Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top Chef 6/30/10--"Capitol Grill"

Previously on “Top Chef”: The horrible puns continue as everyone has to make sandwiches, only while attached to each other in pairs. Angelo and Tracey win (…again), and Tracey says she has a crush on Angelo but later talks about taking care of her partner’s child so…who knows? Later everyone has to make nutritious school lunches on the normal government budget. They worked in groups, and Angelo wanted Kenny in his group, because he has immunity so if they lose there’s a higher chance Kenny will be eliminated. You’d think no one would do such a thing, but Angelo made celery sticks with peanut butter. On Top Chef. However, Jacqueline got screwed on her dish since Amanda demanded sherry for her own dish. In the end, Jacqueline used two pounds of sugar in her pudding and was sent home. But Angelo at least didn’t win; instead Kelly won for making tacos with pork carnitas. (click for more)

There is an exercise ball in the bathroom. One of those ones you sit on instead of a desk chair. Weird. Amanda knows people thought she should have been the one to go home but she’s taking things one day at a time, or whatever. Kenny gets a letter from his girlfriend and talks about how it’s “the Angelo show” but he’s going to be on top again and since when do contestants get letters and cards instead of phone calls? Angelo whines about being in the bottom, and also that Kenny threw him under the bus, talking about how he knew there weren’t vegetables but he got talked out of it. He never proclaims his innocence though. Arnold knows people are already getting into disagreements.

Padma greets everyone with Johnny Iuzzini who is a pastry chef. Gail’s there too. Why is Johnny there? He’s going to be hosting/head judging “Top Chef: Just Desserts” with Gail. Nice! He’s cute too. So of course, you know what that means! Dessert Quickfire! Johnny talks about planning, and how desserts really need planning and can’t be finished last minute. So today they will be making pie from scratch. Mmm, pie. (Kmanpat: “But can they beat my grandmother’s coconut cream pie?”) Stephen thinks they’re all afraid because Jacqueline just got sent home for making dessert.

2 hours, and go! Kelly shoos Arnold away from a station, saying all her stuff’s there. Arnold interviews about how annoying she is, even though she wasn’t that annoying. Or two faced. Kelly has dessert experience and is thrilled. Angelo, finally, admits he’s not good at something, which is making pie. So what’s he doing? Making curry pie. Oh no, I’m not joking. He’s making like, curry sweet potato pie. If you aren’t good at the challenge, I don’t think you can just ignore the challenge guidelines and do whatever you feel like. Sadly though I must admit curry sweet potato pie is something I might want to eat. Tim quietly freaks out and makes apple pie. Tamesha’s never made a pie either. I mean…I’ve made pie a bunch of times, but I don’t know that I could make the crust from scratch without a recipe. Lynne says she’s the oldest one there, and that being a culinary instructor, she doesn’t really need a recipe. I forgot who she was for a minute. Amanda doesn’t like pie. Who doesn’t like pie? She’s making apple rosemary bourbon vanilla pie. She just doesn’t want to be in the bottom. Andrea tries to ask Tracey what she’s making but Tracey has no idea. Or doesn’t want to talk to her. Someone takes Arnold’s pan. He compares pastry chefs to mad scientists. Also “pies live in the clouds with unicorns”. Alex is making an almond crust, with tapioca. He’s probably got a decent idea, in that the average non-baker can probably fudge a graham cracker crust or an almond crust, as opposed to traditional pie crust. It might be thick though. Alex asks Ed to taste something but he claims to hate chocolate. Then he smack talks Alex in confessional. I don’t know if I trust someone who doesn’t like chocolate. Also someone who’s putting celery in his pie. Tracey doesn’t like the way her pie looks, nor the fact that she put too much butter in it and now it tastes like butter. She decides to start over but I don’t know if she has time. Kenny is making bananas Foster pie, but not a traditional pie with a crust and filling. More like a claflouti, which is like a pancake with fruit in it. You put fruit in the pan and then pour batter over it. Stephen’s pie is apparently “curry apple whisky date”. I guess. He’s pleased anyway. Tracey has somehow managed to get another pie together.

