'Top Chef' dinner inspirations: Challenges that inspire home chefs

Yahoo Contributor Network

Fans of "Top Chef" adore the reality competition series for the drama, the cuisine, and the creative challenges. Besides being entertaining, these challenges are also a great source of inspiration for home cooks. Here are some of the show's best challenges, the tasks that inspire home cooks to put something creative on their family table.

Gas Station Cuisine

In the first season episode "Food on the Fly," the chefs are faced with a unique Quickfire Challenge. Rather than cooking from the well-stocked "Top Chef" pantry, the chefs are given a budget of $20 to spend on ingredients at a gas station. Lee Anne wins with a Funyun battered sandwich made from Oscar Meyer hot dogs.

For home cooks, cooking creatively on a budget is a must; this challenge inspires homemakers and budding cooks alike to shop at unusual locations and try unexpected flavor combinations.

Less is More

In the second season episode "Less is More," the chefs must concoct meals of no more than 500 calories to serve to a camp of diabetic and overweight kids. Cooking calorie-restricted meals that please kids is a constant battle that many home cooks must face, but the results of this challenge are very inspiring.

Team Black manages to stay under 500 calories with an enticing, flavorful menu that includes a sausage and cheese pizza, fresh fruit on skewers, a berry lemonade, and a gooey chocolate chip cookie that has both bananas and a peanut butter drizzle. And while Team Red didn't win, they still put up a yummy-sounding menu of BBQ chicken, cole slaw, grilled veggies, and an old-fashioned fudge cake.

Eat Like an Animal

In the second episode of Season 4, the chefs must craft meals inspired by the diets of several zoo animals: a bear, gorilla, vulture, lion, or penguin. If you are a parent of a kid who is a picky eating, this clever approach to menu planning can get your child more involved in the dinner-making process. For example, Team Bear's menu included venison, salmon, mushrooms stuffed with berries and nuts, and a cheese plate with honeycomb.

Pretty Food

The sixth season episode "Culinary Olympics" follows the cheftestants as they try to live up to Bocuse d'Or levels of precision and elegance. Home cooks might not be able to prepare perfectly portioned dishes on shining mirrored platters, but watching the chefs prepare artistic plates of food inspires homes cooks to put a little more thought into how they present their meals.
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