Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top Chef 10/28/09--"Meat Natalie" summary

Previously on Top Chef: we had a Quickfire tag-team cooking challenge, and Kevin’s team pwned the brothers, which was cool. Then they sucked at Restaurant Wars, which was not cool. However, Kevin and Jen were better than Laurine, who was front of house and kind of failed. Also Michael is a jerk in the kitchen, to the point where his brother is tired of his getting rewarded for said jerkitude. (click for more)

Jen’s trying to get over last night’s loser group. Robin talks about how she’s here for a reason. I think this is today’s foreshadowing. Remember how last week we heard from Laurine almost right away? Yeah.

Padma introduces Paul Bartolotta. She has on a strapless pantsuit. I think we’re headed back to weird Padma clothes. Padma talks about “takeovers” and says this is the TV Guide Quickfire. I know, usually I say [product placement] but it doesn’t make sense without knowing it’s TV Guide. They have to take TV dinners and make them gourmet. There are 7 shows to inspire them. Heh. Kevin gets “The Sopranos” which entertains me for some reason. Eli: “Gilligan’s Island”, Jen: “The Flintstones“, Robin: “Sesame Street“, Bryan: “M*A*S*H“, Mike: “Seinfeld“, and Michael: “Cheers“. Why do these entertain me so? Padma gives them an hour.

Robin never sat through an episode of “Sesame Street”. Travesty! She also never had junk food. Jen knows she needs a steak with a huge bone, but can’t find any. Sad. Eli whines that “Gilligan’s Island” is 20 years before his time. OK, OK, he’s not really whining. Bryan is making really homey food. Kevin’s family all lives on the same street, and he knows the Sopranos is about a family, luckily, so he’s set. Jen is flailing, her sauce is boiling over.

Padma and Paul sit on the old-school couch in the little set they made to appear all authentic, with TV trays, and the chefs have to come serve them. Jen: chicken roulade with garlic cream, pea salad, brioche stuffing, and caramelized peaches. It looks sad, but so do most TV dinners. Mike (WHO HAS NEVER SEEN SEINFELD): sausage and peppers, mushrooms and cheese, and warm fruit salad. At least everyone laughs at him for never seeing Seinfeld. Kevin: meatballs with polenta, roasted cauliflower, and a roasted pear. Yum. Eli: macadamia nut shrimp with sweet potato puree, herb salad, cherries and bananas. Michael: chicken parmesan with spaghetti gratin, braised Swiss chard, and cherry pie. Robin: burger with egg, crispy kale, carrot salad, and an almond laced cookie. Bryan: meatloaf, mashed potato, asparagus, and apple tarte tatin. It looks very tasty.

Jen’s salad was bleh, and her chicken wasn’t great either. Robin’s burger dried out. The good (Padma is saying stupid clever sayings): Kevin’s concept was consistent, and Bryan was excellent. Kevin wins. Whee! Bryan looks kind of pissed. Padma promises him that while he won’t win immunity, apparently there is such a thing as “Top Chef Frozen Foods” and “a version” of his dish will be offered there. He asks if it will have his picture, and then does the finger-gun-wink combo that generally only douche bags do, but Kevin is funny so I’ll let it slide since I will assume that was ironic.

For the Elimination challenge they get to take over Tom’s Craftsteak to serve 11 people. Then Padma kicks them out of the kitchen, so I guess they’re going over to Tom’s place.

Jen is tired and has to refocus. Kevin brags that him cooking meat is him in his element, but that lamb last episode was pretty rare. Eli and Mike are confident. Once they get to the restaurant everyone heads straight for the meat, digging around and loving the selection. Tom greets them, wearing a suit and looking pretty good. He wants to introduce them to a special guest, who is Natalie Portman. Cool. They’re going to be cooking for her, and she says she’s adventurous and tries new things, which is also cool, but then she says she’s a vegetarian. HA! Awesome. Two hours to figure it out!

Robin seems to be the only one who is not really freaking out. Everyone runs back to the walk-ins to figure out what they’re going to do now. Jen doesn’t get the eggplants she wants, but she still wants to use eggplants so she’s using baby ones. She’s not doing well today. Mike is cocky. Kevin says he knows how difficult it can be to feel full on vegetarian meals because he and his wife give up meat for Lent. He hopes to have something so tasty no one will know it has no meat. Robin can’t focus. I feel that is her usual mental state. Mike wants to keep his leeks whole, so they look like scallops? How are you going to clean them? Eli pretends to be OK with vegetarians, but then he says that if he was in joking company he’d say they were lower human beings. Oh, ha ha. Michael is mixing banana and polenta. Huh? Mike finds that he’s been trying to boil water for his leeks in a wobbly pot so it’s not hot at all. He won’t change his plan though. Jen whacks lemongrass on the counter and interviews that she’ll do vegetarian if she has to. Bryan thinks he may run out of time. Mike’s leeks are not what he wants, but somehow he still is really cocky. The leeks themselves look sad and wilted and brown. Robin scrambles to get done, and fails to get 3 of her plates done.

