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Top Chef, Season 4: Common Threads AND Giveaway Winner

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 [1]. I had never heard of him before. Apparently, he was Oprah’s personal chef for ten years. Since I rarely watch Oprah [2], 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 [3]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 [4]. 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 [5]! 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. [6] 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 [7]! 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

  • [8]

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!