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Live-Blogging Top Chef Season 5 Premiere November 13, 2008

Posted by Amy Yen in Top Chef, TV.
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key_art_top_chef image from Google

9:59 – Brand spanking new season of Top Chef, baby! Let’s hope this goes better than the brand spanking new season of Project Runway. But in theory? This should be AWESOME.

10:00 – Padma reality show premise introduction speech. 17 chefs this year, good God. Did they think last season wasn’t long enough? Product placement prizes have not changed this year. And neither has the 3-second personality title introductions. Ah, I’ve missed you, tiny snippets of reality show personality.

10:02 – Predictably, we open on shots on New York. The chefs, whose names I will not be learning for another 3-5 weeks, arrive at Grand Central Terminal. Their self introductions are not any more interesting than they ever are. It’s all “I am so passionate about cooking” this & “I’m here to win & will stomp over anyone in my way” that. You know the drill. One chef immediately plays the “my husband’s in Iraq” card, which means this is most likely all we ever hear about with her. Two of the chefs turn out to know each other from culinary school. None of the chefs announce that they are boring lesbian subplots.

10:05 – The chefs chat on a boat while we meet a chef who is from Finland, which is awesome. I have this unfounded fondness for Finland because my favorite sports team, the Dallas Stars (hockey), for the longest time had a whole gaggle of Finnish players, who would all gab at each other in Finnish in the locker room, on the bench & on the ice during plays, confusing other teams & leading to awesome Finnish-related jokes in Dallas, like promotional t-shirts in the pro-shop with the saying “Dallas: Helsinki South,” and a jumbotron game they played in the arena during intermissions called “Finnish? Or Gibberish?” Ah, good times. Anyway, I explain all that because until this guy, whose name I believe is Stefan, although don’t hold me to that for another 3-5 episodes, get eliminated, I’m probably going to just refer to him as The Finn.

10:06 – Getting off the boat, the chef begin to express apprehension over the traditional surprise first Quickfire Challenge that always happens in the first 10 minutes or so. These guys are catching on. The chefs come upon Padma & Tom C for the first time. Everyone’s excited & kinda freaked out. Padma & Tom C take some time to tell the chefs how hard it is to do anything in New York, then Padma introduces the Quickfire.

10:07 – Padma tells the chefs & us about a twist in today’s Quickfire: the worst chef will be eliminated right here & now! Excellent! They’re totally listening about the ridiculously long season. Sadly, that brings us to last year’s starting number, 16, which means this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance for double-elimination. The chefs all interview shock & awe & fear, since, yeah, this would be pretty darn humiliating.

10:08 – Tom C explains the challenge, which has 3 rounds. The first is to peel 15 apples using only a knife, no peeler. That’s super hard, yo. If Tom C isn’t happy for whatever reason, they have to go back & do another one. The first 9 to finish this round will be safe & the rest have to go on to the next round. The chefs take their positions.

10:09 – Guys, can I just say? It takes me forever to peel an apple WITH a peeler. I don’t know, I’m just not coordinated. This is why I only buy low-maintenance fruit, like bananas & grapes. Anyway, peeling montage. One chef immediately slices right through his thumb. He doesn’t pause. Gah! Tom C starts to check people’s apples. Bloody Apple Guy makes it through. I really think Tom should disqualify bloody apples. If you’re going to disqualify apples with too much flesh taken off, take away the ones with blood dripping all over them. Ick. Tom checks the last of the 9 & the rest of the chefs stew in their failure.

10:10 – Stefan the Finn finished first, so he get immunity! Yay! (Another saying we used to say in Dallas was “When in doubt, pick a Finn.” It’s cause Finns clearly rule.)

10:11 – The remaining 8 are going on to round 2, brunoising the apples. Basically it’s an extremely thin dice. They have to fill up 2 cups & the first 4 to finish will be safe. The chefs get dicing to upbeat Top Chef challenge music. One chef asks for check, but Tom C rejects her dicing & she almost can’t fix the problem fast enough to get into the top 4. She squeaks it out & the remaining 4 start sweating for real.

10:12 – The final challenge is to create a dish with the apples in 20 minutes. Cooking frenzy. A few of the remaining chefs are doing boring salads since they don’t have much time or supplies. Time’s up. Tom is noncommittal with his comments as he comes around to taste. The bottom two happen to be the two chefs who knew each other. They each interview a little regret over wanting the other to be eliminated. Good time for a commercial.

10:16 – I love the music in the Australia movie trailer. Sounds like Explosions in the Sky.

10:20 – Back from commercials, it’s between people named Patrick & Lauren. Patrick…is safe. Lauren’s going home. Well, that sucks for her. Lauren chokes back tears while thanking the judges. Tragically, she talks about how she came all this way & doesn’t even get to see the kitchen. The producers focus on her sadly for about three seconds before going into the Elimination Challenge title card.

