Articles for Top Chef Season 4

The first episode of Top Chef 4 has our latest batch of cheftestants arriving in Chicago, the town that will be the home for this season. Tonight, we‘ll have our first chance to see the chefs in action and see how well they withstand the pressure of competition.We get a few glimpses into the chef‘s backgrounds: Ryan comments that he started cooking in his dad‘s kitchen when he was 11 and two other chefs were fired because he “outcooked” them at 11 years old. Zoi notes that she brings a softer side to the competition. New Zealander Mark says he came to the States with only $200 and a backpack, and wants to use the winnings to start a restaurant.The chefs all convene at Pizzeria Uno (let the product placement begin!) where they dutifully comment about how great it is to be in a Chicago institution (right, an institution that‘s been franchised across the country). Richard, who, like Marcel Vigneron of Top Chef 2, likes to use modern techniques that are sometimes called molecular gastronomy, thinks that Chicago is a great blend of high and low, street food and fine dining. Read more »
Last night was the premiere episode of Top Chef 4 and our first glimpse into the culinary profiles of the 16 chefs who are competing for the ultimate title. Some seemed eager to push the boundaries, some seemed like hearty comfort food is their style, and some just seemed a little in over their heads.So if we had to make a dinner reservation tonight just based on what we saw in last night‘s episode, which chef‘s maitre d‘ would be getting the calls and which chef‘s dining room would be likely to be looking pretty empty right about now?With the usual caveat that we, the home viewer, really haven‘t got a clue as to what the real story is since we can‘t taste the food, here‘s my picks for whose food seemed most and least appealing. Read more »
Even viewers who consider themselves foodies might get caught up in the personalities and the drama on Top Chef 4, and lose sight of what the judges are focusing on: the individual cheftestant‘s ability to put delicious food on the plate. Of all the networks, Bravo does the best job, in my opinion, at keeping their competitions focused on the subject matter rather than the ancillary drama. Nevertheless, in order to keep the widest possible audience engaged and interested, sometimes the editing of the show might focus on something other than the pure cooking process and results.A professional chef, though, will be able to catch more nuance and detail from what is included than the average home viewer can. So we‘ve asked a professional chef – and admitted Top Chef addict – for her insight into how the cheftestants are doing and also for some tips for the home cook who might be inspired to try some of the Top Chef dishes at home. Read more »
As it‘s been noted – and as promised by Tom Colicchio in pre-season interviews – Top Chef 4 has a group of cheftestants with some fairly strong experience, which could lend itself to a high-level of legitimate food-focused competition. This season also includes, though, one pair of chefs who are in a couple, one chef who has apparently decided to adopt a schticky smack-talking persona, and two faux hawks. So there‘s still some potential for cheesy reality show gimmicks. Which will it be this week? And which chefs are looking likely to be packing their knives and going home? Read more »
Tonight on Top Chef 4, we have both the first team challenge and the first of the some of the usual team challenge shenanigans, e.g, throwing a team member under bus, etc. All in all, the cheftestants kept it on the civil side, but they are, after all, just starting to get to know one another. There‘s still time.The cheftestants start out with a fun but mildly nerve-wracking Quickfire Challenge: Padma meets the chefs at a Chicago farmer‘s market. They will have to shop at the market for a Quickfire dish that will use only five ingredients, plus salt, pepper, sugar and oil. Read more »
This week, Valerie Bolon was the second chef sent home from Top Chef 4. Her contribution to Team Gorilla was deemed the weakest by the judges, so this personal chef found herself packing her knives and heading home. Luckily – as a Chicagoan – she at least didn‘t have that far to go. Valerie took the time to speak with BuddyTV after her ouster, and we got the skinny on those blinis and a little dish on at least one of her fellow contestants.Read on for the highlights and the full mp3 of the interview. Read more »
The elimination challenge on this week‘s Top Chef 4 was a little gimmicky - building a menu around the cuisine of different wild animals - but what the heck, I thought it was kind of fun and interesting. Zoology and cooking? Top Chef, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter…and it‘s delicious. I mean, really, did you know that lions eat beets? Well, now you do. (I have to admit, though, based on how I feel about beets, this kind of knocks lions down a peg in my estimation.)So which dishes from this episode looked the tastiest and which ones looked like…well, turds? Read more »
This season of Top Chef has a first – an actual real life couple participating as cheftestants. In the first episode, Zoi Antonitsas and Jennifer Biesty announced to their fellow competitors that they are partners. This left the other contestants – and the viewers – to wonder: is this an advantage or a disadvantage? We haven‘t yet gotten a sense of which way this will go for the couple on Top Chef, but in the meantime, here are some additional details on one half of the pair, Zoi Antonitsas. Read more »
Once again, Dana Cree, pastry chef at Seattle’s Veil restaurant, took some time out to chat with us about the most recent episode of Top Chef 4. It was an especially great episode to talk about with Dana, since she’s actually completed an internship at WD-50, the restaurant of this episode’s guest judge and chef Wylie Dufresne.As it’s been noted in his appearances on Top Chef, Wylie is one of the big names of molecular gastronomy. Top Chef viewers who don’t follow the world of fine dining too closely outside of the show might be forgiven for thinking that being a molecular gastronomy chef mainly means that you a) use some unusual chemicals in your food and b) have a quirky hair-do a la Marcel Vigneron or this season’s Richard. To those in that world, there’s a lot more to it, though, and Dana gave us her insider perspective. Read more »
