A new crew of aspiring Top Chefs was introduced this week on the seventh season of Bravo’s cooking competition show, Top Chef. One of the 17 newbies is Kevin Sbraga, Executive Chef of Rat’s Restaurant in Hamilton.
Chef Sbraga is a graduate of Johnson and Wales in Miami, Florida. He worked in Philadelphia’s Ritz Carlton Hotel as the Chef de Cuisine. He became the Culinary Director of Jose Garces’ Restaurant Group, before coming aboard Rat’s, managed by Stephen Starr, the mightily successful Philadelphia (plus New York, Atlantic City and Ft. Lauderdale) restaurateur.
Chef Sbraga acquitted himself admirably on Wednesday’s episode.
The first Quickfire task was to peel potatoes. The fastest 12 chefs, which included Sbraga, got to move on to the second task of chopping onions into a tiny dice. He was also among the fastest at this. He was one of 8 chefs who moved on to cutting 4 chickens into pieces. He was in the top four and so he got to the final phase of the challenge – cooking a dish from all of those ingredients.
Kevin made Boneless Chicken Wings, Poached In Chicken Broth Flavored With Onions, Potatoes And Mushrooms.
Host Padma Lakshmi and head judge, Tom Colicchio, tasted and judged all 4 dishes. Unfortunately, they found Sbraga’s broth too salty, so he didn’t win the $20,000 Quickfire prize. (He had hoped to use the money for a down payment on a house for his family – his wife and 2 kids.)
However, as one of the top four finishers, Chef Sbraga was allowed to pick his team for the Elimination Challenge. The chefs were divided into 4 teams and had to prepare a dish that represented his or her own regional cuisine.
The cheftestants were competing against only the chefs in their group, so there was a winner and a loser from each group. The final winner of the week was chosen from those four, as well as the chef who would go home.
Kevin had some strategic thinking to do. He needed to pick chefs he thought he would triumph over.
Amanda, who tried to do a Wolfgang Puck-type, early California cuisine dish. Even SHE called it a throwback – Red Snapper Carpaccio, Clementines, Sencha Oil, Daikon & Caraway Gelee.
Arnold, from Nashville, told the judges his mother is from Bangkok.
Kaffir Lime 5 Basil Cake, Palm Sugar Anglaise & “Myint” (that’s his last name) Julep
Jacqueline was a smart choice, as she had one of the overall worst dishes of the night – Duo Of Hudson Valley Chicken Liver & Port Wine Mousse
Kevin, because he’s from South Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia, decided to make Pennsylvania Lamb, Meyer Lemon & Pistachio Marmalade With Spring Onions.
He shouldn’t have worried about his competition. He won his group and was one of the top four chefs of the night.
Here’s what the judges said about Kevin’s food:
Eric Ripert: “Seems to be very tender.” Gail Simmons: “I taste some ginger.” (That was a good thing.) Tom Colicchio: “Flavors are good… Seasoned well.” The diners liked Kevin’s dish as well.
At Judges’ table:
Tom: “I liked the dish a lot..very simple, but yet it had a complexity to it as well, so you did a very nice job.”
But Kevin wasn’t chosen the overall winner this week. (Unfortunately, that went to Angelo, who also won the Quickfire.) He did, however, get off to a very strong start in his first week on Top Chef. Hopefully, Kevin will continue to do well and we’ll be able to watch our local chef as he progresses through the season.
Note: Here’s a breakdown of Top Chef’s first episode of season 7 in DC.