Top Chef, Season 4: Common Threads AND Giveaway Winner

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Last night in the Top Chef Kitchen, the………Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz………. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz……….huh………wha……… Oh. Excuse me, I must have dozed off for a minute. Where was I? Ah yes, the Top Chef recap. Hmmm. It’s no wonder that I fell asleep, because last night’s episode was something of a snore. There was no controversy. There was no drama. No feuding or fighting. Hell, there wasn’t even very much cursing going on. Now, what fun is that!?!? Frankly, the show was a little bit blah! By the end of the hour, I had pretty much given up caring who went home. And, I can’t even remember what Padma wore!
..
The guest judge for this week was Chef Art Smith. I had never heard of him before. Apparently, he was Oprah’s personal chef for ten years. Since I rarely watch Oprah, I wouldn’t have known that. He has also won two James Beard Awards. That’s impressive! If you’d like to learn more about Chef Smith and his many accomplishments, here is the link to the comprehensive bio on his web site. He seems like a really nice guy, although I found him a little bit blah too.

In the Quickfire Challenge, the Cheftestants had fifteen minutes to create an interesting and delicious meal using Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice. Fifteen Minutes! Yikes! It takes me longer than that to unwrap a take-out rotisserie chicken! Anyway, Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice is already cooked and comes in microwaveable bags. You just nuke it for 90 seconds and it’s “ready” to use. The problem is, it tastes like crap. I’m sorry, but I’ve tried it and it does. My hat goes off to anyone who could make anything delicious using that stuff.

Despite their madcap race around the kitchen, the Cheftestants managed to come up with some pretty interesting dishes for this challenge. Dale, Richard and Antonia had the top three dishes, while Stephanie, Lisa and Mark were in the bottom. Antonia was the winner with her Rice Salad with Skirt Steak, Arugula and Cherry Tomatoes. Seriously, was there ever any doubt? We’re talking steak here, people. Steak trumps chicken (or turkey) breast every time.

The Elimination Challenge for this week really stretched our Cheftestant’s creativity quotient as well as their wallets. Each of them had to create a tasty and nutritious entree for a family of four with a budget of…..ten dollars. WTF? First, fifteen minutes and now, ten dollars? And, they had to buy their ingredients at Whole Foods! You can’t even walk in the door at Whole Foods for ten dollars!

Each chef was paired with their own pint-sized assistant from Chef Smith’s pet charity, Common Threads. According to their web site, “Common Threads helps bridge cultural boundaries and strengthens our global family by teaching children about their similarities and differences in the warm comfort of the kitchen: Through the simple process of preparing and sharing a nutritious meal, children who participate in our programs learn to connect with their bodies, their neighbors, and their world in bite-sized lessons.” It sounds like a wonderful organization working for a worthwhile cause. The kids were all cute as buttons decked out in their chef’s regalia and took their assignments very seriously. Now that I think of it, this is probably why our Cheftestants were so well-behaved (blah) this week.

It was kind of sweet to watch the chefs working together with the kids. They all really seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience. It was nice to see a more “human” side to them. In concept, I thought all of the dishes presented were good. In execution, however, there were some “issues”. The judges agreed.

Antonia brought it home and scored a double header with her Stir Fry Whole Wheat Noodles with Bok Choy, Chicken, Edamame & Cilantro. Using pasta was another smart choice on her part. The runners up were Nikki, with her Roasted Chicken with Apple & Mixed Vegetables, Cucumber & Tomato Salad, and Andrew, with his Chicken Paillard with Basil & Parmesan with a Fennel, Orange & Apple Salad. Now would also be a good time to mention that Spike made another soup.

In the bottom three again (see above), were Lisa, with her Quinoi Crusted Chicken with Beans & Edamame, Stephanie, with her Braised Chicken & Veggie Couscous with Chive Yogurt and Mark, with his Roasted Vegetables in Red Curry with Cucumber Salad & Garlic Naan. Lisa, of course, was outraged that she was on the chopping block again, and got snippy with the judges.(Oh puleeeeze send her home!) Silly, sweet Mark, who apparently has a little paranoia thing going on, was asked to pack his knives and go. It seems that the judges felt his curry dish was lacking in protein and taste. We’ll miss him.


Giveaway Winner Announcement!!!


This week’s giveaway winner is…..Nanc Twop! Congratulations, Nanc! Thanks for participating. Email your mailing address to me and I’ll get your Top Chef whisk out to you ASAP. BTW, Nanc writes great Top Chef commentary on her blog. Check it out!

Next week’s giveaway is going to be a Reader’s Choice, which means that the winner gets to choose from the following items:


Top Chef Oven Mitt

  • Top Chef “I’m Not Your Bitch, Bitch” Hat

Top Chef Sticky Note Pad

So keep those comments coming for your chance to win one of these great items.

