Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Top Chef 2/4/09--"Le Bernardin"

Previously on Top Chef: Everyone pretended it was winter and that the Super Bowl was coming up. First Padma made everyone cook with oats. I’m not sure what that has to do with football. Then a bunch of people from previous seasons came back and battled everyone. I thought Andrew would do a better job being his goofy sound bite whore self. But the best part was when Stefan got to pick out who he would battle, and he picked Andrea from season 1, thinking it would be an easy win. Then she kicked his ass. Carla was judged the winner for her gumbo, and she won two tickets to the Super Bowl. Stefan, Fabio, and Jeff all lost their challenges with the “all-stars” and were up for elimination. Jeff ended up going home. (click for more)

Stefan doesn’t want to be on the bottom again. Hee. Fabio agrees. (Kmanpat: “I can change their minds about that!“) Fabio gets to call home, which is not the best sign. His wife is running the restaurant while he’s gone, and she says everything is good. He tells her he hopes that is true and he won’t come home to a burned-down restaurant and a hamburger shack that she’s put up in its place. It’s funny, but then he says that he has to win and it’s not looking good for Fabio. Sad. Hosea reminds us he’s the last American male chef. His T-shirt says “Who’s your daddy?” You are! Carla is underestimated, in her opinion.

For the Quickfire, Padma is waiting with Eric Ripert. I like him. Everyone freaks out, especially Hosea, who cooks fish. They will have a 3 round fish filleting tournament. Well, they haven’t had their usual tag team challenge yet.

Round one: sardines. They have 2 whole sardines, plus one example fish. They have 5 minutes to clean and butterfly the whole sardines. They’re such small fish that it ups the difficulty level. Hosea immediately starts worrying, because he doesn’t use such small fish. It looks to me like everyone is destroying their fish, but it might just be innards. Leah curses a lot. Carla turns in one sardine with no tail. She knows it’s jacked up. Leah did a somewhat better job, in that she got both fish done, as did Stefan. Jamie’s fish are really thin, but Fabio’s are near perfect. Hosea’s aren’t bad. Then Eric says that Leah did the best job. What? I mean…not that I can see the fish, I just find it hard to believe she did so much better than everyone when we know what happened with her fish during Restaurant Wars. Fabio also did a good job. Jamie and Carla did the worst.

Round two: Arctic char. One fish, to filet, and 5 minutes again. Jamie and Carla are already out so they’re just watching. Leah completely loses it and gives up. I mean, she was getting frustrated and saying she gave up pretty early. This is why I found it hard to believe she did so well in the last round. She only turns in one filet. Hosea rolls his eyes, pretty much. Stefan doesn’t do a perfectly clean job, but he insists he’s happy with it. Fabio didn’t cut the head cleanly and lost 3-4 ounces. Hosea does wonderfully. Leah and Fabio are cut this round. Hosea and Stefan make googly-eyes at each other. Not really, but wouldn‘t that be more entertaining?

Round three: fresh water eel. Ha. I hope they use spikes like on “Iron Chef”. Original “Iron Chef”, not the new one. They have to “peel” it and filet it. They’re dead, but recently dead, which translates to “still moving”. Hosea worries because there aren’t eels in Colorado. But Stefan says “It’s what we do in Germany.” Stefan busts out a nail and hammer, and Hosea quickly follows. Once it’s nailed down you peel the skin off like a piece of plastic. Stefan of course makes two beautiful filets and cleaned his station. Hosea did a pretty good job and was messy. Whatever. So of course Stefan wins again. He laughs about his advantage that backfired on him last time. Eric invites everyone to lunch at his restaurant Le Bernardin. I smell a trick.

Commercial interlude: Stefan…makes a dessert for everyone? And they judge it? Leah and Hosea and Fabio eat microwaved bananas and cookies or something. For all that everyone talks about hating Stefan they sure seem to be having fun. And so is Stefan but he might be drunk. Leah pretends to eat the banana peel, and Hosea criticizes him for using cookies under the bowl instead of a doily because he wants to eat the cookies. Then he licks them off the bottom of the bowl. It’s entertaining but there’s no context so I spent most of the clip trying to figure out what was going on.

Fabio says it’s a pleasure to wake up and see Hosea instead of his wife. I would like to wake up and see Fabio. Or Hosea. Everyone dresses up and is thrilled to have a feast just for them. Tom’s there too. Hosea describes the food as simple-looking but very difficult to make. Another Frenchman describes each course. Then they put up a chyron so I’m going to copy them down because like I said. I smell a trick. The first course is sourdough crusted red snapper with tomato basil consommé. Course 2: baked mahi-mahi with miso and matsutake (the guy says maitake) mushroom salad. I know from “Iron Chef” that matsutake and maitake are not the same. Course 3: baked lobster with asparagus and hollandaise sauce. All the sauces are put on the plates tableside. Leah wants to give Eric a hug because “he’s super sweet and cute”. Ugh. Jamie is bored with this kind of food. Shut up Jamie. Course 4: olive oil-poached escolar with potato crisps in a red wine béarnaise sauce. Course 5: za’atar spiced monkfish with black garlic. Course 6: sautéed black bass and braised celery with Serrano ham and green peppercorn sauce. I kind of want that right now. Jamie complains that this is her least favorite. She seriously sounds so whiny today.

Tom announces one last course…which is the knife block. Everyone has to recreate one of the entrees, with 2 hours to practice and cook. Stefan can pick his course, and he picks the lobster. He says he already picked out the ingredients. Hosea thinks he should go big or go home. Everyone else picks knives. Carla: escolar. Hosea: monkfish. Leah: mahi-mahi. Fabio: red snapper. Jamie: black bass. Which of course was the one she liked the least. Good. Whoever is furthest from the mark will go home.

