First Impressions - June 13|
Last time we saw the Top Chef 3
Contestants, they were looking to critique the past contestants.
Now it is they who will be critiqued, and by the end of this
episode, one of them will also be a past contestant. Welcome to
Top Chef 3.
We start with 15 contestants. We will end with one. Let's meet
Sara Mair (33, Chef/Cheese maker) - She's from Jamaica and
thinks outside the box. She tries to think outside the rules,
and that can get her into trouble in this sort of competition.
Clay Bowen (27, Sous Chef, Santa Barbara University Club) - He's
from the South and he didn't go to culinary school. he also
doesn't think that the South has been represented that well, and
he's looking to change that. He looks like a good ol' Southern
boy. He's also doing this for his deceased father. AwwwwBarf.
If Clay looks like a Southern Boy, then Joey Paulino (29,
Executive Chef, Cafe Des Artistes) looks like a true Paisan,
belly and all. "I'm the biggest baddest m*ther f*cker here. I'm
from New York. I'm here to kick a$$."
Dale Levitsky (33, Chef/Consultant, Cre Cafe and Wine Bar) is
looking to open up his own place. The win would not only give
him the capital, but would validate him as an excellent chef,
though it is hard to believe his 'Keep it simple' philosophy
while he's brandishing a mohawk.
Tre Wilcox (30, Chef De Cuisine, Anacus), the lone African
American male, has 'Gotta Have Passion' tattooed on his arm. He
loves to watch people eat his food and he has...yes..passion.
Sara Nguyen (25, Executive Chef), is honored that the
contestants are going into Casa Casarina (Versace's old
mansion). She is an Asian female who reveres everything about
The Asian Male counterpart is Hung Nuyhn (29, Executive Chef,
Guy Savoy), who reveres nothing. Hung is the loud emotional one,
and is a 'Certified Professional A$$hole' (his words, not mine).
As someone who has known Marcel (Top Chef 2 Finalist) for the
past 5 years, he is almost certainly going to be painted as the
villain in this series (my words, not his).
Micah Edelstein (32, Owner, Wandering Chef Caterer), is a long
brown-haired accented beauty, who describes cooking as art,
adding that no one told Michaelangelo how to paint. I sense
major conflicts with her.
Sandee Birdsong (39, Executive Chef, Tantra), switched gears and
is a chef in the Miami area. She's also switched gears in the
hair department - she has a nice blonde mohawk to match Dale's
Lia Bardeen (27, Executive Sous Chef, Jean-Georges) works in
Manhattan, where you have to have drive to thrive. She thinks
that this drive will give her an edge. She looks like the
perfect yuppie-yorker, complete with short haircut.
Chris 'CJ' Jacobsen (31, Private Chef) is a tall lanky guy from
Orange County. He also has had cancer, which is in remission,
but not without costing him...well... 'I have a false testicle
and I'm ready to cook'. I don't think CJ will get too many
ladies with that line.
Howie Kleinberg (31, Executive Chef, The Food Gang) also looks
paisan and from NYC (though he's in Miami) - and he's got a bald
head to back it up. Insert Howie/Joe as Kevin/Drew Amazing Race
Brian Malkrey (34, Executive Chef, Oceanaire) - He's got the
slick back hair to cover that receding hairline.
Camille Bacerra (34, Executive Chef/Owner, Paloma) - Camille is
also from Brooklyn and specializes in 'Food Done Right'. I can
see the women butting heads in a major way this season. That
should be very entertaining :)
Casey Thompson (29, Dallas) - A mulletted brown/blonde woman.
Returning to the show is both Padma Lakshmi and head judge Tom
Colicchio. Joining him this season is Queer Eye's Ted Allen, and
Food and Wine Magazine's Editor in Chief Gail Simmons. The
prizes? A feature in Food and Wine Magazine, a Showcase at the
Annual Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, a dream vacation in the
Swiss Alps and $100,000. And oh yes - the title of Top Chef.
After the schmoozing has finished, Padma and Tom introduce the
chefs to the competition. Tom says that he's not the mentor, but
he is the head judge (but we all know he will be mentoring).
With that - it's time for the first Quickfire Challenge - at the
Challenge - To use the appetizers that they have been munching
on for the past half hour to create their own appetizer (or
Amuse Bouche, if you really want to be fancy about it) in ten
Fortunately for the chefs, there's fruit, cheeses, meats, fruits
and other raw products that are easy to make things out of.
Unfortunately, they can't use their own utensils and are stuck
to use the plastic knives as cutting tools. Micah avoided the
expensive oysters, knowing that people would be gunning for the
expensive stuff. With that, and after ten minutes worth of
scrambling, time is up and we get to see the first plating of
the new class.
