Thursday, May 04, 2006

Topsy Turvy at Top Chef

I can't believe it, LeeAnn is out. She and Tiffani were locks to go to Vegas. I thought Dave would be out for sure unless Harold had a meltdown.

Instead Dave's simple truffled mac and cheese won the judges' hearts after too much foofoo and lamb on the part of other contestants. My son predicted Tiffani (or is it Tiffany) would stay, I voted for LeeAnn (or is it LeeAnne). But I forgot the always important Wendy Pepper Rule.

The Wendy Pepper Rule is that all judging is not created equally and producers have a say in who stays and who goes. Tiffani (and possibly Dave) make better TV. I also think it explains why Stephen lasted so long. Don't believe me? Read the fine print during the credits scroll at the end of the show. Why name it after Wendy Pepper? Pepper was the "wild card" finalist that stirred the pot on the first Project Runway. Top Chef is produced by the Project Runway folks. Got it?

The challenge was to use black truffles in a dish for the judges and 10 of the top chefs in Napa to showcase a rare red wine from Shafer Vineyards.

Harold's lamb dish was the clear winner with focused tastes and a combo that amazed the judges (tempering the wine-killing affects of spinach with sunchoke puree). He got dings for gritty mushrooms. He also had a leg up since he won the quick fire reinventing junk food challenge. Tiffani's multi-layered, high concept truffled gnoochi with lamb was dinged as nice idea but mushy execution and several judges faulted her for her choice of pureed cauliflower which clashed with the wine, which she defended at the judges table. LeeAnne's dish was faulted for being too busy (in truth it didn't seem much busier than Tiffani's) and her lamb for being overcooked. Her sauce was widely praised.

Dave had one of his near breakdowns telling the chefs about his dish. His understanding of the wine seemed the weakest. He did serve beef although not much ado was made over it and his side dish. One chef called him a "pepper monkey" for overseasoning with ground black pepper. Another faulted him for not using enough salt. His high brow mac and cheese was a hit, but the rest of his plate was a mess. He had the most to overcome since he had lost the quick fire.

You do the math. It didn't add up to me.

Update: Here's a link to the recipe for Dave's mac and cheese with truffles, cognac, cream, fresh herbs and several kinds of cheese. You need to provide your own truffles. Browse around the Bravo site a bit if you are a Top Chef junkie and read the blogs and LeeAnne's interview. Thanks to Sweetnicks for pointing me in the direction of the Bravo blogs.


Cate said...

I was sorry to see Lee Ann go. If you haven't read this piece yet, you might be interested.

FJKramer said...

Check out Cate's link to Bravo in the above comment. LeeAnne's comments are great in "Andy's Blog" and them check out what Tom has to say.