Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 6/24/09--"Offal Tasty" summary

Last time on “Top Chef: Masters”: Nothing. Um…let’s see…oh, the chefs had to make vending machine amuse bouches. Except that they used a TON of things that were in the pantry already so it was more regular food than vending machine food. So that wasn’t as cool as it could have been. And then NBC was surprisingly OK with promoting another network’s show, and the chefs made dinner for the producers and writers of “Lost”. Except they could only use boar and seafood, and random canned items. This was supposed to simulate how they were stranded on a deserted island. Of course, I am pretty sure DHARMA never had an immersion circulator. Why did they let them use all that equipment? Anyways, some cool stuff happened but they didn’t show any of it so they could have the “critics” praise everyone and then Suzanne Tracht won. Woo. The most common complaint I’m seeing from everyone is “more cooking, less judging and star nonsense.” I am with you guys on that one. (click for more)

Wilo Benet, from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He talks in Spanish for a while, which is cool. He was a guest judge when they were in Puerto Rico for the Season 4 finale. Season 3? The one in Chicago. He is playing for the San Jorge Children’s Foundation. Next is Cindy Pawlcyn, from California’s Napa Valley. I kind of find it weird that the judges are the ones praising the contestants. Like, later they are supposed to critique them, but right now they are talking about how fabulous everyone is. Maybe that’s why the judging is so boring. Her charity is Clinic Ole. Ludo Lefebvre is from L.A. via Paris. His accent is thick enough to warrant subtitles, but I can still understand him. He’s cute, too. OK Tom can talk about these people, because he’s not here. And I miss him. Hi, Tom! Anyway, Ludo’s charity is C.H.A.S.E. For Life (which teaches people how to do CPR). Rick Bayless is the last chef. I kind of remember him being a jerk when he was a guest judge. That is promising. He is playing for the Frontera Farmer Foundation.

Today’s Quickfire leftovers: everyone draws colored knives. I notice there are extras. Make a dish based on a color. Michael won that one. Was that the episode he had a tooth pulled and he was all drugged up? The judges are food stylists. Well, one stylist, one photographer, and one cookbook author. 30 minutes to cook.

OK, guys, Ludo is perfectly understandable. He doesn’t need subtitles all the time. He has red and is making steak tartar and beet gazpacho, I think. Cindy talks about how she overcame sexism, as she makes yellow grits and veggie curry. That sounds pretty good. Rick lucked out with green, so he’s got lots of vegetables. Wilo has orange, and has decided since all the diners are female they may enjoy edible flowers. Ludo says he usually doesn’t share space because he’s French. Cindy helps him plate. When Kelly shows up Ludo begins cursing because he forgot the tomato for his dish. Oops.

Once the waiters leave Ludo finds the gazpacho sitting on the counter. Did he forget to put that on the plate too? What is going on here? So right now the dishes have steak tartare with watermelon and red onion, but no beet gazpacho. And no tomatoes. He yells at the waiters when they come back in, but they do take it and pour it over the plates. Kelly asks if this makes it more appetizing but one woman compares it to blood. So that’s a no. Cindy’s dish of vegetable curry over grits and corn tortilla strips is next. It seems to get good reviews. Rick has green: roasted vegetables with mole verde, tomatillos, green chilies and pumpkin seeds. All served in a bowl lined with a banana leaf. It’s complex. Wilo is last: smoked salmon tartare with carrots, and a coconut milk and tomato paste sauce. He used a ring mold to get the tartare in a cylinder, but he’s left it on someone’s plate. Actually, I think all the plates. But they love the taste.

Rating time. The most boring time of the show. Ludo = 3 stars, Cindy = 3.5, Rick = 4 stars, and Wilo = 4.5 stars.

Elimination challenge: you must make a street food dish that will be served at Universal Studios. They draw knives again for proteins. Wilo gets beef heart, Rick gets tongue, Cindy has tripe, and Ludo gets pig’s ears. Of course, since these are well-qualified chefs this does not faze them in the slightest. Which is SO BORING. Not one whiner? Not one person complaining about how they would never eat this stuff? I guess the closest we get is Rick saying that the challenge here is to convince the average American to eat offal. They will have $300 for more ingredients, and 3 hours to prep. Tomorrow on location they’ll have another hour.

Ludo is kind of lost because French people don’t do street food, so he decides on quesadillas. Rick is like, what does he know about quesadillas? But he’s helping him out. Wilo gets pita bread. Cindy has a club surrounding offal. She goes out with her friends all the time. She plans to make menudo, which is probably good but I think street food shouldn’t need utensils. That’s just my opinion. Ludo chides Rick for doing tacos and “copying” him even though Rick cooks Mexican food and would probably do that no matter what.

Back to the kitchen to prep. Rick brings up a good point that most of the time, offal takes a really long time to cook. Cindy is using a pressure cooker but it looks like she never has before. Rick helps her out too. Such a nice guy! Ludo has a big pot with vegetables and his pig’s ears. Wilo has never had heart before, so he’s kind of guessing as he goes. So they call out 2 hours left, and then 20 minutes. Everyone talks once, and then everyone offers to help Ludo but he tells them to get lost. That was all of the cooking? Lame.

Rick talks about making this offal palatable for “Mid-America”. L.A. is not Middle America but we’ll go with that. Close enough. I wondered if they could get away with not advertising what they were selling, but everyone has a sandwich board with their offal in giant letters. Like, Ludo’s says “EARS” across the top. He’s found that all his ears have solidified into one huge block and he wastes time chopping them again. Wilo is making a sandwich, and there are “normal” proteins in there too. There is a giant line of people trying to get on TV and willing to eat offal to do it. Ludo curses a lot because the quesadillas don’t heat well. He doesn’t even get anything done before the diners show up.