So far, I think Top Chef 4 is off to a good start. At this stage of the game, it‘s too soon to really be invested too strongly in most of the individual personalities, but at least the challenges themselves have been interesting enough to make them compelling without a lot personal drama.Where will this week take us? Read more »
This week‘s Top Chef 4 is another episode to give me hope that this season will be like the most recent season of Project Runway. While I felt Project Runway 4 did remain a little distant from the contestants as people, I preferred that to an artificial soap opera or too much interpersonal drama. This week‘s episode of Top Chef has the cheftestants separated into two teams, but other than a little competitive trash talking between teams, there is an admirable level of teamwork and camaraderie within the teams themselves.As I suspected in my Predictions column, this week did offer up a Mexican-themed challenge. While this is, in some respects, me patting myself on the back for being oh-so-clever, I have to admit there was a way bigger clue than simply the photograph I referenced of the cheftestants working with some Southwestern-looking ingredients. Read more »
Last night, Top Chef 4 cheftestants Erik Hopfinger was eliminated from the competition, ostensibly due to the soggy corndogs that he served at the block party Elimination Challenge. The big guy – who appeared to take on the affectionate nickname “Papa Soufflé” by his fellow cheftestants – headed back from the show to his role as Executive Chef at Circa in San Francisco, but did take a few minutes out to chat with BuddyTV about his experience on Top Chef 4.Read on for the highlights and the full mp3 of the interview. Read more »
The judging in this week‘s Top Chef 4 seemed a little ambiguous to some viewers. It appeared that the Red Team had a menu that more successfully met the concept of “Block Party” and while some of their dishes weren‘t great, neither were all of the Blue Team‘s. So why did the Red Team end up in the bottom?The judges alluded to it in their comments, but reading the blogs of the judges after the show really clarified the results for me and confirmed what I was thinking about the best (Gourmet!) and worst (No Way!) dishes for this week. Read more »
We touched base again today with Dana Cree, pastry chef at Veil restaurant in Seattle, to get a professional‘s opinion on last week‘s episode of Top Chef 4. Once again, the chefs were asked to both work in teams and cater an event. While the team element is often the part the chefs grumble most about, Dana noted that the catering piece can be extremely challenging for chefs who have mainly worked on the line in professional restaurant kitchen. This is mainly because the two types of cooking require a very different approach to the food preparation timeline.  Read more »
There are still a lot of personalities and cooking styles to get to know with the remaining 13 chefs on Top Chef 4, but it‘s starting to get a little bit clearer as to how each one could potentially fare in the competition. Some chefs have had a high point or two, but otherwise seem to be struggling. Others seem to be going strong, but could this lead to overconfidence and excessive ambition in the kitchen? Here are some thoughts as to where the chefs currently stand and what could happen in this episode. Read more »
Our fourth episode of Top Chef 4 starts, once again, with more discussion about Jennifer Biesty and Zoi Antonitsas‘ relationship. Gee, Top Chef, foreshadow much? What juicy developments are in the works? The chefs head to the kitchen for their Quickfire Challenge, where they meet with Padma Lakshmi and the guest judge, famed French chef Daniel Boulud. Padma notes that the chefs should know who he is without an introduction, but for two of the chefs, there‘s even more to the story.  Read more »
This week, the fourth season of Hell‘s Kitchen had its premiere episode, filled with exactly what you would expect from Hell‘s Kitchen: Gordon Ramsay getting apoplectic and a bunch of chefs – some with seemingly questionable skills or judgment – running around in panic in his kitchen. The fourth season of Top Chef is already four episodes in, and it would appear that the two shows share some of the same audience. While they are, ostensibly, about the same subject, they are quite different shows, as many of us noted in the comments for the first Hell‘s Kitchen recap. How do these two shows stack up against each other? Each week, we‘ll be comparing the week‘s episode, but for this week, I‘ll also be comparing the shows from what we‘ve seen through the previous seasons as well as the most recent episode.  Read more »
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. Read more »
Making a prediction for this episode of Top Chef 4 is making me a little nervous. It‘s been actually kind of easy so far to at least be in the ballpark of who would be going home. Too easy. Top Chef 4: what do you have in store for us this week? Some kind of upsetting of our expectations? Well, all I can go on is what I‘ve seen before and what is in the previews, so here are some guesses.  Read more »
As the kids like to say: It‘s on! In the first three episodes of Top Chef 4, the cheftestants seemed to be a friendly bunch, and, other than some good-natured team rivalry, I was thinking we were in for a pretty drama-free season outside the actual cooking. But as the chefs spend more time with each other, and there are fewer chefs in the kitchen dividing everyone‘s attention, it would appear that the happy fun times are over. Last week, we started to see our first cracks in the cheery togetherness, and tonight, another team challenge pushes some frustrations into outright confrontations.  Read more »
While we‘re right on the verge of a new episode of Top Chef 4, we just had the chance to catch up with Dana Cree, pastry chef of Veil and our own professional guide to the culinary world, about the last episode of Top Chef 4. So as we head into tonight‘s episode, here are her thoughts on how the chefs did last time.  She also gives us a tip for recreating one of last week‘s winning elements, as well as her own clever idea for a fun film-and-food combo inspired by one of her favorite movies. Read more »
