Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Top Chef 11/12/08--"Melting Pot" summary

Previously on Top Chef: we had a pretty good season with mostly non-offensive people. Except for Lisa. Stephanie, who was possibly the least offensive contestant ever, ended up with the title of “Top Chef” and also was the fan favorite. I liked her very much. This season is in New York. About time there was a season in New York. 17 chefs?!?!?! I’m exhausted already. Montage of this season, cooking, arguing, people spitting food out. Same prizes as usual: money, be in a magazine, work at the Food and Wine Expo. Kmanpat, ready? (Kmanpat: “Woo!”) Alrightly then. (click for more)

Fabio Viviani, 30, from Italy. An accent always helps, guys. He’s a chef/owner of a restaurant. As he’s talking I notice that Tom is now listed in the credits as “Co-host” and not “Judge” or even “Head Judge”. How interesting. Fabio has never been to New York before. Jamie Lauren, 30, executive chef. Her restaurant is named “Absinthe” after a possibly poisonous and hallucinogenic liquor. Fantastic. She likes that in her job, she can be creative and no one tells her what to do. Oh, this will go well. Eugene Villiatora, 32, personal chef/consultant. He also seems to be self-taught. Nice. I hope he goes far, I usually root for the self-taught people. Jeff Mcinnis, 30, chef de cuisine. He’s pretty but knows it. Sigh. Radhika Desai, 28, executive chef. She’s afraid everyone will pigeonhole her cuisine. I hope she is better than the Indian girl that was on “Next Food Network Star.” Lauren Hope, 24, chef tournant. That’s a chef that can work any station in a kitchen. I had to look that up; the TV just said “chef”. Some other people show up but they apparently will have their bios later. Ariane Duarte, 41, chef/owner of a place called “CulinAriane”. I can’t decide if I like that or am horrified. Daniel Gagnon, 26, chef du cuisine. He has odd facial hair. Like, it’s a close trimmed beard, but where the mustache meets the beard it’s shaved. Like a negative mustache. Lauren freaks out because the guy that just walked in was one of her classmates in school. Patrick Dunlea, 21, culinary student. He is much cuter on the TV; his photo on the website has this smirk that is unattractive. He also has very pink cheeks. Stefan Richter, 35, chef for his own catering company. Stefan is from Finland and he’s lived around Europe, so his accent is harder to identify. Everyone is on the ferry. Richard Sweeney, 27, executive sous chef? How does that work? He says the inner queen inside him wants desperately to know what Padma is wearing. Then he pretends it’s the queens back home that really want to know. Sure.

On Governor’s Island Padma and Tom wait to greet everyone. Leah Cohen, 27, sous chef, tells us her mom told her whatever you do, don’t cry because you will look like a little bitch. This means she will cry this episode. Padma tells them how important New York is to the culinary world. Now is the first Quickfire challenge. Some people have blank looks like they have never watched this show before. Perhaps they have never watched reality television before. Padma lets them know that 17 of them are here, but only 16 chef coats are waiting in the kitchen. The person who finishes last, goes home right now. Ouch. Lauren knows one of the coats is hers. We’ll see. There are 3 rounds: first is to peel 15 apples with a knife (oo, Iron Chef Sakai would kick ass). Alex Eusebio, 33, executive chef, says he hasn’t used a paring knife to do this since culinary school. Seriously? I don’t know that I’d be proud of that. Tom will double check everything, and the top 9 will have guaranteed spots. The bottom 8 will go to round 2. Hosea Rosenberg, 34, executive chef, is looking forward to this because he’s been winning culinary competitions for a number of years. (Kmanpat: “His name is Hosea? *singing* Come back to me with all your heart…“ Me: “You’re going to sing every time he does something, aren’t you.“ Kman: *nods vigorously*)

The challenge begins. Fabio says he’s not going home, even if he has to swallow the apple whole. (Kmanpat: “…”) Richard quickly slices his thumb. He talks about it, and how it was stupid, as he drips blood all over the cutting board and his “Beer Pong” T-shirt. What would the queens say about that? Stefan finishes first, and is relieved to not be bested by an apple. Carla Hall, 44, caterer. She wants to prove caterers are just as good as restaurant chefs. The 9 spots fill up, and Stefan gets immunity for finishing first. No, I don’t know who else was in the spots. There are seventeen chefs. When they get down to the end I’ll know who’s left.

