Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top Chef 8/19/09--"Sin City Vice" summary

Previously on Top Chef: We’ve reached that point in the life cycle of a reality show where most people are conscious of the fact that they are always on TV so they try to behave themselves. Except for Hosea and Leah cheating on their significant others on camera. Which didn’t prevent Hosea from winning, though. But now it is time for Vegas. If you’re looking for “Top Chef: Masters” (although I’m pretty sure you aren’t) that is coming later. School’s started up again and I need to sleep. (click for more)

Dear God, there are 17 of them? I’m tired already. Padma gives us the usual “this is the most talented group of contestants ever, etc.” with the usual listing of awards and qualifications. Oo, and a pair of brothers! Cute brothers. Ah, eye candy. How I missed thee. There appears to be gambling. Some guest chefs are shown, and I don’t see Rocco but I won’t hold my breath in the hopes he doesn’t show up. And you get $125,000 now, in addition to the usual prizes. Nice.

Kevin Gillespie, 26, Atlanta. He’s a James Beard nominee. He got a full scholarship to MIT but ditched it to go to cooking school. Wow. I kind of like him already. Must be a nerd thing. Preeti Mistry, 33, San Francisco. She works for Google, it looks like. She’s thrilled to be in Vegas. Ron Duprat, 40, lives in Florida but originally from Haiti. It looks like they’ve rented them a sweet mansion somewhere. Eve Aronoff, 40, Michigan. She doesn’t look 40, so good for her. She mentions that all these chefs are from big cities, which she is not. I don’t know, she’s from Ann Arbor. Mattin Noblia, 29, lives in San Francisco but is from France. Oh, he is ADORABLE. Eli Kirshtein, 25, Atlanta. I haven’t been listing jobs because everyone is either an executive chef or owns their own place. Eli loves to cook because he’s a fat kid and he likes food. His T-shirt says bacon. I think he is my favorite. Ash Fulk, 29, New York. But he’s from next to where I grew up. He actually is a sous chef. And he’s the only one here from New York. And the only one with a boyfriend. And then he pauses and looks confused for a moment, and clarifies: same-sex boyfriend. Oo, that means the other eye candy plays on my team for once! (Kmanpat: “Aww.“) That whole interview was great. AND on Bravo’s website, where it says “favorite simple summer recipe”, his is actually simple: grilled corn on the cob with mayo and sweet tea. Jesse Sandlin, 30, Baltimore. She’s got several lip piercings and a lot of tattoos. Jen Zavala, 31, Philadelphia. Also tattooed and…she’s done that thing with her ear piercing where you put a hoop into the hole, so that it looks like she is wearing hoop earrings but really that’s the size of the hole in her ear. It’s all stretched out. I don’t know. She mentions her son, so I am sure that won’t be the last time. Jen and Jesse and their roommates are arguing about unpacking. Like, whether or not they’re going to do it.

Damn, another Jennifer. We’re going to go with TattooJen and BlondeJen. Jennifer (the blonde one) Carroll, 33, Philadelphia. She claims to have made many boys cry. Bryan Voltaggio, 33, Urbana, Maryland. He looks like this guy from my church. Also there is Michael Voltaggio, 30, L.A., who looks very much like his brother. Michael says he became a chef because Bryan was and stayed with it. They haven’t lived together in 12 years. Mike Isabella, 34, Washington DC. He helped Michael open his restaurant, I think. Everyone gets dressed and sits on the long drive into town. Ashley Merriman, 32, Seattle. She thinks Vegas is a “food mecca”. I’m not so sure.

The Top Chef kitchen is in some casino/resort or whatever. There’s a giant fish tank? Woo! Tom and Padma! Laurine Wickett, 38, San Francisco, says she’s kind of intimidated. But she’s a caterer, so I hope she lasts long enough to school some people in catering challenges. Padma welcomes everyone, so forth. Hector Santiago, 41, Atlanta. He says Padma is more beautiful in person. Tom is smirking. Padma product places for a moment, and then gives them the first Quickfire: the mise en place relay race. Wow, first thing? Padma promises twists. And now there are showgirls. They are shimmying and so forth. Instead of drawing knives, they pull poker chips. I hope this is only for the first challenge. I like drawing knives.

