Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Top Chef 5/21/08--"Restaurant Wars" summary

Previously on Top Chef: Everyone had to make healthy food, starting with salads. Actually, the salads didn’t have to be healthy but “sexy”. Yeah, I don’t know either. Season 2’s Sam came back to guest judge and provide eye candy, I guess, since he didn’t do much else. Not that I complain about eye candy. (Kmanpat: “Me either!”) After the salads came the healthy food, for some Police Academy recruits. Insert your own “Police Academy” joke here. Dale won by making bison lettuce wraps, which looked really good and probably did not seem weird to anyone on a low-carb diet. Spike, Andrew, and Lisa ended up in the bottom three for laziness, nastiness, and undercooked food, respectively. No one in the bottom was very nice to the judges. When asked if they had anything else to contribute Lisa sold out Andrew by pointing out he hadn’t used a whole grain in his dish so he hadn’t followed the rules. Lisa is very adamant about the rules, of course, since she got called out for them. Even though nothing happened. And she didn’t go home. And her partner didn’t go home. THEN she had the balls to try to apologize to Andrew, which made no sense because it’s one thing to make sure the judges know someone else broke the rules, and it’s quite another to expect him to be OK with it. In the end Andrew’s weird “sushi” didn’t impress the judges anyway so he went home. And the house and the set were terribly quiet. (click for more)

Tom comes to the Top Chef house at 5:45 am. Haha! Sadly he does not have pots and pans, but he is a bastard and turns the lights on. He says they’re going to “one of Chicago’s most famous breakfast joints” and they have to work the egg station. HA! Where is Julia!?! Everyone wants to make final 4. Oh, man, eggs are unforgiving.

Lou Mitchell’s. The hottest breakfast spot in Chicago, with a line out the door. Everyone has to work the egg station, and the one that would get hired is the winner. Tom gets to hang out and drink coffee. Spike says he used to be a short order cook but he hasn’t cooked eggs in a while. They go back to “The Hole” and they get to watch. Spike thinks the owner Helene is hard core. Antonia is first. She’s really good at repeating orders, talking like Gordon Ramsey loves to hear. Short order cooks seem pretty awesome right now, don‘t they? She seems to survive OK. Then there is a montage of everyone. Tom’s back there watching too. Stephanie flails right off the bat and breaks some yolks. Richard complains about not knowing diner lingo. Like “butterflied”, apparently. That’s the only lingo I have heard. Lisa melts a Styrofoam box. Spike screws something up. The owner shakes her head. Dale gets 4 orders at once but it looks like he fills all of them correctly.

Antonia was very calm and controlled and took direction well, and Dale was very smooth. Antonia wins! Dale looks kind of pissed. Actually, everyone is kind of pissed. Tom says he’s got a charity event and he won’t be at this challenge. That makes me immediately suspicious. Antonia gets a piece of paper with an address, and they have to use their phones to find it. Richard pretends it’s a “secret message”, even though Tom said to them, “Here is an address, go here and meet Padma.” Is his brain working today?

They end up at some loading dock, where they go in and there’s a blank space: hardwood floors, brick walls. Padma tells them that they actually are doing Restaurant Wars after all. SIGH. Lisa wants to make it “not to, but through” this challenge. Everyone gets $1500 for food, and $5000 at Pier One for everything else, and tomorrow they’ll get about 35 diners. Antonia gets to pick her team, so she picks Stephanie and Richard. Of course. Which means Spike, Dale, and Lisa get stuck with each other. Wedding Wars rematch! Dale pretends he would have picked the same people he got stuck with. At least they don’t have Nikki.

Richard has opened a restaurant before so he seems to be taking charge. Their name is “Warehouse Kitchen“. Meh. The term “gastropub” is thrown around. The other team is calling their restaurant “Mai Buddha” (eh) and Dale wins the coin toss to be in charge over Lisa. He is like, um, Asian restaurant, Asian chef. Come on. Agreed. Lisa and Spike talk while Dale listens and people talk about how they need to get along and Spike wants someone good to go home. All three of them have experience in Asian food, at least. Lisa for some reason is nervous that Dale has pissed off both her and Spike. I’m not sure why this makes her nervous. And I just realized: Spike didn’t want to be executive chef. He probably didn’t want to take the fall when they failed, the weasel.