You guys! I just noticed! No letterbox! I’m so pleased. Kenny: bananas Foster pie with currants and Chinese five spice. It looks like banana bread, not that that’s bad, but it’s not really pie. Amanda: apple pie with rosemary and bourbon, and hazelnut crust. She warns them that she’s not a pastry chef, but Johnny says his grandmother’s not a pastry chef either, and she can make pie, so it’s kind of a copout. Oo, burn. Stephen: curried apple-date pie with saffron anglaise. It’s sour. Kelly: spiced raspberry and dark chocolate ganache tart. Yum. Arnold: kalamansi (a type of lime) and Key lime pie parfait with Korean soju, which is mint sauce. And it looks like it fell apart and he had to put it in a bowl. Angelo: sweet potato pie, curry spices, crumble crust. You know how usually sweet potato pie looks like pumpkin pie? He left the sweet potatoes in chunks and put crumble over it. Tracey: blueberry almond crunch pie with light cream and almond brittle. It didn’t set up so it’s liquidy. Tiffany: peach cobbler with cornmeal crust, buttermilk-lemon crème anglaise. The judges mention how dark it is, and she says she put molasses and dark brown sugar in it. Lynne: mango pie with basil & vanilla crust. She’s made little cut-outs to decorate the top and everything. She’s never put basil in the crust before. Ed: banana cream pie with salted peanuts and celery spuma (foam, basically). He claims it’s his grandmother’s pie, but Gail knows his grandmother did not make celery spuma. Alex: white chocolate, tapioca, and chevre pie with almond crust and raspberry puree. Johnny says that if there’s egg in it then it’s a quiche. So? Get on Kenny and his banana bread. I would classify quiche as “egg pie”. It’s got a crust and filling and you bake it.

Least favorite: Alex’s texture was poor, Tracey’s crust was burnt and the bottom was raw (she’s embarrassed), and Ed’s extra nonsense with the celery and peanuts didn’t fit the pie. Ed of course doesn’t understand, and Tiffany thought his pie looked great so she kind of freaks out. Kelly’s pie was perfect. Stephen’s pie also had a great surprising flavor combination. But then out of nowhere Johnny says Kenny’s the winner. That’s fine and all but I still maintain that’s not a pie. Stephen really wants to win.

Elimination challenge: make a picnic for Capitol Hill interns that includes one main dish and two sides. They’ll be serving at Mount Vernon. Alex jokes about taking advantage of an intern. Everyone gets their own grill to cook on. Arnold is not really excited about that.

$400 for shopping. Kevin buys flank steak. Tracey is making her own sausage and says it’s not difficult, which is a bad sign. Amanda for some reason says she used to be a drug addict. The camera in confessional is right up close to her face. It’s out of nowhere. I’m not sure where that came from.

3 hours to prep. There are 150 interns to cook for, which is a lot. Arnold is making lamb meatballs skewered with lemongrass. Kenny talks about how his dad used to grill and helped him when he was younger to grill also. Arnold complains about the workload. Tracey talks to herself, which irritates Stephen. He thinks she’s going crazy. She can’t get the mixer to work right to stuff her sausages into casings, so she says “screw it” and decides to make sliders. Tim never only grills one meat at home so he’s got ribs and pork loin. He’s sort of watching Amanda but claims to have “grill skill” so he’s not worried. Angelo’s concept is “Asian picnic”. Amanda starts yelling at Alex because he’s put his food into “her” oven. She claims she wrote her name on it, so even though it was empty he shouldn’t have touched it, and he claims she didn’t put her name on it. Tom walks in while this is happening. It sounds like she took Alex’s food out of the oven, much like you do at the Laundromat when people‘s clothes are in the dryer but they‘re nowhere to be found. Yeah…that kind of backfires when the person shows up and you’re still there. Tom asks Amanda what’s up with that, and then establishes that 1. she took Alex’s food out without his permission, and 2. when Tom asks if there’s a label on the oven, she admits there wasn’t, but she says that’s what they do, is label ovens. Then she mentions “prison rules” which are not explained. Point for Alex. Ed talks about tuna and hummus and a lot of stuff. He’s second guessing himself now. Turns out Arnold doesn’t actually cook as much as he’s front of house so he’s pressed for time. Stephen has Chilean sea bass, which is in a dish he’s made before. Amanda yells for tape, and Tiffany interviews that she hears Amanda yelling a lot and that it stresses her out just watching her.

Back at the house people drink and hang out. They also talk about their dishes. Angelo says Amanda is smart but can’t beat him. Amanda thinks no one takes her seriously.

