Watch What We Say: Top Chef

Episode 3

By Jason Lee

December 2, 2008

I am a good 73% sure this is Richard.

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This Week on Watch What We Say: I pity the Foo.

Whether it's the requirement to balance old and new or the relatively small number of ingredients that are associated with the holiday, for whatever reason, the Thanksgiving Day challenge on Top Chef has flummoxed many a chef. With this year's challenge taking place early in the Top Chef season, a good number of chefs will get to experience this conundrum firsthand.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The Quickfire Challenge for today's episode is relatively simple (albeit burdened with a kind of product placement rarely seen on this show). Each chef is assigned one recipe from their BRAND NEW TOP CHEF COOKBOOK, in stores now, and must put their own spin on it.

Gentle reader, I'm going to confess to you that upon hearing this, I groaned. The chefs this season have not been very skilled at putting their own spin on anything, preferring instead to take recipes as firm directives as opposed to starting points for their own creative juices. And after a good 20 minutes in the kitchen, the chefs seemed to be heading down this boring road once ore.

Here comes Padma and the guest judge, Grant Achatz, super famous molecular gastronomer from Chicago, to save the day. They've changed their minds. They want soup instead. The chefs must now take all the ingredients that they were working on and create a soup out of them. Huzzah! I don't know what's gotten into the show's producers this season but I'm liking it. This twist is great, forcing the so-far conservative chefs to step out on that proverbial limb.


And the results are great. Jaime (who excelled at her Autumn soup dish last week) has a wonderful dish again this week. Joining her in the top three are Leah, with a superb White Asparagas soup, and Alex with a soup that positively bursting with breakfast foods. Leah wins and her prize (in addition to immunity) is that she gets pick her teammates for the Thanksgiving Day challenge.

Now, you'll remember that this was a total disaster for the Season 3 chef CJ, who picked his team and promptly lost the challenge. I'm thinking that things will be less rocky this time around as it's early enough in the season where the chefs have not developed strong rivalries (except for the Europeans, Fabio and Stefan). Leah picks her team and on first glance, it looks like she's definitely chosen the best chefs of the group.

So what's the challenge? The two teams (Sexy Pants, with all the "cool kids" that got chosen by Leah, and Cougar, with the rejects and perennial bottom-feeder, Ariane) will have to cook their own
Thanksgiving Day dinner to be eaten by none other than the Foo Fighters and 60 of their roadies. The winning team gets to attend the concert that night. The losers get to clean up.

After planning their respective menus (both of which are sounding pretty good) and shopping for ingredients, the chefs get to work and *SURPRISE SURPRISE* they're cooking outside! Not only that, they have neither a fridge nor a freezer. Only a couple chopping stations, a single burner per team and some toaster ovens. I'll say it again, the producers are doing great this year.

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