Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Top Chef 4/30/08--"Common Threads" summary

Previously on Top Chef: It turns out that some people are still coming to the show with no dessert recipes to speak of. Richard won the right to have his recipe in the Top Chef Cookbook, even though his name isn’t there so if you didn’t watch this season you would never know about it. And then everyone fell for Padma’s promise that they could have a night off, and drunk people at Second City gave them all suggestions for their Elimination challenge dishes. Dale and Richard won for making tofu taste like beef. Jen finally lost for failing to make turned on asparagus. Along the way Lisa and Antonia felt that “improvising” would cover their use of chorizo and sea bass instead of Polish sausage. Sigh. (click for more)

The day after elimination Stephanie is realizing that there are a lot of people gone but they‘re only halfway done. She’s thrilled to still be there. Antonia says she’s done doubting her “flavor combinations” and she doesn‘t care what anyone else says. Mark feels closer to winning the competition. I don’t approve of his headband but I do approve of the tattoos and shirtlessness.

For the Quickfire today we have Art Smith, who is Oprah’s personal chef. Woo. Also there is Uncle Ben’s rice. You guys. My sister and I grew up on medium grain rice and we thought that Japanese style sticky rice was how rice was supposed to be. “Uncle Ben’s rice” was an insult to us. I know, right? Art and Padma talk about speed and being on time. Today they have to make a fabulous entrée in 15 minutes. Haha. Padma tells them that the Uncle Ben’s is “healthy” and will be their help for this round since they‘ve bought the pre-cooked microwave kind. Whatever, she totally snickered when she said it. Even Padma thinks this is silly.

Richard is already flailing, because he is too thoughtful and couldn‘t possibly make something that quickly. Dale says that he wants to do fried rice, and luckily a lot of Asian food is really fast. True. Stephanie has taken her rice and made a pancake with it; I like the creativity. Spike has stuffed tomatoes, while Antonia is making rice salad. Richard then shares with us that people aren’t tasting their food, just as Mark tells us that he didn’t taste everything together. How many people have gotten eliminated for not seasoning things? Come on, people. And yet, Richard still sounds so superior and annoying and he bugs me.

Antonia serves rice salad with grilled skirt steak, arugula, red onion, and cherry tomatoes. Nikki makes fried rice too! Boo! Mushrooms, zucchini, egg, snap peas. Richard makes tuna steak and tomatoes over rice with yuzu. Stephanie explains her brown rice pancakes with scallops. It is pronounced “clever” by Art. Spike’s stuffed tomatoes have veal, port, and rice wine vinegar sauce. Yum. Lisa has rice, corn, black beans, peppers, avocado crème and grilled shrimp. The acid from lime juice is important I guess. Dale’s fried rice has pineapple, scallops, and long beans. It looks so good. Mark has miso glazed turkey over whole grain brown rice “salad” and sugar snap peas. They don’t like it because it’s dry. How do you dry out turkey in 15 minutes? Andrew took fish and crusted it with the wild rice and then made almond sun-dried tomato pesto. It’s crunchy but needs more than 15 minutes to tweak it.

Mark is immediately called out in the bottom. Stephanie’s pancake was too heavy and the scallops were useless. She’s disappointed. Lisa wasn’t original enough. Dale, Richard, and Antonia all had complete meals with great flavors. Antonia wins. She goes on a soapbox about how she’s staying true to who she is and how she cooks and she won’t compromise her morals to win…sorry, that’s Survivor.

For the Elimination challenge, Padma tells them about Common Threads, which is an organization dedicated to helping families eat together. I really like that idea. My family always ate dinner together, but I think that was more a function of my being a slacker with no life, than any effort with family bonding. They have to make a complete dinner for a family of 4, that is easy and nutritious…for $10. But they’re still shopping at Whole Foods, which, if my budget was $10 per meal, I would not shop there. Ugh.

Everyone heads straight for the meat counter to try to figure out what to do. Andrew’s mom cooked really well and inspired him to be a chef. Everyone is getting chicken, but Dale wants to step out of his boundaries. He gets turkey bratwurst. Stephanie has no idea what she is doing, she’s confused and just throwing stuff in her basket. Antonia feels she has an edge because she’s a single mom. Mark makes vegetarian curry when he’s broke so that‘s his plan. Everyone goes to ring things up and having problems. Antonia is literally peeling leaves off her bok choy to make it lighter.

Back at home Mark busts out the didgeridoo. How did he bring that? Antonia calls her daughter and has a good conversation with her, without crying. She’s going to keep going. I would say this doesn’t bode well, but she has immunity. And then we’re leaving. No more didgeridoo?

Over on site, at the Washburne Culinary Institute, everyone is unpacking when Padma comes in with a “gather round!” and brings in their extra help for the day: small children. Hee! They’re students in the Common Threads program. Antonia bursts into tears, reminded of her daughter. The children have been preassigned. The best part of this is that Stephanie’s helper is almost as tall as she is. Antonia gets a boy so she feels she should be able to stop crying.

Lisa seems to have a very simple menu, and she mentions her “girlfriend”. Everyone’s menus are listed out by ingredient, rather than dish. It’s weird. Richard is making roast chicken, beets, avocados. That’s tricky, beets. He declares it his “personal mission” to see if his helper likes beets. Antonia has pasta and veggies. Actually that sounds not too bad. Spike is making soup again. He gives his kid a peeler to peel carrots and the kid manages to cut himself. I am impressed that Spike has the spaz kid. Lisa feels Mark’s curry is a bad idea. Well, curry can be complicated, but in terms of being too weird for kids…I don’t know. Kids can like things like curry, but sometimes if it’s too weird they may balk at it. Although Mark shouldn’t be so shocked his helper never had curry before. All the kids seem to know what they are doing. Nikki had to cook for herself a lot so she’s making the same things she used to make. Dale compares himself to his helper, being short. Hee. Andrew tells us that he used to be over 200 pounds (!) but when he started to cook for himself he lost the weight. Stephanie has cous cous. Mmm. Although, there is peanut sauce.

Tom appears in the kitchen to bother people and I thought he might be awkward around the kids but he’s actually really cool. I think he has kids of his own, now that I think about it. Everyone seems on track. Tom likes Spike’s and Andrew‘s dishes. He thinks Stephanie’s peanut butter and tomato and cous cous is weird. Actually, store-bought cous cous, the kind that comes in a box, with a can of tomatoes in it? So good. I make that all the time. But not with peanut butter. Dale thinks that a lot of people have made things that are really complicated. Stephanie thinks some of her cous cous might be overcooked. It looks like Spike might not have finished on time.

The guests are the kids from the program. Richard serves the judges roast chicken with black beans, and an apple, avocado, and beet salad. Richard likes that his helper can explain to her friends about the dish. I only noticed this when I watched the episode again, but everyone else had their helpers explain the dish to the judges, while Richard got rid of her first. Interesting. Everyone likes it but Art would remove the skin. Lisa serves roasted chicken with edamame and black beans, and for dessert, peanut butter and apple French toast. Padma wants more fresh vegetables, and the chicken doesn‘t have flavor. They like the peanut butter. Tom is stuck back in the kitchen. Dale has sausages, potatoes, onions, red cabbage, and apples. The cabbage is very acidic and they apparently want it to be more “universal”. Spike brings spaghetti and everyone is happy. Technically, it’s pasta puttanesca, carrot soup and “semi baked” apples. They ran out of time but served them anyways. Sigh. The pasta has a lot of veggies and it’s tasty. Nikki can’t imagine not enjoying her roasted chicken with mixed vegetables, and tomato and cucumber salad. Luckily everyone else likes it too. Mark is unnerved by having Tom around watching them. Mark brings out his vegetable curry and lets his helper explain the cinnamon rice and cucumber salad. It’s very sweet and there’s not enough protein. Antonia has chicken veggie stir fry with whole wheat noodles. The judges announce that Spike’s pasta is trumped. Andrew has chicken paillard with fennel, apple, and orange salad. Yum. Stephanie: chicken with peanut and tomato sauce, over cous cous with eggplant and zucchini. Everyone makes faces. Gail says that’s the sign of a restaurant chef who doesn’t cook at home. Tom sends everyone home and goes to talk to the other judges. They like Nikki (simple and homey), and Antonia (it’s real life for her). Lisa’s dish was bland, Stephanie’s dish had odd flavors. Lisa doesn’t know, but Richard seems pretty confident. He also wants to go home and make babies. No comment.

Andrew, Nikki, and Antonia are the first group called. Winners! Nikki had a one pot meal, well seasoned, and balanced. Andrew got people to try fennel and fruit. Antonia didn’t dumb down her food, it was tasty and would appeal to adults and kids too. Antonia wins but doesn’t get a prize. She is relieved because how embarrassing would it be if the mom doesn’t win the family dinner challenge?

