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Top Chef: New York, Episode 1 – Nothing Tastes Better Than a Bloody Apple


Ariane and Finn are in Long Island City and its Middle Eastern culture. She has no idea what a fava bean is. She has never seen Silence of the Lambs I guess, may I suggest liver and a nice Chianti?

Pretty Boy Jeff and Fabio are in Ozone Park and making Latin food. Jeff lives in Miami and correctly says that Italy is in another continent. He feels confident.

Radhika and Jill are in Jamaica, Queens looking into, well, Jamaican food. Not much interesting there.

Leah and Melissa (who?) are in Little Italy. Leah once lived in Italy and cooks Italian every day. Is she the new Nikki? [b]Melissa[/b] finally gets introduced and is from Centro Kitchen and is finding it tough going to get Italian cuisine down. Granted, she is non-existent this episode, but remember that Lisa was nowhere to be found for a couple of episodes last season and she went to the finals.

RGP and New York Daniel are in Chinatown. RGP is looking at black rice noodles – something he has never made before. BAD IDEA! He continues to ramble on and tells Daniel what he is planning to make. Daniel makes a dumb football analogy and I think he may be trying to hurt young RGP.

Alex and Eugene are in India. Alex is in heaven, and Eugene is walking on eggshells. Hopefully they won’t be in his dish. He asks the store employee about one of the prepared dishes and decides to try and replicate it.

We enter the GE Kitchen. Did you know that GE provided the kitchen? Hosea gets goosebumps. We get our usual prep work and chopping montage now. Pretty Boy Jeff thinks he has plenty of time. He doesn’t. Carla is trying to get bones out of her fish and Hosea says that is why he got filets. Smart. Richard is making lamb sliders – new at the Dubai White Castle – and is chattering to Jamie who wants nothing to do with that. Leah is making modern Italian food and says Melissa is making traditional. I don’t think Melissa can find Italy on the map.

Alex shopped for hats at Spike’s Hat Emporium. Eugene just wants to finish. Ariana is starting to run out of time. RGP is surprised that the Chinese noodles that he has no experience making came out badly. Jill calls this the fastest two hours of her life. Jeff is now freaking out and running all around. He says he saw Fabio plating and thought he should start and lo and behold only three minutes remained. Jeff fails to plate everything.

Commercials. The Bravo Poll is back. Who do you think the Bravo viewers like more – the Rainbow Alliance or the Euro Duo? I wonder.

The Judges enter. Jean-George Vongerichten is the guest, owner of Jean Georges in the Trump International Hotel and Tower which earned him the Chef of the Year award from Esquire magazine and the Best New Restaurant award by the James Beard Foundation. He also opened the Mercer Kitchen at the Mercer Hotel in SoHo and Prime, a steakhouse located the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Thanks, Google. Finn has seen him at the Bellagio. Crazy Carla respects him. I will be describing very little of what Jean-George says because I cannot understand a word he is saying and can’t keep up with the subtitles. With him are Tom, Gail and Padma.

First up, Ariana vs. Stefan.
Ariana – Crusted rack of lamb, whole wheat farro risotto with dates and chickpeas
Finn – Lamb chops with tabouli salad and beef onion skewer, with lemon oil, fennel and cinnamon
Gail likes the lamb, the risotto is undercooked. JG jibber jabbers. Tom liked the cinnamon. Finn wins.

Second, Richard vs. Jamie. Richard has the hots for Tom, and would buy him multiple drinks at the bar. There are tons of gay men out there yelling at Richard to lay off Tom.
Richard – Lamb sliders with orzo feta pasta salad. For what it’s worth, that sounds and looks awesome.
Jamie – Deconstructed Greek salad, eggplant puree, seared bass with wild arugula salad, vinaigrette.
Gail liked Jamie’s and thought Richard overcooked the lamb. Tom agreed. Jamie wins.

Third, Radhika vs. Jill.
Radhika – Jerk rubbed halibut on three bean rice with mango salad
Jill – Macadamia nut crested plantain fritters with jerk spiced salad. Yummy.
Gail needed more from Radhika. JG jibber jabbers something about being mushy. Tom thinks the scallops were overcooked. Gail likes Jill’s char. Jill wins.

Fourth, Fabio vs. Pretty Boy Jeff.
Fabio – Mango and jalapeno demi-glace pork with mushroom and avocado salad. He also has Ryan-like abilities to talk about his food.
Jeff – Cuban coffee seared pork tenderloin, smoked plantain with black beans, rice and corn. That sounds really good.
Tom calls Jeff on his bad plating skills. Fabio gets hit for bad seasoning and that his knifework got covered up with stuff. Jeff wins a split decision.

Fifth, Hosea vs. Carla.
Hosea – a smoked fish trio with caviar, crème fraiche, and apple chutney. He used salmon, trout and another fish that I couldn’t make out. Sounded like servo? All I can think about is Tom Cervo from Mystery Science Theater 3000, and that makes me sad.
Carla – smoked trout and wild salmon cakes over potato latkes. She used Russian sour cream and black caviar.
Gail thinks she needs more seasoning, and JG calls for something with mayo. Tom likes Hosea and thinks it gave him a sense of his style. Padma called it “culinary eloquence.” Wow. Hosea wins easily.

