Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Top Chef 1/28/09--"Super Bowl Chef Showdown" summary

Previously on Top Chef: Restaurant Wars was the usual mix of excellent food and disappointing front of house work. Leah and Radhika both ended up in charge of restaurants, but somehow Radhika’s team convinces her to work in the front instead of cooking. As a result, Radhika didn’t make a single dish IN HER OWN RESTAURANT. Seriously. So the judges yelled at her for not being a leader and sent her home. They also yelled at her for not doing a good job of being front of house. Lee Anne’s blog notes that the two restaurants were responsible for their own scheduling, and Radhika’s team for some reason had tables scheduled for 11pm. One was Lee Anne’s friend (the girl with the drink asking when her table will be ready). They didn’t get seated until 11:40, then Radhika told them they only had 20 minutes to eat, THEN she bitched about how hard it is to be on the show. To which I can only say: Wow. Oh, but of course, there was better drama to concentrate on. Hosea and Leah hooked up, and then felt guilty, and since they were on the same team they got all weird and Fabio and Stefan kind of rolled their eyes and hoped they didn’t lose because of it. Hosea wrote in to Bravo and apologized. I find that I side more with him on this that Leah, mostly because I find Leah annoying and also at the beginning of the season she said she has to have a boyfriend all the time. And I don’t like people like that. (click for more)

Also, tonight’s episode is “super sized”. Why are we getting so many of those now? Is Bravo that hard pressed for money? Because most of the extra 15 minutes ends up being ads, and then when they show their endless reruns they have to cut it back down to an hour. There’s no point.
Carla is feeling super lucky for not going home. She insists she’s classically trained but she hasn’t been using that at all. Leah starts talking about Hosea, and all of a sudden now they were drunk, and they only kissed one time, and it’s not going to happen again. See, this is why I side with Hosea. He said, I screwed up, it was wrong, I ruined my relationship, and now everyone will think not of my cooking but that I cheated on my girlfriend and that sucks. It feels like he had fewer excuses. Hosea kind of wants to see Stefan go down since he just won.

Padma introduces Scott Conant, who does Italian food and just opened a 3-star restaurant. Nice. Then Padma is all, “As you know, the Super Bowl is just around the corner” and I had to pause because I was laughing. Padma, we all know it’s June. Let’s stop with this nonsense. They are playing football squares? There’s a big chalkboard with a grid on it. Along the top are ingredients, and down the side are food groups, but they won’t know what any of them say until after they pick squares. And then they’ll have to make something from those two items, I guess. It’s like a football pool, where you pick the final score of the game and one team’s possible scores are along the top and the other team is down the side. They should have made this a dart board. Jamie has to work with fruits. They are supposed to pick any square, but it looks like they can’t duplicate each other, because Padma is revealing food groups as they go. So if Jamie is in the first row, no one else can be. Fabio gets vegetables and says there’s no reason to eat vegetables when there’s meat around. (Kmanpat: “I’ll say!”) Padma begins to reveal ingredients from the top…I’ll save you the suspense. Everyone gets oats. I hope they have some real oats. Ever had real oatmeal made with steel cut oats? It takes like an hour to cook but then you can refrigerate it and reheat portions all week, with buttermilk and brown sugar. It’s chewy and so much better than instant. Carla labels herself “the oat girl”, and then Padma disappoints me because it’s a [product placement] oats challenge. You can guess which product. No one will get immunity for winning, but they will get an advantage.

45 minutes to cook. There’s not only instant oatmeal, but old fashioned oats (which are rolled, so, one step up from instant) and also oatmeal square cereal (surprisingly fantastic), granola bars, those oatmeal “on-the-go” squares (nasty), basically all oatmeal products from [product placement oat company]. Jamie has fruit and oats, but she refuses to do a dessert. Hosea is making wiener schnitzel. He’ll eat that any day of the week. Jeff is getting violent with the chicken. Of course, he’s doing a million things. Carla says he can’t quiet the creative monkeys. Leah is at a loss, because she’s got fish again. Hosea laughs that she’d better make sure she cooks the fish this time. Stefan is good to go. Carla is doing a “pasta method” which I think means adding the oats to water that’s boiling instead of cold water.

Stefan: banana mousse with oats and oat almond petit four. I think he had dairy. Fabio: (vegetables) oat crusted eggplant with corn parmesan salad. It looks like a granola bar, the crust is so thick. Carla: (nuts and grains) pecan and oat crusted tofu with oatmeal and lentil salad. Aren’t oats a grain? So isn’t that redundant? Jamie: (fruit) coconut and oat crusted shrimp, nectarine salsa, and avocado crème fraiche. Hosea: (meat) oat crusted wiener schnitzel, warm potato salad, mustard sauce. Leah: (seafood), oat crusted branzino and mussels with escarole and bacon. Jeff: (poultry) oat crusted chicken paillard, grits, and fried zucchini.

Leah didn’t execute her idea properly, because she overcooked her fish. Hee. And the bacon clashed. Fabio’s crust was too thick. And Jeff’s plate was all brown and heavy. And I just noticed that everyone except Stefan just crusted something with oats. Boring. Anyways, on to the praise. Carla brought everything together, Jamie cooked the shrimp perfectly, and Stefan had great textures and it was simple. Stefan wins. He tells us that he’s won 5 challenges in a row. Wow, he has. Dang.

Padma tells them to go check out their surprise in the Stew Room while they set up the kitchen. I would be really nervous, but Fabio thinks it’s a dog. There are baseball jerseys with everyone’s name and the number 5 on the back. Woo. Actually, they’re chef jackets. Leah has to be told why they say 5. Now they think they are cooking for football players. There are helmets in the kitchen, different teams and different piles of ingredients. Fabio says he probably has to cook something, but he wishes his challenge would be to put one of the helmets on and “knock somebody off”. Padma introduces the “Top Chef Bowl” and says first they need to meet the opposition. Someone has covered the pantry entryway with paper, so that the All-Stars can come busting through, yelling and carrying on. Props to whoever thought of that, that was hilarious. Andrew (season 4), Josie (2), Andrea (1), Spike (4), Camille (3), Nikki (4), Miguel (1) aka Chunk la Funk! Jamie kind of freaks out.

They’ll have head to head battles, one season 5 contestant against an All-Star. They’re not calling them All-Stars, but All-Star is easier to say that “past contestant”. Each pairing will be making foods that are associated with an NFL team’s home town. This should be good. Sadly, the piles of ingredients are pre-sorted so they don’t have to figure it out on their own. Stefan gets to pick his team (and therefore city) and also his opponent. He picks Dallas and Andrea. Andrea? The girl that got kicked off second and only got back on because someone’s dad was dying? Fabio knows he did it because he wanted an easy challenge. Everyone else gets 5 minutes to discuss with the team who is taking which city. Fabio has no idea what’s going on.

Miami: Jeff vs. Josie. I hope she kicks his ass. Green Bay: Fabio vs. Spike. Fabio ended up with Green Bay because that’s the one no one wanted. Seattle: Hosea vs. Miguel. New York: Leah vs. Nikki. San Francisco: Jamie vs. Camille. New Orleans: Carla vs. Andrew. Carla is thrilled because she loves Andrew just like us. Tomorrow they’ll compete in front of an audience and have 20 minutes to cook. That‘s not much time at all. Anyone from this season who loses will be up for elimination. Padma gives them 2 hours to look over their ingredients and plan what they’ll make. It looks like some people (Jamie and Jeff, at least) got the cities they work in, so that should be interesting.