10:21 – Padma tells the chefs to draw knives from the dreaded Knife Block before they can go to their apartments. The chefs all draw areas of New York like Little India, Chinatown & Little Italy. The chefs are paired up to create a dish inspired by the area of New York they drew. And like last year, this is a head-to-head challenge, so the pairs are cooking against each other. The winners of each head-to-head are in the running for winning the challenge. The losers, of course, are up for elimination.

10:23 – Shockingly, the chefs’ apartment is amazing. They sit around & enjoy the view & drink, of course. They drink to good food. They better hope it is, or this is gonna be a seriously long season.

10:24 – Oh, great. Besides The Finn, there is another European, a guy named Fabio. Seriously. They both have extremely hard-core accents, which require subtitles. If you read my Heroes live-blogs, you’ll see that I’ve basically completely given up trying to blog Hiro & Ando’s scenes, or scenes with one of the Wondertwins or anyone else who feels the need to speak in subtitles. Sorry y’all. It’s really hard to live-blog subtitles. Best get used to it.

10:25 – The Fin, Stefan, is apparently all about himself. Oh noooo. He tells the hard-core New Yorker chef about how a vinaigrette is an emotion. Touche. I mean, I love Finns, but I don’t think I can support this kind of talk.

10:29 – Delayed apartment open! It’s just as uneventful in the middle of the episode as it is at the beginning.

10:30 – The chefs aren’t going to the kitchen. In their pairs, they go to their respective areas of the city. Hilarity ensues. The Russian pair are barely understanding what the hell is going on, since they both don’t speak Russian & don’t know anything about Russian food. Great! This is what you want. The Italian pair really has it easy, doesn’t it? Patrick, aka the dude who was earlier almost eliminated, has Chinatown, which you would think is easy, except he’s going around using ingredients he’s never (and I’d never & I’m Taiwanese) used before, like black rice noodles. He’s also telling the other Chinatown chef what he’s going to do, which the other chef (the hard-core New Yorker whose name may or may not be Daniel) & I both think is stupid. The Indian pair also don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Everyone pays for their stuff & head to the kitchen.

10:33 – In the kitchen, everyone’s psyched. They put on their chef coats & aprons & get going. Cooking frenzy. A lot of stuff is going on that I am totally not even going to try to recap. Basically, a couple of people know what they’re doing, but a lot of people don’t. And then we hear stuff like, “I want to infuse some of my own style, which is Latin, into my dish, which is Indian.” Yeah. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, it really feels like Patrick is one big red flag, with his constantly putting stuff into the oven that doesn’t need to be there & completely not knowing how to cook black rice noodles. Daniel (90% sure that is his name) is elated at Patrick’s sad incompetence.

10:39 – A chef whose name I think is Jeff, although there really isn’t any way to be sure, is standing around when he realizes that his challenge-mate has already started plating. Because there’s 3 minutes left. So he starts frantically dashing around, trying to plate a dish that has like 19 steps. He doesn’t finish. Touche, Maybe-Jeff.

10:45 – Time is up & the judges file into the kitchen, including guest judge Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The Finn is way impressed. Carla is completely freaked out. Padma also introduces Tom C again & Gail Simmons. Here we go!

10:46 – Team Middle-Eastern, The Finn vs chick whose name I don’t know. The Finn, if case you forgot, has immunity. The chick whose name I don’t know appears to be named Ariane. Her risotto is way undercooked. Jean-Georges liked The Finn’s dish a lot. Across the board, the judges pick The Finn.

10:47 – Team Greek. Richard, who is part of the self-professed Team Rainbow & who thinks Tom C is way cute, vs Jamie, who I don’t recall ever seeing before in this episode. The judges like both dishes, but Richard’s lamb was overcooked, so Jamie wins. Yawn. Richard & Jamie hug. Oh yeah, I have seen Jamie before, she’s also part of Team Rainbow. Still. Yawn.

10:48 – Team Jamaica. Whenever I think of Jamaica, I think of “Jamaican’ Me Crazy,” which is apparently a flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream & which I’ve been told is an actual bar in Jamaica. Team Jamaica is someone named Jill vs someone named Radhika. The judges take Jill, although they don’t really have that much to say about either. Radhika worries some more about elimination. Such is life, Radhika.

10:49 – Team Latin. Awesomely Named Fabio vs Jeff of the Incomplete Plating. The judges balk at the messy presentation, but Jeff explains it’s his first competition & says he won’t misjudge his timing again. The judges seem to buy the excuse. They prefer Jeff’s. Fabio is up for elimination.

10:50 – Team Russian. Someone named Hosea, whose name I swear I never saw before this, vs Carla, who was the chick really freaked out by Jean-Georges. The judges take Hosea across the board.

