This week’s contestants are:
Graham Elliot Bowles, the chef/owner of Graham Elliot in Chicago. He classifies his cooking style as punk rock, and Colicchio and Oseland confirm that he’s won a lot of acclaim and awards for his offbeat cuisine. He’s playing for the American Heart Association.
Suzanne Tracht, the chef/owner of Jar in Los Angeles. She likes to cook seasonal, simple foods. Rayner tells us that she’s a West Coast chef, and she likes her food to be uncomplicated. She’s playing for SOVA, a Los Angeles food pantry.
Wylie Dufresne, frequent Top Chef guest judge, and chef/owner of wd50 in New York. He’s the king of molecular gastronomy, my least favorite kind of cooking, although maybe I’m just jealous because I just don’t have the patience for that kind of food science. He’s playing for Autism Speaks.
Elizabeth Falkner, the chef/owner of Citizen Cake and Orson in San Francisco. Gail Simmons lets us know that Falkner is an avant-garde pastry chef and award winner. Falkner promises that she can cook things other than pastry, and she’s playing for Edible Schoolyard, a charity that teaches kids about cooking and eating.
Quickfire: Create an amuse bouche from ingredients found in a vending machine. The judges are Ilan, Betty and Michael from the second season of Top Chef. Suzanne Tracht wins the challenge with five stars for her Fried Shallot Rings with Microgreen Salad and Dr. Pepper Aoli. Betty practically licks the bowl, she loves it so much. Wylie screws up his timing and curses a lot. No, like A LOT.
Elimination Challenge: Cook dinner for the creators of Lost, which is a weird cross-promotion since they’re on different networks. Apparently Carlton and Damon and the other writers are big Top Chef fans, and the challenge is to create a dish using island ingredients without using the normal Top Chef pantry. Instead, they have to use a lot of canned and preserved ingredients, combined with the fresh ingredients found on the island.
Elizabeth makes a duo of boar: loin of boar with ancho garlic rub, and tenderloin of boar with coffee rub, and she adds a papaya-yam pudding.
Graham makes a trio of tuna: maki roll with dehydrated pineapple, tuna Niçoise with Kalamata olive oil and coffee crusted tuna loin with risotto and hearts of palm.
Wylie makes roast chicken with poached egg, banana mustard, plantain puree, coffee and onion granola and beets. Wylie’s plating gets screwed up and one diner ends up with two pieces of chicken while another has none. Oops.
Suzanne makes uni risotto, mango salad, boar strip loin, oyster beer sauce and baked yam.
They have really got to find a way to make the awarding of the stars segment more interesting because yaaaaaaaaawn! Anyway, the winner is Suzanne Tracht, and she joins Hubert Keller in the finals. I found this group of chefs a little more exciting to watch than last week’s group, and let’s hope it only improves from here.
It's morning in Los Angeles and we're back in the Top Chef kitchen for round two. Since last week, I've been thinking about why exactly this show is kind of boring. On paper, if you like Top Chef, you should like this show too, right? And I think there are a couple of problems. One is that, while I don't love the interpersonal drama, there needs to be SOME form of interaction. I actually enjoy the camaraderie of the contestants after a few weeks, and the inside jokes, and the crushes and the bromances and whatnot. But with these chefs, you don't really get that as much, or there's not as much time for it to develop. And second is that they don't really show a whole lot of cooking. There's a lot of finished dishes, and then they spend way too much time revealing the scores. If I'm going to watch masters, I'd like to see them actually cook and explain what they're doing and why they chose that technique. Just a thought.
The first chef competing this week is Graham Elliot Bowles from Chicago. He claims that his cooking style is "punk rock" and Tom Colicchio shows up to let us know that Graham is a young upstart who has won awards for his cooking. He uses crazy ingredients like Pop Rocks! I don't know how I feel about that. I'm far from a food snob, but Pop Rocks? Graham is playing for the American Heart Association because he has a nephew who's awaiting a heart transplant.
The second chef to be introduced is Suzanne Tracht from Los Angeles. She cooks simple and elegant food, and likes food that's in season. Sounds like every contestant from last season's Top Chef. Jay Rayner says she's definitely a West Coast chef, because she cooks simple food that tastes great. Suzanne is playing for Sova, a food pantry for the needy. Suzanne promises us that in the "heat of the moment," she will "erupt like a little volcano." She demonstrates her version of erupting by tapping on a countertop when a waiter doesn't immediately pick up the food. Really? That's erupting?
The third chef is old Top Chef favorite, Wylie Dufresne. The molecular gastronomy guy. Since he's also from Chicago, he and Graham already know one another, and have a friendly rivalry. This is like when David and Nate were cast on Real World Seattle and it was a SCANDAL because they already knew one another. Okay, it's nothing like that, but remember what a scandal that was? Wylie explains that he resists being known as the molecular gastronomy guy because "it doesn't sound sexy." He should come up with a new name for it then. Molecgastron? I don't know. Anyway, Gael Greene explains that people go to Wylie's restaurant to eat cutting edge food. I like my food on the regular edge. I'm just old-fashioned that way, I guess. Wylie is playing for Autism Speaks, because he has some family members affected by autism.