Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Top Chef 9/9/09--"Vivre Las Vegas" summary

Previously on Top Chef: Mark Peel returned to the “Top Chef” kitchen and made everyone cook potatoes for the Quickfire. Mike was condescending and Preeti almost doomed Ashley, but in the end, Jen won with some mussels. Mike felt this was favoritism. Yeah. Then we had a military themed episode, which I loved because it was a team challenge, and although there was no team drama, it means half as many dishes. Or, almost half as many, since Mike decided they needed a salad so he did his own thing. So Michael won, again, and I’m kind of tired of the brothers because Kevin and Eli (the fat kid alliance) made pulled pork with potato salad which everyone loved. Anyways, when everyone found out Mike had nothing to do with the winning dish, but everything to do with the crappy salad, they told him to come back for the loser’s panel. Which was very satisfying. I think there was more we didn’t see, because the judges were really worked up. They let him stay, sadly, and felt that since Laurine knew she made bad pasta salad, but Preeti didn’t, Preeti should go home. They wouldn’t throw each other under the bus, though, so that was something. (click for more)

Their house is like, obnoxiously huge. Someone makes extra strong coffee and Ash and Mike discuss hairy chests. Mike of course thinks he should never have been in the bottom two and he’s about to win. Robin wants a man to go home next. May we suggest Mike? I know, that was too easy, but we were all thinking it.


Tom and Daniel Boulud wait for the contestants in the resort. Eli recognizes the import. Tom starts talking about snails and Mattin breaks out in a huge grin. So cute. Mike grins too, but he bugs me. Jen says escargot is easy to screw up, and also, how hungry do you have to be to try to eat a snail? I’m sure they are just like clams. Or squid. Mollusks, you know. Hey, I have to get the most out of my biology degree. The chefs will have 45 minutes to make something with escargot. Daniel demands something unique. And this is one of the ones where they pay you if you win. Winner gets immunity, loser goes home. Really? That IS high stakes. Eli clarifies that winner gets no money, actually, but then claims that they’ve never seen this twist, but they just did it. Last season. Everyone freaks out appropriately.

Ashley gets into the kitchen and curses up a storm. Mike claims to be from Greece but Eli calls him out on being from Jersey. Kevin says snails don’t taste like anything so you have to add flavors. Hector is going for Caribbean. Robin takes Ron’s snails by accident. Mattin says escargot is like his whole youth. I feel like he has extra pressure not to embarrass himself. He starts to talk about living in San Francisco and I hope that’s not foreshadowing. Jesse really wants to win.

Ron: escargot Provencal with caramelized shallots, pernot, and fresh herbs. And I think Brussels sprouts. Jen: escargot with grilled ramps (wild leeks) Brussels sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms and yuzu. Jesse: “ELT” which is escargot, mache (lamb‘s lettuce), and fried tomato. Interesting. Looks like the “bread” is the fried tomato. Laurine: lemon risotto with sautéed escargot, spinach, parsley pesto, and garlic butter. Hector: Caribbean escargot with pickled mushrooms. Robin: “bagels and lox” which is poached escargot, marmalade, gooseberries, and rye crostini. Mattin: fava beans crostini with escargot sautéed in a piment d’espelette (hot peppers) and anise. Ashley: escargot mirepoix (onion, carrots and celery) soup and salad. The salad looks like a sad pile of pea shoots. Kevin: escargot fricassee with mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and bacon jam. Bacon jam is a thing? Wait, CANDIED bacon jam is a thing? Damn. Bryan: escargot with red wine risotto, spinach emulsion, and marcona almond froth. Stupid foam. Michael: braised escargot with chanterelle mushrooms Bolognese lasagna. That sounds pretty good. Mike: sautéed escargot over potato garlic puree, with spring onion and ouzo broth. I would like to also point out that I’m pretty sure he is the only one to call them “snails”. In front of Daniel Boulud. I want some bacon jam.