Round two: brunoise 2 cups of apples. Tom, sadly, tells them that “brunoise” means “finely dice”. It means I don’t have to look it up but I wanted someone to not know what that meant. The first 4 to finish will be safe, but the bottom 4 will do round 3. The safe people watch everyone and feel bad. Patrick is worried and shouldn’t the culinary student be good at stuff like this? Jill Snyder, 28, executive chef, is starting to freak out. Tom makes her do some stuff over. Oops. She does finish, though. Leah (I think) says she will be super embarrassed if she gets sent home today.

Lauren, Pat, Radhika, and Leah are left for round 3. This round will involve creating a dish using their 2 cups of apples. They have 20 minutes. Radhika thinks this is only enough time to get your knives and spices in place. You are going to suffer. She’s going to make apple chutney and pork. Leah is going to make scallops. Lauren is making salad with bacon. Patrick? Also salad but with yogurt dressing. He says he would rather go for “perfect” as opposed to “fast”. Oh, you’re going to suffer too.

Lauran ended up with spinach salad, apples, blue cheese, orange, balsamic vinaigrette. Patrick: apple salad slaw, yogurt dressing, mint, honey, cinnamon. Radhika: pan seared pork, apple chutney, raisins, chili powder. Leah: seared scallops, dried apples, vinegar, and apple juice. Tom and Padma taste without commenting and then tell Leah and Radhika their dishes are good. Lauren admits she would like to see Patrick go instead of her, but maybe she might feel bad. After the commercials we find out that Patrick is going to stay. Lauren has to leave to get on the ferry. Patrick is about to cry. She’s pretty pissed, but oh well.

Padma brings out the knife block, before they even move in and unpack. Ha. Patrick pulls a knife that says “Chinatown”. These appear to be teams, or possibly pairs, with locations around the city. Hosea doesn’t even know what his knife phrase means. The chefs must create something inspired by the neighborhood they’ve selected. These are all ethnic neighborhoods. Interesting. Also, thank God I only have 8 dishes to talk about.

The apartments they’re staying in are awesome, as always. Everyone hangs out on the balcony, and when Patrick appears, Jamie hollers at him that “Team Rainbow is complete!” (Kmanpat: “It’s never complete without me! I get to be flaming purple!“) She beckons Patrick to sit over by herself and Richard. Jamie has a T-shirt with a rainbow on it, she says, and she’s totally going to wear it. Fabio and Stefan bond over being European and liking soccer. Hee. Stefan has a big ego and is getting into it with Daniel for some reason, about vinaigrettes. Daniel thinks this makes him look immature. Whatever. It’s not even an interesting argument.

In the morning everyone’s having coffee and brainstorming. Carla warns Ariane that people might be more annoying today than last night. Sadly there is no half-naked eye candy.

The pairs split up to head to their respective neighborhoods for shopping and ideas. Richard and Jamie head to Astoria (Greek) and Richard is still talking about Team Rainbow. They have $75 and 20 minutes to shop. Hosea and Carla are at Brighton Beach (Russian) where Hosea is a little lost. Carla is waiting to be led to this dish by her spirit guides. No, seriously. Stefan and Ariane are in Long Island City (Middle Eastern) and the whole place confuses Ariane. Jeff and Fabio, Ozone Park (Latin), and Jeff knows his Latin from living in Miami. Radhika and Jill are in Queens (Jamaican) which makes Jill think of fruits and rum. Leah and Melissa hit a deli in Little Italy. Leah’s worked in Italy, and we finally meet Melissa Harrison, 28, sous chef. She has no idea about Italian cuisine. Patrick and Daniel get to go to Chinatown. Patrick is taking a chance on something he’s never used before: black rice noodles. He’s babbling to Daniel, and then Daniel clarifies something that I got wrong before. They’re not cooking in pairs. Each pair is going head to head. UGH that means I have to talk about 16 dishes after all. Daniel thinks this is dumb. Alex and Eugene are in Little India, where Eugene is in new territory and Alex is amused by the spices.

