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Top Chef, Season 4: Tailgating AND TWO GIVEAWAY WINNERS

Things seem to have “simmered down” a bit in the Top Chef kitchen this week. If you recall, at the end of last weeks episode several of the Cheftestants had reached their “boiling points” as the aftershock of Zoi’s departure was felt by all. It must be hard to exist in that kind of situation, a veritable “pressure cooker”, where you’re with the same group of people 24/7. Relationships are developed. Attachments are formed. Yet, you’re all competing for the same coveted prize under enormously stressful conditions.

As this week’s episode opened, the same people were still kvetching about what went down in the last challenge. Spike was still bitching about that soup. (For God’s sake, Spike! Let. It. Gooooo!) As for Jen, well…..let’s just say that Jen needs to morph out of her junior high mindset and grow up a little. Okay, so your girlfriend got cut and you feel bad. We all knew that one of you would eventually get sent packing. So, grow up and quit whining already!

I thought that Dale definitely won the citizenship award last night. He obviously regretted his outburst against Lisa and approached her about it. He basically apologized for losing his temper and calmly tried to address the issue of her negativity with her. I thought it was the responsible and mature thing to do. That Dale is one classy guy, (if you overlook last week’s crotch grabbing display)! Of course, Lisa was having none of it and proceeded to bash Dale behind his back. Oh well, you can take the girl out of the gutter…….
Last night’s Quickfire Challenge was all about “simple pleasures”. In the challenge, each Cheftestant was given a six pack of a different kind of beer and told to create a dish that complemented it. That was an easy one! Beer goes with almost every cuisine. The possibilities are nearly endless. Koren Grieveson, Chef de cuisine at Avec Restaurant [1]in Chicago, was the guest judge. Maybe she is camera shy, but she displayed no personality whatsoever. In fact, her comments were barely audible. I had never heard of her before, but she is highlighted as one of Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2008 [2], so I suppose I’m duly impressed. I hope she doesn’t see this. If I ever get to Chicago, I might want to eat at Avec.
Grieveson selected Jen’s seafood beignets as the winning dish. I have to say, I think I would have chosen them too. They really looked great. Richard and Stephanie also got kudos for their submissions. At the bottom of the heap were Spike, Dale and Nikki. Better luck next time, guys.
Okay, now I’m not even going to address that bathtub scene between Spike and Mark. That was a genuine WTF moment! It was just too weird for me and I’m not touching it with a ten foot pole. Of course, that doesn’t stop any of you from giving your take on it.

The Elimination Challenge was one we’ve seen every season. You know, the “We’re just regular Joes and Can Cook for the Common Man” one. In this incarnation, our Cheftestants were cooking tailgate food for Bears fans at Soldier Field [3]. Each chef was given a choice of using a Weber gas grill or a Weber charcoal grill to cook their food. Hmmm. I guess Weber [4] must be a new Top Chef sponsor. Everyone chose the gas except Mark, who went with charcoal. An ominous sign!

Now, here is where I got a little confused. At the football field, some other guy showed up Instead of Koren Grieveson to judge the elimination challenge. He was introduced as Paul Kahan, chef/owner of Avec. Huh? Then who was the other one? I thought she was the chef at Avec. And why the tag team? Couldn’t they spare her for one whole day at the restaurant? In 2007, Kahan was nominated for a James Beard Award [5]for Outstanding chef. I guess James Beard trumps Food & Wine.

I thought that most of the menu selections looked pretty darn good. There was a lot of variety and the crowd seemed to enjoy almost everything they tasted. In fact, Nikki’s dish was apparently so popular, that she ran out of food before the judges came by to taste it. Now, I like Nikki, but come on! How could she let that happen? The judges are there to “judge” the food. They can’t do that if they don’t eat it. Didn’t she realize that they hadn’t been by yet? If it were you, wouldn’t you have made damn sure that you put some of the good stuff aside for them? I think I’d rather have a few disgruntled fans than a few disgruntled judges! Tony Bourdain would have ripped her a new one for that blunder!

There were some pretty special guests roaming around at that tailgate party. Several all-time Bears greats, including Gale Sayers [6](Remember Brian’s Song [7]?) and William “The Fridge” Perry [8]were there, and let me tell you, they were loving Dale’s ribs! They did look like some pretty awesome ribs. I loved the exchange between Dale and those football legends. Being born and raised in Chicago, Dale was absolutely over the moon!

Ryan, aka Mr. Cheese, was totally working the crowd. He could have given Rachael Ray a run for her money with that mouth of his! Unfortunately, no one cared for his food. Instead of cooking for his audience, he made tailgate food “Ryan Scott Style”. His words, not mine. He made a Bread Salad with Marinated Chicken Thighs, a Poached Pear with Creme Fraiche and a Brandy Hot Cocoa. This, at a football game with no tables, chairs or decent utensils to eat with. His dish was unwieldy and impractical for the situation. It was a very indulgent choice.
Mark seemed to having a helluva time “getting his grill on”, so to speak. He prepared a chicken yakitori skewer with a seafood chowder. The judges weren’t really crazy about either, but what they really reamed him on was his messy, unsanitary station. Can’t say that I blame them. Can you imagine eating food that came out of that mess? And he stirred his chowder with the same spoon he tasted from! Ken from Season 2 was summarily dismissed for less than that!
Andrew was…..well…..Andrew. Nuff said. Nice touch with the football helmet, though.


The top three this week were Stephanie (Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Pear, Potato and Bacon Salad and Rosemary Vinaigrette) , Antonia (Jerk Chicken Sandwich with Pickled Onions and Grilled Pineapple and Banana) and Dale (Tandori Pork Ribs & Potato Salad with Golden Raisins, Dried Mango & Turmeric). Dale took the win, as well as one of those fancy schmancy gas grills.


The bottom three of the bunch were Nikki (Sausage and Peppers, Grilled Shrimp with Hot Sauce and Spiced Cider), Mark (Yakitori Chicken Skewer with Seafood Corn Chowder) and Ryan (Bread Salad with Marinated Chicken Thighs, a Poached Pear with Creme Fraiche and a Brandy Hot Cocoa. No surprises here! The judges decided that the sins of running out of blah food and cooking blah food under unsanitary conditions were not as great as the sin of cooking hoity toity, blah, “California tailgate” food at a Chicago Bears tailgate party. In the end, Ryan was asked to pack his knives and go.
So, how do you feel about this season so far? Who do you love? Who do you hate? Who do you love to hate? Leave a comment on this post between now and next Wednesday, April 23 at 10:00 p.m. EDT and you could be the next lucky winner!

Let’s Dish!
And now, for this week’s Giveaway winners. No, it’s not a typo. Due to an unexpected Top Chef related windfall, I am giving away two prizes this week! See, you never know what’s going to happen here in SGCCland.
The first winner and recipient of an “I’m Not Your Bitch, Bitch” cap is………David Dust [10]! David is a new reader of this blog and he write his own Top Chef recaps on his site, here. Congratulations, David!


Our second winner and recipient of an official Top Chef Cookbook is……..Ginny of Just Get Floury [11]! Congratulations, Ginny!

If both winners will email me at stickygooeycreamychewy AT gmail DOT com with their mailing addresses, I will happily send out their prizes.

Thanks, everyone, for playing. I still have lots more stuff to give away, so keep coming back! Next week, I will be sending someone another Top Chef oven mitt.
Ciao for now!