The chefs shopping for food have to buy things like vinegar too. Dale says there are some things they need that they can’t find. That seems…odd. I mean, a place like Whole Foods should have random ethnic ingredients, wouldn’t it? Specifically the complaint is made about sticky rice and Dale finds some rice that is meant for rice pudding. Spike is like, there you go, so Dale grabs several bags. That will be important later. Over at Pier One Spike takes charge for his team, sending Lisa to get plates while he does décor. And Stephanie is going to do front-of-house for her team. Spike buys as many Buddhas as he can.

Everyone has to share the kitchen, but I think there are only 4 people in there so that’s not so bad. Spike and Stephanie set up the dining rooms. Apparently I was wrong, Antonia is in charge of Warehouse Kitchen, which Richard refers to as “a modern American gastropub“. First course is beet salad and goat cheese and ras al hanout, or linguine and clams. Second course is trout and cauliflower, or lamb leg and loin which they are calling “lamb squared“. Desert is Gorgonzola cheesecake and the banana scallops Richard made for the dessert challenge. Over at Mai Buddha the first course is shrimp laksa, which is a soup, or pork and pickled plum pot stickers. Second course: butterscotch miso scallops, or braised short ribs. Dessert: halo-halo or mango sticky rice. Antonia looks down her nose at the other team and their “Chinese” restaurant. Spike is making the short ribs, which can just sit and braise while he works in front. Antonia is making pasta, and they didn’t buy any backup so she’s freaking out.

In Tom’s place, to inspect, is Tony Bourdain, bringing his “warmer, sunnier disposition”. Woo! I love Tony Bourdain. Spike quietly freaks out because Tony has traveled and knows his Asian food. He asks about Richard’s smoke gun, which is not around. Tony also loves laksa, so no pressure, Lisa. It does my evil heart good to imagine that scene. Tony says that Warehouse is creating modest expectations, so they can exceed them easily, but taking no chances. Mai Buddha says they’re good at “Asian” food, but Asia is really big so you can‘t possibly be really good at all of it. And Tony has high expectations for laksa.

Tony lets the teams know that everyone gets an extra pair of hands. Namely, Andrew, Jen, Nikki, or Mark. Lisa’s team picks Jen for her “great attitude” (um…what?) and Antonia’s team immediately takes Nikki and tells her she needs to make pasta. Sadly the eye candy goes away. Dale’s halo-halo is somehow brown…I’m not sure what happened. But it looks nasty. Lisa says that he “claimed” he dropped a brown avocado into the mix. Her interview has a really odd emphasis on the word “claimed”, like she doesn’t believe him. He tries to drizzle some oil in but the whole thing breaks. Lisa tells us he’s on edge, right before she shrieks at Dale that he took her rice off the burner, and then she tells him to calm down. Huh? Weren’t you the one just shrieking? He tells HER to not to freak out, which makes a ton more sense, and she responds that he should “stop throwing stuff around” so she won’t come back to find her rice off the burner. And then she says she’s not going to start something with Dale, but he sets the tone and as much as she “tries to overcome” his poor attitude, if he’s in a poor mood she’ll be also. What the? Lisa’s bad mood is only caused by other people? I don’t think other people caused you to throw Andrew under the bus. Antonia and Nikki need to rinse the clams again. Antonia wants to be here tomorrow. Lisa’s smoked carcasses for the laksa taste mostly like smoke. But not heat. Spike gets a sour taste. He interviews that it sucks and she should have asked him for his recipe. Why didn’t you volunteer that? Does she even know you have one? He gloats that they can’t hold him accountable for the food. Stephanie tells the waiters to have fun. Spike loses his hat, thankfully, and he’s set up a sample table. Then he leaves them to set up the rest of the space. I am dying for him to come back to a colossal disaster but it doesn‘t happen. Lisa whines that she was “forced” to do the sticky rice, which isn’t sticky, and then Dale said to add pastry cream to make it sticky but then it’s mushy. 30 minutes left and everyone flails in a controlled manner.

