'Top Chef Chicago' on Serious Eats

Q & A: Top Chef's Lisa Fernandes

"I talk to Stephanie all the time, Richard just emailed me pictures of his new baby, who is so cute. Dale and I are totally cool, I've seen him four times in the last couple of weeks. Andrew and I are fine, he gives me a big hug every time I see him. It's all good." More

'Top Chef' Finale Predictions

The season finale of Top Chef: Chicago is tonight of course. If you'd like to catch up on what's gone down in previous episodes, check out Serious Eats' Top Chef coverage here, including Lisa's infamous denunciation of food bloggers "who can't even afford to eat in my restaurant, let alone know how to cook." After the jump, our predictions on who will win.... More

'Top Chef' Contestant Lisa Fernandes Hates Your Poor Blogger Ass

Most people are surprised that she's made it this far—the finals of this season of Top Chef—what with her back-stabbing and pettiness. Everybody seems to hate her; bloggers don't seem to be fans; commenters everywhere seem to generally despise her. Maybe Bravo's producers painted her as the villain, but when asked by the New York Daily News if she's read the reactions online, Top Chef contestant Lisa Fernandes responded: Oh no, I don't read the blogs—you couldn't pay me to read the blogs. I don't want to know what people who can't even afford to eat in my restaurant, let alone know how to cook have to say about me, and the few comments I did read on Eater.com... More

'Top Chef': Pork and Beans

Time has passed. Fauxhawks have changed hue. Do-rags have been discarded. Hair has been shorn. Other than that, it's a remarkably familiar bunch that arrives in sunny Puerto Rico for Top Chef's penultimate competition. More

'Top Chef': A Good Mollusk is Hard to Find

As this week's episode begins, there's just one more elimination before the remaining four chefs head to the finals in Puerto Rico. On the way to the Top Chef kitchen, the group makes a side trip to Allen Brothers, a well-known meat purveyor in the Chicago area. Here, the contestants don hair nets, gird their loins, and sharpen their knives before heading into the back to cut some steaks. More

'Top Chef': Things Get Sticky at Restaurant Wars

I have a feeling that Tom Colicchio regularly shows up at 5:45 AM in most of the chefs' nightmares. That said, at the beginning of this episode, well before the sun cracked the horizon, the head judge arrived loudly at the Top Chef barracks. And if the pre-dawn wake-up call wasn't enough, Tom tells the six remaining chefs that their Quickfire challenge will be to work the egg station at one of Chicago's best-loved (and busiest) breakfast spots. Of course, in the hustle, I managed to miss the name of the place. Any Chicagoans? A little help in comments, please... [Spoilers, over easy, after the jump.]... More

'Top Chef': The Quickfire and the Fury

Alright, we're still in Chicago and we still have six more chefs to sort through, several of which I hadn't pictured making it past week two, much less week ten. Here's who's left, with a cheat-sheet in case you still don't have the names straight: Lisa (pierced eyebrow), Antonia (unflappable expression), Stephanie (curls) , Richard (fauxhawk), Dale (headband, grimace), Spike (hats), Andrew (beard, crazy eyes). As we head into the Top Chef kitchen for the Quickfire, we see that this week's guest judge is Sam Talbot, a popular finalist from Season Two. He and Padma introduce the opening challenge, which is to make an innovative salad, or as they embarassingly put it: "bring the sexy back to salad." [Insert eye-roll... More

'Top Chef': A New Kind of War

Looks like we've got a supersized hour-and-fifteen-minute episode this week called "Wedding Wars." So, before it even starts, we already know it's a group catering challenge. Right out of the gate, the eight remaining chefs head to the knife block and break out into two teams of four. On Team Fork, we've got Antonia, Andrew, Richard, and Stephanie. (Lots of wins on that team.) On Team Spoon, there's Dale, Lisa, Nikki, and Spike. (Lots of hats and bandanas on that team.) And it makes sense that teams have formed because it's time for everyone's favorite the Quickfire Relay Race, with Tom Colicchio subbing in as referee and arbiter of relay hand-offs. [Spoilers after the jump.]... More

