Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Off the Market

Congratulations to the lovely Meredith Lynn Davies for snagging Top Chef season one winner Harold Dieterle as her lawfully wedded husband. The festivities will take place this coming weekend, with a honeymoon in Italy to follow.

Mazel tov, Chef!  We at All Top Chef hope the two of you have a wonderful life full of food and joy.

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Heather Hurlbert

AGE: 40
HOMETOWN: Seoul, South Korea – currently resides in Atlanta, Ga.
PROFESSION: Executive Pastry Chef, Cherokee Town and Country Club, Atlanta, GA
CULINARY EDUCATION: Associates in Culinary Arts, C.I.A
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Apple Pie with Vanilla-Bean Ice Cream

Heather Hurlbert was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to the United States when she was adopted at age eight. By the time she was 11 years old, she was a United States citizen. Graduating from the Culinary Institute of America with a Bachelor’s in Culinary Arts, Heather has a passion for creating anything chocolate-related. Heather serves as the Executive Pastry Chef at the Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta, Georgia, where she prepares dishes from around the world. In Heather’s opinion, what’s the benefit of working with such a variety of food? “I’m traveling without really leaving my job.”

Recap Roundup: Top Chef DC Episode 11

Jordan Baker haikus: "Amanda goes home / For grey tuna. At ball game / Stick with crackerjack"

Minx Eats on Angelo's weirdness: "And Inigo reveals that he's a bit insane: when he was younger, he would pray to famous chefs at a candle-lit shrine he set up in a room in his home."

Cliffieland on Ed's big win and what it means: "And he wins a trip to Australia which he can take with that girlfriend we've heard so much about, mostly because she's always harping on the man that he never takes her anywhere and now they can go on a trip overseas together, but will probably break up because can that kind of relationship really survive a 24-hour plane trip? ... Or maybe I'm just projecting."

Eater.com on idioms: "Ed gets 'Hot Potato.' How is that an idiom? It's a game for children. 'Your idiom is Hungry Hungry Hippos. You have to cook a lot of little white balls for fat people.'"

Gawker on the elimination challenge's lack of weirdness: "The elimination challenge was to make ballpark food and to serve it at the Washington Nationals stadium, a refreshingly un-farfetched task."

Best Week Ever has some predictions: "Indeed, Amanda is sent home, leaving Kelly, Angelo, Kevin, Tiffany, and Ed to battle it out for the 4 finale spots. Kevin is the likely odd man out, and Tiffany is easily the favorite to win it at this point, especially with Angelo falling apart and confirming as we suspected from Episode One that he’s this season’s Stefan / Richard B. / Redhead Kevin 'Guy who’s good from the get-go but you can just tell he’s not going to win.'"

Serious Eats on Ed-in-drag: "The episode opened as my nightmares so often do: with Ed running around the Top Chef house wearing Tiffany's bright yellow dress. Personally, I thought Ed made one hell of an ugly woman."

What'ere, Jane Eyre on potato faces: "Angelo takes a little shot at him in interview, saying that Ed will look good on the packaging, since he kind of looks like a potato. I've been talking about Potato Faces in movies and on TV for years, but can't ever articulate what I mean. To paraphrase a more well-known quote: I may not be able to define Potato Face, but I know it when I see it."

Max the Girl on Angelo's lady: "Our extra bit of footage during the commercial break shows Angelo talking on the phone to his (mail order?) Russian bride. Turns out, he’s only seen her a couple of times but they talk on the phone constantly. Oh, this is not going to end well. (I hope they’re at least using Skype.)"

Speakeasy (WSJ) on Amanda's nasty tuna: "Amanda served brown tuna tartare to Eric Ripert and Rick Moonen. Oh, honey. Nothing we say can capture how truly bad, just awful really, an idea that was. She makes a few excuses but only undermines herself more."

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on the Quickfire winners...and bacon: "The favorites dishes are Ed's spring herb gnocchi. And Kevin's bacon three ways - pureed, poached and chopped. Although Angelo helpfully points out that there's no way Kevin's dish could be frozen. Still, Moonen says it was so delicious that he wanted to lick the plate clean. Understandable. Bacon kinda does that to everyone."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Malika Ameen

AGE: 35
PROFESSION: Pastry Chef/Consultant, ByM desserts
CULINARY EDUCATION: French Culinary Institute, Institute of Culinary Education in New York
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with Concord Grape Sorbet, Pecan Crisp and Ginger Caramel

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Malika Ameen's cooking inspiration comes from two things: ingredients and people. She believes that beautiful, delicious food brings people together. She is also passionate about traveling, as it often opens her eyes to new ingredients, techniques and flavor combinations. A single mother of three boys, Malika is always incorporating her "chef thinking" into the foods she cooks daily for her children, in order to "open up their palates and make eating as exciting for them as it is for me." The five ingredients she keeps on hand at all times are candied citrus, dried lavender, vanilla bean sugar, green cardamom pods and bittersweet chocolate.


Congratulations to our favorite reality show, Top Chef, for winning this year's Emmy for Outstanding Reality Competition Program!

About time!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Morgan Wilson

AGE: 37
HOMETOWN: Sonora, CA – currently resides in Dallas, TX
PROFESSION: Executive Pastry Chef, The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Sticky Toffee Pudding with Banana Anise Ice Cream

Morgan Wilson’s culinary career has spanned the globe. It began when he first enrolled at the California Culinary Academy, where he met Chef Nicholas Snell, who changed the course of his career by showing him the magic and possibilities of the pastry kitchen. Following graduation, Morgan worked at Essex Supper Club and EOS Restaurant & Wine Bar in San Francisco before leaving for Paris and studying at Le Cordon Bleu. After a brief return to San Francisco, he left for Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he worked alongside Francois Payard and also opened two restaurants, Cannelle and Supra. After three years, he moved to Southern California where he took a position at Aubergine with Scott Gottlich and went onto teach pastry at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. In 2006, Morgan moved to Dallas where he worked with Gottlich once more to help open Bijoux, and in 2007, he joined the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, as Executive Pastry Chef, where he continues to work.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Top Recipe - Top Chef DC Episode 11

Click here to watch Michael Voltaggio prepare Ed Cotton's winning shrimp and corn fritter.

And click here to find a printable version of Ed's recipe.

Friday, August 27, 2010

All Top Chef Interview with Amanda Baumgarten

Chef Amanda talks about her experience on the Bravo Show.

Click here for the podcast.

Amanda is working at Water Grill in Los Angeles.

Thank you Amanda!

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Seth Caro

AGE: 34
HOMETOWN: Chappaqua, N.Y. – currently resides in New York, N.Y.

Growing up in suburban New York, Seth Caro was pre-disposed to the arts from an early age, gravitating as a child towards music and drawing. Initially entering the kitchen in his teenage years as a short order cook, his serious culinary aspirations took shape only as he developed a fascination with modern pastry arts. Since then, Caro's journey has taken him through an eclectic array of galleys, including those of Nobu,Chanto, Perilla and Atria. Constantly pushing himself to expand his pantry of ingredients and his arsenal of techniques, his cooking remains rooted in a very simple and honest love for food. Seth sums up his culinary viewpoint, "Cooking is a celebration of nature and ofourselves. My best memories are colored with tastes and smells, and now when I cook for someone, I hope to provide them with a few new memories of their own."

