Culinary Showdown 5: 'Hell's Kitchen' vs. 'Top Chef'
This week on Hell's Kitchen, the chefs finally had the chance again to do a Top Chef-style challenge. After several weeks of technique-related challenges, like pasta-making, fish-filleting and chicken butchering, the Hell's Kitchen chefs were allowed to let their creativity loose on their own gourmet pizza.

I have to admit that I do really like these challenges better than the technique ones. While those might be interesting in the way that watching a footrace might be, I feel like we get enough information on their skills at technique in the service portion. Part of being an executive chef is also menu-development and tweaking current dishes to make them as good as possible.

Although an executive chef can't run a kitchen well without also being a master of the individual techniques (and won't have the respect of his or her underlings without also having impeccable skills), I would have thought Gordon Ramsay would want more opportunities on Hell's Kitchen to see how well the chefs can conceptualize and put together a delicious dish all of their own creation.

I'm hoping we can see more of these challenges as the season progresses as they are definitely illuminating. We knew that Jen was a little bulldog in the kitchen, but would you have guessed that she could assemble a pizza from basic ingredients so good that it would win out over one with more upscale items and creative concept?

On the other hand, on Top Chef, technique wasn't the stated focus in the Quickfire Challenge this week, but it was certainly a critical component to any chef's success in any Quickfire, really, but this challenge especially.

The challenge of creating a meal in fifteen minutes is obviously conceptually tough no matter what. But once you have the concept, you must have those razor-sharp technical skills at the ready in order to execute the dish successfully in such a short time frame.

Remember last season of Top Chef, when Casey Thompson slowed down her whole team in the Mise en Place Relay Race? Even if the challenge isn't to simply chop onions the fastest, lightening-quick knife skills means you can spend less time just trying to get the ingredients prepped and more time seasoning and perfecting your dish.

Ultimately, the chef who should prevail in either show should have both aspects covered: technique and creativity. Whether the structure of each show's overall challenges actually truly reward the chefs with that perfect combination remains to be seen.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Images courtesy of Bravo and Fox)