Robin Leventhal, 43, Seattle, is the only one with a gold chip. She knows either she’s extremely lucky or screwed. Turns out she’s lucky: not only does she not have to do anything, but she has immunity. Damn. The relay race tasks are as follows: shuck 15 clams, peel 30 prawns, clean 5 lobsters, then butcher 2 chops from a side of prime rib. Interesting. Everyone picks what legs they’re doing. All that happens is that Preeti gets stuck with clams and asks if they’re like oysters. There is only enough time for Kevin to tell her that no, they’re different, before they have to start. Sorry but they didn’t say who is on what team and I didn’t get any good shots.

When they all start it’s obvious Preeti has no idea what she’s doing. Tom shakes his head in amusement at Preeti. Sigh. TattooJen destroys her fingers. Mike claims the asshat title 11 minutes in by claiming that a girl shouldn’t be at the same level as he is, there’s just no way. Sadly he wins. Mattin is doing lobsters and you can barely see him do it. He is kicking ass. Love it. Preeti is still shucking and the other team is still on prawns, I think. Mattin catches up for his team. Mike is being obnoxious and “cheering on” his teammates. I don’t know, it seems like it would bug me. Anyways, his team loses so I am satisfied. The winners are Mattin, BlondeJen, Jesse, and Bryan. I think Preeti never finished her clams.

Of course there is a twist. For some reason, they still need a winner, even though Robin won immunity already, so they’ll have a cookoff to award someone $15,000. Wow. I guess they realized that giving people random prizes for the Elimination challenges wasn’t quite fair. Robin can trade in her immunity for the chance to win the money, but she is uninterested. Mike says this tells him that she’s not confident and it’s one less “old lady” he has to worry about. It’s going to be so satisfying when he gets cut. They have 30 minutes to make a dish with whatever they worked with.

Jesse can’t remember any dish she’s made with prawns so she‘s making shrimp and grits using polenta, as it‘s all she can think of. Bryan, though, worked in a steakhouse, so he‘s crusting his steak. BlondeJen is making clam ceviche with citron vinegar, and Mattin (who is SO cute but could lose the red neckerchief) is going to make something that sticks with his style, lobster with bay leaves and star anise. Michael says that if he’s not in competition with his brother he’s Bryan’s biggest fan. Tom sucks the juice out of a shrimp head, and Bryan’s steak is really really rare.

Bryan had weird puree and Mattin didn’t have a lot of star anise flavor. The clams were tender and Jesse’s dish was very flavorful. BlondeJen wins. So of course she’s thrilled.

For the Elimination challenge, everyone will be cooking a dish based on a vice that they have. Interesting. Not as good as 7 deadly sins, but still pretty good. They will stick in their teams, and one chef from each team will be up for the win. One other chef from each team will be put up for elimination. Robin can pick what team to join, and she picks the blue team “because I want to be a winner.” Don’t simper, Robin. The guest judge will be Wolfgang Puck. Kick ass. Now a lot of people freak out, and I notice that Padma is like, 6 inches taller than Tom. They have $150 and 30 minutes for shopping at Whole Foods, and then 2 hours to cook tomorrow at Puck’s restaurant.

Commercial interlude: there’s a waterslide in the pool and everyone argues about trying it out or something, and Kevin is like, that is the shit, so he goes first. Eli makes some comment about having to look at Kevin in a bathing suit, which, 1. It’s not a Speedo, and 2. Didn’t you label yourself the fat kid already? Actually the water slide looks fun.

Shopping is the usual running around frantically. No one is getting assigned a vice, you get to pick your own. That’s pretty cool. Mike is an equal opportunity jerk as he insults women and then calls Eli a monkey. I know there’s a Mike and a Michael, but to keep track, Mike is the jerk and Michael is the hot one. Kevin says Eli’s bought a ton of seafood and he doesn’t get it. Bryan wants to win because 3 of the 5 seasons, the winner of the first Elimination challenge has won the whole thing. Ron talks about sneaking into the country from Haiti. TattooJen is trying to stand out and says she’s done this dish before.

