Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Top Chef 12/3/08--"Today Show" summary

Previously on Top Chef: There was a “Thanksgiving” challenge that I’m sure took place in June or something. But before that it was a Quickfire that encouraged everyone to use the Top Chef Cookbook. Initially I laughed because I own that cookbook and I’m pretty sure you can’t make anything in there in only an hour. The best part is where they stopped everyone and the guest judge said, “I feel like soup,” in a totally non-chalant offhand way that was hilarious. Better than if they made Padma present the twist all serious. The only way it would be better is if they had the judge say, “We would prefer soup” with the royal “we”. The elimination challenge wasn’t that interesting (except that the Foo Fighters are actually, in real life, huge “Top Chef“ fans), although when I saw the outdoor “kitchen” I immediately shouted “Dinner: Impossible!” Robert Irvine would have been all over that. Adriane redeemed herself with her turkey but Richard’s banana s’mores weren’t very good so he was sent home. I personally always burn my marshmallows until they are totally black when I make s’mores, so I understand completely. Sorry there was no recap last week but I was at home eating comfort food. Oh, also I believe there was the coining of a new word: “parfail”. I’m pretty sure that came up. (click for more)

Ariane is pretty pleased to have redeemed herself and she’s hoping to keep it that way. Alex is missing his roommate Richard. Richard left him a note, which he reads aloud to Jamie and Carla. Everyone cries. The note consists of promising that Richard is his friend and also eff everyone else. Jamie has made a rainbow bracelet in honor of Team Rainbow, which no longer exists except for her.

The first thing I see when everyone arrives for the Quickfire is that bastard Rocco DiSpirito. He is like, a Jeff-Lewis-on-“Top-Design” level of annoying famewhore. Fabio makes me love him by reminding us that Rocco isn’t really Italian. The implication is that Fabio is inherently better. Padma kisses his ass as she introduces him. Then she says it’s time for breakfast, which makes me think of CJ and crepes. (Kmanpat: “CJ…*sigh*”) Jamie never eats breakfast and is mentioning Chef Boyardee. Never? Never ever? Their task is to make a breakfast amuse bouche. Actually, that’s pretty cool. They have 30 minutes and then Rocco will pick the winner. He says he loves bacon, and Padma says that everyone loves bacon. Yes they do.

Stefan says something but I can’t understand him at all. He’s taking the tops off quail eggs so I guess that’s what he was talking about. Jeff thinks this will be the only breakfast challenge they’ll have so he’s trying to do as much as he can. That…isn’t the point of an amuse bouche. Daniel has zucchini flowers and cornflakes, which is probably tasty but doesn’t make me think of breakfast. Ariane has stuffed French toast. Fabio says he loves brioche, fruit, and cappuccino for breakfast. That would be a good breakfast. Especially with Fabio. (Kmanpat: “Oo, Fabio can make brioche and CJ can make crepes!“) Melissa breaks her yolk. It looks like Carla doesn’t finish.

Melissa: French toast with eggs, strawberries, and bacon. Rocco loves it. Stefan: huevos rancheros, served in a quail egg. It looks cool. Radhika: potato cake with a poached egg and hollandaise. They don’t even put up a chyron. Daniel: the zucchini flower has potato bacon hash inside, with cornflake crust. The cornflakes are too sweet. Ariane: stuffed French toast, which is a pretty big piece for an amuse bouche. But it tastes good. Jamie: bacon, lettuce, and tomato breakfast sandwich with a poached egg. Rocco loves the layers. Leah complains that an amuse is supposed to be one bite and some people (like Jamie) have bigger portions. Jamie even has two bites! Gasp! Seriously, it’s not like Clay and the apple. Leah: bacon, quail egg, and cheese, with grilled bread. Padma says it’s the perfect size, and Leah brown-noses, all, well you said it was an amuse so I tried to make it one bite. That’s not going to make you friends, correct as it is. Fabio: brioche with bruleed banana and espresso cream. He says that too much bacon weighs you down, but the espresso cream is heavy, retorts Padma. Jeff: twice baked potato with bacon, and also yogurt sorbet. Rocco clarifies that these are two dishes, and Jeff is all…um…yes. He interviews that each one separately is one bite but together it’s too much.

