Thursday, April 10, 2008

Top Chef Chicago, episode 5

Yeah, I should be cleaning and packing for my trip to Dallas but I just couldn't resist spouting my random opinions on the most recent episode. SPOILERS AHEAD, so don't read if you haven't watched it!

- Ming Tsai -- yay! At the risk of sounding like Randy Jackson on American Idol ... I met him! He did a presentation at the Pittsford Wegmans a few years ago, and had a fun personality -- and the samples of his food were fabulous. Too bad his engaging personality didn't come across on Top Chef. I guess he took his guest judge job seriously.

- I'd probably stink at the quickfire challenge, which tested their palates. I was glad to see a girl win -- until they showed more of her personality as the episode developed.

- I still didn't like Zoi and Jennifer's earrings. But if Padma was wearing Zoi's earrings, I might consider them "fierce." Maybe it's all in the wearer.

- What was up with Spike's pointy straw baseball hat? Do you think it was supposed to look that way? Maybe he packed it in his luggage and it got mangled. (Speaking of which, I'm trying to figure out a way to pack my straw cowboy hat for the trip to Dallas ... the only solution seems to be wearing it, but I don't want to arrive in Dallas with "hat hair." Any ideas?)

- They cooked for the elimination challenge in the kitchen of the "old Marshall Field's building." Now there's a name that brings on a wave of nostalgia and emotion for Chicagoans, myself included. I have fond memories of Christmas shopping expeditions with my sister to the Marshall Field's on State Street. It's a glorious old building. I'm with those who thinks the decision to convert all Marshall Fields stores to Macy's was a corporate blunder. It's not enough that they kept Frango Mints. Here's a link to a site dedicated to bringing back Marshall Field's (lots luck to them).

- "Just remember, when you curse it calls attention to you," Nikki admonishes a teammate. Hmmm ... she HASN'T done much cursing, and we haven't seen a lot from her. Sounds like her fellow cheftestants have figured out how to get airplay on Bravo.

- About the salmon ... I distinctly heard the fishmonger say that they had some fresh Coho salmon, and since Richard said they used "wild salmon," I'll bet that's what they used. I grew up in Waukegan, which calls itself "the Coho capital of the world." Since my dad is a fisherman, I grew up eating Coho -- and haaattted it. The judges commented that it was mushy, blaming the sous-vide cooking technique. It's been years since I've choked it down, but I remember Coho having a watery, mushy texture, so maybe the problem wasn't sous-vide, but the fish itself. Anyway, if you're headed to the Lake Michigan area, let me give you my fish recommendations. First, Lake Perch -- a small, firm, mild tasting fish -- the best fried fish ever. If you head north, whitefish is the way to go. A Michigan fish boil is great, but my favorite preparation is when it's cooked and served on a plank, with mashed potatoes piped around it. Yum.

- Does Tom C. seem especially cantankerous this year? He seems to need an anger management course.

- Here's what I think is a hallmark of any professional: the ability to take feedback, critically judge your own performance and admit when your performance wasn't up to snuff. Richard admitted that he didn't like how the salmon dish turned out (although he didn't own up to not properly scaling the fish). Zoi, on the other hand, whined and complained about the previous challenge. I was glad to see her go. And not just because of the earrings.

- The previous elimination challenge winners didn't receive any prizes. THIS one gets a great trip to Italy?!! Woah, that's quite a disparity. I understand Dale getting ticked off about Lisa getting the prize for cooking BACON. I think Stephanie should have gotten the prize -- from what I could tell, she conceived the dish. And speaking of Stephanie, hooray for her being on the winning team! Go, girl...

- After the brouhaha about the butternut squash soup, I rewound to see whether Antonia said she'd make soup. She did. "If you both want to make soup, I'll do a f-ing good soup with you," she said, then went on to say why it was a bad idea. I do think Antonia was annoying and bossy ... but, truth be told, I'd probably come across the same way if I were ever foolish enough to go on a reality show.

- Next week looks like there's a challenge with a Bears theme! Hooray! Did I hear a guy ask when the last time the Bears won a Super Bowl was? I don't even have to look that up. It was 1985, and the team included the great Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, and "The Refrigerator" Perry. The QB was the rockin' Jim McMahon. Need I go on? And they were just in the Super Bowl in 2007. Whoever disses my Bears are going to get HAMMERED here next week.

In the meantime, I've got to get back to packing. If you're as much of a Top Chef junkie as I am, here's a link to the Top Chef blogs.


Deborah said...

I had a new least-favorite after this episode - Lisa. I couldn't stand how she would not have it any way but her own way. And she is very negative - I would never be able to work around someone like that.

But I was glad to see Zoi go.

Emiline said...

Yay! You posted a review! I'm so excited it's almost dorky.

-I agree; I thought the winner of the quickfire was cute at first, but I don't like how she bossed everyone around.

-Maybe Zoi's earring aren't "fierce" because she's wearing a chef coat with them? I'd be afraid they'd get in the way when I was cooking.

-There was a whole lot of cussing last night.

-Tom didn't like Richard's jokes.

-I bet Stephanie did the most work. I remember seeing her peeling and devaining the shrimp. Or something like that.

David Dust said...

Spike's pointy straw cap - what was THAT all about?!?

Click here for DavidDust's Top Chef recap.


Tracy said...

Deborah, I didn't like Lisa either. I do wonder how much the editing magnifies certain elements of people's personlities.

Emiline, I'm glad I made you happy! You're right about Zoi. I think the fact that nothing else about her looks funky makes the earrings look misplaced. But how much can you accessorize a chef's coat? And I thought it was funny that Tom didn't like Richard's jokes. I wish I was the kind of person who could NOT laugh when someone tells a bad joke. I'd go "ha, ha" politely. And I agree -- Stephanie probably did most of the work including prepping the shrimp (an ewwww job by the way).

David, your post was verging on spam but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. And your blog is kind of amusing, if you picture Christian from Project Runway saying everything you write.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

How cool! You met Ming! I couldn't read the whole post, because my husband and I have too many episodes to catch up on. :)

Nancy said...

Hi Tracy --

Only posting about a year late but obviously we just reconnected and I have now come across your Top Chef blogs. We were atually at the Meals on Wheels event at Marshall Fields (just can't say Macy's for the State Street location) as my husband is on the board. We sat in quadrant 1 (the losing quadrant) and I have to tell you that the carpaccio was just as bland as was discussed in the show. I figured if our quadrant didn't lose someone else had a disaster.

Also want to mention how nice Tom Colicchio was as well. I was telling him how much my son enjoys cooking and he asked for his address. Sure enough about a week later an autographed cook book arrived. Very nice of him.

I will enjoy reading your posts from now on.

Nancy B

Tracy said...

Nancy, I'll bet it was fun to be at that event. Glad Tom C. is nice, because he doesn't always come across that way on the show. Thanks for reading!

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