Congratulations, Top Chef Richard Blais

March 31, 2011

By Karen

What a relief! The producers let Richard Blais and Mike Isabella cook without playing any childish sabotage games.

Well, almost. The kink of having them assemble potluck kitchen staffs from among the losers could have been disastrous. But neither of them got stuck with Marcel, and Mike caught Jamie on a day when she was in the mood to cook , so it worked out.

And Richard beat Mike fair and square, although there were moments I feared Mike’s that pepperoni sauce would top Richard’s grainy first batch of foie gras ice cream. Even though pepperoni sauce sounds more appealing to me than liver ice cream. Who in hell, besides cats, would want that? Especially as a dessert? Yeecchh!

As much as I’ve grown to loathe Tom and Padma, they did the right thing. Mike has had his moments, but Richard was obviously and more consistently superior in both innovation and execution.

In the after-show festivities, poor Fabio Viviani wasn’t chosen “Fan Favorite.” But if he had to lose to anybody, I’m glad it was Carla Hall. I can thank Fabio for my new Nutella addiction.

There’s still a reunion show to come, complete with an uncomfortable Real Housewives-like exchange between Colicchio and what’s-her-name, the first cheftestant out who told the press Colicchio’s a sell-out.

And over at America’s Next Great Restaurant, I’m still rooting for Joseph Galluzzi and his Saucy Balls, although his menu put him in the bottom 3 last week, and this week’s promos indicate he may jump the shark going gangster. But if he goes, so do I. I’m meh on the other concepts and judge Steve Ells’ nerdiness is starting to annoy me.

America’s Next Great Restaurant

March 11, 2011

By Karen

I just saw the premier of this new Bobby Flay-hosted NBC series and got hooked in spite of myself. It’s on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET and On Demand with Verizon for 9 weeks.

The premise is that ordinary people (not necessarily foodies) who think they have great chain restaurant ideas have to convince 4 judges that their concept will work in establishments in Hollywood, Minneapolis, and NYC, which the judges will personally invest in.

I’m going to continue to watch because…

I liked the way they quickly weeded down 21 finalists to 10 without all the faux drama. In all but 2 iffy cases, where they fairly let the guys cook another sample of their food, they gave everybody an immediate thumbs up or down — without dragging their decisions out with debate, “significant” looks, or pregnant pauses. And I’m betting there wasn’t a bottle of gin stashed under the judges’ table.

There’s no sexpot host. Judge Curtis Stone is the eye candy, but he’s also well-qualified. Steve Ells, the co-CEO of Chipotle, is endearing in a nerdy way. Lorena Garcia is the anti-Padma. And all those throw-downs seem to have kept Bobby Flay’s head out of his ass.

In this first episode, the contestants had to formally present their idea and prepare a sample menu item. This was a curveball for some of them who envisioned having “people” do the actual cooking. Everybody prepared standard food. No little piles of weird stuff sitting on smears of goo.

The judges based their decisions basically whether the concept had legs, if the food had wide appeal, and how much vision and leadership the contestant displayed.

The judges didn’t engage in any kvetchy nitpicking. All they wanted was decent food that could be prepared quickly for a reasonable price that “normal” people would want to eat frequently. My kind of standards.

I’ve already picked my favorite contestants, and they are:

Jamawn – W3’s (Wood’s Waffles and Wings)
Fran – The Sports Wrap
Sandra – Limbo (healthy food and decadent food – you choose)
Joseph – Saucy Balls (meatballs)

My money’s on Joseph to win.

Have any of you seen it? What do you think?

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