Stephanie, Mark, and Lisa. Sounds familiar. Stephanie thinks she’s there for not having a simple enough dish, but really it was the peanut butter and tomato. She does admit to the overcooked cous cous. Tom asks if she spent her budget, but nothing comes of that. Mark liked his dish when he tasted it, but thinks he’s there because Tom doesn’t like him. His curry was too sweet (?) and wasn’t nutritious enough. Cucumber doesn’t have a lot of nutrition, and the judges wish that they could have seen more vegetables and just more in general, and for some reason Mark says he doesn’t feel he needed protein. Vegetarian does not equal lack of protein. Lisa loved her dish, but the black beans and edamame weren’t cooked enough and they were under seasoned. Lisa says they were canned, because people have canned food, and Tom doesn’t care. But as Lisa is explaining herself she manages to bitch about last week again by saying that after that, she decided that paying attention to the rules was the most important thing. More important than seasoning?

After the losers go back to the Stew Room Art immediately says Lisa should be able to take criticism. Her dish had no flavor, and at this point that’s just ridiculous. Backstage Lisa thinks her food was actually over seasoned. Mark’s food was sloppy again, and to make matters worse everyone has had great vegetable curries before. He did not spend his money wisely (he had a whole dollar left over). Stephanie has been really good up until now, but her flavors were weird and the cous cous was overcooked. It’s not that hard to make cous cous.

Lisa is standing with her arms crossed in front of her, very defensive. Mark and Stephanie are much more open. Mark gets sent home. Suck. Tom says he doesn’t dislike him. Mark is surprised, but he says “rock on rocker” to his fellow chefs and he’ll stay at it, or whatever. Why are the boys falling into the category of “cute but stupid”?

Next time: everyone is chugging Red Bull and bitching about how tired they are and Dale talks about cooking for 14 hours. Weddings, apparently. Dale flips out. After the usual spiel about going to for more info, we get a bonus interview clip from Andrew: “I have a culinary boner right now.” Ha!

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Top Chef 4/23/08--"Improv" summary

Previously on Top Chef: Tailgating proved to be beyond some people. Nikki ran out of food before the judges arrived to taste her dish, and Mark flailed about and was a mess, but Ryan made some odd café food and went home for not following the challenge and also not making very good food. He was due, he was on the bottom a lot. Spike continued to be a jerk and Andrew was a spazz and Jen talked about Zoi. Oh, and Ryan told everyone that this show humbles you and teaches you that you aren’t important, but then managed to drop his name a bunch of times in his exit interview. (click for more)

Andrew says now his room is uglier because the pretty boy is gone. Hee. Side note about Andrew: Lee Anne calls him “Spazz McGee”, which is pretty fitting. We know a Spazz McGee, although he’s not as tall. At least he’s still there. Antonia starts talking about how they all have training and one of them just has to make one mistake. Jen discusses her love of cooking and all the things she’s going to do with the money. Just kidding, she talks about doing this for Zoi.

Quickfire challenge begins when everyone walks in to a giant table of pastry. Oo, tasty guest judge! Johnny Iuzzini, who is a pastry icon. (Kmanpat: “Tasty!“) Then Padma busts out the “Top Chef” cookbook, which clues me into the challenge: there was one dessert recipe from this season in that book. Now they all have to make dessert, and Padma says that if they don’t have a dessert recipe, they should make something up. Actually she uses the word “improvise”. Or, you know, go home; you should know by now that you‘ll need one dessert recipe on this show. It looks like they’re getting 90 minutes.

Antonia hasn’t come with any recipes or pastry experience. Dale, wonderfully, has a shaved ice dessert. Lisa somehow had decided before she came that she wouldn’t make pastry and she explains a very common thing with chefs: baking is much more precise and technical. Also you can’t tell it’s messed up until it’s done and unfixable. Richard babbles and something about bananas looking like scallops. He declares his wittiness and says that writing the menu is sometimes as important to him as the food. Sigh. Spike has come with several dessert recipes but he is trying a soufflé recipe, which is very interesting news in light of the first challenge.

Spike: pineapple rum raisin soufflé with toasted coconut. It looks like the soufflé is inside the pineapple rind. He gets mad props for risk. Richard: banana scallops with banana guacamole and chocolate ice cream. That…might be good, actually. Jen: Chocolate cake with frozen banana bites dipped in chocolate. Andrew: banana and chocolate ravioli with Nutella pudding. Yum. Nikki: buttermilk cake with berry sauce. Stephanie: chocolate cake with salted basil ganache. Huh? Dale: “Halo-halo”, which is shaved ice, avocado, mango, kiwi, and nuts. Spicy. Lisa, yogurt with fruit puree and fried wonton skins, with fresh strawberries on top. Mark: pavlovas, which are like meringues, made with wattleseed. Those are pretty small, though, and pavlovas should be soft on the inside. Wattleseed is an Australian ingredient that I think tastes like coffee or chocolate. Antonia: bruleed lemon curd with lemon cake. I could go get my cookbook and see who won, but…eh.

Johnny thinks people went into the challenge defeated and never really got anywhere. Antonia’s didn’t come together, Spike tried but failed, and Mark made great pavlovas but somehow didn’t make a dessert. It didn’t come together, I think. Dale had great flavors that worked well together, Lisa had a good balance, and Richard had the most original dessert. Richard wins. I do remember seeing that recipe, and thinking it looked good, but now that I know it’s Richard’s I kind of like it less. That’s bad of me, I know. But I take pleasure in the fact that yes, Richard did make it into the cookbook, but without his name on the recipe it’s not the same. Padma tells them they’ll find out their Elimination challenge later, but tonight they’re going to Second City. Nice. Although, the last time they got “a night out”, they ended up cooking in a roach coach in their heels.

Everyone gets all dolled up and goes out. Stephanie tells us it’s nice to just go hang out like friends. Mark for some reason is the clown of the evening, changing his pants in front of the cameras and pretending like he didn’t do that on purpose. (Oh, he had underwear on.) (Kmanpat: “Why is he wearing them? They should be on the floor. Next to MY bed. NOW. G‘day MATE.“). Mark also mumbles something about the men not wanting to clash, and Richard “obviously” wearing pink, because it “goes well with his skin tone, doesn’t it.“ What was that about? Everyone piles in the cars, which I have discovered they don’t actually do. They’re just for show and for the sponsor. In reality they get into big 15 passenger vans. I do like improv. There are some shots of the performance but without context they aren’t as entertaining. At one point, the performers ask for suggestions of different things. No one really notices, until they ask for ingredients you’d put in a dish. Everyone figures it out at the same time and most heads hit the table. Ha ha! Those reaction shots were awesome. Now they have to cook a meal, with 5 courses, based on the random audience suggestions. Like “yellow love vanilla”. I am very entertained.

Back home everyone draws numbers to choose their courses, but they get to pick their partners. The producers left it up to them, I guess, to figure this all out, and that was the fairest way. Spike and Andrew are making “yellow love vanilla”. Hee! That’s mostly because Spike avoids anyone with immunity. Stephanie and Jennifer have “orange turned-on asparagus”. Mark and Nikki select “purple depressed bacon”. Richard babbles about Dale having the same passion as him, and they have “green perplexed tofu”. Antonia and Lisa have “magenta drunk Polish sausage” but they don’t get to say anything, I guess.

They have $150 for shopping. Mark and Nikki for some reason they are making pork tenderloin and pancetta with honey and ginger. How is that depressed? Jen and Stephanie are making goat cheese, and asparagus, and orange. The cheese they’re getting has an orange flavor to it if you grill it, I think. Jen says something about a ménage a trios being in her future. Ew. Dale says something about perplexed and how curry is perplexed because it goes in all different directions. Richard asks for beef fat to marinate the tofu in. He tries to imitate Seinfeld and some producer laughs. Don’t encourage him. Lisa bitches that she doesn’t cook with beer, she won’t dumb down her food because of some drunk idiot, and…now they’re making chorizo. And fish. That’s stupid. Antonia refuses to make drunken Polish sausage also. At least they’re using tequila. I’m sorry, but at least keep it to sausages. Andrew and Spike seem to be buying random things and making stuff up. They keep talking about improvisation but I think they’re just flailing.