Sadly Mike is one of the favorites, as is Kevin (yay!) and Jen. I’m not super impressed by Jen’s food but I guess she’s good, she keeps getting praise. Kevin wins, hooray! He gets a bonus too, in addition to immunity, to be announced later. He says that some of his competition has prettier or more sophisticated food, but his food is still excellent. Now is the time for someone to go home. Jesse, Ashley, and Robin had the least favorite dishes. But Tom gives those 3 another 20 minutes to make an amuse bouche to save themselves. Nice twist. That must be why this is a supersized episode.

Ashley says someone has cleaned up and put things away. Jesse makes amuse bouches every night in her restaurant. Suddenly time is up and it’s time to see what they‘ve made.
Robin: avocado soup with yuzu, green apple and whole grain mustard relish, and crab. Jesse: tuna tartare with sorrel, gooseberries, a fried egg on top, and a piece of fried bread. Ashley: foie gras with pineapple, tarragon, and ramps. Tom eventually says that Robin’s soup could have used more crab, but on the whole it was nice. Jesse could have used more tartare and more spice. Ashley’s foie gras was not thick enough. Tom is sending someone home for one bite. After the commercials, we discover that person is Jesse. She’s embarrassed and pissed, and she hasn’t felt like herself. She wants us to know she doesn’t suck this bad. Ashley has an interview that sounds like she’s just happy it’s not her, but it sounds like it’s cut weird, like she really said “I’m glad it’s not me but I’m really going to miss Jesse”.

Tom makes everyone draw knives for the Elimination challenge, except Kevin. The knives seem to have names on them, but whoever was directing this part didn’t bother to place the camera in such a way that you could read the knives. Good job, Bravo. Actually, it takes an interview from Eli to explain: each knife either has a classic French sauce or a classic French protein. I think also they’re written on both sides, because Mike clearly reads his off the back of the knife. They will be working in pairs: one protein with one sauce, to make a 6 course dinner. Nice. Mattin thinks he has this in the bag, but he also knows everyone expects him to kick ass. Tom starts reading off the list of guests: Hubert Keller, um…some names I can’t spell but will get later, Daniel, and they’ll be cooking in Joel Robuchon’s restaurant. JOEL ROBUCHON. WHO WILL BE THERE. THE CHEF OF THE CENTURY. Tom is afraid to eat with him. Oh man. Michael says this may be the most important plate of his career. Kevin’s bonus? He gets to eat with the judges. Kevin is about to pass out, he is so excited. He owns all of Joel’s books, in including the ones in French which he doesn’t speak. I’m thinking right now Kevin doesn’t really care he didn’t win $15,000.

Tom left them all alone to figure out the pairings. Some pairings like the steak and pepper, and the lobster and lobster sauce, are easy. Bryan says that they paired trout with béarnaise and frog legs with brown butter. Jen wants to work with Michael because his rabbit matches her sauce which I don’t remember but I’m sure we’ll find out.

Shopping time, 30 minutes and $200. Interestingly, everyone knows what is in all these sauces, which is nice. Ashley is probably so glad to be paired with Mattin, who is telling her things and Ashley is listening to everything he says. Like telling her you never put anything green in the sauce he’s making. Remember that for later. Robin doesn’t make sense to Ron, who says he’s classically French trained, and he’s going to stay true to himself. Bryan and Michael push each other and act like brothers, basically. Jen goes by too, and Mike shoves her, but I think it was because she is acting like Michael. God, it pains me to defend him. Mike thinks he and the brothers and Jen will be on top. Whatever. I would have to say that if I had to call favorites, it would be the brothers, so I guess that’s relevant.

