Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top Chef 6/4/08--"Finale pt. 1" summary

Previously on Top Chef: The final challenges before everyone got a chance to go home involved steak. First, butchering the steak, then cooking the steak, then working the line at a steakhouse. Spike did well with the cutting and the searing, but not so much with the choosing of non-sucky non-frozen scallops. From what I can tell (which isn’t much; good job Bravo on maintaining a working website) Lee Anne tried to make sure everyone had a good selection of proteins to choose from, since Rick Tramonato’s restaurant has a small menu. She also had a budget, and anything that Rick provided them with had to be paid for, while she could get frozen scallops from Allen Bros. for free. So she’s the one that put the scallops in there. But Spike still used them, he still insisted on searing them. He could have done something else with them and it would have been fine. Spike still called out Rick at the judges’ table for having them in the freezer. Rick was very gracious, considering he knew full well it wasn’t his fault they were there. Spike went home in the end, leaving us with Stephanie (woo), Antonia (woo), Richard (meh), and Lisa (ugh). (click for more)

Time for Puerto Rico! Stephanie has been traveling throughout Asia. Her T-shirt says “I love Tahoe boys“. Antonia has started her restaurant. Richard is thrilled to see Stephanie and Antonia, who he says are the ones everyone thought would win at the beginning of the show. But not really Lisa. Lisa has cut her hair, which should please people who thought her hair was always greasy and bad. However I think she’s gained some weight, maybe. She says everyone looks relaxed. They go off somewhere to great Tom and Padma, and a table full of plantains. Oh wait. It’s not Tom. It’s Wilo Benet, who “embodies“ Puerto Rican cuisine, according to Richard. Sorry, he looked like Tom.

Padma says that beachside fritters are a tradition, served with a cold beer. They have to make frituras, or fritters. Apparently these are just little fried snacks. And Wilo says that you have to use plantains. Hope you know how to use them! Lisa thinks they are common and all chefs should know what to do with them. Two separate frituras, both with plantains. They have 40 minutes.

Lisa immediately goes for proteins while others are getting plantains. Stephanie is trying to focus and eliminate some of her ideas. She thinks that’s her problem with Quickfires. Lisa is making fried plantains. It appears that she looked up Puerto Rican cuisine before she came. Richard burns off his eyebrows as he tries to light the stove.

Stephanie: tostones with seared tuna. Tostones are the fried plantains; you fry them once, then smash them and fry them again. Also she has pork and shrimp fritters with brown butter, lime, and basil sauce. Yum! Antonia: crispy oysters with cilantro plantain jam. There are no plantains in the actual fritter. Her second dish is plain fried yellow plantains with spicy slaw. She pronounces it “plan-TINS” which bugs me. Lisa: tostones with pan roasted duck and mango papaya salsa, and sweet plantains, red onion, and chorizo with chutney slaw. Chutney slaw? It has citrus fruits and cucumbers, and chilies. Chutney slaw. That is the most non-descriptive term. Chutney and slaw are categories. Richard: pork meatballs with ripe plantain sauce. He calls them something in Spanish, “abondigas” I think. The other dish is green plantain chips with ripe plantain salsa. Interesting. He’s made the salsa with raw plantains. That…seems bad. Now I want some tostones.

Wilo says everyone did well, lots of neat sauces and chutneys. Antonia could have used more integration, and the raw plantains are indeed not good. Richard had the same problem, and his meatballs were dry. Hee. Stephanie had great balance and right portions. Lisa’s tostones were great, but her meat could have been smaller. (Hee!) Stephanie wins, her first Quickfire win. Wilo invites them to a party, with traditional food and music. No one seems suspicious. Random parties never turn out well.

The party has great music, and lots of food and a whole pig. Lisa makes Richard dance. He says he’s having fun but he doesn’t dance. There are stupid slo-mo shots of everyone having fun with voiceovers of them in confessional talking about how they want to just get this over with already.
The next day (I think) everyone ends up at La Fortaleza, the governor’s residence. I think that’s what it’s called. Tomorrow there will be a garden party, with 100 VIP guests. Now Tom is here. He says it’s not a party without a pig, and he takes off some fronds from a table to reveal a pig. Everyone gets a whole pig and they have to make at least 2 dishes. Cool! Tom knows this will be a lot of work, so he’s got some help for them. Now Dale, Nikki, Andrew, and Spike show up. Oh, come on. Twice in one season? Lisa says her choices are limited. Mostly because she doesn’t get along with anyone, but of course she doesn’t think that’s the deal. Well, she does admit that Andrew is angry with her because he felt she threw him under the bus. Stephanie, as winner, gets to assign everyone’s people. Ha! She says she wants everyone to get along. She takes Dale, then puts Spike with Richard, Nikki with Antonia, and Andrew with Lisa. Andrew says he’ll try to help her win, but neither of them look thrilled. The “helpers” are going to shop for produce while the contestants butcher their pigs. They have 30 minutes to plan, 2 hours today to cook, and 5 hours tomorrow. Stephanie has to know that Andrew and Richard would be a better, more harmonious match than Andrew and Lisa. Maybe she’s trying to get rid of Lisa.

