Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Top Chef: the Eric Ripert episode ... and a cool contest!

It's minutes before another episode of Top Chef, and I'm not done writing about the last one! My excuse: CRB had a gig last Saturday, and the week of a gig I spend extra time practicing, fretting about what to wear, etc. The gig ended up being a blast -- the Argyle Grill was packed and the crowd was great. If you're a Facebook person, check out CRB on Facebook! Become a fan, even!

Some quick thoughts and observations about last week's episode...

They started the with Fabio, then Eric Ripert -- I didn't know which chef to swoon over! Love both accents and both seem to be decent men.

The QuickFire was a three-round fish filet tournament. The whole thing was ... well, icky. Notable moments: Fabio nailing the delicate sardines filets (yay for him!) ... Leah giving up on the Arctic char filets and POUTING in front of Eric Ripert (are you kidding me?) ... the wiggly eels (ewwwwwww). And Stefan won ... he's getting to be like the Tiger Woods of this season.

I always Tivo Top Chef and fast forward through the commercials ... but just after the QuickFire, there was one commercial that made me stop and rewind. It was for a Quaker Oats Viewer QuickFire Challenge. Viewers can submit an original recipe made with Quaker Oats, and some will be chosen to compete in a Quickfire Challenge. The winner goes to a Top Chef taping!

"Looks like we'll be eating lots of Quaker Oats," my husband half laughed/half groaned.

To be honest, I've entered Quaker Oats contests before, and I've never won a thing, so I'm not liking my chances. The upside is that I have some good recipes ready to be tweaked and reentered.

I checked out the rules and found these interesting tidbits (I've paraphrased this stuff ... be sure to check out the official rules for yourself if you're planning on entering):

- Contestants must have nothing in their background that would be an embarrassment to Quaker® or Bravo, and contestants may not be elected officials or currently running for any political office (local, state or federal). If you are chosen as a potential Semi-Finalist you may undergo a background check conducted by Bravo! That is too funny! I have never seen that in any cooking contest I've entered.

- Limit one entry per person/ household/email address. I like this rule. Make one good recipe, submit it, and you're done. There won't be someone else submitting 50 entries to your one.

- "Contests and other competitions generate substantially similar submissions or entries ... entrants may subsequently see a presentation which seemingly incorporates an idea or concept or includes materials similar to that contained in their entry. Any similarity is purely coincidental and unavoidable in light of the volume of ideas..." This is SO TRUE! I've heard a few people gripe that someone else "stole" their idea for a contest. Seriously? Really, unless you're Wylie Dufresne or Ferran Adria, there's a high probability that someone came up with a similar idea.

- There will be up to 10 semifinalists, which will be posted on the Bravo Web site and voted on. Ugh! Cooking contest hobbyists are not fans of contests decided by voting. First, there's a fairness issue -- I've heard accusations that people with computer skills can run up the votes. Also, the winners are not necessarily the best recipes, but the people who have a large network of people to hound for notes.

- Each semifinalist must submit a photo. I'm not sure if it's a photo of the recipe or of the semifinalist. If it's of the recipe I'm OK with that ... not keen of submitting a photo of me (note the photo of my dog as my profile picture).

- Three finalists will be flown to New York to compete in the Quaker® Oats Viewer Quickfire Challenge. (I love New York, especially when it's on someone else's dime.) Each of the finalists will be required to create an original dish utilizing Quaker® Oats as an ingredient and the kitchen amenities and ingredient options provided by Bravo. (I actually tried a contest like this on a much smaller scale and crashed and burned ... but who knows, maybe the second time would be better.)

- The grand prize: a three day/two night trip to the host city of Bravo’s seventh season of Top Chef for Grand Prize Winner and one guest. The trip will include airfare and hotel, and will participate in a taping of a Top Chef episode during which the Grand Prize Winner and guest will get to taste the cheftestants’ prepared dishes! Holy cow! I hate the voting thing but I just may have to throw my hat into the ring for this one ... hmmm...

Back to the episode ...

The chefs were excited to dine with Eric Ripert at Le Bernadin. Eric says they have selected six dishes ... with six chefs dining ... I've gotta believe the chefs knew they'd either be recreating or putting their own spin on these dishes.

"No foo-foo ... not too many components on one plate," Fabio said about the food.

"He's super sweet and cute," Leah said about Eric Ripert.

"I'm bored with this kind of food ... it's not something I'm inspired by," said Jamie. She really didn't like a black bass and braised celery dish, and thought the sauce was weird -- so you just knew she was going to have to recreate that dish.

Did you notice that the chefs -- at least Jamie -- were wearing different clothes during their mini interviews? I wonder about the sequence of those interviews.

Eric and his chefs watched as the cheftestants worked, then he tasted the dishes and gave some guidance. Frankly, I was impressed with all the chefs. Not only did they seem to do a good job recreating the dishes, they all seemed to pitch in and help each other.

Toby Young continued to be rude. I don't think he offers anything to the show and hope he's shipped back where he came from.

I learned something new: monkfish needs to rest after it's cooked. I've never had much success with monkfish and I wonder if that may have been part of it.

Top three: Fabio, Stefan, Carla. I was happy for Fabio and Carla ... I wish one of them had won the challenge. But clearly Stefan has skills -- even though he is boastful, he has the skills to back it up. And he doesn't seem nearly as obnoxious as many of the personalities from past seasons.

Bottom three: Hosea, Leah, Jamie. It seemed to come down to Leah and Jamie. Back in the stew room, Jamie went and sat on Fabio's lap, which was a curious thing.

I was a bit surprised that Jamie went home, because she seemed to be one of the stronger contestants. Even though the judges discussed Leah giving up during the challenge, I think they truly focus on the food. You can be a ditz or a jerk ... but if your food is great, that's what's going to win Top Chef.


Sue said...

Yeah, I agree it's about the food, but I really think at times that more than THIS week's dishes should be considered. It's so clear that Jamie was superior to Leah, at least...if not others, that this was a mistake.

Plus...I'll vote for you.

Karen Harris said...

Hi Tracy! I can't for the life of me figure out how to subscribe to your blog but will keep trying. Its great. Loved watching your son play. I have a 14 year old lead guitarist in my house. Believe it or not, I don't mind having to constantly staighten the pictures in the house.

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