Bravo Exit Interview - Amanda Baumgarten

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This Just In - Top Chef DC Finale Location Revealed!


NEW YORK – August 26, 2010 – In a series first, Bravo’s “Top Chef D.C.” takes the finale abroad as the final chef’testants travel to Singapore and get narrowed down to three on Wednesday, September 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Singapore is a melting pot of all things culinary – with influences of Chinese, Indian, Malay and Eurasian cuisines – their culinary landscape is constantly evolving. The final chef’testants are put to the test, embarking on many challenges indigenous to the region, encompassing both fine dining elements and native street cuisine all culminating in a dramatic fight for the title of “Top Chef” where the winner will be named on Wednesday, September 15 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. For more information, visit www.BravoTV.com. Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BravoPR.

Home to many of the best restaurants in the world, Singapore also feeds many of the most sophisticated palettes straight out of their legendary hawker centers. Hawker centers are all over the city/state, and feed the majority of the population breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between – there are over 16,000 hawker stalls in Singapore. With a rich and colorful heritage, Singapore is quickly emerging as one of the most highly regarded destinations in Southeast Asia for innovative and exciting food. The Quickfire challenge focuses on street food – by incorporating proteins, fruits, and vegetables commonly found in Singaporean food, it tests the knowledge of the chefs’ skills. The guest judge for the Quickfire is K.F. Seetoh, Singapore’s resident “Street Food Guru.” For the Elimination Challenge, Food & Wine Magazine’s Dana Cowin travels to Singapore to host an event at the ultra posh Tanjong Beach Club on the resort island of Sentosa. The final Elimination challenge is to cook dinner for Singaporean and International Chefs and personalities at the Jim Thompson Restaurant in trendy Dempsey Hill.

Before the polls close on “Top Chef D.C.,” BravoTV.com will keep the campaign covered like never before. In the days leading up to the finale, fans will be able to follow the chefs on their journey in personal behind-the-scenes video diaries of their trip to Singapore. Users can also get in on the action themselves, honing their kitchen skills and testing their mettle against other fans in our Top Chef Basic Training game. Along the way, BravoTV.com visitors will be able to pile up points with the Bravo Fan Rewards program, where users can earn points for checking out Top Chef content and cash them in for virtual gear. And one fan will win the Top Chef experience of a lifetime — the chance to visit the set and go behind the scenes during an upcoming episode — in our Top Chef Ultimate Reward Sweepstakes. During the finale, everyone can get in on the action and join their favorite chef’testants in our live Talk Bubble, an interactive social media event that lets Bravo viewers share the finale with the show’s stars via Twitter, Facebook, their mobile phones, and the new Bravo Now iPad application.

Viewers will once again be able to vote and crown one chef the Top Chef season seven Fan Favorite. Voting is from August 25 through September 8 via text message, on BravoTV.com and on m.BravoTV.com from web-enabled mobile phones.

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Tania Peterson

AGE: 39
HOMETOWN: Cambridge, MA - currently resides in Boston, MA
PROFESSION: Executive Pastry Chef, Max Ultimate Food
EDUCATION: BFA Photography, S.U.N.Y Purchase; Professional Program: Food Photography, New England School of Photography
FAVORITE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Red Kuri Squash & Mascarpone Cheesecake, with Cacao Nib & Marcona Almond Short Dough

Tania Peterson is the Executive Pastry Chef at Max Ultimate Food, one of Boston's most prestigious catering companies. She trained "on the job" at Tremont 647 in the historic South End after switching careers from food photographer to pastry chef when she was 30. She loves to make tarts of all flavors and textures from a simple, rustic Tarte Tatin to something more refined and exotic, such as a Mexican Smoked Salt & Habanero Caramel Tart. In 2008, Tania joined several area pastry chefs to cook at the James Beard House. Currently, Tania is expecting her first child and planning her next bold move.

ATC Love to Chef Amanda Baumgarten

Chef Amanda seemed to be judged the one most likely not to succeed by her peers, but she went further in the competition than many who were thought to be better chefs. As she put it, "I was the only sous chef to make it this far."

Despite her determination, however, it seemed as though her lack of experience often sabotaged her terrific instincts. In the Quickfire, for example, making macaroni and cheese with bacon in response to the idiom "big cheese" looked like a sure bet. However, Rick Moonen described the end result as "a sledgehammer to the gut." Then in the Elimination Challenge, the idea of creating a tuna tartare as ballpark food was a gutsy move. If done perfectly, her creativity could have put her in the top, but by chopping the tuna the day before, the final presentation was a turn-off for the judges and got her eliminated.

It's clear that Chef Amanda has a great deal of drive and creativity, and we look forward to seeing more from her in the future.

This post is only for positive comments regarding Chef Amanda Baumgarten. If you have anything negative to say about Chef Amanda Baumgarten or this episode, please leave your comment here.

Congratulations Chef Ed Cotton!

Chef Ed pulled off another win, this time in both the Quickfire and Elimination Challenges. His take on "hot potato" involved making gnocchi in only one hour. Rick Moonen said that the resulting dish was light and well thought out. For the Elimination Challenge, Ed created another winner in his Rock Shrimp and Corn Fritter which the judges said was creamy on the inside and spicy in just the right way.

After some struggles early in the season, Ed has emerged as a contender. With Alpha Male Kenny out of the competition and Angelo suffering from self-doubt, Ed is coolly moving to the top. It will be interesting to see if he'll end up going head to head with his pal Tiffany in the finals.

This post is only for positive comments regarding Chef Ed Cotton. If you have anything negative to say about Chef Ed Cotton or this episode, please leave your comment here.

Reactions to Top Chef DC Episode 11

Another day dawns at the Chef House. Ed rises in a glorious yellow dress supplied by Tiffany. Kelly is talking smack about Amanda and wishing her gone. Angelo, paralyzed by self-doubt, goes through all forms of self-motivating rituals to convince himself he can win.

Off to the Top Chef Kitchen where Padma is standing with guest judge, Top Chef Masters participant Rick Moonen, a.k.a. The Sustainable Mr. Limpet. For the Quickfire Challenge, each chef must create a dish based on a common expression involving food. The winning dish will be featured as part of the Schwan's Home Delivery Service, so it must be easily frozen. The chefs draw knives to see who gets what idiom and it shakes out like this:

Tiffany - Spill the beans
Angelo - Bigger fish to fry
Ed - Hot potato
Amanda - Big cheese
Kevin - Bring home the bacon
Kelly - Sour grapes

Everyone avoided the more risque "Hide the salami" because God forbid anything funny or clever should happen on this season. The chefs race about, scrambling to finish their dishes. Angelo is clearly rattled and Ed is struggling to complete gnocchi in one hour. Soon, time is called and Padma and Rick must taste the dishes. Rick is fairly poker-faced through the proceedings, but soon offers his judgment. On the bottom is Kelly for her chicken breast with brussel sprouts and grape puree, the combination of which Rick found too weird. Also on the bottom is Amanda for her mac and cheese with bacon, which Rick described as  "a sledgehammer to the gut." On the top end is Kevin for his light and balanced bacon three ways and Ed's potato gnocchi with spring vegetables and mushrooms, which Rick found light and well thought out. Of the two, Ed takes the win.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs must run a high-end concession stand at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. (They would have had it at Orioles Park, but there wouldn't have been enough people in attendance to sample their food). All six chefs must work as one team and produce six dishes. With 15 minutes to plan, Kelly immediately takes control and denies Amanda use of crab since she wants to make crab cakes. Eventually, they each come up with a dish and run off to Whole Foods to spend their $2,000 in 30 minutes.