Richard talks about the importance of inspiration. He thinks as long as Spike buys fresh ingredients he’ll be fine. Does he not remember the frozen scallops? Antonia is going traditional. Lisa, shockingly, wants to not do Asian, but Puerto Rican. She insists she knows Latin food and flavors, and the natives will love her food. Richard thinks this is dangerous. I would agree, I think. You’d better be solid.

The helpers get $250 and 45 minutes to shop. Nikki doesn’t recognize some of the stuff. Andrew is having a communication breakdown because the woman doesn’t understand English. Hee. He knows he looks stupid. Dale is buying “black” plantains, which look rotten but apparently are super sweet. Back in the kitchen everyone gets ready to butcher their pigs. Someone kids Lisa that her hacking looks too natural. She comments that she’s Jewish. Antonia is cutting along the joints with her chef‘s knife, but Richard and Lisa are using mallets to pound cleavers through the meat, I guess. And they both break the mallets. Richard remembers some sweet malt beverage that he’s been using to glaze ribs so he calls Spike to have him get some.

Richard is organizing because it’s pretty crowded. He’s got tape for everything, all his appliances and dishes and bowls and whatnot. Nikki has great fruit, Antonia says. Stephanie is making pork belly and she makes sure to spice it. Andrew says Lisa “has a strong personality”. That’s is a good way to put it. Richard agrees. She kicks Andrew off something because he’s too slow. Someone spills something on the floor. The fridge is crammed. After 2 hours everyone says goodbye to their helpers and heads out of the kitchen. Stephanie says she feels organized…as the cameraman pans from the departing contestants to a shot of her pork belly sitting on a shelf. Not refrigerated. “Top Chef” has been hiring “Amazing Race” cameramen during their off season.

In the morning, Dale admits he’s the one who left it out, and Stephanie immediately says she’ll throw it out. She’s really nervous, and Dale is really really sorry. He says if he gets her sent home he’ll never forgive himself. I think she’s recovering well. Richard always has “something tricky”, according to Spike, and he can learn something. He’s got BBQ pork shoulder, pork belly with pickled watermelon, ham and beans, and ribs. Antonia: pork belly with sweet peppers, pork sausage with pigeon peas and rice, and curried pork. But her rice is ruined; she says the bottom is mushy and the top is raw. Nikki says she can tell Antonia is off so she needs to be on to compensate. Lisa is making yuca and pork rellena, and pork belly, and an adobo roasted pork tostone. Oh, no, everyone has pork belly except Stephanie. She says if she only makes two dishes she’ll be going home. Her last minute idea is chicarrones, fried pork skin, in a salad. Her other two dishes are pork satay on sugar cane skewers, and coconut pork with a plantain pancake. Antonia says her daughter told her not to come home if she didn’t win. I hope everyone is kidding about that.

With 30 minutes until service everyone goes outside to grill and prep. Stephanie is trying to make blinis, but they seem to be burning. Lisa doesn’t want to get sent home. Of course. Stephanie thinks little things will send people home. Last minute frantic working.

Padma appears, in a one shoulder drapy gown Rami would be proud of. Stephanie is up first: pork satay on sugar cane skewer, in a miso almond sauce. Coconut braised pork with black plantain pancake. Tropical fruit salad with fried pork skin. Wilo says the pancakes are inventive. Richard: fresh ham with local beans, whatever local beans are. Pressure cooked pork belly with picked watermelon. Ribs with malta and soy glaze. He talks so damn much! Everything has this long ass story about his inspiration and everything. BBQ pork shoulder with braised greens and mango, braised in coffee and cinnamon. That sounds really good. Now it is dark. Lisa: citrus braised pork belly with potato and plantain mash. Gail says it’s really sweet. Adobo roasted pork butt tostone and black beans and onions. Yuca rellena filled with pork, with pineapple mojo. Mojo is dipping sauce. It looks like they didn’t finish eating her food. Antonia: honey pork belly with pickled sweet pepper salad. Curried pork with pumpkin and yuca. Pigeon peas with pork sausage. The peas have a kick, and she soaked them overnight. The last two dishes seem to be on the same plate. None of the judges have had any opinions, or voiced them anyway. Random people talk about stuff. Everyone gets a comment; sadly, Antonia gets the bad comment of dry pigeon peas.

