Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Top Chef 11/11/09--"Strip Around the World" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: well…there was a Top Chef reunion dinner which was lame and apparently people forgot that if Bravo asks you to show up to something then probably they will ask you stupid questions about drama. Before that, though, some stuff happened. There was a random “reimagine TV dinners” challenge, with “inspiration” from classic shows. I put “inspiration” in quotes because “Cheers” does not say chicken parmesan to me. Nor does “Seinfeld” say…whatever Mike made. Kevin got “Sopranos” and made Italian and won easily. Then everyone had to make dishes for Natalie Portman, who is a vegetarian, and of course they were in a steakhouse. But no one did anything useful like, make pasta. Kevin won again, because he is awesome, and Mike was too cocky and went home. But not before the editors made sure we know that no one likes Robin. (click for more)

Bryan misses his family. His son calls him “Bryan” on the phone and he just kind of chuckles. Hee. Jen thinks Mike’s leaving is odd because she thought he’d be in the finals. I thought so too, and then he started to fail. She proclaims in interview that she’s going with the crazy concept of not worrying about anyone but herself.

All 6 chefs go to the Venetian instead of the usual Top Chef kitchen and they don’t know why. The phone rings and Padma is on the line. She’s in bed in a bathrobe. Hee. CJ must be thrilled. Anyways, Padma says they have to make room service for her and also Nigella Lawson. First of all, I love Nigella Lawson, because her food looks delicious and also non-threatening. No fancy presentations and so forth. Second…Padma and Nigella are both in bed together in bathrobes. I’m just saying. Eli refers to an “F Word” episode with Gordon Ramsay which sadly, forces me to give him a point. That show rocks. Ramsay has a restaurant where he takes random people and makes them work in his kitchen to serve lunch for 50, with the idea that al the dishes are really simple and so anyone can make them, therefore he can have a kitchen staff made up of nurses and still do better than the average group of “Hell‘s Kitchen“ contestants. In between those shots are clips about how he raised his own turkeys (one of which he named Nigella) and his search for weird foods and random stuff like that. It’s on BBC America if you get that.

30 minutes and whatever they can find in the kitchen. Allez cuisine! Robin and Eli are up first, apparently because the kitchen is too small for all 6 of them. Robin flails. Eli flails less. Michael and Kevin are the second pair, and Michael has to clean up after Robin before he can get started cooking. That seems pretty unfair. Awwww….separate beds. Robin serves blintz with goat cheese, caramelized pineapple and blueberries. Eli has fried egg Ruben Benedict with Thousand Island hollandaise sauce. Interesting. Rye bread and corned beef and all. Nigella declares it a great hangover breakfast. Back in the kitchen, Michael is pretty much in the weeds. Robin returns and I’m not sure why she’s all of a sudden in his way. I guess she’s cleaning up but why didn’t she wait for him to be done? He snaps that he’d rather she not be there right now and she gets all offended (or as my sister would say, “butt hurt”) and says she’s not going back in there. Well, yeah…you’ve got your stuff and you’re done cooking. See, that was edited to look like he was just a jerk for no reason, but I think she caused that. Michael gets upstairs and serves his huevos Cubana with banana puree, crispy rice, bacon, and arugula salad. Salad? Eh. Michael claims that if you like his food it doesn’t matter how crazy it was in the kitchen. Shush. Kevin has steak and eggs with crème fraiche, aged cheddar, and green onion. There is a coffee dusting on the beef. Yum. Jen tells us she works in a hotel and makes room service. She makes creamed chipped beef on toast, with potatoes and tomatoes. Stupidly she shares the nickname of this dish which is “shit on a shingle”. Duh. Nigella looks worried. Bryan has a four minute egg with vanilla beurre fondue, king crab, asparagus spears, and corn polenta. Sounds good. Nigella is thrown by the vanilla. Sadly the only one making anything resembling crepes is Robin. CJ would be disappointed.