Some random guys says “Come on, Rick Bayless, slip me some tongue” and everyone laughs. Rick plays along and says once you’ve had his tongue you never forget it. Hee. The judges show up at his cart first. He says Gael is picky and unpredictable. He serves them chorizo, bacon, and tongue tacos with guacamole and pickled onions. They look really good. Jay Ray thinks this will give you some powerful bad breath, but Gael wants another one. Wilo describes his sandwich, which he’s making with pita bread so it’s more portable. The sandwiches are called “tripletas” and this one has heart, ham, and chicken, with cheese sauce, caramelized onions, and hot sauce if you want. There’s a lot of toppings, but the heart is cooked well. Ludo flails. Like, really badly. When the judges come by he doesn’t have anything ready. His dish is pig’s ear quesadillas (the chyron says “pork” like we wouldn’t know), with chorizo, pinto bean puree, lime aioli, and smoked paprika. They rib him, and he says “Don’t stress me, I’m the chef” to which Jay Ray replies “We’re the customers!” He tries to charm them. The judges enjoy it but the cheese plus ear is kind of weird. Cindy advertises her hot and spicy menudo as a hangover cure. Jay Ray thinks it’s a little under seasoned. Ludo trash talks Rick a little bit.

Commercial interlude: Wilo is surprised that everyone was excited about offal. Well, they did have giant signs with things like “EARS” written on them. I’m pretty sure no one was going to come wandering up if they weren’t game for offal.

Ludo tried not to scare anyone with pig’s ear. James says that he cooked the ears for two hours with some vegetables but he didn’t taste any of the flavors. Cindy had a short time to cook the tripe, but it came out tender. Jay Ray asks if she went conservative, because it was under seasoned. Huh? I guess, because menudo is somewhat common, he thinks she picked that so as to have an easier time convincing people to like tripe. Eh. She says maybe. Rick wanted to use the tomatillos as an acidic punch. James likes it but Jay Ray has nothing nice to say (although he’s the one who asked about the acid). Wilo talks about tweaking his sandwich recipe, and James wishes he had toasted or warmed his pita first. Gael loved the spicy mayonnaise.

Cindy had the most up front offal, undisguised. James thinks it was “weak in the knees”. Wilo cut the heart very thin, and I guess they wanted bigger pieces? Rick used chorizo to transform his dish, and Jay Ray says he only needed a napkin which is how street food should be. Ludo pulled the short straw, but did a decent job.

More stars. No one minds if I just give you totals, right? No one? Excellent. Ludo ends up with a total of 16.5 stars. Cindy only ends up with 15.5. Rick earns 22.5 (the critics give him 5 except for Jay Ray, that jerk). Wilo only earns 19.5, so Rick Bayless is the winner. Ludo promises to come back for “Top Chef Masters 2”. Unlikely. Not that he’ll come back, that it will exist.

Next week: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS!!!!!!! Oh, show, I will forgive so much if NPH is going to be on. Can he cook some? I think he is doing some cooking or something. I love me some Neil Patrick Harris.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 6/17/09--"The Lost Supper" summary

Last time on “Top Chef: Masters”: Four famous chefs had to make desserts to please Girl Scouts, and then cook real food in real dorm rooms. Pretty much everyone did very well, and the “critics” (they’re not judges this time) were very nice and respectful. Actually, everyone respected each other a lot. No drama, no fighting. The most excitement was when Tim Love put all his food into the freezer instead of the fridge. It’s like if PBS made a cooking reality show. Actually, it’s exactly like that. “Cooking Under Fire”, anyone? (click for more)

Our first contestant is Graham Elliot Bowles, from Chicago. Tom and James say nice things about him. He’s playing for the American Heart Association. Suzanne Tract, from LA, has a restaurant called Jar, which I think is cool. She is described as a “West Coast chef”. Her charity is a local food pantry. And then Wylie Dufresne walks in and Graham curses. Hee. They’re friends and he knows the winner will lord it over the other one for months. He doesn’t like the “molecular gastronomist” title because it’s not sexy. He’s playing for Autism Speaks. He’s been a guest judge more than once. Elizabeth Falkner walks in with a large stick. I love watching her on “Food Network Challenge”. She immediately starts talking about her restaurant, which answers a main question I had, which is that mostly pastry chefs don’t cook. But she does cook. Her charity is The Edible Schoolyard, which teaches school kids to grow food. Cool. She’s been a guest judge, for the infamous S&M store episode.

Kelly explains the format of the show, again, and then gives them the Quickfire. And a roll of quarters. Hee! Graham claims to have been hoping for the vending machine amuse bouche challenge. Their judges will be people who have some experience in this area. As they show the dining room to the contestants, they give us some reaction before they show us who it is. And the reactions are pretty much “Jesus Christ, we’re screwed.” Ilan, Betty, and Michael from season 2 are waiting for them. The best part, is that Wylie judged part of season 2 and had mean things to say about Ilan. Good for him. I don’t like Ilan or Betty.

Mostly the chefs don’t know what they are doing. Graham uses junk food sometimes so he wants to do something good. Suzanne has teenagers at home so she’s not entirely clueless. Back in the kitchen Kelly gives them 30 minutes. Graham is worried about Wylie. People seem to be using soda which I like. And the best part is that they’ve gone to immense trouble to put tape over all the brand names, and the chefs are using them right and left. Elizabeth busts out the liquid nitrogen for ice cream. Running around. Wylie curses a lot.

