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S18.E09: Portland-ia

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Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein from the comedy series "Portlandia" task the chefs with creating a dish with hipster ingredients using only old vintage appliances and equipment; the chefs must develop and create a recipe fit for the home cook.

Original air date: May 27, 2021

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I’m glad the cheftestants were as surprised as I was that Sara, not Gabe or Chris, was the one sent home last challenge; I’m still kind of irked about that, especially since Chris finally went home tonight for yet another dish lacking focus and screwing up dough.  I hope she winds up emerging from LCK whenever they bring someone back.

Dawn’s fangirl reaction to the Portlandia stars was fun to watch.  I don’t know the show or the actors, but I enjoyed their presence just because of how giddy she was.

I was surprised this was her first QF win.  I liked the challenge - playing with hipster clichés.  I also like – and have - some of those vintage appliances and gadgets (not because I’m hip, because I generally don’t get rid of things that still work).  I have an electric GE stove from the late ‘50s, so I was looking to see if anyone had my model (not that I saw).

I also like the EC parameters.

Gabe obviously did a good job writing the recipe, for how close Gregory came.  As did Dawn with the recipe Kristen had to follow.  And, really, Maria’s, too, it just made a shit ton of food, but I think a home cook would have become flustered by the overly complicated way she wrote it.  Byron’s and Jamie’s recipes seemed relatively easy for their chefs to replicate, but weren’t great dishes to begin with.

It’s interesting that Kwame left off a component that didn’t come out right, while Melissa served raw gnocchi because that’s how it came out per Chris’s recipe.  I was under the impression her approach was what they were supposed to do, and Kwame should have served his with the watery sauce because that’s how it came out by following Shota’s recipe.

Because of that, I also found it odd Shota was in the top group.  I knew he wasn’t going to win (nor was Maria; the top four all had great dishes, but the recipe component of the challenge meant Dawn or Gabe was going to win), and he wouldn’t have been a candidate for elimination compared to the three that had conceptualization, not just execution, problems, but I was expecting three top, three bottom, and him in the middle.

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I really enjoyed the entire EC episode concept.    The one recipe that was four pages long was hysterical.     I got a kick out of Maria's recipe, and Kirstin's (spelling?) execution of it.    The recipe that Melissa had to execute with the raw gnocchi looked hideous.   

When they announced someone else would be performing the recipe, I wondered if it would be either relatives of the cheftestants, or pros that we haven't seen before.   I liked the poor chefs who had to perform from the recipes, especially a four page recipe.  

Edited by CrazyInAlabama
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I don't really cook, so when they flashed the ingredient lists during the Whole Foods shopping I already knew they were making things too complicated. Most of the chefs seemed stuck on the idea of gourmet food that they were forced to write down, not a recipe that would be easier to replicate, or be made by an average cook.

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5 hours ago, Bastet said:

Kwame should have served his with the watery sauce because that’s how it came out by following Shota’s recipe.

If you look at Shota’s dish versus Kwame it isn’t just water. Shota’s dish is clear, Kwame is red but they were similar enough!

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23 minutes ago, cameron said:

Would have been more interesting if they had used actual home cooks to follow those instead of professional trained chefs.  Would have been a whole different ballgame.

COVID....they were filming this during COVID and very strict protocols.  Also if trained professionals had trouble, imagine home cooks when you think about time wise. It would be different if they were trying dishes that were already tested

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17 minutes ago, catrice2 said:

COVID....they were filming this during COVID and very strict protocols.  Also if trained professionals had trouble, imagine home cooks when you think about time wise. It would be different if they were trying dishes that were already tested

That's what I mean.  Recipes weren't for the most part written for the average home cook.

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I'm kind of insulted by this "recipe" challenge. We home cooks are not THAT stupid. However, I am not going to be making seared fois gras any time soon. I know my limits. 

Chris..stop doing pasta. Jesus.. I still can't get over Sarah was PYKAGed before him.

This is my favorite cooking show out there because I love the food porn, not because I want to replicate it 

 

Edited by OoogleEyes
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It would have been hilarious if they made the chefs write an irrelevant 5 page personal anecdote like you get when you look up recipes online. 

My instinct would be similar to Maria’s, a one pot simple recipe. Maybe a braised dish. Gnocchi was insanity. However, I assume that if Chris nailed his dish while his test chef failed he’d still be safe. 

