Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Top Chef 3/12/08--"Anything You Can Cook I Can Cook Better" summary

Previously on Top Chef: There was a third season, which was less interesting than the second season, but that was mainly because no one physically attacked other contestants. Hung, who pissed off some people with his cockiness and was almost compared to Marcel, won the whole thing. And Marcel was there when they announced it, and gave him a giant hug. You heard me. It’s interesting to note that Harold from season 1 has his own restaurant, and Hung is an executive chef. But Ilan seems to have done nothing with his money. He’s buying a taco shack, for Pete’s sake. I’m just saying. (click for more)

Padma tells us there are 16 chefs and 24 challenges. If that’s a Quickfire and an elimination per episode, that makes 12 episodes. So…top 4? Huh? Our usual judges Tom, Gail, and Ted are back. And we’re winning the same prizes. With the same sponsors. In the opening sequence, where everyone is taking off or putting on their chef’s jackets, one of the small pictures shows Spike with no shirt on underneath. So that’s how that is, then.

I haven’t been to Chicago in forever. I guess because I’m too lazy to drive. Ryan learned to cook from his dad, and he says he out cooked 2 people when he was 11. Yeah. (Kmanpat: “Whatever, he’s tasty.“) Nimma in her application video talks about how her parents want her to live with them. She wants to be a good Muslim, but also an American. Her parents support her, so that’s cool that she doesn’t have to worry about that. Zoi is making head soup with pig‘s head. Mark! I am going to have to listen to his talking multiple times, to give me one run through just to listen to his lovely accent. He moved to New York with nothing and he’s working up from that.

Everyone ends up at Pizzeria Uno. Mm, deep dish pizza. There’s a good selection of pizzas laid out for everyone. Rickard likes avant-garde. He says people label what he does “molecular gastronomy” complete with air quotes so is he pretending that he does something different? Own it! Jennifer loves the history of Pizzeria Uno. Erik is vocal and he looks like a biker. He controls his kitchen. Andrew looks like CJ. (Kmanpat:”…*drool*”). It’s been like one minute and he’s been bleeped twice in his interview. Promising. Something about things oozing from him like lava? In his application video he’s made carpaccio with a hand design, which looks pretty cool. Stephanie is positive and fun. I’m not sure wearing a Yoda backpack while cooking is the best idea, but it is fun, I’ll give her that. She’s talking about being fun in the kitchen so I guess that is a setup for her and Erik to butt heads. I think people are drinking beer. Richard doesn’t want to try sizing anyone up, it’s too early, but he did notice the other fauxhawk in the room. Then Jen and Zoi announce to everyone that not only did they know each other before the show, but they’re a couple. Well. That…was not something I expected. They kept that secret from the producers too. Everything I saw said, no out contestants. It smells kind of fishy to me, I mean, not necessarily fishy like they‘re making it up (although, I wouldn‘t be super shocked) but just fishy that they hid it. Most people just look confused. Apparently they’ve been dating for three and a half years. Zoi says it’s straining on the relationship, to compete against each other. Would Bravo have cast two people that were dating? Spike’s first thought is BS, but then he thinks that they can just go home together.

Padma and Tom show up to get things started. Their first Quickfire has a Chicago twist. They all file out and end up in the Top Chef kitchens, wherever those are in Chicago. A giant pile of pizza boxes waits behind Padma. She says they were allowed to bring up to $200 of ingredients from home, which are in lockers. Each one of them must create a signature deep dish pizza. They have 90 minutes, which isn’t very much because last time I went to Pizzeria Uno, pizzas take like 45 minutes and those are simple.

Frantic cooking. Stephanie cuts herself within 30 seconds. Dale has pickled kohlrabi, and sriracha in the tomato sauce. Tasty. Valerie has never made deep dish pizza so she might be in trouble even though she is actually from Chicago. Manuel is making “classic Italian pizza” even though pizza (and especially deep dish pizza) isn’t technically Italian. Nikki is from New York and doesn’t know deep dish so she has no idea what to do with the crust. Mark is using marmite, which is salty and savory and apparently an acquired taste like Vegimite. Antonia is more traditional. Richard is making peach pizza with sweet tea sauce. Uh…yeah. Spike’s real name is “Evangelos”. Hee. He’s using good Greek flavors, yum. Lisa is making BBQ duck pizza, which might be good. She also says it’s not about having a specialty, so I guess she doesn’t have one? Andrew says that Richard used two pans, or something, and since he waited until the last minute to look for a pan, he has to use a cast iron pan. Of course when Andrew tells the story he curses a lot more. It probably will still work. Hilariously when he looks for pans, there’s a shot of a cutting board with giant oozing blobs of pizza dough, like they’ve taken over. Dale snoots that some people totally fucked up their pizza because they had no idea what they’re doing. Everyone tries to put their pizza in boxes and they all leave.

