Everyone is a critic —
The guests start to arrive, wine in hand, to prepare for service to begin. Apparently
you judge better when you’ve got a little buzz going.
As Richard plates his dishes, he leaves no doubt about how
he feels about his competition.
Richard: I’m the
best chef here. I think I have the most skill. I think I have the most
ambition. I think I’m the only one who is a craftsman and an artist.
Again, buddy, you may feel that way, but should you really
tell the cameras? Does no one realize that everyone, including the people they’re
talking about behind their backs, will see this?
Lisa, for her part, says she is definitely going to be the
first female Top Chef. And Stephanie says she wants to be Top Chef. So everyone’s
confident, but only one will go home a winner.
Deciding who that will be is an all-star panel of chefs.
Padma introduces Top Chef judges Tom,
Ted Allen and Gail Simmons, and the super sous chefs Eric, Dan and April. Rounding
out the table are Alfredo Ayala, one of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated chefs,
and Tim Zagat, founder/CEO of a little thing called the Zagat Survey.
The chefs explain their menus to the distinguished diners.
Richard: I think
writing a menu is as important to a chef as the food that is on the plate.
OK, but then why have such a vague, mysterious menu? His
menu reads — and I kid you not — “You Are Here,” “Which Came
First,” “Be the Bacon” and “You Are Still Here.” That’s
it — no other description whatsoever. Is he going to serve them peyote and then
ask them life’s biggest questions?
Lisa and Stephanie, who were so gauche as to actually list
what they were going to serve on their menus, say that their dishes will be
shocking and simple, respectively.
The last supper — But
enough talk, bring on the grub. The first courses are sent out: Lisa’s prawns
with chili basil sauce, crab and homemade potato chips; Stephanie’s red snapper
over truffle, clam and asparagus broth with asparagus salad; Richard’s scallop
with mango and pineapple vinegar.
From my armchair, what-would-I-want-to-eat-this-very-second perspective,
I give it to Lisa. I mean, dude, potato chips.
The judges call Richard’s scallop unfamiliar, but a little
too complicated. Lisa’s shrimp has a nice texture, but is too spicy. Stephanie’s
snapper is delicate, elegant and, according to Chef Ayala, “the best of
Second course next. It’s Lisa’s tom kha gai soup dumpling
vs. Stephanie’s quail breast over lobster ravioli with a quail egg vs. Richard’s
guinea hen, chicken egg and foie gras.
My totally untrained eye picks Stephanie’s quail/ravioli/egg
dish because it just looks neat.