Rocco of course lords it over everyone and says only a few people got both breakfast and amuse bouche together. Daniel’s cornflakes were overpowering. Fabio’s dish was too sweet, and Fabio knows he should have listened to the clue of “everyone loves bacon.” He says next time he’ll make some toast and put some BS with bacon and some eggs and he’ll probably be in the top 3. Stefan’s was more than one bite but the egg was perfect. Leah had the perfect bite. Padma leads him and asks if there is anyone else, and eventually Rocco says that Jamie’s was delicious also. He tells everyone that if he could pick two, he’d pick Jamie and Leah, but since he has to pick one he picks Leah. Somehow she wins a present, but it’s only a copy of his book so whatever. Jamie is pissed not to win, while Leah doesn’t want to embarrass herself.

Padma reminds everyone that they need to let people know about themselves, so that more people are aware of them and come try their food. Their Elimination challenge, therefore, is to show how they’d like to introduce themselves and their food to millions of television viewers. Oh, you mean like being on a competition reality show on a cable network? I know what’s coming, but seriously, that was the most irrelevant lead-in to this challenge. They must make a 2 ½ minute presentation, suitable for a live television spot. They’ll do their presentation one at a time for the judges in the kitchen. Winning has new major advantages. The recipe should be easy, so home cooks can make it, and they’ll be judged both on presentation and flavors. Fabio is understandably nervous.

Their budget is $100. Fabio heads straight for the tuna, and he somehow finangles his way behind the counter to cut it himself. Eugene is headed for an easy sushi recipe, and he also gets behind the counter to cut up fish. Hosea follows him. Can you do that? I mean, in real life, not when you’re being followed around by cameras and sound guys. Alex is proud of himself because he’s doing dessert, and he thinks he might almost get a free pass, simply because there’s no one to compare him to.

1 hour for prep. That’s all? Melissa is wondering if she has enough time to actually cook in her spot. Jeff has shrimp…something, I didn’t understand him. These guys have to make swap out dishes and I’m not sure they know how. Fabio doesn’t think Alex has enough time in an hour to make his crème brulee. Jamie’s been on TV before so she’s making the same thing she did before: frisee salad with a poached egg. She ominously says that the most important thing is to make sure that the egg gets cooked completely in her 2.5 minutes. Leah’s at a loss, but she’s making seared duck breast with blueberries. Radhika has shrimp, and she’s thinking a lot about her personality. Carla’s cooking soup. Ariane is making salad with tomatoes and watermelon, nice and simple. Daniel’s dreams are like Bobby Flay’s dreams. He’s making steak. If his goal is to be like Bobby Flay then why isn’t he on “Next Food Network Star”?

All the judges appear and hover around Ariane to stare at her. She stumbles over her introduction, and she doesn’t make that much eye contact. Her beefsteak tomato salad with watermelon and feta looks delicious though. Jamie: bitter greens salad with a poached duck egg, bacon lardoons, and caviar. She takes her egg out and realizes it’s not quite set up around the yolk. Her choices are to take it out now or go over her time limit so she takes the egg out of the pan. Judges have to scrape off the uncooked part. Oops. Alex: rose infused crème brulee. He fumbles a lot and runs out of time. As they taste the judges are shaking their heads, since it’s not set. Jeff: malfouf roll with shrimp and muhammara sauce. Everyone pretends like they have no idea what he’s talking about. Basically it looks like a lettuce leaf with shrimp inside and a red sauce. Fabio points out that you are supposed to aim for the TV audience, which you can assume doesn’t have any idea what muhammara sauce is. He makes tuna with roasted carrots and asparagus salad. Adorably he tells Padma he is “fresh out of the boat.“