Without crab, Amanda opts for making tuna tartare. Ed wants something fried, so he makes fried shrimp and corn poppers. With dim sum in mind, Angelo decides on making a sweet glazed pork bun served in a hot dog roll for the baseball feel. Kevin goes with chicken kabobs, Tiffany makes a meatball sub, and Kelly creates a crab cake BLT. During the 3 hour prep time, Ed begins to worry whether he'll be able to whip up enough poppers to satisfy the hungry customers. Amanda is lost on how to prep for the tartare, and chooses to chop up the tuna the day before. Angelo offers advice on how to do it, slyly neglecting to tell her to put oil on the tuna so it won't turn gray.

Back at Chef House, the chefs begin to wonder how they will organize their stand (taking orders, etc.). Angelo, sensing that Kelly is being "strategical," offers to take charge and expedite. The next day at the ballpark, Angelo begins to have second thoughts about his offer and decides that everyone should take their own orders. Kevin balks (nice use of baseball terminology there! -theminx) at the idea, saying that every restaurant has some sort of organization, and someone has to expedite. With Ed agreeing to plate Angelo's dishes, Angelo goes back to being expediter.

Service time arrives and hungry patrons begin to line up. Even three Nationals players stop by to try the food. The meatball sub and crab cake BLT are the big hits, and the patrons agree. Then Padma, Tom Colicchio, Rick Moonen, and special guest star Eric Ripert arrive to eat and judge. Overall, the judges are happy with the dishes, but of course there are issues with some.

Back at Judges' Table, all six chefs are brought out for critiques. To kill some time, Padma asks about how they chose to run the stand. This sets off a round of bickering over Angelo's indecisiveness and general douchiness. Padma and Tom look on like two disappointed parents while the producers rub their hands with delight that they might squeeze a little drama out of this dull series.

On to the food, Ed and Tiffany are called out as the top two. Tiffany's meatball sub was deemed messy but quite delicious with a strong touch of cumin seed. Ed is crowned the winner, though, for his poppers which were crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and very spicy. As the winner, Ed receives one of Rick's fish cookbooks and, more importantly, a trip to Australia.

As for the remaining four, Kevin's kabobs were judged to be difficult to eat with bland chicken and soggy French fries, Kelly's crab cake was too salty and the bacon was too fatty, Angelo's pork was too sweet and he did not put enough pork in the hot dog rolls, and Amanda's gray tuna was off putting despite decent flavor.

Of course, Amanda is the one asked to leave. This was a long time in coming and, while it could be argued that her dish tasted better than some of the others, her lack of skills and experience would not allow her to move on.

We're closing in on the final three. Who do you think it might be? Let us know what you think about this episode and the competition ahead.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Tim Nugent

AGE: 41
HOMETOWN: Alburgh, Vt – currently resides in Oakland, Calif.
PROFESSION: Executive Pastry Chef at San Francisco’s Sir Francis Drake Hotel
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S Culinary Arts, New England Culinary Institute

A native of Vermont and a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, Tim Nugent has both sweet and savory sides when it comes to cooking. His career began in Monterey, California, where he was Executive Chef at Fresh Cream Restaurant. He eventually relocated to San Francisco and landed at Acquerello, where he continued to create his signature savory dishes. Around the same time, he offered to do pastry as a favor for a friend, and the rest is history. From Zuni Café to Campton Place to Café Rouge (with stints at The Wine Spectator and Liberty Café, as well as the opening of Arlequin Café), his sweet creations have earned consistently high praise. Tim has also appeared on "Bay Café," a Bay Area cooking show, and taught local cooking classes. He has been Executive Pastry Chef at San Francisco’s Sir Francis Drake Hotel for over three years, and believes "Rustic, simple and delicious are always my goals."

Top Chef DC Episode 11 Previews

Only SIX chefs remain! And they must take over two concession stands at the Nationals Park in D.C., to whip up ballgame snacks for die-hard fans of the Washington Nationals major league baseball team. But ballparks aren't just serving hotdogs and peanuts anymore and the chefs can't fall back on that either! Can they take the classic ballpark staples and turn them into inventive, higher-end creations? Find out tonight, 8/25, @ 10/9c on TOP CHEF D.C.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Yigit Pura

AGE: 29
HOMETOWN: Ankara, Turkey – currently resides in San Francisco, Calif.
PROFESSION: Executive Pastry Chef, Taste Catering & Event Planning
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: Farm-Pluot Galette, Hazelnut Frangipanne, Vietnamese Cinnamon Chantilly.

Yigit Pura began his culinary training at the age of four in Ankara, Turkey while helping his mom make spoonfuls of dark caramel. His official culinary training began at the age of 20 in San Francisco, working in some of the top kitchens. He then moved to New York City, where he landed a position at Le Cirque 2000, and moved shortly after to The Four Seasons Hotel. Yigit then landed what he would call his "golden step," as the Pastry Sous Chef at Daniel, under Chef Daniel Boulud, where after working for two and a half years, he was promoted to Executive Pastry for Daniel Boulud in Las Vegas. He has since returned to San Francisco working for Taste Catering and Event Planning. Yigit relates his philosophy on baking to Buddhism – "Enlightened desserts lie between the two extremes. You have to respect the history and heritage of food, while still feeling inspired to re-create things everyday." If he could be re-incarnated as one thing in his next life time, it would be Jamaican Lilikoi (Passion Fruit), or a green cardamom pod.

Recap Roundup: Top Chef DC Episode 10

Jordan Baker haikus: "Alex. Alien / Outerspace veal parmesan / Bald head shines less bright."

Cliffieland on foreshadowing: "Angelo (Chef Last Douche Standing) tells us that if Kenny went home, no one is safe. He adds that he's mentally exhausted. This immediately telegraphs that he's in trouble this week. That and the fact that his face this weeks suggests he tangled with one of those salmonella eggs that have been making the rounds."

Fork in the Road (Village Voice) on why the show is losing its luster: "To me certain tropes had become especially tedious: the way that, when a new judge is introduced, the camera cuts to talking heads of contestants extravagantly praising him, even though you can tell they'd never heard of the guy before... The sprint through Whole Foods as if their asses were on fire...."

Minx Eats on the final moment: "And now comes the moment you've all been waiting for, at least since that whole ridiculous thing with the pea purée: Alex is asked to pack his knives and go. A bit of a relief, because the hating was getting on my nerves already."

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on Angelo's crumble: "At the grocery store, Angelos buys prepared puff pastry. His fellow chefs cannot contain their disdain. Is he trying to go home or what? In the kitchen, Angelo seems really out of sorts and off his game. It's almost like he's undergone a personality change. Maybe his nervousness is a disguise?"

Reality TV Calendar on the Quickfire: "The chefs were told they’d have to make a dish with the ingredients in their mystery boxes. OK, so far this sounds like “Chopped”. But they’re told they’ll be getting even more mystery boxes – and will have to incorporate the new ingredients as they go."

