Top Chef New York: Pop, Pop, Fizz, Fizzle

While we took a break from Top Chef over the holidays, we had several people tell us how bored they are with this season. At first we fought back, if only because we sort of love seeing Ariane win while Jamie sulks, and we were sure Tom’s lecture at the end of the last episode would lead to great things. Well, we got a new judge (more on that after the jump) and a challenge based on Diet Dr. Pepper- hm.

Note: We reveal the winner and loser below…

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

The quickfire challenge was about making a dessert without using sugar, and in case you didn’t catch it, the episode was sponsored by Diet Dr. Pepper. It was a little murky, since we definitely saw some chocolate (from Carla) and a few sugar look-alikes that were never explained. The elimination challenge, in which chefs could cook whatever they wanted, should have been inspiring. Was it? Well, here are our thoughts…

1. Diet Dr. Pepper is not a food. Why the producers thought this would make an appropriate challenge was beyond us. A couple of the chefs did actually use the soda in their desserts, but they weren’t highlighted. Maybe because they weren’t good. We’ll drink our Diet Dr. Pepper, thank you.

2. We wish we had more to say about the quickfire. Seriously, we’re at a loss. Carla’s dessert looked like it would have been good if she’d succeeded with the frozen bananas, but other than that, they all looked disappointing. And the guest judge, for someone who’s getting his own show on Bravo, was not exactly giving off warm fuzzies.

3. The closed-circuit television was a great idea. We never thought about the fact that the chefs don’t get to hear the comments as the judges eat their food. Also, the fellow chefs who were judging were fair and gave praise where praise was due, so that was nice.

4. Toby Young loves movie metaphors! First Hosea’s dish was like two British character actors upstaging the main star, then Jeff’s avocado sorbet was like Tom Cruise’s cameo in Tropic Thunder. It felt like he was trying too hard to be clever.

5. If your dish is a signature one or a standby, it should be near perfect. What’s the deal with Melissa’s fish tacos not turning out the way she’d like? She created the dish and seems to make it often. And Radhika brags that people come to her restaurant just for her crab bisque, then completely fumbles it.

6. Ariane should have won. Yes, we’re saying it. She cooked beautiful skate (i.e. not meat) that everyone loved, proving she’s not a one-trick pony. And Jamie’s scallops with fennel and orange felt very safe and ho-hum. We think they gave the win to Jamie just because she’s been close so many times.

7. Toby Young got the low-down on Eugene during a commercial break. He wanted to keep Gene simply for his creativity, but we’re sure someone set him straight off-camera. In other words, this wasn’t the first (or second) time Gene had made a creative yet tasteless dish. His time was up, thank goodness. And Melissa went home, too, in a double elimination.

Overall, we’re glad Carla is staying. She always feels a day late and a dollar short, but she’s always close. It would be nice to see her have one big success before she goes, since she seems so earnest and humble.

So, what did you think? How do you like the new judge?

(Images: Bravo)