TOP CHEF PHOTOCAP: This Show Is On FIRE!

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Our five finalists on Top Chef: All-Stars headed down to the Bahamas Wednesday night for the first of several final challenges. After last week’s strong showing, it was hard to imagine who might go home next. But alas, a new country brought on new challenges, and whereas once these chefs soared, they now seemed barely able to put anything edible on the plate. It didn’t help that they nearly burned down their kitchen in the process. Continue reading

TOP CHEF PHOTOCAP: Farm Fresh

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I’m having a really difficult time with this season of Top Chef. My problem is that I actually like almost all the chefs quite a bit, and I find myself irrationally sad when one gets the boot. Even worse, every episode that I assertively decide that I like a particularly person, he or she goes home. John, the kooky dude with dreads? I liked him. Gone. Jacqueline, the blonde woman who always looked like she needed a hug? I wanted her to go far. Gone. Tracey, the jolly lesbian who looked not unlike Rosie O’Donnell? I thought she was a great contender for dark horse. GONE. Heck, I was sad to see even Arnold, the prissy gay dude, go home. He was a bit too sensitive, but he looked like he could cook, and he was at least entertaining. Nope. No love for him. He too got chopped. My track record remained unblemished.

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TOP CHEF PREVIEW / PHOTOCAP: They Got Crabs

There’s a new episode of Top Chef: DC on tonight, and the above preview gives us a glimpse into what appears to be a very crabby Quickfire competition. The chefs must work with the surly crustaceans, but what’s most fascinating about the clip is Angelo’s confession that he once had crabs a while back, and no, he’s not talking about the seafood. Not sure I want to hear that from a chef.

After the jump, a few photos from last week’s (awesome, stressful) episode, which I forgot to post a photocap for…

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TOP CHEF PHOTOCAP: Chef with a Capital C

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Top Chef returned last week, and already, I’m optimistic for this season. Gone are all the tattooed chefs with their pompous sneers and ridiculous attempts at being badasses. Now we have a more likable group of personalities, even if a few jerks have emerged from the pack (ie. Angelo). Even more encouraging is the sense that with a few exceptions (Angelo again and Kenny), everyone seems to be more or less on the same playing field. And that playing field ain’t very good. Nearly every chef seemed to receive middling to unsatisfactory remarks from the judges, which include new mainstay Eric Ripert. Unlike last season which saw a core group of talent that clearly outclassed the rest of the cast, I think this cycle is anyone’s game. Kenny and Angelo are the obvious frontrunners, but who knows — some others could creep up in there.

One such contender could be Amanda Baumgarten, who’s a sous chef at Los Angeles’s very own Water Grill. I was actually lucky enough (thanks to a lead from Tony C of sinosoul.com) to attend a dinner event at the restaurant for Top Chef’s premiere last week, and we were lucky enough to enjoy Amanda’s Tai Snapper Sashimi (which I believe she served to judges in the elimination challenge). Tom, Gail, and the gang didn’t totally love it, but I thought it was quite tasty. Then again, serving food in a reality show environment versus your home kitchen turf is a whole different ball game; so who knows how different the dishes were. I can also safely say that Amanda’s other dish she served (Maryland soft-shell crab with grilled sweet corn and bacon tomato vinaigrette) was totally mouthwatering (as was the third dish, a Columbia River king salmon with asparagus and poached egg, which was cooked by her boss, David LeFevre). Needless to say, the Water Grill’s fête for Amanda was certainly delicious (and I haven’t even touched on the heaps of oysters I slurped down. Oh… and the prosecco — I could go on and on).

The point is that I’m excited to see what Amanda (who incidentally was lovely) and all the others have in store for us. I’m a touch sad about the season’s first elimination. The gangly, awkward John Somerville was strange but oddly likable; sort of like the second coming of Carla. If he’d stuck around a week or two, I bet he would have churned out some quality stuff and become a fan favorite in the process. Alas. Nevertheless, as much as I love talking about the chefs, it all comes down to one thing: Pad ‘n’ Gail. Pics of the two, as well as many others, after the jump…

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