For some reason they’ve set up the dining room in the Top Chef kitchen. Jen says they’re expecting to serve there, so you know they won’t. Spike gets his wish finally to make butternut squash soup with vanilla in it. Or possibly acorn squash. Antonia is disgusted he might win with that. Dale and Richard are making green curry grilled tofu. Richard is grilling the beef fat to get the flavor. He really wants it not to taste like tofu. I wonder if I will feel the same about Richard that I feel about Stephen. Stephen annoyed me so much during his season but now I view him as an excellent villain. I like him better than Lisa or Spike, anyways. Dale runs into the back and encounters an empty set of shelves. Huh? He goes back into the kitchen and starts telling everyone stuff is gone, I guess stick blenders and regular blenders and stuff. Andrew goes to look for himself, almost gleefully says “Oh you dirty monkeys!“ (no really), and then he and Spike jump up and down and curse in unison. Heh, dirty monkeys. Andrew is confident he does not need a blender because people have been making soup forever, since before there were blenders. He compares the effort needed to rice the squash to the amount of love in the dish. Good point. Dale and Richard bought some curry at Whole Foods but they’re playing with it. Someone tells Spike he “knows how to work a sack“. Hee. Mark wants a spice grinder but instead he is pounding things. Stephanie is worried about the portion of grilled bread for their dish, which they are grilling right now. That seems…very early. Jen wants it to look sexual. Antonia doesn’t like her plating. Tom comes in with 1 hour and 20 minutes to go and tells them to pack it up. Dinner is at their house and they have 20 minutes to pack and 1 hour to cook at the house. Lisa pretends that she expected something like this, but I think she also says she was completely shocked. Also, shut up Lisa. It looks like everyone gets packed up OK. I don’t really think that was fair. They should be able to plan for transport. Also, setting up the dining table in the Top Chef kitchen? Very evil.

The house kitchen is really crowded and there are very small pots. Spike is fussing with the soup, for the entire last half hour of cooking. Andrew also says he’s tasted the food a ton of times. It looks like the chefs are serving each others’ dishes, because someone reminds them “Ladies first”. Immediate cut to Ted getting served. Sigh. Andrew and Spike have made squash soup with vanilla crème fraiche. They are quite proud of themselves. Everyone loves it, and Padma says she’d lick the bowl if she wasn’t on camera. Jen’s idea of “turned-on” asparagus is to prop them on bread. I don’t get it, but whatever. As she’s putting sauce on the plates, I was confused for a moment because I saw a shot of a big table full of plates--way more than they needed. But I think it was a mirror. They sell it really well, even though Stephanie isn’t confident in the bread. There’s also a salad. Both girls make as many double entendres as possible while they describe their dish. Now everyone is weirded out. Tom says the bread is not useful, it‘s hard to deal with. Ted says it’s an orgy, because there are so many things going on. Which is the point of an orgy, but everything is getting confusing, I guess. Dale is frying eggplant, and Richard actually admits to being impressed with someone else. During the presentation both Dale and Richard give their partner credit for different parts of the dish, but Dale is far less annoying than Richard. Spike never gets Richard’s food so he‘s all superior about it. But once again the judges love it, and Tom even admits that he wouldn’t know what to do with tofu. One of the actresses says that knowing your partners is important and she likes that they complimented each other. Antonia worries about her fish being the right temperature. Spike says the fish looks like turds, which it doesn’t. Why is he commenting on everyone’s food? Jen and Lisa just kind of tell everyone their dish is Chilean sea bass with purple potato puree, chorizo, and tequila sauce. Then they have shots of tequila, but none for the diners. Oo, bad form. Even though it tasted OK, the dish isn’t drunk enough, and has no Polish sausage. One guy says he was excited about the Polish sausage. Tom is already losing it as the guy tells Ted not to take it the wrong way, but Ted says that’s cool because he’s not Polish. Ha! Mark says their bacon is depressed to share the plate with brussel sprouts, which is kind of cute. Of course wearing his sunglasses indoors loses some points. He and Nikki serve pork loin with sweet potatoes, grape sauce, jus, and brussel sprouts, with the bacon also. Of course, bacon improves everything. It would be a good dish to eat while depressed, although one actress thinks they could have made the sauce with their tears. Hee. No one seems to have any guesses as to who is out.

So everyone had to go back to the kitchen to sit around. Dale, Spike, Andrew, and Richard get called in first. They look nervous, so I wonder if sometimes they call losers first. Spike proudly describes their improvisation at the market, and Tom says that their soup is the most well-seasoned thing they’ve eaten all season. Spike says his mom always told him the best test of a chef is a simple soup. You know, Ming Tsai said that a couple weeks ago. You’d think he might have brought it up then. Everyone liked that Richard and Dale stuck by each other. They both win. Andrew and Spike look pissed. They each get $2500 worth of Calphalon cookware. Sweet! Dale says that even though Richard came up with some good ideas, he let Dale drive, because when Dale was immune he let Richard run the show.

Antonia, Lisa, Stephanie, and Jen get called in. Antonia and Lisa get yelled at first, for not using Polish sausage. Lisa and Antonia don’t like sausage, apparently, and try to give some excuses. Stop laughing. Johnny tells them they should have cooked sausage in beer. Antonia tries to promise to change, saying that from now on she’ll do it differently, but Tom interrupts her to say “IF there’s a ‘from now on.’” Burn! Lisa is still confused as to why she’s up there. Tom explains that the dishes were good so they only have technicalities to go on. When asked about the asparagus dish Stephanie explains that they both like cheese. Yeah. Tom didn’t like that the goat cheese was more prominent than the orange or the asparagus. Johnny tells them the presentation was a train wreck so Jen is forced to explain the phallic asparagus/bread thing while everyone tries not to laugh. Lots of attacking the bread, the size of the portion, the texture, etc. Jen made the bread and cheese, Stephanie made the sauce and did prep. Everyone is finally dismissed. Backstage Lisa bitches that some drunk people are going to get her eliminated. They complain about “improv”, but if someone made a suggestion about firefighters and you start a scene about policemen, because you don’t feel like making something up about firefighters? You’d get booed off the stage.

The judges’ consensus about Lisa and Antonia boils down to this: they can’t change the challenge when you decide you don‘t like it. Lisa believes that if they had made sausages cooked in beer, they would have been in the bottom anyway for making bar food, but Tom says that he actually enjoyed their sea bass more than the asparagus that was closer to the challenge. So now the discussion is this: is it worse to make a dish that doesn’t taste that great, or to ignore the challenge? Tom fires back that Stephanie and Jen put too much cheese and the asparagus wasn’t the main ingredient like it was supposed to be, so they didn‘t do such a good job following the challenge either. The flavors were all muddled.

Antonia and Lisa basically served fish, and Stephanie and Jen served goat cheese. Tom reminds them that even though this is a technicality, that’s all they have to go on. Jen and Stephanie had the least favorite dish, and Jen goes home. She tells the judges she still stands behind her dish, but she’ll listen to the critique. Well, now she can go home to Zoi. Everyone else sits around freaking out that the margin of error is gone. Jen tells everyone to bring it like 1000 percent. Thanks, editors, for the heavy-handed foreshadowing after the Elimination challenge where Jen is packing her knives and calls it a bad omen.

Next week: cooking with small children. They have found an Asian child to give to Dale. Someone else has food with no seasoning. Mark says Tom doesn’t like him. They try to edit it to look like he’s serious, but I don’t like to believe the editing.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Top Chef 4/16/08--"Tailgating" summary

Previously on Top Chef: Ming Tsai was there, but no one stepped up to the challenge, really. The Quickfire tested people’s palates, and showed us that even a chef sometimes can’t tell the difference between real crab and fake “krab”. Then everyone had to make appetizers based on the four elements and Lisa won for using bacon, which isn’t so related to Fire, but bacon is great nonetheless. Then Zoi couldn’t season her dish properly so she was sent home. I don’t agree that Spike threw her under the bus; the judges were quite aware of her problems. So Jen and Spike and Antonia and Dale and Lisa shouted at each other. I’m sure that’s over and done with and they’re all going to be adults about it now. Click for more.

Spike complains that people want him to go home, so he decides that since he is such a threat, that must be why people hate him. His shirtlessness is counteracted by the asshat he’s wearing (and being). Jen is tearful about how Zoi is gone and it sounds like she‘s been crying for a while. Ryan gloats that he is on the outside of all of the tension about Zoi. Lisa begins the day by saying she doesn’t like the tension between her and Dale. However, when Dale apologizes, he says that he‘s sorry he spoke to her that way, but her negativity “to [him]” is really hard to deal with. So now she thinks he can piss off. I thought he gave a good apology, but it’s obvious that when Lisa said she didn’t like the tension, she didn’t include her own contribution and just meant “I don’t like that Dale was a jerk to me”.

For the Quickfire there is a row of pitchers of beer. Nikki thinks this will be fun. Heh. Koren Grieveson is the guest judge today. Padma tells us this episode is about simple pleasures. Everyone gets to taste 3 of the 16 beers on the counter and pick one, then take 30 minutes to make something. Stephanie is pleased, but Dale doesn’t pair beers. Mark chugs his tastings. Jen says her fauxhawk is like a shark fin so it‘s appropriate that she got “Land Shark“ beer. Shush. Richard says about 15 seconds worth of big words that boil down to “I’m making a simple sandwich”. Dale is trying to grind up pretzels in a food processor but it’s not working. Jen says she’s more fired up than everyone because she’s doing it for Zoi. Look, I’m sorry, but if I have to hear from Jen about Zoi, every time she gives an interview, it’s going to get old quick. And I know the editors have as much to do with that as Jen does.

