Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top Chef Chicago: first reactions

Some random thoughts on the first episode of Top Chef Chicago:

- Why, oh why, did they have to start with the Chicago institution that has been turned into a TGI McFunsters (a Bourdain-ism)? I probably know why -- I'm sure Uno's paid for the placement. I would have preferred Gino's East, although my sister would pick Lou Malnati's. My sister actually has Lou Malnati's delivered to her home in Florida! I had it delivered to me here as a gift, and I have to say that it was better than anything I've had here. (I love just about everything about Rochester, except the pizza. If a reader from Rochester wants to prove me wrong, I'd be thrilled.) But I digress. There are so many ways you could go with Chicago cuisine -- I hope they get less predictable in future episodes.

- The contestants who didn't have a deep dish pizza at the ready were not well prepared. Come on, that couldn't have been more obvious (or fair, as challenges go). The contestants should know how they might tweak a Chicago hot dog. They should be ready to cook with beef and should know their sausages.

- I loved all of the shots of Chicago. Chicago is beautiful, clean and gleaming. Chicago is uplifting and energetic. Chicago is friendly. This show is going to make me seriously homesick.

- The elimination challenge was interesting. They do seem to want their chefs to know the classics. When I heard chicken piccata, the only thing that came to mind were capers, which I've only recently began to tolerate. They look like little turds to me. I know there's an animal that has turds that look just like capers. If we still had "Everyone Poops" in our library I'd look it up, but it wound up in the donation pile awhile back. (More boy influence... sorry if you were eating as you were reading...)

- Cool that Anthony Bourdain was a judge. I'd love to see him be a regular, but I suppose that would interfere with his globetrotting. No more Rocco -- bring on some Chicago chefs! Gale Gand ... Rick Tramonto ... Rick Bayless ... Charlie Trotter ... I hope they all make an appearance.

- The winning dish was impressive. I was glad to see my hometown girl win!

- With all these reality shows, they seem to show the person who gets eliminated the most, don't they? First her dish was under salted, then over salted. Seems like Cooking 101 to me.

Now I will ... not ... waste lots of time going to check out the blogs on the Top Chef site. Will ... not ...


Anna said...

Tracy, I loved the pizza challenge. The fact that half of the chefs couldn't gauge how much dough they needed and the terror the contestants showed at making souffle's (next challenge) was more evidence that cooking and baking are different arts and that these contestants weren't really bakers. So I enjoyed the challenges BUT, what I did not like, was all the swearing. A little swearing is okay, but like salt, too much of it ruins a dish. Maybe that's why they call it "salty language?". Hmmmmm. It got to the point where it was painful to listen to some of them speak....especially one guy whose name I won't say but who won't be eliminated fast enough!

Caroline online said...

Tracy - I feel the same way about hometown pizza (and greek salads) as you do :D Enjoy the show.

Patsyk said...

I was glued to the TV last night as well. This crew would appear to have a better "pedigree" based on what I have been reading, but not knowing how to make a piccata dish? I could understand not being totally comfortable with a souffle, but for these chefs the rest of the classics should have been no-brainers!

The one who went home, was not a surprise... over salting and knowing it before it was served? It does seem like they gave her a lot of screen time last night, I guess in preparation for her leaving?

Tracy said...

Anna, I agree about the language. Like the scampi, it was too salty. I'm not a prude about language -- I'm a fan of Anthony Bourdain after all -- but enough already. Bleep, bleep, bleep -- pretty soon there will be more bleeping than talking. And I agree there's a guy who MUST be eliminated quickly but I can't keep the names straight yet.

Caroline, now I've got to make me a Greek salad. I feel an onslaught of Chicago cooking coming on ... deep dish pizza (not that I ate that much when I lived there) and Greek salad ... yummm....

Patsy, I thought last year's contestants had some awesome pedigrees but I don't follow restaurants & chefs enough to be able to compare last year to this year. You're probably right about piccata.

Tracy said...

I am posting a comment that was left:

"The Challenges were much better-designed than the lame stunts mostly employed last year.

Your memories of Chicago don't fit with my recent visit where I was accosted by smelly panhandlers 4 times. And the restaurants ALL sucked.

12:58 PM"

I'm posting it because the person has a right to express his opinion. But I'm not posting a link to his blog because I find it to be hateful and offensive.

Emiline said...

WELL, I visited Chicago just a few months ago, and found it to be a lovely city. Very clean. The food was excellent also.

There were some annoying people on the show. The girl that lost annoyed me, and I'm not sure why. She just seemed out of it. You'd think she'd know how to season food if she was going on TOP CHEF. Cauliflower scramble? Ewww. I'm pretty open minded about food, but that just seems wrong.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Dang! i forgot all about this. Will have to catch a repeat.

Deborah said...

I will love you forever!! I was in Chicago once, for less than a day, but we enjoyed the best pizza ever. I have been trying to remember where it was to tell my husband that we need to go there one day, but I could never remember. But once you mentioned Gino's East, I knew that was it!! I will never forget now...

I agree about the swearing - way too much. And I was glad the girl that left got booted - I think I didn't like her because of the whole anti-social thing. If you're going to be there, you might as well have fun and try to enjoy it!!

Tracy said...

To the nameless commenter, my experience is that there are panhandlers and bad restaurants in every city.

Emiline, glad you liked Chicago! A "cauliflower scramble" sounded icky to me, too.

Susan - gasp! You didn't arrange your life around Top Chef?!!

Deborah - Glad to make your day on Gino's East. It's easy to remember because of the graffiti all over the walls and booths.

Anna said...

Tracy, I don't know if I told you this, but I had dinner with Bourdain and a group of friends one evening. He doesn't really swear. He's very articulate and funny.....drinks and smokes a lot, but I don't remember him swearing.
The swearing on the show was just ridiculous and distracting and I'm not sure why the editors kept it in. They must not have liked the contestants much. Or maybe there was just SO MUCH SWEARING that they spared us MOST of it and we still ended up with what we got.

Also, I think that guy who didn't like Chicago needs to give it another chance. Maybe he was just in the wrong part of town.

Tracy said...

No you didn't tell me you had dinner with Bourdain. How very cool! I'll bet that was fun. Interesting that he doesn't speak with profanity, because he sure does use it when he writes.
Anyway, I agree that it was too much on Top Chef.

RecipeGirl said...

SHOOT!! I missed this. Hopefully my TV tivo'd it!!

Jenny said...

I just finished watching the show that I had tivo'd. I am so glad the new season started. I always look forward to it!

My husband and I are NOT fans of UNO's pizza, but I enjoyed watching all of them during the pizza challenge. I think we could have taken them on this one!

Like Anna, I was put off my all of the swearing, it's really unnecessary.

I'll look forward to seeing what they all have to cook up next!! Some of their dishes are so "out there!"

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