Mount Vernon looks really cool. There are picnic blankets and baskets carefully strewn around the lawn already, and a long row of kettle grills. 1 hour to cook. Everyone has to start their own charcoal for the grill, and Arnold watches Kenny to see what to do. Tim’s ready to grill. Tracey asks how to turn the grill down. Kenny says Angelo has a lot of technique and admits he’s doing well. Arnold says his sister was an intern which means you’re someone’s bitch for a while. Then he claims never to have been the bitch. Tim has secret rub. When time is called people close the grills, so I guess you can’t grill after a certain time? Weird.

Guest judge is Jonathan Waxman. Awesome. Arnold: sesame lamb meatball with tabouli salad and gazpacho. That sounds good. Tamesha: marinated skirt steak with caramel soy glaze and fennel citrus salad. Angelo: Vietnamese lettuce wrap, and smoked egg salad. I wrote down “two sides”, right? No, I did. What’s up with that? Alex: grilled pork butt with lemongrass glaze, polenta and cucumber salad. See? Two sides. Then he ruins it by talking about “eating the ass out of this pig”. Ew, aside from the fact that “pork butt” is the shoulder. The judges love Arnold’s food, saying it’s fresh. Tamesha’s steak is overcooked. Alex’s sauce is a little sweet. Jonathan calls Angelo’s dish “magazine cover” but Gail says it tastes good.

Tim: pork two ways, pork loin and wet baby back ribs, with grilled vegetables. As he’s talking some geese buzz the table and almost shit on his food. Amanda: dry rub baby back ribs, grilled asparagus, bacon hazelnut vinaigrette. Kelly: bison burger with watermelon and tomato salad. Kevin: grilled marinated flank steak, rice and beans, and tomato and avocado salad. Tim’s meat is good but the sides are poor. Padma says maybe the bird knew something they didn’t. Kelly’s food is too simple. Amanda’s ribs are better than Tim’s, and Jonathan loves grilled asparagus. Kevin’s rice is bland and the beans are weird.

Lynne: leg of lamb with ras el hanout, zucchini “spaghetti” with balsamic onions. Kenny: harissa marinated pork loin, quinoa salad, grilled eggplant. Tracey: Italian sausage slider, with tomato, cucumber, red onion salad. Kenny’s pork is good. Lynne’s lamb is heavy and there’s cheese somewhere. Tracey’s sausage patty is too big, has too much fennel, and is undercooked. You know what? Tracey said at some point she was making lemonade. Where did it go? Some random intern says her sausage was too spicy and she’s all, “Well at least I did something with it.”

Tiffany: tamarind glazed wild sockeye salmon, Israeli couscous. Andrea: spicy root beer glazed skirt steak with potato salad. Stephen: bacon wrapped sea bass, ratatouille and olive pine nut couscous. Ed: spiced tuna loin with lentil hummus. Ed is confident because his dad was an executive chef and “he never thought of doing half the shit I do”. The judges like Ed’s dish a lot. Andrea’s skirt steak has too much root beer. Tiffany has bland glaze. Stephen’s sea bass is somehow stringy inside but tough outside. Tom thinks he didn’t render the fat enough. Angelo goes to try some of Amanda’s ribs and admits that they’re better than his dish. He goes around telling people how great they are. Tracey says there isn’t one bad dish.

Commercial interlude: Tracey is clairvoyant and is 85% accurate. Andrea freaks out while everyone looks on.

Stephen talks about how he nailed it. Padma calls Arnold, Ed, Amanda, and Angelo. These are the winners. Ed’s tuna loin was in a sandwich-type vehicle, and was “bright”. Arnold’s lamb had great flavor. Amanda’s asparagus was fantastic, ribs were fantastic, salad didn’t need to be there. They liked Angelo’s flavors. Jonathan tells Arnold he wins. He’s so pleased. Amanda says being in the top four is just as good.

The bottom four are Tim, Stephen, Tracey, and Kevin. Padma calls their dishes “disappointing”. Stephen never made his dish before, and the fish was unappealing. Tom tells him the bacon needed more grill time and the couscous was greasy and tasteless. Tim’s vegetables weren’t all cooked and the seasoning wasn’t that great, even though he had more than enough time to season everything. He didn’t push it to the limit. Kevin’s plate was “the safest Puerto Rican food I’ve ever had” according to Padma. He says that food is what all his Puerto Rican friends would do, and Gail asks him if they’re chefs, which of course they’re not, so she jumps on him like “YOU are!” he needs to step it up. Tracey isn’t surprised to be there, and knows she should have crushed the fennel first. Tom claims it’s insulting to Italians. I wouldn’t go that far. Jonathan says when things go wrong, that’s when you “pull inside yourself to fix it”. I thought her making sliders was a good way to fix it. He thinks Tracey gave up.