In Padma Lakshmi‘s Top Chef 4 video blog last week, she ominously noted that Mexican cooking expert Manuel Trevino‘s performance in the “upscale taco” challenge with Rick Bayless didn‘t bode well for his chances in the competition. I wondered at the time if this was a hint or some misdirection. Turns out Padma might have accidentally shown a little too much in that comment, because this week on Top Chef, it was Manuel Trevino‘s time to pack up his knives and go. His collaboration with Spike Mendelsohn – summer rolls “inspired” by the film Good Morning Vietnam – was considered the weakest dish in this “dinner and a movie” challenge, and his perceived passive attitude towards the challenge seemed to contribute to the judges‘ decision to send him home. He might have been eliminated, but most of the blogs written by the Top Chef folks note what a really sweet guy “Memo,” as he‘s called, is, and he kindly took some time to talk with us about his time on Top Chef 4. Read on for the highlights and the full mp3 of the interview.  Read more »
This week‘s episode of Top Chef 4 had Zoi Antonitsas landing in the bottom of the competition for the third week in a row, and this time, her luck ran out. The judges found her under-seasoned mushrooms to be too big of a sin to overlook, and sent her home from the competition. In an odd twist for a show like Top Chef, for Zoi, being sent home actually meant being separated from her partner, Jennifer Biesty, who remains in the game. We spoke with Zoi today about how the couple wound up on the show together, her perspective on the competition (and answers the debate about whether or not a partner was an advantage or disadvantage), and what got her into cooking in the first place. Read on for the highlights and the full mp3 of the interview.  Read more »
I realize, with twelve chefs still in the competition on Top Chef 4, that it‘s difficult to create individual challenges that will work within the constraints of time and resources. Ergo, we kind of have to have several team challenges. And, of course, there‘s nothing to stir up some drama and resentment faster than being forced to work with someone you don‘t like or respect. Nevertheless, I am the kind of weirdo reality watcher who is generally more curious about the task the show is about than a whole bunch of extraneous drama, so I hope that the chefs can do a few individual elimination challenges again soon so that the judging is more about the actual dish than assigning blame for individual components or concepts. But that‘s just me. So – focusing on the dish – which offering on this episode of Top Chef 4 looked the tastiest (Gourmet!) and which looked less than appealing (No Way!)? Read more »
Hell‘s Kitchen 4 aired its second episode this week, while the cheftestants on Top Chef 4 moved into their fifth. Tensions ran high among the chefs on Top Chef 4, and this week, the show had its own mildly Hell‘s Kitchen moments as several of them engaged in a Gordon Ramsay-like screaming match. Other than that, though, once again this week, the challenges the two sets of chefs encountered highlighted another difference between the shows: the element of time.  Read more »
Well, it looks like I won‘t get my wish for the chefs to have a chance at a solo, restaurant-style challenge again for at least one more episode of Top Chef 4. While I‘m not sure if the chefs are working in teams again, they are definitely not in a restaurant. The episode is called “Tailgating” and they are going to be serving some Chicago Bears football fans some pre-game grub. Which chefs seem likely to score a touchdown with the fans and which could fumble? (I‘m sorry, but I am actually obligated by law to make at least one sports-related metaphor when talking about this episode.)  Read more »
We caught up again with Dana Cree, pastry chef from Seattle‘s Veil restaurant, and who was just featured in Seattle Magazine as one of the “Pastry Chefs on the Rise” here in BuddyTV‘s home town. She took some time out to once again give us the perspective of a professional chef on the most recent episode of Top Chef 4.Once again, she noted, the chefs are being asked to work within the unique limitations of a catering-style situation, which can require a different menu planning sensibility than the “a la minute” style of most restaurant cooking. Dana noted this was reflected in the overall performance of the group. Read more »
Last week on Top Chef 4, the team challenge caused the tensions between the chefs to erupt and now, they all have to deal with the aftermath. Spike Mendelsohn says he hears the other chefs grumbling that he should have gone home and says, classic reality show style, that they want him to leave because they know he‘s a “talented dude.” It‘s easy to mock those reality contestants who are able to filter out the possibility that everyone just finds them annoying and abrasive, and who, instead, decide that the real problem is that everyone just thinks they‘re so great, and that‘s why they want them to leave. It‘s easy to mock, but let‘s face it: it‘s kind of a great trait to have in a competitive environment to ensure that you aren‘t bogged down by self-doubt. Lucky for Spike, self-doubt does not seem to be a personal issue for him.  Read more »
Top Chef challenges generally require that the chefs take the main concept and put their own creative spin on it. Unfortunately for Ryan Scott, his “California Flair” take on the idea of a tailgate party fell flat with the fans and the judges, and he was sent home on the last episode of Top Chef 4. It was the Sandee Birdsong (from season 3) lesson: if the challenge involves grills, the judges are going to be looking for a very particular feeling from your cuisine, which was just not what they found from Ryan‘s meal of bread salad with chicken, poached pear and hot cocoa. Ryan took some time out to speak with BuddyTV, and as you might expect, despite the loss, he‘s still an upbeat and amicable guy. Read on for the highlights and the full mp3 of the interview.  Read more »
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! Read more »