Daniel: ginger soy skirt steak with cabbage salad. The pan is so hot and there is so much smoke Tom offers to call the fire department. There is a selection of Jersey boy catchphrases to end his segment. Stefan: minestrone soup with pancetta and herbs. He doesn’t talk at all. Hosea: crispy ahi tuna roll with wasabi peas. Interesting. Eugene: tuna sashimi and pea shoot salad. Rocco quizzes him on the difference between sushi and sashimi and Eugene fumbles with “Sushi…it all depends on what kind of sushi you like.” (In case you were wondering, sushi always has vinegared rice, while sashimi is served alone. I think he says “riceless“ at first, when asked if he‘s serving sushi or sashimi.) Melissa: blackened habanero shrimp. She admits they’re hot, and Tom has to spit it out. Even Padma says they‘re hot, and I nearly died from making a chutney recipe from her cookbook. Carla: tortilla soup, but she runs out of time. Radhika: sweet shrimp and cucumber salad. She runs out of time too. Leah: duck breast with corn and blueberry hash. Padma points out to her that if this had really been live TV, they would have only had corn and blueberry salad to eat. I guess they were allowed to finish the dishes for the judges. Leah admits she’d never want to do live television, and both Tom and Padma reply, “Uh…you may have to.” Leah’s head immediately snaps up and she looks on the judges in horror as she gasps, “We’re doing live television!?!?” OK, not really, but that was pretty obvious on the judges’ part. Especially with the twists they get on this show.

Jamie was disappointing, because the egg was raw, not even runny. Leah’s immunity is saving her butt right now. Alex made a silly choice and it didn’t work. Carla made Rocco uncomfortable in some way but her dish was good. Daniel was kind of a mess but he was personable and the dish was tasty. Tom didn’t like his mugging for the camera. Cut to Daniel mugging for the camera in the Stew Room. Everyone is back there talking about who finished, who didn’t finish, etc. Stefan did OK, and even had a swap out, but his personality was not there. Melissa’s shrimp were very spicy and likely wouldn’t be asked back. Jeff’s dish was pulled together and he was on time. Everyone loves Fabio, who made fun of his accent. Ariane was perfect, according to Tom. The judges reach some agreement, which they are purposely vague about.

Padma announces the bottom 3 to the group: Melissa, Alex, and Jamie. The top 3 are Jeff, Fabio, and Ariane. Then Padma says she’ll see them at Judges’ Table tomorrow, since it’s late. NO ONE QUESTIONS THIS. OK, seriously? Is everyone brain dead? Because you KNOW they always do judging that same night, even if it’s 3am and everyone is slap-happy. OH this bugs me.

Back at the apartment Jamie goes right to bed to cry herself to sleep. No really, that’s what she says she did. Alex defends himself by asking the room “Should I have pussied out and done a salad?” Mind you, there are salad makers listening to him. He’s quite proud of his risk taking. Ariane rolls her eyes and says she was smart and she doesn’t care anyway because her food was good. Someone points out that Alex seems happy to leave because he’s going home to get married, and he agrees, saying that this competition isn’t his life. Leah doesn’t think his head is in the game. She tells Melissa to fight for herself, since Alex doesn’t seem to care as much. Melissa interviews that “the scariest thing about failing is failing.” Yep.

At 2am Tom ventures into the apartments to wake people up. Sadly he does not use pots to do so, because he is only waking up Ariane, Jeff, and Fabio. The latter two sleep shirtless so as to provide us with our eye candy for the day. These three come into the kitchen, where Tom tells them the hosts of the Today Show will be judging their dishes and choosing a winner. Everyone is quite pleased (where did Ariane get coffee?) and Tom informs them they’re headed to NBC studios to cook, and then the winner will be chosen live on the air.