Stephen made a poor choice and didn’t really grill enough. Jonathan says the fish was inedible. They sense a lack of confidence. Tim’s zucchini was at least edible. Jonathan claims his 10 year old son could have made Tracey’s food. Kevin’s meat was fine, but the rice and beans was terrible.

Tom attacks everyone again. I think he likes this part too much. He says it wasn’t a good day for American chefs, like they were representing the nation or something. Tracey is sent home. She says it’s fair. She thinks if she’d prepared herself emotionally she’d still be there, she only left because she had a bad day.

Next week: two people sent home, more team drama, Eric Ripert is finally around, oooohhhhhhhh why are last season’s contestants there? Oh wait, Bryan V. That’s OK then.
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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top Chef 6/23/10--"Outside the Lunch Box"

Previously on “Top Chef”: 17 people met in Washington D.C. to start our new season. That is a lot. The first challenge was the mise en place race but it was done individually. Kenny is as fast as Hung, but Angelo won in the end. He’s pretty cocky, not like chefs aren’t cocky, but when he gets taken down a peg it will be satisfying. Then everyone was supposed to cook something that showcased where they were from, and also showcase themselves although that wasn’t made clear. Angelo won that too, although Kenny put in a good showing. Many people didn’t even get acknowledged. That’s what happens when you have that many people. John made some overly-sweet mousse and didn’t even make his puff pastry (actually, the only thing he made all day was the mousse) so he was sent home. (click for more)

Ed is shaving in the bedroom and some of the other boys make fun of him. But the bathroom was full, so what’re you gonna do? Ed sort of feels bad that John was sent home but he also wants to win. Jacqueline melts an obscene amount of butter in a pan. Andrea thinks she can beat anyone here.

Padma greets everyone with a smile and Sam Kass, assistant White House chef. Padma mentions that good governments are bipartisan (um…OK) and that they will be participating in a “Top Chef Bipartisan-dwich Quickfire”. PLEASE do not do this all season. Whatever new writer you hired to make all these puns, they are horrible. Everyone fake laughs. They have to pair up to create a sandwich in 30 minutes. I have to say, I’m right now noticing that Bravo is showing this episode in letterbox format for some reason, which is super annoying because it makes all the chryons smaller and harder to read. Thanks, Bravo. They pull knives for teams. Winning team has immunity. Kenny of course does not need immunity because he is awesome. Angelo says he owns a sandwich shop so he has to win. Yeah, that probably would be important. Padma is like, oh, by the way, and Tamesha knows there’s a twist coming, because 30 minutes for 2 people to make a sandwich is a ridiculous long time. They have special aprons. That are sewn together. So it’s like a three-legged race but your legs are not attached. Tim says “This is genius! Who got high and came up with this idea?” Exactly, my friend.

Kenny gets paired with Ed, so with one right handed person and one left handed person he’s thinking this is great. Tracey is paired with Angelo, a good thing for her since he has a sandwich shop and also she has a crush on him. Tamesha doesn’t trust Amanda to cut things while she holds them, so Tamesha claims the right side. Alex is terrified Tim will cut him. Everyone looks really stupid. Angelo makes some comment about “liquid love”. Ew. Tiffany is confident.

Angelo and Tracey: flounder marinated in fish sauce, sriracha mayo, and pickled red onions. Kevin and Andrea: “Philly Cuban”: roasted pork, pickle, whole grain mustard, gruyere cheese. That…just sounds like a Cuban. Tamesha and Amanda: prosciutto, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard, and pepper salsa. Tim and Alex: “croque madam”: ground lamb, mornay sauce, and egg. It’s open-faced too. OK, I just turned on the repeat of “Top Chef” and there is no letterboxing. I can hardly read the captions and I have good eyesight. This was a terrible idea. Stephen and Jacqueline: saba vinegar onions, California avocado, and chicken. Kenny and Ed: Korean chili rubbed ahi tuna, cucumber mango slaw, on multi-grain bread. Also open-faced. Arnold and Kelly: curry rubbed grilled chicken, honey and sambal cucumber, mint, dill and cilantro. Yum. Tiffany and Lynne: flatbread saltimbocca, goat cheese, artichokes, peppers, white asparagus. It’s hard to eat, and Lynne says it’s a knife and fork kind of sandwich.