Jamie knew she’d get crap from everyone if she didn’t pick San Francisco, but now she has no idea what to do. Carla is like, now you know how I feel all the time. It looks like they’re cooking now, so I guess they can prep? No, Jeff says they’re testing. Josie used to play professional football. I missed her. There is little trash talk, sadly. Spike still has his asshat. So if you, like me, were wondering what Green Bay’s regional cuisine was if not cheese, venison counts. Carla says she wants to make gumbo, in 20 minutes. Andrew says he will pee on Season 5’s bodies if they don’t bring their A game. Oh, I missed Andrew. Hosea lights something on fire and Leah is reaching over and he almost lights her on fire. Nikki is ready to take on Leah. Andrea says she lies to people that she’s a vegetarian, because everyone thinks she is. Stefan confirms Fabio’s assumption that he picked Andrea for an easy win.

Commercial interlude: Spike ties the Green Bay flag on like a cape and wanders around bothering people. Fabio threatens to kick his ass. Spike is all, Season 5 is not worthy, they should have just ended with season 4, like, thanks for sharing, PERSON WHO DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE FINALS. He puts on the helmet and tries to tackle Fabio. Dang, I thought that was Andrew goofing around.

Morning arrives, and Hosea wants their season to win, but he knows the most important thing is for him to beat Miguel. Fabio complains about being 30 years old and sleeping in “the bunky bed”. Hee. (Kmanpat: “I’ll sleep in the bunky bed!”) I must point out that he and Jeff both appear to sleep topless. I’ll sleep in the bunky bed too. Fabio wants to win for his mom who is sick. Carla is meditating, looks like, but Stefan is an ass and interrupts her to ask her if she’s meditating. She wants to win and gain some momentum.

They are at the Institute of Culinary Education, where there are many football fans and also Padma in a ref’s stripes. Here are the rules: each pair will cook head to head. The judges’ vote will score a touchdown, while the fan vote will score a field goal. Heh, everyone has foam fingers. Toby better wear his.

Leah vs. Nikki, round one. The eliminated chefs from this season have front row seats. That’s a nice touch. Leah is feeling cocky. Nikki: chicken livers with onions and goat cheese on toasted challah. Leah: NY strip steak with creamed corn, snap peas, and arugula salad. The judges go 3-1 for Leah (Toby goes for Nikki) but the fan tasters go 3-2 for Nikki. 7-3 season 5.

Hosea vs. Miguel. Miguel tries to trash talk Hosea, who deftly dodges and then says he wants Miguel to like him so it won’t hurt as bad when Hosea wins. Heh. Miguel: cedar plank salmon with noodles and mushrooms. Hosea: crispy salmon roll with ginger-blackberry sauce. Tom is the only one to go for Miguel, along with one lone fan taster. 17-3 season 5.

Backstage Andrew and Spike taunt the live crayfish, until Josie gets involved and it pinches her. Sigh. Carla vs. Andrew. Andrew puts on a super fake Southern accent. Hey, none of the judges are wearing their foam fingers. Lame. Andrew: crawfish crudo with spicy lime vinaigrette. Carla: crawfish and andouille gumbo with stone-ground grits. How she did gumbo in 20 minutes who knows. Somehow all 4 judges pick her, but Andrew wins the fans over. 24-6 season 5.

Stefan vs. Andrea. He gives her a kiss for good luck and I think he is smitten. In interview he says to call him. That…is such a random pairing that it just might work. Andrea: Tex-Mex chili with fried corn chips and guacamole coleslaw. Stefan: roasted pork with coleslaw, and NY strip steak with corn salad. The judges tie 2-2, so whoever the fans pick will get all 10 points. And every single fan picks Andrea. Holy crap. 24-16 season 5, AND Stefan is the first person up for elimination. Backstage season 5 freaks out so badly that no one even gloats that they might be rid of Stefan. Andrew makes fun of Stefan in a Hans and Franz accent. Oh, wait, there’s Hosea being glad he’s been knocked down a peg.

Jamie vs. Camille. Jamie pronounces “cioppino” in a way I never heard in the 18 years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then she sneers at Camille’s flavor combination. Camille: miso sweet potato mash with mustard crab meat and herb salad. Jamie: crab cioppino with olives, basil, and toasted sourdough. The judges tie again, but this time all the fans pick Jamie. 34-16 season 5.

Jeff vs. Josie. Josie: warm rock shrimp ceviche with papaya. True to Jeff’s trash talking, it’s not as pretty as it could be. Jeff: rock shrimp ceviche (cold I think) with sangria sorbet. Judges go for Josie 3-1, and 3 fans vote for her as well, so Jeff is in trouble. 34-26 season 5. Jeff says he would be embarrassed to serve Josie’s dish.

Fabio vs. Spike. Hee, Fabio is serving cheese. Spike has no cheese, loser. Fabio yells in derision. Spike offers to help him out, because he’s so far ahead or whatever, and Fabio responds that if his food is as big as his mouth he’ll win for sure. See, that’s the trash talk I was looking for. Spike: five spice venison with port reduction and micro herb salad. Fabio: venison with mustard sauce, and salad with stone fruit and cheddar. The judges go for Spike, but the fans go for Fabio. Even though he loses his match, season 5 wins 37-33.

Back in the Stew Room Leah rubs it in that Stefan lost to Andrea. The winners get called in, but this time there’s no suspense because they know they won. Everyone pretends to be serious though. Carla’s dish was really authentic, and they could taste the love this time. Hosea wanted to do something unique, and he managed to keep the salmon from being overcooked inside the egg roll. Jamie tells everyone how she knew she had to use the sourdough bread, and Toby starts talking about not using utensils while eating so it was nice to scoop up soup with the bread, or something. Guest judge Scott likes to watch her cook. Leah made good simple food. The winner is Carla. She’s so shocked. And she’s won two tickets to the Super Bowl! No way! Plus she said she doesn’t watch football. Her husband and stepson will be thrilled I bet.

Fabio overcooked the venison, and he says that when he sliced it, it was medium-rare, but then he put it on hot cabbage and they ate Spike’s food first so it was overdone. Scott gets all up in his grill and snits that Fabio doesn’t understand that intentions don’t mean anything, and his salad was wilted, and the cheese with no acid on it was bad. Fabio interrupts because cheese and acid don’t go well (I guess, I don’t know) and Scott should know that, having an Italian restaurant. Scott didn’t think he was taking responsibility. Stefan’s dish was uninspired, and not as in-your-face as Texas is. The judges call him on picking Andrea thinking it would be an easy win. Jeff says he was going to do party food, but then he changed his mind and he wanted to do something more fine dining, but then there was a plastic plate? He was pissed to get beat by hot ceviche, and he did a lot more things than she did. But her dish was more flavorful.

Stefan thinks he’ll be all right. His salad was terrible. Fabio overcooked his steak, and didn’t concentrate his flavors. He’s still pissed at the judges and he still blames them. Tom points out that Jeff pre-cooked his shrimp (I thought they weren’t allowed to do that?) so he didn’t make ceviche either.

