The gang descends on the new Top Chef kitchen, and she is a beauty, piled high and pimped out with everything a chef, or I, could want. The foxiest part of the whole set-up, though, is the brown junior-high lockers that will be given to each cheftestant, for equipment and stash stashing (they were allowed to bring up to $200 of items they "cannot live without"). Looks like Whole Foods will be enjoying major product placement this season.
The Quickfire is, of course, deep dish pizza -- each cheftestant must create their own signature pizza using ingredients from the Top Chef kitchen or from their own collection, and part of a big slab of dough that, in its current form, looks like decidedly non-tasty leftovers from a neighborhood lipo clinic. They have 90 minutes to get everything ready for delivery to this round's guest judge.
Everyone scatters -- animated Andrew reveals that he likes "busting my ass and running around a lot," and nervous Stephanie cuts herself while chopping onions. Dale Talde (New York, 29, Sous Chef, Buddakan) explains that he tries to get his distinct point of view across in everything he does, which in this case translates to a pizza with sausage, pickled kohlrabi, scallions and sriracha sauce. Valerie Bolon (Chicago, 32, Personal Chef/Instructor) comes from a fine dining background, which doesn't include pizza, so she dives in with both feet with a meat and potatoes pizza. Certainly sounds like traditional Midwestern fare.
Manuel Trevino (New York, 33, Executive Chef, Dos Caminos) goes classic Italian with sopressata and rapini a la Sicliana. Nikki Cascone (New York, 35, Chef/Partner, 24 Prince) readily admits her New York background makes her a stranger to deep dish, and proceeds to make a white pie with mushrooms, truffle oil, and what is clearly about three times more dough than she needs. Mark decides to whip out one of his secret ingredients -- Marmite, a yeast extract, the unofficial national food of Australia and New Zealand and an, uh, acquired taste. "In the right hands, it can move mountains," says he -- good for him for going out on a limb in the first Quickfire, but that just sounds vomitous.
Antonia Lofaso (Los Angeles, 31, Executive Chef, Foxtail) -- oh come on, are we done with the intros yet??? -- draws on her Italian background for a pizza with burrata cheese, prosciutto, arugula and heirloom tomatoes. Richard strides right into less charted waters with his peach taleggio pizza with sweet tea sauce -- an admittedly witty take on deep dish combined with southern ingredients, but Richard can't quite figure out if said ingredients (plus what looks like some sausage) represent "my southern roots, or where I live now." Huh?