Top Chef is probably Bravo's last and only foray into "real" reality television. For eight seasons we've gotten to enjoy the drama of cooking rather than drunken behavior, screaming matches and random hookups (though the show has had its fair share of all three).
Most of all, the show has managed to retain some dignity and actually stay on track to resemble a cooking competition and not a soap opera. I love Top Chef, if only for the super hot Celebrity Chef Mentor and Head Judge, Tom Colicchio.
While Colicchio is no slouch in the chef department (having won five James Beard awards, an Emmy for Top Chef and is the owner or co-owner of over a dozen restaurants, including Craft and Colicchio & Sons), he never ventured into the kitchen to cook - only to provide advice to the Top Chef "Cheftestants"...until now.
Top Chef's Season Eight's All-Stars (All-Star meaning cheftestants who never won Top Chef but are recognizeable to Top Chef fans) got a surprise during last evening's quickfire challenge with Chef/Master Tom Colicchio throwing down the gauntlet. The challenge was simple - Tom will make a dish. However long it takes is the time to beat. Before the clock starts Colicchio says he's a little rusty and Cheftestant Tiffany Derry says "take your time" (heh, heh).
The clock starts and Colicchio is a freaking speed demon. This guy chops tomatoes, shucks clams and cleans an entire sea bass in like 10 seconds! He's chopping, filleting, throwing over pots and pans! He moves to the burner, cooking, sauteeing, roasting, searing and tasting. From start to the plate in a mind-blowing 8 minutes, 37 seconds - it takes me longer to make microwave popcorn!
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The cheftestants, schooled by the master, take to the burners with mixed luck - Fabio makes a clam and generic fish dish, Angelo makes a branzino crudo (which is just sliced raw fish), Jamie manages to cook one clam. Mike wins a Prius by pan-roasting a piece of branzino. None of the cheftestants have the flair (or the hotness) of Tom Colicchio.
The Cheftestants then butcher (literally) Chinese Dim Sum at a restaurant in Chinatown. The Cheftestants can work on their own or in pairs. Mainly they fail miserably. The judges love Tiffani's pork bun, Fabio's soy and honey glazed pork rib and Dale's sticky rice. Losers are Casey's chicken feet, Jamie and Antonia's greasy overcooked long beans and Tre's soupy custard. Dale wins for his sticky rice and Casey packs her knives after Padma notes that even a starving group of old Chinese ladies didn't touch Casey's chicken feet. Maybe they should all pack their knives and let Tom cook every week - I'd eat his chicken feet.
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