Spike schmoozes. Stephanie is the first to meet the judges, including guest judge Jose Andres. Warehouse Kitchen has bright orange tablecloths with what look like gold runners. It looks kind of Asian, actually. Stephanie sends the first order in and tells them it‘s for the judges, so they will know what number table the judges are sitting at. Once the food arrives she describes the linguine and clams with sausage and horseradish crème frache. The beet salad looks good too. Tony says the linguine is better than expected. Everyone loves everything. Next up is the trout and lamb. They love the lamb presentation, which doesn‘t look weird or cool or anything but does look very appetizing. Tony thinks the lamb is wonderful, so you know it’s good. Also for some reason they love the trout skin and they are not kidding around. Dessert is Gorgonzola cheesecake and sweet potato puree and Concord grape sauce. The banana scallops are the same as before, with chocolate ice cream. The banana scallops have a brown smear of some kind, which does look unfortunate. Ted likes the cheesecake, as does Padma who expected to hate it.

Mai Buddha is decorated with silver tablecloths and purple napkins and is compared to “the back of Prince’s van”. Ted then asks if it’s Prince’s van, or the scarves hanging from Steven Tyler’s microphone. Hee! And it appears that Spike is right there which is fabulous! Lisa admits to a mistake with the laksa. The food sits in the window and Dale complains about it. But she bitches about this delivery, which isn’t that bad, except for the “f***ing a**holes“ he mutters afterwards. The spicy coconut shrimp laksa with noodles is too smoky, but the potstickers are pretty good. Spike wants the short rib portions to be bigger. Apparently the servings are too small in his mind. He’s all, I already voiced that concern twice. It looks pretty big to me. The short ribs have pickled red cabbage and apple basil salad. The scallops have a butterscotch miso sauce, and have spicy eggplant and pickled long beans. Tony (I think) calls them “Willy Wonka scallops.” Some random girl tells the camera she doesn‘t know what she‘s eating. Dale asks about the rice, and she’s all, the rice is ready, calm down. How are you going to work for anyone? Have you told him you’re ready? No? Then just say you’re ready and quit telling Dale, who is essentially your boss, to calm down. Dale tells us that Lisa is always negative and even though he doesn’t take criticism well, she takes it even worse than he does. Spike shows up with beers, I don’t know why unless he was hoping they’d start fighting, and Lisa starts to pour them. Dale tells her to finish the plates before drinking, and JEN says the exact same thing, and she’s like, we’re not drinking, relax! To Dale. Well, when you’re pouring the beer instead of plating, what the hell are we supposed to think? She’s just like my students. I want to suspend her. Actually, I wish she was on “Hell’s Kitchen” so Ramsay can lay into her. Oh, that would be sweet. Then we get this gem: “Dale’s unhappy with his choices, he’s unhappy with my mistakes, but at the same time ultimately it’s the chef’s responsibility to make sure the food is perfect, and Dale has not fulfilled his role as an executive chef.“ This tells me that Dale is probably going home, and Lisa blames him for her crappy food, when she hasn’t listened to him all night and has behaved in such a way that in most other kitchens she‘d be fired for insubordination. The halo-halo (with cantaloupe, coconut, kiwi, avocado, and candied nuts) is kind of green but not as green as it should be. Tony is bored but not annoyed as much as he is by the mango sticky rice with toasted coconut. Quote of the evening: “It’s baby vomit with wood chips”. This is why I love Tony Bourdain. Some people say they have to go out for dessert. Hee! Everyone gets comment cards. Richard and Antonia work the room. Everyone LIES and tells Spike they loved the food. He of course thinks he was the greatest.

Padma comes to get Warehouse first. Of course. Because they won, of course. Tony was impressed by everything. The beets (Richard) were smart, the pasta (Stephanie) was perfectly cooked. The gorgonzola (Stephanie) was also awesome. Stephanie wins. The guest judge says something about picking a concept, and I don’t remember seeing her come up with it but whatever. This team got along with each other and their food was good so they kind of got screwed out of screen time. She gets a “culinary tour” to Barcelona. Awesome!

