Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Top Chef 10/7/09--"Dinner Party" summary

Previously on Top Chef: It was two weeks ago, so I had to reread my post to remember what happened. The Quickfire was a challenge about duos, and Robin won. Eli felt she won because she used her cancer to win. Sigh. The producers amped this up by editing in how everyone hates Robin. The Elimination challenge made everyone cook deconstructed dishes, for Penn and Teller. Mostly it was not that great because most people don’t make deconstructed food. Kevin made some great chicken mole and won, yay! Ron was supposed to deconstruct paella, but…made paella. So he went home. (click for more)

Ash is feeling intimidated from being in the bottom two. I mean, you can’t really serve shepherd’s pie without any potato. Michael talks about his kids. I can’t imagine he’d go out, but I guess it’s possible. Jen isn’t feeling well but is planning to man up (so to speak) and keep going. Ashley asks her how she’s doing and she says she’s going to throw up. Isn’t there a law against that? There is in Great Britain, if you have a stomach bug you can’t be in a kitchen for like 3 days.

Padma makes everyone greet Tyler Florence, and I guess if we need to have a sellout I’d rather it was Tyler than that tool Rocco. Padma makes some comment about “the home front” and plugs some website. They have to make a dish using 3 keywords. It’s a website where you can put in what’s in your house and it’ll come up with dinner. In order to get keywords they have to use a slot machine. Heh. Ash says his keywords would be “lazy”, “broke”, and “spicy”. Nice. So I guess the keywords aren’t always food items. Laurine goes first: romantic tart Latin American. Kevin gets stressed hot and spicy Asian. Mike gets stressed umami Asian. HA! Sadly he does know what umami is. It’s “the fifth flavor” which is sometimes described as savory and apparently is in soy sauce. Jen gets adventurous nutty American which sounds like a description of an action hero. Eli: stressed umami Latin American. Michael: adventurous tangy Asian. Hey that’s me! Robin: stressed umami Middle Eastern. I think it’s stuck. Bryan: adventurous crunchy Asian. Ash: tired tart Italian. Oo, that’s hard. However Ashley gets blue cheesy Middle Eastern. And the blue and cheesy are not together. This is almost as good as the Second City challenge, but not quite because that one was more nonsensical and entertaining. Padma gives them 30 minutes. Oh, and it’s a High Stakes Quickfire.

Eli grabs all the mushrooms because so many people have umami. A lot of people talk about how they don’t cook whatever cuisine they have. Everyone hates Robin. Jen is sick. That’s about it.

Mike: raw mushroom salad with yuzu emulsion and raw ginger. I’m not sure how that’s stressed. Maybe because it’s raw and you don’t have time to cook it? Laurine: crusted goat cheese salad with orange jalapeno vinaigrette and hibiscus flowers. Ash: “pantry” pasta puttanesca. Which is tart, and Italian, and I guess tired because you’re too tired to shop, but, eh. (Kmanpat: “I would have made wilted basil bruscetta.”) Michael: yuzu curd with whipped Greek yogurt and a seaweed cracker. Yum. He is being adventurous by making dessert since he’s not a pastry chef. Eli: mushroom ceviche with avocado marble. Kevin: char-grilled pork with Vietnamese herb salad. Bryan: seared scallop with bok choy and tempura beads (those crumbs you get when you just fry bits of tempura batter). Robin: root vegetable hash with cumin and curry oil. Padma calls her on the fact that curry isn’t really Middle Eastern. Ashley: feta pudding with sumac dusted halibut and preserved lemon foam. Jen: Maine diver scallops with pistachios and salmon roe.

Tyler didn’t like Robin’s dish because it was too basic and the curry didn’t match, Eli killed the umami flavor with the citrus, and Jen wasn’t adventurous (she thought the salmon roe would be, but Tyler says they’ve been doing that forever). Mike had a light fresh dish, Kevin had a great dish without ever making Asian food ever, and Michael had a fantastic flavor combination. Kevin wins! Yay Kevin! Then Padma asks him if he wants the $15,000 or immunity, and he takes the money. Oo. Please don’t let that come back to bite him in the ass. I don’t think it will, but seriously. Ashley thinks they would have all done that, because they want to win or lose on their own stuff. Interesting.