2 hours to cook today and 1 tomorrow before service. Also we get to see the pairings. First up are Eli and Laurine with lobster and sauce americaine (basically lobster sauce with white wine, onion, and tomatoes). Ash and Hector: chateaubriand and sauce au poivre (pepper). Ash points out that a gay guy and a Puerto Rican are making dinner for Joel Robuchon. Heh. Michael and Jen: rabbit and sauce chasseur (mushrooms and shallots). I love rabbit. Jen is using the bones in the sauce. Ashley and Mattin: poussin (like a Cornish game hen) and sauce veloute (light stock with roux, so a light gravy). Mattin is putting bacon in the sauce which I think is not traditional. Bryan and Mike: trout and sauce béarnaise (clarified butter and egg yolks). Mike doesn’t want to do a traditional béarnaise, and I think Bryan suggests “deconstructed” that will end up like warm mayonnaise? I think Bryan is telling him how to do it. Ron and Robin: frog legs and sauce meuniere (brown butter, lemon, and parsley). Ron says he’s made frog legs 250 different ways, so he’s pretty confident. He interviews that he’s got a simple personality but Robin is hyper. She certainly is talking nonstop. And he thinks he’s working with her because no one else wants to.

Commercial interlude: it’s Mattin’s birthday, so that means cake, and smashing Mattin’s face in the cake, and getting rid of that silly neckerchief and getting him to wear little red swim trunks and nothing else and run around the pool. Oh wait, that’s my birthday.

In the morning no one seems to want to get up. Hector is trying not to think about it. Kevin is even nervous. He knows everyone else is freaking out.

Mike points out how crazy it is that he would kill to eat in these chef’s restaurants, and he is going to meet them and then cook for them. Eli admits he didn’t think Joel Robuchon really existed and that he might be a unicorn. Hee. Robin’s salad is very vinegary. Ron reminds us about how Haitians and French people don’t always like each other. Robin talks about the garnishes, and some salad, and Ron reminds her to pay attention to the sauce. That seems ominous. Mike is very nervous about the sauce. Somehow it’s not working? He may have to scrap his deconstructed idea. Laurine is trying to balance keeping the lobster hot but not overcooking it. Mattin’s sauce boils over. Ashley keeps asking him questions but he is frazzled. Jen thinks she and Michael “feel each other” and don’t have to talk. Hector turns up the heat in the oven because the beef is not cooking fast enough. And he’s got to let it rest before he cuts it. However I do notice that he’s stuck the probe thermometer all the way through the meat so the tip is sticking out of the other side. That can’t be right.

The chefs arrive and Kevin looks good in a suit, but he kind of has that grin of “Oh God I am about to die.” Eli gloats that Robin and Ron’s dish looks terrible. I especially like the part where he says that it’s on a bed of “dead greens” which, isn’t your salad dead when you eat it?
Padma introduces everyone: Daniel Boulud, Hubert Keller, Jean Joho, Laurent Tourondel, Tom, Gail, Kevin, and Emmanuel? Who is that? Oh, he is the translator. Oh and of course Joel Robuchon. Padma thanks him for having them and he says “I’m sorry I don’t speak English” but in English and with less of an accent than Mattin. Hee. Ron and Robin serve the frog legs meuniere with lemon confit, with a mache and arugula salad with fried capers. The frog legs were overcooked and heavy on the flour but kind of creative. Joel can’t taste the frog.

Bryan and Mike: warm cured trout with deconstructed béarnaise. I think it‘s eggless so that‘s what makes it deconstructed? Someone asks if they mix all the stuff together, will they get béarnaise again? It…looks like one bite. Like, a really small portion, and the frog legs weren’t a big plate but it didn’t look ridiculously small. It’s sophisticated and well balanced. Simple and Joel likes it.

Eli and Laurine: lobster, sauce americaine, and cauliflower puree. The lobster is tough and the sauce is bitter. Joel says something is lacking, but someone sticks up for them and says if you’re not classically trained it’s a very difficult dish.

Ashley and Mattin: seared poussin and ravioli with sauce veloute and green asparagus. They let Mattin say it in French first, which sadly would have been more effective in a room full of women. Hee, Joel says he spoke French well. Sadly, the chicken is bland and the sauce is not a veloute because the bacon was a bad choice.