Let’s dish!!!

Let’s dish!

30 responses to Top Chef, Season 4: Common Threads AND Giveaway Winner

  1. On May 01, 2008 at 9:02pm, RecipeGirl said...

    I totally agree… BLAH episode for sure. My nephew (a chef) should totally be on that show. He’d be cursing up a storm and making things interesting, for sure!!

    I haven’t been interested in that Australian guy from the beginning so I’m glad to see him go.

    In general, I just don’t find the participants this year all that fun to watch. Maybe it will get better toward the end?

  2. On May 01, 2008 at 9:03pm, RecipeGirl said...

    Or was it New Zealand? Whatever.

  3. On May 01, 2008 at 9:41pm, Cynthia said...

    When I read the name of your blog in the comment section, I thought that is so matched the title of my current post :)

    Thanks for stopping by and helping me to discover your place where I’ll be hanging out often!

  4. On May 02, 2008 at 12:53am, Nanc Twop said...

    Thanks S, that was a nice surprise!

    And much more exciting than this week’s ep, I’m afraid.

    First ‘Ben’s Rice Bowl’, followed by ‘Cheap Eats 101′? No wonder NYmag called it the worst ep.- ‘Top Home Cook’, indeed. (my links)

    And if we’re being denied our ‘gourmet moments’ can we viewers get a peek at the TC pantry – why can’t we see what ‘extras’ are there that the chefs might use? Could Mark have added yogurt or cheese from there to get more protein in his dish? – that’s something I’d like to know. (At least give us that, BravoTV!) Grr.

  5. On May 02, 2008 at 2:31am, Grace said...

    i enjoyed hearing little tidbits about the chefs–antonia’s a single mom (new-found respect for her!), mark makes curry for his lady,” and andrew was overweight in high school. i haven’t really gotten attached to any of them yet, so that helped.

  6. On May 02, 2008 at 3:28am, Mochachocolata Rita said...

    nononooo suzan, i didnt even dare to read any part of this post, as i havent started top chef season 4..hahahha…

    i’ll hv to catch up and find a way to watch this online ^_^

    btw,
    You’re invited to my chinese take-out party, check out the details in my blogpost:
    http://mochachocolatarita.blogspot.com/2008/05/celebrating-my-88th-post-chinese-take.html

    Hope you’ll play along :)

    Looking forward to your take on chinese take-out ^_^

  7. On May 02, 2008 at 5:49am, Ginny said...

    I agree! I was not thrilled…I found the guest judge really annoying, anyone agree? I believe it was Spike that started freaking out about feeding 4 on $10…all I could think of was spoiled brat! of course, whole foods at $10 is a bit harder but get creative you are a chef!!!

  8. On May 02, 2008 at 6:13am, chinamomxtwo said...

    Love your summary of the show!!”spot on” as this weeks loser would likely say.
    How about that comment” I think Tom doesn’t like me” Excuse me? what?? are 10 yrs old????!!
    Anyhow, thanks so much for the chance to win!

  9. On May 02, 2008 at 6:51am, Maryann said...

    I really want that bitch cap! haha
    It’s me! And that ready made rice IS crap..I’m with you on that :)

  10. On May 02, 2008 at 8:40am, BMK said...

    I can’t believe any of them got the food they did for ten dollars at Whole Foods. The meat alone would have taken the budget. I agree it was a pretty boring episode. What gives with Spike and the soup? Does he think he will win by making soup every week?

  11. On May 02, 2008 at 8:41am, Mike of Mike's Table said...

    Couldn’t have said it better…I just didn’t care about anything in that episode. The only moment was when Mark mentioned that he thought Tom didn’t like him, but that faux controversy was over in about 5 seconds. *yawn* Here’s hoping for a better next week :o

  12. On May 02, 2008 at 9:00am, Autumn said...

    Yea that Uncle Bens stuff if guh-ross! I had the Teriyaki and it was hideous!

  13. On May 02, 2008 at 9:19am, Tempered Woman said...

    $10 for whole foods? Puhleeze. No freakin way. I actually liked Art Smith. I thought he gave some pretty sound comments and feedback compared to some other guest judges.
    I’m really surprised about Steph on the bottom. And I’ve heard somer eally valid arguments that her dish sounded like a traditional African dish. The judges can be pretty eurocentric. Anybody else ready for these chefs to actually get a tru chef-related challenge. So over the the kitchy crap this Season.
    Thanks for another great recap. And I most def ain’t nobody’s bitch, heh

  14. On May 02, 2008 at 9:21am, David Dust said...

    Racist Rice!!

    Thanks for the comment. If anyone else would like to read it, Click here for DavidDust’s Top Chef recap.

    I’m wearing my “Bitch” hat as I write this. Thanks again!