Jeff’s ceviche was watered-down, Stefan didn’t have strong enough flavors, Fabio overcooked the venison. Jeff is out. See, I know they’re not supposed to take past weeks into account, but I also know it’s impossible not to have that in the back of your head somewhere. Jeff always does too many things. Fabio thanks the judges for his second chance. Jeff’s pissed at how he lost, because he thought Fabio would go home and he stands behind his dish. He says his brain works differently, and he can’t keep it simple. This will stay with him for at least a decade, and he thought he had what it takes. He tells everyone to call him if they want to go to Miami. (Kmanpat: “Can I visit you at the Dildo Beach Club?”)

Next week: Eric Ripert, live freshwater eel, something is nasty, Toby calls Eric “Obi-wan Kenobi”.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009


I haven't been posting a lot, but today we had a snow day so I have some extra time to give my various thoughts on whatever. (click for more)

"LOST": I used to recap Lost. I'd watch it once and take notes, then the next day I'd browse the internet and look for details I missed and explanations of things, and then write the recap. Then it started to not be that good so I stopped. It still takes too long, but it's getting better again. I think that as much as everyone was always, "Oh, we totally know where we're going with this!" they had no idea. The show picked up again once they had an end in sight.

That being said, sometimes I wish they'd get to the point. Did we have to jump around so many times before Daniel could talk to Desmond and tell him to find his mom? Although it did give an excuse for Sawyer to wander around shirtless. Time travel makes my head hurt, trying to keep track of all the possible paradoxes and whatever. They really didn't explain anything, because if the island moved in time, it would STILL BE IN THE OCEAN. And if the people got "unstuck" and are hopping around, the island would STILL BE IN THE OCEAN. Final point: Sun is kick-ass. I love how Kate was apologizing and Sun was like, it's not your fault, but just cold enough that you wonder how much she means it.

"True Beauty": You guys knew I would be watching this show. It's got pretty people being judged on being jerks. So I like it. However, I have one problem with last night's "final challenge". They had a girl, maybe 11 or 12, pretend to cry and have lost her mom. Both people up for elimination were men. A stranger looking over and seeing a woman and a crying girl, will see a totally different thing than a man and a crying girl. Shouldn't be true, but it is. So if one of the men had not helped, out of fear, that doesn't mean he's a horrid ugly person.

"Hell's Kitchen" and "Amazing Race": These are on the way soon. I'll probably talk about "Hell's Kitchen" but not do actual recaps. It should be the same trainwreck that you can't stop watching. Kmanpat will be back to do "Amazing Race". One of the contestants is deaf, doesn't read lips, and doesn't speak. Also there is a father/son team where 1. both members of the team are over 35, and 2. one of them is gay, but it's the dad this time.

Thanks for reading everything! If you have any shows you think I should be watching/writing about, let me know in comments.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Top Chef 1/21/09--"Restaurant Wars" summary

Previously on Top Chef: No one liked to work with canned goods, except they had to…Stefan won…blah blah blah. Everyone spent the day in the country at a farm with restaurant attached, making lunch for the farmers and restaurant workers. The chicken team did a good job, even though Stefan was on the winning team so now he thinks he’s even more awesome than before. Stefan, Jamie, and Carla all won. The pork team didn’t do very well, but Jeff made fried green tomatoes that let them squeak by. Ariane cut the lamb meat off the bone, and did a poor job, and then couldn’t tie the roulades, so she ended up going home. However, Leah and Hosea got in trouble for letting her flail when they totally knew what they were doing. Ariane wasn’t very happy at all about that, especially since she felt they closed ranks against her and left her on the outside. (click for more)

Everyone hangs out in the apartments and thinks about how they are halfway through the competition. Carla and Radhika both share their opinions that Hosea and Leah threw Ariane under the bus, where she got beat up and run over. Hosea says the first thing he’ll do when he gets home is see his girlfriend. Leah sort of, kind of, vaguely admits in confessional that she might possibly feel bad for maybe having a hand in sending Ariane home. Maybe. Seriously, she’s so vague about it. Just admit you threw her under the bus and didn’t admit to being the one to do a crappy tying job.

Padma greets everyone in the kitchen with Stephen Starr at his side. He’s a very successful restaurateur (including Morimoto, woo), and Padma wastes no time introducing Restaurant Wars. Stefan knows he will look pretty stupid if he messes it up. The Quickfire will involve making a tasting for Stephen. They will only get to showcase one dish to exemplify their restaurant. He’ll pick two chefs, who will not get immunity, but who will be the owner/chefs of the restaurants. See, and that’s both good and bad. Leaders tend to go home here. They have 30 minutes and whatever they can find.

Lots of running around. Jeff feels he can sell anyone anything. Leah got some red snapper but it smells like “ass” so she tosses it. Fabio I think is trying to make a salad, appetizer, sandwich, to aim for a lunch crowd. Radhika admits to not tasting her food. Jamie doesn’t want to win because she knows the leader takes the fall. I mean, I guess I’m glad she understands that, but it’s pretty wussy.

Carla: cod seared in tomato oil with Italian salsa and a mache green salad. She wants to do homey rustic foods. Stephen doesn’t taste salt. Hosea: seafood restaurant with shrimp with morel mushroom cream sauce, garlic potato puree and poached asparagus. Leah: tempura poussin with dashi, soy sauce, and rice wine vinegar. She claims an Asian inspired restaurant. The camera immediately shows her giving Hosea a big hug. Stefan: “Euramerican” with fried white asparagus with trout, asparagus salad, and white asparagus soup. Jeff: “American and simple” grilled salmon with sunchoke and artichoke puree, and grilled corn and asparagus salad. It’s mushy. Radhika: not totally Indian food. Pan seared cod, butter braised corn, spinach and chorizo with cream sauce. Jamie: “seasonal cooking” with Chilean sea bass and creamed corn, bacon, peas, and garlic scape. Didn’t she get in trouble for using Chilean sea bass before? Fabio: Mediterranean but with a lunch emphasis, I think. Tuna and swordfish carpaccio, roasted vegetable salad, filet mignon sandwich. With cheese.

Jeff is one of the worst, because he was unimpressive. Fabio’s concept was also too odd, I guess. Stephen’s favorite was Radhika. Wow, she’s like, a stealth competitor. Her concept was up and coming. Leah wins the other spot. They both seem very pleased, but Leah also admits to being nervous.

Team selection is next. Leah of course picks Hosea first, while Radhika takes Jamie. Hosea, wisely, interviews that they have some chemistry but he can’t let that turn into anything because he has a girlfriend and Leah has a boyfriend. Stefan finds issue with “friends before business”. Then he gets picked last, ha. Radhika ends up with Jamie, Carla, and Jeff. Leah’s team is Hosea, Fabio, and Stefan. Today they’ll plan menus and shop for décor. Tomorrow is food shopping and 6 hours to prep.