Eater.com on Angelo's mystery: "Far be it from me to gloat, but I was right and everyone in the entire world was wrong and you all owe me a hand-written apology. And the apology better be signed with your tears because I can only be sure it's sincere if you were weeping while you wrote it. What was I right about? All season long I have insisted that the arguably fiercest competitor Angelo is a spy."

Grub Street on the famous folks: "The big names came out again on last night's Top Chef, with this episode's guest-judging duties going to Wylie Dufresne and CIA director Leon Panetta. We'd like to think this, and the return of Eric Ripert, is a reward for sticking with the season, but we're guessing it's because August is ratings month."

What'ere, Jane Eyre on the puns: "I really need to come up with a shorthand term for those ridiculously terrible wordplay phrases Ptom recites each week. You'd think somebody would have noticed at this point how cringeworthy they are, and yet... 'You were asked to take a dish and disguise it, and in all your cases, your cover was blown.' Hork."

Serious Eats sums up the Quickfire: "Amanda was her usual confused self, Tiffany had no idea how to cook the ramps, and Angelo was so stressed out he was sweating more than Whitney Houston while performing at the Grammys."

Max the Girl on Amanda's spy lust: "Turns out, Amanda is a big CIA fangirl. They’re, like, her Jonas Brothers. She is positively squee-ing over the fact that she’ll be cooking for Leon Panetta (spy name: Fluffy Summerview) and his CIA cronies."

Monday, August 23, 2010

Meet the Pastry Chefs - Zac Young

AGE: 27
HOMETOWN: Portland, Maine – currently resides in New York, N.Y.
PROFESSION: Executive Pastry Chef, Flex Mussels
CULINARY EDUCATION: A.O.S. Baking and Pastry Arts, Institute of Culinary Education
FAVORITE SIMPLE FALL DESSERT RECIPE: "Upside-Down" Apple Crisp with Creme Fraiche Ice Cream.

While employed in the wig department of the Radio City Rockettes, Zac Young had an epiphany: he would rather be baking cookies than fluffing Santa beards. Born to a vegan mother, Zac never had chocolate mousse, but knew all too well the flavor of a tofu and carob pudding. After graduating with honors from the baking and pastry arts program at the Institute of Culinary Education, Zac went straight to the top, working under Sebastian Rouxel and Richard Capizzi at Bouchon Bakery. In 2006 he was offered a position of Pastry Chef at the New York City hot-spot Butter Restaurant. While there, Zac developed his signature style, using classic French technique, bold flavors, and fun to put a creative twist on American desserts. Always hungry for more, he trained in France with such renowned chefs as Philippe Givre at Valrhona and Philippe Parc at Chocolate Michel Cluizel. In 2009, Zac moved uptown to the bustling bivalve mecca Flex Mussels. His whimsical creations caught the fancy of New York Times’ Restaurant Critic Frank Bruni, causing him to exclaim, “how lucky of us to find room for dessert” in his review of Flex. In his free time, he can be seen making dresses out of chocolate for the opening night of the International Chocolate Show. His mother is proud, even though his desserts are not vegan.

TC News & Information 8.23.10

Bravo is launching a new Top Chef social game with Facebook connect. Click here for more info.

Serious Eats has a nice interview with season 1 champ Harold Dieterle in which they talk a little about his upcoming restaurant.

Restaurant Wars guest judge Frank Bruni dishes on his experience on Top Chef.

Broward Palm Beach New Times has a recent interview with Carlos Fernandez from Top Chef season 3. Part one is here. Part two is here.

Susur Lee on Chicken Testicles. And other things. Here.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Top Chef Just Desserts Preview!!

Who's Going All the Way?

There are six chefs left...which of them do you think will be the final three battling it out in ______________? (I know where the finale will be held - do you?)

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Voltaggios Support Share Our Strength

On Tuesday, September 28, 2010, Bryan and Michael Voltaggio will prepare an eight-course meal with beverage pairings for a limited number of guests at VOLT Restaurant to support Share Our Strength®’s efforts to end childhood hunger in the State of Maryland. This is the first time the chefs have cooked together in Maryland, and at VOLT, since leaving to embark on their culinary careers.

Tickets start at $1000 and can be purchased here.

Top Recipe - Top Chef DC Episode 10

Click here to watch Michael Voltaggio prepare Tiffany Derry's disguised version of a gyro.

And click here if you want to see the printable version of the recipe.

Friday, August 20, 2010

All Top Chef Interview with Alex Reznik

Top Chef DC contestant, Alex Reznik talks about his experience on the Bravo Show.

Click here for the podcast.

Click here to learn more about Alex's restaurant, Ivan Kane's Cafe Was.

Thank you Chef Alex!

Bravo Exit Interviews - Alex Reznik

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Congratulations, Chef Tiffany Derry!

Chef Tiffany Derry racked up another dual Quickfire-Elimination Challenge win this week, taking home both $10,000 for her Quickfire win and a trip to Paris for her Elimination Challenge win.

For the Elimination, Chef Derry was tasked with deconstructing a gyro, which she did by serving the elements of the traditionally messy sandwich separately, prepared in a refined fashion. Judge Eric Ripert called it "the most elegant gyro" he'd eaten in his life and one of the CIA guys said he'd order it anywhere.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Derry. If you have anything negative to say, please leave your comment here.

ATC Love to Chef Alex Reznik

This week we said goodbye to the much-maligned Chef Alex Reznik. During the episode, Amanda said she believes Alex is very talented, but often has problems with execution - and it was, ultimately, execution that sent him home.

Alex's task this week was to "disguise" veal parmigiana, which he did by creating veal parm tortellini. Though the judges praised his concept, they criticized the execution, saying the meat was "tougher than a post in Yemen" and the cheese was no better than what they could get at a street fair.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Reznik. If you have anything negative to say, please leave your comment here.

Reactions to Top Chef DC Episode 10

Just before this episode started, my friend Dara's Facebook status update was all about how NOT into this season of Top Chef she is. I hate to start all of my recaps with complaints, but she's definitely not the only one not feeling season seven. I'm ready for it to end.

That said, I didn't think this episode was so bad. So let's get to it.

When we join our cheftestants, they're reflecting on Restaurant Wars - namely the fact that Kenny went home and Alex didn't. Angelo is shaken because he shared Kenny's opinion that Kenny was one of the strongest competitors (apparently neither got the memo that strength usually comes in the form of winning challenges) and Kevin thinks it's a travesty that Alex is still around.

Alex, for what it's worth, does not think it's a travesty, and he's under the impression that Kevin's Judges' Table tirade was more about defending Kenny than about disliking Alex. Alex, sadly, is wrong.

Next up, it's Quickfire time. They roll into the kitchen and, as Ed says, "the first thing I see is Wylie Dufresne and his sideburns." They are some distinguished sideburns, Ed.

At this point it's all blah, blah, blah, "molecular gastronomy," then Padma is all, blah, blah, blah "CIA." The Quickfire, she explains, has to do with mystery ingredients. It's a twisted version of something Dufresne dealt with on Top Chef Masters.

It all starts with a "mystery box" filled with ingredients. The chefs have to make a dish using all the ingredients in the box. Possibly difficult, yes. But there's a twist: while they're cooking, they will be presented with additional mystery boxes and they'll have to use all those ingredients, too. At this point, I decide this is a truly difficult challenge. And considering they get four boxes, I'm pretty sure I'm right.

