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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice recap. I stumbled across it while googling for Andrew's exact quote. “culinarily crap their pants”. Yes, that was it. Anyhow, I especially liked the info you included on the various techniques in the quickfire piece.