Jamie shares a story about trying to open a restaurant and not getting permits and that took her 9 months. Radhika’s restaurant name is “Sahana” which is Sanskrit for “strong”. Radhika asks Jeff to work the front of the house, but he doesn’t want to waste this challenge not cooking. Somehow they decide Radhika should work the front of the house. Of her own restaurant. That she is head chef of. It’s so bizarre. On the other team, Fabio immediately volunteers to do front of the house, because Leah is making Asian food and he has little experience with that. Hosea worries she’ll be steamrolled by the Stefan/Fabio show, but I think they have just as much to worry about being overruled by Hosea.

One hour and $5,000 for shopping at Pier One. Fabio says he grabs stuff and feels like his wife. Stefan carefully picks out unscented candles. Heh. I can’t see a lot of what anyone buys.

Back home everyone plans menus. Stefan is talking, as usual. Sadly he probably has good ideas, but he’s such a jerk about it all the time I doubt anyone listens to him anymore. He says Leah is young, and if it was him he’d just do the menu but “it’s a democracy at this point and everyone has some kind of BS input.” Cut to Stefan’s BS input. He tells her who’s going to do what and it looks like Leah walks off while he’s talking. In another room Jamie looks like she’s the leader, because Radhika just kind of hangs back. Carla is making some sorbets, and Jeff is throwing out his wacky ideas like always. Jamie worries about him. Leah and Hosea bitch about how Stefan has desserts but won’t tell them what they are. They think he’ll stay in dessert world and not bother them.

The porno music starts, so I guess this is Hosea/Leah time. Some camera guy hides out on the staircase and sends thanks to whatever he (or she) considers holy, because Hosea and Leah are lying on the couch, with Leah on top of Hosea. They appear to be kissing, based on the sounds, but the shot conveniently hides their heads behind a post. Leah says they should go to sleep, then there is smooching (I‘m going to say based on angles that they really are kissing), and then she says she’d like to sleep right there. (Kmanpat: “Oh no! Hosea! *sings*You shall sleep/secure with peace/faithfulness will be your joy!”)

In the morning, Hosea admits they kissed and he feels horrible because he loves his girlfriend and hopes to be back together with her after the show. Leah also feels terrible because she claims that she and Hosea “are not romantically involved”. Pardon me while I laugh: HAHAHAHA. They are currently dating each other, right now. So it’s all a bunch of crap. The “we don’t like each other that way” part, not the “I feel terrible for cheating on the person I’m dating” part. I would assume. She says pretty much the same thing about wanting to be with her boyfriend after the show. But she adds that that probably won’t happen. So she settled for Hosea? WTF? Stefan and Fabio wish they’d grow up because it’s affecting their work. I’m sure they don’t want to lose because of that nonsense.

Everyone splits up, some to Whole Foods, some to Restaurant Depot. Thankfully Hosea and Leah are split up also. Stefan and Hosea decide their restaurant should be called “Sunset Lounge”. Hosea feels good. Jeff claims to have the right flavors. Restaurant Depot and Whole Foods both claim to be out of lamb shanks, but Jeff finds some frozen ones. Somehow he finagled his way into the freezer. There’s a little rejiggering happening but it’s fairly smooth.

6 hours to get ready. Sunset Lounge presents their menu: egg roll (Fabio), sashimi two ways (Hosea), short ribs (Hosea), coconut curry bisque (Leah), seared cod (Leah), chocolate parfait (Stefan), panna cotta (Stefan). Oh, panna cotta has derailed many a chef here. Stefan will also expedite, and Fabio will work front of the house. Sahana’s menu: curried carrot soup, grilled scallop with chickpea cake, braised lamb shank, seared snapper (Jeff), baklava (Carla), chocolate cake (Carla), frozen yogurts (Carla). Radhika is actually going to end up doing the front of the house. I’m not sure who’s doing the first three dishes.

Leah is stressed, because Hosea keeps asking her to judge his dishes, and she’s never cheated on anyone, and whatever. It’s thrown Hosea off his game. Jamie thinks the lamb is defrosted enough. Leah calls Hosea over to help her to take the pin bones out of her cod, and has to cut slivers out of the fish because there are too many bones. Hosea admits it sucks, but also wonders why she cut the fish into portions before she deboned it. Carla says her frozen yogurt is thawing in the freezer? I’m not sure. Out front Fabio futzes with the décor. Stefan’s stuff won’t freeze either, so I’m wondering what is going on. Are they leaving the freezer door open? Putting hot food in there? Stefan makes an ice bath as a solution. Radhika comes back into the kitchen and says people seem irritated. Carla especially wants some feedback on her cakes, but Radhika just kind of nods. Carla wants her to make some decisions. With 30 minutes left, Leah admits she hasn’t even seen the front of the house because she’s too busy. Fabio looks sharp in his suit. He says he’s going to win, and they “can serve monkey ass in empty clam shell” and they’d still win. Hee. He is so entertaining.

Everyone arrives and gets seated. Jamie complains about the servers not noticing things. Like the sauce spilled on a plate that I’m pretty sure the chef is supposed to clean. She thinks Radhika should have taken the lead on it. The judges appear to eat at Sahana. First up is an appetizer of whole wheat naan bread with garlic oil. I love naan. Toby claims to not know what it is. In the kitchen they freak out about getting the food out. The curried carrot soup has smoked paprika oil and raita, and the scallop and chickpea cake comes with masala tomato sauce and arugula. Good reviews all around for those. The snapper comes with white lentil tabouli, tomato water, and pea shoots. The lamb shanks are braised with cinnamon and saffron and are served on a bed of Israeli cous cous. Toby labels something “dishwater”. The snapper itself was fine but the tomato water doesn’t go over well. Carla freaks out because her desserts all suck, in her opinion. The chocolate cake is “spiced” (I don’t know what with) and has crème fromage and cashew brittle, and the frozen yogurt flavors are fig and mint, with baklava cigars. The judges have to ask for silverware to eat dessert with, while things melt. Tom says that’s Radhika’s problem, if it melts before he can eat it. No one likes the desserts. Radhika has to tell people they still have to wait for a table, and she’s freaking out, spending a lot of time in the kitchen. They find several customers who say she needs to relax. Tom has also noticed and says that she’s not on the floor enough, and if they were to leave right now they wouldn’t get a good-bye. Padma promptly says they should leave. That’s my girl.

Leah is freaking out in the kitchen. She doesn’t really like her dish, so she’s just hoping it works. Fabio sees the food coming out and is making a point to greet every table and thicken his accent. Hee. The egg roll has vegetables: mushrooms, carrots and cabbage, with sweet chili sauce. It’s a nice amuse bouche size, but no one is impressed. The sashimi two ways is tuna and salmon, with radish salad and yuzu vinaigrette, and the curry bisque has shrimp dumplings. Toby is “shocked” by the bisque. The sashimi needs salt. Short ribs come with ginger and vegetable and beef demi-glace. The cod has Chinese cabbage and fresh vegetables. The short ribs are cooked well, but the cod is undercooked and very salty. OH the judges send it back. And they don’t want another one. Oh man. Leah immediately says she’s going home. I’m guessing she wants some reassurance but what can you say? She’s the leader of the team. Stefan is like, why can’t you check on your fish? Stefan’s desserts come out: chocolate and rice parfait, with grapefruit jelly and pineapple, and lemongrass and ginger panna cotta with peach puree and ginger honey. That sounds good. The desserts here are much better. Tom knows even if this team loses, Stefan will be safe. Fabio brings out one last treat: frozen mango lollipops, dipped in bitter chocolate and mint. Fabio thanks them for coming.

