Top Chef
Manhattan Project

Episode Report Card
Keckler: C+ | Grade It Now!
Sara's Told To Cheese Off
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

The five cheftestants are finally in New York. Like Prince Akeem, they are very happy to be here. Dale tells us that what drives him most is his uniqueness: he explains, "I'm a big gay chef and I'm gonna outcook your ass." That's an improvement over Dave's motto: "I'm a big gay chef and I'm gonna outcry your ass." The cheftestants stop at food cart, and after ordering her chicken, Casey delicately bats away at the smoke coming off the grill. She tells us she's been on a roll because she's managed to be at the top of most of the recent QFs, as well as winning Elimination Challenges. The Brians, for their part, are very happy to be in New York for "the fragrance." Maybe his next dish should focus on smelling like New York. Meanwhile, the Brians have treated themselves to a kicky new hat. It's tweed and floppy and I suspect they bought it off the same guy who sold Ilan all his imitation bling. I also suspect it was all O'Brian's doing.

The cheftestants arrive at Le Cirque for their QF and meet Sirio Maccioni, Le Cirque's "legendary" owner. I'll believe that only if I hear Barney say it. With a slight bow, Maccioni bids them "good evening." Now I sort of want him to go, "One! Two! Three! Four! Five! FIVE cheftestants -- mwah-ha-ha-ha!" with appropriate lightening flashes and bats flying on strings. Everyone is served one of Le Cirque's classic dishes: potato-wrapped sea bass on a bed of leeks and oyster mushrooms. Hung favors us with his opinion of the dish: "The dish -- you tasted every ingredient: the creaminess of the leeks, the bass, and the all worked." I'm sure Le Cirque will be very happy to hear that, Hung. It is explained to us that Le Cirque has had this dish on their menu for twenty years and it is not served to the rabble, only to VIPs. Padma tells the cheftestants that they will have twenty-five minutes to recreate the dish in Le Cirque's kitchens. Dale reacts to us, "Over twenty years, that dish has been refined. Okay, twenty years? Now, you have twenty minutes!"

The cheftestants are shown to the kitchens, where many line chefs appear to be glaring at them. Or, at least, directed to glare at them. Jason Kellert, Executive Sous Chef of Le Cirque, has been deputized to explain their stations and mise en place to them. The three necessary potatoes are there (unpeeled) and the leeks have been trimmed. The sea bass is in a Tupperware tub, and there's a bottle of oil and other necessary seasonings. I wonder if the leeks have been washed as well. Getting the sand out from under all those layers can be a bitch. In addition to the mise en place, the cheftestants are allowed to use anything in the kitchen. Kellert asks if they have any questions. "Yes, I do," Hung says immediately. The cook sort of looks at him as one would a bug. Showing off a bit, Hung asks what number on the slicer (deli, I assume) they use to slice the potatoes. Kellert explains that actually, Hung, they will all be using mandolines, not big-ass slicers. Yuck. With the mandolines, there's a far greater chance that they will screw up the potato slices. Using a big deli slicer is easier because the blade is doing all the work, not your hand. Dale asks about blanching the leeks and learns they are blanched before being cooked. Sara asks if the potatoes are steamed before being wrapped around the fish. Nope, the potato is raw. Wow -- we learned so much about restaurant technique in that one short segment. Those moments on this show are rare and fleeting, so you gotta gobble them up when you can.

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