Saturday, March 24, 2012

Top Chef Canada: Season 2: episode 2: Kunal Ghose is sent packing with his taco

Still too many Chefs in the middle, under the radar, to start picking any favorites. The one exception, the female Chefs, have shown they are a force to be reckoned with.  Out of the 4 challenges thus far, the women Chefs have take 3 titles. With one quick fire going to the men, Trista Sheen served up one of the top dishes.
When we saw the preview for episode 2 and that Mike Holmes was the guest judge we rolled our eyes. Much to our surprise, he was a good judge by picking surprise winning dishes. Instead of being big plug for Mike Holmes' TV show the episode featured the charitable organization Habitat for Humanity. Very positive and brilliant cross promotion from Shaw media that produces both shows. Holmes persona, as a bad ass, was to hold the Chefs to the challenges. When watching Top Chef sometimes it feels like the Chefs make the dish they feel comfortable making no matter what the challenge. When the Chefs do not follow the instructions you wonder if they are just playing it safe. Why put yourself out there when you can fly under the radar at this point in the show? In this case we saw 2 Chefs, during the quick fire, serve Holmes raw fish when he had asked for meat. The second challenge was a BBQ for the 100 habitat for humanity house builders. The judges questioned Chef Aubie’s use of salmon. We figure the West Coast surfin’ Tofino Chef must eat BBQ’d salmon all the time. Even stranger than salmon at a BBQ was Kunal Ghose’s “taco” that was not a taco.
You might have heard that Top Chef can be a good for a Chef's career. After the first few episodes this season we are wondering if being on the show might be hazardous to your business. Think about it, Chef Ghose was sent home for a “taco” made with store bought tortillas. One of the opposing teams, the one with Ottawa taco king Chef Korecki, made fresh tortillas. You figure it out, but Ghose runs a taco stand in Victoria. When the Chef packed his knives he commented that at least he was not sent home for making a fish taco. We wonder if Ghose serves homemade tortillas at his restaurant? Being sent home for making one of your signature dishes is a rather tragic moment.  
Last week, David Chrystian was in the bottom, for serving a chicken dish seasoned to reflect each one of Toronto's ethnic neighborhoods. Cool? No, the judges described the dish as bland. We are not sure if Chef Chrystian uses this spice at his restaurant, he did threaten to use it again. We do know, from reading about him online, that he offers a tasting menu where each dish reflects one of Toronto's ethnic neighborhoods. Once again, bad branding when your dish, featuring one of your restaurant’s signature concepts, is featured in the bottom.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Top Chef Canada 2 episode 1: Nice to meet you Chefs

After watching the first episode of Top Chef Canada a few times we now have a few ideas about how the competition might pan out. It is really too early to pick any possible winners or even finalists because there are so many people in the kitchen. The people in the top or bottom are called out on the show put the Chef’s in the middle are really under the radar. Last season in episode 1 thequick fire challenge was a skills competition that really did demonstrate who had some of the best chops in the kitchen so we were a bit disappointed that they chose not do this again. We guess the show’s Producers wanted to throw a curve ball at the Chefs by not repeating the same challenge.
We noticed that the 3 female competitors look very fierce despite their obvious mistakes. Chef Elizabeth Rivasplata, who mistook a parmesan tuile for potato in the quick fire, also had one of the best dishes in the second half of the show. Remember Connie DeSousa the butcher ballerina, and finalist, from season 1? Rivasplata, originally from Lima Peru, is a martial arts expert. As we pointed out earlier if there is any truth to what Anthony Bourdain says about Peruvians in the kitchen then Rivasplata will no doubt be a strong competitor. Sarah Tsai, who took the quickfire challenge, but overcooked her beef in the next challenge. Despite her diminutive size Chef Tsai looks like a force to be reckoned with. Trista Sheen took top honors in the 2nd challenge and looks like she will go far in the competition. In fact, if we had to pick one Chef after the first episode we would go with Sheen.
Despite the lack of female competitors in the competition (and Montreal) we are excited about the the fact this crop of Chefs really reflects Canada’s cultural mosaic and therefore our cuisines. The different backgrounds of the Chefs will no doubt mean that we will see some interesting plates. Kunal Ghose’s east Indian Fish & Chips, one of the top dishes, is a perfect example. Using a cucumber raita as a tartar sauce for the Chef sounds like a delicious idea. If Ghose can keep this type of innovative cuisine he will go far in the competition.  We were also very impressed with Curtis Lok’s Peking Duck because who does not love this dish? Lok, despite having no formal culinary training, showed real kitchen smarts by serving the judges his duck.
And the worst? We know it is not a real season of Top Chef without foam and Jimmy Stewart delivered the goods with his bread foam. Bread foam just sounds like foam for the sake of foam’s sake and was just a bad idea. William Thompson’s dish looked like a mistake on the plate and was sent home. 
The next episode of Top Chef features guest judge Mike Holmes. Is his show produced by Shaw media like Top Chef? Seems weird to have him on the show. From the look of things, colored construction hats, the show will be a team challenge.