Before the contestants come out, the judges talk about everyone’s food. They seem pleased in general. Lisa and Antonia weren’t as good as they have been, but everyone was good across the board. Now that Wilo and Tom are next to each other, I must say Wilo looks like Andrew Zimmerman more than Tom. Padma comes to get Richard and Stephanie only. Lisa and Antonia do not look happy. Richard and Stephanie look really nervous until Padma tells them they are the favorites. Tom thinks Richard was self-editing, with simpler dishes than he served at the beginning of the competition. Stephanie’s satays were wonderful. No mention of the pork belly. Richard is the unanimous winner, and the crowd favorite. He wins…a car!?!?!?! He just won a 2009 Corolla. Damn. He seriously cannot believe it. Stephanie looks happy for him, but I would be thinking “Damn. Dale cost me a car.”

Antonia and Lisa go out to face the music and the loser gong. Lisa felt her dishes were strong, but she knows that everyone else’s dishes were strong too. Tom is surprised she cooked Latin food, when she’s “known” for Asian. She insists that she cooks Latin food all the time and it’s not that far from the Asian she cooks all the time. Her potato puree was really sweet and overpowering, and all her dishes focused on the garnishes rather than the pork. She took the tostones out of the fryer right before the judges arrived…but if the judges didn‘t get to her until it was dark? That‘s not good. She starts talking about balance in a traditional Puerto Rican meal, but Wilo says that didn‘t happen. Antonia knows her peas were not cooked enough, but she says she didn‘t notice until the very end. Also Antonia served her dishes all on the same plate, so they all muddled together. Her plan in that was to make things more rustic.

Tom says now it comes down to mistakes. Lisa’s tostone wasn’t that great, and her sweet potato puree wasn‘t right for the pork she paired it with. She had the right idea, but it’s execution again. She says she’s going home. I really hate editing sometimes. Sigh. Antonia went for rustic, and she should have put each of her dishes on separate plates since they were all distinct dishes. Gail says there are such things as al dente beans, but Tom says no. Antonia says she really doesn’t want to go home.

Commercials. 91% of voters think Lisa should go home. You usually don’t see that high of a percentage. That should tell you something. I wonder if we’ll ever hear Lisa address that.

Tom says they needed to bring their A game today, but they both are competing at a B+. Hee. Tom rehashes their errors. Antonia has specific problems; Lisa has an overall lack of…whatever they’re looking for. Also Tom says her table didn’t have a crowd. So what does this mean? Of course it means Lisa is safe. AGAIN. She promises them again they won’t be disappointed. Didn’t she promise that before they left Chicago? At least she looked genuinely shocked. Antonia is crying and she talks about her daughter, and she is really upset she has to go home. She tells Stephanie to kick ass. The final 3 sit around in the Stew Room, until Lisa bitches at Stephanie and Richard because they didn’t congratulate her. They both kind of mutter congratulations (which you know they don’t mean) and Richard says he’s just tired, which is probably true. Lisa says she gets it (um…no) but it makes her feel like they both think the wrong person went home, which, 1. That is what 91% of the viewers think, and I’m sure they think that too, and 2. Cry me a river. She says that they can have their opinions (didn’t you just yell at them for their opinions?) and it’s not a popularity contest. Yeah, lucky you. In confessional she says people enjoyed her dishes, even though they seemed to do it far away from her table so Tom wouldn’t see the crowd. Somehow Stephanie and Richard should forget that Antonia is their friend and “as a fellow chef” tell Lisa good job or whatever. Just because you didn’t go home doesn’t mean you’re entitled to praise. They don’t like you. Deal with it. Richard is like, you won the bronze. Good for you.

Next week: Lisa thinks she can beat everyone, Richard is behind, Tom gives them a curveball, we find out who wins.


Nanc Twop said...

“Top Chef” has been hiring “Amazing Race” cameramen during their off season.
- LOL -

"Stephanie looks happy for him, but I would be thinking “Damn. Dale cost me a car.”

-exactly- She was waayy too nice to him.

my Top Chef posts

BW said...

Quote: "Padma appears, in a one shoulder drapy gown Rami would be proud of."


I can't believe we have to endure another episode of Lisa's surly face. Gahhhh.