Richard: Grilled tuna sandwich with pickled vegetables. He doesn’t mention the beer, and I must be honest, I don’t drink beer that much and have no idea about it. So I have no idea what any of these beers are or taste like, really. No reaction from the judges. Andrew: rainbow trout with raspberry gastrique and peaches. Koren wants acid. Dale: roasted pork tenderloin with miso caramel sauce and a pretzel crust. He tells us this is a totally new dish. Antonia: miso glazed cod with Napa cabbage. Nikki: citrus marinated fried shrimp with Asian coleslaw. Stephanie: steamed mussels with cilantro vinaigrette and grilled bread. Mark: juniper spiced lamb rack with honey and beer sauce. Ryan: a lot of big words. And no chyron. Espaulette, with crepinette and lamb? I don’t have any idea what he is talking about. I think a crepinette is a sausage patty. Spike: charcuterie plate and clams tapas. Koren doesn’t like it so Spike, of course, decides “she doesn’t get it”. Lisa: bacon cheeseburger with chips. More heat needed. Jen: shrimp and scallop beignets with fennel, avocado, and pepper purees. Those sound good. I would consider trying to make them, but I have purchased the Top Chef Cookbook and seriously? You can’t make any of that stuff. Everything takes like an hour at least. It’s not for normal people. That being said, I do enjoy an episode by episode grid of who won, who lost, guest judges, and on each recipe it says what challenge it was for.

Bad: Nikki, too much breading and not enough seasoning. Spike didn’t unite his components. Dale wasn’t moist enough. Lisa smirks, not at the joke but at Dale being in the bottom. You can’t be the bigger person that way, you know. Good: Richard, bold flavors, Stephanie, great taste, Jen, balance. Pretty much the top three all taste good. Jen wins. Spike is kind of a bitch about it, but not as much as Lisa. He seems to be more like, “she won, yay lesbians.”

Elimination challenge: everyone gets to go to the Bears game. Woo! Tailgating! Mark starts talking about rugby, and I would imagine that rugby fans enjoy a good BBQ as much as these people do. The fans will vote for the dishes they like, and that’s how they’ll decide the top and bottom three. Jen is apparently going to dedicate this whole season to Zoi. She never talked this much about Zoi when Zoi was actually around. Spike didn’t keep her from seasoning her mushrooms, OK? Jeez.

When everyone gets to the store Spike runs straight to the meat counter and claims all the chicken wings. Oo, he beat you. So now people are scrambling to find something else. Richard is too refined for tailgating so he’s making a “pate melt”. Oh you heard me. At least he admits it’s more of him being a wiseass. Nikki is making sausages and peppers. Yum. Mark complains that he wanted to do shrimp on the barbie, but other people have shrimp so he’s readjusted. Ryan says he’s a metrosexual. The sound in that clip is weird; more echoy than the interview. Is that from his audition tape? Anyway, he’s going to do something Californian, and it’s obvious he never goes to football games, because I am positive that Niners fans and Raiders fans eat the exact same food Bears fans do. He jokes that they can charge Mark for his food and says, “Is that OK baby?” And now they have their arms around each other with their heads together. (Kmanpat: “It‘s OK with me!”)

Everyone cooks. Andrew says everyone likes bacon. Stephanie has a high opinion of Bears fans and thinks they like something a cut above. Spike is throwing things around and going all out because that’s who he is. Jen is making chicken skewers with tzatziki, I think. Ryan is making bread salad, chicken thighs, poached pears, and chili spiked cocoa? Huh? Richard scoffs at Ryan’s many courses as if he isn’t just mad he didn’t think of it first. He reminds us that they’re cooking for the masses, which normally would get him in trouble for dumbing it down, but because the fans are going to vote I think it’s valid. Lisa has flank steak so she is “beating [her] meat.” Yeah. Mark curses at the blender.

Tom appears to harass people. He manages to talk to Jen with no mention of Zoi. Antonia is picturing big men who like to drink beer. I think she is picturing Tom. Ryan says his food is light. I don’t look for “light” at a tailgate, but it’s been so long since I tailgated I’ve forgotten what I had. They are running out of room in the fridges and the coolers, and it’s so bad they’re putting duct tape on the doors so nothing falls out.

Everyone goes home and since they have a free night they’re all kicking back and relaxing. It’s not a team challenge so for some reason most people are more relaxed. Spike and Mark discuss the tub and their bubble bath (they still have shorts on) and Mark has a lot of tattoos. Hmm. Various people roll their eyes and are amused, but refuse to join in. Mark asks if they’ve never seen two boys sharing a bath before, and Antonia says “Only in West Hollywood” and compares it to a cheap porno. The sound guys oblige with porno music. I mean…what I assume is porno music. Because I wouldn’t know. Kmanpat? I’m sure he’d have a great comment here but his eyes are glazed over.

Out at Soldier Field there are many loud rowdy Bears fans. Everyone got a choice of grills, and Mark tells us he was the only one with the “testicular fortitude” to use a charcoal grill instead of gas. Hee. Padma brings over Gail, Paul Kahan, and Tom. They’ve given the judges personalized jerseys. Ha, Gail has to wear a football jersey. We’re reminded the fans get to judge and they’ll pick out the top and bottom. Stephanie has bacon, potato, and pear salad with her pork tenderloin, and a rosemary vinaigrette. Yum. The pork is cooked well. Dale all of a sudden gets ex-Bears players around him demanding ribs. He recognizes them too, which is really cool. Gale Sayers, Richard Dent, and William “The Refrigerator” Perry! Awesome! I even know who William Perry is. Dale fanboys for a little bit but the Bears are like, “Yeah, OK, food time.” Everyone loves his food: baby back ribs marinated in tandoori (spices I assume, you can‘t marinate “in tandoori“ because that‘s an oven, Bravo) and also potato salad with raisins and mango. Spike is schmoozing. He’s bugging people about winning Super Bowls, which is pretty stupid and obnoxious. Spicy wings and jicama pineapple slaw. They like the spice. Antonia does not recognize famous people. She has a grilled jerk chicken sandwich with pickled onion, banana, and pineapple. The pineapple and banana are on the side but Tom discovers if you put them on the sandwich it’s even better. They like her. Oh God, you have to have “touchdown” and “fumble” as scoring choices? Ryan is making random people help him, and Stephanie disapproves, but the fans are voting so it’s not so stupid to entertain everyone. Chefs have to talk to people sometimes, you know, and sell their food. Ryan starts talking about all his food: bread salad with sherry vinaigrette, marinated chicken, white wine poached pears, hot cocoa with brandy. It’s hard to eat. Oops. Andrew has found a helmet to wear, of course. He’s drunk or something, all ADD spazzing and speaking in falsetto to make fun of Gail, but Gail is giggling. He’s serving glazed shrimp and potato parsnip puree, bacon, and apple chutney. His head gets stuck in the helmet. Hee. I think Gail has a crush. Lee Anne’s blog calls him “Spazz McGee“, which is super entertaining since I have a friend with that last name who is a total spazz. Nikki tells someone to come back for seconds, since the initial portions are small. Lisa serves skirt steak and corn cake with salsa verde. Jen has chicken skewers marinated with harissa and quinoa tabouli. Richard (using the royal “we”, ugh) has pork and veal pate burgers and curry mayo and “pickled cucumbers“. Pickled cucumbers…wouldn‘t those be…oh what‘s the word…PICKLES?!?!? He is doing well, sadly. Mark is stressed. He’s flailing with the grill and he drops a spoon. Stephanie snobs that she always cooks clean. You know, at first I liked Stephanie but she’s so superior today. Mark‘s food: chicken and scallion skewers with soy and onion glaze, and New Zealand corn chowder. I don‘t think the scallions are on the skewers themselves, they look like a slaw. Tom says he’s a mess and some fan doesn’t like it. Nikki describes her food as “man” food. When the judges show up, she’s almost out of food. Way to plan. She’s out of peppers, but not sausage or shrimp. It’s supposed to be sausage with peppers and onions, grilled shrimp with spicy sauce, and hot cider. She’s all worried about it, and the judges are annoyed that she didn’t make the sausage herself. Richard and Lisa and Dale are named as great. Actually they praise a lot of people. Afterwards there is shenanigans and horseplay.

Back at the kitchen Padma comes to get Antonia, Dale, and Stephanie as the winners. Antonia says that having the fans in charge changes your thinking. Tom tells Stephanie that the pork could have been seasoned a little better but everything else was tasty. Gail was “hesitant“ about the rosemary. Does she have an issue with that like with her eggs? Antonia didn’t put her pineapple in the sandwich because she wanted it to be more than a sandwich. Uh, that’s the point. They love Dale’s food too. The judges get to pick the winner, which is Dale. He gets a “Top Chef” Bears jersey and the grill he used during the challenge. Cool.

