Friday, March 7, 2008

Meet the fresh meat

Well. It's time for a new season of "Top Chef". Is there anyone with talent? Anyone that will annoy the majority of viewers before he or she can say more than a sentence? And the important question: Is there any eye candy? Oh, you know it. First impressions based on Bravo bios, after the jump.

Andrew, 30, sous chef. Andrew is the one in the commercials that stands in the back, and when you only see a split-second you think that CJ is back and you're thrilled until you realize it can't be him. Apparently Bravo asked everyone for their "Favorite simple spring recipe" and his is a Thai salad. It actually sounds pretty good, even though it has mango and I don't like mango. He likes being diverse in the kitchen and mixing different cultures. I don't mean to stereotype, but I must admit that I rarely see any "ethnic" chefs that are concerned with multicultural influences and fusion in their food. He is firmly in the "food is art" school, but at the end of his video he quotes Monty Python so points for that.

Antonia, 31, executive chef at Foxtail in LA. Sadly when you Google "Foxtail restaurant" you get a gang of links for Lindsay Lohan leaving the place. She loves root beer floats with her daughter and comfort food. Lord, I sound like a dating video. These videos on the Bravo site are too much like dating videos.

Dale, 29, sous chef. I know, another Dale. This one's Asian, though. His simple recipe? I had to look up "ponzu" (citrus sauce) and "myoga" (ginger) and I only know what matsutake mushrooms are because one time they were the secret ingredient on "Iron Chef". Old school "Iron Chef". That being said, grilled mushrooms with ginger and spicy citrus? Sounds pretty good. He seems to be a perfectionist.

Erik, 38, executive chef at Circa in San Francisco. Circa is described as "New American" and the menu looks pretty good. Erik is self-taught, which is probably why his simple spring dish is actually simple: lamb with garlic. In his video he has torn the sleeves off his chef jacket. I hope he doesn't wear that on the show, he'll get in trouble like Stephen. He really likes to do fancy comfort food, which should be interesting. I like him.

Jennifer, 35, executive chef at COCO500. Her recipe involves tongue. Yeah. But the restaurant menu sounds absolutely delicious. Cipollini onions with bacon in cream sauce, topped with bread crumbs. Tasty. She's got classical training so that should be interesting. A classically trained female chef with a fauxhawk in her video. And she doesn't eat junk food! It's one thing to say that you try not to eat junk food, and another to refuse to eat it. It's like when people are all, "Oh, I don't watch TV".

Lisa, 27, chef. No job listed, because she quit. She's from Canada so my friend Oriana will like her. She really likes Asian food, but we don't get any good explanation of why. Her recipe is making me very hungry: chili rubbed lamb with strawberry-rhubarb jam, balsamic reduction, and fresh mint. It sounds so good. She's like the third person to say they love their Japanese mandolin. Essential kitchen gadget, it would seem.

Manuel, 33, executive chef at Dos Caminos. He makes authentic Mexican food, but he is classically French trained. Which is interesting because it doesn't look like he pulls the French influence in at all. He worked for a time with Mario Batali and I am waiting for a namedropping. In his video he says he likes the instant gratification of cooking, where you cook and there it is. I also like how he acknowledges how everyone is saying they love Asian food but he does not make Asian food.

Mark, 29, sous chef. Mark is from New Zealand and I am praying he still has his accent. Cute boy + New Zealand accent? Just look at Phil Keogan. He's self taught and it looks like he started in kitchens as dishwasher and moved up the ladder. Should be interesting. And I am listening to his video and OH he still has his accent. And living here has giving him a Krispy Kreme addiction.

Nikki, 35, chef and co-owner of 24 Prince. The menu looks like simple American food, but it sounds good. She's concerned with the business side of things too. She looks kind of like Courtney Cox. I don't like her. I know, there's no reason for me not to. I'm just telling you my gut reaction. Even though she knows to listen to Padma and remember the challenge.

Nimma, 26, cook. Cook? OK then. Not much here to work with. No background, no stories in her written bio. She is the youngest contestant though, which is kind of nice considering that the average age of a reality show contestant is younger. Her dad used to cook and hooked her into it. She likes cooking vs. baking because baking can be a very precise activity. She loves Italian, but she's also quick to say that she makes other styles of cuisines too. Is it not cool anymore to like European food? Or to stick to one country's food if that country is the US, Canada, or any Caucasian country? Is that like Rami's draping?

Richard, 35, chef and culinary designer. Culinary design involves architecture and interior design, but only for kitchens? And includes design of utensils and stuff as well? I can't get a good grip on it. He has a fauxhawk. If he was a food, he would be an artichoke because they're prickly but also delicious. And you want to bite it? Sorry, couldn't resist. Side note: You might see his picture and make snap judgments, but apparently this is the first season without any openly gay contestants. Plus his profile says he's married. Points for admitting you started at McDonald's. And for implying there will be immersion circulators.

Ryan, 28, chef. Oh, tasty Ryan. He does some charity work and makes Mediterranean and French food. Delicious sweet eye candy. Well, much of that is his smile. He likes the power of cooking, that you can make food with your own two hands, and make or break someone's night. Interesting. I enjoy that he will splurge on beer and pizza. That seem so unpopular, to say your favorite food is something simple and unhealthy.

Spike, 27, chef de cuisine at Mai House. Spike has an odd name, but I have to give points to someone who has worked with Thomas Keller and has classical French training, but wants to open a restaurant that servers burgers and fries. And milkshakes. Can't forget milkshakes. He's also pretty cute. He loves the social life and the whole ambiance of restaurants, not just the food. His video contains a mini-rant about sucky lemons.

Stephanie, 31. She at one point was chef/owner of Scylla, in Chicago, but her bio lists her as "traveling" and planning her next move. Her restaurant is closed, she sold it, but that's all the info I have. She loves to make seafood, so watch for that. And cheese. I think she mostly eats cheese, as opposed to cooking with it.

Valerie, 32, personal chef. Oo, pork pot stickers. Another "multicultural" cuisine person. Look, I'm all for fusion cuisine, which I think can be excellent, but sometimes I feel people are just making stuff up because they can, and then going around showing off how diverse they are. It's possible her food is good, I don't know. I guess I should give everyone the benefit of the doubt. She says she doesn't have a least favorite ingredient, but her least favorite food is beets. Because apparently in her mind beets aren't an ingredient.

Zoi, 30, chef and restaurant consultant. She's self taught and is in the "food should be simple, rustic, seasonal, and local" school of thought. Hilariously, her least favorite ingredient? Beets.

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