This week, both Hell‘s Kitchen 4 and Top Chef 4 focused on their areas of strength or weakness, depending on how you feel about each show. Hell‘s Kitchen 4 had several moments of Survivor and Big Brother-like reality show schtick with chicken-killing fake-out and the ladies in a hot tub using their wiles in a strategic fashion against the boys. Top Chef 4 had a few moments of interpersonal drama at the start of the episode, but those tensions from last week became secondary to the story as the chefs returned to creative solo cooking.  Read more »
When you watch Top Chef, do you compulsively sharpen your knives and grumble under your breath “I could have done better than that”? Well, now is your chance to try proving it to yourself and the world. Casting has started for season five of Top Chef. If you want to give it a shot, be prepared to fill out a detailed application, prepare an audition video and possibly attend an open casting. Here‘s one thing you should not plan on, though: bringing your musical talents to the table. The application clearly states no singing or music may be included in your audition tape, and I can‘t help but wonder which singing chef video was the one that inspired the tired casting agents to include that caveat in the application. Here are some additional details on the casting. Read more »
We have ten cheftestants still in the competition on Top Chef 4, and based on the comments to our recent Top Chef articles, it appears clear there is one chef that many of you think should be packing her knives soon, like yesterday: Nikki Cascone. Will you all get your wish this episode? Well, there‘s a preview out for the episode on Bravo‘s website, and here‘s an interesting tidbit about Nikki for all of you. Read more »
Tonight‘s episode of Top Chef gives the cheftestants two difficult tasks: desserts and improv comedy. For the improv, the contestants get help from Second City, which alongside the Groundlings is probably the most famous improv troupe in the country. Some people who got their start at Second City include Bill Murray, Joan Rivers, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Andy Dick and countless others.But comedy is easy, desserts are hard. Fans of Top Chef know that the dessert has taken down many a great cheftestant, so in this episode, it might be best to just shoot for the middle. Read more »
Last night‘s elimination on Top Chef 4 definitely caught me by surprise. Not only had Jennifer Biesty seemed to demonstrate solid skills so far in this season, the change in her edit after her partner‘s Zoi Antonitsas‘s elimination seemed like it was a building to a bigger story than her mid-season ouster. Unfortunately, the Orange Turned-On Asparagus she created with partner Stephanie Izard turned out to be her undoing. Jen took some time to speak with us at BuddyTV about her elimination and what she has planned for the future. Read on for the highlights and the full mp3 of the interview. Read more »
The chefs of both Hell‘s Kitchen and Top Chef were thrown some curveballs this week. On Hell‘s Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay tried, actually, to toss his chefs a softball by giving them an easier menu designed to be family friendly. The Top Chef cheftestants, on the other hand, wound up facing multiple change-ups as new twists were added to challenge in order to require even more improvisational skills. Despite the fact that Ramsay was trying to give his chefs more of a chance at a successful service by easing up on the complication of the dishes, by this stage of the competition, the chefs seem so rattled that I think some of them might mess up pouring a bowl of cereal and milk if Ramsay were standing over them. However, some chefs were able to rise to the occasion on Hell‘s Kitchen – and Top Chef – and in both cases showed that each show has a tendency to reward certain personality traits over others.  Read more »
Have you heard? We‘re at a point in Top Chef 4 where THERE IS NO ROOM FOR ERROR. Just wanted to make sure you caught that in case you might have narcolepsy and happened to repeatedly doze off every three to four minutes when yet another chef said it. Again. Oh, Top Chef 4, I kid because I love.So there is no room for error, but apparently there is a comfortably wide passage for sliding on through because Nikki Cascone survived once again, and veins throbbed in the foreheads of annoyed Top Chef viewers across this great land. But sorry, folks, I‘m afraid this column will just add insult to your injury. Or injury to your insult, or freshly ground nutmeg to your mild affront or something. Why? Read more »
Last week saw the somewhat surprising departure of Jennifer Biesty from Top Chef 4. The elimination reminded the chefs that anything is possible in judging and you are, quite literally, only as good as your last dish. So, of course, it‘s always possible that one of the chefs who has yet to really stand out in this competition (cough cough Nikki Cascone) could pull out a genius dish and wow the judges. And, of course, chefs like Dale Talde and Richard Blais, who have seemed to dominate the competition recently could falter and be sent home as abruptly as Jennifer. But since all we at home have to look at is past performance, here are some thoughts on what could happen in this week‘s episode of Top Chef 4.  Read more »
Last week, Jennifer Biesty was sent home from Top Chef 4 and her fellow chefs were rattled by the surprising elimination. Back at their house, the empty beds serve to underscore how tight the competition is getting. The competition is tight, but as the chefs learn their new challenge from Padma Lakshmi and guest judge Art Smith, a James Beard award winner for his cookbooks and humanitarian efforts, we recall that no matter how fierce the competition might be, there is always time for one thing. That‘s right! Painful product placement. Read more »
