Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Top Chef 12/17/08--"12 Days of Christmas" summary

Previously on Top Chef: the infamous tasting challenge had contestants tasting sauces and naming different ingredients. Sadly they were allowed to name things like salt. In spite of that, Hosea won himself immunity with his tongue (dirty!). The elimination challenge forced everyone to cater Gail’s wedding shower, and also to use the themes of “old”, “new”, “borrowed”, and “blue” just for our amusement. I thought the best use of the theme was the “old” team, who used heirloom tomatoes to make a trio of classic dishes: terrene, gazpacho, and carpaccio. But the “borrowed” team won because they made Indian food that was spiced just right, and Ariane did nothing but cook the meat and she still won. I get that the meat was perfect, and Jamie’s tantrum wasn’t very flattering, but it still seemed odd. Team “blue” was too boring, but the “new” team had very odd food that was unexplained, and everything Daniel did (like add mushrooms to Carla’s salad without her knowledge) made the dish worse. Then he refused to admit the dish was terrible, so the judges sent him home. Oh, and apparently Hosea and Leah are dating in real life, so that would explain the producers adding in Hosea last week saying that they are both involved and are just friends. (click for more)

You know, I just noticed this episode is called “12 Days of Christmas” but there are only 11 chefs left. What’s up with that, Bravo? You could have had another challenge like the 7 deadly sins dinner. Which I am totally doing when I get a bunch of money to hire awesome caterers. (Kmanpat: “As am I.”)

Ariane is feeling awesome because she’s won the past two challenges and she’s going to keep it simple. Eugene tells us he’s self taught and he knows how close he was to going home. Fabio and Stefan interview together about how they are “The Euros” and Stefan jokes about how he found a shoe up his ass this morning--is it Tom’s or Padma’s? Wasn’t Stefan on a winning team? Fabio wants to do better. He and Stefan are going to beat everyone else and then duke it out. Stefan carves a face in a watermelon. Hosea calls his sister and to ask about his dad, who was diagnosed with cancer right before he went on the show. Dad is doing OK. He wants to do well because this is something positive in his life.

The Top Chef kitchen is decorated for Christmas, despite people being in shorts and the fact that there is fruit everywhere so you know it’s the summertime. Padma greets everyone with “Happy Holidays!” and I think I detect eye-rolling. She tries to make them feel bad for the home cook who is trying to make a feast, etc. The Quickfire today is to make one of those feasts that can be cooked in one pot. Interesting. Radhika tells us she usually uses 10 pots to make one dish. The guest judge today is someone that knows something about one pot cooking oh and then MARTHA STEWART walks in! Woo! I mean, I knew she was going to be on, but still. And how many people feared for Rachel Ray right then? If anyone was going to make Christmas dinner in one pot, it’d be her. I would have had to throw the laptop at the TV. Leah describes her as “bad-ass”. “Bad-ass”? She tells them to make it simple but not too simple and she also loves one pot things.

Everyone gets 45 minutes to cook. Jamie is making scallops. Hosea is going to make paella. Jeff says some people are cooking something, then taking it out of the pot and making something else. He’s going to make potato risotto? I’m not sure. Ariane tells us that she makes cauliflower puree and let’s kids think it’s mashed potatoes. She and Jamie talk about how they are totally friends and Jamie doesn’t hate Ariane for winning last week. Jamie doesn’t even really say anything except that she thinks she’s more innovative than Ariane. Fabio was a bad boy when he was 6 (hee) so his grandmother made him stir polenta for hours to keep him out of trouble. Hee. Eugene has stew. See, to me “one pot” says that one pot gets dirty. Otherwise, why didn’t I just use multiple pans and cook everything at once? Stew, soup, something like that. Or a casserole.

Eugene: spicy Korean stew with pork and mushrooms, cilantro sour cream and won ton chips. Martha kind of is aloof. Stefan: veal Celtic goulash with potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms. He and Martha discuss mushrooms. This was really one pot. Hosea: paella with seafood, chicken and chorizo. Yum. It appears the chefs have to display their one pot next to their dish. Melissa: pork tenderloin with braised cabbage, apple, bacon, and orange and fennel salad. That sounds good but not one pot. Jeff: potato risotto with crispy pork and sautéed brussel sprouts. Lots of vinegar. The potatoes are cut small, like Arborio rice, which is why he called it “risotto“. Jamie: potato and kale stew with scallops and fried sage. Jamie pretends that scallops say “winter” for her and Martha starts talking about diving for scallops in Maine in January? I hope she is kidding and messing with Jamie. Ariane: cauliflower puree with herb rubbed filet mignon. She says you can make the puree beforehand. Carla: brined turkey breast with apple and dried cherry stuffing. Fabio: roasted mushroom polenta with seared duck breast. Yummy.