Sixth, Leah vs. Melissa.
Leah – Farro risotto with seared red snapper and mushrooms – Leah schooling Ariana on how to make risotto.
Melissa – seared ribeye, arugula salad, fried mushrooms and tomato sauce. I assume the sauce is to make this “Italian.”
Tom likes Leah’s fish and calls it “earthy.” Again, I will say that I hate that adjective. Where else would it come from? Gail liked Melissa’s sauce but Tom thinks it was underseasoned. The salt and pepper criticism could apply to most losers this week. Strange that such simple spice would create so many problems. Leah wins.

Seventh, Patrick vs. Daniel.
Daniel – Ginger poached chicken salad with bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and fried wantons. He has some kind of Marcel Foam on there too.
RGP – Seared salmon, bok choy and black rice noodles. That’s it.
JG knows his Asian food and calls RGP out on the gummy noodles. Padma agrees. Tom thinks it was “one note.” JG also calls Daniel’s salad “a little wet.” Tom says that he has “seen salad, and Wolfgang Puck has been making it for 20 years.” Methinks, Tom doesn’t care for either dish. Gail was not inspired by either. Tom says Daniel’s had more flavor, so Daniel wins.

Last, Alex vs. Eugene.
Alex – Grilled lamb chops, spicy ragout with basmati rice
Eugene – Masala rubbed lamb with Basmati rice and tzatziki
Alex claims to have used his Latin experience in Indian food. Ok. Tom thinks that it was nice and spicy. JG gives Eugene props for a true Indian meal. Padma tells Eugene that he stumbled upon one of the most “classic dishes” which is served in all Indian homes and did it well. She doesn’t knock that he’s a tracer. Eugene wins.

Tom thinks that if Episode 1 is any indication that this will be a good season. He says that RGP is an amateur and it shows. Gail thinks Radhika missed the mark. Ariana is in trouble as well as Tom rips her apart.

Commercials. I don’t watch the Tim Gunn show. I wonder how that will work out once Project Runway comes out of production purgatory.

Stew Room. Boy, it looks crowded. Melissa is sweating bullets out of her pants. Ew. Carla is freaking out. I think that sentence may become common this year. Drinks are broken out. Fabio thinks the judges really like salt and Carla loudly agrees. Padma calls back Finn, Eugene and Leah from the winners and RGP and Ariana from the losers. RGP reaches over Richard to take Ariana’s hand and Richard is caught by surprise. That amused me.

[b]Judges table. Winners.[/b]
Leah – Tom thinks she really captured new Italian cooking
Finn – Tom thinks that there was a lot going on but it felt simple. JG jibber jabbers some more.
Eugene – Padma is amazed he has never made Indian food before. Gail thought it was delicious and perfect. JG thought the sauce was absolutely divine. I totally thought he was winning this from all the praise.

Padma says that all but once has the winner of the first challenge won the whole season, so no pressure on Finn who pulls the Daily Double this episode and wins the challenge. He wants to be the first European to win Top Chef. After Steph last year with Girl Power, I wonder if we will be getting a different demographic each season aiming to the first. I want to be the first incompetent to win Top Chef.

[b]Elimination Gong.[/b]
Ariana was not familiar with Middle Eastern food. She shopped and grabbed what she saw the most of. Tom says it was undercooked. Ariana says she shouldn’t have called it risotto. Tom tells her that all details matter here. RGP is told that his dish had no inspiration and was devoid of Chinatown anywhere. And no knockoff Prada handbags either!

RGP wanted to “highlight clean flavors.” Gail said it tasted the same and calls him on the bad noodles. Tom thinks RGP made a “cliché of Chinese food everywhere.” Ouch. JG jabbers. Tom calls it “sanitized” Chinese food. Double ouch.

Ariana is not off the hook. Padma says that as an NJ native she has access to all kinds of food in this region. Tom wonders what would happen if someone came in and wanted a Middle Eastern meal. I assume she is a caterer, or else the menu should take care of those requests. She says she could look at books and Tom gives her an awesome evil eye before saying, “you don’t cook from books, you cook from experience.” Both Ariana and RGP give uninspiring attempts at saving themselves and are sent back.

Padma wonders if they send away the newbie or the seasoned chef. JG says that RGP thought putting bok choy on the plate would make it Chinese. Gail thinks he can’t handle outside the box thinking. She also thinks Ariana should have known better. Tom says she failed a test of her basic cooking skills.

Commercials. Poll results. Shockingly, Bravo viewers supported the Rainbow Alliance at a 70-30 clip.

[b]Knifing.[/b]
Tom calls Ariana on her technique and RGP on his lack of inspiration. Padma knifes RGP. Meh. He didn’t really belong anyway – he was WAAAAY out of his league. He tells the Chefs that they have to make their own coffee and them leaps on Richard.

This season on Top Chef: Cursing. Fires. Jamie is called a bad name. Martha Stewart. Appalling Rice. Padma spits out food. Rocco is back and not dancing. Weapons of Mass Destruction found. And of course, tears.


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