Top Chef
First Impressions

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Keckler: A+ | Grade It Now!
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Tastes Like Chicken
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Apparently, the Keckler Kocktails I added to my Apprentice: Martha Stewart recaps were such a success that I've been getting emails from Top Cheffians demanding to know why I'm not adding them to my Top Chef recaps. Okay, well, I'm adding them starting now.

Blue Moon Over Miami

1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 bunch rose geranium
2 oz blueberry juice
2 oz Tanqueray gin
1 lime quarter

The Shake:
To make the rose geranium syrup, put a small, non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Add the water and sugar and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water. Bring to a simmer. Add the leaves and flowers of the rose geranium and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Combine the blueberry juice, gin, 2 teaspoons of the cooled rose geranium syrup, and some ice in a shaker. Stir rapidly and strain into a cocktail glass. Serve with the lime quarter.

Store the rest of the syrup in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Oh hey, Padma? How's tricks? What's that you say? Top Chef is back already? Damn. I feel like we barely stopped talking about Marcel's hair and now we gotta talk about Sandee and Dale's mirroring mohawks? Hung and Malarkey's names? CJ's sky-scraping body? I don't know if I'm ready for this. However, I am fairly certain that I'm totally not ready for those pointy dinners of yours probing the top of your orange satin wrap dress. But it's not about me, it's about the newest crop of cheftestants picked ripe just before they fell off the trees, heavy with their culinary talent. This time around, the prizes are basically the same: feature in Food & Wine magazine, showcase at the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, a spoiler on Food & Wine's website, a "gourmet dream vacation" in the French Alps where you will be forced to drink lots of Evian water, $100,000 in prize money furnished by Glad, and -- best of all, of course -- the title of Top Chef. Another new feature this year will be Ted Allen's role as a semi-recurring judge, which is pretty awesome.

Normally the credits are just what they are, credits. But when ten-foot tall CJ crouches in his black frame to smile sheepishly at the camera, I had to giggle. Very cute.

Miami has butts, boobs, and Sex and the City-ish tango music. It also has beaches, plastic surgery, and a flock of arriving cheftestants. And this is really the part I hate -- having to mentally establish all these cheftestants who won't really be established in our minds until they do something outrageous, bitchy, or wonderful. Sara Mair is a thirty-three-year-old chef from Jamaica, who is also a cheese maker. Gotta root for a fellow stinker! Of course, I only write about cheese for Cowgirl Creamery now and don't make it, but that's my next apprenticeship. She calls herself a "fromagiere," which I'm not sure is an actual word in French, but I'm glad this means we'll have at least one person, aside from Colicchio, who can properly pronounce mascarpone and Fourme d'Ambert. Clay Bowen, twenty-seven, is from Mississippi but is currently a sous chef at the Santa Barbara University Club. He thinks he's a "dark horse" because he didn't go to cooking school and is from the South. It seems to me there are more chefs out there who didn't train their way into debt by going to cooking school, so I'm not sure how dark of a horse that makes him. Maybe he's more like a dim horse.

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