Mark, Nikki, and Ryan get called out. Loser gong! Nikki knows she’s there because she ran out of food, but the fans didn’t like her food either. She didn’t know about the timing to make her own sausage so she didn’t want to make it. Tom calls her on that, since Richard made sausage patties and he had enough time. Nothing on the buns meant that the whole thing was dry. Also her shrimp didn’t relate to anything, when she could have mixed them with the sausage. Ryan had a totally random dessert because he wanted a “total dining experience“ which is always a phrase that grates me the wrong way. They like the dessert idea but not a poached pear, specifically. He wanted to cook like he’d want to eat. Gail says she didn’t get as much chicken as she wanted. He goes on and on about how the fans talked to him and were sweet, and he starts to talk about “California flair” but Tom cuts him off because that’s not what the challenge was about. Mark put a heavy sauce on his food which means that you couldn’t taste the charcoal grill flavor. Apparently he was also double dipping his tasting spoon and making a mess. They bug him for having a dirty apron, and I’m sorry but what the hell is an apron for but for getting dirty?

Nikki should have made her own sausage, and put in some more effort. Ryan should have made a sandwich, which would have been appropriate, but he didn’t want to do a tailgate. “Appropriate” is thrown around a lot as they talk about Ryan. Nikki backstage complains that Ryan won’t shut up. He’s bitching to Richard that he didn’t run out of anything. Mark’s corn chowder was gritty and his slaw wasn’t exciting. And he’s unsanitary.

Ryan first looks like he might cry when they yell at him, but then he looks confused when they continue. Nikki just nods, and Mark looks spacy as always. Ryan goes home. Bye, eye candy. He goes to shake all the judges’ hands, a move which annoys me. He says he cooked “too big” so they couldn’t handle it. Whatever. Ryan announces to everyone that this show teaches you that you’re not the greatest, except he just got done telling us he made “Ryan Scott tailgating” and if they didn’t like it then that‘s their problem. He “cooks with [his] heart”. Also he says his name a bunch of times. I guess the show didn’t shrink his ego like it should have.

Next week: pastry and dessert, comedy club and improvising. Lots of jokes that are actually kind of funny. Plenty of double entendres.

Clicky clicky

Maybe their knives were dull.

OK, first of all, I love that everyone had to catch chickens. I also loved that no one seemed to know how exactly to do that, which is that you need to hold their wings in next to their bodies, which also helps keep you from being pecked. But I knew Ramsay wouldn't make them kill chickens. What chef kills and cleans chickens? Fish, maybe. Lobster and clams and whatnot, for sure. Not chickens. (Side note: Scott standing there with his arms crossed holding a cleaver? Bad. Ass. And disturbingly hot.) And then they had to break down the chickens, and all I could think of was Hung from last season on Top Chef, where he broke down four chickens in like, 2 minutes. 5 minutes per chicken? Psshh. Craig, sigh.

Also, Christina? Go ahead and be personally insulted because Corey called you out. But don't make the next sentence out of your mouth about "keeping the team together" or whatever, and then go and nominate a totally random third person. Thank goodness we won't have to listen to Jason anymore.

Also I forgot to give points to Louross for having a real mohawk and not a fauxhawk. Clicky clicky

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Top Chef 4/9/08--"The Elements" summary

Previously on Top Chef: the contestants had to demonstrate “culinary techniques” for their Quickfire, and then come up with dishes inspired by movies for their Elimination challenge. The judges actually took into account the theme of the challenge, for once, and judged some teams harshly for not matching their chosen movie. In the end Richard won, for the rather odd (and apparently delicious) combination of smoked salmon, wasabi, and white chocolate. A lot of the other contestants complained because they had decided that this combination was nasty, even though none of them had tried it. Spike and Manuel made a sub-standard summer roll that no one liked and was only slightly related to their movie, and since Manuel followed along and didn’t do anything, really, he was sent home. After watching the previouslies, I notice that Padma mentioned something about bold flavors, and I laughed because I just made a recipe from her cookbook (yes I bought her cookbook shut up) and the heat from the chilies almost overpowered everything else. It’s fixable, though, and it’s going to be good. (click for more)

Mark sharpens knives while others exercise. Antonia bitches about being in the bottom two. Zoi has woken up, even though she doesn‘t think she should have been in the bottom. Jen is like, personally offended that they called Zoi out because she knows she’s good and she‘s a fan. Ryan says it’s time for someone else to go home.

Padma is in the kitchen with Ming Tsai. Woo Ming Tsai! (Kmanpat: “His East can meet my West any day!” Me: “Shush, you stole that from my ex-roommates.“). Padma and Ming start talking about palates and training your palate. Oooo, blind taste test time! Antonia says this is her most favorite Quickfire ever. They’ll taste pairs of items, one high end and one not. That sounds suspiciously like a Hell’s Kitchen challenge. OK, I checked, and what actually happened is that the producers made fake foods, like pate that was really hot dogs, and then they fooled everyone because no one noticed. They darken the kitchen for ambiance during the challenge, and the chefs come in one at a time. Ryan is up first with maple syrup, one that is $2.99, and one that is $8.99. Bacon too. Yum. Stephanie gets fake “krab”, and real crab, and...did she just screw that up? Are you kidding? They don’t even have the same texture. Lisa complains that she can’t see and it would be easier if they could see. Well, duh. Dale got all the Asian ingredients right. Hee. He goes into a big spiel about how much caviar he‘s bought and consumed, which he then gets wrong. It’s impossible to tell how people are doing overall. Mostly people talk about how awesome they are, or whatever. Antonia certainly does, and Richard also. Blah.

Everyone comes back in. The lowest score of 6 out of 15, was Stephanie. She says she sucks at Quickfires. Runners up (with 11/15) are Ryan and Jen. Zoi is irritated that Jen beat her. Interesting, I was waiting for that to happen. With 12 out of 15 correct, Antonia wins immunity for this week.

They have to cook for the Meals on Wheels Celebrity Ball. They will make the appetizer course, and the celebrity chefs will do the rest. Ming tells them to keep it simple and execute perfectly. The theme is the four elements: earth, fire, water, air. They’ll work in teams of three, so everyone will get one element. And only 15 minutes to plan. Andrew, Mark, Richard are Water. Richard is immediately in charge. Jen, Ryan, Nikki are Air. They want birds, or mousse, but Nikki feels that’s cheesy? Or possibly not enough of a theme? I’m not sure. Antonia, Spike, and Zoi have Earth. Spike and Zoi both want soup, which Antonia doesn’t like. She thinks it’s not high quality enough for their $500 budget. She tells them that if they are totally into soup, she will make soup with them, but she doesn‘t think it is a good idea. Spike concedes, finally. He knows that he has to get there since Antonia is immune. Dale, Lisa, and Stephanie have Fire. Stephanie wants grilling, and Dale suggests a warm tartare, which Lisa shoots down. He wants to go with deviled eggs so as not to be literal. Devil=fire, as opposed to fire=fire, I guess. Lisa says it’s tiny and weak. Dale bitches that Lisa is too negative and he can’t work with her. Stephanie can totally see this problem as it happens. Lisa doesn’t like their idea about the eggs at all, but she’s not shown coming up with any of her own ideas. You can’t just shoot down everyone’s ideas without providing some alternatives.

Shopping time! Richard wants to make poached fish. Team Air seems to be making duck. Dale wants to “conceptualize” the dish with really spicy food. He also doesn’t want to do Asian, which Lisa wants to do because Ming is Asian and she loves to cook Asian food. Somewhere Josie is screaming, “No you fool! Don’t try to prove your Asian skills to Ming!” They’ve spent 10 minutes at the store arguing about the dish. Spike tells Antonia that he doesn’t want the judges to ask, “That’s it?“ when faced with their dish. Kind of like what they did to Spike last week. Antonia insists (in a kind of bitchy way) that they are going for high quality ingredients so it will be fine. Spike wants Antonia to shut up, because she has immunity and so in his mind he wants her to take a back seat. Why is he wearing a straw woven hat? It looks like a woven beach mat. At the meat counter, Spike is so set on his soup he asks if they can put a shot glass of butternut squash soup with the beef carpaccio. That doesn’t make a lot of sense, those two things together. Stephanie and Dale overhear them and change their dish again, so there won‘t be multiple beef dishes. Lisa freaks out and complains that they’re going home. Stephanie finally comes up with grilled shrimp with spicy marinade, in order to get Lisa onboard. She’s sort of OK with it. Finally everyone escapes.

