Who Cooked It Craziest? Top Chef All-Star Plates

So Top Chef Season 4 is over, and America has our first female commander-in-chef. Richard may have shot himself in the foot, but I think it’s pretty clear that Stephanie won because of her brilliant tactics on one specific dish. Her roasted lamb medallions, cooked with mushrooms, braised pistachios, olives and blackberries, were so over-the-top, so utterly batshit insane that the judges had no choice but to give her the win. I mean, whoever heard of a braised pistachio? And blackberries with olives? On lamb? All flavored up in miso, butter, red wine, balsamic, and chicken stock?

Stephanie really pulled a fast one on the judges here. If you put that dish on a menu in a fine restaurant you would have zero people order it. But they put her all the way into the final, so they couldn’t very well admit that she had made something fit for service at the looney bin, so they had only one choice: proclaim her a genius.

This is my favorite part of Top Chef. The just plain insane things that the cheftestants make in an effort to appear “avant garde.” I love that Bravo puts all the recipes on their web site, as if any human would actually make these. Like one day you’re just gonna say, oh ho-hum, I happen to have some leftover braised beef tips in my fridge, perhaps I’ll batter them in crumbled frosted flakes, quickly sear them on each side and serve them up with a pomegranate-truffle foam. Yeah, that sounds nice.

So for this week’s Who Cooked It Better, we’re looking at the craziest, most nutso things that the Top Cheftestants have ever put before us.

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In the upper left corner we have Stephanie’s aforementioned lamb medallions, in all their olive’d, blackberried grandeur.

On the top right is a recipe from Season One’s crying wonder, Dave, who cooked us a simple ham and cheese sandwich, except he kicked it up a notch with some delicious bacon, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. AND GRAPE JELLY. Congratulations, Dave, you are the most stoned person to ever appear on Top Chef.

Or maybe not. On the lower left is the entry from Mexican chef Elia of Season Two. About halfway through the season, Elia pulled that classic reality show move where she went on and on about how she didn’t want to even be on the show any more. She clearly didn’t want to win when she made this monstrosity, but it was so ridiculous that the judges had no choice but to pretend it was haute cuisine. Elia took an eggo waffle, spread it with butter and refried beans, drizzled maple syrup over the beans, and then topped that with ham, cheese, and a fried egg. Of course, there’s some chopped parsley on top lest you think this isn’t fancy.

The last entry is from Ilan, and I don’t know how he got out of the first episode of Season Two with his escargot a la Kraft Singles. Yes, that’s right, boy simmered up some snails and melted AMERICAN CHEESE over them. Because that wasn’t crazy enough, the whole thing is mixed up with mashed potatoes and peanuts. What is this? Escargot for third graders?


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Photos: Bravo

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  • JoeHoya June 18, 2008  

    I think Ilan gets a pass because his recipe was created in response to a challenge where they were given a box of specific ingredients and required to use all of them.

    Elia was clearly just ripping off the McGriddle concept. Good for her.

  • MissGinsu June 18, 2008  

    I don’t even consider Stephanie’s entry to be that crazy. It sounds pretty wonderful to me; I’m such a sucker for lamb.

    Elia’s Eggo sounds revolting. It’s actually the parsley that pushes that one over the top for me. Well, maybe it’s the parsley-maple combo…

  • gansie June 18, 2008  

    see, i think elia’s sounds kinda awesome. its like everything you would want in a breakfast (where’s the begal!) wrapped into one dish.

  • Julie June 19, 2008  

    None of the above. Hung’s Smurf villiage takes the cake.

  • BS June 19, 2008  

    Julie – you are unquestionably right about that – I tried again to find a pic of hung’s smurf cake and for some reason, Bravo has still not put this amazing recipe online. What are they thinking?

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