Padma says that for the Elimination challenge they’ll be having a party at their house, and they’ll find out details when they get back there. When they get home, for some reason they think they have earned a chill dinner at home, together. Oh you silly people. Thankfully they do head straight for the kitchen, and discover that the pantry is full to bursting and there are pots and plates and flower arrangements everywhere. They quickly figure out that they are the ones cooking, of course. You’re on a reality show. When they tell you that you’ve earned a night off, NEVER BELIEVE THEM. Sure enough Padma strolls up and makes them come outside so she can explain the challenge. Blah blah, times are tough and people are throwing their own dinner parties, etc. They will be throwing one too, in under 3 hours. For “The Macy’s Culinary Council”, whatever that is. Who it is, is Tyler, Nancy Silverton, Govind Armstrong, Takashi Yagihashi, and Tom Douglas. Everyone is a restaurateur. Jen doesn’t want to screw up. Each guest is holding a bag with different ingredients. The contestants will work in pairs to make a family style dish. The knife block comes out to determine who gets what ingredients and who is paired up. Of course Mike is paired up with Robin, because he is pissed about it. Michael and Ash are together, and Ash is worried that Michael will just take over. Ashley is glad to work with Eli.

Everyone tears into the house, falling over and looking foolish. Eli especially is claiming counter space, which is at a premium. Mike’s still pissed about working with Robin, but he’s decided he can win by himself so he doesn’t care. Michael is using electric woks and making ravioli with Nancy‘s food. Kevin and Jen have the bag from Tom, which Kevin says is full of Asian condiments, miso, and bok choy. Ashley suggests gnocchi with the contents of Govind’s bag, and Eli is glad to let her. Robin and Mike have Takashi, and Mike has to let Robin have more of the lead because he doesn’t do anything Asian. And we’re talking a higher level of Asian than Tom’s bag, with bonito flakes and konbu which is seaweed. He knows that Robin will listen to him because she knows he’s better than she is. Sigh. Kevin and Jen discover Kobe ribs, it sounds like. She claims to feel better and is planning a tomato chutney. Ash interviews that Michael has a lot of ideas, but the story he tells makes it sound like Michael is constantly one-upping him. Like, Ash says something and Michael is all “how about this totally unrelated thing?” But he doesn’t sound angry about it. I’m not sure what that is about. I think he also doesn’t want to argue. Michael interviews that Ash is “a number two chef” and will be a great chef someday. Robin knows they’ll be judged as a team but they can also affect each other. She’s OK with Mike taking over but she still wants to have a say. Mike interviews that he’s been giving her things to do that won’t affect the final dish and then throwing away whatever she does. Then he smiles like we will laugh with him instead of thinking about what a douche he is. He opens a door and a tray falls out on his feet and I laugh at him.

Tom time! Eli says they’re making prawns on top of gnocchi and Tom just stares at them. He claims that is not feedback. Mike uses “I” a lot when he talks and Tom makes sure to confirm that Robin knows about Asian flavors while Mike knows nothing. Michael describes the makeshift kitchen in the dining room. Outside, Tom tells us that properly made gnocchi is too soft to support prawns. He thinks that the key to this challenge will be figuring out what can be done ahead of time.

Ash goes downstairs to set the table, which is nice and I don’t think anyone would have done it otherwise. Ashley says something about not bossing the food around. She’s grilling prawns because Eli didn’t want to touch them. Michael is cooking and when he comes back the grill is off because they keep tripping the fuses. It’s fish, so he’s kind of freaking out. Mike freaks out because he says Robin is burning the tuna. The gnocchi are really salty so Ashley hopes that doesn’t screw them. Ash and Michael’s fish is overcooked but Ash thinks they have to serve something.