Everyone seems to struggle with this challenge, which hands them everything from squid and black garlic to hominy to passionfruit to jicama. Tiffany says she doesn't like surprises and Angelo is visibly shaken. They're all rushing around - Alex can't even find a can opener. It's a mess. Literally a mess: apparently everybody's extra secret ingredient is sweat. They're dripping in their food and, well, let's just hope they don't oversalt.

Ultimately, it looks like everybody pulls it together in the end - even Angelo, though his gelatin didn't set and he has to explain what he intended. Alex and Amanda end up on the bottom and Kevin's puree and nicely cooked fish and Tiffany's flavorful broth were on top. Tiffany takes home the win (and ten grand) and she's happy, as per usual.

The Elimination Challenge stretches the secret agent thing further. Padma explains that each chef will choose a classic dish and will be asked to give it a "new identity" - maintain the flavors while "disguising" the dish. Surprisingly, she manages to say all this without once using the word "deconstructed."

Oh, plus: they'll be cooking at the CIA. Not the culinary one, either.

They choose knives and this is how it shakes out:
  • Amanda - French onion soup
  • Ed - chicken cordon bleu
  • Angelo - beef Wellington
  • Tiffany - gyro
  • Kevin - Cobb salad
  • Alex - veal parmigiana
  • Kelly - kung pao shrimp
We learn something new this episode, too: everyone - and I do mean everyone - wishes they were a spy. With a Russian name. Natasha, Amanda? A 22 in your garter? Did you even know who Leon Panetta was before Pads explained it? I didn't think so.

Over the next few scenes we learn a few things:
  1. Alex used to be a wedding videographer. I am genuinely skeeved out by the thought of him filming anything.
  2. Kelly has never tasted kung pao shrimp and she still doesn't know where the Asian food aisle is in Whole Foods.
  3. Angelo thinks it's OK to buy frozen puff pastry. OK, so do I, but I'm not on Top Chef.
  4. Amanda a) likes Alex and b) thinks that deconstructing onion soup involves making...onion soup.
Our cheftestants roll into Langley and I have to admit - it's pretty cool. OK, I'll also admit it: they're not the only ones who want to be spies. My name would totally be Katarina. And don't think I wouldn't carry a 22 in my garter.

We see some nice teamwork in the kitchen - Tiffany talks Kelly off a ledge when she overcooks her rice, Amanda tries to give Alex some tough love re: his overcooked veal (but he's not hearing it) and everybody helps everybody else plate.

Out at the judges' table, we discover that spies sometimes aren't always Matt Damon-style guys. Sometimes they are middle aged ladies in hot pink ruffly shirts. So there's still a chance for me.

And the dishes? Here's how they shake out:
  • Angelo's beef Wellington is salty and the pastry's too hard. He knows it sucks, too.
  • Everybody thinks Kelly's shrimp is pad Thai, but they like both the flavor of the broth and the texture of the nuts with the shrimp.
  • Tiffany's refined gyro apparently kicks ass, just like La Femme Nikita.
  • Kevin's Cobb salad is good, but it's still a salad.
  • Alex's veal parm tortellini was a good idea but doesn't taste good.
  • Amanda's marmalade is too sweet...and she mostly just made French onion soup.
At one point during the meal, Panetta gets a little note and has to excuse himself to deal with, well, whatever he deals with. Tom has the audacity to look a little annoyed (but maybe I misread that?). He does have bigger fish to fry though, right? Please, Leon Panetta, blow off Top Chef for the greater good. I appreciate it.

What happens next? Well, to make a long story short, Angelo shakes a lot, but Alex goes home for his rock solid veal and bad cheese. Kelly, Tiffany and Ed are in the winner's circle and ultimately, Tiffany takes home the big prize (which really is a big prize - it's a trip to Paris).

Alex is a little bitter about being "seventh out" - and about the pea puree controversy. But I'll tell you what - I won't miss him next week.

What did you all think? Did Alex deserve the boot? Did the judges overlook some of Angelo's mistakes because he's a strong competitor overall? Could Tiffany seem any sweeter? Please leave a comment with your thoughts....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top Chef DC Episode 10 Previews & New Time!

After last week's shocking elimination, the chefs must regroup to guess the ingredients inside a mystery box for their Quickfire challenge where Top Chef Masters past contestant Wylie Dufrense serves as guest judge. The element of the covert carries over to the elimination round when the chef'testants have the privilege of cooking for CIA Director Leon Panetta and his closest allies INSIDE the agency's closely guarded headquarters! Will the chefs "wow" these stern critics? Find out tonight, 8/18, @ its *NEW* time 10/9c on TOP CHEF D.C.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Recap Roundup: Top Chef DC Episode 9

Jordan Baker with her Kenny haiku: "Please pack your velour / Bathrobe and go, Black Magic. / Kenny. No more. Heh."

Minx Eats on the Quickfire: "At the Top Chef Call Me Crazy But I'm Really Starting to Miss the Blatant Sponsorship Kitchen, the eight remaining cheftestants find Padma all by her lonesome with a table laden with colored aprons and blindfolds. That's right, kids, it's the always-exciting semi-kinky Tag Team Cook-off!"

Cliffieland on the Pelosi faces: "After some awkward words from the perpetually pinched-up pol, the teams explain their dishes and Pelosi tastes them. Team Blue's sautéed shrimp with angel hair pasta is a hit with the Speaker ... and leaves her looking like she sat on a tack. Team Red's aromatic snapper is also liked by the powerbroker, though she does note that it is a tad on the salty side. This leaves her looking like she discovered a snake in her Prada pumps."

Pop Watch is sad: "Poor Kenny. I didn’t see that one coming. Kicking him off marked one of the first time the judges seemed to vote just on that one meal as opposed to the cheftestant’s history. I know that the judges always say they don’t pay attention to history, but usually even if the ongoing champ bungles up a dish, he/she gets a second chance. And if that had happened last night, Amanda would’ve been eliminated."

Best Week Ever on the foreshadowing: "Kenny opens the episode declaring he’s going to 'unleash the beast,' which is sort of like the 'release the kraken!' internet meme, inasmuch as he never catches on. Anyone notice that Kenny has subtlely blown past Angelo as the most arrogant competitor on the show, only he hasn’t won in like 7 weeks? I’m sure this won’t end up mattering."

Speakeasy (WSJ) on the lamest name ever: "Angelo and Kenny take charge as executive chefs. Red Team boots Alex to front of the house, where he can do less damage. They call themselves EVOO, because it’s meant to evoke Mediterranean flavors… and not something that cook Rachael Ray says. Have we heard of a more daft name? No."

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on the salty screwup: "Tiffany makes snapper and leaves the fish head so the next chef will know what kind of fish it is. But when Alex goes next he seems confused but decides to season the fish. Tiffany nearly blows a gasket. It's too early to season the fish! It'll be salty!"

TV Squad on Bruni's blue team complaints: "'Felt like this was a beet salad done through the guise of Hamburger Helper,' Bruni says while chastising Kenny, who looks like he's going to either cry or jump over the table and throttle the guy. But, there wasn't time for either because Bruni starts laying into Amanda. 'What I had was a little overcooked, a lot under-juicy,' he says about her steak. 'It's like having a great pair of shoes with a really mediocre suit.'"

