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!


David Dust said...

Andrew's "culinary boner" makes me nervous...

Click here for DavidDust's Top Chef recap.


Polgarra said...

I thought that Andrew explained the dish rather than having his sous chef explain.