I have never been able to get into Top Chef. I’m a squealing fan of Project Runway, even though I can barely sew a button back onto a shirt. But, Top Chef Chicago started last night and I thought I’d give it a try. I figured that if I started watching from episode one, I might get sucked in and finally understand what all the excitement is about.
So far, I remain underwhelmed. First of all, guest judge Rocco DiSpirito? I watched his reality show about opening an Italian restaurant a few years ago and it was just painful. He could not get his staff together and had his aging grandmother making cantaloupe-sided meatballs in the kitchen basement.
But, anyway, about the food. The primary challenge paired up each of the chefs and they had to compete against their partner making a “classic” dish, such as steak au poivre, chicken piccata, lasagna, etc. A lot of them just kind of failed miserably. Like, one dude clearly didn’t know what the hell chicken piccata was and made some breaded chicken monstrosity. Then when the judges called him on it, rather than admit he messed up, he kept babbling incoherently about starch. One guy got upset that there was no mayonnaise in the kitchen, only to be told that you can make mayonnaise by blending eggs and oil. How can you be a professional chef and not know that mayonnaise doesn’t just come from the Hellmann’s jar?
Worse yet, the chefs assigned to cook souffle did not know how to make it. One guy decided to put mashed potatoes in the bottom of his souffle and then put a pile of tortilla chips on top! They kept hemming and hawing about how nervous they were about making souffle and how they were afraid their souffles might fall, blah blah blah… Um, if you don’t want it to fall, how about not putting chips on top of it? And, yes, I’ve made souffle before; I know what’s involved and what’s at stake. It’s not a beginner’s dish, but it’s definitely something that you can achieve at home. Souffle doesn’t require very many ingredients; the key is following the proper technique. I was kind of expecting more; I mean, these people did beat out tons of other wannabe-food stars to make it on the show, right?
I’m getting the feeling that I might get more out of the pure entertainment aspect if I didn’t know how to cook. I guess we’ll see what happens next week.