Radhika knows she didn’t manage well, and she just wants to go to sleep. Carla also knows her dessert didn’t help anyone, especially since a waiter tasted it and said it was bad. Fabio reports back that 4 or 5 fish plates were raw. Everyone fills out comment cards. Sahana’s food was somewhat better, but Stefan’s desserts were far better and Fabio’s service was excellent.

Commercial interlude: Jeff does some magic trick with an array of 9 items. Someone touches one while he faces the wall, and then he picks out the one they touched. I’m not sure what the point is except that Jeff is weird and it gets pretty damn boring in the Stew Room.

I love that there are cases of Diet Dr. Pepper on the shelves in the Stew Room, but I’ve never once seen anyone drink any of it. Padma collects the Sunset Lounge team. They won by a very small margin, according to the comment cards, and much praise is given to Fabio’s service and Stefan’s desserts. Stefan wins and gets a suite of kitchen appliances. Nice. The judges tell Leah if her team had lost she’d be going home for the cod.

When they get back to the Stew Room, Stefan barely has time to announce that he’s won before Leah pipes up that they told her she had the worst dish of the evening. Radhika isn’t sure what went wrong. She explains the division of labor, and that she let everyone come up with their own dishes. Radhika didn’t even make anything, she just prepped. Carla knows desserts caused them to lose, and she says she took on too much and couldn’t get anything done. Tom wonders aloud if she asked for help, and she said that other team members offered her help, but they were also in the weeds so she felt bad taking their time. Then I think she says she tried to send out love with her dishes, because it wouldn’t help if she was in a bad mood. I’m not sure what she’s trying to say here, because it sounds like she said “screw it, my desserts suck but if I’m happy while I plate then the customers will be happy”. Then again, I can see Carla saying that. Jamie says that Carla was making frozen yogurt as customers ordered it because of the freezer, and Tom wanted her to have Radhika change the menu so at least it would say “yogurt soup” and they’d accept it. Tom lays into Radhika, now, because she should have told Carla to change her dish, not asked her if she needed help. She didn’t think it was needed, so now she’s in trouble for not leading at all. She admits that at some point they were all equals, that she felt she wasn’t really the leader. They ding her a couple more times for missing silverware and the lack of a goodbye, then kick everyone back to the Stew Room.

The judges’ discussion begins by establishing that Jamie and Jeff are safe. Radhika wasn’t very hospitable, and she didn’t really supervise at all. She shied away from her leadership role. Carla screwed up both her desserts. Stephen would have fired Carla for her explanation about sending out the love.

Tom begins by saying to Jamie and Jeff that he understands their frustration with doing well but being on the losing team. Radhika didn’t carry through on her personal statement, and Carla left the judges with a bad last impression. Radhika is out. She says she doesn’t want to go home for being front of the house. I get that it’s not a poorly cooked dish that is sending her home, but it’s leading a restaurant, which is still relevant. She knows now that she should have forced Jeff to work in the front. She gives more than she takes and accommodates too many people. Also she’s looking forward to going home to “recognition”.

Next week: Top Chef all stars!! Woo!! I think…there’s Spike and Miguel…ANDREW!!! Jamie flips out. During cooking because things are doing poorly. Not because of Andrew. I don’t think.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top Chef 1/14/09--"Down on the Farm" summary

Previously on Top Chef: everyone made desserts without sugar which was kind of fun, and Radhika won that one. Then there was supposed to be a pastry challenge, which probably would have been entertaining, but because the week before had sucked so bad, apparently, the judges let them cook whatever they wanted for a blind tasting. New judge Toby Young tried to be Tony Bourdain and he kind of succeeded. He at least freaked everyone out. Jamie finally won, which, woo. Eugene and Melissa both went home, for not quite being good enough. And many people, mostly Fabio, were all “JAMIE MADE SCALLOPS AGAIN OMGWTFBBQ!!1!!!ONE!” She’s made scallops 3 times, in 14 challenges. I counted. It just happened to be twice in a row this time. (click for more)

Leah is upset to see people go home, but at least there’s Hosea. He’s wearing a t-shirt that says “I *heart* Padma”. Hee. Stefan acts like an ass and gets in his face. Whatever.

In the kitchen Hung is waiting for everyone with Padma. He’s going to be the guest judge for this Quickfire. Fabio predicts a fish tank under the cloth cover behind Padma. She talks about fresh ingredients, and then reveals…lots of cans. Stuff you or I might have lying around, but which Jeff declares as “garbage”. Incidentally, several people have written that when Jeff’s chyron comes on screen listing his restaurant, they read “The Dildo Beach Club”. Hee. (Kmanpat: “Oh yes, I certainly do. I want to hang out there. With Jeff.“) He says the display of cans was a mess. Don’t insult your audience. They cannot use any fresh ingredients. In honor of Hung, “the fastest chef in Top Chef history”, they only get 15 minutes. He says it’s plenty of time, and someone yells “for you!”

There is a melee for ingredients, with elbows flying and ingredient stealing. Radhika is all, I would never use cans like a housewife. Jamie doesn’t do canned food. Stefan can’t figure out how to open cans so he’s hacking one with a knife. Sigh. He wants Spam from Hosea, who says that he doesn’t want to give him any because “his boyfriend Fabio” wouldn’t give him artichokes, but eventually he is a nice guy. Why would you talk about how you are so much better than everyone and then ask them for favors?

Leah: waffles with strawberries and sausage. And Cool Whip. She fried...something. Stefan: baked bean and Spam soup, with grilled cheese and Spam sandwiches. He rinsed his ingredients a little. Fabio: mac and cheese with roasted artichokes and chili pepper. That sounds like it might be good. Radhika: spicy red bean dip and grilled bread. Hosea: sweet pea soup with Spam, onion rings, pork rinds, and hearts of palm. Jeff: deep fried baby conch with coconut sauce, and a pina colada. Jamie: bruschetta with garbanzo beans, marinated artichokes, and smoked mussel. Hung looks ill. Ariane: open faced turkey Spam sandwich. With gravy and pineapple-cranberry chutney. It looks horrid. Hung just says “interesting” which freaks her out. Carla: Asian salmon cake with fried green beans and lemongrass-ginger mayo. That also sounds pretty good but I’ve had canned salmon and it’s pretty inferior to even frozen salmon.

Leah’s waffles were too crunchy, Radhika’s bean dip was just a snack, and Jamie’s dish was too simple (he thought she just tossed things together). Hosea’s soup was great with the salty Spam, Stefan made something he’d eat at 3am, and Jeff used his time wisely. The winner is Stefan. Hosea curses and regrets giving Stefan ingredients. I guess I can see eating grilled cheese and Spam at 3am.

The Elimination challenge brings the knife block where people draw various proteins. Sort of. Fabio is first and it‘s labeled “pig“ and not “pork“, which should be worrisome. The other choices are “chicken” and “lamb”. Each team has to make a seasonal meal with their protein. Lunch for 16, including dessert, served family style. Ariane worries that she’s on a team with Hosea and Leah, who already are hooking up. Jamie is stuck with Stefan so she’s irritated. No one mentions that there’s no twist yet and that can’t be good.