Someone has put “Top Chef Delivery” on the sides of the cars. With speed lines. Hee. They knock on the door to discover…Rocco?!?!?! I am so tired of his ass. Is he a sponsor? Is he sleeping with a producer? Padma is hanging out with a pool cue like she just happened to be over. Everyone serves at the coffee table. OK, this is going to go on for a while. Richard: “peach taleggio“ pizza with fennel sausage and sweet tea sauce. Stephanie: prosciutto, olives, arugula, melon tomato sauce. Rocco says it’s funky. Zoi: lamb sausage, broccoli pesto. Too much stuff. Dale: sausage, scallions, pickled kohlrabi, sriracha sauce. Ryan: escarole, ricotta salata, butternut squash. Let me interrupt to share my story about butternut squash. I made soup one week, and had a whole squash left over which I did not want to cut up, so I microwaved it and then looked for recipes for squash puree. And I made some macaroni and cheese, which was really good, and then I got the flu and the first day, when I was the sickest, I ate some leftover squash mac n’ cheese for lunch. And after that, even though I didn’t throw up or anything, the thought of eating the rest of it sickened me so much I had to throw it out, plus the rest of the squash I had, and I haven‘t touched squash since then. I really hope I can still have like, soup or other things with squash in them. Sorry, back to the show. Nikki: white pie with comte, ricotta, and pecorino cheeses, and mushrooms, no tomatoes. The dough is thick. Andrew: smoked marinara, prosciutto, onions, heirloom tomatoes. It’s all crust. Jennifer: grapes, bacon, fontina, rosemary. Erik: mushrooms, onions, peppers, sausage. Spike has “Pizza a la Grec”: onions, olives, feta cheese, sausage. Nimma: onions, different mushrooms, stracchino cheese. They want salt. Mark has marmite molasses, chicken, and zucchini.

If Rocco calls your name you have to go stand in the corner. They are the least favorites: Lisa, Nimma, Valerie, Manuel, Andrew, Stephanie, Nikki, and Zoi. Stephanie didn’t cook her prosciutto right and it was gamy. Nikki’s pizza was too dry. The favorites: Richard confused him but it was awesome, Mark made Rocco like the taste of marmite. Rocco says something about vegemite WHICH IS NOT THE SAME THING. I shouldn’t know more than the guest judge. Padma says the house they’re in is theirs, so now they can unpack and hang out. Andrew then delivers my favorite quote of the evening: “Padma’s all like, ‘Yo! Casa, motherf***ers!’”. Ha! I love him. Everyone explores, and the house looks pretty awesome. They have a deck and everything. Everyone kicks it and drinks. Andrew says everyone’s pretty cool but he’s awesomer than everyone. Nimma is really upset about losing. She is sitting in her room by herself; she’s not here to have fun. She’s really going to bed. I get the idea of not taking it personally, maybe, but go have some fun. Dale says you have to stay confident and remove some of the human side of things. You have to feel like you’re the best or you’ll fall short.
In the morning there’s a chalkboard waiting for the contestants. I must say Padma has continued her good fashion choices. The winning chefs all pull numbers, and they have to pick one chef from the other group to cook head to head. The loser gets to pick off a list of classics, for them to both make. Then the judges will pick one winner and one loser from each pair, and the losers will be up for elimination. This is weird. Mark doesn’t know what some of these things are. Erik picked the last number, and he knows he’ll be getting soufflé because no one’s going to take it. Richard vs. Andrew, crab cakes. Andrew is glad to kick his ass in revenge. Mark vs. Stephanie, duck a la orange. Jen vs. Nikki, lasagna. Nimma vs. Antonia, shrimp scampi. Spike vs. Lisa, eggs benedict. Manuel vs. Dale, steak au poirve. Valerie vs. Ryan, chicken piccata. So Erik and Zoi are making soufflé. They’ve both made soufflé but a long time ago. Well, at least they both suck at it.
Shopping time! Mm, Whole Foods. Mark thinks his duck is simple so it should be easy. Dale doesn’t make steak au poirve so he’s flipping it. OK then. Lisa is confident she can poach eggs. Ryan is reading off his list, which includes bread crumbs and tomatoes. Zoi is making dessert soufflé. Andrew is sneaking looks at Richard’s cart. He’s referring to Richard as his “competitor” with air quotes.

