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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