Bravo is already advertising Restaurant Wars, showing next week.

Hosea, Ariane, and Leah are “Team Lamb” and are working well together, except that Hosea says that he and Leah are on the same page with their styles. He does realize that Ariane won a challenge for cooking lamb, though, so he’s good with letting her do her thing. For a minute it sounded like they would exclude her. “Team Chicken”, which is Stefan, Jamie, and Carla, are the designated drama team. Stefan wants to roast a chicken, and Jamie doesn’t think they can just do that, but I think they can. A perfectly roasted chicken can and will win challenges. Stefan continues about what he wants to cook and Jamie has to remind him that it’s not all about him. He giggles in confessional about how pissed she is. Carla declares she can’t create in that kind of environment, so she seems to have no ideas. “Team Pig”, Fabio, Jeff, and Radhika, are trying to go for simple and not having anyone overshadow the other two with their style. Radhika says she’s making bread pudding, but it’s cut in an ominous way.

11pm. Jamie comes to bitch to Fabio about Stefan. And she refers to Stefan as "your boyfriend". Are Fabio and Stefan hanging out a lot? Are they flirting or something? (Kmanpat: "And why don't we get to see that?!") Apparently they’d left a menu somewhere and she and Carla had some ideas. She goes to Stefan and points out (rightly) that he has immunity so he should be quiet. Somehow she calls him a douche bag, he says she can’t cook…something like that. Jamie storms off in a huff and says he should just do whatever then. Stefan is unfazed. That scene was pointless except for some good promo clips.

5am. Heh. Hosea is worried about the seasonality of their dishes, while Fabio worries that the sun isn’t up yet. Ariane says no one is listening to her, but it’s early so she doesn’t care that much. Everyone gets in the car, and eventually they realize that they’re out in the country. Damn, that took them FOREVER. They end up at a restaurant called Stone Barns, owned by Dan Barber. Jamie claims that this is totally the food she does. Dan introduces them to the head farmers, and lets them know that they’ll be shopping at the farm. Awesome. Jeff is realizing that he may have to rejigger the menu. Lunch is for the farmers and chefs. Hosea is thrilled to have the freshest food possible. Fabio mentions that too.

Jeff is picking green tomatoes to fry. He thinks no one else will do anything with green tomatoes, which I’m sure will kick him in the ass. Everyone exclaims about how the tomatoes smell so good. No one really freaks out about meeting farm animals, that might possibly become lunch. They don’t have to butcher anything, which is probably good.

Commercials interlude: Stefan talking about being the only cock around. I can’t improve on that statement.

Whole animals are waiting in the kitchen, along with a very large amount of produce. Radhika can’t do her bread pudding. I knew that was ominous editing. Team Pork (they’ve renamed themselves) reveals their menu. It looks pretty good, lots of pork, and crème brulee for dessert. I’ll go over it all later. Jamie says they’ve finally compromised to let everyone have sort of what they want. Ariane mentions working with “baby lamb” which is kind of redundant. Leah worries that she’s only doing a salad and dessert and that’s not enough. Fabio interviews that Radhika took almost an hour to shuck and grill 10 cobs of corn. Wow…that’s a long time.

Tom time! They’re making roulades from the leg meat. Carla diplomatically says she is working with “strong personalities” and they just let Stefan be the leader. Tom asks if he knows that. Um, duh. Jeff describes his team’s dishes without mentioning Radhika at all. Tom tells us that he would have liked to see the lamb remain on the bone, that it’s pretty hot outside for soup (I’m pretty sure that’s Jamie’s idea?), and hopefully this crème brulee will be better than the last one. Ariane is finally getting the lamb set up, but she can’t tie a roast, so Leah does it. She admits she doesn’t do the best job, because they’re behind. The pork loin is behind too. Ariane declares the lamb perfect, and with 4 minutes to spare so is the pork.

Team Lamb: lamb two ways. Ugh, a duo. The loin is roasted, and the other way is the roulade with an herb rub, also roasted. The other dishes are rosemary and garlic roasted new potatoes, and heirloom tomato salad with fennel, basil, and onion. No mention of dessert. Team Pork: sausage, zucchini, and eggplant stuffed ravioli with pesto, fried green tomatoes with tomato jam, seared pork loin, and grilled corn salad with bacon. Team Chicken: chicken cutlet with mizuna (think Japanese mustard greens), corn, onion, and tomato salad, lemon herb roasted chicken with tomato salad (for some reason, in cube form), and chicken ravioli soup with Swiss chard.

Padma doesn’t see the point of chicken soup. However it’s excellent. Everyone likes both Stefan and Jamie’s chicken. The lamb is a mess, mostly due to Ariane’s butchering job and heavy herb rub. The potatoes were nice but there’s Swiss chard somewhere and Tom wanted stems. Someone says it’s slightly out of season. Tom again brings up honoring your ingredients like last week. The sausage ravioli has too much pesto, and you can’t taste anything. The loin should have had the fat left on, or something? I’m afraid I don’t know enough about butchering to understand. Padma thinks the star is the fried green tomato.

Desserts come out. Team Chicken serves a nectarine and strawberry tartlet with thyme, cream and lemon zest. Team Pork: vanilla and lavender scented crème brulee with fresh berries. Team Lamb: summer berry trifle with Grand Marnier lemon pound cake and vanilla cream. Out of those 3 the trifle sounds the best. Carla’s tart has a great crust and a great use of lemon. The crème brulee is too sweet and the crust is thick. It’s rich for a hot day but they did serve small portions. The trifle is somehow unappealing to look at. I’m not sure, but I think the judges got individual servings of the dishes, so instead of a giant dish of trifle, they got rounds of cake with cream and berries.

Padma calls out Team Chicken. I guess they won. They loved Carla’s dessert. Tom knew that Stefan wanted something heavy, while Jamie didn’t agree, but when he asks how they solved that problem Carla jumps in and declares herself mediator and implies that she made them agree. Well, that was fun. Jamie and Stefan don‘t really say much. All 3 of them are winners. Interesting. They don’t win anything though. And let me say a side note about that. Remember the first episode when someone said they would learn about a cuisine from a cookbook and Tom looked disgusted? Then why does everyone keep winning cookbooks? I just realized that like, last week.

Everyone else has to face the Loser Gong. Jeff says he made the choice to take the fat off the pork loin, but that’s the best part of the animal and it’s tasty. Fabio was planning to make cherry tomato sauce for the ravioli, but there weren’t any when they got to the farm, and he claims it’s a light pesto but they all call him on that. Radhika claims the corn salad and the crème brulee (with help from Jeff on both). Tom asks her what she’d do with one of her cooks who did as little as she did, and she insists she never stopped moving. Ariane tells the judges they didn’t think that the lamb would be tender enough unless they took it off the bone and tenderized it. How do you make lamb tough? I mean…isn’t lamb always tender? Dan brings up my very point. Padma asks why Ariane was the only one to touch the lamb, and there’s an uncomfortable pause while Hosea and Leah try to figure out what to say. Leah finally says that they helped her, and there weren’t that many components to their dishes so they didn’t double up. I think what she’s trying to say is that they served so few dishes that everyone took one and did their own thing, instead of having multiple dishes that everyone does part of. Tom lets them know that the butchering was amateurish and the tying of the roulades was crappy too, and Ariane does admit that she can’t do that, and Leah helped her tie and Hosea helped her tenderize. Leah insists she knows what she is doing. Hosea also claims he can break down lamb, so Tom feels he should have jumped in, instead of letting Ariane screw it up. It’s interesting that when Tom wanted to know why no one helped Ariane with the lamb, Hosea and Leah didn’t say anything about helping her tie or anything. It seems a little disingenuous.