Once they get back they get right to work. Richard says he has his eye on stuff, making coleslaw, getting things started. Did he put the crab legs, shells and all, into the pan? Antonia is paying attention to the sauce. Nimma is making cauliflower custard? Interesting. Ryan is making his own stock and gnocchi. In 90 minutes. He thinks he underestimated the amount of time. Nikki is making fresh pasta no matter what. Except that it’s 45 minutes left and she needs that time to bake. Stephanie wants to use the whole duck to show off her skills. Mark has a lot of “crazy s***” going on, according to Stephanie. She seems to just be concerned about the complexity of the two dishes. Andrew is looking for mayonnaise. He asks Richard about it, and he’s like, none here. But we have egg yolks and oil. Then he busts out the jar he bought at the store. Haha! So Andrew has to make his own, with a recipe he got from Richard. That’s supposed to taste better anyways. Richard I guess feels bad and tries to pass over the mayo, but Andrew’s like, too late now! And hands it back. Don’t share, that’s Andrew’s problem if he didn‘t read the list of pantry supplies Lee Anne gave all of them. Zoi and Erik are still freaking out. They seem to be together in their lack of skills. Nimma is making flan? I guess the cauliflower thing. It’s not setting, so she scrambles it instead. She’s got a very monotone voice when she interviews. Richard has some plastic thing and he’s smoking stuff. Andrew is impressed. Richard wants people to freak out when he does stuff. Stephanie is shaking so badly she can’t sauce her plate. OH AND THEN TONY BOURDAIN WALKS IN!!!! I love him. He’s a jerk but he owns it. Why couldn’t we have had him instead of stupid Rocco?

The question of the week is, “Do Zoi and Jennifer have an advantage because they’re a couple?” I just want to know why they felt that they didn’t need to tell anyone that fact. Although, please do note that Bravo wasted no time in giving this couple their own Top Chef blog. Well, Outzonetv gave them a blog. And Lee Anne’s blog says the producers knew about it.

Aw, Rocco is back anyways. No Ted? No Gail? WTF? Stephanie and Mark are first with duck a la orange. Mark: Enoki mushrooms, squash, tangerine and soy glazed duck, and a “saketini“. The whole dish is deconstructed. Stephanie: seared duck breast with bok choy and maitake mushrooms, and the thighs in a spring roll with orange soy glaze. Yum. Rocco and everyone else is confused by the progression of Mark’s plate, because he deconstructed the dish but meant for them to eat it all together. Tony says he kept eating Stephanie’s dish long after he could stop, and as he’s talking Padma reaches over and uses her finger to get more sauce. Stephanie wins. Mark is up. Eek.

Richard and Andrew bring crab cakes. Andrew has cilantro basil pudding and orange peri-peri sauce. He talks about pancetta aioli and manages to simultaneously tell everyone he made aioli and complain about the lack of mayo in the pantry. Richard: blue crab cakes with brussel sprouts and apple coleslaw, and smoked ras al hanout (Moroccan spice blend). They uncover the dish and the smoke. Rocco likes the smoke and meatiness. Andrew has too much bread so he loses. They are back room and it’s like…a store room with a giant shelves of Glad products.

Jennifer and Nikki, come over with lasagna. Jennifer: meat sauce, autumn vegetables and mint verde sauce. Everyone nods. Nikki used sheep’s milk gouda and rolled her own pasta “because I thought that was a key element to such an easy, classic dish“. That felt like a dig at Jen. They both seem to be good, but Jennifer didn’t cook her rutabaga while Nikki‘s pasta was wonderful, so Jen loses.

Antonia and Nimma, with shrimp scampi. Antonia has lobster, parpardelle (fat wide noodles), tomatoes and squash blossoms. Tony is moaning in ecstasy. Nimma has like, two shrimp (marinated in parsley and garlic) on the plate and her cauliflower scramble. Nimma didn’t salt her dish until it hit the pan and it was really salty. Rocco would have sent it back. So unsurprisingly Nimma loses.