Stephen and Jacqueline were not creative enough, and Tiffany and Lynne had a poor texture. Tracey and Angelo had a nice vibrancy with the herbs and the spiciness. Ed and Kenny had perfect tuna and the slaw had a lot of flavor. The winners are Tracey and Angelo. Sigh. The more Angelo wins the more irritating he’ll get, I think. Kenny is heated. No one really claps for Angelo.

For the Elimination challenge, they will be making a school lunch. Nice. They will have to work with the same crappy budget the public schools get: $2.68 per student. Ha! In the end, what with subtracting labor and what not, they’ll have $130 per team for 50 kids. Arnold says he spends $130 on food for himself. They’ll work in teams of four, and each chef will be responsible for one item on the menu. And it looks like they’ll be just organizing the pairs, because Tracey and Angelo are allowed to pick the other pair of chefs they’ll be working with. They pick Kenny and Ed, so Kenny gets an interview about how he is Angelo’s competition and if they’re on the bottom, then the chances Kenny will go home are pretty high because of how Tracey and Angelo have immunity. Everyone else gets to pick their own teams. Kevin says that Andrea has kids, he has kids, Tim has kids, so he’s feeling pretty good about their team. No word on if Alex has kids. The teams will get 30 minutes to plan, and then shop at Restaurant Depot, so I guess they learned their lesson about having a budget challenge and then shopping at Whole Foods. 2.5 hours to prep today, and 1 hour at school tomorrow.

Tracey wants to take what kids are already eating and make it healthy. She also argues with Kenny that peanut butter and celery is healthy. I mean…relatively, I guess. Amanda argues that they should braise chicken thighs in sherry. The whole team argues about something, but I can’t tell what because most of it is bleeped. In the end Tamesha says something about Amanda not crossing her, so I guess they were arguing about that. Jacqueline offers to make chocolate banana pudding for dessert, which is fine with Amanda as she feels people who make desserts go home. She refuses to take one for the team. Jacqueline talks about mothering her youngest sister. Tim wants to make mac ‘n cheese, while Kevin is going to claim dessert. Kelly says kids “fucking love” tacos. Tiffany is not really keen to work with Kelly because she’s taking over. I think Tiffany would rather be in charge. Kelly also swears that kids love pickled onions. Tiffany doesn’t want to go home for someone else’s mistakes.

Amanda still wants to buy cooking sherry on their small budget. Somehow their team is at $173 and Amanda laughs that it looks like Jacqueline must have thought the $130 was for each person. She has to throw out the chocolate. A lot of teams are compromising to stay on budget.

Kelly’s team (her, Lynne, Arnold, and Tiffany) has a Mexican menu with the tacos and sweet potatoes and salsa. Kelly describes the tacos to Tracey and then says “This was my idea”. Immediately there is the dramatic music and quick cuts to everyone looking shocked. Except that from what I heard her taking over when they were planning…tacos were her idea. Andrea says everyone on her team is clear on their jobs. They seem to be getting along really well. Kenny’s team is doing well also, even though Angelo seems to be making celery with peanut butter mousse. That’s it? Good thing he has immunity. Everyone else is doing more work, but Kenny thinks it’s not healthy enough. Amanda is stressed. Her team is doing the fanciest food by far: chicken thighs braised in sherry, rice pilaf. Jacqueline adds more sugar to her pudding because her bananas are starchy. Tamesha tells Amanda to add tomato paste to her dish, and Amanda politely thanks her for her input but says she is not interested. Tamesha reiterates in confessional that she won’t hesitate to throw Amanda under the bus. It would matter more to me except that Padma already made it clear that since each chef is responsible for one dish, they’ll all be judged individually. Arnold’s still pissed Kelly is talking about herself.

Everyone heads home and relaxes. Tracey is reading a lot into the challenge because she’s raising her partner’s daughter and she knows they don’t eat well at home. Arnold and Tiffany bitch about Kelly. So…Arnold gets together with Tiffany and Kelly and they both attack Kelly for taking all the credit. I’m not sure what the point is here. I think it’s that Arnold wants to make sure he doesn’t go home for only making salsa because he helped other people? Whatever. I’d say it was a good thing that he and Tiffany sat Kelly down and aired their grievances but I think they just ended up confusing her and from what we saw, they didn’t give her much of a chance to respond.