Everyone goes to the Palazzo, to Cut, which is Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant. Ash says his whole restaurant would fit in that kitchen. Now we get to see what teams there are, but I’m past caring. Some people will be great and some will suck. Preeti is determined to redeem herself. People talk about their dishes but not really about their vices. Somehow Michael is making a rack of…whatever, and points out that people come to Vegas for that. TattooJen talks about cooking with seitan, I think she’s explaining it to someone, and Kevin thinks this is ballsy because no one likes seitan. Seitan is basically wheat gluten, but when you cook it, it sort of has the texture of meat and is high in protein, so it makes a good meat substitute for vegetarians. The immersion circulator has been found. Jesse’s chicken is kind of dry and she’s saucing it but she’s kind of worried. Hector lights something on fire and then smokes it, I think. No, he fries his rib eye steak. Mike smirks that this will be easier than he thought. Shush. Kevin realizes he’s going too slowly. Eve looks for white wine, can’t find any, and has to use cream, which is not the same. While that happens, she leaves her seafood on the stove so it overcooks. Robin doesn’t manage to sauce her plate, so good thing she’s safe.

Each chef will serve head-to-head with their team. Gail and Tom are here but Toby is not. Sweet. Mike: his vice is his hot temper and his mouth; dish is olive oil poached halibut over roasted eggplant puree. The halibut represents the bar of soap his mom used to wash out his mouth. Actually…that’s pretty clever. Eli: vice(s) are arrogance, drinking, and bitterness, dish is “buttered” scotch with scallops, cashews, and beer powder. He wanted a bitter sauce. He jokes about walking into traffic if he is eliminated. Not funny. Ashley: vice is red wine and bourbon. There is a very uncharitable shot of Tom and Gail looking very bored and tired of her talking. I’m not sure that really goes there. She serves chicken liver ravioli with red wine demi-glace. Hector: vice is smoking cigars; dish is smoked rib eye with carrot puree and a ceviche of celery. How do you ceviche celery? I don’t know. Everyone passes dishes around. Wolfgang thinks the scallops show promise but are too busy. The judges in general wonder why Hector smoked and then deep fried the steak when he could have grilled it over a wood fire. Yeah…that’s a good point. He’s not doing well. Sadly they like Mike’s dish.

Bryan: vices are bourbon and a cigar; dish is NY strip steak with parsnip puree and a bourbon caramel to represent the cask the bourbon gets aged in. Mattin: his vice is being stubborn; dish is buffalo rib eye with Madeira sauce, zucchini and mashed potatoes. The zucchini are hollowed out and the mashed potatoes are inside. BlondeJen: vice is drinking and doing stupid things, dish is poached halibut with whiskey, bourbon, scotch, and peppercorn sauce. Jesse: vices are overindulgence and whiskey. Everyone drinks whiskey and/or bourbon. Is that a chef thing? Her dish is braised chicken with a whiskey reduction, Yukon potatoes, and a fried egg. It’s at least half a chicken, and the potatoes and egg are fried in chicken fat. Robin: her vice is pork, as she is Jewish. Hee. Her dish is pork tenderloin stuffed with chorizo, and bread pudding. The gastrique had bacon in it. She tells them it’s missing, I guess because there’s no sauce at all. Sometimes it’s better not to tell them. Bryan’s steak is perfect but they’re tired of the purees underneath steaks. BlondeJen’s halibut is so perfect Wolfgang talks about making his chefs cook to that standard. Sadly Jesse’s chicken did dry out. Mattin’s steak was wonderful but the side dishes were random and for some reason Padma complains that she doesn’t know anything about him.

Ash: vice is procrastination; dish is poached halibut with ratatouille and parsley coulis. His claim as to how this is related to procrastination is that only half of the plate has sauce on it. Eh…I guess that works. The judges are amused. TattooJen: vice is being hot tempered; dish is a chile relleno stuffed with seitan and a grilled tomatillo salsa. I swear the first time I listened I heard “bacon” and not “seitan”. Ron: I can’t understand him at all. Something about the time he spent at sea? Seriously, they’ve subtitled people with subtler accents, and I’m not sure what exactly the vice is, because it’s not like escaping your country is really a vice. Anyways, the dish is jerk bass with collard greens and Haitian hash. FINALLY he says that the dish is what they ate at sea and what they got in Cuba when they landed, so maybe by making this he can put it behind him. So the vice is not letting go. Seriously, that was so annoying. Laurine: bacon donuts with chocolate and beer sauces. I guess her vices are chocolate and beer. Oh man, those sound so good. Ron’s dish has a ton going on but he had good intentions. Tom doesn’t get his vice either. They dislike TattooJen’s chile. Wolfgang says if you cooked it at home no one would come over ever. The donuts that looked so good, Wolfgang says they’re golf balls and he jokes about throwing them at people. He’s really funny today. I love it.