Wylie: red onion and grilled cheese with a Dr. Pepper reduction. Betty complains that her sauce is solid. Michael loves it. Ilan complains that it’s too big, and shut up Ilan. Suzanne: fried shallot rings with micro green salad and Dr. Pepper aioli. What is from the vending machine aside from the soda? Everyone likes it. Wait, I think the shallots are breaded with Fritos. Elizabeth: braised beef jerky with orange juice, lemon, and horseradish ice cream. Braised in Dr. Pepper. Michael and Ilan think it’s great, but Betty doesn’t like the flavors. Graham: tuna salad with pickled shallots, ginger orange bubbles, and beef jerky miso powder. Very well received.

Elizabeth gets 3.5 stars, Graham gets 4.5 stars, Wylie gets 3 stars, and Suzanne gets all 5 stars. So those are the standings going into the Elimination Challenge. Kelly kicks them out of the kitchen while they “set up the ingredients”. When they get back, they discover a large spread of some proteins…a boar’s head with tusks and hair…”tropical grasses”. Kelly says they will be cooking dinner for the producers and writers of “Lost”. So…none of the actors? “Ace of Cakes” had the actors. I don’t care about the producers. Why are you doing a tie-in with an ABC show, Bravo? Apparently the writers are big fans of “Top Chef” and want to see what chefs would do if they had been stranded on the island. Wylie has never seen “Lost” and is confused, but I really don’t think you need to have seen the show to do well. Don’t worry Wylie, those of us who’ve watched “Lost” from the beginning don’t know what’s going on either. The twist is that they will not be able to use the pantry. They’ve got what’s on the table, and what’s on a list that Kelly is holding. The list has the DHARMA logo from the Swan station on it. Nice touch. Mostly Kelly’s list is canned stuff.

In the car on the way to the store Graham and Wylie think of things and then cross them off when they’re not on the list. No one complains about not knowing how to shop in stores. Wylie attacks a dispenser thing. Suzanne refers to Wylie and Graham as “Mutt and Jeff”, I think. “Matt and Jeff”? whatever.

2.5 hours of prep time in the kitchen. For some reason there are a TON of product placement shots. Stupid. Suzanne talks about cooking back when most chefs were men. Elizabeth’s menu: ancho-beer braised boar loin, coffee scented poached boar loin, and yam papaya pudding. The poached one is sous vide. Writing “boar loin” looks funny. Wylie runs around. Graham talks to his olive oil. He is making a tuna trio, sort of: maki roll with tuna and dehydrated pineapple, tuna nicoise, and tuna a la plancha. Suzanne claims to not be a plantain kind of gal. This restaurant near me makes the best plantain chips, with a vinegar slaw. So good. Anyway, Suzanne’s menu: risotto with uni, clams, & prawns, wild boar strip with oyster beer sauce, and mango corn salad. Uni…I know it’s supposed to be a delicacy or whatever, but it’s kind of gross. Wylie’s menu: roasted chicken with poached egg, beets with dried corn, and plantain puree. He schools Elizabeth on using the immersion circulator. But he’s also cooking something in Ziploc bags, I think.

Damon and Carlton are here, and the writers, who do not get introduced. You know, I’ve been watching “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” which Carlton Cuse was a producer of, and it was awesome. Except for the parts where they started talking about time travel and alien artifacts. So just like “Lost”! J.J. Abrams is apparently too busy with Star Trek. Fine.
Frantic plating occurs. I think that while everyone has three dishes, they’re all going on the same plate. Elizabeth turns around to get more sauce but the waiters (dressed in DHARMA jumpsuits) have already removed her plates. That sucks. Sadly the jumpsuits do not say “Waiter”.

Elizabeth’s dish is up first. It looks pretty good, and it seems like most people like it, except for some suspicion about the yam and papaya pudding. Of course Jay Ray wants more sauce. Graham explains his tuna trio: the maki roll is tuna wrapped around dried pineapple, and the “tuna a la plancha” is actually coffee crusted seared tuna on top of shitake mushroom and yam risotto and hearts of palm. Everyone loves it. It sounds really good too. Wylie comes out to introduce his food, which includes banana mustard and beets. Jay Ray says he doesn’t mean to be mean but he has no chicken. Ouch. When Wylie was plating, it looks like he put two portions of chicken on one plate and none on the other. That sucks. Damon doesn’t understand the egg; it’s like an art piece. He’s kept true to himself. Suzanne is last. There’s a lot of different things going on but they all seem to work. She described it as a holiday meal and I think that sold everyone. You know when you get your plate at Thanksgiving and there’s a million different things going on, but it works.

Wylie explains how he cooked the egg sous vide, and how he cooked the chicken perfectly. No one says anything bad except Jay Ray rubs it in that he didn’t get any chicken. Graham talks about his coffee rubbed tuna, and James praises his green beans in his tuna nicoise. There is a very long explanation about salsa and…something…I didn’t understand it. Elizabeth gets praise for the boar but not for the pudding. She explains how she didn’t put enough sauce on the plate. Everyone loves Suzanne’s food. I need a macro for that. I mean, it’s nice to see everyone be respectful, but sometimes Tom would say something funny while insulting someone’s food. Backstage Elizabeth rolls her eyes that they were meaner when they were judges.