Everyone traipses into a lobby where Padma and Nigella are dressed and waiting. Nigella says that Bryan’s vanilla made her think of desert and threw her off. Robin’s dish was too one note. She volunteers that she’s not proud of her dish. Kevin’s dish, however, worked very well, and Eli’s Ruben was great. It did sound good. She picks Eli as the winner. He can’t win immunity but apparently there is going to be a Top Chef Quickfire cookbook and he gets his recipe in it. OK, you fooled me with the regular Top Chef Cookbook and that thing is generally useless. I got more use out of Christian Siriano‘s book. Yes I bought Christian’s book SHUT UP. Only if you didn’t let the chefs tweak the recipes so they can all still be done in like, 30 minutes or whatever will I get it. Because that other cookbook, has all these complicated techniques and 3 hour cooking times and stuff I’m never doing.

For Elimination today, everyone must make a dish inspired by a casino. Huh? Knives are drawn, and everyone gets something different. Sadly they’re mostly resorts. I think they should go to the old Vegas Strip and make food for old-school casinos. Not Mandalay Bay and whatever. They will make dishes for 175 guests at a party. Kevin tells us that’s a lot.

So all the chefs will get field trips to their “casinos” to figure out what is going on. Michael has New York, New York. He takes notes outside before going in, and decides to make something honoring firefighters. Jen goes to the Excalibur, while she tells us about how she decided to go to culinary school. She wastes time in the medieval floor show. AND she gets food. Well…she sits at the table, then there is a shot of food and beer and then she leaves. She has no idea what to do. Bryan has Mandalay Bay, and goes for the Shark Reef, to watch sharks and think about sustainable fishing. Also he gets a stuffed shark for his son. This editing is not promising. Robin ends up at the Bellagio, with the Chihuly glass ceiling and sculptures. She looks to be headed for a dessert, or something with gelatin. She also talks about how she got started in cooking, so maybe everyone is getting that edit. Kevin is at The Mirage, very tropical. Also he playas with dolphins and tells us that he’s not a redneck, he goes for slow food and substance over style. Eli is at Circus Circus, which is more what I think of when I think of “casino”. He talks about circuses a lot, but I think he may be thinking more of the fair.

Back at home everyone talks about their trips. Michael and Kevin make fun of Eli, because he arguably has the easiest “theme”, but has no idea what he’s doing. Eli complains that there aren’t any restaurants there, but Michael points out that he’s not there to be inspired by other people’s food. Kevin likens Eli’s story to “standing in an art gallery looking at a really sad velvet painting.” Hee. Robin is pushing herself, especially now that she knows Eli is flailing.

In the morning, everyone wakes up, and Kevin sleeps shirtless but sadly the brothers do not. Everyone has 3 ½ hours to cook. No shopping today, I guess it was boring. Kevin is making salmon. There are a lot of other things happening, but I didn’t catch them all right away. It sounds great though. Michael has a dream, and that dream is winning and being a chef and getting his own restaurant. He is making chicken wings? With a twist? He doesn’t say what the twist is. Robin is making panna cotta, and I want to reach through the TV and shake her. Desserts are notorious on this show, and I think panna cotta is the most notorious. Do you guys agree? Rarely does one of them make a good dessert. Robin hasn’t made it a lot, but she at least knows it’s slightly crazy to make something she’s never made before. Jen flirts with Bryan, asking if he wants to be her Prince Charming. Her theme is “sword in the stone”, which somehow involves 3 sauces with red wine. Eli is making caramel apple and peanut soup with popcorn and also raspberry. That could be great or really horrid. He opens champagne and makes a lot of noise. Bryan is poaching fish in olive oil, slowly. Eli complains about how Robin is lucky and is still here. Dude, worry about your apple soup. Everyone runs around to pack for travel.

The party is on the top of the World Market Center, only inside. Eli babbles about Orwellian and 1984 but I’m not sure what he’s talking about. Everyone has one hour to prep. Michael has to make his wings crispy so he has 20-30 of them ready when the party starts. Jen is trying to prep everything early. Robin’s sugar doesn’t turn out. It’s too humid, which I know from watching “Food Network Challenge” is a very bad thing for sugar. The party starts and I know they like to make it dramatic and have everyone rush in, like a mob, but why can’t they do it like a real party? Say when it starts and maybe have some people there then, but then let slackers and latecomers trickle in whenever?