Spike and Lisa, with eggs benedict. Spike: bacon and mushrooms, lemongrass sabayon. Lisa: lobster, challah, spinach, bacon. Tony makes them choose on the basis of this scenario: you got drunk last night and you’re really hung over, which one would you rather eat? Hee. Plus, he has a point: eggs soak up the leftover alcohol and help your hangover. Spike loses. The hot boys are losing!

Dale and Manuel, with steak au poirve. Dale is kind of deconstructed: New York strip steak with candied green peppercorns, parsley puree and bok choy. There are little piles all over the plate. Manuel is Mexican: sirloin, mushroom ceviche, scallion, cilantro sauce. Dale took chances and they worked. Manuel’s is greasy and over sauced so he is up for elimination.

Ryan and Valerie bring over chicken piccata. Ryan has the chicken, lemon potato gnocchi and warm herb salad. With chicken jus. The judges are shaking their heads. Valerie has orange demi-glace and a potato and haricot vert salad with her chicken. Tony didn’t like either one. No one made lemon butter sauce. Ryan made it with bread crumbs, which don’t belong. Tom couldn’t identify this as piccata and Tony can‘t get past the bread crumbs so Ryan loses. Ryan is flipping out because he’s concerned that everyone in America will think he sucks. Can he even show his face anymore? (Kmanpat: “Aww, poor baby, I’ll make it better.”)

Erik did pepper jack cheese soufflé with avocado crème fraiche, black bean puree, salsa and tortilla strips on top of the soufflé. Zoi did rice pudding soufflé with candied figs and fennel with espresso. Tony would like Erik’s if he wasn’t expecting a soufflé. Neither was a good soufflé, but Zoi’s’ flavors were better so she wins. In the back room everyone is sitting in a circle not talking.

Antonia, Nikki, Richard, and Stephanie get called out. Someone curses, I guess because they know they’re not up for the win. Antonia restrained herself and had skills. Stephanie gets high praise from Tony. Nikki’s dish was great and tasty. Richard and his smoke were forward thinking. Tom is excited about this season just based on this challenge. Rocco says that Stephanie wins this week. She used the entire duck, it had great flavor, etc.

Stephanie tells everyone she won, and then sends out Ryan, Erik, Nimma, and Mark. The loser gong sounds. Ah, loser gong. I missed you. Erik used mashed potatoes as a base? For a soufflé? Rocco plays teacher, and seriously? I do this sometimes with my students, where you ask leading questions so they can figure it out for themselves. But I don’t do it with the sole purpose of making them look stupid. Erik’s soufflé rose but then piled a bunch of stuff on top of it. He knows he made nachos. Nimma liked her cauliflower, and Tom knows it was supposed to be a flan. It should have cooked up right. She tasted the shrimp before they went out and knew they were salty. Oops. Mark looks terrible and hungover all of a sudden. Tony feels his dish was silly and pretentious because his deconstruction was pointless; the ingredients were separated, but then you were supposed to recombine them to eat. He trimmed the duck, and then overcooked it. Rocco says something patronizing again. Ryan is babbling about starch…I think he vaguely remembers chicken piccata but not very well so he has no idea what it is. Tom thinks everyone should have done some research on the classics before they showed up.

Man, it’s 10:06 already. My hands hurt. P.S. thanks for the warning about the extended episode, Bravo. Tom thinks Ryan still doesn’t understand what chicken piccata is. Rocco is like, it’s not just his gnocchi that were dense. Stop trying to be Tony. You know, from Tony I would have laughed, but I dislike Rocco so much that it’s no longer funny. Nimma made baby food. Erik made a terrible dish, even without the added requirement of making a soufflé. Mark made some dish that was not duck a la orange, except that it had duck in it. Backstage everyone is talking about how much it sucks to be in front of the judges.

Commercials. Is it wrong that I find this whole situation on “Make Me a Supermodel” with Perry and Perry’s girlfriend and Britney Spears to be absolutely hilarious? Because I find it hilarious. Also, I would like to be placed on a yacht with an all-star water polo team. Oh, the weekly question. 78% of viewers said that Zoi and Jen didn’t have an advantage because they’re a couple. But Bravo circled the wrong answer. Good job.

We rehash the same things the judges said 10 minutes ago. Why is there so much insistence on knowing how to make the classics? I don’t remember that before. Nimma is out. She tells the judges that she’s not going to stop. I’d like to point out that she was the youngest contestant, at 26. She’s going to keep studying and learning more.

This season: some complaining, the zoo, tailgating, didgeridoo! Some yelling in the back room about nothing, I’m sure.

No comments: