Top Chef: Boston made its premiere Wednesday night, sending 16 cheftestepants into a tizzy while they broke down New England seafood and prepared dishes for the "first-ever Top Chef Food Festival." Representing Atlanta was Ron Eyester of The Family Dog, Timone's, Rosebud, and the forthcoming Diner.
Did Ron Survive?
Yes. Two chefs were eliminated in the first episode, but Eyester was safe. The judges had some criticism for his elimination challenge dish, but he stayed out of the bottom three.
What Did Ron Cook?
The challenge was to recreate the first dish the chefs could remember cooking, and then to serve it alongside several nationally acclaimed peers at the Top Chef Food Festival. Eyester prepared a dressed-up version of shrimp cocktail, featuring strawberries, shaved fennel, radish, and pickled jalapeno.
The judges, including former cheftestepant/Top Chef lifer/Atlanta expat Richard Blais, made it clear in their exchange with Eyester that they weren't thrilled with their tasting.
Padma Lakshmi: I'm someone who really loves spice food. I think it's over the top here.
Richard Blais: Just remember, first and foremost, you're always cooking on Top Chef. You can get carried away with the event: You're having fun, oh, it's just like you're back home in your restaurant. Next thing you know, you're on the bottom --
Ron Eyester: You walk back home to your restaurant! [jovial laugh]
Padma: That's very sage advice.
"To be quite honest, I can't say that I have truly sustained memories of cooking as a child," Eyester said in an email to Eater Atlanta, "so I gravitated towards a dish that any beginning pantry cook would be asked to perform time and time again — Shrimp Cocktail. I wanted to bring a level of creativity to the task, but while making sure that I didn't commit myself to a dish that was too ambitious in a setting that I was obviously not accustomed to. Quite simply, my expectation of the first challenge was to make it to the next week — and it looks like I did that!"
Who Won the Elimination Challenge?
Mei Lin, 28-year-old sous chef at Ink in Los Angeles.
Lin cooked up her version of congee with caramelized pork, fish sauce caramel, and black garlic puree. She bested Doug Adams (29-year-old chef de cuisine at Imperial in Portland, Ore.; fried chicken with pickled jalapenos and watermelon) and Gregory Gourdet (39-year-old chef de cuisine at Departure in Portland, Ore.; Haitian stewed chicken with fried bananas, spicy pikilz, and Scotch bonnet chili relish).
Who Went Home?
George Pagonis, 31-year-old executive chef at Kapnos in Washington, D.C.
Pagonis took the dubious title of "First Chef Sent Home." The opening quickfire challenge, in which the chefs were split up into teams of four and told to show off their knife skills by disassembling three lobsters, 20 oysters, eight mackerel, and 21 littleneck clams, relay style. Pagonis's team was the slowest, and he was deemed to be the slowest competitor. In a one-on-one competition for survival, he chose to face off against Gourdet, and his pan-seared mackerel with fennel, orange, Kalamata salad, and warmed clams lost out to Gourdet's seafood trio (oysters with yuzu and ginger mignonette, mirin-marintated mackerel, and lobster with coconut and tomato sauce).
Michael Patlazhan, 31-year-old private chef in Brooklyn
In the elimination challenge, Patlazhan cooked chilled corn soup with pickled cherries and Sriracha caviar. The judges didn't detect any pickling on the cherries, and found the sweetness of the corn and fishiness of the caviar were not a happy marriage. Patlazhan had a few parting thoughts for judge Tom Colicchio.
"Maybe Tom should be a little more open minded. Sometimes, you know, you've gotta grow with age or you get left behind. It sucks to lose, but I'm proud of what I did. I don't care what you think, Tom."
Want more Top Cheffage? Check out Eater National's in-depth recap.