Toby is back instead of Gail. Tyler informs us that the Macy’s Culinary Council is dedicated to helping out the hungry. You know, I kept seeing ads where if you signed up you could win a dinner with Hosea, but I never figured out how to enter that contest. Stupid Macy’s and their crappy Flash website. Eli and Ashley: grilled spot prawns with red beet crème fraiche sauce, gnocchi and kale. Robin and Mike: marinated mushroom and pickled Asian pear roll with seared tuna and scallop. Laurine and Bryan: halibut with sherry-chorizo vinaigrette, yellow corn cake, and avocado mousse. Yum. Kevin and Jen: BBQ Kobe beef with cardamom, tomato, and ginger broth. Michael and Ash: pancetta-wrapped halibut with egg yolk ravioli, and a shaved fennel and asparagus salad.

The guests dig in and just eat for a while. Michael and Ash didn’t sear the pancetta enough and it’s not crispy. The ravioli didn’t work either. Laurine and Bryan did a much better job and blended their flavors really well. Ashley and Eli’s gnocchi are not really light and are too salty. Also Tom Douglas thinks they mistreated the spot prawns. Kevin and Jen have a perfectly balanced dish and the broth is fragrant and everyone loves them. Sadly Mike and Robin did well. Not sad that Robin did well. Tom tells everyone there was tension but the dish worked. Inside the house everyone drinks beer and second-guesses themselves. Ash is realizing he could have questioned Michael a little more maybe. The dish is conceptually Michael’s and he was the one cooking the fish, though, so Ash really didn’t do anything.

Commercial interlude: Robin talks a lot and Mike is a jackass about it. He sits in a chair while she cleans their mess.

Padma collects Laurine, Bryan, Jen, and Kevin for the winners’ circle. Ha on Mike. Kevin cooked the beef and Jen made the broth. Toby tried to eat as much as possible. Bryan cooked the fish and Laurine made the corn cake. They both made the vinaigrette but Laurine admits it was Bryan’s idea. The winning dish is Kevin and Jen’s dish, and Jen’s sauce was the best part so she wins. And she wins $10,000 from Macy’s. She claims she’ll get Kevin a suit.

Loser gong for Michael, Ash, Eli, and Ashley. Back in the Stew Room Kevin tries to figure out what Michael made and why he’s in the bottom. Bryan doesn’t want to talk about it and he’s tired of talking about other people’s plates. He asks Kevin if he tried any of it (he didn’t) and is like, well you can’t judge it then. Which would be a fine reaction if Kevin had done anything like attack Michael. All he did was ask what was in the dish. Michael immediately steps up and explains that the electricity went out but the fish is his fault. Tyler won’t accept the excuse. Tom feels that in order to crisp up the pancetta properly, the halibut can’t stand up to the heat needed. Toby wants to know if the dish would have worked if it was great? I think he wants to know if he stands behind the dish, which he does. Ash pipes up and says that conceptually the dish is great and all of his own ideas sucked ass. Padma wants to know if Ash was fine with playing second fiddle to Michael, and Ash compares it to washing paintbrushes for Picasso. Um…not quite, but I see where you’re going with that. He keeps on praising Michael, who is shaking his head. Tom is like, so, does that mean you’re going home soon then? And Ash says, well, I mean, even a great chef like Michael can overcook a fish. Oo, he just turned on him. Eli admits to being happy with the prawns and the sauce, and Toby fires back that not all the prawns were cooked. Ashley takes responsibility for that and says that if they were undercooked it was because she didn’t want to overcook them. Eli claims to have only seen about half the prawns anyway. Ashley admits that maybe the gnocchi was too heavy for an outdoor meal and maybe it was too salty so they tried not to salt anything after that but Tom is like, that doesn’t work and you know it. He suggests that maybe they not serve them, but then they would have just served prawns and that won’t work either.

The judges all know that Ash didn’t do anything and Michael ran the show. In the Stew Room Michael thanks him for praising him so much. The ravioli was bad and the thing was overcooked. Toby wants to give him some latitude for the power outage but not enough to erase the mistake. Ashley’s shrimp were raw and that was all her fault, while the gnocchi were both of their faults.

In the end, undercooked shrimp and salty gnocchi were deemed worse than overcooked halibut and Ashley is sent home. She’s upset but knows she is too far along to make any mistakes. She can’t even really finish her interview, she’s so upset. But she’s prepared for the hard work she needs to improve herself.

Next week: catering, I think, shoving of people, important guest judge, Robin and Eli go at it. I can’t bring myself to care about that.

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