I am addicted to Top Chef!
There, I’ve said it. Not only am I hooked on watching this cooking competition (slash) reality show, but I have even hooked a handful of my friends on the Bravo TV program (or “semi-hooked,” if that is defined as them now watching the show on a regular basis and being able to discuss the personalities of the contestants and the curious and enticing concoctions whipped up each week).
Here are some of the many lessons I’ve learned from watching Top Chef:
- Never send the food out without tasting it first!
- Fresh ingredients rock! (Alternately, canned ingredients suck!)
- High altitude wreaks havoc on cooking temperatures and times!
- Keep it simple!
- Don’t put liquid on the plate!
- “It’s called Top Chef, not Top Scallop!” (Uttered by Fabio, a current contestant.)
Head judge Chef Tom Collicchio even made the news during Inauguration Week, coming to the rescue of food author Joan Nathan. While attending a charity benefit at Nathan’s DC home, Chef Tom noticed the hostess choking (on a Persian chicken kabob, no less) and saved the day by utilizing the Heimlich manuever on her. The thought may have passed through his mind, at that moment, that Dr. Heimlich’s trusty maneuver might have come in just as handy a time or two on Top Chef…
And as enjoyable as watching Top Chef is, there are always one or two painful elements. This season, the most uncomfortable moments come while watching contestant Stefan Richter, possibly the most arrogant and conniving entrant in five seasons of the show. All of the other chefs seem to dislike Stefan (with the possible exception of Fabio, who appears more capable of tolerating him than the others), who is notoriously hard to work with by virtue of his pigheadedness and, invariably, is always the last person chosen when the contestants split into teams (it’s hard to imagine that this bothers Stefan, who likely became used to being the last one chosen for the soccer game on the grade school playground). And not that there is anything wrong with having ideas, but the editors of the show made it seem that Stefan had craftily planned his strategy for last week’s “restaurant wars” episode. As soon as he was chosen for a team (last, of course), he firmly announced his desire to prepare the dessert, the menu for which he had undoubtedly concocted well in advance of the challenge (thus, eliminating the spur-of-the-moment creativity which is one of the show’s delights). This preparation won him the challenge. And, while there is no arguing the ugliness of Stefan’s personality traits, there can be no debate against the extremely tempting desserts that he prepared for the Sunset Lounge menu.
Stefan’s dessert service ended with a surprise for each diner: a mango lollipop. I dare your mouth not to water when you read this incredibly simple recipe, taken (and slightly revised) from Bravo TV’s Top Chef website.
Stefan Richter’s Mango Lollipops
Prep Time: About half an hour
10 mango cubes, about half an inch on all sides
2 oz. melted chocolate
1 tbsp. mint oil
10 mint leaves
1. Melt chocolate, add mint oil.
2. Dip mango cube half way in chocolate.
3. Serve on skewer.