In the morning they traipse off to the old Marshall Field’s building to do their cooking in their kitchen, which is so huge. Andrew and team literally hide in the corner to avoid everyone. Antonia wants to contribute even though she can’t be sent home. She is cutting everything up, Spike is slicing beef and making aioli, and Zoi is cooking mushrooms and frisee salad. Spike wanted to do butternut squash soup (he said it again, in case you forgot), but he wants to prove that he can buy into this too. Richard is making salmon sous vide, Andrew is making salad and tapioca fake caviar, Mark is making parsnip vanilla puree. Richard says he is responsible for making sure the fish is “ready to go”, so it couldn’t possibly be bad (oops! Spoiler!) The Fire team is making prawns and bacon. Yum. Dale is making chili salad, Lisa is making bacon in the oven in a big slab, Stephanie is doing the shrimp. Lisa is still concerned about impressing Ming with Asian. She’s laying out the bacon so she can cut it in strips later, with a miso glaze. Ryan says the Air team is doing duck breast with herb salad and prosecco with pomegranate. Jen knows this dish has to be perfect. Lisa bitches that Nikki has left her equipment in the middle of her station. Well…that’s a problem. She curses at her bacon. Dale says that this is how she usually operates and it‘s not good for him to be around. She wants to be perfect and she knows she can be a bitch. Ryan runs around and uses up all the pomegranate juice, so they have to juice more. Nikki tells him when he curses it draws attention to him. Who cares?

Spike pretends to Tom that he loves his team. Tom has to harass them to figure out the division of labor. Richard thinks rapport with Tom is important. He’s trying to joke, but Tom is cranky today or something because he just stares at everyone. Richard thinks his charm may be worn out. Tom tells us that team Air doesn’t have a clear idea, and he hopes team Fire isn’t too spicy. Water is overconfident, and that causes mistakes. Nikki breaks a glass. Zoi says 2.5 hours is long enough to make good dishes, and normally you would take your time with a dish but this isn’t her restaurant, so she has to compromise.

People start plating, except the Water team. Richard for some reason is worried because the dish should be warm. By now I think he should know about temperature and how to work it. Andrew notices scales. Are you telling me they didn’t scale the fish? Wow. Spike says that he thinks Zoi’s mushrooms are under seasoned but she wants them that way. Andrew is really worried about the scales. The Water team has their poached salmon, faux caviar, parsnip puree, and a watercress salad. Looking at the shot of the plate, it’s obvious the plastic that Richard had the fish in had a pattern on it. The fish looks like it’s been stepped on. Ming is amused by the tapioca, but not the scales. Also, salmon sucks when you sous vide it, apparently. Team Fire has grilled shrimp with pickled chili salad, deviled aioli, and miso smoked bacon. Padma loves the shrimp and she is licking her knife. Hot but excellent. (Kmanpat: “Which one? Oh…the food…right.”) Team Air serves duck breast with citrus salad and a pomegranate prosecco aperitif. Nikki (in interview her hair is like, Amy Winehouse tall) thinks it’s awesome, even though the drink could be better. No one likes the drink and they seem bored. I’m bored too. Team Earth: beef carpaccio with mushroom salad and sun choke aioli. Gail bitches about rosemary, and everyone else says it’s bland. Spike would have done things differently. Of course you would have. Shush. There are comment cards! This should be good. Some woman says she’d send someone home from the Earth team. Gail loved the Fire dish. And they all loved the bacon. The salmon had scales and it was mushy. The Air dish wasn’t exciting, and the carpaccio didn’t have seasoning. Tom is offended. Lisa wants to burn their sign that says “fire” for luck. Richard liked the concept they had, but the execution sucked.

Commercials. The weekly question is: “Which chef deserves a spanking for being difficult?” Antonia, Dale, or Lisa? I don’t want to spank any of them. (Kmanpat: “Can I spank Ryan? Better yet, can he spank me?”)

Richard doesn’t want to go home. Padma asks for the Fire team. By themselves. They’re the only winners this week. Stephanie says they all came up with the idea, and Dale did the chili salad. And Lisa made the bacon with miso. Tom says each component contributed to the overall dish. Padma drops a bomb: the winner wins a trip to Italy for 5 days. Damn. This was a new technique, with the bacon, and everyone loves bacon, so Lisa wins. Really? Dale is pissed, but at least he owns it. In all the blogs everyone is so glad that Lisa shot down the idea of a deviled egg, but she didn’t really come up with the idea of shrimp and bacon, either. But they know she’s a negative person and they all see where Dale is coming from.

Earth and Water have to go out. Air, I guess, scrapes by. Richard pretends not to know that there were scales on the fish. He says he ran it under water but it looks like he completely missed the whole filet. Richard likes the texture of sous vide salmon, but Tom thinks it’s mushy. Gail didn’t like the “caviar” so much, it was bland. Good thing she wasn’t around the other week. Mark liked the vanilla/parsnip combination, but Tom attacks him and says it was pointless. Time for Earth. Padma pointedly asks if Antonia and her “excellent” palate tasted the dish before it went out. Antonia says she tasted the dish, but the judges agree it was very under seasoned. Like every element. Zoi explains about not over seasoning so as not to overpower the meat, that she loved the mushrooms, and strong flavors. Too bad, Gail didn’t like the rosemary. Spike throws her further under the bus and says that he thought it could have used lemon. He boasts about his soup idea and outs Antonia, and she admits that she didn’t want soup. Padma is all confused because Antonia had immunity, and she says that’s not going to stop her from voicing her opinion. Spike cuts in and says it didn’t stop her at all, and then he smirks at himself. If I didn’t want him to go home before, I certainly want him to go home now. Ming says soup would have been a great idea. But butternut squash soup isn’t very exciting. Tom tells them that they’re not there for not making soup, their team is there because the carpaccio sucked.

Backstage Spike says he’s too nice and next time he’ll be a bitch and insist on his ideas. Zoi says 99.9% of this competition is saying what you think. So Richard thinks he’s screwed. The judges are still pissed about the fish scales and the texture. But the carpaccio got the lowest score. Padma wants to know if it would be Spike or Zoi, and Tom wants both of them to go. They should have stood up to Antonia. I don’t know, I mean, OK, Antonia doesn’t have elimination hanging over her head so if the dish is a disaster she won‘t go home. I don’t know that it means you shouldn’t listen to her at all. In his blog Tom admits that for the record, he doesn’t blame Antonia for sticking to her guns. They could have had an earthy dish with beef, mushrooms, and sun chokes, but they failed on the execution. The whole dish hinges on mushrooms, which Zoi made. Jen reassures Zoi that she is awesome but doesn‘t make eye contact.

The Water dish didn’t work, and the Earth dish wasn’t earthy. Tom tells them the Earth team was worse, and Padma sends Zoi home. Wow, Spike’s dodged a bullet twice. She says she knew it would be a challenge, because of the competition. Jen (and Stephanie for some reason) are totally shocked. Zoi thinks that she showed everyone that they could be a couple and compete, or something. And she’s fine with what she did, saying that the judges just didn’t get it. Jen is pretty upset. See, this is a disadvantage to being a couple.

For some reason now Antonia and Spike are getting into it, because Spike thinks she should have shut up and been considerate about other people‘s opinions, even though it sounds like he wouldn’t be considerate of hers. She counters that she never said she wouldn’t do soup, which is technically true, but it was a pretty passive-aggressive “well, if you guys really want to, I’ll do it, but I think it’s a bad idea.” She does have a point though. She just keeps shouting that he should stand behind his dish. Finally she reminds him it’s on film, which makes me laugh because it totally is. I hope Spike was watching that part. Jen all of a sudden jumps in and says he just put his teammate in the ground. I’m not sure if she’s aiming that at Spike or at both of them, and I’d also argue that Zoi put herself into the ground for not seasoning anything, but OK. Spike gives the exact wrong answer of “So what?“ which just makes Jen look like she might jump him and kick his ass. Dale joins in (seriously I can’t even tell what side he’s taking) and Lisa tells him not to make it worse. He jumps on her, because he’s still pissed about losing. He says she bitches and whines about everything, but he can’t say anything, and that‘s BS. She doesn’t respond at all (that we see). Jen kicks a chair.

Next week: Dale tells Lisa her negativity sucks, Jen complains that Spike is still there and Zoi isn’t, for some reason Mark and Spike are taking a bubble bath together. Also: Da Bears!
Clicky clicky

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

...I don't know what to say.

I found this yesterday. I don't remember where, probably on some blog (I read 4 or 5 and they tend to refer to each other all the time). You'll have to see for yourself, because I can't get the video to imbed or anything: Hell's Kitchen The Game this really happening? A video game that combines Diner Dash and Cooking Mama, with Gordon Ramsay thrown in for good measure? Where if you screw up he calls you a donkey and screams bleeped profanities?

