by Bruce Barry
If you watched the first episode of Top Chef last night, you probably came away with the impression that Nashville's Arnold Myint is middle-of-the-pack. In the elimination challenge, he was in neither the top group, from which the challenge's winner was chosen, nor the bottom group from which the go-home loser was selected. That means he escaped being told to (in TC argot) "pack up your goddamn knives and get the hell out of here."
Because of how the show was edited, though, we didn't get to see any reactions by the judging panel to Arnold's dish. All we know is he survived and moves on to Week Two.
Although it did not make it into the top four, honorable mention must go to Arnold for his Kaffir Lime & Thai Basil Cake. Considering he is not a pastry chef, making a dessert for a large crowd, especially for the first Elimination, is a risky move. Arnold pulled it off with flying colors. The cake was moist, light, and tasted exactly as described: a balance of fresh herbs and tropical Southeast Asian undertones — and was a clever window into his history and personality.
Celebrity chef Eric Ripert liked it also, according to this from TC Editor Monica Reyhani: "Even though he wasn't in the top because of how the teams worked out, according to both Gail and Eric, Arnold's Kaffir Lime dessert was a hit too."
Arnold's decision to go with a dessert looks like an especially intrepid move, given that the other dude who went that way was eliminated with authority. So I wouldn't count Arnold out just because he apparently can't peel potatoes very quickly.
By the way, Bravo also has online a video of Arnold talking about the Top Chef "birthday curse," and showing his fellow cheftestants helping him celebrate.