We don't get the entire list of what each contestant made, but
we do get Howie's poached shrimp with heirloom tomatoes and
champagne basil-vinaigrette, Micah's Tuscan Sushi Revisited
(Italian Ham with Figs and Balsamic Dressing), Dale's Beef
Tenderloin with Blue Cheese, Radish and Sea Salt and Clay's
Fruit Gazpacho served in an apple. Now an Amuse Bouche is
supposed to be a little small bite sized thing, but Clay made it
like a full-fledged appetizer, and the lack of culinary
knowledge may come to hurt him this task.
Sara shows Tom oyster over pineapple, while Hung whips out an
impressive Hamachi with Creamy Egg Rice, Grapes, Chili Sauce
Olives, and Pesto Vinaigrette. Tre displays a Hamachi of his
own, with Avocado, Strawberries and Champagne in an oyster
Tom's least Favorites - Dale's dish (cheese was too aggressive),
Clay (Too big, which didn't fit the challenge) and Tre
(champagne was too strong and paled to Hung's Hamachi). Tom's
three favorites was Micah's, Sara's and Hung's. The winner,
because of the balance and personality...Micah. She's not going
to change anything, but she does know that she is immune from
the next elimination.
The chefs all convene at the Fontaine Bleau resort in Miami,
Florida. They get a beautiful view, which they all go to look at
- except for Hung, who starts checking out the refrigerator.
Clay is feeling bad about himself because he didn't know
anything about an Amuse Bouche. He invites everyone to make fun
of him (which they do) and then he talks about his father, who
took his own life. he hopes that this will work out for him, but
no one thinks that he is going to make it past episode one and
quite honestly, we are finding out way too much about him this
early in the competition, which is always a bad sign...
Howie is ready to go, while Hung doesn't care about anyone's
credentials. That Hung, always making nicey-nice. And with that,
we go into the Elimination Challenge.
The challenge - create a Surf and Turf meal. The catch - these
'proteins' are very exotic. Rattlesnake, anyone?
The contestants draw knives to determine the order. Joey goes
first and wants to cook something 'safe' to stay in the
competition. Both Hung and Sara go for the Black Chicken, which
they have used for their own cuisines.
Brian (who drew 10) notices that everyone is being conservative,
while Tre, who notices that he is in the bottom in the Quickfire
Challenge, decides that he wants to make a good impression and
be exotic. Dale, who was also in the bottom and was even more
unfortunate to pick 15, decides to go with the Alligator Tail
and the Monkfish Liver - which he's never tasted. Uh oh...
The chefs have $30 to spend while they go shopping. Chefs 1-8
get to cook first, while chefs 9-15 cook second. The special
guest judge - Anthony Bourdain, who is VERY picky - and very
adventurous, according to CJ, 'He's not afraid to eat the brain
out of a live monkey'.
At the market, Joey is noticing that Micah is helping Clay out.
Joey is upset for 2 reasons - 1. Clay should be a grown man and
do things by himself, and 2. If Micah told Joey what to do, he'd
tell her to go f*ck herself. Shades of future controversy?
The chefs have 2 hours to make everything happen. Howie is not
used to this and he's taking his time to make sure that things
happen to make the best food possible. Sandee is using her
injector to pump some more stuff into the frogs legs, while Joey
is going for the rib-eye steak. Clay thinks that his Cajun style
will win Bourdain over, and he's going to make the fish cajun-styled.
Lia hopes that she will have enough time to make her fish
beautiful, while Howie hopes he has enough time, which is
running down. Howie plates his risotto and gets the frogs
legs...when time runs out. Howie doesn't plate the frogs legs
when time runs out, and he only has one half of the proteins
down. 'I guess we all know who's going home' mutters Howie as he
leaves the kitchen.
The chefs come in to display their wares, and this time, we have
the full plating. Yay!
Seared Buffalo Rib-Eye, Grilled Scorpion Fish with Mediterranean
Sara N. -
Razor Clams with Sweet Corn Chowder, Buffalo Rib Eye with Black
Pan Seared Wild Boar and Cornbread Dressing with Scorpion Fish
Gail called it her least favorite dish. Tom called it inedible.
Anthony called it DOA - a home-cooking sort of thing, but not in
a home that he wanted to live in. Ouch.
Crusted Rack of Boar with Sesame Chili and Lentils / Sea Urchin
Gail thought that Lia's was the best in appearance and in taste.
Alligator Fried Steak and Braised Greens with Razor Clams
Ostrich Tartare with Horseradish Spider Crabs with Anise and
Tom loved that CJ combined both dishes into 1 meal.
Cajun Frog Legs with Spider Crab Jambalaya
Gail thought it was playful.
