Michael Voltaggio

Top Chef: Ah Spicy, Ah Ginger! Next!

It’s the episode I’ve been waiting for!  Michael Voltaggio guest judges for a very fun Quickfire– the blindfolded taste test!  This is one of my favorite challenges from the best of the Gordon Ramsay shows, so I always like seeing it.

When all is said and done, Emily, Silva, and Shirley named the fewest ingredients.  Brooke, Sheldon, and Casey did the best.  Sheldon got 10, Casey got 11, and Brooke crushed the competition with 16!  (John goes unmentioned in the middle of the pack.)

The challenge for the week is to create a meal that is reminiscent of your childhood. (more…)

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Top Chef: 10 Years Later

Get ready for a lot of 10’s!  There are 10 chefs left on Top Chef in this week’s episode, and the challenges are appropriately themed.  It has also been 10 years since the very first season of Top Chef premiered.

So, for the Quickfire, the 10 chefs can only use the same 10 ingredients.  Each chef has 20 seconds to pick one, they don’t have to use all 10, but they can use nothing else.

  • Phillip grabs beef
  • Isaac gets chicken
  • Chad picks jalapeño
  • Jeremy adds salt
  • Marjorie selects vinegar
  • Karen grabs olive oil
  • Kwame picks garlic
  • Amar gets mushrooms
  • Carl selects tomato
  • Jason chooses celery

Top Chef Alumna Antonia Lofaso is here to judge the Quickfire with Padma.  She selects Isaac and Karen as having made her least favorite dishes, and Jeremy and Amar as having made her favorites.  Jeremy wins and receives immunity!

The elimination challenge is also 10 themed.  Padma can barely make it through her giggles to the list of things that were happening 10 years ago– that Myspace was the most popular website (oof) and Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes.  The chefs need to put themselves 10 years ago on a plate and serve it to a table of (surprise!) 10.

It’s really fun to hear the stories of where these chefs were (and who these chefs were!) 10 years ago, but for one, it’s not a happy memory.  Kwame can’t get out of his own head during this one.  Michael Voltaggio (heart-eyes emoji) comes around with Tom to taste, as he’s one of the four Top Chef Alumni attending the dinner (the others being Antonia, Blaise, and last year’s winner Mei Lin!).  Phillip makes a literal fool out of himself explaining how he can’t cook to the judges’ tastes.  Tom tries to explain the concept of simply cooking good food correctly, but it’s not sinking in.

Here’s what they make:

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Gail makes a comment to Tom while they enjoy that she sat down next to him 10 years ago and here they still are!  Too cute.  The two of them plus Padma, Blaise, and Michael Voltaggio sit at the judges table to give the good news– their favorite dishes belonged to Marjorie, Chad, and Carl.  Marjorie gets her second win!

Now for the bad news– Jeremy’s immunity saved him this week, but Kwame got in his own head and ended up on the bottom, as did Phillip and Jason.  Jason is eliminated, he’s seemed a bit off-beat for a while.  He packs his knives, but something tells me Phillip could be right behind him… enough excuses, just cook well!

Thoughts?!

Top Chef Boston: Finale

I’ve honestly been dreading this episode, because that means this wonderful season of Top Chef is over!  However, I’ve been dying to see who will take this title… especially when it’s down to Gregory and Mei, who, as the episode notes, have traded wins all season.

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It starts off with a lovely hot air balloon ride over San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  Though Mei seems a bit nervous (“We might die today!) both she and Greg get to take is some breathtaking scenes.  As they come down, they see a more familiar scene: Tom and Padma.

They know and we know: this is the start of their final challenge.  It’s a simple one, according to Tom: Create the best four course meal of your life.  No pressure, right?

It’s time to pick their sous chefs!  Since Gregory won last time around, he gets first pick.  He choses Doug.  Mei is happy that leaves her the opportunity to pick her first choice, Melissa.  Gregory then selects George to round out his team.  Mei grabs Rebecca with the intentions of making a dessert.

They’re cooking for a panel of intimidating chefs including Michael Cimarusti, Donnie Masterton, and Gavin Kaysen.  They are also cooking, of course, for our fabulous judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson, and Richard Blaise.

On a couple courses, Mei and Gregory are going head to head.  Mei is doing dessert and Gregory is not.  They are both bringing their A games and they are both bringing influences from their experience in Mexico.

Mei makes:

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Greg makes:

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Both first courses go well, though Mei’s octopus is noted to be a bit chewy.  Gail likes it, but Richard calls it the biggest technical mistake of the dinner.  Greg seems to win this course.

The second course winner is Mei’s congee, as the shrimp heads in Greg’d didn’t go over well with Padma.  The third course winner is Mei as well.  Gregory made a mistake in his sauce and couldn’t correct it in time for service.

The final course was the best for each chef, majorly impressive all the judges!

After deliberation, Mei and Greg stand in from of Padma, Tom, Hugh, Gail, and Richard.  All of their Boston competitors standby to watch the big moment.  “Mei,” says Padma, “You are Top Chef!