Martha calls out Jeff for having heavy starchy “risotto”, and also Eugene’s stew because it wasn’t as good as she wanted it to be and she didn’t like that he used cornstarch to thicken it. He didn’t have time to do it properly, though. And isn’t risotto starchy by definition? Fabio’s polenta was grayish and she didn’t like it either. He’s not happy. The paella was really one pot and tasted good, Jamie’s scallop was perfect (I guess Martha wasn’t kidding) and Ariane’s beef was cooked well and the puree was smooth and rich tasting. Winner gets an autographed copy of one of her books, and she presents it to Ariane. Jamie pouts again. I…just don’t get why they love her. I mean, I don’t think she is horrid, but I don’t get why she’s always winning.

Elimination challenge! Martha leaves so I guess she won’t be guest judge. Sad. The contestants will be catering a dinner for amfAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Hors d’oeuvres for 300 guests. Padma is calling in help, which appears as the Harlem Gospel Choir. Kick ass. The looks on the contestants’ faces are hilarious, because everyone is like, WTF? Except Carla. They have to draw knives for the theme. Stefan draws “12” and one of the gospel singers sings “12 drummers drumming” and Stefan is like, um…OK. No. No, they are not. Are they? Did I totally call the theme? As each person draws a knife someone sings the corresponding line from the song. I did call the theme. So which one is missing? How can you do this theme and leave out one line of the song?!?!?! Natasha Richardson and Michelle Bernstein will be guest judging. They’ll have 3 hours to prep. Carla cannot compute.

HAHAHAHA the Top Chef video game. (Kmanpat: “Don’t you own the Hell’s Kitchen game?” Me: ”…Only because I thought Ramsey would curse at me. Also, shut up.”)

They’ve got $800 for shopping. Carla (2) kind of freaks out. Hosea (11) is walking around in shorts so I know it’s not winter in New York. He’s smoking something. Protein, I mean, not smoking other substances. Jeff (10) wants to find frog legs but he’s having trouble doing it. Somehow he’s doing cheese or something. I believe it’s Greek cheeses and he’s thinking island hopping. Stefan (12) wants to do chicken pot pie? For 12 drummers drumming? His first Christmas in America he had pot pie, so that’s what he associates with Christmas. Leah (3) is keeping it safe with seared hens. Fabio (9) can’t think of what to do with ladies dancing that is somehow food related and his thought process is dancingàlegsàcrab. Ariane (6) also has it easy, like Leah, so she’s thinking of deviled eggs with 6 different toppings.

For some reason a lot of people have bought flowers, so I guess they had to get decorations too. 3 hours to prep and get everything ready. Jamie (7) is making scallops. Melissa (8) has toast points, steak, and cheese. Radhika (1) has duck instead of partridge. And chutney. Eugene (5) is making ceviche, Tahitian style, on top of pineapple rings. He thinks he’ll go home if he doesn’t do a good job. Hosea smokes up the kitchen with his pork because there’s a lot of marinade. Jeff has a lot of steps and prep work, so he feels superior. There are a lot of people working and shoving things in the fridge. Hosea notes that a lot of people are putting hot food in the refrigerators, which you’re not supposed to do but because of the time crunch they’re all doing it. That sounds ominous.

In case you were wondering, the day that is missing is day 4, calling birds. Which is an easy one, because you can get some quail. I can’t decide if eliminating an easy one is sad or not. One week earlier, Bravo. Way to screw that up.

In the morning Fabio is writing a story about his dish, and Hosea teases him about it. Hosea is pretty confident. Once they get to the kitchen, cursing ensues because one of the fridges has been left open overnight. Hosea has to throw out his pork, which is 70 degrees. All of Radhika’s duck is bad too. Damn. Jamie promises to help Radhika, who is freaking out and crying. Melissa’s cheese melted, but that’s all she had in there, and she’s found some more. Carla and Eugene are determined to help Hosea and Radhika, who are finding other meat from the kitchens and scrambling. Jamie talks about the “Christmas spirit”. Even Stefan helps, because that’s what you do in a kitchen and he doesn’t want to beat people because the fridge broke. That was nice of everyone. Good thing the Top Chef pantry was well stocked.

The poll this week is: Who would you want to get caught under the mistletoe with? Ariane, Fabio, Leah, or Jeff. OK, so I don’t see two very important answers, which are Tom and Padma, because you know there are a lot of people who want to answer one of those right now. I personally will answer Hosea. (Kmanpat: *singing* “Long have I waited for your coming home to me...”)

Everyone gets to the venue and starts setting up and cooking on hot plates. Radhika is relieved that her duck is cooked. People start to appear and schmooze. Stefan lusts after the judges. Natasha Richardson says a few words and then asks everyone to pin their red ribbons by their favorite dish.

Stefan: creamy chicken pot pie with English peas, white asparagus, thyme and parsley. It looks like the filling on a plate, with a round biscuit of puff pastry on top as the drum. With drumsticks inside, har har. Actually that’s not a bad interpretation of that theme. Everyone likes it. Radhika: braised duck leg with toasted brioche, pear chutney and toasted pistachios. Radhika likes this dish, and a lot of other people seem to like it too. Carla: braised chicken with duxelles and a mushroom cap. She says the mushroom cap is like the back of the turtle. It’s kind of salty and one note. Carla notices Kenneth Cole and jokes about shoes. Note to future contestants: mushroom duxelles doesn’t usually go over well. Eugene: poisson cru (the Tahitian ceviche) with a pineapple ring and a gold Yukon potato chip. He’s got a whole story about people sailing the islands and that being called “the golden ring”. The judges complain that it’s very sweet and they doubt that he tasted it. Fabio: sweet corn and roasted pepper crab cake, with chipotle and lime aioli and coleslaw. He tells the judges that the female crabs dance around their eggs to bury them in sand. They think it’s greasy and dense. Jamie: crudo (raw salad) of sea scallops “swimming” in vichyssoise with lemon agrumato (olive oil), leeks, and micro greens. Oo, it’s raw and not cold. Someone calls it slimy.