Loser gong! Tony says they had “unpleasant aspects“ to their meal. Spike pretends that they all three of them picked out the design and colors for the dining room. Dale and Lisa look incredulous. Seriously, Dale is laughing into his hand. Tony said the décor announced that a greasy dumpling would be “unforgivable“, rather than a place where a greasy dumpling would be “a delight“. Dale cops to the scallops, and everyone says the butterscotch was nasty. Lisa cops to the laksa (and doesn’t blame Dale, so that’s something) and the smokiness. She says she was taught to do laksa with smoke, but apparently took it too far. Spike says he chose laksa, and his is different (and better of course, although he doesn’t say that out loud). Dale doesn’t know laksa, so he says he had to trust them, but then he gets attacked for being in charge and not knowing the menu. There looks like there would be some argument about the short ribs but as it turns out it‘s Spike‘s recipe, cooked by the other two, the way Spike told them to. But the judges naturally want to clarify, since no one would put it past this team to steal the credit for anything. The sticky rice is labeled “baby food garnished by potpourri”. Lisa blames Dale for the rice, and they have an argument about it, which ends when Lisa I guess claims that since she didn‘t actually take the rice off the shelf it‘s Dale‘s fault. This is so dumb. Jose says they aren’t a team, and accuses Spike of hiding in the front of the house. See, normally I’d label him a lucky bastard for being in the dining room while all this was happening, but since I’m pretty sure he did that on purpose so Dale and Lisa would self destruct and leave him standing he loses points. Dale tries to reason with Tony that Tony himself would wait to speak to his sous chefs until after service, but we all know that Tony would not wait to kick some ass. Lisa pretends that she responded to everything calmly and appropriately. I hope she watches this episode and calls Dale to apologize. I know I’m not going to be the only blogger tomorrow who is attacking her. Dale declares that you’re only as strong as your weakest link, and there is a pause before Lisa says you’re only as good as your leader. Spike smirks and so help me God I want to smack it off his face. I try not to hate people I watch on TV for an hour a week, but week after week Spike and Lisa are unpleasant and smug and bitchy by turns and I’m tired of watching it.

Jose knows that Spike hid in the front of the house, and did his job, mostly, so he could stay out of it. Dale’s scallops were horrid, and he was not a manager. I think he tried. But Lisa had made her dishes before and she screwed both of them up. Tony can read her body language and knows Lisa has never accepted criticism from the judges. About the only thing that has gotten into her head is that everyone should follow the rules and be called on it whenever. Lisa stage whispers to Spike about how Dale sucks and she was trying to keep it under control, and Dale wants her to say it to his face. Spike for some reason tries to get him to shut up, but seriously? He could practically reach out and touch you. Who is in the wrong here? FINALLY the judges are ready. This crap needs to be over. Dale calls Lisa a bitch which I am sure people will decide is offensive or something. I know people said that the last time they had a big argument in the Stew Room and he grabbed his crotch. Sorry but I’m on Dale’s side.

Tony thinks Dale should have accounted for his dysfunctional team, Lisa’s rice pudding and laksa sucked, Spike hid from everyone and they are pretty sure he did it on purpose. Dale goes home. Of course. Because he’s the one liked the most out of those three. He knows he made bad decisions but he’s not a bad chef. He gives Spike a hug, and they bury the hatchet, I guess. He ignores Lisa, who is sitting by herself in the chairs in the Stew Room. He actually cries in his interview, which is touching somehow. Seriously, I don’t want to watch this show anymore, because the people that grate on me the most are still here and watching them be two-faced and lie and complain every week makes me mad.

Next week: there are a lot of cooking shots for some reason, and I guess the final 4 get to go to Puerto Rico because no one seems to be looking past this next challenge. And at the end all 5 of the chefs left are in front of the judges’ table HOLDING HANDS and it makes me want to throw my keyboard through the TV.

1 comment:

Nanc Twop said...

Thanks for doing the write-up. And (apologies to Tony B...) nobody could have accounted for all the dysfunctions in that team.

And you're right, its hard to accept that either Spike or Lisa will be going to Aspen. *But I will throw something at my tv if -both- end up going.

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