The new season of Top Chef has begun, and Tony and I are once again glued to the couch on Wednesday nights. It took me a little while to get in to the show; the original host was fairly insipid, and the fact that you could only see, but not taste nor smell, the dishes seemed a fatal flaw. Still, we watched, because we do love to watch people cook, and seeing chefs handle challenges like assembling delicious-looking dishes out of vending machine purchases slowly won me over. I’ve even come around to the new host, Padma Lakshmi, who doesn’t trumpet her cooking abilities but is more than just a pretty face — she knows her stuff.
This week’s challenge — a pretty straightforward appetizer, dinner, dessert; no unusual requirements or last-minute restrictions– had me shouting at the contestants. They’re only two weeks into the show, sure, but this is the fifth season: surely they’ve watched it before? They should know better than to attempt a dish with an unfamiliar ingredient (ostrich egg quiche, anybody? You didn’t have to taste it to know it was not a success.) They should know to ditch something and start over when they — and all their fellow contestants — think it’s too sweet. I’ve never seen Padma spit something out into her napkin before, but she couldn’t even swallow a bite of her lemon meringue martini with cherry surprise. Who can blame her, really? I’m not sure I would put anything called “surprise” in to my mouth.
Now I’m no Top Chef and have no aspirations to be, but I can find my way around the kitchen, and so can my Lisa, my coeditor over at Learning to Eat; recently we both happened to write about appetizer, dinner and dessert, so head on over there for some recipes. And in the meantime, I’ll keep watching what those Top Chef contestants are up to.