Gail is not here but Nigella and Toby are. Of course Jen has nothing ready. NY strip with red wine reduction, beets, truffles, and herbs. Each cube of meat has a toothpick, like the sword in the stone. NOW it makes sense. Sadly it is chewy and overcooked. Kevin: wild Alaskan sockeye salmon cured in salt and sugar, with compressed Napa cabbage and cucumber. Delicious. Michael’s sign at his table says “boneless chicken wing, blue cheese “semifreddo”, celery cream. He confit the wings and then put curry on them. Firefighters. The blue cheese is on the reverse griddle so it’s a frozen disk. Robin: panna cotta. That’s all it says. She shows them the failed sugar so they know it was there. She’s used too much gelatin. See, if she had just watched past seasons she would have seen the error of using too much gelatin. Bryan: escabeche of halibut with bouillabaisse consommé, parsley coulis, and garlic chips. Escabeche sounds like ceviche, only you cook the fish first before marinating in acid. The judges like it. Eli: caramel apple peanut soup with pulverized popcorn and raspberry froth. Nigella refuses to be the first to try it. Padma hates it. It’s grainy but Toby at least admires his going all in. So to speak.

Commercial interlude: everyone drinks [product placement] champagne and toasts each other. That was lame.

The winners tonight are Kevin, Michael, and Bryan. Well…top three. The salmon was delicious and Kevin’s broth was perfect. Bryan’s dish was beautiful and elegant. Michael made chicken wings and reworked them so they were better. Toby says his food is often “effeminate” and Michael replies that he puts his personality on the plate. Um, OK. Michael wins, which is weird because they didn’t show any shots of Kevin or Bryan getting any criticism, but they did show Toby not liking Michael’s cheese. He wins a magnum of Terlato wine and a weekend trip to the vineyard.

Everyone else comes back for the Loser Gong. Jen knows she didn’t have a plan so her dish suffered. Tom gives a mini-history lesson about how food was all spoiled in the Middle Ages so they had to use a lot of spices. He wanted Jen to go further. Nigella tells her the meat was overcooked and Toby agrees. Then Toby says it was more Spamalot than Camelot, which he obviously worked on for some time, and also, is it even possible to overcook Spam? Robin liked her flavors but not the execution. It was too humid, but I also seem to remember that sugar sculpture like that actually doesn‘t taste very good. Nigella says a perfect panna cotta should “have the quiver of a 17th century courtesan’s inner thigh.” That was wildly specific and awesome. Tom accuses her of being distracted by other chefs’ tricks, which causes her to fail. Not because she’s distracted but because she hasn’t ever done that stuff before. Eli had his dome thing, with the raspberries, but he covered it up. The soup had a really grainy texture too, and he tried to melt some white chocolate into it, but that stuff doesn’t melt. Padma hates on the flavors and says she would never eat that again.

Jen’s sauce was very thick and didn’t help the meat at all. Tom points out that she did so well at the beginning, and Toby thinks maybe she’s hit a wall. In the Stew Room she says she’s ready to go. Robin might have been so distracted by her inspiration, she failed at execution. Panna cotta is easy, and no one saw her inspiration in her dish. Eli’s dish was horrible and a fiasco and the texture was terrible. And Toby didn’t even like how it looked. Nigella wanted to spit it out.

I hope Kevin is named Fan Favorite. That is my vote. Actually I hope Robin wins and everyone’s heads explode.

Tom hates on everyone and then Padma finally sends Robin home. I say “finally” only because now we don’t to listen to Eli complain about her. Oh, I’m sure he’ll have something to say at the beginning of next week, but then that should be it. Robin is glad to have made it this far but she knows that she should have just cooked her comfort food and stuck with what she knew.

Next week: Kevin makes a mistake, Michael talks smack about him, Jen says something about training years for whatever. Thomas Keller is there. If you are unsure why he sounds familiar that is because he owns The French Laundry. Don’t worry, I had to look it up too.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if you still hear Mikes voice saying "Lets go to the M Resort" At the stupidest times

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