Top Chef
First Impressions

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Tastes Like Chicken

The first group presents their dishes to Gail, Colicchio, Padma, and Bourdain. Joey From New York steps up first and reveals his seared buffalo rib eye with an heirloom tomato salad and grilled scorpion fish with Mediterranean salad, olive tapenade, and potato chips. Sara N. also had the buffalo rib eye and is serving it with a black truffle sauce along with her razor clams that she topped with a sweet corn chowder, charred corn, and buttered carrots. Damn, that looks good. Clay nervously steps forward with his pan-seared wild boar chop and cornbread dressing with scorpion fish. Ah, now we see the fried fish tail; he stuck it in the middle of the cornbread dressing cake. It looks like an orange feathery fan. Lia crusted her rack of wild boar with sesame chili and it's nestled in a warm pile of ginger lentils. She also made a sea urchin panna cotta. Do you think she used sheet gelatin for that? Casey, who we haven't seen very much, used alligator tail to do a twist on country-fried steak. That's the most interesting part of her dish. Her other part is braised greens with razor clams but we don't get to know what she really did to them. CJ of the Hill People explains his ostrich tartare with horseradish and tarragon. It's sitting on top of spider crab meat and the whole thing has an anise and tomato broth carefully ladled around it. Sandee injected her frog legs with Cajun spice before deep-frying them and then made a jambalaya with the spider crab. Poor Howie steps up and announces that his ingredients were sea urchin and frog legs and what he's giving them is a sea urchin and chanterelle risotto with a sea urchin emulsion. Howie explains further that he was unfortunately unable to get the frog legs on the plate in time. Colicchio looks mightily perplexed at this, and Bourdain glances questioningly down the table at him. Howie admits to us that he's embarrassed have performed so badly in front of those judges.

The cheftestants leave, and the judges tuck in. Bourdain is pretty impressed with Lia's plate, and Gail likes Sandee's playful dish. Colicchio comments that CJ made one dish out of both ingredients instead of two separate, mostly independent preparations. He really likes it. Bourdain likes the sea urchin risotto and notes, "I guess he had frog leg problems?" Colicchio doesn't understand this because during his Sniff 'n' Sneer, Howie maintained that he had everything under control. "He had plenty of time," Colicchio adds. Gail has decided that Clay's dish is her least favorite of all. Colicchio thinks it's inedible. The boar chops are tough and the seasoning is off. "The chops look dead on arrival," Bourdain comments. Oh, now I know that's not the best you can do, Tony. "It's kinda got a home cooking kind of a thing, but a home I wouldn't want to live in," he adds. There it is. I can just picture Bourdain writing out these bon mots before he shows up for the taping. He knows that chances are, out of fifteen cheftestants, at least one of them will prepare a "home cooking kind of thing" that he can rip on. For all we know, he's got another line ready and waiting for comfort food. "I know it's supposed to be comfort food, but I'm feeling UNcomfortable putting it in my mouth."

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Top Chef

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