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.

1 comment:

Polgarra said...

Thanks again for a great recap. I don't always comment but your is one of the first blogs I read (ok, actually THE first). I even read it out loud to my boyfriend so we can laugh together. I know it must take up alot of time to write your recaps each week so I thought it would be nice to let you know that I appreciate it.