Jen and Michael: rabbit chasseur with mustard noodle and shiso. The legs are wrapped in a thin pastry. The rabbit is cooked perfectly and everyone likes it.

Hector and Ash: they cut their meat REALLY late and it’s bloody. And not enough sauce made it onto the plates because they ran out of time. Chateaubriand, sauce au poivre with confit de pommes and spinach. No one can find enough sauce. And the beef is not cooked evenly. Gail criticized how they cut her meat. She thinks they picked the wrong lady to give the end to.

All the chefs think that these contestants are very accomplished for their age, and Joel even offers jobs. Gail says they couldn’t have done this at this point in any other season and Tom agrees.

Kevin joins everyone in the Stew Room and gets grilled about who is top and bottom. He is very coy and refuses to dish. Soon enough Padma comes for Bryan, Mike, Michael, and Jennifer. Sigh. Mike. All the judges praise the professionality of the dishes. They tell Mike and Bryan that Joel really praised the trout, and then they ask Mike if he did the sauce. He says he did, but is careful to say that he and Bryan shot ideas at each other. You know, instead of being honest and saying Bryan told him how to do the sauce. Bryan cooked the fish perfectly but does not claim the sauce. Mike is insistent that they did everything together. Michael broke down the rabbit so quick Jen couldn’t believe it. They seem to be really connecting. Daniel tells Bryan he is the winner. Ha on Mike. As the winner, he gets to stage for a week for Joel Robuchon. That means, spend a week cooking in his kitchen and learning things. He says it doesn’t really feel like a win since it was a team effort, but I don’t see Mike getting offered a stage.

Bryan asks for Mattin, Ashley, Hector, and Ash. Loser gong. Ashley and Mattin go first. Gail says the chicken was dry, and the sauce wasn’t really a veloute. Mattin admits to the bacon. Daniel says the asparagus didn’t help, and Mattin promptly throws Ashley under the bus and says it wasn’t his idea. When they ask Ashley if it was her idea, she says “Sure. I mean, yes.” I think she’s pissed. Tom says they could have made asparagus veloute, and she says that yeah, that came up. And it did, during shopping, where Mattin said that you never put green stuff in veloute. But when they ask Mattin if he shot down the idea, he says he never did. Oo. Mattin says something about it being his first shot, as if that is an excuse? Ash explains how they ran out of time, and he put the sauce on the plates but it got soaked up and he couldn’t add any more. Gail complains that she got a totally overcooked piece, and Hector takes the blame for relying on the thermometer. The one he didn’t seem to be using right? Hector knows his carving was poor. Daniel points out it takes maybe an hour to make sauce au poivre, and 30 minutes to cook beef. Hector insists they were cooking the whole time.

Ash comes back and talks about how much Judges’ Table sucks, especially because they’re right. Tom thinks Ash was going delicate and Hector was not. The main problem was the beef, which anyone in Vegas can do. The sauce wasn’t great; it sounds like it just didn’t make it. But if the beef had been perfect, they would have thought the dish was fine. No sauce could have distracted from the beef. Ashley’s ravioli pasta was too thick and it was dried out. Gail doesn’t think she took any responsibility, and Daniel knows it was probably because Mattin is French. Tom noticed her whole demeanor change when they brought up the asparagus and that either she was going to throw Mattin under the bus or totally shut down. And I guess she shut down. This was Mattin’s moment to shine and it failed. There was too much bacon. It was a bacon cream sauce, which actually sounds not bad.

Tom tells everyone that both parts of both dishes had problems. In the end they send Hector home. He says he changed the way he cooked, and maybe he shouldn’t have done that. He invites everyone to his restaurant to see how he really cooks.

Next week: um…wagon train? Cooking outside? Tom walks away from the table to throw the food in the dirt. IN THE DIRT, PEOPLE.

1 comment:

Mel Hart said...

Recapping every show? I may have to keep watching this. I'm very over Mike and Ashley. I want a double elimination and both of those get sent home packing.