Michael: vice is plastic surgery. Actually he says it’s not really HIS vice. So…can you not follow directions? The dish is a rack of lamb with coconut sauce and cauliflower gnocchi. Yes, ha ha, you’re very clever. Preeti: vice is bourbon, dish is pork tenderloin with bourbon sweet potato puree and dandelion greens. Eve: her vice is that she wishes she was more simple; dish is shrimp and scallops in a curry cream sauce. I’m not sure how those are related. She says the sauce is complex but the shrimp are simple. Kevin: vice is procrastination; dish is arctic char with turnip salsa verde. I think the char is usually cooked quickly but he cooked it slowly? And vice versa with the turnips? Wolfgang says something looks like chicken testicles. Kevin’s dish is great and interesting. Eve’s dish is just OK but not really great. They like Michael’s jokey rack stuff, and they think he’s a professional.

Everyone hangs out in the Stew Room. No nice table and wine for these people, not like on Masters. Folding chairs and big red Solo cups. Padma comes in all serious and calls Ron, Mike, Kevin, and BlondeJen. These are the winners. Sigh. Mike’s dish was very focused and everything worked together. BlondeJen’s halibut was cooked to perfection, but Wolfgang says he doesn’t know why she drinks so much hard liquor, all at once. Everyone laughs and he says she should drink some white wine next time. Heh. Ron’s flavors were great and his story was great too. His praise isn’t quite as good as others. Kevin’s dish all came together. The one who had a dish that would be a great dish in any restaurant is Kevin. Nerd FTW! Actually, NotMike FTW!

Hector, TattooJen, Jesse, and Eve are the losers. The Loser Gong satisfies me. Hector’s steak didn’t have enough smoke flavor and deep frying it didn’t work. He says he knows he’d get more smoke from the grill but he wanted the crispy texture. Eve’s sauce was boring, and she goes into a long thing about playing down the flavors at the last minute or something. Gail is confused, I guess because if Eve’s vice is being complicated, Gail was expecting a complicated dish. Tom nails her for poorly cooked seafood. TattooJen’s dish wasn’t spicy enough, and they didn’t get it. Somehow the seitan was to show that she’s mad and spicy, but in the end good for you. Well if your dish was supposed to be about being hot-tempered I guess it needs to be pretty spicy. She extols the virtues of seitan, but it wasn’t cooked well so that backfired. Jesse knows the chicken breast was dry, and she’s trying not to cry, because I think she knew when she served it. Wolfgang says he was excited when he saw it and it could be a really great dish someday.

Everyone goes back to the Stew Room and TattooJen melodramatically falls to the floor. Gail was glad that no one was shocked at being in the bottom. They praise Jesse for having a good idea and knowing exactly what was wrong with her dish. Hector also had a good idea that wasn’t executed well, and Tom says he was in a good group. TattooJen’s pepper would have been under seasoned and terrible even if she’d used real meat. Wolfgang says he’d have to be pretty damn hungry to eat that. She’s convinced her risk taking will help her. Eve’s dish wasn’t thought through and the seafood could have been seasoned with something. So it looks like it’s between Jen and Eve.

Tom says basically the same thing they’ve said 3 times now. Jen is eliminated. She’s convinced she was bold for trying something new. She’s thrilled for being on the show. She’s sad she couldn’t show her son what she could do.

This season: gambling, running around, yelling, Air Force, Mattin still has his neckerchief, Penn and Teller!!!!!!!!!! Jacques Pepin I think, kick ass. Everyone argues and curses, Eli says something about cancer. I can’t wait for Penn and Teller. I hope they are like Tony Bourdain.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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(Submitted from BPost for R4i Nintendo DS.)