Elizabeth had too little sauce and too much pudding. Graham’s maki roll was just ok. See, they don’t say these things to the chefs! They’re just all, “Oh your food is delicious”. Sigh. There is a small argument about falling under Wylie’s spell of thinking about everything. At first Jay Ray thought there were too many things going on with Suzanne but it all went together. See, this is all I’m getting out of the judging table.

Commercial interlude: Elizabeth claims to be able to make chocolate chip cookie dough in under 5 minutes. They start mixing. Wylie starts offering alternate cooking methods: pan sear, microwave, deep fry. Yum. That was cute.

Score time. Graham: diner score 4 stars, James 4 stars, Gael 4 stars, Jay Ray 3.5 stars, for a total of 20.5 stars. Wylie: diners 3.5, James 5, Gael 4, Jay Ray 4.5, total 20 stars. Aww, bye Wylie. Elizabeth: diners 3.5, Jay Ray 3, James 3, Gael 3.5, total 16.5. Ouch. I notice that even though Kelly told both her and Wylie to pack their knives they’re sitting around the table. Suzanne: diners 4.5, Gael 4.5, James 4, Jay Ray 4.5, total 22.5. So she wins! Woo. Everyone bonded and no one is a sore loser.

Next week: I don’t know, but then they have to cook outside. Something about cooking things that are inedible?

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 6/10/09 summary

Welcome to “Top Chef: Masters!” I…guess we needed some filler between “Make Me a Supermodel” and regular “Top Chef”. Each week 4 chefs who already own restaurants and are famous will compete for charities. The winner each week makes it to the semifinals. Thank God it’s set up that way, because I did not want to have to keep track of 24 people. Let’s get started, shall we? (click for more)

So Padma…wait, that’s not Padma. I guess she’s busy with her Hardee’s commercials. That’s Carl’s Jr. for those of you in the West. This is Kelly Choi…who is also a model/TV host. And here’s the panel…where is Tom? WTF is this, show? No Padma with the munchies and no Tom with the evil eye? The rest of the judges are: Gael Greene, restaurant critic (who has taken great pains to keep her identity a secret, so she went on a television show, good job); James Oseland, editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine; and Jay Rayner, British journalist. I shall call him Jay Ray. Oh and Gail Simmons is here! I do like Gail. Winner wins $100,000 for their charity and the “chance” to win $250,000 in prizes. Also you get to call yourself “Top Chef Master” which sounds pretty cool. Everyone is serious in the opening, and they have different music, and no one takes off their chef jacket. So that’s no fun.

Michael Schlow, from Boston. You know what? I would suggest you Google these people. You’ll get good results. He has a James Beard award, and is representing the Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care. Then he says some tripe about how all the contestants are still students. Hubert Keller. Seriously? Hubert Keller? Has nothing better to do than be on a basic cable spin-off reality show? I know you own a restaurant right here in St. Louis, Keller, but I’m not paying $25 or whatever for a burger so I’ll never go. WE have a Burger Bar here, and a SleeK steakhouse, but not a Fleur de Lys, in the casino for attractive people. You can tell how awesome he is because Gail talks about him in his intro. He was the guest judge in the first episode ever of “Top Chef”. Keller is playing for Make-A-Wish. Christopher Lee, New York. He also has a James Beard award. Gael says he’s cool. He is playing for Autism Speaks. Tim Love, Fort Worth. He is wearing a cowboy hat in the kitchen. Tom!! Oh, Tom, don’t just be in the interview, be on the show. He is competing for March of Dimes. Something cool is, it looks like everyone already knows each other.

Quickfire challenge! Rather than come up with new challenges, they’re going to recycle old challenges from past seasons of “Top Chef”. I think the idea is to make the judges go through the challenges and have a new appreciation for the contestants, or feel bad they were so harsh, or something. Kelly says only one dish has struck fear into the hearts of every contestant, and that is dessert. Various groanings. Good job, show, for not giving this Quickfire to the group with Elizabeth Falkner in it. Kelly references Richard and his banana scallops. They have to make the tastiest dessert they can, and it will be judged by a “group” with a “sweet tooth”. Cut to the dining room, where there are 4 Girl Scouts. Hee. And even though Season 4 got 90 minutes to do this, since they’re Masters they only get 60. Have fun!

Tim wants to have a shot of tequila. He says that he’s never worked for anyone famous, or been famous, so he’s an unknown quantity to the other chefs. He’s a little nervous. Hubert talks about Make-A-Wish and then says he’s making a chocolate swan? With meringue? Michael is making a chocolate brownie with honey almond ice cream and some peanut butter chocolates. Yum. Tim is making chocolate dipped strawberries (OK), chicken fried strawberries (uh…yum?), and strawberry shakes (OK, that sounds good again). Christopher talks about not making super fancy stuff for kids, but still keeping your integrity. He’s making French toast cubes, with bananas, and maple fluff. All on a stick. That sounds good. Michael’s cake isn’t baking and his ice cream is not set. He can’t even get the mixer to work, as he says he has new respect for the contestants. His plate is a hot mess. The candy is technically ready, but they’re falling apart, and he’s got a scoop of chocolate batter on the plate too. Sigh.

God, when I was a Junior Girl Scout, was I that young? I remember Juniors being older. Anyways, Michael is up first. Milk chocolate cake, peanut butter chocolate candies, and honey almond cream. The first girl gets a point for referencing Tagalongs. They don’t like everything but he knows it sucked. Tim is up next with the strawberries three ways: shake, chocolate dipped, and chicken fried. They don’t seem to like the shake. Hubert’s looks very cool. Chocolate mouse swan, whipped cream mouse, and fruit with orange sabayon. The fruit and sabayon is in a sideways glass dish. That’s why he’s Hubert Keller. The kids love it. Christopher is last. French toast with caramelized banana, orange sauce, and maple syrup fluff. There is a toast cube and a slice of banana with a toothpick. One girl complains about the burnt banana. Hee. Another one says the French toast tastes like hash browns.