Inside and outside the Top Chef Kitchen they’ve tiled the walls, and put a mosaic of the logo in the middle of the walls. It reminds me of a subway station. Everyone marvels at the kitchen. 2 hours to cook. Jeff thinks he has a lot of time, time to do some more garnishes. We have some info on what people are doing, but I’m going to wait until the end. Hosea notices that Carla has bought whole trout, not trout filets like him, and she’s got a ton of pin bones to take out. Leah feels pretty confident, it seems, since Melissa has not much experience. Eugene is just trying to finish. Ariane is running out of time to cook her farro. Patrick is trying to prove himself, but he’s not satisfied with his noodles. Jeff hasn’t budgeted his time, and he has 3 minutes to plate something with 19 steps. He’s running around all over the place worse than Hung. And he doesn’t get done.

Did you know Ted won’t be back this season? I know! But he was taping his new Food Network show, which sadly, sucks ass. I’m sorry but all the stories I saw on his new show, I’ve either seen on “Mythbusters” or “Good Eats”. The judges come in: Jean-George Vongerichten (he is a very famous chef), Tom (introduced as head judge), and Gail. Stefan and Ariane are up first, with Middle Eastern. Ariane: cous cous-crusted rack of lamb, farro “risotto” and dates with chickpeas. Stefan: lamp chops with tabouli salad and a beef onion skewer, with some fennel seed and cinnamon as spices. Ariane’s lamb is great but her farro is undercooked. Stefan’s is excellent so he wins. Richard and Jamie, Greek. Richard works in a comment on how cute Tom is. He’s married, you know. Richard: lamb slider with orzo feta pasta salad. Jamie: eggplant puree, seared sea bass with wild arugula salad and Greek honey and olives. The lamb is overcooked, sadly, so Jamie wins. Jill and Radhika, Jamaican. Jill: macadamia crusted plantain fritters with jerk spiced scallops. Radhika: jerk rubbed halibut on three bean rice with mango salad. The fish and rice are too close in texture. The scallops are a little overcooked but Jill’s dish is declared better. Fabio and Jeff, Latin. Fabio: sous vide pork chop with mango and jalapeno demi-glace and mushroom and avocado salad. Jeff: coffee seared tenderloin, smoked plantain with black beans and rice. Fabio needs more salt, and his knife work is covered by other garnishes. Tom thinks the beans and rice weren’t very good, but he is outvoted and Jeff wins. Hosea and Carla, Russian. Hosea: smoked salmon with caviar and crème fraiche, smoked trout with apple chutney, and smoked turbo. Carla: smoked trout and wild salmon cake on a potato latke, with Russian sour cream and caviar. Her salad doesn’t have enough sauce, but Hosea nailed Russian cuisine and was “eloquent” so he wins. Leah and Melissa, Italian. Leah: farro risotto with seared red snapper and mushrooms. Melissa: seared rib eye, arugula salad, fried mushrooms and tomato sauce. Melissa needs salt and pepper, so Leah wins. Daniel and Patrick, Chinese. Daniel: ginger poached chicken salad with bok choy, shitake mushrooms, and fried wontons. And “honey sriracha scallion foam”. Patrick: seared salmon, bok choy, black rice noodles. Sadly the noodles are gummy and his flavors are one-note. Daniel’s salad is kind of soggy and they are bored with Chinese chicken salad. Daniel wins, barely. Alex and Eugene, Indian. Alex: grilled lamb chops, spicy ragout and basmati rice. Eugene: malasa rubbed lamb, basmati rice and tzatziki. Alex’s flavors aren’t too hot or over the top. However, Eugene, despite never having made Indian food before, has made what Padma labels curds and rice, one of the most classic dishes from South India. So he wins. Wow. Tom thinks that there was no one dish that was so horrible that it stuck out. But Chinatown stuck out as missing the mark. The judges go through pretty much everyone bad, but it‘s all the same things they just said.