Robin: squash blossom stuffed with wild mushroom duxelle, beet carpaccio, fresh garbanzo beans, and chermoula sauce. It seems to be made of pickled lemons? Maybe? I’m not sure. The chermoula is salty, and of course Tom had one of the plates with no garbanzo beans. Eli: confit of eggplant, lentils, garlic puree, and radish salad. Judging from the portions he really didn’t need the large eggplant. Paul says he just got a lavender blossom in his mouth and it’s like sucking on soap. Michael: asparagus salad, Japanese tomato sashimi, and banana polenta. He also brought out two covered pots to the table, but I’m not sure what they were for. In general the banana polenta tastes good but Gail has found big lumps of banana. Tom jokes that generations of Italians are spinning in their graves. Jen thinks her plate is really small but I think Eli’s was smaller. Jen: charred baby eggplant, braised fennel, tomato coins, and verjus nage which is juice from unripe wine grapes, in a sauce. She’s saucing everyone’s plates at the table but it’s not the neatest job since she’s shaking. Gail thinks maybe this wasn’t enough for an entrée. Mike: whole roasted leeks with onion jus, baby carrot puree and fingerling potatoes. He talks about protein, and then says it’s a leek? We know about the “leeks look like scallops” but I’m not sure he explained it. Apparently it looks pretty but they of course know the leeks are undercooked. Bryan: artichoke barigoule, confit of shallot, wild asparagus, and fennel puree. Artichoke barigoule is a stew with mushrooms. Padma makes several comments about the garlic blossoms and how they are like little pricks in her mouth, and they’re so tiny but have such a huge flavor. Natalie is in giggles and Tom encourages her. I think everyone encourages her. Kevin: duo of mushrooms (braised and roasted), smoked kale, candied garlic, and turnip puree. It’s not super pretty but it does look like it is filling. The kale is kind of too smoky but the rest of the dish is really filling. Mike promises that he will always make it better and he’ll pull through. Jen thinks she is going home. This is how you know Jen is in and Mike is out.

“Top Chef Reunion Dinner”? Really? I’m tired of the Stupid Hair Brigade.

Commercial interlude: everyone goes to Paul’s restaurant and tries bits of everything. Paul calls it “power eating”. Kevin says he specializes in power eating, brags that he once ate 130 chicken wings in an hour (I believe it) and then says he didn’t get fat accidentally, it was a personal choice. Hee.

Kevin, Michael, and Eli are the top three. Interesting. Kevin jokes that Eli’s going to ask if they called his name by accident. Hee. Michael’s food made everyone look around and wonder what was going on. Eli’s dish was beautiful and fun. Kevin does not get praise for a pretty dish but instead for great flavor. And then Kevin wins for bringing together inventiveness and flavor. I did not see that coming. He wins GE appliances. Michael bitches that he could have made Kevin’s dish in twenty minutes in the second year of his apprenticeship.

The loser gong greets Robin, Jen, and Mike. Mike confused everyone by mentioning a protein, because there are non-meat proteins. But not in his dish. The leeks were not cooked so they were really pungent, which Mike tries to explain. Tom points out that he can roast leeks in 20 minutes, and they won’t look like scallops, but they’ll be cooked. Mike just kind of shrugs, like he doesn’t think anything could have been done. Robin starts talking about protein, and the garbanzo beans, and she’s never stuffed squash blossoms before, and Tom says she’s all over the map so how could the dish come together? The chermoula wasn’t good, and two of the three plates without garbanzos went to the judges. I think the waiters must have secret producer orders to take any incomplete plates straight to the judges. Robin is like, well I ran out of time, and doesn’t apologize or anything, so that’s not good. Jen didn’t have enough food to account for the two hours they had to cook. She admits she freaked out and was shaking when she sauced the plates. I think she’s already given up.

Padma can’t believe Jen didn’t realize she would end up with small portions. She’s also really defeatist which everyone noticed. Mike couldn’t cook his leeks, which is a pretty easy thing according to Tom. Gail is annoyed that Mike is arrogant enough to assume he’ll not be eliminated. The rest of the dish wasn’t enough to account of the leeks, which he also thought would carry him. Robin’s dish wasn’t thought through, and she also did two things for the first time which wasn’t the best idea.

The most interesting part of Tom’s berating the losers is that he mentions that Jen has been sliding for a couple of challenges, and I thought they weren’t supposed to take past challenges into account. Mike goes home, as I called a while ago. Of course he wastes part of exit interview saying Robin should have gone home. Robin is happy to still be around, and thinks the ugly backstabbing will end. Right.

Next week: well, next week is the stupid reunion dinner, a.k.a. “Let’s take all the people that hate each other and make them have dinner together”, but after that, Padma demands breakfast in bed, and Michael gets on Robin’s nerves.

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