Max the Girl on the red team's Alex strategy: "Team Red, still trying to negate the Alex Factor, decides to put him in the front of the house. Considering that he seems like some sort of twitchy, low-level flunky in the Russian mafia, I’m not sure this is the wisest of ideas, but I do appreciate the need to keep him away for the food."

What'ere, Jane Eyre on Kevin's meltdown: "The blue team wastes no time in jumping down Alex's throat when they get back to the Kitchen. Kevin sounds about eleven (both in age and volume) as he leaps up and screams 'Your ass should be going!!! You didn't do a fucking thing!!!' How's that goal to control your temper coming along, Kevin?"

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Top Recipe - Top Chef DC Episode 9

Want to make Chef Ed Cotton's winning turbot recipe? Check out Michael Voltaggio in the kitchen here.

You can find the printable version of Ed's recipe here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

All Top Chef Interview with Kenny Gilbert

Chef Kenny Gilbert talks about his experience on Top Chef DC. Who will be the new alpha male?

Kenny is the new executive chef at Ironwood Grill PGA in Palm Beach Gardens.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef Kenny.

ATC Love to Chef Kenny Gilbert

Restaurant Wars can be a dangerous challenge for those who choose to become their team's head chef. Just ask Trey Wilcox from Top Chef Season Three. As he had in previous episodes, Chef Kenny Gilbert took the lead role and ultimately had to be held accountable for the shortcomings of the losing team. However, with this season more so than in the past, the chefs were judged on their individual dishes and the judges felt that Chef Kenny's overly thought out salad and salty cheese course were the worst of the blue team's offerings.

Despite being eliminated, Chef Kenny has clearly illustrated that he is a chef of impressive skill and talent. There's no doubt that he will have a shining career and will quite likely surpass the achievements of some who are still in the competition. ATC wishes Chef Kenny Gilbert good luck and great success!

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Kenny Gilbert . If you have negative comments regarding Chef Kenny Gilbert or about the episode, please leave them here.

Congratulations Chef Ed Cotton

It looks like Chef Ed is emerging from the shadows of the alpha males and becoming the new contender in Top Chef DC. During the daunting Restaurant Wars Challenge, Ed was named the victor with his Pan Poached Turbot with Eggplant Caviar, Black Olive Jus, and Fennel and Onion Saffron Fondue.

In a menu of proteins including steak and lamb, Ed's turbot was judged to be the standout. Also, while Angelo flamed out as self-proclaimed head chef and Alex stumbled both in food prep and front-of-the-house management, Chef Ed coolly focused on his food. With Chef Kenny now out of the running, it will be interesting to see how Chef Ed fares through the rest of the competition.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Ed Cotton. If you have negative comments regarding Chef Ed Cotton or about the episode, please leave them here.

Reactions to Top Chef DC Episode 9

A major flare-up and an elimination upset marked this episode of Top Chef DC, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Things start out peaceful enough as Amanda marvels over the fact that she's still in the competition and may have what it takes to go to the finals. Kenny, on the other hand, is not surprised at all that he is still in the running and quite confident of his success.

Off to the Top Chef Kitchen where the cheftestants find red and blue aprons laid out along with blindfolds. Everyone knows that this must be the dreaded Tag Team Cookoff Challenge. With two teams of four chefs, each chef will have 10 minutes to prepare a portion of one dish with 40 minutes total devoted to each team's dish. The chefs who have not yet cooked wear blindfolds so they have no idea what the previous team mates have done. The winning team splits $10,000. The teams shake out like this:

Blue Team

Red Team

Kenny and Tiffany go first. Kenny preps a mustard cream and some prawns. Tiffany preps some snapper. Next, Amanda decides to start pasta to go with the prawns and mustard cream, while Alex foolishly seasons the snapper. Kevin preps some herbs and toasts some parmesan for the blue team's pasta and Ed gets a poaching liquid going for the snapper. Finally, Kelly sears the prawns and plates while Angelo, not knowing that the snapper had been seasoned, re-seasons the fish. Realizing that the fish is now too salty, he adds dill and cilantro to balance the flavors and plates before time is up.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is the guest judge for the challenge. She loves the fresh ingredients of the blue team's dish as well as their ability to make al dente angel hair pasta. Although she also liked the red team's dish, ultimately the excessive amount of salt on the snapper gave the win to the blue team.

Now onto the part everyone was waiting for: Restaurant Wars! The two teams divide Redwood Restaurant to establish their own mini-restaurants. Since they will not be responsible for decorating the restaurant as they had in previous seasons, the focus will be on the food and each chef, even those working the front of the house, must be responsible for at least one of the dishes. Former food critic for the New York Times, Frank Bruni, is the guest judge and the Terlato Vineyards provides the wine.

There's the usual scramble for buying food and supplies. The red team seems to be grabbing anything in sight without a shopping list while the blue team is cool and organized. To bring order to the red team, Angelo decides to take charge (surprise!) and since Alex is basically worthless, they put him on food prep and working the front of the restaurant. Even during prep, Alex appears clueless about how to butcher meat or scale and debone fish. Meanwhile, the blue team is the picture of efficiency with Kenny taking charge (surprise!) and Kelly assigned the front of the house.

Let the Restaurant Wars begin! Red Team's restaurant is called EVOO (call your lawyers, Rachael Ray!) because it's supposed to have a Mediterranean feel. Blue Team's restaurant is called 2121 for the number of the Top Chef House. Their approach is "progressive American." Uh huh.

In the kitchen, Angelo starts to lose it and runs around the kitchen like a recently castrated capon. Out front, Alex is being a dick to the wait staff (surprise!). Once again, the blue team is rolling along smoothly, although Amanda appears to be struggling with the wood burning stove. Also, Kelly is out of her element as the front-of-the-house-runner, but is nice and helpful with the wait staff.

The doors open and the crowds arrive. For the red team, things immediately go south as Angelo is timing the tickets wrong and Alex is having to stomp out fires. He's schmoozing a table of diners when the judges arrive and misses his chance to make a good first impression. Alex also stumbles over explaining the dishes which come out, but the judges seem happy over all with the final product. The soup and Ed's turbot is particularly popular while the steak and lamb are deemed okay. The only bad dish is Tiffany's crudo.

Moving on to the blue team's restaurant, Kelly greets the judges warmly and knows the menu well. Unfortunately, Amanda is struggling with the grass fed beef, often overcooking it. The judges also feel that the corn soup is bland, the salad is overloaded with ingredients, and the steak is cut too thin to develop a crust. On the plus side, Kevin's halibut is cooked beautifully. As for dessert, the chocolate tart was good but the ice cream was blah, and the goat cheese was a salty "monstrosity."

Judgment time - The red team is chosen as the winning team and Ed is proclaimed the winning chef with his pan poached turbot with eggplant caviar, black olive jus, and fennel and onion saffron fondue. As winner, he receives a trip to the Terlato Vineyard. Of course, this means that the blue team is the losing team. Although Kevin is praised for his halibut, everyone else is criticized for their respective dishes. Bruni compared Kenny's salad to Hamburger Helper, and his poor cheese course is called "a horror show." Instead of addressing the shortcomings of their dishes, Kenny goes on the attack saying that the red team was disorganized in the kitchen. Kevin joins in, saying that Alex did nothing for the red team.

