old lady…come on!!! This is the caliber of NYC chefs that are trying to be on Top Chef? This is FOOD USA MECCA!!!! Are the real talented chefs actually in the kitchen cooking and working their way up instead of auditioning for a TV show? Must be.

Jill continues to befuddle everyone by grabbing an ostrich egg and trying to make a quiche out of it. First of all, don’t pull a Patrick and try something you’ve never cooked with. Secondly, is quiche really new American cooking? Others that also failed included Eugene, Radhika (who has immunity and it clearly showed), Hosea and of course Ariane and her overly sweet lemon something with cherry surprise. “Cherry surprise” is not something I want to see on a menu. Visions of…well, I won’t say what, but it’s gross, comes to mind. Jeff looks like he’s struggling again with time, but his dish seemed to please all the taste buds. Jamie finally comes through with something good, and her chilled corn chowder/soup whatever, was generally liked. Crazy Eyes, I mean Carla, also does well with her dessert. But it’s Fabio who takes the prize for his carpaccio dish that looked absolutely incredible. Easily the best dish tonight.

Jill, Hosea and Ariane are chosen as the worst dishes and Jill looks like an idiot trying to defend herself. Tonight’s tough to figure out. Usually you can sense who’s going home, but all 3 have made a strong case for being kicked out of the kitchen that it’s hard to pinpoint who’s getting the axe. It turns out to be Jill. She remarks that she’s surprised that Ariane is still on the show and she has to leave…and you know what, you should be surprised and pissed off. You are no better than an old Jersey lady that might go down as the worst cheftestant in Top Chef history to have lasted to episode 3. Must really suck to be you. (And right on cue, old Jersey decides to play the sympathy card to steal all the attention away from the leaving chef by crying into Crazy Eyes arms. Yikes…get her off this show!)

In summary: The Euros still seem like the ones to beat. Jeff is going to have to learn how to manage time better. Radhika…I’m starting to question why I chose her as a favorite prior to watching the shows. Eugene…come on and wow us like I know you can. Ariane can’t leave soon enough.


Ariane BETTER go home next week.

CLICK HERE for DavidDust's Top Chef New York recap.