Craveable* was the word the judges used to describe the qualities tonight's winning dish need to have in order to make it on the TGIFriday restaurant chain menu. The challenge was to reinvent a childhood comfort food for adult tastes. The judges included a top TGIF chef and tables full of food-savvy firemen. The reward for winning was having your dish featured on the menu at all 500 TGIFriday restaurants.
Betty's grilled cheese with portabello mushrooms and spicy red pepper soup was the judges' top crave, with Sam's reinvention of a summer fruit salad and Cliff's reimagined fish sticks and mac and cheese earning praise. It's Betty second win. The season's barely started and we are already into repeats!
In the loser's circle were Emily (too salty), Frank (too weird) and Michael (too sloppy, too overcooked, too devil-may-care, hey, in the store he put back cheese for his dish so he could spend some of his food shopping money on beer for himself). Emily's overly salty surf 'n' turf was deemed inedible and for this basic mistake she had to pack her knives and go. Personally, I thought she had potential as a chef and that Michael had to go. I did think as shown on the show (remember this stuff is all edited to show us what the producers think is the story) she did show a lack of flexibility, so I don't think she could have made it for the long haul.
Another big surprise was pastry chef Marisa. She is still there. She made a dessert, a fruit crisp, for the challenge. It was received well by the judges and it kept her from being in the bottom three. If I were her would I have made a dessert? No. The concepts behind this challenge were easy enough, it would have been a good time to go with a non-pastry dish to show her range, but I guess she thinks she should go with her relatively strong points. She was one of the bottom three in the quickfire challenge, which was to create a new ice cream flavor, a pastry chef basic. Cliff won that with his first ever attempt at making ice cream. It was his second quickfire win.
Tonight's drama was provided by Betty and Marcel (devil-in-the-hair). She vented her dislike for him at the firehouse when he came back from delivering his dish to the judges. (Each dish was judged separately. Top Chef candidates had 15 minutes of firehouse kitchen prep time before their dish was judged.) He retaliated by being a jerk when she was trying to ready her dishes for the judges and ran into some problems. The tiff was the subject of a viewer call in poll and somthing like 70 percent of viewers who responded felt Betty was "spot on" on her comments to Marcel. Was it appropriate for Betty to dump on Marcel? Seems par for the course for these reality competition shows, and she seems like the kind of person to shoot from the hip, but it was a very personal attack about how she is for anything that would cause him to lose. As a mother I am on the record for being against that. As a viewer it made for good television. I guess Marcel is the guy you love to hate this season. (By the way, he lost the quick fire challenge with avocado bacon ice cream. Tasters, kids and other beach goers in Redondo Beach, CA, were wiping their tongues off after sampling it.)
What else, well as much as I like Betty, I didn't think her dish was so innovative, but of course I couldn't actually taste the flavors, a big drawback until Sony develops taste-o-vision. And, of course, it had to be a dish that could actually be executed and sell at the TGIFriday outlets. If you want to check out the recipes, all 13 of tonight's recipes are posted at on the recipe page on Bravo's website. If you'd like to see my recipe for a roasted garlic and tomato soup with red bell pepper, click here. I served my version with a grilled cheese and avocado sandwich. But I've already won the top chef award on Blog Appetit. Let's see if Betty can take it all on Bravo's Top Chef.
* By the way, there is no such word in the dictionaries I checked as craveable. One can crave (to have a desire for, urgent need for or to beg for) something, have a craving (consuming desire or longing) or even be a craver (the one having the cravings) , but technically nothing is craveable. That word is just something cooked up in the TGIF and Top Chef kitchens. Be careful, though, not to appear too craven (fearful, cowardly).