Last night on Top Chef 4, New Zealander cheftestant Mark Simmons was eliminated for his vegetarian curry. And the didgeridoo became a didgerdon‘t. (Sorry, I am physically incapable of not typing that stupid joke, it‘s like my fingers were possessed.) Normally on Thursdays we present the audio interviews from the eliminated Top Chefs, but unfortunately due to some technical difficulties, while we spoke with Mark today, we aren‘t going to be able to provide the audio file. This is a shame because a) who doesn‘t love listening to a New Zealand accent and b) he‘s pretty much as adorably humorous over the phone as he was on Top Chef. Here are the highlights, though, of our conversation with Mark, including a very exciting recent personal development for the chef, as well as a little insight into that exchange with Tom Colicchio.  Read more »
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.  Read more »
Watching this week‘s episode of Top Chef 4 made me feel like a kid again. No, not the childlike wonder at learning new things, nor the youthful excitement at an interesting challenge. Instead, it was more like, “Brussels sprouts and beets? Yuck!”But good for the chefs for trying to introduce the kids to new vegetables in such a way that maybe the kids won‘t grow up to have the same kind of vegetable aversion that I have. Involving kids in the cooking process is a great way to get them into food in a healthy and long-lasting way. Read more »
This week on Top Chef 4, we have Wedding Wars! Previews also tell us that in order to meet their deadline, the chefs work for about 40 hours straight. Needless to say, the Bravo online preview also opens with a montage of yawning. Like a cranky toddler who‘s missed his nap, the sleep-deprived cheftestants appear to be seriously grumpified by this challenge. Dale Talde is going to explosively lose his temper, and the preview notes there is a lot of “finger-pointing” going on in judging. Who could make it onto the chopping block this week?  Read more »
Last week on Top Chef 4, we lost the adorable Kiwi Mark Simmons, and this week as we rejoin the cheftestants, his buddies Andrew D‘Ambrosi and Spike Mendelsohn mourn together. Antonia Lofaso notes that there are four women left in the top eight, something that has never happened before on Top Chef. Every week the little pre-Quickfire Top Chef house debrief has some clues about who could possibly go home this week. Has Antonia just made a foreshadowing observation? The chefs head to the Top Chef kitchen for the Quickfire. There is no guest judge with Padma Lakshmi this week. Instead, she is joined by fellow judge Tom Colicchio. They tell the cheftestants that for one thing, there is no longer any immunity for winning the Quickfire. For another, the chefs will be participating in not one but two oldie-but-goodie challenges this week. Read more »
Last night saw the departure of Nikki Cascone from Top Chef 4. The third time was not the charm for her fresh pasta as her tortellini with brown butter and sage was not strong enough to save the day for her in the competition. So while the judges had problems with other dishes served from the groom‘s side on Wedding Wars, they took greatest issue with what they perceived to be Nikki‘s lack of leadership in an Italian-focused challenge and sent her home.Nikki took some time to speak with us at BuddyTV about her time on Top Chef 4. Read on for the highlights and the full mp3 of the interview. Read more »
Once again this week, Top Chef 4 felt a little bit more like Top Caterer as the chefs had to work in teams to cater an entire wedding in less than one day. Nikki Cascone, who had consistently underperformed in catering-related challenges, was finally dispatched, to the relief of many irritated viewers. But she wasn‘t the only one who faltered in this episode, although – for once – many of the issues were in the dishes themselves as opposed to catering-related mishaps like Valerie Bolon‘s pre-cooked blinis back in episode 2. Despite the super-sized episode, the flurry of activity and sheer volume of food made it so that the time spent lingering over the flaws and merits of each dish felt a little rushed. Nevertheless, I‘ll still make an attempt to pick the best and worst of the event. Bad news for food porn lovers, though: the pictures on Bravo‘s website of the dishes weren‘t inclusive of everything served in the episode so you will just have to use your imagination.  Read more »
Last week‘s Hell‘s Kitchen 4 episode had the chefs taking on a Top Chef-style task where the chef‘s were allowed to get creative with a pizza. This week, the tables were turned as the Top Chef 4 cheftestants had the Mise en Place Relay Race. Rather than creative concepts, this challenge gave us the chance to see how well one of those chefs would do in some of the Hell‘s Kitchen type of competitions. Of course, Tom Colicchio standing over you with a whistle is nowhere near as nerve-rattling as Gordom Ramsay standing over you with a quiver full of rage. That said, I think some of the Top Chef chefs showed that – as some have wondered – they might actually have the potential to do well in the more rough-and-tumble world of Hell‘s Kitchen.  Read more »
This week, many swoony Top Chef fans will be thrilled to see chef Sam Talbot return to the Top Chef kitchens, this time as a judge instead of a cheftestant. Always a hit with the viewers who like the pretty boys, Talbot also had real cooking skills on Top Chef and so his return visit isn‘t entirely just to help be the male counterpart to Padma Lakshmi‘s eye candy. For Sam, it must be a relief to be back in the Top Chef universe without the lingering threat of elimination, but for the rest of the chefs, it‘s just another couple of challenges with the possibility of heading home at the end. Add to that the remaining exhaustion from the ridiculous workload and lack of sleep on last week‘s Wedding Wars episode, and our chefs are looking a little worse for wear. Maybe that‘s the real reason they brought back Sam for this particular episode.  Read more »
As we start this week‘s episode of Top Chef, Spike Mendelsohn notes how unsavory Dale Talde‘s outbursts were last week, but Andrew D‘Ambrosi, on the other hand, is focused on the competition. He notes that the other chefs are all still pretty exhausted from the Wedding Wars challenge, but he is personally feeling fired up enough to either, in his words, stab somebody or make some amazing food. For all his twitchy intensity, Andrew seems absolutely harmless, so maybe he‘ll make some amazing food. Read more »