In the Stew Room everyone sits in a semicircle talking about how they freaked out up there. Also how the judges apparently like things salty. Padma appears to collect Stefan, Eugene, and Leah, but also Patrick and Ariane from the losing group. Ariane says the last thing she wants is to go first. Except that Lauren already did. Patrick thinks he has more to overcome. All 5 of them get to go in at once.

Winners first. Leah captured “new” Italian cooking, and focused. Stefan’s dish had a lot going on, but it all worked together. Everything blended and complemented each other. Eugene had a delicious dish and hit Indian cuisine head on. Padma is all, no pressure, but 3 out of the 4 seasons the winner of the first challenge is the winner of the whole competition. (The exception would be Hung, if you were wondering.) Stefan wins. He is pleased, of course, and thinks it would be great if a European won “Top Chef” because it’s been all Americans so far. Well that would be because it’s AN AMERICAN SHOW. Duh. The winners get to leave Patrick and Ariane to the judges.

Ariane went shopping and looked for the things there were the most of, thinking those were popular. They nail her again about the farro being undercooked. Patrick’s dish was one-note and wasn’t really original. They wanted to see more “Chinatown” and more inspiration in his dish. Tom calls it “cliché” but yet “sanitized”. Tom tells them both to get out of their comfort zone and learn some new things. He asks Ariane what if someone asks you for a Middle Eastern meal, and she laughs that she has books to look at. Cut to Tom looking disgusted. Look, Tom, I don’t go to an Italian chef and ask them for Japanese food, OK? He gets on his high horse and says they don’t learn to cook from books. Whatever. Both Ariane and Patrick beg to stay and do better. They go back to the Stew Room and tell everyone that they don’t know who won. Everyone acts shocked, which…they always do that.

Patrick is a culinary student, and he lacks experience. Gail thinks he can’t handle doing things out of the box, on the fly. Ariane has 20 years of experience and should have known better. She had decent ingredients, but made a mistake on basic cooking techniques. Well that was a nice short deliberation.

Ariane’s technique was pretty poor, and she won’t win that way. Patrick lacks inspiration and he could have taken it further. Patrick is out. (Kmanpat: “Aww! He was cute.”) He announces this to everyone by telling Stefan he’ll have to make his own coffee tomorrow. He’s not very fazed since he’s just going to go back to culinary school and graduate.

This season: fire, plenty of arguing and arrogance, Martha Stewart! That almost makes up for seeing Rocco, again, no one wants you.


Anonymous said...

The best part of Top Chef is reading your summaries. Thank you!

Nanc Twop said...

'I notice that Tom is now listed in the credits as “Co-host” and not “Judge” or even “Head Judge”.'

How interesting indeed. Suppose that's why so many of the contestants adopted TomC's hairstyle?

This season: fire, plenty of arguing and arrogance, Martha Stewart!

Great! - bring on more re-caps! ;-)

Nanc TWoP

Anonymous said...

Actually, you're not that funny...and your writing kinda sucks. At many points in your review, you seem like an overly critical douche. Better recaps found on PrimeTime in No Time.

Anonymous said...

Since I am out of the country, it's good to find and read your summary of Top Chef Season 5. Thank you so much. I'm definitely gonna come back reading it. I'm a culinary school student in Argentina...I gotta study for mid-term!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the other anonymous. This is my first time reading your blog and it isn't funny. I didn't even crack a smile. To see samples of funny writing, visit the gay boys over at project rungay. Now that's funny.

Polgarra said...

Well, I have read your recaps for a while and I enjoy them. The recaps can't really get funny until we actually know who people are.

Geez, why do people go to all the effort to comment on blogs they don't like? I don't chase people down in the mall and tell them that I hate their outfit (though someone should tell people that Crocs are ugly)

Toyouke said...

Thanks Polgarra! I wonder if they'll be back next week reading the same unfunny blog?

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