Top Chef: Mother's Day Comes Early

Last week Jen was sent home, under slightly saucy circumstances, apparently. I think that means all my local San Francisco contestants have been kicked to the curb. On a related note, I nearly ran over Zoi in SF's Mission District a few days ago. Sorry, Z. My bad. Still, even with the City by the Bay woefully unrepresented, the show must go on. The guest judge for the Quickfire and the entire episode is Oprah's personal chef, Art Smith. The Quickfire Challenge gave the nine remaining chefs 15 minutes to make a complete entrée. The consensus was that this was no easy task. Several contestants claimed that even the 30-minute challenges caused near bedlam on the cooking line. So what's... More

Top Chef Chicago, Episode 6: Daaaaa Bears

The Elimination Challenge continues in the same "simple pleasures" vein as the Quickfire Challenge. The Toppers must go to a Bears game, where they'll cook at a tailgating party for 80 Bears fans. Daaaaaa Bears. The fans will determine the top and bottom three, and the judges will take it from there. More

'Top Chef': Down and Dirty

Last week, Top Chef bid goodbye to Manuel and left Spike in the mix to stir up some controversy. Would that strategy pay dividends this week? If you missed this week's episode, read this recap to catch up! More

Top Chef: Movie Night

Like any good movie director, Top Chef decided to create some drama in the very first scene of tonight's episode. They introduced the idea that Jen and Zoi have an advantage because they're not separated from their loved ones. They even set it up with a sound-bite from Jen herself, talking about keeping some distance to defuse any suggestion that she and her partner are giving each other unfair support. Spike, always good for a snide comment or two, offered his assessment that the couple have a "slight advantage" and, in the Top Chef competition, that could make all the difference. It was the laugh-out-loud line of the show, for sure. Of course, part of me hoped it was true,... More

Top Chef: Block Rockin' Eats

And then there were 14. A nice, even number. And we all know that means two teams competing against each other at some point in the episode. But first, the Quickfire Challenge. Guest judge Rick Bayless, the mucho muchacho of Mexican fine-dining, is brought into the kitchen, and the Top Cheffers' task is explained: Take one of the most down-to-earth staples of Mexican cuisine—the taco—and redefine it as a fine-dining dish. Seems a simple enough task, but a lot of the chefs are having a tough time of it. As Erik says, "Mexican food is about the people, it's about the street. It's a soulful kind of thing, and and to put fine dining in it, it just kinda bugs... More

'Top Chef': Lions, Penguins, Bears, et al

Five teams of three were assembled, with each assigned an animal: vulture, lion, bear, gorilla, penguin. The task: Cater a station for a 200-guest cocktail party at the Lincoln Park Zoo. The twist: Each team has to use foods that its assigned animal would eat. More

They're Ba-ack! 'Top Chef' Gets Windy

At first glance, the mix of personalities and talent levels seems pretty good. Geographically, much like seasons past, San Francisco and New York are well represented. There are a few contestants from the South, and probably too few from the host city of Chicago. Also, as in past seasons, fans of fauxhawks and other dubious coiffure will not be disappointed. More

'Top Chef: Chicago' Contestants Announced

Bravo has unveiled the 16 cast members of Top Chef: Chicago. Not much geographic diverstiy here: seven contestants from New York City*, four from San Francisco, two from Atlanta, one from Los Angeles, and only two from the show's host city. (What's up with that?) Bios and pix are available here, and it's hard to tell from them who's going to turn out to be the ornery one. Could it be Andrew, wielding a meat mallet? That would be the obvious choice at the early stage. Or maybe Lisa's playful mushroom-tossing just a feint to hide her troublemaking side. Perhaps we'll turn to that old saw by Brillat-Savarin, "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you... More

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