Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Top Chef: Chicago" Season Premiere

This season's contestants are:

Andrew D'Ambrosi (Ft. Lauderdale; now resides in NY)
Antonia Lofaso (L.A.)
Dale Talde (Originally from Chicago, now in NY)
Erik Hopfinger (Originally from Chappaqua, NY, now in S.F.)
Jennifer Biesty (Originally from Brooklyn, NY, now in S.F.)
Lisa Fernandes (Originally from Toronto, now in NY)
Manuel Trevino (Originally from Laredo, TX, now in NY)
Mark Simmons (Originally from New Zealand, now in NY)
Nimma Osman (Originally from Peachtree City, GA, now in Atlanta)
Nikki Cascone (NY)
Richard Blais (Originally from Uniondale, NY, now in Atlanta; he previously was on "Iron Chef America")
Ryan Scott (Originally from Los Banos, CA, now in S.F.)
Evangelos "Spike" Mendelsohn (Originally from Clearwater Beach FL, now in Williamsburg, NY)
Stephanie Izard (Originally from Stamford, CT, now in Chicago)
Valerie Bolon (Chicago)
Zoi Antonitsas (Originally from Seattle, now in S.F.)

It was revealed that Biesty and Antonitsas have been dating, thus making them the first couple to compete on the show. And it's a gay one at that, because both are women!!

Quickfire: Since they were at a UNO location, they had to make their own deep dish pizza.

Prior to the start of the show, everyone had to pack up to $200 worth of ingredients that they felt were needed during the course of the season. Everyone had their own ingredients locker.

The cool thing about this challenge was that they delivered their final pizza to the guest judge's house like a typical pizza delivery person! The guest judge this week was Rocco DiSpirito.

Richard: Peach Taleggio Pizza with sweet tea sauce

Stephanie: Melon-tomato sauce, prosciutto, olives and argula (Rocco said this was a funky pizza)

Zoi: Broccoli, pesto and lamb sausage

Dale: Sausage, pickled kohlrabi, scallions and Sriracha sauce

Ryan: Escarole, ricotta salata and butternut squash

Nikki: White Pie with comte, ricotta and pecorino cheeses plus mushrooms

Andrew: Smoked marinara, prosciutto, onions and cheese

Jennifer: Harvest Pizza with grapes, bacon, fontina and rosemary (Rocco loved the crusts on this. I thought this was one of my favorites)

Erik: Mushrooms, onions, peppers and sausage (Boring, IMO)

Spike: Pizza a la Grec with onions, feta cheese, olives and sausage

Nimma: Hunter-Style Pizza with mushrooms, onions and stracchino cheese (The judges noticed a lack of salt in this)

Mark: Chicken, zucchini and marmite molasses

The other four's pizzas were edited out and were automatically given bad reviews amongst the other three who did the worst. The Quickfire Challenge results played a factor in the Elimination Challenge.

Elimination Challenge: To start, the top eight chefs from the season's first Quickfire Challenge drew knives. Each one then chose one of the other eight to compete against in this challenge. Each opponent got to choose the dish that had to be cooked in each matchup. The dishes available were lasagna, Duck a la Orange, crab cakes, Chicken Piccata, Eggs Benedict, Steak Au Poivre, shrimp scampi and a souffle. Here were the matchups:

#1 Richard Blais vs. Andrew D'Ambrosi (Crab cakes)
#2 Mark Simmons vs. Stephanie Izard (Duck a la Orange)
#3 Jennifer Biesty vs. Nikki Cascone (Lasagna)
#4 Antonia Lofaso vs. Nimma Osman (Shrimp scampi)
#5 Spike Mendelsohn vs. Lisa Fernandes (Eggs Benedict)
#6 Dale Talde vs. Manuel Trevino (Steak Au Poivre)
#7 Ryan Scott vs. Valerie Bolon (Chicken Piccata)
#8 Erik Hopfinger vs. Zoi Antonitsas (Souffle)

The winner of each matchup automatically advanced to next week's episode, while each loser was in danger of being eliminated. Talk about a food version of college basketball's March Madness here! Here were the winners of each match:

Crab Cakes: Richard Blais
Duck a la Orange: Stephanie Izard
Lasagna: Nikki Cascone
Shrimp scampi: Antonia Lofaso
Eggs Benedict: Lisa Fernandes
Steak Au Poivre: Dale Talde
Chicken Piccata: Valerie Bolon
Souffle: Zoi Antonitsas

The first Elimination Challenge winner of the season was...

...Stephanie Izard! The first loser this season was Nimma Osman. She never got anything going.
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