Dan says something about the work farmers put it, but it is immediately pushed out of my head by Toby’s analogy about wanting to have unprotected sex with the pork. I wonder how long it took him to come up with that one? Anyways, he thought it sucked. Dan is willing to ignore that because the lamb was worse. Tom wonders if Radhika should go home for pretty much doing nothing. On the other hand, if Ariane can’t butcher a leg of lamb, why is she on this show? In the Stew Room, Leah whispers behind her hand to Hosea while Ariane appears to stare at them and sulk. Padma felt sorry for her though, because she at least jumped in. Toby feels sorry for her because she can’t cook, and Padma defends her by saying she can, just not today. Toby reminds them all that they are only supposed to judge on tonight. Tom’s explained that before, that if you go to a restaurant and the food sucks, you’re not likely to go back at all, so the chefs should only be judged on that week’s challenge. Ariane insists she’s a team player and she did the best she could. Leah didn’t do a lot and she seemed OK with Ariane’s failure. And Leah was also very slow to own up to the crappy tying job.

Radhika didn’t contribute enough, Fabio’s pesto overwhelmed everything, Jeff removed too much fat. However, the fried green tomatoes were so good they saved the team. Leah wanted more to do, but she didn’t fight for the dishes she wanted to serve, Ariane put herself in a position that needed skills she knew she didn’t have, Hosea let Ariane flounder and should have helped out. Ariane is out. Padma makes sure to tell her it’s been a pleasure. Ariane says that Leah isn’t a team player and Hosea is a wimp, and she doesn’t think she should have gone home. She still feels good, and that she can handle herself.

Next week: Restaurant Wars. Everyone freaks out. Leah and Hosea snuggle a lot, although they both are dating people. At least Hosea seems like he might try to behave. Leah is feeling him up.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Top Chef 1/7/09--"Focus Group" summary

Previously on Top Chef: the contestants had to make a one-pot meal, and some people take that to mean “as long as you clean the pot, you don’t have to cook everything at once”. Sad. Ariane wins something again, much to Jamie’s irritation. Then everyone pretended it was Christmas and made hors d’oeuvres based on the 12 days of Christmas, except there were only 11 contestants so it was TOTALLY LAME. Well, maybe not totally, but come on. Even though one of the fridges failed, Hosea came from behind to win. Tom was dissatisfied with the quality of the dishes in general, so he yelled at everyone and then told them that because everyone chipped in to help with the fridge crisis, everyone is safe. Except that Lee Anne’s blog says that when the fridge broke, the producers decided right then that no one could go home because the broken fridge “unleveled” the playing field. So most people (aside from the contestants) knew before the food was served that no one would go home. I’m guessing a future episode will have pairs, and both members of the pair will go home. (click for more)

Fabio makes Spam and pork and beans for breakfast. Ew. Eugene is pissed he was in the bottom 3 but can’t really do anything about it but improve. Melissa wasn’t expecting the pressure. Hosea, on the other hand, is all smiles from his second win. Stefan still feels superior. Jamie is grumpy because she wants to win for her fans. Not for herself?

In the kitchen this morning is Jean-Christophe Novelli who will have his own show “Chef Academy” on Bravo. They’re just going to follow him around, it’s not a competition show. He’s a pastry chef so Radhika is expecting a dessert challenge. Padma starts talking about diet-conscious customers and calorie counts, and introduces the “Diet Dr. Pepper Quickfire”: create “the ultimate sweet treat” with no sugar. Can I just say that while I enjoy Diet Dr. Pepper, it in no way equals a cupcake? Also I heard a rumor that California may start requiring restaurants to list calorie counts on their menus, which just ruins the dining experience. I know I’m eating too many calories. Go away. However, I do like this challenge, as my dad has Type II diabetes so I like to see people getting creative.

Jeff is used to making desserts without sugar. Jamie tells people not to touch her oven and makes some napoleons with fruit and mascarpone. Carla tries to freeze bananas. Hosea has roasted peaches and figs and yogurt, which sounds good, but Stefan says it looks nasty. Ariane makes a crepe with Dr. Pepper? Radhika makes bread pudding. Eugene describes lumpias, which are like banana egg rolls. Carla realizes everyone is using the freezer so her bananas don’t freeze. At one point the freezer is left open which is pretty ignorant. She sautés the bananas instead.

Fabio: granola and oat tart with eggless pastry cream and fresh berries. The cream isn’t cooked enough. Oops. Fabio thinks it’s because he’s Italian. Jeff: frozen cherry and white fig yogurt (which the judges have to scoop themselves, lame) with baklava spring roll. Eugene: mini blini “burger” (ice cream sandwich, maybe?) with banana lumpias “fries” and strawberry star anise dipping sauce. Melissa: baked dessert burrito (with fruit inside) with Greek yogurt sauce. Radhika: bread pudding made from whole wheat challah with sautéed white peach and honey roasted cashews. Leah: crepe with whipped ricotta, strawberries, and balsamic reduction. Stefan: sugar free chocolate mousse with with cherries. He tries to joke with the judge who ignores him. Hosea: roasted green figs and white peaches brushed with honey and balsamic. Jean-Christophe asks if he tasted it and then just nods, which is not a good sign. Ariane: whole wheat crepe with caramelized pears and toasted almonds. With over whipped cream. Jamie: ricotta, mascarpone, peach, nectarine, and cherry napoleon on puff pastry. Carla: baklava with a chocolate disc with fried bananas. She explains the failure of the frozen bananas.

Carla had bland bananas, Ariane’s crepe was boring, and Jamie’s cheese overpowered the rest of the dish. On the other hand, Radhika’s dish was good, Leah’s balsamic was lovely, and Jeff’s dish was well done. Radhika is “just over” everyone else so she wins immunity.

For the Elimination challenge, Padma explains that Toby Young, who is a British restaurant critic, is filling in for Gail for the rest of the season. Fabio says he’s bad-ass. Tomorrow they’ll have a “special” challenge in his honor, but mysteriously tonight they’re off the hook. They should know by now that’s a fat lie.

Back at the apartment people kind of are worried about Toby Young. Eugene gets his phone call home and talks about missing his family. Nothing else happens so I guess they really did get the night off. Huh. Usually “take the night off” is code for “surprise challenge”.

In the morning everyone hangs out in the apartments, worried, except for Radhika. Tom shows up, and Fabio’s first thought is that the house is messy. Tom explains that they want the new judge to learn about them food first. They’ll be tasting blind, the judges and some other foodie guests, 12 in total. The chefs will be making a family-style meal, and the best part is that they can make whatever they want. The downside is that since no one went home last week, this week two people will be going home. Since Radhika is immune, that means you have a 1 in 4 chance of going home. The kitchen is small, so they will cook in shifts. Everyone draws knives for shift assignments, except Radhika, who chooses to cook with group A. The group without Stefan. Hee. Group A is Radhika, Jamie, Hosea, Eugene, Melissa, and Fabio.