Melissa: gorgonzola and NY strip steak on sourdough crostini with cranberry vinaigrette. All you can taste is the cheese. Leah: braised guinea hen with butternut squash puree over puff pastry. The puff pastry is too dry and it drags it down. Ariane: deviled eggs 6 ways. Crab salad, smoked salmon and dill, roasted pepper, balsamic and basil, crispy caper, and traditional. I think those are the six; she read them off pretty fast. They are good, but Tom and Padma are confused and kind of insulted that she’d try to win with deviled eggs. Hosea: smoked pork loin with chipotle mashed potatoes and apple brandy jus. Everyone really likes it. People are pinning ribbons all over the board and table and Hosea’s sleeves. Leah is jealous. Jeff: seared halloumi and kasseri cheeses with roasted beets, pears, mint, and spices. There is a big line and it seems to be just as popular as Hosea’s. everyone discusses their favorites. The judges do acknowledge that the chefs had a hard time, with the time constraint and not working in teams. Everyone has some champagne and toasts “Merry Christmas“.

Padma comes to collect Hosea, Radhika, Jeff, and Stefan. Interesting that the two people most screwed by the warm fridge are among the best. Radhika lets the judges in on the situation this morning. Her duck legs were juicy enough to stand up to the toast. Stefan’s pot pie was done well, without mushy vegetables, although it might have been a little better with sausage or something. Jeff’s table got a lot of ribbons. He might have used less cheese, but the mixture of spices and nuts was memorable. Hosea was less pleased with the pork loin he had to use, but he was still happy with it. Natasha announces that the person who got the most ribbons, and the judges’ choice, is Hosea. Yay! He’s very pleased to have come back from disaster. He wins Michelle Bernstein’s new book, although, since everyone pitched in to help him and Radhika, she’s giving her new book to everyone. He says he couldn’t have done it without everyone else.

The Loser Gong brings in Eugene, Melissa, and Jamie. Jamie liked her dish, although her scallops were lukewarm. Everything was, and since the scallop was supposed to be raw, it needed to be ice cold. Jamie scrambles and says she was in the weeds, and thought everything was on ice for long enough. Michelle tells her that if she had seared her scallop, it would have been a nice contrasting texture and not as slimy. Tom thinks she should have done ceviche. Melissa’s dish only tasted like cheese, not steak nor cranberry, and it was also room temperature so it just coated your tongue. Melissa said she had lots of people come back for seconds and thirds, but Padma tells her that she had one of the lowest numbers of ribbons. Eugene’s dish was very sweet, and you could only taste coconut and sweet. He responds that he didn’t even put sugar into the batch that the judges got, and that it tasted tart to him. Tom retorts that with the coconut and the pineapple, the fish never had a chance. Eugene still keeps on about how he stands behind his dish 1000%, but then we find that he only got 8 ribbons (out of 300 guests). Maybe possibly something is wrong. He needed to fix it if people didn’t like it.

Michelle really didn’t like Jamie’s scallop. She should have seared it. Eugene refuses to see that his dish wasn’t good, and refuses to try to fix it. And we know that Daniel went home for that last week. Melissa’s dish was all cheese, although her cranberry sauce was a good idea. It just wasn’t made well. Sadly all the food was kind of sub-par and Tom didn’t think any of the dishes were worth seconds. He wants to talk to everyone so the people who didn’t get called out will also know what’s going on. Natasha reminds everyone that they all stepped up to help Hosea and Radhika, so that would be something to keep in mind.

Everyone is hanging out in the Stew Room when Tom walks in. Everyone looks freaked out. He sits down and says that no one’s food was inspiring and everyone has to step up. Cook the food that you think will make you win. Leah tells him that although not amazing, no one’s food sucked. Except that Tom wants them to make amazing food, not throwaway dishes. Leah responds, “Like mine?” and Tom says, basically, yeah. Everyone needs to focus on what will get them the win. Because everyone pulled together to help Hosea and Radhika out, and “in the spirit of the holidays”, no one is going home. There is no reaction, which I think just shows how exhausted everyone is.

Next week: Tom comes into the apartments and tells them no limit today: cook whatever you want. Gail is gone and the new judge is pretty harsh. Jamie makes scallops and someone mocks her for always making scallops, but they obviously never watched the Miami season.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update--I totally fell asleep before the end of the show!!

David Dust said...

I agree - I would have gotten ill if Rachel Ray walked in instead of Martha. Nice recap!

CLICK HERE for David Dust's Top Chef recap.