Top Chef V recap: Takin' home the princess

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After such a humdrum premiere, last night's Top Chef episode mostly delivered on contestant Daniel Gagnon's promise that this season is "gonna be the most exciting ever."

Donatella Arpaia, NYC restaurateur and star of her own Bravo series, guest-judged. For the quickfire, the chefs had to make their own hot dogs and match them against the gold standard of wiener maven Angelina D'Angelo (of the D'Angelo Hot Dog Stand in Queens).

Baltimore chef Jill Snyder received stern looks for using store-bought hot dogs, and Eugene Villiatora's maki-roll dog stuffed with Boursin cheese made Donatella look like she was passing a kidney stone. Chicago small-plates chef Rhadika Desai won immunity for her "kebab dog”—and impunity (in our hearts, at least) for that toothy smile!

Elimination brought the chefs to Tommy C.’s flagship resto Craft to cook "New American" food. Those Bravo producers sure know how to stick it to their former casts: At Craft, the contestants learned that they would be cooking for 50 Top Chef cast-offs from previous seasons (did we spot a cheery-looking Fran Derby?).

Judges and jilted reality stars alike were underwhelmed by the food, but none more than Padma, who looked offended as she spit out Ariane Duarte's overly saccharine lemon meringue martini dessert. Fabio took the win for a filet carpaccio paired with a "spherical olive”—an ingenious molecular touch, which produced a thin shell of olive juice puree surrounding a liquid center. Jill Snyder hit the road. Her attempt at standing out (by using an ostrich egg to make quiche) failed—like last week's Patrick Dunlea incident—due to inexperience with the ingredient.

So two weeks in and the Europeans have staked their claim. As Fabio put it, "It's not how many dragons you kill, but who takes home the princess."

Next week: The Foo(d) Fighters are Top Chef fans! And cooking in the rain upsets people!—Zach Feldman

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