I can admit when I am wrong, and I was wrong about last night‘s eliminated Top Chef contestant Andrew D‘Ambrosi on two counts. For one, when I made my initial rankings for the season, I did not think he would go very far based on his bio, which seemed much lighter in serious fine dining experience than some of the others. For another, based on the first few bits of interviews I saw this season, I at first thought he was a hipster doofus who was simply posturing with all of his big talking.Some might still feel that way, but for me, as we got to know him more during the season, it seemed to become clear that he wasn‘t really posturing; this was his real deal personality. And he also brought some good skills to the competition, and despite his big talk, seemed humble enough to put his head down and get to work when he was in team challenges. So by the time he was eliminated, I was thoroughly over on Team Andrew and was bummed that it was his time to go. He took some time to speak with us today and give us his take on his time on the show. Read more »
Both Hell‘s Kitchen and Top Chef took on the idea of incorporating healthy elements into regular fare this week, although on Hell‘s Kitchen it was a minor detail (the faux meat snuck into the chef‘s taste test) and on Top Chef, it was the focal point of the elimination challenge. This week also had Hell‘s Kitchen taking a turn at the palate challenge, which Top Chef covered a few weeks back. I have to say that I think Hell‘s Kitchen didn‘t quite handle this challenge as well as Top Chef did.  Read more »
This week on Top Chef 4, the chefs had the challenge of making a healthy and hearty boxed lunch that would satisfy the appetites of police officers. Making healthy food feel as satisfying as a typical full-fat to-go lunch was challenging enough. The chefs were thrown an additional wrinkle when the prize for the Quickfire Challenge – won by Spike Mendelsohn – was to select ingredients that would then be off-limits to the other chefs. He picked some of the most fundamental lunch building blocks: bread, chicken, lettuce and tomatoes. Unfortunately for Spike, it would seem that the idea that limitations can bring out the best creative solutions held true in this case. He might have had the pick of the supermarket, but he used it to a boring end, while his competitors surpassed him with their more limited options. So of the dishes offered, whose looked the best (Gourmet!) and the worst (No Way!)?  Read more »
Last week on Top Chef 4, we said goodbye to spazz attack Andrew D‘Ambrosi for his faux sushi that was a flop with the judges. Lisa Fernandes found herself in the bottom for the third time, but she‘s still beat out by Spike Mendelsohn, who‘s found himself in front of the judges four times defending his dish in the bottom rankings. That‘s the most of any cheftestant still left on Top Chef 4. That said, he did also finally get his first win, mastering the salad in the Quickfire Challenge. And here‘s another interesting development about Spike‘s place in the competition.  Read more »
In the early episodes of the fourth season of Top Chef, Dale Talde seemed like a shoo-in for the finals. He, Richard Blais and Stephanie Izard were the only cheftestants with multiple elimination challenge victories, winning 8 of the 11 challenges so far.BuddyTV spoke to Dale after his elimination on Top Chef. Though he is often outspoken and confrontational on the show, he is more than willing to accept total responsibility for his elimination. Additionally, Dale provides insight into his strategy and a passionate defense of his consistent use of Asian cuisine. Continue reading for the highlights of the interview and to listen to the full audio version. Read more »
This season of Top Chef started out so warm and friendly, but as the weeks have progressed, the chefs have found themselves not always capable of being on their best behavior. Last week Lisa Fernandes made a desperate move to save herself by calling out the flaws of Andrew D‘Ambrosi‘s dish, and while it‘s unlikely this had any effect on things, he was the chef to head home. (Since the show, Lisa has apparently has had remorse for her actions. The recently posted Bravo video of Spike Mendelsohn and Andrew watching that episode showed the two receiving a text to Andrew from Lisa, who apologized and called herself an a-hole.) But don‘t fret: all that fellow-feeling and whatnot is taking place after the competition. For now, we still have plenty of tense moments left to savor. And I would have the feeling – even without the previews – that Lisa will find herself embroiled in them oncea again.  Read more »
They say pride goeth before a fall, so I am trying to not get too pleased with myself for guessing correctly the past two Top Chef 4 eliminated cheftestants, Dale Talde and Andrew D‘Ambrosi. I would love to continue my streak, but I am afraid that emotion might cloud my judgment. At this stage, there are five remaining cheftestants: Stephanie Izard, Richard Blais, Antonia Lofaso, Spike Mendelsohn and Lisa Fernandes. And I‘ll admit it: as much as I‘d love to just be an impartial handicapper, coldly assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each chef while keeping in mind the little clues dropped by the editing and story arc creation, I can‘t help but want certain chefs to stay and others to go. So will I get my wish?  Read more »
Allright Top Chef, what‘s it going to be? This isn‘t just the episode that takes us from the final five down to the four heading to Puerto Rico. It‘s also a sort of existential crossroads for the invested viewer. Is Top Chef going to affirm our underlying belief that the world is just, that hard work and consistent performance will ultimately be rewarded in the end? Or is this episode going to be another lesson that fate is ultimately fickle and that one bad night can undo a season‘s worth of good (or vice versa)? In other words, she wrote, with nails bitten down to the quick, are Richard Blais and Stephanie Izard safe tonight??  Read more »