With one of the front runners out of the way, it's anyone's game. Will resentment toward Alex build? Who will emerge as the new alpha male (or female)? Share your thoughts with us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Top Chef DC Episode 9 Previews

Everyone's most-anticipated elimination challenge Restaurant Wars is BACK and it's a fight to the finish between the two battling teams! But first, the chefs are split into 2 groups for the classic Quickfire blindfolded relay race hand-off, where each team must work to create one cohesive dish! Will they pull it off under tight time constraints? And when legendary restaurant critic Frank Bruni steps in to judge ‘Restaurant Wars’, the two teams must pull out all the stops to execute their dream restaurant vision. Will tensions flare when egos collide between some very head-strong chef'testants? Find out tonight, 8/11, @ 9/8c on TOP CHEF D.C.'s RESTAURANT WARS!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TC News & Information 8.10.10

Season 2 cheftestant Sam Talbot talks to Eater about his upcoming restaurant at the Mondrian and his current place in Montauk.

Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle is opening a new restaurant in NY. Read about it here.

Meanwhile, season 3 winner Hung Huynh may be doing something with Bao king Michael Huynh in on the West Coast.

Recap Roundup: Top Chef DC Episode 8

David Dust on Tiffany's plans: "Today is a new day in Washington, D.C. – and the Cheftestants are still talking about pea puree. Everyone except Tiffany, who is thinking about her upcoming Costa Rican wedding and how she is going to afford it. After all, those little cocktail umbrellas aren’t going to pay for themselves."

Jordan Baker haikus: "Adeus, Stephen. / Brazilians speak Portuguese / But you wouldn’t know."

Cliffieland on the drinking version: "They head to the Safeway to shop and Kenny reminds us that 'this is a competition.' (Drink!)"

What'ere, Jane Eyre hates on Alex (like everyone else): "Kevin agrees, crabbing that Alex's style of cooking is to throw a bunch of darts at a wall and hope it works, which it never does. He thinks Alex is the weakest chef left. Listen, if he stole the pea puree, I'm all for treating him like a pariah. In fact, if he stole the pea puree, I'm all for kicking him off the show."

Max the Girl on the anti-Brazil sentiment: "On the map, 7 countries, including the dreaded Brazil, which nobody wants. Who knew that Brazil was the 'kid with the back brace in gym class' of countries? Angelo went so far as to fake pick Brazil and then say, 'Just kidding.'"

Minx Eats on the boring: "Although playing with various ethnic cuisines should seem exciting and interesting, I can't help but consider this episode of Top Chef the Worst. Episode. Ever. (Or at least this season.) Why? Because nothing happened. Not even any manufactured drama like last week's "Pea-gate" to liven things up a little."

Reality Check (Baltimore Sun) on the losing dish: "Gail says Stephen's rice was 'mealy.' Ick. She also attacks his use of chimichurri sauce, which she says takes her to Argentina. Detour anyone? Tom says he got the basics wrong."

Pop Bunker on peagate: "Did he or didn’t he? That’s the question everyone seems to want to know. I don’t care at this point. The whole angle has been beaten to death, and to read some of the comments over at the Bravo website you’d think Alex slit someone’s throat or put rat poison into Ed food."

Serious Eats on Tiffany's Quickfire win: "This was Tiffany's first quickfire win, and as Ed said: 'She beat Angelo [who used to work at an Ethiopian restaurant], and that's the best part.' Indeed!"

Reality TV Magazine on the top three: "They loved Tiffany’s tamales. This was Kevin’s first time making Indian food, and he nailed it. Kelly’s dish was not only beautiful, but Jose Andres told Kelly that he went to Italy and her carpaccio was great, if not better."

Speakeasy (WSJ) on the map: "Just as the producers tossed in foie gras alongside rattlesnake during the weird proteins challenge, this time, Mexico, France and Italy are offered alongside Brazil and Spain. Actually, all the cuisines (which included Thai, Japanese, Chinese and Indian) weren’t as esoteric as say, Ethiopian."

Single Guy Chef on Ethiopian food: "And I just realized I have never eaten Ethiopian food, and here’s where I share another of my food idiosyncrasies, which is I don’t like to eat with my hands. So that whole slurping up food with bread in the middle of the table is not my idea of a complete dinner."

Eater.com on Marcus Samuelsson: "Swedish/Ethiopian superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson, owner of the Red Rooster and winner of season two of Top Chef Masters, is our Quickfire judge. Kevin calls him one of the greatest chefs in the country right now, which is sort of true, but is Samuelsson actually cooking at any restaurants currently? Red Rooster's not even open. Maybe cooking is like boxing, and you only need to defend your title once or twice a year and also it's very corrupt and violent."

Omnivore on the chefs' ridiculousness: "For last night’s menus-round-the-world contest, contestant Ed boasted that he’s an expert in Chinese cooking (the world’s oldest cuisine, with an unbroken history dating back 400,000 years to Paleolithic times) because he’s 'had some Chinese girlfriends.' Stephen felt confident tackling Brazilian food 'because I took my family to a Brazilian steakhouse once.' Alex got hungry pre-service and ate so many of his Spanish tortas that he ran out of food to feed the guests."

Creative Loafing on the Quickfire irony: "What was ironic about the Quickfire results, was that the chefs who made two of the three favorite dishes, went into the challenge blind, being in the aforementioned majority of those with no experience with the Ethiopian flavor profile — one even going on to win the challenge and immunity."

Grub Street on the edit: "Tiffany took the win, which was completely unsurprising considering the producers spent a good minute showing footage of her remarking that she was ready to win. Oh Bravo, it's not foreshadowing if you do it every time."

Best Week Ever makes me miss Stefan: "Are the chefs gonna pretend to be sad every time someone goes home? Because it will happen literally every single week. Can someone just step up and say 'Another one of the interchangeably poor chefs lost again, getting us closer to the weeks that matter?' Stefan Richter actually used to scream that into the camera six times per episode."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kitchen & Dining Room Goodies Giveaway!

If you cook as much as I do, you're probably always lusting after the latest gadgets and goodies for your kitchens and dining room. All Top Chef can help ease your lust - we have a $60 gift certificate to Cookware.com (or any of the 200+ CSN sites) to give to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment and tell us what your favorite kitchen gadget is.

For you hard-core Top Chef fans, you could always use the gift certificate on Top Chef Master season 1 finalist Michael Chiarello's line of cookware, NapaStyle. Or you could be practical and use it on a Microplane zester. Or a set of knives. Or....

Ok, now for the fine print. Please read carefully.
  • Contest open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.
  • Please be 18 years of age or older.
  • Entrants who have won a prize from us within the past 60 days are ineligible.
  • The odds of winning are dependent on the number of entries received.
  • Winner will be chosen randomly and notified via email.
  • Only Entrants who provide valid e-mail addresses will be considered in prize drawings. 
  • Contest ends August 20th.
  • The prizing for this giveaway was provided by CSN. CSN is not a sponsor, administrator or connected in any other way with this giveaway.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

All Top Chef Interview with Stephen Hopcraft

Chef Stephen Hopcraft graciously answered our questions - including the one about the pea puree.

Click here to listen.

Click here for Seablue.

Thank you Chef Stephen.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Top Recipe - Top Chef DC Episode 8

Find the video of Michael Voltaggio preparing Tiffany Derry's winning tamale recipe here.

And find the printable version here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Congratulations, Chef Tiffany Derry!

