Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Top Chef 5/28/08--"High Steaks" summary

Previously on Top Chef: After making us think that we were having Wedding Wars instead of Restaurant Wars, the producers said “Ha ha! You fell for it!” and they had Restaurant Wars anyway. The teams were Stephanie, Antonia, and Richard, vs. Lisa, Dale, and Spike. The outcome was entirely predictable. Lisa blamed Dale for her poor attitude and bitched back at him whenever she had the chance. Dale ran around and cursed out waiters and Spike, and let Lisa serve nasty food. And made butterscotch scallops himself, which probably taste exactly like you are thinking. Spike chose stupid colors for the dining room and hid out there all night, so later he could be above it all and smirk off to the side while Lisa and Dale fought to be eliminated. Of those three, I liked Dale the most, so of course he was eliminated, leaving both Spike and Lisa to torment me. Awesome. (click for more)

Antonia is excited to almost be in the final 4. Stephanie notices that there are a lot of girls around. Duh. Not a lot of exciting interview clips today.

For the Quickfire everyone ends up at Allen Brothers, which is a meat purveyor. They all get safety clothing. And now they will be butchers. The weirdest part is like, a panel or shield over their abdomen? I guess to protect from knives. Haha, Spike gets a beard net. They have to cut chops from a rib eye. And French the bones. HMM SOUNDS FAMILIAR. I do believe “Hell’s Kitchen” just this season made people butcher steaks, although that show did not present them with what looks like an entire side of beef. They have 20 minutes.

The chops are dry-aged, so they’re really tough. Everyone struggles. Spike for some reason gets around this by slicing off the dry-aged part so now it’s really easy. Wasn’t the dry-aged part the point? On second viewing it looks as though he cuts off the fat, mostly. Lisa complains about making tiny mistakes and going home before making top 4. Please tell me this means she goes home. They pack up all the steaks and go back to the Top Chef kitchens. Weird.

Back in the kitchen Padma greets them with the news that there are 2 legs to the Quickfire. Rick Tramonto is the guest judge. Everyone has to make a “tomahawk” chop for Rick, medium-rare, and I hope you butchered it right! 30 minutes! Richard points out that this challenge has nothing to do with flavors, but with how well you cook the meat. Spike thinks he needs 5 minutes longer that he was given, for that size steak. He’s grilling and then finishing in the oven. Of course he has to interview about this in the most obnoxious “I’m a genius” tone possible. Richard can’t use his sous-vide (sous-vide steak, nasty) so he has to go old school. Stephanie is planning rest time. Antonia is basting with butter, which sounds pretty good.

Richard charred his steak with the torch? Huh? Lisa put hers in the pan. No flavors today, which makes my job easier. Rick doesn’t seem to be tasting anyone’s steaks, although he is testing the temperatures with his finger and inspecting everything closely. Weird. Near Spike’s station there are sample steaks. I was going to say more but everyone just explained how they cooked it and it wasn‘t exciting, except that everyone made sure to talk about the butter and rosemary and whatnot, that are now useless since no one is actually eating the steaks. I wonder what they do with those? Like, I know the crew eats the plate they use to take pictures. I hope they didn’t waste them.

Stephanie undercooked her steak and her bones weren’t clean. Richard also undercooked his steak and his cuts weren‘t consistent. Lisa, Spike, and Antonia did really well. Spike wins. Bleh. He says he’s here to play hard from now on. Apparently he wasn’t before when he was screwing people.

For the Elimination challenge, these 5 people are taking over Rick’s steakhouse tomorrow. Padma asks him if he’s sure about that. Everyone has to make an appetizer and entrée, based on what they find in the kitchen when they get there. Spike gets first dibs on proteins again. Lisa pretends she wouldn’t want that anyway, because she might get stuck with some crap she doesn‘t want. Also, this challenge could be summed up as, “Here is my restaurant. I want you to run it. Screw it up and you will wish you never heard of this cooking reality show.” Did the producers run out of ideas for challenges? Or did they hire some reject from “Hell’s Kitchen” to plan challenges?

Back home Spike brags about how butchering is in his blood, or something. Antonia humors him, but you can detect that she’s laughing at him a little bit. He wants to beat the girls. Richard has things to prove and thinks there’s no difference between going home now, and being the first one sent home.