Michael’s average score is 2.5 stars. He’s glad not to get zero. Tim gets 3.5, Christopher receives 3.5 stars also, but Hubert gets 5 stars. I thought so. These scores get added to the Elimination scores to determine who will move on.

For their Elimination challenge, the chefs are going back to college. Some lackeys wheel in a cart with a hot plate, a toaster oven, and a microwave. Ha! They have to make a 3 course meal for critics and students at Pomona College. Michael brags he doesn’t own a microwave. They have $150 (which no college student would spend on one meal) and a limited pantry.

While shopping Michael explains the scoring. There are 20 stars possible; 5 from the diners and 15 from the judges. Hubert doesn’t shop, usually, he just orders things on the phone. He loses his cart in the store. Christopher is making Asian food. Tim is scrambling because there is no ground pork for his chili. He’s last to the check-out and the other chefs mock him.

The prize you can win by texting your answer to the weekly question is a trip to the winner’s restaurant for a “personal dinner”. That is an awesome prize.

In the morning, Michael’s pretty confident, if slightly nervous about the uncertainty. Tim finds that his food is frozen. As they were storing things last night, he found an empty cooler and just put all his stuff in there, not knowing it was a freezer and not a refrigerator. He says there was no ice or anything. Uh oh. Christopher says that his protein is probably OK but his produce is ruined, and it’s too bad because Tim is a great chef.

They take their stuff to dorm rooms. HA. It’s someone’s actual dorm room, with all their stuff. And it’s a real sized room, not those ridiculous huge things on TV. Christopher says he never made anything this good when he was in college. Hubert never went to college, and if he hadn’t become a chef he’d have become a DJ. There are photos. That was not what I expected. Tim is just worried about how to get his food defrosted. Michael’s student shows up to get a textbook, and also so Michael can tell him his menu (how convenient!): salmon crudo, cabbage soup with bacon, and pork a la apicius. He says that college students have palates that are just emerging so cooking for them is slightly different than cooking for critics. That’s very true. Tim lets his student taste. Hubert’s menu: fresh Scottish salmon, carrot and pea soup with cinnamon, and macaroni & cheese with prawns. I love mac & cheese, but…somehow seafood and cheese makes me slightly nervous. I mean I’m sure it’s good, I just am not really excited by it. Hubert drains the pasta in the bathroom shower stall. That is exactly what we used to do. Not in the shower, but draining pasta in the bathroom. Hee. He uses the shower to shock the pasta and also to warm it back up. Christopher’s menu: red snapper ceviche, creamy risotto, and pan roasted pork chop with fennel salad. Sounds good. Tim is making posole, which normally involves hominy, but somehow he’s trying to make it work. Frantic working. Christopher offers people popcorn. Tim’s menu: scallop carpaccio, squash and corn “pozole”, and skirt steak with braised kale. Since the scallops were frozen, he couldn’t sear them like he wanted. Time’s up!

The chefs come to introduce their food, and get introduced to the judges. Tim’s scallops have lime and chili. There’s not a lot of chili. Michael has salmon crudo with mint, red chilies, kumquat, and cucumber. The students are impressed it was made in a dorm room, but Jay Ray thinks it’s cheating to make a raw appetizer, so you don’t have to cook in the dorm room. Christopher: red snapper ceviche with citrus juices, avocado, and popcorn. They like it. Hubert: Scottish salmon mi cuit over creamy whole grain mustard. They like that too.

Second courses go out. Michael wanted to make something that students could make. Cabbage soup with white bean, fennel, and smoked bacon. Gael’s hat is so big you can’t see her eyes. Christopher’s risotto has procuitto and sage. Gael says it’s soggy but James thinks it tastes good. Hubert serves his carrot and pea soup with cinnamon croutons. It sounds great. Tim’s “pozole” looks like chili and it fits the dorm environment.

Tim says he turned his situation around. The judges like his simple dish but the kale is bitter and it’s salty. Michael’s pork is peppery and kind of sweet. Hubert’s macaroni & cheese looks so good. They love it. Christopher’s pork chop comes with piperade and mashed potatoes. Piperade seems to be sautéed onions and peppers. I think they are cutting him some slack for cooking on a hot plate.

Commercial interlude with chefs not understanding how to work microwaves. I mean…if I’ve never seen that brand before I don’t know what I’m doing either. Well, that was fun.

Instead of “Judges’ Table” we have “Critics’ Table”. I’m not sure how that’s different. Hubert says he took a risk with his pasta and he tells the judges how he used the bathroom to get it done. Jay Ray didn’t get the soup, which had overpowering cinnamon flavor. Gael loved it, though. Michael explains that pork a la apicius is honey, curry, cayenne, and vinegar. He overcooked it, though, because he had to sear it twice on the hot plate. His soup was very comforting. Tim has to explain how he put all his food in the freezer. Everyone liked his pozole, and that he managed to sear his steak, but it was over salty. Kelly asks if he would change anything, and he says he changed plenty today already. Christopher was worried about his risotto, and it was delicious even though it was overcooked. He had problems searing also. Kelly kicks everyone out of the room.