Carla has never oil poached fish before. Lots of fish filleting. Jamie also has to break down the Serrano ham, which she asks Hosea to help her with. Eric and some lackey watch everyone. The lackey has the EXACT same hair color as Eric, which as we all know is not a color found in nature, so it’s really bizarre. Stefan thinks this will be super easy. Leah claims to have been the lead fish cook at her last restaurant. With all the seafood trouble she’s had? Hosea is not schooled as a chef. He has no idea about the spices, and he sees eggs and breadcrumbs in his ingredients so he is assuming the fish is dipped in egg wash and then in breadcrumbs mixed with spices, or maybe sprinkle the spice on egg wash dipped fish. Oh, he makes me nervous. Fabio just hopes his dish comes close. Leah cuts her miso with butter. Uh…ok.

Eric shows up to inspect food. Just like Tim! He tells Stefan that the asparagus in his original dish isn’t cooked. Stefan tries to confirm if that means “not cooked at all” or “not cooked in the same manner you cooked yours” but that’s all the help he’s getting. Leah’s miso is too intense and it’s oily. Carla is close but it needs acid. Hosea has a lot of spice and has to figure out his fish.

Jamie didn’t get Eric to taste her dish because she didn’t have time. Everyone sets up their mise en place and goes upstairs, where they’ll have 15 minutes to cook for the judges. There are other people in the restaurant upstairs, so how did they have space in the kitchen for these people and the cameras and stuff?

Fabio thinks he might have overcooked the bread. It does look dark. And it’s too thick. They get an original plate for comparison. It’s pretty close. Leah flails and cuts it pretty close time-wise. I think she’s got Killer Fatigue. Killer Fatigue is a thing from “Amazing Race” where people have been on the show for a while, and they just are so tired from lack of sleep and crazy reality show nonsense that their brain shuts down and they fall apart. There’s a lot of sauce and the wrong amount of miso. Tom says his is overcooked and all he tastes is ginger. Toby praises Eric’s dish and Eric practically blushes and thanks him. Padma jokingly declares him the Top Chef. Stefan is cocky as always. However, his sauce is much thicker. Eric says his chefs make it in a blender, while Stefan made his by hand. Toby pretty much sums it up by saying that if he didn’t know that Stefan’s dish was supposed to be like Eric’s, he’d be pretty pleased with it. He’s very close. Carla is totally in the weeds, and everyone is helping her plate. The potato crisps didn’t turn out well, which is what made her behind. But everything else is so close that I think the judges are satisfied. Hosea knows his is off. The sauce is close, but the fish is completely different and you can tell by looking at it. There’s too much za’atar and he didn’t rest the monkfish. Remember that everyone; if you cook monkfish it has to rest before you cut it, just like a roast. Tom outs Hosea as being a seafood chef and tells the rest of the judges this should be easy for him. Man. Jamie ruins her celery by leaving it on the stove too long but she feels she has to serve it. It looks pretty close, but the celery is far too salty. The fish is nicely cooked though.

Padma collects Fabio, Stefan, and Carla as the top three. Tom calls him on his cocky attitude and they tell him his sauce was too thick. Fabio didn’t burn the bread, which Eric thought he would. It was a great example. Carla impresses everyone by correctly figuring out the sauce and sounding more intelligent than when she was talking about sending out love in her dish. Stefan wins. Blah. Carla looks kind of pissed. Stefan wins a copy of Eric’s book and also a week in Eric’s kitchen, followed by a trip to a food and wine festival. Aww, they’ll be all cozy!

Hosea is kind of surprised, but he knows he doesn’t know za’atar spice. They tell him about monkfish resting, and he says it only rested for about a minute but he didn’t have time. Tom is glad to know he knew what was wrong. Leah describes how her miso probably looked greasy because things were hot, and she didn’t know how to fix it. She asks how Eric does it, and he mentions miso and lemon but not the butter that Leah used. Everything is subtle and she missed some stuff. Toby complains that she didn’t put any miso on his plate, because she knew that it was wrong so she was trying to mitigate that. Tom point blank asks her if she’s given up, and she insists she wants to win and regrets giving up yesterday. Eh. Jamie knows the celery was over salty. Padma would have sent it back. Toby says her sauce had a metallic, almost burnt taste that made him not want to eat anything. She admits this dish wasn’t her favorite but she thought she had the dish. Tom confirms she knows what she did wrong. Well…sort of. She explained the celery but not what the deal was with Toby’s sauce complaint.

Hosea should have seared the fish before putting the spice on it, which apparently you can tell that from looking at the finished dish, I guess. He also didn’t time his cooking so he could rest his fish. But the sauce was more complicated and he got it. Leah put butter in the miso sauce and there wasn’t even any fat in the sauce in the first place. Jamie did understand what she did wrong, which is a point in her favor. Tom asks which is worse: someone who screws up and knows what they did, or someone who just has no idea what is going on. In the Stew Room Leah tries to ask Jamie what Toby said about her dish, but Jamie keeps interrupting her to tell everyone how her sauce was “metallic” and Toby hated it. She’s not talking about you.

Tom tells Hosea he missed the spice going on after searing, Leah couldn’t figure out how the miso was incorporated into the dish, Jamie oversalted the celery. Jamie goes home. Man. I think Leah should have gone home. Jamie was pretty whiny today, though. It’s the end of Team Rainbow. She’s pretty calm about going home.

Next week: Tom asks them not to embarrass him, Fabio cuts himself badly enough that someone asks him if he wants to go to the hospital, and I believe that’s Jacques Pepin at the dinner table. And Wylie Dufresne. There’s like a pound of Vaseline on the lens, though, so it’s hard to tell.

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