In the morning everyone goes to Tramonto’s restaurant. The restaurant looks very posh and like I couldn’t afford to eat there. There’s a “wood burning fire oven“ (tm Antonia) in the kitchen. Spike gets to pick his proteins, so he takes the tomahawk steaks and some scallops. The scallops are frozen, though, so while people are pissed at first they decide that Spike may have screwed himself. Everyone picks out their ingredients. Stephanie is making sweetbreads for an appetizer, which she compares to Chicken McNuggets. Right. Lisa is making steak with peanut butter mashed potatoes. Um, what? Richard describes how he found some hamachi to make with crispy sweetbreads, and which is a deconstruction of some Italian dish he doesn’t describe or name. Lisa is in front of the oven, and she complains that it’s too hot, but Antonia wants to leave it open so the fire won‘t die. Lisa‘s like, what if I die? In kind of a joking way. And Antonia’s all, then I guess you don‘t go to Puerto Rico! But not joking as much. Ha. Lisa says, again, that she quit her job and she wants to make it. I do love editing. Spike’s frozen scallops are indeed sucky. He grabs a whole roll of paper towels to dry them so he can sear.

Tom time! Antonia is making a warm salad and rib eye. She tells Tom that the scallops Spike took were frozen. Stephanie is psyched about the challenge. Richard is nervous. In addition to the hamachi he’s serving beef tenderloin, with potatoes and turnips and a red wine reduction. Tom says that’s straightforward. For Richard. Richard complains that Tom told him he was “playing it safe”, which is not what he said at all. Lisa has “grilled and chilled” shrimp and then the steak has spicy apple caramel sauce or something, and then the peanut butter potatoes... Tom is obviously disturbed. And Lisa can tell, by this point. He then makes himself feel better by going to Spike and giving him a hard time about the frozen scallops. Spike says he has no problem with frozen scallops and there is the drum sound effect of “That was stupid.“ He also thinks if he can make these scallops rock then he can do anything. Tom is like, “Yeah, because that would be impossible.“ Tom calls everyone around to make an announcement: the judges will be eating with 3 VIP guests. Tom is expediter, which means that he is in charge of timing, calling out tickets, stuff like that. So Ramsay’s job, only with less cursing I’m sure. Now Spike is desperate to get the scallops to be good or at least “be pretty on the plate”. Antonia is putting her steaks on the grill now so when the tickets come in she can just chuck them in the oven. Richard gives basically the same interview Lisa did about how he wants to win and make it to the final 4. Well they can’t both be cut. Can they?

Everyone frantically works. Lisa barks at someone to get out of her way. Tom comes to introduce the VIP guests--the 3 past winners of Top Chef. Their advice is bland, except Ilan tells them not to shave anyone’s head. Heh. All the plates at the judges’ table will consist of a tasting portion, which is about 1/3 the size it should be. Apparently they didn’t expect this and it’s weird or something and will cause problems. I guess if you are serving a steak, and you need 6 steaks to be 1/3 the size of the other steaks, and you didn’t cut any portions that size, that might be a problem. Lisa is up first: grilled and chilled prawns, lemon zest, and tomato salad with crostini. They like the lemon, but not the chilled part. Richard has hamachi with crispy sweetbreads, radish, avocado, and yuzu. Rick tells everyone he would serve that in a heartbeat. Harold is pretty much scrapign his plate. Spike seared the scallops with hearts of palm and oyster mushrooms. The hearts of palm aren’t even fresh either. Everyone is like, meh. You can see as Rick chews slowly and picks at the rest of the food on the plate. Stephanie: sweetbreads with golden raisins and pine nuts, and a little bit of fennel, haricot verts, and bacon underneath. It looks good. Harold wishes the pine nuts were toasted but that’s it. It’s exactly what Spike’s dish was missing. Antonia: warm mushroom and artichoke salad, poached egg, bacon vinaigrette. Not the strongest but Gail approves of the egg which is something. You know how she is about her eggs. The rest of it was kind of bad and soggy.

Richard gets yelled at for dragging, but he says his dishes are “intricate“. Tom nags him. Richard: beef filet, potato puree, red wine, turnips, pickled Brussels sprouts. You have to eat everything together, though, and he deconstructed it. Lisa: N.Y. strip steak, spicy apple caramel sauce, peanut butter mashed potatoes. It looks normal. Somehow Rick likes the potatoes. The beef is under seasoned and tough, and Gail got a thin portion. Ha. Spike has the tomahawk chop, with sweet potato puree, Brussels sprouts, and cipollinis. The meat is great as long as you eat nothing else on the plate. And he put honey in the sweet potatoes, which seems pretty pointless. Ilan is pretty critical and he is still a famewhore because he Won’t. Shut. Up. Seriously, he’s talked at least twice as much as Hung and Harold put together. Stephanie: tenderloin with applesauce, salsify puree and wild mushrooms. They love it. Antonia likes Tom in this role of expediter. Antonia: bone-in ribeye, fennel and cipollinis, and a shallot and potato gratin. Ilan loves it but it’s rich. Pure steakhouse, say the other judges. Antonia says nobody knows what will happen. She’s probably safe then.

Back in the Stew Room everyone drinks and apparently Lisa has gotten rid of everyone she hates because she wishes everyone good luck. Padma collects all of them. Richard is up first. He tries to say he did well, but wises up and says that they should tell him how he did. The appetizer (which he’d never done before) was great but his meat was undercooked. Stephanie never looks like she’s under pressure. Until right now. They all loved the sweetbreads, but the entrée could have used more acidity. She‘s never made her dishes before either. Lisa’s shrimp was cold, and tasted congealed. She’d made her entrée before, and Rick wanted to hate it, but he didn’t. Technically, though, it could have been done better, like Tom said his portion was cooked more on one side than the other. Antonia says she made dishes based on what she likes to eat when she goes to a steakhouse. The gratin was perfect. Spike’s steak was cooked really well, but Tom is shocked he stuck with the frozen scallops. Rick tells him he should have changed his mind. Spike responds that “with all due respect” those frozen scallops should never have made it into Rick’s walk-in. Did you just call out a judge? “With all due respect” means “I’m not going to say you’re an idiot, but you totally are”. Rick is like, OK, there were frozen scallops in my walk-in, but you should take the shot that you used them. Spike shuts up, eventually. Padma kicks them out, but before Spike leaves he shakes Rick’s hand.

In the Stew Room Spike at least observes that he should have shut up. Tom likes this challenge because everyone was self-contained. The previous Top Chef winners liked something from each person. Stephanie had new dishes and they were both spot on. Richard scored on appetizer but not entrée. He looks OK because the appetizer was the best dish of the evening, appetizer or entree. Antonia is thoughtful and cooks from the heart. Spike had problems with both dishes, and he says he liked simplicity but if you go simple you have to be perfect. Tom thinks Lisa is apathetic about what she does. Padma says she has a great palate, but her technique falls by the wayside. Tom points out technique is how you make flavor. Gail thinks Spike put more work in his appetizer. For Rick and Tom, Lisa’s shrimp was the worst dish of the evening.

Everyone comes back in and they all hold hands which makes me ill. Stephanie wins. Woo! She also wins a copy of Rick’s book. Woo. But then Padma tells her that as the winner she gets a whole pile of appliances, as seen in the Top Chef Kitchen! Sweet! Richard’s appetizer was the best appetizer, and Antonia’s entrée was the best entrée, so those two make the finals as well. Does this mean that one of my two most hated contestants will go away?! Oh sweet goodness it does! Lisa has been in the bottom 5 times, and Spike 7 times. Damn. Tom bitches that they shouldn’t be shocked. He says that Lisa hasn’t shown her passion, and she doesn’t listen. Spike didn’t make everything perfectly, and the scallops were a mistake. Spike goes home. Lisa has more lives than a cat. Although, watching her make the finals and then failing there might make my bitter evil heart happy. Spike feels that he showed himself more than anyone else. Well…I am sure he didn‘t mean to show the country how scheming and annoying he was. It won’t hold him back, no one puts me down, blah blah. Lisa pretends she’ll have a clean slate in the finals. Antonia thinks it’s anyone’s game. Richard is ready to train.

Next week: Lisa has a short haircut, everyone hacks and pounds things…I am not sure what is going on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great summary!! Love the blog!!