So a 3am these three are the Sea Grill restaurant which is right next to the studios, and they get to work. Jeff is pissed off because he has to serve “a Middle Eastern flavored roll, to a bunch of ladies, with unsophisticated palates, at 6:37am.” Wah. Where did they get more ingredients? Ariane interviews that the old lady is coming. The food stylist for the Today Show comes to collect everyone.

Meanwhile everyone in the apartment is waking up to find some contestants missing. Thoughtfully they’ve set up a TV in the living room for everyone. In the green room the top 3 are watching the show and getting more nervous by the moment. Tom gets to be on the show, explaining the set up and whatnot. This is how they kept a lid on spoilers: only Tom is actually on TV. Meredith hates watermelon, so I guess she just eats tomatoes. No one says much of anything. Fabio is up next, and he doesn’t know what is going on, but it seems good. Jeff’s dish starts out good, but then Kathy Lee starts making faces and then goes over to the sink to spit it out. Oh, that’s bad. The hosts huddle up as if they aren’t all miked, and eventually they pick Ariane’s dish. She’s jumping up and down all excited, even though the boys aren’t terribly thrilled, she thinks because she took the “easy” route with a salad. Hey, Rocco said to do something easy.

For no apparent reason, the top 3 have to show up at judging so that everyone can give them praise. Rocco gifts Ariane with around 2 dozen tools and gadgets from Rocco, and she also finds out that tomorrow, she’ll be cooking a dish live on the Today Show. She had to wait of course, because of the spoilers.

The bottom 3 come in to face the judges. How many people thought the bottom three would be the ones thrown into the fire on live TV? I did too. Melissa knows her shrimp might have been too spicy, but she insists she tasted it. Rocco tells her it was inedible, and Gail doesn’t think home cooks should be messing with habaneros. Jamie got frazzled, and chose finishing on time over cooking the egg. Tom gives her the solution: flip the egg. Jamie kind of interrupts them to tell them she knows what she did wrong, and Rocco gets on her case about her closed body language. Whatever. Alex thought the easiest way to get to the top would be to do something different, but he chose the wrong dish. He wanted to push himself, and he thinks that’s the point of the competition, but Tom fires back that the point is to win. He set himself up for failure by trying something new. Padma asks if anyone has anything to add, and Melissa pipes up that she wants to be here more than anything. Padma asks her if that’s why she shouldn’t go home. Uh, duh. She’s only ever wanted to be here, and Tom asks if that means that someone else doesn’t want to be here. But she hedges that she’s only talking about herself. Alex says he’s better than what he’s shown them, and he’s a good cook. Jamie doesn’t get to talk.

Rocco starts off by declaring that everyone’s dishes were terrible so they all fail. Tom thinks that Jamie’s egg was pretty close to being good, but Rocco immediately disagrees. I think it was close too, in that technically you can eat raw eggs. Rocco is very adamant about how everyone sucks, like Melissa’s spice and how Jamie had bad body language. This coming from a man who had a reality show, in which his staff asked on a daily basis where he was and why he wasn’t in his own restaurant. Melissa is in the Stew Room talking about how she made it clear that other people don’t want to be here, and Alex realizes finally that she’s throwing him under the bus. But it’s too late for him to say anything. Gail knows Alex could never have made his dish in one hour. His presentation was fine, but he didn’t make crème brulee.

Over in the corner Leah and Hosea roughhouse and snuggle. Carla doesn’t think it’s serious, just a sexual chemistry. Hosea writes on Leah with a sharpie, two H‘s and a heart, I think. Again, this is a stupid commercial length clip. Are they dating now and you had cut all the clips but now you feel the need to add them back in so you hid them in the commercials?

Melissa’s dish was way too spicy, Alex chose the wrong dish to cook and didn’t complete the task, and Jamie gave them a raw egg and then was standoffish. Alex is out. He doesn’t say anything, just leaves. He only regrets not sticking with his instincts and not making crème brulee. He’s got other things to think about, and he’s not 100% present in this competition.

Next week: Gail’s bridal shower. Everyone freaks out, Fabio charms all the ladies, someone disappoints.

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