30 minutes and $100 for shopping. Melissa heads straight for ahi tuna for tacos. “Family style” to Eugene says whole fish. Jamie complains that she doesn’t get Eugene’s dish and daikon should be served cold and blah blah. Why are you so worried about other people’s food?

At the site Jamie stakes out a spot for herself right next to the stove. 2 hours for prep. Hosea has halibut wrapped in bacon. Everyone gloats about how quiet it is without Stefan. Radhika is making bisque that she says everyone comes to her restaurant for. Fabio makes pasta and sous vide lamb.

We get a break for Group B shopping. Jeff says he always does family style, but then he mentions small plates, which I don’t think is the same thing. (Kmanpat: “Not the same thing at all. One is large plates that you pass around, and one is small plates that you get a lot of. *sigh*…cute but stupid.“) Carla is strolling slowly and trying to hear her inspiration. She wants to make something vegetarian, but she’s afraid if she doesn’t make a protein the judges won’t know she can cook protein. Tofu counts, doesn’t it?

Back to Group A cooking. Jamie is making scallops again, but searing them this time. Fabio complains that this is “Top Chef” and not “Top Scallop”. Oh, honey, the Miami season? Scallops everywhere. Eugene doesn’t think anyone else has the balls to make his dish. Hosea interviews that Melissa isn’t going outside her comfort zone. Fabio’s lamb is still pretty raw, because he was overconfident and never checked his lamb. But there are only 5 minutes left so he is kind of stuck.

The commercial interlude today shows us Fabio trying to set up a pasta roller and failing. Along with tootling “Italian” music. People kind of shake their heads. Wow, that was exciting. I guess Hosea and Leah didn’t flirt enough this week.

Everyone sets up and explains their dishes to the waiters. Hosea wonders who the “foodies” will be that are eating with the judges today. Cut to Group B, who supposedly wandered up the freight elevator and came out into the room where the judges are. So each group gets to taste their competitors’ dishes? You know they’re going to try to guess whose dishes are whose. How will they keep them from doing that? Also Group B gets to meet Toby early. Leah interviews that Fabio told her Toby is harsh. Group A appears to find their competition sitting at the table. Hosea thinks they’ll be pretty harsh. Back into the kitchen they get to watch a live feed while people eat. Oo, spying!

Radhika: curried crab bisque with lemon-scented crab salad. Stefan says it’s “against [his] taste buds” and they’re numb. Are you a wuss? Toby says he has found the weapons of mass destruction and they are in this bowl. That was almost a Tony Bourdain level of snark. Carla pees her pants a little. Hosea: bacon-wrapped halibut with roasted vegetables and a beurre blanc sauce. Carla likes it but feels the vegetables upstaged the fish. Toby agrees. Jamie: seared scallop with fennel, garlic, oranges, and olives. Everyone seems to like it. Fabio: rack of lamb with cheese ravioli and mushroom sauce. Everyone likes the ravioli but the lamb is undercooked. Oops. Eugene: crispy red snapper with tomato, basil and daikon fettuccine. Stefan says he eats radishes cold. Look you, daikon is not like a European radish. Toby found the whole thing boring and not cooked properly. Melissa: ahi tuna crudo tacos. Not good, needs salt. Toby thinks it tasted like cat food. Ouch. She knows she can do better.

Group B gets to cook, now more worried about Toby. But they know what they have to beat. Jeff is making 3 small plates. Oh, he doesn’t get it. Stefan is making duck dumplings. Leah is doing something with fish and bread. Ariane has skate wing, which is kind of cool. She knows they weren’t nice so she thinks the other chefs might not be nice either. Carla has scallops too.

Group B realizes that the first group probably watched them eat too. Jamie thinks she is better than everyone in this group. Stefan: duck breast with braised cabbage and bread dumplings. The dumplings are dense. Stefan thinks they know it’s him. Fabio and Tom defend him, though. Jeff: trio tapas. Oysters, seared tuna, and avocado sorbet and grilled peaches. There is too much going on, and it’s not one dish. However, Toby compares it to a Tom Cruise cameo (in “Tropic Thunder”, no less, which I just saw and although I dislike Tom Cruise he was hilarious in that movie). Ariane: skate wing with pineapple and cauliflower puree. They like this a lot. Leah: seared rouget fish encrusted in bread with fried beans in chorizo sauce. Toby loved it. Carla: seared scallop on top of risotto with gremolata topping. The gremolata is very garlicky but the scallop is pretty good.

Tom liked Group B better, and Toby thinks the standards are high. The chefs may be figuring out the mistakes they’ve been making.

Back in the Stew Room everyone owns up to which dish was theirs. Melissa is particularly worried about going home. Padma comes to collect the winners, but since she doesn’t know who made anything she has to describe all the dishes. Ariane, Stefan, and Jamie get up to follow her. Tom loved Stefan’s dish, it was cooked perfectly, and was wonderfully German. Jamie wanted to redeem herself after last week, and she knew fennel and orange work well together. It was very well refined. Ariane likes skate, and she cooked it well and was creative with pineapple. The winner is…Jamie. Well, at least now maybe she’ll be quiet about it.

Loser time. Melissa, Eugene, and Carla. Only 3? Those are bad odds. Jamie calls them out by name, so I guess they figured things out. Carla wasn’t happy with her dish, and Tom bugs her for making her risotto a garnish? I guess? She says she doesn’t want to wow them with pizzazz but with flavor. If she had put the gremolata in the risotto it would have turned out better. Everyone agrees. Melissa tells them she enjoyed this challenge and she liked to see people critique her food as they ate. In terms of changing things, she would make something else entirely. Tom was bored with fish tacos. Toby claims he could smell it, but Melissa didn’t think it was that bad. Eugene wishes he had done something simpler. He says he likes daikon and tomato together, and maybe he shouldn’t have taken the chance, but Tom says it’s not really taking a chance if he’s tried it before. But he does get points for presentation, even if the fish was overcooked. Toby calls him on “taking risks” because everything was mild. When asked if they have anything to say, Eugene tells the judges he has a better idea of what they’re looking for, Melissa has more to offer, and Carla claims that without her scallops her risotto is perfect.

Today the judges are looking for who to save. Toby thinks Eugene needs another chance. Tom is somehow offended that the fish was ruined, that it gave up its life and then got overcooked. Melissa’s dish was really her, which for Toby is exactly why she should go home. Carla used a scallop when she didn’t need to, and it shows a lack of confidence.

Eugene is wildly creative but his skill level needs to catch up, Melissa had a lack of imagination and creativity, Carla over thought and overworked her dish that could have been great. Melissa is out. And Eugene is out too. Really? Wow. Eugene has really learned a lot, and Melissa (in tears) is afraid that everyone will think she is uncreative and boring. Eugene is in a better place than Melissa; at least he seems more calm.

Next week: Hung! Live pigs! Live chickens! Stefan and Jamie argue!

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