I am so excited for Mei!  Though I think both she and Greg (and a lot of the other cheftestants) deserve to be there, I was really cheering Mei on!  She had so much drive to make her family proud and to live up to her chef, Top Chef Michael Voltaggio!  She call him at the end of the episode overwhelmed, and it’s a very sweet moment!  Can you believe she’s only the third woman that has ever won?  Hopefully we can see some more female Top Chef winners soon!

What did you think of Mei’s big win?!

Top Chef Boston: Fine Art & Food

Six weeks after our last elimination in Boston, Melissa, Mei, and Gregory arrive in Mexico.  Melissa, originally trying to prove something to her father has let that go and is ready to win for her.  Mei, determined from the beginning since she works for Michael Voltaggio, a Top Chef winner, has been sent training at Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio’s restaurant Volt.  Gregory, worried about his weaker second half of the competition, is back with a lot to prove.

The three are greeted by Tom and brought to the last battle of Last Chance Kitchen, Adam versus Dougie, going on before their eyes!  Dougie is declared the winner, which I am so pleased about.  He deserves a spot in the final.  The new final four are sent to meet Padma for the Quickfire.

Guest judge Enrique Olvera is there to help Padma announce the challenge.  One of the most popular foods in San Miguel de Allende is the prickly pear.  They will be highlighting the xoconostle, the sour fruit of a cactus.  Here’s what they make:

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Enrique ranks Gregory and Mei on the bottom and Doug and Melissa on the top.  Doug wins!  He gets an advantage in the elimination challenge. (more…)

Top Chef Boston: Not Complex to Eat!

The beautiful Padma Lakshmi and new judge/Top Chef alum Richard Blais welcome the new crop of cheftestants to Boston.  The sixteen hopefuls include the likes of Mei Lin, sous chef at Top Chef superstar Michael Voltaggio’s Ink, George Pagonis, business partner to Top Chef alum Mike Isabella, and Stacy Cogswell, executive chef of the Regal Beagle right here in my home city of Boston!

Padma announces that the first Quickfire is a Sudden Death Quickfire, meaning the loser will face possible elimination.  There are going to be a couple of these this season, she warns.  The first part of the Quickfire is a favorite of mine, the miss en place relay race!  The 16 cheftestants break into 4 teams:

  • The Red Team: Melissa, Joy, Gregory, and George
  • The Yellow Team: Ron, Stacy, Rebecca, and Katie
  • The Green Team: Doug, Adam, Aaron, and Keriann
  • The Blue Team: Mei, Michael, James, Katsuji

The relay is, of course, New England themed with the tasks being lobster, oysters, mackerel, and little neck clams.  Yum!

Blue team is out in front for the first three events, while yellow lags a bit.  Blue loses its lead at clams, because Katsuji has literally no idea how to open them.  It’s pretty painful to watch.  Ron on yellow makes up a lot of time, Green takes the lead and finishes just before them.  Blue gets their act together and slides into the third spot.  Red is the last to finish, meaning it’s time for part 2: the slowest person on the team is up for elimination.  The slowest is George, who also had trouble with clams.  He is to pick any cheftestant to cook against head-to-head.  If George wins, both stay.  If George loses, he goes home.

George picks Gregory, since he got the mackerel that George really wanted.

They have 20 minutes to cook.  Here’s what they come up with:

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Richard calls George’s dish elegant, but in need of heat.  He warns Gregory of trying to do so much, seeing more opportunity to mess up when there are three dishes instead of just one. Gregory ends up winning, sending poor George home very early! I really feel bad for this guy.   Blais said he put his heart on that plate, and mine is breaking for him.

With one cheftestant down, the rest face the Elimination Challenge.  Their challenge is to create an updated version of the first dish they remember cooking– a nod to Boston’s historic nature– for a Top Chef Food Festival at the Museum of Science.  The next day, they get 3 hours to cook for 250 guests.

Local legends like Barbara Lynch, Ming Tsai, and Top Chef alumni Kristen Kish and Tiffani Faison contribute to the atmospheric pressure. Tom, Gail, Richard, and Padma circulate trying the dishes. Marty Walsh (Boston’s Mayor) shows up mid-commercial break too, which is fun too.

Here’s what everyone made:

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Hell’s Kitchen Recap: Winner Chosen

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The final two, Scott and Jason, take a moment to celebrate at the Four Seasons before getting to work on their menus.  The next day at breakfast, they are joined by their families!    After they say their goodbyes, Chef Ramsay gifts them white jackets and promises them a night on the town.  Oh, you know this is a trick.

They end up at supper club and a boxing match of sorts until the announcer calls out “From Chicago, Illinois…”  Jason and Scott enter the ring for their final challenge.  No, it’s not a fight; there are kitchens back there!

Five judges come out to score their five dishes.

  • MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO IS THE FIRST JUDGE.  I’m dying.  I love him!  Top Chef meets Hell’s Kitch!  Michael prefers Scott’s cold appetizer to Jason’s– Scott gets 9/10 and Jason 8/10.
  • Ben Ford is the second judge for the hot appetizers.  Jason earns 8/10 and Scott does too.
  • The chicken entrée is judged by Neal Fraser.  Both chefs earn 9/10.
  • Quinn Hatfield judges the seafood entrée.  He gives Scott 8/10 and Jason 9/10. They’re now tied.
  • The beef entrée is judged by David Myers.  Scott earns 9/10 and Jason only get 8/10 making Scott the winner!

Scott gets first pick as they alternate through the Hell’s Kitchen contestants picking their teams then and there.  Scott gets: Chris, Ralph, Rochelle, Kashia, and Jessica.  They become the Blue Team.  Jason takes: Anton, Melanie, Gabriel, Bev, and Sandra.  This is the Red Team.

JP opens the doors to Hell’s Kitchen one last time of the coronation of a new champion.  There are lots of VIPs in the house, including “Shameless” actress Shanola Hampton!  Jason’s Red Team starts out slow thanks to Sandra.  Scott’s quality control gets Chris through the first appetizers.  In the dining room, his daughter Gigi remains unimpressed.  What a cutie!

Jason has Sandra problems and Scott has Jessica problems.  While Jason threatens to kick Sandra out of the kitchen, Scott actually ends up doing so to Jessica!  Rochelle takes over garnish for her.  Both teams end the night on a positive note.

And now it’s Gordon Ramsay’s turn to make a big decision.  As is tradition, Scott and Jason stand in front of the two glass doors– whoever’s door opens is the winner.  Chef Ramsay instructs them to place their hand on the doorknob, and turn on the count of three…  (more…)

Top Chef BOSTON, baby!

The best judges: Emeril, Padma, Gail, Tom, (with the best dance moves,) and Hugh!

The best judges: Emeril, Padma, Gail, Tom, (with the best dance moves,) and Hugh!

When I first heard the rumor that Top Chef season 12 would be set in Boston, I was excited.  However, you have to take that as what it is: a rumor.  This week, though, my wildest dreams came through when it was confirmed!

To have one of my favorite shows in my favorite city, the city I live in, is news I can’t even begin to comprehend.  When the confirmations were coming out left and right on Wednesday, it was literally all I could think about all day.

Now I’m working on how I can eat the cheftestants’ food this spring/summer…

In light of the good news of what I’m hoping will be my new favorite season, I wanted to revisit my other favorite Top Chef locations, in a top 3 list.

 

3. Season 11 – New Orleans

American Horror Story and Top Chef were both on at the same time, and both were set in New Orleans, so I was all about New Orleans!  I had a couple of favorite contestants this time around including my hometown hero, the wonderful and kind Stephanie Cmar.  Humble brag: I’ve had the pleasure of having coffee with her, and she personally introduced me to season 10 winner Kristen Kish.  Stephanie is awesome in real life and on screen.  My other favorite was the adorable Janine Booth, who I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting but I have tweeted back and forth with her, and that’s nice too.  The great thing about the New Orleans location was the utilization of new-ish judge Emeril Lagasse.  New Orleans is where he made a name for himself.  Emeril, who I used to watch on TV with my parents when I was growing up, gives me a nostalgic feeling that’s nice.  Also, he kind of looks like my uncles.

2. Season 8 – New York City

The second time Top Chef made New York its home was for the All-Stars season.  That it itself is enough to make this one of the best seasons.  Most of my favorites are all thrown together in one season including the  fierce Jen Carroll, hilarious Carla Hall, the joyous Tiffany Derry, and a man whose quotes liter my twitter feed endlessly, Fabio Viviani.  These are literally some of my favorite cheftestants period, so seeing them all in one episode is pure magic.  Fabio is always pure magic and watching his budding bromance with Richard Blais is fantastic.  I laugh every time I rewatch this season.  Actually, all of the contestants on this season were people I liked, so it can sometimes be a bit hard to watch your favorites pack their knives again.  But with so many fan favorites on one season, what’s not to love?

1. Season 6 – Las Vegas

Love those Voltaggios!  Forever my favorite season, Vegas is tied to my memories more so than any other season.  I can tell you what year of college I was in without looking up the year; I can tell you exactly where I was living.  This is the first season of Top Chef (and maybe the first show ever) I live tweeted.  Twitter has been instrumental in my Top Chef experience, and I tweeted through that finale like a fiend!  This is the first time my chosen contestant won the title of Top Chef.  Yes, I cheered for Michael Voltaggio.  The man is unstoppable!  Really, so was Bryan.  The two brothers both had such consistent success throughout the season, and it was amazing to watch.  Vegas, like New Orleans, opened my eyes to a culinary city I never would have expected.  Now whenever someone mentions Las Vegas, I say, “I want to go there!  But to eat!”

 

Here’s hoping Boston is the best season ever!  We have three cheftestants here– Tiffani Faison, Kristen Kish, and Stephanie Cmar.  I’d love to see them pop up on the new season.  I’d also love to see another Boston chef vying for the title.  Mostly, I hope to see Padma or Tom in my city soon!

 

photo via Bravo