Making fresh pasta has long been what I’ve considered the #1 cooking skill that people think is difficult and impressive but is actually pretty simple, but Chris has challenged that assumption. Gnocchi is harder or at least less intuitive than other pastas though.

The amateur chef in the preview making mole is the last straw. Alright Top Chef, I'll try making a mole for the first time in my life! Sheesh. 

Edited by Fukui San
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Altho he seems to be a very nice person, it was past time for Chris to go home.

I was very impressed with Gabe's dish and the fact that he knew not to make another mole given the relative lack of time and the complexity. An I was a little shocked that Dawn was able to produce given her time management issues in the past.

Never "got" what was funny about Fred Armisen and still don't after his appearance.

Something is really off about this season...it feels very slow and almost boring. I assume it is all the COVID related changes like the fact they are not running around Whole Foods or exploring much of the city or involving other people, but this might just be a boring group of cheftestants. Employing Dale and Kwame and Kristen and Melissa etal is breathing a lot of life into the proceedings or it would be pretty dry.

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10 minutes ago, OoogleEyes said:

I absolutely hate that. Fine. You have lovely memories. Good for you. Let's just cut to the chase 

It's annoying but this is how those people make their money. The more relevant words they have on that page the higher their result will be on Google. Plus the more time you spend on the page the higher the engagement = more money. There are extensions you can install that will just make the recipe a "pop-up" on the page so you never have to see the preamble though! 

I feel like the chefs went into this challenge as Top Chefs and not Home Cooks. I am probably not going to make Gabe or Jamie's dishes but I will absolutely make Maria's. Maybe it's just me but when I look up recipes I tend to go towards non-complicated and delicious over a high end meal. I am not going to go out and buy banana leafs to serve a meal on. I want ingredients that are gong to be relatively affordable and easy to find that can be used in a few different dishes to make buying them worth it. Maria's was written poorly apparently but that is the type of recipes that work. "Throw these ingredients together and let it cook" over 19 ingredients and 30 steps. 

Edited by HighHopes
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I found this challenge parameters kind of weird, since one has the "following the instructions" component to factor in.

Shouldn't Shota and Maria not be on the top, since their replicas weren't even close?   I also wonder if Shota got a reprieve in that Kwame didn't pour the watery sauce on his plate.

Also, curious what the judges would eliminate.  Would they eliminate someone that had a good replication but a bad conception, or a decent conception but a terrible replication?

They got lucky that Chris failed at both.

 

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In an earlier season we had Top Scallop (Jamie, right?), then there was Top Risotto...and now we have Top Pasta.

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Also giving them only 3 hours to type the recipe (with ipads and not keyboards) must be a nightmare.  Kind of surprised that out of everyone not one person had a grammatical error or misspelling.  Guessing that they had someone do a grammatical and spelling check in between the prep and cook days?

It would have been entertaining if someone meant to type "pears" but forgot an r "peas".  Kristen Kish "2 cups of peas in a fruit tart?!" wtf?!"

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45 minutes ago, AriAu said:

Never "got" what was funny about Fred Armisen and still don't after his appearance.

Padma was so annoyed by him and Carrie. I don't think she's a fan. The way she cleared her throat and semi-glared was hilarious. I have never seen her be less than chummy with celebrity guest judges before now.

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49 minutes ago, OoogleEyes said:

I'm kind of insulted by this "recipe" challenge. We home cooks are not THAT stupid. However, I am not going to be making seared fois gras any time soon. I know my limits. 

Chris..stop doing pasta. Jesus.. I still can't get over Sarah was PYKAGed before him.

This is my favorite cooking show out there because I love the food porn, not because I want to replicate it 

 

Chris doing pasta again... I rolled my eyes, too. Although, I was excited to see what the chef following the recipe would do... I was hoping Melissa’s gnocchi would look and taste better than Chris’s but it looked so raw and pale! 
 

I was confused they didn’t really compare the dishes or talk more about the execution of the recipe when judging. 
Also, I thought the banana leaf, fish dish looked a little like poop.  Not at all appealing. 
 

side note: the product placement of BMWs this year feels egregious. 

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I also really liked this episode! I thought it was fun. I loved the pros trying to recreate the dishes based on the recipes they were provided. I thought it was great.

I was a little worried Shota was going home since he had the whole family discussion at the beginning of the episode. I really like him. 