There is no Stew Room, but a nice back storage room somewhere with glassware and a real table. The judges talk about how hard it was to cook in dorm rooms, and how they all pulled it off. Hubert’s first course could have been served in his restaurant, and everyone is talking about the shower. Michael’s soup was great but he could have cooked it longer. But his pork was overcooked. Tim overcame his freezer problems and the judges all seem impressed with his recovery. Backstage Tim isn’t bothered because he says British people don’t season anything so what does Jay Ray know? Christopher’s pork chop had a lot of other things going on, but the meat was good. Well, James liked it, but Jay Ray thought he needed all that other stuff because the pork was dry. All are impressed with the risotto.

Kelly calls everyone back in to give them their scores. Michael’s diner score is 3.5 stars. The critics each give him 2.5 stars so he ends up with 13.5. Tim’s diner score is 3 stars, and he gets 2.5, 2.5, and 3 stars from James, Gael, and Jay Ray, respectively. That gives him 14.5. Michael gets kicked out right away. Christopher: 4 stars from diners, 4 from Gael, 3.5 from James, and 4 from Jay Ray, for a total of 19. Hubert needs 14.5 stars to win. Come on, it’s Hubert Keller. Diner score is 4 stars, Jay Ray is 3.5, Gael is 4, James is 4. So he wins! Yay! Make-A-Wish gets $10,000, and he gets to come back in a few weeks. Everyone had a good time and liked to be challenged, etc.

This season: a lot of cooking and a decided lack of drama. Neil Patrick Harris!! LOVE! Someone saying that the contestants were meaner when they were judges. Hee. So…competent contestants and no drama? I am glad to see it.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Welcome to Leg . . . well, now, we don’t have The Amazing Race to enjoy right now, do we? So, we (Toyouke, Auburnium513, me, and the rest of us) were watching this season and got all the way to the end of leg 9. You know, the leg where Phil voice-overed that the Pit Stop would be the “Most Memorable Pit Stop EVER!” Yeah, so we all agreed that Jen and Kisha vs. Margie and Luke in a yelling match was probably not something that would stick in our minds forever. Sure, Jonathan going ballistic on Victoria in Berlin at the Brandenberg Gate in Season 6, Leg 5 made for good TV, but a shouting match in which one or more parties are belligerent to their spouse or other teams does not a memorable pit stop make. As a result, here are our picks for the 10 most memorable Pit Stops EVER. (Toyouke: "Plus, video for each one. Although sadly some of the videos didn't adjust to the right size. If it bothers you click on it to watch on another page.") (click for more)

Now, I’m going to use a little ranking system. Putting together this list was extremely difficult because we thought of at least thirty possibilities that we eliminated for various reasons. When considering these however, it comes down to three criteria: the INTELLIGENCE involved on the part of the teams involved to survive or be eliminated; the EXCITEMENT created when the event occurred, positive or negative; and the IMPACT on the race as a whole. All of these have been rated on a 1-10 scale by your favorite recapper.

10) “We’re Moving Up the Food Chain”: Season 7, Leg 6: Teams raced from South Africa to Botswana by taking a charter flight from Johannesburg without being told where they were going. En route to the Pit Stop, the loveable brothers, Brian and Greg, also known as “the Goats”, were driving their vehicle to the Detour and managed to flip the car, prompting all sorts of argument from the remaining teams as to whether or not to stop and see if they needed help. (Kmanpat: “It’s a race, let them fend for themselves.”) Anyway, this knocked them into last place. Once they arrived at the Detour, they noticed that most teams were choosing the Food option, which had them mashing corn to a line. Teams would then run to the mat, waiting nearby on Makgadikgadi Pans. So the Goats decided that they would not be at an advantage to take Food . . . so they took the other option, Water, where they had to fill 12 ostrich eggs using water from an underground spring and a straw, and then burying the eggs in the ground. Doesn’t sound like the fastest option in the world, but their nearest competition, Ray and Deana, the loud obnoxious team of the season, couldn’t grind corn very quickly. So both teams finished their Detour. Simultaneously. Not very exciting, unless you realize that there is one slot left at the mat, which is a good 200 feet away. Brian and Greg, being more athletic, beat Ray and Deana in a footrace, cropping them from a first place Fast Forward finish to last place and an elimination. Memorability factor: Well, no one else has flipped their car before or since, and the move to do the other detour was extremely strategic. (Toyouke: “Plus, the Goats recovered from FLIPPING THEIR CAR.”) So I give INTELLIGENCE a 7, EXCITEMENT an 8, and IMPACT a 4 (mostly due to the removal of themselves in the next leg). Pep talking and reckless driving begin at 3:45.

9) “Gorilla? Gorilla?? Gorilla???”: Season 14, Leg 7: Teams raced from India to Thailand, where the only clue that teams had to find their first location was the picture of a statue of a gorilla at the Phuket Zoo. Problem was, Mel and Mike couldn’t figure it out, got their late, didn’t opt to take the Fast Forward that was still available, and were eliminated. But that’s not what makes this Pit Stop memorable. Nor is the fact that Mark and Michael, having chosen the 2 Miles Detour option, packed up all of the bike pumps, endangering the other teams and hired a taxi to follow to the clue box, incurring two penalties and dropping them from the first to arrive to third to check in. No, no folks. We remember who checked in fourth. Margie and Luke, having just completed the 2 miles Detour were exhausted. Well, Margie was. See, Luke is deaf, and couldn’t hear her when he was driving the rickshaw for directions. So Supermom did it herself. Makes sense. Except her son is heavier than her. And this is Thailand. So they get to the Pit Stop and Margie does what any sensible person would have done: she passes out. Luke flips out, and Phil jumps to the rescue, calling for the medics. It’s one of the first times that Phil has ever interacted with a team at a Pit Stop for a reason other than checking in. And it kept us on the edge of our seats for a week while we waited to hear if Margie was able to keep racing. (Toyouke: “And who can argue the memorability of a medical emergency?”) Memorability factor: Certainly more memorable than the Pit Stop from this season that was SO memorable, because it ultimately involved just about every team in some way or another. So I give INTELLIGENCE a 5 (since who doesn’t try for a fast forward when they are last and who incurs two penalties on one leg?), EXCITEMENT a 9, and IMPACT a 6 (because all things fell into place, as they should have with the decisions made). Go to about 6:45.

