Top Chef: Episode 4.4 Gourmet or No Way?
This week's challenge on Top Chef 4 seemed like a lot of fun: plan a course based on your favorite film. Unfortunately, it didn't seem like some of the teams really got into the true spirit of the challenge, in my mind.

It seemed like the logical thing to do would be to think of what your actual favorite movie is and to plan a meal that has a special and unique significance to that movie, maybe with ingredients or components that are related to things in the film. Some teams, it seemed, simply shoe-horned a meal into the concept, rather than starting from the movie for real.

While Richard Blais, Dale Talde and Andrew D'Ambrosi definitely captured the creativity of their selected film, and their dish was rated the best, I still wish that the actual elements or ingredients had harkened back to film itself. I am also not putting it into the Gourmet column for this week's Top Chef 4, though.   Harold Dieterle confirmed in his Bravo blog that wasabi and white chocolate are a great combination, but I just have to taste it to believe before I can get behind that dish as a delicious starter that I would enjoy.


So instead, I'm putting Stephanie Izard and Lisa Fernandes's duo of beef with savory caramel and apple potsticker in the top. I am still not entirely sold on the idea that using cow because your favorite film had a cow in it is really the most creative solution…but this sounds like a really interesting combination of flavors and the judges noted how original and delicious it was.

A close pair of runners-up for me are Nikki Cascone and Jennifer Biesty's pasta dish, and Ryan Scott and Mark Simmons' tribute to A Christmas Story. While the judges were critical of the pasta dish, the other guests enjoyed it, and Dale noted in his blog for the week that he thought it was a winner. Plus I'm just partial to carbs and mushrooms. The judges and guests all loved Ryan and Mark's, and I thought the contrast in textures (the duck breast and carrot puree against the crispy duck spring roll) must have made it a very satisfying little duo.


Spike Mendelsohn really seemed to steer this team into a ditch, and Manuel Trevino didn't appear to ever fight to take the wheel. In my post-show interview with him, he noted if he could do one thing differently, he would have helped with the assembly of the roll more.

However, theTop Chef 4  judges seemed to have some issues with the actual ingredients selected for the dish. They thought the sea bass was too fishy, they wanted a more upscale seafood, and they didn't see the Swiss chard as having a connection to the rest of the dish. So I don't know if improved assembly would have really helped.

It's a shame Manuel couldn't get Spike on board for a Like Water for Chocolate menu as I think that at least had more potential for some creative dishes. Execution is execution, though, and it would appear this team just was not the best pairing.

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