'Top Chef': Has anyone worked in a kitchen before?
January 6th, 2011
01:34 PM ET

'Top Chef': Has anyone worked in a kitchen before?

In seven seasons of "Top Chef," we’ve seen contestants take over restaurants for service plenty of times. I don’t think we’ve ever seen it go as badly as it did last night.

In fact, the entire episode seemed to be a lot of trial and error... heavy on the error. It all started with the quickest Quickfire challenge in the show’s history.

The chefs had to make a dish in the same amount of time as head judge Tom Colicchio. We’ve never seen Tom cook on the show before, but he started from scratch and knocked out a fully composed dish in 8 minutes, 37 seconds. Not bad, if you’re into gourmet food made in the same amount of time it takes to cook pasta.

The contestants didn’t have to recreate Tom’s dish, they just had to match his time. There’s the first error of the show. Why didn’t we get to see a cook-off between the judge and the chefs? Yes, Colicchio would win (hello, he’s a producer), but it would still be awesome. Essentially, we got a cool cooking demonstration followed by a really short challenge, with no link between the two other than a clock. Nice concept; bad execution.

Points to Marcel, though, who snagged Tom’s unused fish instead of scrambling in the kitchen for ingredients like everyone else. Points off to Angelo, who saved time by making a raw dish, which Tom explicitly said not to do. Following instructions: it’s fun for everyone!

Mike took the win and a car for his troubles. Not bad for less than 10 minutes of work. Meanwhile, I felt terrible for Dale, who tried to make noodles and ended up with nothing on the plate. He then pinned his hopes for redemption on the elimination challenge, and if you’ve ever watched a minute of a competition reality show in your life, you knew this was going to end in one of two ways.

The chefs were faced with the challenge of taking over a dim sum restaurant in the middle of Chinatown during the lunch rush. Dim sum is a bunch of small dishes being served constantly, so speed and quantity are king. Sounds perfect for a group of chefs who obsess over every single component on the plate and making sure it looks just right. I could try to recap how the experience went, but I think Mike said it best:

“Everyone sucked and everything sucked.”

Ouch. But yeah, this was just a colossal failure from top to bottom. The dishes took forever to come out. Nearly half of the dishes were lackluster at best. Diners got so tired of waiting that some walked out. At one point, Tom had to go down to the kitchen to try and get things on track. Honestly, I lost track of how many contestants said they were embarrassed.

And that shines a spotlight on a problem I’ve been having with this season. With the "All-Stars" format, I was expecting to be blown away every week. Instead, a lot of chefs that I considered top-notch don’t seem to be up to the task here. I’m not sure if it’s that the challenges are that much more difficult or if the chefs aren’t as enthusiastic on a second go-round, but something’s not clicking.

I also think part of the problem is that there are just too many chefs. I lose people in the shuffle week to week. The next episode looks to be a double elimination, so that should help. Either way, I hope we start to see some of the contestants really shine soon. Right now, it seems like the focus is on how bad the bad dishes are, rather than how impressive the good dishes are, a balance that I’d like to see reversed.

But on to the results. Dale takes the win (in the same episode where he talked about redeeming himself, can you believe it?) and Casey is sent packing after trying to make chicken feet. A bold attempt, to be sure, but when your food gets left on the plate in a restaurant where customers are so hungry they’re trying to snatch dishes off the carts, it’s not a good sign.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Chris

    Chicken nuggets > Dog tacos & feet

    January 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dagger 1

    Jaime, Jaime, Jaime... Lazy, lackluster, insipid... Should'a been gone. Show not impressive on any level... Unless you like watch'in a plane crash.

    January 7, 2011 at 4:23 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jan Michael Vincent

    How the hell could feet of any kind taste good?

    January 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shinji

      Chicken feet is a common delicacy in Asia. Maybe you should try eating it before saying anything. We cook it usually in soy sauce, vinegar and a bit of oyster sauce and SPRITE.

      January 6, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • viewer

      You shouldn't insult other people's cultures. Just because it's distasteful to you, it doesn't give you the right to be disrespectful to other people.

      January 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • PippyLongstocking

      Better than eating chicken nuggets squeezed into the shape of dinosaurs, served with corn-syrup bbq sauce. YUCK.

      January 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Aji

    A few thoughts:

    I agree that it would have been nice to see Tom's demonstration tie in a little better. It seemed a bit of a leap, although it was cool to see him do his thing.

    As far as the rest of the quickfire, I totally agree that Angelo purposely blew off the explicit instructions given to him, thinking that somehow he would get by anyway because he's THAT amazing. Kind of a bush league move. Marcel is crafty if nothing else. I am a little surprised that you felt badly for Dale. True, he didn't get his Pad Thai noodles on the plate, but honestly – was it that smart to try to make noodles from scratch in 8 minutes???

    For the Dim Sum Challenge, all I can say is wow. Very disappointing. For all of the discussion regarding embarrassment, the only one who moved any faster or tried any harder was Antonia. And she was dumb to align herself with Jamie for that stupid long bean dish. And then to ignore the dish completely other than commenting on seasoning. I was, of course, sad to see Casey go, but if her chicken feet didn't taste good, then she was clearly the loser. Nevertheless, it was disappointing to see Jamie (yet again) make it through, with not 1, not 2, but 3 bad dishes this show. Hopefully they'll give her the boot next time around. She is clearly out of her league.

    January 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. San Jose

    Jamie needs to go home. It's getting rediculous. She was one of my favorites on her season, but I can't stand her on All-Stars; she barely cooks, and when she does it's mediocre soup or scallops. Over it. Get her out of there!

    January 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kenna

    Chicken feet are a Dim Sum delicacy. This episide wasn't realistic or fair. The only reason Tom Colichio moved that fast is because he had time to decide on a dish. The hcefs had 10 minutes to come up with a plan. And even the most trained american chef would never be able to do Dim Sum well. And Casey should not have been the one to leave. Still can't figure out why Jamie hasn't packed her knives: http://foodiegossip.blogspot.com/2011/01/top-chef-all-stars-jamie-lauren.html

    January 6, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jan Michael Vincent

    Chicken feet? What is this, Top Chef Ghetto?

    January 6, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |

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