Sea Urchin and Chanterelle Risotto (Sans Frogs Legs)
Howie is embarassed to present an incomplete dish. Anthony loved
what he had tasted, but was disappointed that there were no
frogs legs. Tom was disappointed too, because it seemed like
Howie had plenty of time.
Now it's time for the second shift. Hung wants to prove himself,
while a flustered Brian thinks it will be hard to deal with
proteins that most people have never worked with. He does get
help from Sara M, who likes to help everyone. Camille is
confident in her Kangaroo and ABalone, since she does have
experience in both of it. Hung, who has also had experience in
what he has, is confident, as is Tre, who is not used to losing.
Dale is using a wild dish that will either help in win the
challenge, or knock him off the show. Based on what Howie and
Clay have done so far, Dale, I don't think you need to worry
this episode - especially since Brian got too ambitious and
didn't completely plate his dish either. Brian, meet Howie.
It's time for the second squad -
Roasted Ostrich Filet with Heirloom Tomato Risotto and Abalone
Tom thought the meat was perfect and seasoned well. The abalone
is very crunchy and well done. Anthony thought it tasted
classical and was perfectly executed.
Hair of Medusa with Sea Eel with electric venom soup.
Brian did not plate the salad, but at least he got both proteins
down. Anthony would love this dish - if he was drunk. Ouch! He
says its a good bar dish, but not something he'd serve.
Spicy Maple Crusted Abalone Fritter / Pan Seared Kangaroo with
Herb Sauce and Salad
Sarah M. -
Braised Black Chicken and Geoduck Ceviche with Cucumber Ribbons
Anthony loved the preparation and Sarah's confidence. Gail
wanted to see a little bit of color.
Slow Cooked Black Chicken and Raw Geoduck with Fennel
Anthony is impressed with the duck.
Seared Kangaroo with Sweet Potato Pudding / Poached Egg topped
Liver / Ostrich Carpaccio with Monkfish Liver
Mustard-Seared Alligator Tail and Monkfish Liver with Apple Hash
Gail thought the alligator is too tough.
The judges thought that the level of the chefs were very high,
and while not everything was a hit, it was very good for the
most part. Anthony thought that the failures was failure of
For the first time this season, we get the good chefs. They are
Hung...and...Tre. Tre knew that Hung is going to be there, and
he thinks that Hung is the only person that can outcook him.
Hung says that not everything needs to be in color, and that the
mouth needs to be the final judge. Tre loved the way that he
cooked his dish. Both chefs tasted each other's dish, and they
admitted that each chef was worthy. Gail says that the person
who won the first elimination challenge in the first two seasons
also won Top Chef. That person this season to win the first
elimination is...Tre, who feels redeemed from the first
challenge. He wins a set of Bourdain's books and a bar hopping
trip with him in NYC. Heh.
Tre and Hung come back - and ask 4 people to show up. Those
people are Howie, Brian, Clay and Dale. The second meeting is
the one that you do NOT want to be at, because they are the
least favorite dishes.
Brian admits that he's here because he was being too ambitious.
He says that he tried to fry them, but Gail said that you could
even fry her big toe and it would taste good. Heh. Brian also
says that he wasted too much time on deciding what would be
plated, and Anthony agrees, 'The only thing worse about making a
wrong decision is dithering on that wrong decision'.
Dale says that his lack of knowledge of the items brought him
here, admitting that he didn't like the texture and that he
cooked it too long. Anthony called him on playing it safe and
trying not to be the worst. We all know why Howie is there - he
never plated the Frog Legs and wanted to recrisp them, and
Anthony asked him what his major malfunction. Howie turned
around and quoted from Anthony's own book saying that he
preferred to make it right, spurned Anthony to call Howie a son
of a bitch. Ouch. Finally, Clay didn't know why he was there. He
gets called on the fact that his mistakes were fundamental ones.
he didn't know how to cook the meat, and hence it was terrible.
Brian's dish wasn't completed, but he didn't commit any
egregious crimes, according to Anthony. The same can't be said
about Clay, who's food was awful. Howie didn't plate his stuff
on time and it was a serious failure. Gail - 'What is a more
serious crime, not plating the frog's leg...' Tom - 'Or Clay's
It's harsh, but that's what it's going to boil down to. Do you
get rid of Howie for fundamentally screwing up the rules, or do
you get rid of Clay for fundamentally screwing up his dish? You
get rid of...Clay, who even admits that the nerves get to him.
So much for seeing more representation from the South this
season. Clay leaves, and he says that he doesn't need a fancy
title to be a Top Chef. Sure you don't. Just a reminder to all
people going on a culinary competition - make sure that you know
the culinary techniques, because there's a reason why you should
go to school.
Next week - The heat gets turned up, as all 14 people get to
cook in the kitchen at the same time. We'll see in 7 days who
can't take the heat and has to get out of the kitchen.