Spike Mendelsohn‘s time on Top Chef was a series of ups and downs. He came into the competition with a strong resume, a family history full of restaurants and cooking, and a self-confidence that made it seem like he was destined to make it far in the competition. But starting with a bum batch of meat in the farmers market challenge in episode 2, Spike seemed to start encountering either a run of bad luck, bad judgment or some combination of both. Despite that, and, as Tom Colicchio pointed out, landing in the bottom seven times throughout the competition, Spike clearly had enough skills and a strong palate that helped him make it all the way to the final five. It was a problem with the protein that started his troubles on Top Chef, and so appropriately, it was again a quality issue with his chosen protein that slipped him up in this last episode, sending him home just before the final four. Spike still has plenty on his plate (just, we assume, no frozen scallops), and he talked with us about his future plans, his favorite of the final four, future plans for his Top Chef group Mise en Place, and, perhaps most importantly, what the deal is with all the hats. Read on for the highlights and audio of the interview. Read more »
This week, the final four chefs – Lisa Fernandes, Richard Blais, Stephanie Izard and Antonia Lofaso – head to Puerto Rico for the two-part finale of this season of Top Chef 4. Spike Mendelsohn just missed the cut last week as he was sent home instead of Lisa, who was also in the bottom two. I feel like I am repeating myself this week, but I pretty much feel the same as I did before last week‘s episode: Richard, Stephanie and Antonia are my picks for the final three. While Lisa has never bugged me as much as she seems to irritate some viewers, I just want to see the chefs who have been stronger performers make it to the end.  Read more »
It‘s Part 1 of the Top Chef 4 finale, and the cheftestants have had months off to hone their craft, travel, work, gain/lose weight and cut their hair. For Stephanie Izard, it‘s been travel; she‘s spent time in Asia. Antonia Lofaso has just opened a restaurant and has been working 100 hours a week. She says her daughter is getting used to her not being around in the evenings. Richard Blais is feeling a little cocky tonight, saying that he, Stephanie and Antonia were some obvious picks for the top spots. With Lisa Fernandes though, he says, not so much. So it‘s on! This is the second existential showdown this season on Top Chef. Will the near-universally-disliked Lisa Fernandes (who has also been on the bottom five times so far this season, three of which were in the last three episodes) finally not manage to scrape by? Will she pull something out that‘s so fantastic it wows the judges and wins some grudging respect even from the detracting viewers? Or will she simply not be the very worst this episode and squeak through again? Once again, Top Chef asks the viewer to wonder, “Is life fair?”  Read more »
We‘re in an election year, and there‘s nothing like the democratic process to really highlight divisions in our country. But we can take heart that many of our citizens in this great nation are united behind a single concept: Lisa Fernandes better not win Top Chef 4, or the Bravo network and Magical Elves production company are going to find their with an angry, torch-wielding mob at their doors. (Not regular torches, of course, but those little butane ones you use to caramelize crème brûlée.) Now, although I can be sometimes swayed by the opinions of the majority, when it comes to Lisa Fernandes, I‘ve just never gotten on board with the rabid chef-hating. I‘m not a fan, per se, but I guess I don‘t just find her quite as offensive as others do. Nevertheless, based on her performance, rather than personality, I still cannot – or will not – imagine a finale in which she actually emerges on top. So I‘m going to essentially leave her out of the analysis of who could win this season of Top Chef.  Read more »
Top Chef is arguably the best cooking competition show on television these days. For those who just can’t get enough of the hit Bravo show, a spinoff has just been ordered. Top Chef Junior will follow the format of Top Chef, but feature teenage chefs instead of adults. Contestants will be between the ages of 13 and 16. Though Top Chef airs late on a weeknight, at 10pm ET, it consistently has ranked in the top 15 among children ages 2-17. Bravo felt that, because of those numbers, a younger version of their show would go over extremely well with young viewers and turn them into lifelong fans of the network. Read more »
In a decision that seemed to shock and displease many people - including, it appeared, her own competitors Richard Blais and Stephanie Izard - Antonia Lofaso was sent home from Top Chef 4 for underdone pigeon peas and an unrefined plating.While Antonia, like every chef on this season of Top Chef, has not been without her ups and downs, she‘s been well-regarded on the show for her ability to make simple but delicious fare.  She‘s been named by several of the previously-eliminated chefs as one to watch, and her pre- and post-Top Chef career has been very impressive as well, with years at Spago and now an Executive Chef role at new L.A. restaurant Foxtail.Antonia took some time out of her extremely busy schedule as Executive Chef of a newly-opened restaurant and single mom to talk with us.  Read on for the highlights and audio of the interview. Read more »
Tonight, we learn which of the final three cheftestants from Top Chef 4 - Stephanie Izard, Richard Blais or Lisa Fernandes - will actually win that top spot.  The Bravo promotional photo to the left seems like a relatively appropriate representation of how these three have approached the competition so far.  Stephanie looks solid with a mild air of being stunned, Lisa with her lips pursed and arms crossed, and Richard...well, in this shot Richard looks like he‘s either praying or about to pass out, so maybe it‘s only two-thirds appropriate.What will bring these three to this final state?  We‘ll find out tonight.  I‘ll be here throughout the hour with live thoughts, so refresh often and comment away yourself! Read more »
We started this season of Top Chef 4 in Chicago with 16 chefs (and two faux hawks), and now we are in Puerto Rico for the finale, with the numbers whittled down to three (and one). Will molecular gastronomist/adorable geek Richard Blais, who‘s seemed like a ringer for much of the season, march on to victory and dash many viewers‘ hopes for the first female Top Chef? Will Stephanie Izard, who has been wobbly but with many moments of serious brilliance, steady herself and bring home a win for the distaff team? Oh right, and then there‘s Lisa Fernandes. Will she win and royally tick off a lot of viewers who don‘t feel like she deserves to be there?  Read more »
