Top Chef Season 2, episode 3: Cravable!

topchef2_tomrestrained.jpgFor some reason Tom Colicchio has to be held down by both Gail and Padma when Betty wins.

Compared to episode 2 this was a lot more entertaining. Team challenges are usually exercises in boring drama, while individual challenges focus a lot more on the food.

And I love that word they used, Cravable. Food should be cravable.

I don't understand though why so many of these people get so snooty about cooking for ordinary people. We saw this in season 1 already. And the assumption that so many so-called chefs make that all kids have unsophisticated palates is just so wrong and condescending, it makes me rather angry. Emily in particular came off as an incredibly dour, humorless elitist who 'hates kids' and refers to cooking on the TGIF level is 'turn and burn'. Since we had barely seen her at all up until this episode, I guess it should have been obvious from the start that this was her episode to go.

But anyway, onto the challenges.

Ice cream

topchef2_clifficecream.jpgCliff's winning ice cream

The ice cream quick challenge was interesting in the sense that two people used avocado as the emulsifying agent, and two people used bacon as a flavor. Unfortunately Marcel used both. Just the thought of bacon plus avocado is enough to make most normal people gag, even though it might have tasted okay. At this point, it seems clear that Marcel is a food fashionista, blindly following whatever in-food trend is out there without a lot of thought. It's molecular gastronomy gone all wrong. Bacon ice cream, or rather egg-and-bacon ice cream, is a signature dish of leading molecular gastronomist/chef Heston Blumenthal, and I was lucky enough to have had it last Tuesday; I'll write up that experience in a later post, but suffice it to say the egg and bacon ice cream did not have like strips of greasy bacon in it. It was just the suggestion of bacon flavor, and it was really great. I am not too sure how the bacon ice creams from Ilan (bacon and waffle...okay) and Marcel turned out though. The kids wiping Marcel's ice cream off their tongues was hilarious.

topchef2_marcel1.jpg

topchef2_eww.jpgThis kid hasn't acquired that taste.

There was another problematic ingredient. Lavender ice cream is served quite a lot in Provence, and I've tried it several times, and I just don't like it. I don't care how calming lavender is supposed to be, I'd much rather just smell it than eat it. There's no wonder that Emily's lavender and chocolate concoction wasn't popular.

Cliff won his second Quick Challenge in a row with a crowd pleasing combination of marshmallows and cookies. It's a bit odd how little he has been featured so far - except when he wins! There has been no little profile of him or anything, has there? Maybe he's being saved up for later.

topchef2_cliff1.jpgCool, calm, Cliff

Totally non-food related, I found Mrs. Rushdie's shorty shorts very distracting, in a not good way. I realize she was dressing for the beach, but really. Mrs. Joel had much better dress sense.

TGIFriday's comfort food

The main elimination challenge was to make an "adult version of comfort food", and the winner's dish was to go onto TGIFriday's menu. Again, we saw more people whining about 'this is not what I do', but screw them. I am not a big fan of TGIFriday's - while most meals there have been quite okay, some of the worst food I've ever had has been eaten there to be honest - but hey, restaurants that serve as a sort of backup to the kitchen are indispensable.

It's hard to say whether the three top dishes were so much better than the rest (oh I wish we had at least Smell-o-vision) but they did look good. The dish I wanted to try the most was Ilan's smoked roasted corn, but it just missed out from the top three - maybe it was a bit too much like a side dish rather than a main.

topchef2_ilancorn.jpg

topchef2_samsalad.jpg

Cliff's fish fingers and mac and cheese also looked excellent, as did Sam's fruit salad, but Betty's was chosen I think because it's the easiest one to replicate in mass quantities, and possibly also because it had the cheapest ingredients. Also it's chock full o' fatty calories - would fit in the TGIFriday's lineup well. [Update: see my lower fat version of the soup]

topchef2_bettysoup.jpg

The three bottom ones were quite clear - Frank's fantasy forest whatever was just too bizarre, Michael's steak sandwich looked awful and sloppy, and Emily oversalted her dish. I did think that Michael was going because of his terrible attitude, but I suspect the hand of the producers in keeping him around for at least one more week since he's sort of mildly entertaining, a potential walking disaster, and Emily is just too colorless.

Phew, watching two Top Chefs in a row and recapping them is not easy. It makes me feel rather full. Next week, we look forward to gasp, cheating. Or not, we'll see.

(Sam's fruit salad is not listed on the BravoTV site's Rate the Plate section oddly, but the recipe is there. It looks like a simple glitch, though I guess it's sort of tempting to think Conspiracy.)

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