Top Chef: Episode 4.6 Gourmet or No Way?
After all of my complaining about the Top Chef 4 cheftestants doing a bunch of team challenges, they are finally back to an individual one and I realize that means: more work for me! I had a lot of dishes to review and consider this week as I tried to pick the top (Gourmet!) and bottom (No Way!) dishes for the week.

It was also made a little bit tougher by the fact that the act of grilling can make food look somewhat similar, and it seems like most of the chefs put out some really good food. However, based on the comments of the judges, the blogs of some of the folks on set, the description of each dish, and the reactions of the fans, I was able to narrow it down. Here's some advice to anyone who might ever need to write a similar column: do not do this exercise when you are hungry. It's like torture!


Dale Talde, and his Tandori Pork Ribs and Potato Salad with Golden Raisins, Dried Mango and Tumeric, of course, makes it onto my list because he got a uniform response from everyone. The fans liked it, the judges thought it was the best, and the notes on the Bravo blogs confirmed it. It also just looks very appealing and I appreciated how, as in the Block Party challenge, Dale respected his audience and was appropriate to the venue while not dumbing down his food.

Lee Ann Wong, Season 1 Top Chef contender and now show consultant, said in her blog that “Dale's ribs and potato salad, however, kicked ass. I ate an entire quart of the [leftover] potato salad in one sitting.” That's pretty high praise coming from another chef.

I'm also putting Richard Blais's Paté Melt with Spicy Mayonnaise & Pickled Cucumber on the list because…well, look at it. Don't you want to eat that? On the sandwich side, Antonia's Jerk Chicken sandwich received better ratings from the fans, but according to the blogs, Richard's was up there as well for the judges, with Gail Simmons saying it “was a stellar burger alternative that we also really enjoyed.”

I bet I would like Antonia Lofaso's too, but based on both getting positive feedback and then just going by the visual, I think I would gravitate towards Richard's at a tailgate party since it looks more appealing and easier to eat. Antonia's addition of grilled fruit sounded tasty as a topping, but also looked like it would shoot out the back when you tried to bite into the sandwich and I hate that.

Jennifer Biesty's Chicken Marinated with Harissa and Quinoa Tabbouleh wasn't there at the top, but again, she did get kudos from Lee Ann for having a delicious dish, and it is just very visually appealing. I also like that you get the two little courses rather neatly; first you eat the skewer, and meat on a stick is always a good way to go at a tailgate party, and then after you're done with that, you have a little grain salad (that no doubt soaked up a little of the grilled goodness) to eat with a fork.

Stephanie Izard's Pork Tenderloin with Pear, Potato and Bacon Salad also got good reviews, but just going, again, on visual appeal and what feels more “tailgatey” to me, I think I would head over to Jennifer's station first.


I have to go with the bottom three: Ryan Scott, Nikki Cascone and Mark Simmons.  Ryan's Bread Salad with Maricated Chicken, Poached Pear and Brandy Cocoa dish was too difficult for tailgaters to eat easily, and the comments about the actual taste make it sound like it wasn't worth the effort.  Gail Simmons noted that "The chicken was flavorless, the bread salad was dry, and the hot cocoa was watery." 

Nikki's Sausage with Peppers and Grilled Shrimp with Hot Sauce and Spiced Cider might have tasted okay,  but the storebought sausage just makes the dish seem like ordinary grub and not Top Chef fare. 

Mark Simmon's Chowder and Chicken Skwers were apparently relatively tasty, but his messy station would have turned me way off. 

What do you think?

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Images courtesy of Bravo)