Part of me thinks this is a sign of the apocalypse. But another, slightly larger part of me wants this game very badly. And wishes they didn't bleep the profanities.

p.s., if you don't know what Cooking Mama is, you are missing out. Yes, it's a Flash site, but they have gameplay and recipes. REAL recipes from a Wii game that is about pretending to cook. Maybe that is the sign of the apocalypse. Not that it prevents me from wanting to own Cooking Mama too, even though I don't actually own a Wii. Clicky clicky

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Top Chef 4/2/08--"Film Food" summary

Previously on Top Chef: The chefs had to make upscale tacos, which is even more nonsensical that making other random food upscale, since tacos are street food. And street food is not upscale. Richard won that one with jicama instead of tortillas and good flavors. Then…another field trip! I know. They traipse off to a very nice neighborhood and have to ask door to door for food for tomorrow’s block party. The two teams both have trouble with understanding that their food is going to sit for a couple of hours and then be reheated (and also that it’s like, 90 degrees outside). In the end Erik’s soggy corn dogs beat out Nikki’s mac n cheese brick and he went home. You won’t see any jicama-shell tacos on Hell’s Kitchen, that’s for sure. It’s kind of odd watching these two shows on consecutive days; Hell’s Kitchen has a good number of people who aren’t professional chefs, and those people aren’t even making it onto Top Chef. And none of the people I watched last night is going to come up with things like BBQ ribs with mole sauce. But they are going to get two weeks of practice running and working in a kitchen, during dinner service, which is kind of important for a chef. They also get more money. (click for more)

Manuel says it’s quiet without Erik. He misses his sons. Jen says everyone misses their spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend etc. She wants to be respectful and keep her distance from Zoi so as not to rub it in. Spike thinks that Zoi and Jen have an advantage, because they know how the other one thinks and they‘re working together. I guess…but only if you’re working together. Or head-to-head.

Quickfire time. Everyone files in and the guest judge is already there. Padma says that if they don’t know the guest judge they should leave. I think Nikki looks blank. It’s Daniel Boulud, and how much did I want Padma to call on someone to name him, and have that person fail. He says you absolutely need good technique to be a chef. They have to make a vegetable plate which displays at least 3 culinary techniques that they think will impress Daniel. Lisa says she likes to do whatever she feels like at the moment and that‘s not always classical. Ryan and Richard, apparently, have worked for Daniel before. He promises it won’t affect anyone, and Ryan says it wasn’t his style. They only have 30 minutes. Nikki thinks this is her drawback. It looks like most of them are freaking out. Knife skills are part of the technique they’re counting, but also things like poaching. Zoi thinks she has a unique style even though she‘s not classically trained. Somehow Richard manages to use several vocabulary words that I don’t know the meaning of, but still sound dumb. He thinks that technique is about more than knife skills because this isn’t culinary school. Lisa wants to make a long strip of cucumber by laying the knife along the vegetable and slicing thinly, much like Richard did with the jicama last week, but Dale is doing it quickly and so she doesn’t bother. Lots of flailing. Padma walks in just in time to count down from 5.

Zoi: shaved asparagus, poached egg, batons of green beans (green beans all cut to the same size…I think), chiffonade of radicchio and frisee (chiffonade is where you stack some leaves on top of each other, roll them, and then slice thin ribbons; you see it a lot with basil and mint). All with a vinaigrette. Daniel says the chiffonade is excellent. Dale: daikon marinated in tobanjan (spicy miso bean sauce), tournee of avocado and cucumber (that‘s the long strips). The avocado and cucumber are rolled up and you can see how even the pieces are. He thinks he did better than everyone. Lisa: poached egg, blanched asparagus, batonettes of bell pepper (that means they‘re sliced thin, but slightly larger than a julienne), and grilled zucchini. It’s all laid out separately, like for school, so it’s easy to grade. Daniel calls it basic. Richard says he showed “restraint” which he learned from Daniel. Kiss ass. Blanched mushrooms, pickled beets, sliced radishes with lime juice and scallions. That’s it? You’re going to act that superior and not do anything that complicated? He’s not commenting on taste, you fool. Spike: carpaccio of cucumber (just say thinly sliced, jeez), asparagus tagliatello (um…I think that means thin ribbons like fettuccine), a cucumber cup with bell pepper confetti in the middle, tournee of mushroom. I was wondering how exactly you tournee something as small as a mushroom, but he says he did his own spin on it, or whatever, so it looks like he cut little triangles in the cap. Manuel: blanched asparagus, brunois of yellow pepper (uh…confetti?), supremes of lemon (that‘s the “meat“ of the fruit without any pith or skin; think of segmenting an orange), and an endive fennel frond. Daniel says that last one doesn’t count. Nikki: blanched green beans, asparagus quenelle (that‘s where you take two spoons and make a football shape), shaved fennel and radish salad, and grilled zucchini “for color“. She didn’t season her grilled vegetables.

Daniel says he wished everyone had taken 5 minutes to have a plan. Bad: Nikki, he didn’t like the endive leaf boat; Lisa, no train of thought; Manuel, level 1 technique. Good: Zoi, poached egg was perfect; Dale, had a plan and great knife skills; Richard, great presentation. Dale wins. Immunity time. He says he will still approach the challenge the same way.

The Elimination challenge: create a dinner where each course is inspired by your favorite movie. Hee! Daniel loves Casablanca. 6 courses for the party, which Richard Roeper is throwing for Aisha Tyler. Love her. They’ll have 2 hours for prep and cooking, on site, and there are 12 people coming. They draw knives to figure out what course they have and who they are going to be paired with, except for Dale. Knife time! Dale gets to join up with whoever he wants. He picks Richard and Andrew, for the appetizer. Interesting. Poor Andrew, he feels left out. He makes some comment about the weak picking the strong.

Dale, Richard, and Andrew pick Willy Wonka for the first course, since they feel it’s crazy and will let them go with their creativity. Manuel wants Like Water for Chocolate which is the BEST MOVIE. Spike wants Good Morning, Vietnam since he’s been making Vietnamese food for a couple of years, and he feels Manuel doesn‘t have any ideas. Didn‘t he just have one? Manuel says Spike is cool and he‘s OK with the Vietnamese thing for the second course. Jen and Nikki (third course) try to pick an Italian movie, and settle on Il Postino, which is beautiful and romantic. Jen has to mention that she’s competing against Zoi and she hopes they both stay on. Uh oh, foreshadowing! Antonia wants Talk to Her which is a Spanish movie about two creative women so she feels it represents her and Zoi. The fourth course is Ryan and Mark…not a brain trust. Ryan can’t even remember where Mark is from and then the first movie he throws out is Dumb and Dumber. Ryan complains that Mark is listing movies and all he hears is “mwa wah whah wah“. Well, I can hear words, so I’m not sure how this is Mark’s problem. (Kmanpat: “Maybe Mark should work and Ryan can stand there and look cute.“) Ryan decides that he wants to do A Christmas Story since after the kid shoots his eye out the dog eats the turkey they had made for Christmas dinner and they go for Chinese. Sigh. Actually Ryan describes the plot, and as he’s talking, Mark keeps saying he has no idea what he’s talking about but Ryan isn’t listening. Because he can’t even remember what movie it is, Ryan has to go ask for the title. I’ve never seen A Christmas Story and even I knew what movie it was. Lisa and Stephanie have the last course, and don’t want to do dessert, so they go for beef and short ribs. She picks Top Secret which is like Airplane in style but I‘m guessing not in quality since I only vaguely recall there being a movie called Top Secret.

They have $150 and 30 minutes for Whole Foods. Richard describes their dish for the first course: smoked salmon with faux caviar which is really tapioca, and white chocolate wasabi sauce. Andrew thinks the diners will “culinarily crap their pants”. Spike snobs that you don’t need caviar for things to taste good. Shush. He’s making summer rolls, and buying Chilean sea bass. Spike wants tilapia, but he explains to us how he is being so gracious and going with Manuel’s fish because you have to make compromises with your “employees”. No, really, he calls Manuel his employee before he catches himself and changes it to “people you’re working with”. Shut up, Spike. Antonia is buying rack of lamb. They can only afford 4, since it costs a lot, so no messing up. Mark and Ryan discover that Whole foods sells neither duck or turkey, so they go for quail.

Back at the house, Andrew decides that he’s going to be an Oompa Loompa by getting on his knees and talking in a stupid voice. Richard and Dale are not impressed. Especially with his idea that they should serve their course this way. I thought it was hilarious.

All the cooking is happening onsite at Gallery 37. Lots of frantic things happening. Richard says something about out being in the backseat for the last few eliminations, but now he‘s putting his neck out, or something, I didn’t understand him. I notice the clock says 9:30. Spike knows that the first course is weird and he has to follow that. Everyone seems to be getting along really well; the only tension is that Spike won’t stop making fun of the first course and complaining that it‘s horrible even though he‘s never tasted it. Mark and Ryan put Asian flavors in their dish. Antonia thinks she and Zoi are spot on, flavor wise. Now they are almost done working and it’s noon. Richard busts out his smoker and plastic wrap again, only halfway through it breaks. They take off the plastic, or at least crack it to try to use a lighter, I think. It’s not working so they scrap the plastic.