Have you ever wanted to give a reality show contestant a hug after a loss as much as you did Richard Blais last night on the finale of Top Chef 4? I‘ve now used this word about fifteen times in describing the end of the show, but I found it heartbreaking to see Richard so sad in the final judging. As much as I love scrappy Stephanie Izard and am happy for her win, there is just something wrenching about watching someone who had been so totally focused seem to not live up to his own standards.However, no matter how rough that was, Richard is clearly a very talented guy who will continue to have success in his culinary career, and he and his wife have something a bit more life-changing on their hands than a Top Chef win: as of 2:17pm Eastern today, their new baby daughter is two weeks old.  He still found time to speak with us today, so read on for the highlights and audio of the interview. Read more »
It seems like every season of Top Chef has to have at least one chef whose attitude really rubs the audience the wrong way. Season 1 had Tiffani Faison, Season 2 had Marcel Vigneron, and Season 3 had Hung Huynh. This season had a few different contestants who seemed to get on the audience‘s bad side. Nikki Cascone stuck around after many felt she should have left and Dale Talde‘s explosive reaction to losing irritated many. But once they were sent home, many viewers seemed to focus their displeasure on Lisa Fernandes. Lisa had a knockout dish with her miso-glazed bacon during the Elements challenge, but towards the end of the season, she seemed to have an ongoing series of difficulties, and landed in the bottom for six of the elimination challenges prior to the final episode. She redeemed herself, though, to some extent, with her very strong performance in the final challenge, producing an Asian-inspired soup and dessert that seriously impressed the judges. Despite this, it wasn‘t enough to help her come from behind to win the season of Top Chef. She‘s back in New York, and took some time to talk with us about her experience on Top Chef. Read on for the highlights and audio of the interview.  Read more »
In the tradition of other reality shows like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, which have all taken their contenders on the road, Bravo is likewise sending its Top Chefs out of the kitchen and straight to the hungry folk of 20 cities across America.  Traveling aboard its very own official 18-wheeler semi-truck, Top Chef: The Tour hits the road starting this Saturday, June 21.  Its first stop is the Whole Foods Market of the Birchwood Shopping Center in Jericho, Long Island, New York. Here‘s a list of all the other cities on the Top Chef Tour route and the dates for each stop: Read more »
When Top Chef first started airing, I thought, “Okay, I‘ll bite, but it‘s just a Project Runway ripoff.” Now with the fourth season, I think that I might actually find it a better show than Project Runway, and the reunion special that aired this week confirmed why. Top Chef guest judge Anthony Bourdain noted in his book Kitchen Confidential that the restaurant industry – with its odd hours, grueling environment and attendant occasionally laissez-faire hiring policies – is one of the last remaining places in American life (besides prison) that hasn‘t been totally sanitized by corporate culture. It attracts the incredibly talented and intelligent, but also the misfit, rebellious and maladjusted. Sometimes these traits can all be found in varying degrees in one individual. So bring a group of people like that together – and add in the requirement that you have to have the kind of questionable judgment or willful self-delusion required to agree to be on a reality show in the first place – and you are looking at a formula for some good television. The Reunion show brought us some highlights of the most entertaining moments and personalities we saw this season.  Read more »
Last week, Stephanie Izard made it into the top spot of Top Chef 4. She had taken us through a see-saw performance, frequently making dishes that diners loved, but then also having struggles. She didn‘t win a Quickfire until the second-to-last episode, narrowly escaped elimination at times, and was even the chef who came in last in the palate test.But it‘s possibly because of exactly that kind of scrappy up and down that a lot of viewers were rooting for Stephanie to emerge as Top Chef. With a creative and innovative dish that surprised the judges with its successful flavor combination, Stephanie seemed to surprise herself with being named the first female Top Chef. Stephanie took some time to speak with us about that element of surprise – both in her cooking and in the competition – her culinary background and just how, exactly, one goes about braising a pistachio. Read on for the MP3 audio and for a full transcript of the interview. Read more »
Certainly, as Top Chef‘s first woman winner, a lot is on the shoulders of Stephanie Izard.  Bravo‘s reality search for, well, the top chef, is now on its fourth season and some say it is high time for a woman to emerge winner.  After all, purists declare the kitchen as the female‘s exclusive province, right? Now Izard has to deal with some nice and not-so-nice things that come with being the newest Top Chef, such as the new-found fame and the $100,000.  On the other hand, there are those who claim that she only won because the producers wanted a woman to win to keep the show fresh.  On this, the 31-year-old Connecticut-native had some decisive rejoinder, according to an Entertainment Weekly interview. Read more »
Though Bravo will be losing Project Runway to Lifetime after the current season ends, the network still has a huge arsenal of reality shows on tap for the next year, including several new and returning competition series.Among the new entries are two new seasons of Top Chef, four different incarnations of the Real Housewives franchise, two new competition reality shows and sophomore seasons of two Bravo reality shows. Read more »

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