8) “Five Continents, 25 Cities, And More Than 40,000 Miles”: Season 7, Leg 12: In the second leg to make the countdown from Season 7, teams raced from Jamaica to San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA to Miami, Florida, USA, where the three remaining teams island hopped their way to the finish line. At the end of the last leg, Uchenna and Joyce had all of their money and possessions stripped by Phil, since this was when he was still in his “let’s rob the contestants” phase. Anyway, Uchenna and Joyce are in Jamaica with no money which is not a good place to be with no money. They complete the necessary tasks and fly to San Juan without any money, where they pull into second place behind everyone’s favorite media whores, Rob and Amber. Teams are at the San Juan Airport for an 11:15 flight to Miami. Romber barely makes it on the flight and the jetway is pulled away from the gate. Miracle of miracles, the pilot gets called back to the gate to let Uchenna and Joyce on the plane. And thus sets up one of the most incredible finishes of the Race. When Uchenna and Joyce finish their tasks and arrive at the entrance to the Finish Line, lo and behold, NO MONEY. With an indeterminate amount of time before Romber arrives, they are able to beg enough money out of someone to allow them to become the winners of TAR7. Memorability factor: It’s the first finish on the list, and definitely one of the closest and most improbable in real life. So I give INTELLIGENCE a 3 (since it really came down to luck?), EXCITEMENT a 10, and IMPACT an 8 (since it was for a win). This video starts in the middle of the begging for money.

7) “You Need To Watch Your Jokes, Guy”: Season 11, Leg 5: In the All-Star Season, teams raced from Argentina to Mozambique while reveling over the surprise elimination of Rob and Amber. In the Detour, teams either had to paint people’s toenails or fill 10 45 pound bags of coal, sew them shut, and carry one of them to a specific address. I personally would choose the toenail painting, but most people would rather get dirty and fill bags of coal, including the perennial favorite, gay best friends Danny and Oswald, the Cha Cha Chas. What’s so memorable about this Pit Stop is simply the boys showing up a filthy mess, letting Phil know that he IS getting a hug from them, and then proceeds to chase him around the Fortaleza de Maputo. In side news, Uchenna and Joyce were last, but saved by non-elimination. Memorability factor: We still talk about this one all the time, simply for the sheer fun of it all. So I give INTELLIGENCE a 1 (doesn’t take much to chase Phil), EXCITEMENT a 10 (we still giggle about this), and IMPACT a 4 (non-elimination with a simple amount of fun). It's at 39:15 in this clip.

6) "I Wonder If They Like Blondes in New Zealand?”: Season 13, Leg 4: Teams raced from Bolivia to New Zealand. What is truly memorable about this episode is the pit stop itself. Yes, teams did have to find the Travelocity Roaming Gnome, jump off the Sky Tower for the Fast Forward, match tattoos on the faces of Maori Warriors, find Kiwi 360° (which is the biggest statue of a fruit I’ve ever seen), and either mash kiwi with their feet or construct and race Blokarts around a track. Yes, Starr hurt her wrist, teams killed their feet from all the kiwifruit and Ken and Tina got to fly in a helicopter. But it was Ken and Tina, walking up the hill to the Pit Stop at Summerhill Rec Farm, stepping onto the mat that has the most effect. “Hi, I’m Phil’s Dad; welcome to New Zealand!” Best Pit Stop Greeter. EVER. Memorability factor: Did I say it before? BEST. PIT STOP. GREETER. EVER. EVER! So I give INTELLIGENCE a 2 (doesn’t take much to get Phil’s Dad to greet, but you have to think of it), EXCITEMENT a 10, and IMPACT a 5 (elimination of Marisa and Brooke, but whatever). Toyouke: “But the look on Phil’s face when his dad insists on giving two cute girls a hug? The best.” Scroll to 8:20 (watch the other videos to see the very end).

5) "The Unexpected Twist”: Season 1, Leg 9: In a season that occurred before quotes were used for episode titles and the Race had really established itself, Teams raced from India to Thailand. Leaving India however, there are two groups. The top three teams leave within a half hour of each other, and the remaining teams, Joe and Bill (Team Guido) and Nancy and Emily (Team Momily) leave in the other group, three hours after the first. It’s this second group that we follow to Thailand and watch closely. All teams get to Thailand and hit hours of operation. When the tasks open, the first three teams concentrate on the Detour, while the other two do the Fast Forward, where teams choose a bowl with coins, drop them in an urn and if the bowl had the right number of coins, the teams wins the pass. Guidos win, so Momily has to go back and do the Detour. In the Detour, Public or Private, teams either had to go to a bus depot to catch a bus to Kanchanaburi which leaves every 15 minutes but takes a while, or find a private van using only a license plate number. Momily, however, GIVES UP, even though the taxi driver that they eventually use to go to Kanchanaburi suggests the bus. In the meantime, the Guidos are at the bus station to go to Krabi, where the pit stop is. This however, is 10 am, and the bus doesn’t leave until 6 pm. They wait. (Toyouke: “As in, they decide to blow 8 hours chilling. Not as if they’re in a race or anything.”) Fast forward to the check in. Momily and the Guidos are sitting with Phil. The Guidos are the last team to arrive. However, Momily chose to intentionally skip the Detour, giving them a 24 hour penalty. So who’s out? Momily. Memorability factor: Being this is the first season, I think there’s something given for setting the standard. So I give INTELLIGENCE a 5 (even though a lot of this is negative in deciding to take a taxi or wait for a bus), EXCITEMENT a 7, and IMPACT a 7 (elimination of Momily and not Guido, as it should have been). Momily checks in at 38:00, and at 40:00 Phil sits everyone down for a chat.

