Watch What We Say: Top Chef

Episode 2

By Jason Lee

November 21, 2008

She's cocky now, but an ostrich egg will be her undoing.

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For what it's worth, I believe that "Top Chef" is simply the best reality show on the air right now, if not one of the very best shows on television, period. For the next four months or so, we'll be bringing you the latest and greatest news from the Top Chef kitchen on a weekly basis. In fact, these recaps will be so witty and funny, you might not even need to watch the show yourself.

But you should anyways.

This week on Watch What We Say: A lack of culinary craft.


Now we get down to the good stuff.

The opening episode of any season of Top Chef has always been somewhat, how do I put this . . . less than flavorful. Underseasoned. All bad puns aside, your typical season premiere of Top Chef is so full of exposition that you almost feel like the show's producers and editors have a grocery list of items that they need to get through (okay, so maybe there was one more pun still in me) before the episode is over.

Introduce the chefs. Check. Introduce the city. Check. Introduce the wackier members of the cast. Check. Introduce the rivalries. Check.




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Well, now that we've gotten all of this out of the way, the real fun can finally start. And start it does. The Quickfire Challenge opens with Padma telling the 15 remaining chefs that they're going to do their own version of a New York classic. I'm immediately thinking pizza because of NY's famed woodfire pizza restaurants - except that the Chicago cast did pizza last year.

Surprise! It's hotdogs! Each chef will have 45 minutes to come up with their own version of the classic NY hot dog. I personally love these "make this dish your own" challenges because it gives the chefs free reign to showcase their own creativity, personality and background. It really separates the artists from the cooks.

As expected, we see TONS of creativity in this challenge, with each chef trying to put their own unique spin on this pedestrian item. Interestingly enough, the non-Caucasian chefs seem to be doing the best, drawing on their own ethnic cultures to put a decidedly fusion twist on an American staple. We see hotdog paninis and sushi hotdogs and Mediterranean hotdogs...

Indeed, Chicago-native Radhika takes home the top prize with an Indian-flavored hotdog – though with her second Indian dish, she has seemingly forgotten the vow she made last week to not be known as the "girl who cooks nothing but Indian food." Still, she played to her strengths as a chef and as we've seen multiple times in the past, it pays to be smart.

The Elimination Challenge starts and the chefs find out that they'll be opening a Top Chef restaurant in Manhattan. Each chef is responsible for one lunch dish, which they will cook in the New American style of cuisine. Out of sheer luck, it turns out that there are five chefs who want to do an appetizer, five who want to do entrees and five who want to do desserts. Boom. Finished. No arguments, let's get started.


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