    :)

  15. On May 02, 2008 at 9:34am, David Dust said...

    FYI: I just did a post about your giveaway on my blog. I hope you don’t mind.

  16. On May 02, 2008 at 10:18am, Psychomom said...

    Hi, I’m one of the DavidDust’s dustbunnies and one of his straight lovers (a bitch can brag) and followed him over here to play. I had to find another boy toy now that “Dirty Zelander Mark” is gone (no more down under for me).

    Anywho, the last episode was so boring I’m looking forward to watching (my new pick) “Dale” beat up the lockers, mas macho.

  17. On May 02, 2008 at 11:12am, ann marie said...

    90 second rice? that counts as food? feed 4 people for $10?….i can do it for $5….big pot of elbo mac, garlic, canned cannelini beans, olive oil and parm cheese (the most expensive ingredient). now thats cookin cheap. mark wants to know what he has to do to make chef tom happy….dont cook food that looks and tastes like wet garbage? just a guess. if i tried to feed my kids brussel sprouts, curry, and or peanut butter tomato sauce they would throw it at me like monkeys throw poo at the zoo….what happened to stephanie???????? if she keeps this up richard will win….and did anyone notice richard totally looks like lesbian jennifer with that hairdo? the james beard foundation awards are now completely suspect as top chef the holiday cook off was nominated….the previews for next week look like a trainwreck is about to happen…which means it will probably get a james beard nomination next year.

  18. On May 02, 2008 at 11:46am, Deborah said...

    yes, please get rid of Lisa!!

  19. On May 02, 2008 at 12:49pm, Amy said...

    Oh man I was getting pretty nervous for Stephanie (she’s one of my favs). Wth was she thinking, peanut butter and tomato?

  20. On May 02, 2008 at 12:59pm, Margo said...

    I really hope Lisa gets eliminated followed soon by Nikki. Unless we’re about to see some new stuff from Nikki. I was kinda put off by Stephanie’s comment about her eating “gourmet” food while growing up – although, I guess all of the chefs have said something snooty by now.
    Thanks for the recap (and the cool contest!).

  21. On May 02, 2008 at 2:03pm, Joy said...

    Did anyone notice that Kiwi Mark brushes his teeth wrong and goes from side to side instead of up and down? Maybe that’s a Southern Hemisphere thing like counter-clockwise water down the drain.

    There are a lot of whiners on this season who also talk back to the judges.

    I don’t know what happened to Stephanie. She was doing well and then tomatoes and peanut butter!!! Yuck!

  22. On May 02, 2008 at 2:18pm, Laurie said...

    Love the blog, I especially like following the Top Chef reading, great stuff! Now talking about Uncle Ben’s rice, not so great stuff, I will keep reading instead of cooking the rice!
    Thanks!

  23. On May 02, 2008 at 3:07pm, noble pig said...

    Oh dude, I am so right there with ya…snore..head whiplash…I wake up…snore…whiplash…I did fall asleep at lease tres times.

  24. On May 02, 2008 at 4:52pm, Susan from Food Blogga said...

    Hey Susan,
    I tagged you for a 6-word memoir if you feel like playing along. :)

  25. On May 02, 2008 at 6:55pm, LyB said...

    OK, I’m loving this recap thing! I can’t watch the current season of Top Chef as I’m in Canada and we get them, oh, I don’t know, years later, but I’ve enjoyed the previous seasons! About one of the comments, tomato and peanut butter really do go together really well. I have an African friend who makes this wonderful dish with meat and vegetables and a peanut butter and tomato based sauce, I love it!

  26. On May 02, 2008 at 11:35pm, ann marie said...

    tomato and peanut butter go together? is that the afrocentric bent someone said stephanie was going for? next time i stew a goat ill try that for sauce but till then its suspect.

  27. On May 03, 2008 at 1:08pm, Anonymous said...

    What really made the episode particularly boring is that none of the dishes engaged me to want to either taste them or make them. Usually at least theres one that intrigues me. Personally the drama is only usefull as filler.. or a palate cleanser..if you will. So no interesting drama + no culinary curiousity + no attractive guest judge/chef = watching Rachel Ray show…blechh

  28. On May 03, 2008 at 3:49pm, greenman said...

    grr messed up that last comment was me :( but I logged in wrong

  29. On May 04, 2008 at 12:51am, Emiline said...

    Yep. This episode was boring for me. I really am getting sick of Lisa. Boot her off!
    Mark was on his way out a long time ago. You could tell from the beginning of the show, that he was the one getting kicked off.

    This season has too much product placement What chef would use Uncle Ben’s rice? Making rice isn’t that hard!

  30. On May 04, 2008 at 11:48am, Joy said...

    Emiline, that is so right about the product placement and the racist rice, as David Dust describes it. All that is over the top (chef) this season!

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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