The guest arrive for their “dinner” (I think it’s technically lunch, but whatever). Behind Padma there’s a marquee with the movies on it. In the back, the boys have lit a block of wood on fire and are holding the salmon over it. Richard serves their smoked salmon with faux caviar and white chocolate wasabi sauce. Oh, and there’s also a drink, a pear and celery soda. He references the Fizzy Lifting Drinks and manages to sound cute and gain some points back from me. Andrew does not pretend to be an Oompa Loompa. Everyone loves it and it’s surprising. I think everyone was expecting it to suck. Spike serves their summer roll with black vermicelli, green apple, Chilean sea bass, and mint. There’s a Swiss chard…lump…it looks like cud. Ted wants things more expensive. Aisha had to work to chew it. Padma calls them on picking the movie to suit the food. Jen and Nikki serve tortellini with cavolo nero (cabbage), ricotta, pecorino, squash, and grains of paradise. The judges declare it good and rustic but not great. Roeper says that he likes it, and then for some reason he gets angry and says that he doesn’t agree with the judges and he thinks it was wonderful. Ted covers for them and says they’re picking it apart. Some other girl says she eats Mediterranean every day and this is great. But she’s not so angry. Ryan explains A Christmas Story. But he can‘t say they have duck for Christmas dinner, because then the judges will want to know why he didn‘t serve duck, so he says that in the movie they had “some form of a duck“. Sigh. Quail breast with carrot puree and cranberry chutney, and quail spring rolls with watercress puree. Ted loves it, Padma loves it, Aisha wants to lick the plate. Antonia tells us, again, that she is so concerned about having enough lamb. They don’t speak well in front of the guests. Rack of lamb with saffron cauliflower puree, romesco and gramalata. But the dish doesn’t have the colors they advertised and Tom doesn’t like how thin the chops are. Stephanie and Lisa have New York strip with a braised short rib, and an apple potsticker. And Vietnamese savory caramel. Huh? A success. Aisha thinks it doesn’t feel like a reiteration of something classic, it feels totally new. The judges have their own little pre-judges’ table discussion. They’ll get into it later, you know. Or not, so here‘s a quick rundown: the salmon was wonderful and surprising, the summer rolls weren‘t very good, the pasta was just OK, the quail turned out well, the lamb didn‘t have fiery vibrant colors, and the beef was flawless.

Hey! That was all we’ll see of Andrew acting silly? Lame.

Padma calls up Dale, Andrew, Richard, Stephanie, and Lisa. That would be the Willy Wonka salmon and the Top Secret beef. They are the favorites, of course. Richard admits that he thought they were in trouble for the chocolate. It looks like they loved the innovation and creativity. The caramel sauce was from Lisa and it harmonized with everything else. Daniel tells them that Richard is this week’s winner. He knows to be confident in his palate.

In the Stew Room, Nikki and Jen discuss the combination of wasabi and white chocolate. Spike says he thinks those flavors suck ass. Did he taste them? Zoi says, and I quote, “That doesn‘t taste good. I promise.” Wow, did you just call 12 people liars? At least Nikki and Jen just said they’d never think of something like that. Zoi continues to complain and says that if that’s what the judges want, then “see you later”. Zoi and Antonia (Talk to Her lamb), and Spike and Manuel (Good Morning, Vietnam summer roll) are the losers. Antonia doesn’t know why she‘s there, the lamb was perfect and the sides were nice. Tom explains that their dish didn’t have vibrant enough colors. They wanted to preserve the flavors, Zoi explains (and she‘s about to cry). Zoi pretends that the chops where thin because there were two of them cooking and they wanted two chops per person. No mention is made of the budget. Padma wishes she had heard this whole spiel before they ate. Spike admits he wanted to do Vietnamese, and that they collaborated on the filling. Tom didn’t like the little cud pile next to the summer roll. Spike pretends they spent their entire budget, and Tom tells them, after rolling his eyes which I love, that he could have bought that dish somewhere for $8. Spike‘s defense of himself, that he wanted to stay true to flavors or something, is met with Tom‘s insistence that they be creative. He didn‘t like your dish, he‘s going to keep arguing with you. Manuel wants to learn from Spike so he didn‘t try to mix his background with Spike. Padma wants to know who should go home, and Spike flat out refuses to answer. Actually he says he won’t say that Manuel should go home over him, and I wish that someone had said that he just picked himself. Backstage, Zoi bitches that she can’t win against smoked salmon and caviar, only now that Richard is in the room she keeps it to a complaint that those things aren‘t her. Jen feels it‘s unfair that Zoi is up for elimination because her dish was spot-on, and again, I don’t know that she tasted it.

Spike and Manuel didn’t really have a great dish, while the other one was OK but didn‘t fit the movie. If Antonia and Zoi had explained their dish better, they wouldn’t be in the bottom. So do you send home Spike, who doesn’t understand that you can buy his dish anywhere? Or Manuel, who just sort of went along with whatever? Manuel thinks it’s him. Wow, that was short.

Antonia and Zoi made a good dish, even though it didn’t speak to the story. So they’re safe. Spike was in charge of a bad dish, but Manuel just kind of went along, and neither one would say anything about each other, so in the end Manuel goes home. He thanks everyone. He doesn’t regret going with Spike’s idea, because if he had taken over, then Spike would be in the same spot. He gives a long speech about how awesome everyone else is. I hope Spike feels bad.

Next week: they have to make a high end dinner for 350, and I see Ming Tsai! Tom is tired of Richard, Dale yells at someone. Spike pisses off Jen and she kicks a chair.
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It didn't used to be a guilty pleasure.

I used to recap "Hell's Kitchen." I've had a love/hate relationship with it. The first season I liked it, it was a new idea. There was drama, as only Fox can do drama. And then "Top Chef" had its first season. And it was so awesome that the next time "Hell's Kitchen" came around I decided it was an inferior show and I still wrote recaps, but it was a poor substitute. And then the infamous Season 2 of "Top Chef" forced me to watch Ilan and Elia and Sam and Marcel, and Betty, let's not forget Betty, that harpy, and all of a sudden "Hell's Kitchen" was the greatest food-based reality show ever. Really, depending on how "Top Chef" is doing, that changes how I feel about "Hell's Kitchen." This season of "Top Chef" isn't super exciting, for all its eye-candy goodness. Our TV critic said that "Top Chef" was about "excellent cuisine" (I think, I can't find the article now) while "Hell's Kitchen" is all about drama and television.

More after the jump.

First of all, "Top Chef" is not about "excellent cuisine", not anymore. It's about product placement and silly challenges. Although the experience level of the chefs is much higher, and the creativity is much higher, than on "Hell's Kitchen". I watched a lot of self-taught chefs last night who have never worked in a restaurant before. Those people can't even make it onto "Top Chef" anymore. It makes for good flailing. Also, "Top Chef" winners get money and whatever. "Hell's Kitchen" winners get to run a restaurant. And the show makes them run a dinner service--which is more useful for any chef than making appetizers based on a bear's diet. As entertaining as that was. "Hell's Kitchen" tests actual skills that a chef would need in working in a restaurant, while "Top Chef" tests creativity.

I don't have a lot of good new impressions from "Hell's Kitchen". It's the usual first episode: everyone cooks their signature dish; Ramsey declares one or two edible and heaps insults on everyone else; he spits out at least one dish; the "customers" complain about being hungry and act up to get screen time; the dinner service is a complete disaster and Ramsey shuts the kitchen down early. But as I was watching the beginning and the announcer says that Ramsey is going to be on the bus with the contestants, only in prosthetics and a bad wig? Without any explanation of how he could sit with them, as if he's also a contestant, only none of them suspect anything? Oh, Fox, have we sunk to the level of undercover fat suits? But I must admit that when he tore off the prosthetics, after everyone had been doing impressions of him? FABulous. And Jean Phillipe, whose French accent slips into Cockney more and more often? And the sous chefs? I'm glad to see Scott isn't too big for "Hell's Kitchen" after he hosts "Food Network Challenge" sometimes. (He's the bald one, not the one with the glasses who knows enough to judge sometimes, that's Keegan.) But where is Mary Ann? Who is this Gloria person? I liked Mary Ann, she didn't take crap from people, just like Scott and Ramsey. Gloria will have to prove herself.

Some of the contestants made an impression but not all of them, so I find myself caring about a few. Louross, I guess, even though he has a mohawk. Craig, once he lost his stupid hat. I thought he was going to cry when Ramsay made him take it off. Jen, because the "big sassy woman" is always a pretty good bet. Christina, who is from St. Louis so I'm supposed to care but seriously? When I looked up her name, I couldn't remember if she had done anything I would care about. Jason is this season's "I can't lose to a woman, and I've just said that on national television, so I will not be dating anytime in the near future" loser. Ben has unfortunate facial hair but seems cute and also competent, a rare combination on this show. I do applaud Louross for trying to get rid of Bobby by nominating Dominic to go up against him. It seemed like it would work, until Ramsay got rid of Dominic. Who knows what he thought about that. Dominic did seem to be flailing a lot. I was going to predict who I thought would win this season, since last season there was a betting spoiler about Rock and after watching him I knew it was accurate. But this season no one stands out as really
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