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9 hours ago, Bastet said:

Dawn’s fangirl reaction to the Portlandia stars was fun to watch.  I don’t know the show or the actors, but I enjoyed their presence just because of how giddy she was.

Portlandia is fantastic IMO.  Fred and Carrie are treasures together.  Portlandia is not everyone's cup of tea because it's really dry and more quirky character driven, but Dawn and I sure love it.  

Fred and Carrie's interactions with the chefs were just right -- funny, very "them", non-intrusive to the cooking, and relatively brief.  

I really, really like Chris as a person but my goodness, pasta is his weak spot and I get why he kept going there to redeem himself but to no avail.

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1 hour ago, seltzer3 said:

Shouldn't Shota and Maria not be on the top, since their replicas weren't even close? 

I thought the only significant difference between Maria's & Kristen's versions was that Kristen thought the quantity was excessive & so didn't fill her bowls to the top - but maybe I wasn't fully paying attention. As for Shota, I think the difference was just the sauce, and it's why he probably wasn't really in contention for the win. I thought top two were Gabe & Maria, and that Gabe won in part because Maria's recipe, though it got the job done, was confusing, arguably served too many (I think Maria would disagree, but in any case it's better to be over than under), & needed an editor (which she knew). 

(As for Gabe's - stellar sauce, apparently, and readily reproducible; I think the banana leaf was just for presentation, so you could leave it off if you weren't throwing a party, or particularly interested in that level of presentation. I expected him to win, especially with the editing earlier, but thought that if there was a bit of suspense, it was Gabe v. Maria) 

Edited by akr
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A millenial hipster challenge with no kale?  How can that be?  I have a lot of the gadgets in my kitchen because if it's not broke, don't get rid of it!

I agree that Chris has been circling the drain, but I would have sent Jamie packing.  That was the single most unappetizing plate of food I have ever seen.  A blackened block of liver with crap scattered around it.

I think this was a great challenge - pushing the envelope in a way a Top Chef should expect to be pushed.

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9 minutes ago, meep.meep said:

I think this was a great challenge - pushing the envelope in a way a Top Chef should expect to be pushed.

Agreed! I thought this and the Chef's Table adjustment to restaurant wars were also great adjustments to the pandemic. It's hard to say when restaurants will be back or at what level, and many chefs have been turning to providing recipes, meal kits, or cooking classes in the meantime; and I can imagine higher-profit small seatings a la the chef's table as a way to supplement lower day-to-day earnings, or earn money with less overhead, or as a pop up or such, as well.  

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I was unsure about Chris at first, and thought he was going to go long ago. I made a comment about him thinking he was a better chef than he was. I personally think he was ready to go.  Imagine how much his ego took a hit week after week being criticized, including I think on some of the Quick Fires.  Sometimes you can only take so much. It seemed to me that he was not really "present" in the competition.  I said long ago, I just did not feel he had as good a grasp on his food identity as some of the other chefs, regardless of what they are trained to do. 

I also didn't know about Dawn but she actually seems to be one of the chefs who has a very quiet command her her identity as a chef and the food she wants to put out.   I don't need the chefs to have a tv personality...I just need them to cook food that looks professionally done and is interesting.  

If Sarah is that good she will cook her way back and possibly win.  They are all going to go at some point except the winner, so I don't know that it matters that much except for if they are paid xxx amount per episode.  Many of the chefs who were not top 3 or top 4 have gone on to have really successful careers and amazing opportunities.  Sometimes those who are eliminated in a "controversial" way, benefit more because of that because they get more attention.   I did not find her dishes to be wow inspiring, and some just didn't look appetizing. 

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1 hour ago, vb68 said:

Padma was so annoyed by him and Carrie. I don't think she's a fan. The way she cleared her throat and semi-glared was hilarious. I have never seen her be less than chummy with celebrity guest judges before now.

I actually thought she was trying to do a comedic bit with them, but bless her heart, that's not her skill set. And I'm a Padma fan! But yeah, I didn't take it seriously. It seemed like it was part of their "scene."

I'm a big fan of Carrie Brownstein, less so of Fred Armisen, but Portlandia is pretty solid. They also had good critiques, although Fred's question to Dawn about how she made her cornbread and the back and forth after that were hilarious. Glad she won!

I loved the challenge, but I was very afraid for Jamie for a mo', since Tom seemed almost angry about her dish. However, I totally forgot who won and had to go look it up. I don't know why I forgot Gabe won. It's totally reasonable that he did. But I blanked on that almost immediately, which I guess means I was more invested in who was going home. And honestly, if it'd been Jamie, I would've thrown a riot. A five-page long recipe that isn't worth the payoff and terrible pasta again seem like much stronger crimes than lack of texture. Chris is nice, but he's just not a competition chef, it seems.

Hard to totally nail down a top three of folks not in LCK running, but if I had to, I'd probably say it's Gabe, Dawn, and Shota. So I'm throwing my support behind Dawn for now.

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Every recipe seemed to have far more ingredients than a normal recipe should. Some were more more than 20 IIRC. As soon as Chris said pasta, my heart sank. He’s from my town, but I knew it would be strike 3. Maria’s bucket o stew had me laughing.

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4 hours ago, vb68 said:

Padma was so annoyed by him and Carrie. I don't think she's a fan. The way she cleared her throat and semi-glared was hilarious. I have never seen her be less than chummy with celebrity guest judges before now.

I'm with Padma.  Most celebrity guests remember that it's about food, not them.  These two were all "Shtick!  Shtick! Look at MEEEEE!"  

Edited by Bad Example
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1 hour ago, Msample said:

Every recipe seemed to have far more ingredients than a normal recipe should. Some were more more than 20 IIRC.

I think Byron’s had 20 ingredients just for the friggin’ stock. God only knows what his total amount was.

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4 hours ago, AriAu said:

Never "got" what was funny about Fred Armisen and still don't after his appearance.

Fred Armisen is just one more “comedian” who never had a funny minute in his life (calling Amy Schumer). Please, Top Chef, stop with these idiotic schticks. I was more interested in the retro cooking gadgets than the stupid banter.

Edited by Auntie Anxiety
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4 hours ago, cameron said:

That's what I mean.  Recipes weren't for the most part written for the average home cook.

I meant time wise for production costs, insurance, etc.   I would imagine it would have been a lot more costly....additionally isn't that pretty much what their new show is about, home cooks...minus the trying a new recipe...or is that incorporated into the show. 

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15 minutes ago, Pandora said:

I think Byron’s had 20 ingredients just for the friggin’ stock. God only knows what his total amount was.

If his recipe had just said "Use delicious [Product Placement Soup Stock]" instead he might have been on top.

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39 minutes ago, Pandora said:

I think Byron’s had 20 ingredients just for the friggin’ stock. God only knows what his total amount was.

45. They said it was 45 ingredients. Insane. I doubt a lot of them were normal pantry ingredients either.

I didn't mind the Portlandia Quickfire. It was a Quickfire, after all. And every single "celebrity" ever who's done the show has done their schtick. Thinking back I think that country singer who won (or was runner up?) on American Idol was worse. I remember her being incredibly schticky and painfully bad at it.

 

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It’s hard to know how much schtick was the actor vs the TC producers/writers.  Never having seen a single episode, it fell flat for me.

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I liked Chris but I was very happy to see him go if he was going to keep trying and failing with pasta. It's time to let that one go, buddy. I liked the challenge of them having to write a recipe and make it along side the other chefs.

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13 hours ago, Bastet said:

Dawn’s fangirl reaction to the Portlandia stars was fun to watch.  I don’t know the show or the actors, but I enjoyed their presence just because of how giddy she was.

I'd never heard of them and thought they were, at best, slightly amusing but I noticed that several of the chefs started laughing the moment they walked out so I figured their show must have been funny.  I got a huge kick out of Dawn's reactions.

Shota must be older than he looks if he has an 8 y/o son.

I enjoyed both challenges.  All the retro stuff looked totally familiar to me.  I laughed at Chris calling the blender a "whisker."  Hard to believe he'd never seen one before.  The chefs' approaches to the recipes puzzled me.  It seemed like none of them really understood that they were supposed to be writing recipes for home cooks even though that was clearly explained.  Byron was astoundingly unclear on the concept.  It was fun to watch the previous contestants try to replicate the dishes.  I liked Chris but his time was clearly up.

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19 minutes ago, mlp said:

I'd never heard of them and thought they were, at best, slightly amusing but I noticed that several of the chefs started laughing the moment they walked out so I figured their show must have been funny.

I've only seen one episode, but it was (probably) their most famous one. "Colin the chicken." Look it up if you are so inclined. 

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It's always hard for me to believe that chefs can cook without a recipe and just "nudge" it along the way until they get something they like.  I will always remember that in TC - Just Desserts they had to allow the contestants to bring a few recipes and charts with them because there ain't no nudging in baking. 

I did not realize until they started cooking that the contestant chefs were going to have to cook their dishes in addition to the alumni chefs.  I don't think we've seen that twist before and I thought it was a good one.  It looked like the recipes the judges saw also had a picture of the finished dish included.  Did the alumni chefs have a picture or were they going off the written word only when it came to presentation? 

 

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57 minutes ago, Quilt Fairy said:

It's always hard for me to believe that chefs can cook without a recipe and just "nudge" it along the way until they get something they like.  I will always remember that in TC - Just Desserts they had to allow the contestants to bring a few recipes and charts with them because there ain't no nudging in baking. 

I did not realize until they started cooking that the contestant chefs were going to have to cook their dishes in addition to the alumni chefs.  I don't think we've seen that twist before and I thought it was a good one.  It looked like the recipes the judges saw also had a picture of the finished dish included.  Did the alumni chefs have a picture or were they going off the written word only when it came to presentation? 

 

This is a good question and also a reason that I do not like cookbooks without pictures. 

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8 hours ago, cameron said:

Would have been more interesting if they had used actual home cooks to follow those instead of professional trained chefs.  Would have been a whole different ballgame.

Yes!  Because of these chefs were struggling to finish it in 90 minutes, I think it would have taken 2 or 3 times as long for the home cook. 

7 hours ago, OoogleEyes said:

I absolutely hate that. Fine. You have lovely memories. Good for you. Now, let's just cut to the chase 

I feel like food blogger school the way Food Network hosts go to FN school and they're all told to make. it. personal.  I get the SEO aspects of it all but it's so annoying to scroll. scroll. scroll.

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On 5/28/2021 at 5:57 PM, catrice2 said:

This is a good question and also a reason that I do not like cookbooks without pictures. 

Lol high five on this one.  Huge pet peeve of mine.

Dawn's hair is so glorious when it isn't tied up.  She's gorgeous.

On 5/28/2021 at 2:09 PM, Bad Example said:

I'm with Padma.  Most celebrity guests remember that it's about food, not them.  These two were all "Shtick!  Shtick! Look at MEEEEE!"  

They wouldn't bring Fred Armisen to Top Chef if they didn't want him to do his normal schtick.  If they wanted someone who wouldn't do schtick they would get a real chef to judge instead of two comedians.  Fred and Carrie have no known expertise in food, they were purely brought on for their Portlandia connection.

I was rolling at my eyes at the chefs being so bratty over the stoves.  Is it really that bad?  I had a stove like that at this new apartment until my parents gave me their old one.  It was 30-40 years old but it still worked!

Edited by Ms Blue Jay
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23 minutes ago, catrice2 said:

a reason that I do not like cookbooks without pictures. 

Neither do I!  And it's incredibly frustrating when a cookbook has some pictures, and you think it's OK, but then you find the recipe that you want to cook and for that recipe, of course, there's no picture. 

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8 hours ago, vb68 said:

Padma was so annoyed by him and Carrie. I don't think she's a fan. The way she cleared her throat and semi-glared was hilarious. I have never seen her be less than chummy with celebrity guest judges before now.

I 100% believe that entire exchange was scripted.

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33 minutes ago, Ms Blue Jay said:

I was rolling at my eyes at the chefs being so bratty over the stoves.  Is it really that bad?  I had a stove like that at this new apartment until my parents gave me their old one.  It was 30-40 years old but it still worked!

Was it an electric stove? If so, yes. It's really that bad. For the cooktop, anyway. Electric burners are horribly difficult to cook with. Now, I have what's called a dual fuel stove. Gas burners and electric oven. Best of both worlds.

 

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Kwame’s sympathetic pat to Melissa’s shoulder told me everything I needed to know.

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52 minutes ago, carrps said:

Electric burners are horribly difficult to cook with.

They really aren't. I always found electric consistent. And decent chef should be able to work with anything, wood, charcoal, gas, electric or propane. 

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1 minute ago, xfuse said:

They really aren't. I always found electric consistent. And decent chef should be able to work with anything, wood, charcoal, gas, electric or propane. 

I only had them in apartments, so I wasn't dealing with quality to begin with. I hated with a passion how slowly the burners heated up and cooled down. I just prefer the more instantaneous response you get with gas.

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