Chef Tiffany Derry had a great night last night, taking home both the Quickfire win, which came with immunity, and the big prize, for her "$10,000 tamale," which represented the flavors of Mexico. Gail summed up the judges thoughts about the dish's taste, saying that she did a great job combining the meat of the tamale with the condiments, including queso fresco and tomatillo sauce.

Ultimately, guest judge Chef Jose Andres named Chef Derry the winner of the Elimination Challenge, saying her dish did the best job of representing her country. She won not only the challenge, but $10,000, courtesy of Dial, and a $10,000 donation in her name to the DC Central Kitchen.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Derry. If you have anything negative to say, please leave your comment here.

ATC Love to Chef Stephen Hopcraft

Last night we said goodbye to Chef Stephen Hopcraft, the mild-mannered underdog from Ohio. By all accounts, the chefs in the house love Stephen's personality, but unfortunately, the judges did not love his tribute to Brazilian food, saying his rice was "a mess" and his chimichurri was overpowering and too reminiscient of Argentina.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Hopcraft. If you have anything negative to say, please leave your comment here.

Reactions to Top Chef DC Episode 8

This episode started in an exciting way for me, when my DVR didn't record it, so I missed the first seven minutes. The drama continued when a thunderstorm knocked my satellite out for ten minutes mid-ep. So if this is a little shorter than normal, my TV apologizes.

When I finally go to the party, Padma and Marcus Samuelsson were judging the cheftestant's Ethiopian Quickfire entries, gently telling Kevin that his flavors were too mild, Stephen that his lamb meatballs weren't juicy, and Alex that his stew was dry, even if his tongue was bold (which I don't even want to think about).

On the flip side, Samuelsson tells Amanda (she's still there???) that her combination fo goat, spices and potatoes is fantastic. He moves on to a preening Angelo, saying his cooking is beautiful and he obviously knows a lot about Ethiopian food. But it's Tiffany who wins with her dish, which was hearty with flavors that really showed the similarities between goulash and Ethiopian cooking. So she gets all smiley and excited that she has immunity, while Ed's just happy that his ladyfriend beat his nemesis, Angelo.

Next up: the Elimination Challenge, and a talking head shot of Creepy Alex saying that he just never knows what's going on. So many curve balls or something. This three-second section sort of wraps up what's wrong with the show this season: a contestant who's boring in an unappealing sor of way looks at the camera and says something that's so banal it's hard to believe it made it through the edit. On one hand, I wonder if this is a casting and editing problem. On the other, I wonder if it's a problem with the show itself: are we out of new and interesting ways to look at food in this format? I hope not, but this season hasn't done much to convince me otherwise.

But I digress. The big unexpected move that Alex is referring to is Padma wheeling in a big chalkboard with a map of the world on it. Contestants will draw knives to choose order, then will each pick a country from the nine highlighted. They'll cook 100 portions of a dish inspired by that country and will serve it to foreign dignitaries and other big deal types at the Meridian International Center. They won't have cooking facilities at the event, only sterno, but nobody seems terribly ruffled by this.

There's not a lot of drama during the knife pull or the selection, and here's how it ends up:
  • Tiffany (who picks first because she's having a very lucky day) - Mexico
  • Kelly - Italy
  • Amanda - France
  • Kenny - Thailand
  • Alex - Spain
  • Angelo - Japan
  • Kevin - India (he has never cooked Indian before, which means he'll either win or go home)
  • Ed - China
  • Stephen - Brazil (it's not entirely clear if Stephen even knew Brazil was a country, but he has been to Fogo de Chao)
Next stop: Whole Foods, where Kevin has to ask where the spices are hiding (he hasn't figured that out by the ninth challenge?) and my Direct TV takes a little break.
When the show resumed, everybody was running around the kitchen frantically and screaming for extra storage space. I take a moment to think about how much this looks like every other episode of Top Chef ever.

Once food is packed and hands are up, we venture back to the cheftestant abode, where Kevin talks to his kids and pregnant wife, in a move that confirms that he's either leaving or winning. Kelly, on the other hand, gets a care package from her husband and it includes a bottle of whiskey. I think I like her husband.

The next day (or the same day?) everybody trucks over to the Meridian House, which I have to admit is an impressive building. They scurry around chopping (Tiffany) and bragging (Ed), prepping and waiting for the arrival of the guests, which include ambassadors from their represented countries.

Amanda discovers that the boeuf in her boeuf bourgignon is dry, so she decides to solve the problem by cutting it into small pieces...which actually makes sense. Stephen then realizes that his rice - one third of his dish - is overcooked. Everybody knows that overcooked rice is just as bad as an undercooked scallop, so I start mentally saying goodbye to Stephen right then and there.

The judges enter, bringing with them Samuelsson AND Jose Andres, who is a giant of Spanish cooking, molecular gastronomy, and the DC scene. It's got to be a little thrilling for the cheftestants. And Alex must be wetting his pants.

Overall, the chefs seem fairly pleased with the food. They're quick to note that Stephen's rice is off and they say Alex's veal cheeks and jamon torta lacks focus and Ed's tea-smoked duck breast doens't have enough flavor. But their criticisms - at least the ones that end up on camera - sound pretty mild. Plus, they're interspersed with a bunch of ambassadors raving about the food. Especially Mr. Bahamas, who thinks Tiffany's tamales are the best, best, best ever.

It seems, though, that Amanda's dry beef will be saved by her delicious sauce, and Kevin's lack of Indian experience is overcome by the fact that he did a really good job incorporating Indian flavor into a personal dish of stewed chicken.

Back at Judges' Table, Padma calls in Kelly, Tiffany, and Kevin, telling them that they're the top three (while Angelo and Kenny scowl back in the stew room. Andres tells Kelly she honored Italy with her gorgeous local carpaccio of beef. Kevin hears that he took Indian flavors and made them his own, or something like that, and Tiffany's tamale was rapturous. Well, I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist, and Tiffany continues her lucky day with a big win that comes with $10K for her and $10K in her name for Andres' pet charity, the DC Central Kitchen. Tiffany looks thrilled and Andres looks genuinely surprised and touched that the show would do such a thing...which warms even my cold-to-reality-TV heart.

The bottom three, on the other hand, are Alex, Stephen and Ed (who everybody thinks is a pretty good chef). Amanda skates by for another week, and I really hoping that Alex's pervy face will go home, all the while knowing that there's no way the judges can keep Stephen after his overcooked rice debacle.

And so it is Stephen who goes home. He says goodbye with grace and thanks...wholly unaware that the DVR buster has just shown him getting the old plastic-wrap on the toilet seat prank courtesy of Angelo.

Way to go out on top, Stephen.

So what did you think of the episode? And the season so far? Am I the only one who's sad that she's bored? Please leave a comment with your thoughts...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This Week on Top Chef DC!

The remaining chefs must tackle exotic Ethiopian cuisine for their Quickfire as Ethiopian-born –and Top Chef Masters 2 Winner– Marcus Samuelsson determines who gets it “right.” For the elimination, the cheftestants are tasked with creating a dish based on one of the foreign embassies in DC; established chefs, ambassadors, and dignitaries representing each country will all lend a hand in the judging. With the competition coming down to the wire, the pressure is on to present a perfect representation of each country’s cusine –will the chefs follow through or fall short? Find out tonight 8/4 @ 9/8c on BRAVO’s TOP CHEF D.C.