10:51 – Team Italian. Leah vs Melissa. Just assume I’m pulling these names I don’t know from the on-screen titles. Everyone likes Melissa’s dish a lot, but really wants more salt on it. So they give it to Leah, which seems unfair, but Melissa is totally not getting eliminated.

10:52 – Team Chinatown. Daniel vs Patrick. Patrick silently freaks out about Jean-Georges’ Asian cuisine knowledge. No one likes Patrick’s black rice noodles, which he probably cooked wrong. But no one really likes Daniel’s salad either. Tom C says he’s seen this salad before, at Wolfgang Puck, like 20 years ago. Nobody really cares for either dish, but reluctantly take Daniel, who enthusiastically thanks them.

10:53 – Team Indian. Alex vs Eugene. Both chefs kind of stumble through their dish explanations, prompting Padma to ask if either of them have cooked Indian food before. You know they haven’t, Padma. Alex, though, parlays his Latin food experience into what turns out to be a good dish. But Eugene has somehow managed to make a classic Indian dish, which even Padma adores. I know. I don’t know how he did it either. I don’t think Eugene even knows. Eugene takes it, Alex is probably safe though.

10:55 – Judging. Nobody likes either Chinatown dish, but Patrick was the loser, so he’s on the hot seat. Other dislikes: Fabio, Radhika & Ariane. Padma heads to the back.

10:59 – I forgot they do this stupid show runtime for the premiere. Guess it goes an extra 15? The chefs laugh & joke in the back, until Padma shows up. She asks for Stefan, Eugene & Leah from the winning group, & Patrick & Ariane from the losing group. Sidebar: Ariane is really pretty when she’s not wearing her chef hat.

11:01 – Judge’s Table. They start with the winners. Everyone thinks Leah’s was a good new Italian example for this city. The Finn’s technique was spot on. And Eugene really made a great unintentional awesome Indian dish. Jean-Georges calls his sauce “absolutely divine.” Padma reminds the winners that all but one season, the winner of the first challenge has won the season. If you’ll remember, the exception was Tre, season 3, who probably should have made it a lot further in the competition than he did, cause he was awesome. Jean-Georges announces the winner…The Finn! Whoa. I mean, again, I’m all about the Finns, but I’ve kind of gotten over him in the course of one episode. Also, I feel like we barely even talked about him. The Finn talks about how he wants to be the first European Top Chef. Dude, are we just going to go through the firsts of everything? Cause that’s getting old, yo.

11:04 – Here’s the losers. Ariane tries to defend her complete lack of knowledge of Middle-Eastern food. She fails to address her undercooked beans, which was the real problem. It earns her a strong early Tom C self-esteem destruction speech. Nobody saw the Chinese inspiration in Patrick’s dish, which he again blames on his first-time using black noodles, except that’s not really the issue either. Can we lose both these losers? The judges scold them on not getting out there & experiencing food outside their comfort zone. Tom asks Ariane what if someone comes in to her restaurant & asks for Middle-Eastern food. Okay, that’s a ridiculous question cause no one would do that except at a Middle-Eastern restaurant, but that doesn’t excuse her ignorant “Yeah, but I have books!” answer. She’s scoffing when she says it, which adds to the effect when the camera shows Tom C, looking incredibly serious, then back to Ariane, now realizing that, hey! Maybe I should act like a chef for once, since I am on a reality show called Top Chef.

11:06 – Padma asks them both to explain why they should get to stay. Longest judging ever. The chefs give their generic answers & the judges dismiss them.

11:07 – Judging. The judges pounce on Patrick’s lack of experience & again complain about his bad Chinese dish. I totally agree, it doesn’t even look like good generic Chinese food. Then again, generic Chinese food can sometimes be awesome. The judges think Patrick just couldn’t handle being asked to do something out of the box. Gail brings up that Ariane has 20 years of experience & shouldn’t she know better? To me, the question is, isn’t getting the exposure of staying on the show longer going to be more beneficial to someone young like Patrick? Not that I want Patrick to stay, cause his dish sucked & was a disgrace to Chinese food, but I’m just saying. Tom C points out that Ariane used the right ingredients, her mistake was simply bad basic cooking skills. Touche, one of the worst possible errors on a show like this.

11:11 – Tom C’s extended self-esteem destruction speech. Padma counts to 10 silently for dramatic effect. Patrick…please pack your knives & go! Ohh! Well, you deserve it. That’s what you get for making bad Chinese food. The judges encourage Patrick & he goes to the back for hugs. Aww. This is kinda sad.

11:13 – This season on Top Chef, yelling! Running! Tasting! Trash-talking! Arguing! Hating Stefan! Martha Stewart! Rocco DiSpirito! Food! Oh, I’ve missed you, Top Chef.



1. Things I Did Thursday- 11152011 | Running the Windy City - December 15, 2011

[…] Why can’t the chefs just get along? (image source) […]

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