I’m not a big fan of Bravo’s series Top Chef - an hour of whiny chefs running around, pissed off, pathetically apologizing to a panel of judges because their souffle didn’t turn out…anyone who’s ever worked in a restaurant knows that scenario all too well…but, I’m watching this year because Season 4 is based in Chicago and is supposed to include a few Chicago Cuisine “twists” and I love watching so-called “Top Chefs” ruin my favorite foods.
Episode One lived up, or down, to my expectations.
The show began with the the contestants meeting at Chicago’s favorite tourist-pizza-trap, Pizzeria Uno. Let’s get something straight…Chicagoans don’t eat here. Most of us don’t even eat deep dish pizza unless we have out-of-town guests. We eat thin crust pizza and not those greasy, triangle-shaped “slices” they serve in New York…we eat our greasy pizza cut into squares.
The contestants’ first “quick fire” challenge was to create their “own signature deep dish pizza.” What a disaster. Sixteen experienced, trained chefs and not one of them even came close to making anything you could call pizza. One guy, Richard, put peaches in his pizza. Peaches, proving once again that though a chef may be cookbook smart, he or she may have no idea how to prepare food people actually want to eat.
On a brighter note: Chicago-resident Stephanie Izard, chef/owner of the now closed Scylla, won the first challenge with her rendition of Duck L’Orange. I’ll admit to bias here…I’m hoping a Chicago chef wins this thing.
The most disturbing part of Top Chef was the choice of guest judges. Rather than choosing guest judges from Chicago’s deep pool of culinary masters, the producers chose two people who represent everything that’s wrong with the restaurant business - Rocco DiSpirito and Anthony Bourdain.
You might remember DiSpirito from the NBC reality-sitcom “The Restaurant.” DiSpirito played a self-centered, egotistical hothead who ran around the restaurant insulting everybody who worked for him. He had an odd obsession with his mother’s meatballs. Hey, Rocco, cut the apron strings…get your own balls.
Bourdain is the author of “Kitchen Confidential,” a book I read and forgot years ago. I do remember him comparing himself and his kitchen crew to pirates, though. OK, we get it…you’re a tough guy chef…now go bake me a cake.
The one redeeming aspect of this show and the reason I’ll keep watching, is Padma Lakshmi. This woman is hotter than a wasabi- habanero paste. Keep up the good work Padma.