4) "We're Not at Charm School Learning How to Be a Gentleman, We're Racing”: Season 4, Leg 9: Teams raced through Malaysia on the island of Borneo from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. After teams cut down nut bunches (HEE!) from the trees, there happens to be a fast forward. This happens to be at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, which is a little out of the way. However, both Reichen and Chip and Jon and Kelly go for the pass. Reichen and Chip get it, and Jon and Kelly exclaim loudly and go back to complete the Roadblock. In the meantime, Chuck and Millie, the 12 year dating virgins have gotten lost. I mean, REALLY lost. They finally arrive at the Roadblock at the same time as Jon and Kelly, which gives them new hope. Both teams complete the Roadblock almost simultaneously (Toyouke: “eyeing each other the entire time“), and end up in a car race to the Pit Stop at Sepilok Nature Resort. The Amazing Editors keep up in suspense, but it’s Chillie who eventually get eliminated. Memorability factor: I always talk about this episode in reference to close finishes, and it shows what a team can do when they don’t give up (see above for the alternate). So I give INTELLIGENCE a 6, EXCITEMENT a 9 (those Amazing Editors!), and IMPACT a 6 (since Jon and Kelly do make the final three). Scroll to about 40 minutes in.

3) "Counting Bears Is Not Rocket Science”: Season 6, Leg 3: Teams took a train from Voss Norway to Oslo, and then a bus on to Stockholm Sweden, where teams visited the World’s Largest IKEA. That in itself is memorable, but the true importance of this episode occurs at Häggvik Farm during the Roadblock. In the show’s first true “Needle in a Haystack” task, teams must find a clue where else? In a haystack. One team member had to unroll 270 hay bales until they find one of twenty with a clue. Unfortunately, Lena and Kristy arrive third, and never actually find a clue. After eight HOURS of rolling, Phil comes out to stop them and eliminate them. Memorability factor: Although this is not the first instance of Phil going to a task to eliminate a team (Marshall and Lance of Season 5), it is the first time that they refused to give up. Plus, we now call any needle in a haystack task “Swedish Roulette” in honor of Lena and Kristy. So I give INTELLIGENCE an 8, EXCITEMENT a 7, and IMPACT a 9 (since we still talk about it, and a potentially strong team was eliminated). Scroll to about 40:50.

2) "Follow That Plane!”: Season 2, Leg 13: Teams hung out in the US by starting in Maui, flying to Anchorage and then flying back to Oakland Airport, finishing in San Francisco. Teams bounce back and forth as they do in any finale, but it ends up being a foot race between Chris and Alex and Tara and Wil. After much fake out, both teams arrive at East Fort Baker at the same time. Everyone takes off, and Wil is winning, but Tara is weary. Chris and Alex both run past her, although Wil is still in the lead. But all of this is for naught as you can’t check in without your partner. Chris and Alex check in first, winning TAR2. Memorability factor: Footraces are key to exciting finishes. And this is really the only finish line that had this close of a footrace to watch. So I give INTELLIGENCE a 9 (based on Wil’s ideas to stay hidden), EXCITEMENT an 8 (even though you know Chris and Alex are going to win), and IMPACT a 10 (since it determines a winner). The fakeout happens about 35 minutes in. At around 40 minutes it gets good.

And the most memorable pit stop ever?

1) "Did You See How I Stopped It? With My Face!”: Season 3, Leg 4: Teams raced from Scotland to Portugal. Teams eventually arrived at a Roadblock that required them to block one penalty kick from a teenage soccer star. And remarkably, the female lawyer team of Heather and Eve did it first. So they got the clue: “Walk to the PIT STOP: the Torre de Belém.” OK, I admit, WALKING does not mean walking in the traditional sense. It basically means travel on foot. Run, hop, chicken dance, whatever. But what it does NOT mean is take a taxi. Which is what exactly Heather and Eve do. So they arrive first. And all the teams check in as necessary. When Aaron and Arianne check in, however, we get the bad news. Heather and Eve misread the clue and incurred a 30 minute penalty. Eh, so what? Except. . . all the other teams checked in within 30 minutes. So, Heather and Eve were eliminated. Memorability factor: I hope that the only reason that I remember this is not that it was the first season that I watched all the way through. So I give INTELLIGENCE a 10 (based on the lack thereof), EXCITEMENT an 8 (which is due to the fact that a penalty doesn’t usually eliminate a team), and IMPACT a 10 (since it eliminated a previously strong team and impacted the effect of the race). At 32:30 Heave reads the clue with the word "walk". Or you can skip directly to 40:40 which is where Phil Philiminates them.

And that’s our list! What would you add or delete? Let us know! We’ll see you next time on the Amazing Race!

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