Middle school! Kelly really wants to beat Angelo. It’s a very cramped kitchen, I’m sure because it’s not supposed to have 16 people and cameras and sound guys. Angelo has some special can to make peanut butter foam but the valve is broken. He tries to borrow one from Kevin who flat out refuses. Kenny complains that Angelo is not helping the team because he is too focused on his peanut butter. Tom appears and interviews that his mom ran a school lunch program, so he knows how difficult this is. Kevin is making fruit skewers with yogurt foam, which Tom thinks is brilliant because kids may not eat yogurt but they’ll eat whipped cream. Stealth! Jacqueline explains to Tom that they couldn’t afford chocolate or cocoa (or eggs) so she couldn’t make her chocolate pudding. Tom tries to stir up shit by asking if that screwed her, implying that everyone else on the team got what they wanted. Jacqueline is confident in her bananas. He kind of shrugs about her idea. Arnold explains how they are making tortillas and carnitas, and he says “we” a lot, but then from the back Kelly pipes up and says she’s ultimately responsible for the carnitas. The rest of the team is like, we totally all helped each other. Tom is irritated. “I actually don’t like when they say ‘we all did it’, that’s why they are forced to take responsibility for one thing.” Ha! Good point. Tom goes to mess with Kenny and remind him about how if his team is on the bottom Angelo and Tracey have immunity. Stephen thinks that Amanda’s dish with sherry is inappropriate for kids, and that they should change the name for the judges. Angelo finds a piping bag and claims he turned a rock into a wheel. Kelly all of a sudden champions coming together as a team.

Mob of kids! Andrea, Alex, Kevin, and Tim: coleslaw with yogurt; grilled apple cider BBQ chicken (no skin); mac ‘n cheese with whole wheat crust, skim milk, and low-fat cheese; fresh melon kabob and orange Chantilly dipped in yogurt. The judges really like everything except the mac ‘n cheese. True that. Low-fat cheese tends to suck.

Angelo, Tracey, Kenny, and Ed: chicken burger with fiesta rice (mixed in); peanut butter and celery with a tuile cookie thing; sweet potato puree with cinnamon; apple bread pudding with cinnamon yogurt. The sweet potatoes have too much pepper but the bread pudding is good, as is the burger. They try the celery, and Padma calls it a dessert because it comes with a cookie. It is lacking vegetables. Looking at this whole menu, I feel like peanut butter and celery, and sweet potato puree, are not things that should take 3 hours.

Lynne, Kelly, Arnold, and Tiffany: black bean cake and crispy sweet potatoes; braised pork carnitas tacos with pickled onions and cilantro; roasted corn salad with cilantro, lime vinaigrette and chili oil; caramelized sweet potatoes and sherbet. It looks pretty good. The bean cake is kind of spicy but they like the rest of it. Gail is not sold on the dessert.

Amanda, Stephen, Tamesha, and Jacqueline: braised chicken thigh with sherry jus; sweet onion rice with tomato, carrots, and green onions; bean and tomato salad with pickled red onions and apple cider vinaigrette; banana pudding with skim milk and strawberries. Stephen screws up and says his rice has 165 grams of fat instead of 165 calories. Hee. The food looks good. Not particularly healthy, but tasty. Jacqueline’s plan to get rid of the starch in her bananas by adding sugar has resulted in sweet starchy pudding. Some kid makes a face. Gail says the rice is mushy. Some kid says it would be cool if they got this every day. Jacqueline is so thrilled that I worry about the editing. Kelly says she appreciates her team’s help but that they’re taking part of her dish away from her.

Commercial interlude: Padma talks to kids about the meal and tells them all the things they liked were secretly foods they hate! It wasn’t whipped cream! Ha! Then she gets mobbed by children wanting hugs.

Angelo and Kenny rank their dishes, until Alex shushes them because Kevin’s fallen asleep and is snoring. When he wakes up everyone laughs at him. Padma comes in and collects Angelo’s and Amanda’s teams. Kelly is pissed because winners get called first. When the eight people arrive at the judges table Tom starts with a lecture about how school lunch should be flavorful but also healthy, and then Padma says they were the worst. What!? They changed it up! No Loser gong! Actually…I’m OK with that. It’s about damn time. Amanda just stands there with her mouth open. Stephen was trying to get vegetables into his rice but he blames the budget for not having what he wanted. Gail says that was the point. Jacqueline talks about her pudding and then admits she put TWO POUNDS of sugar into her pudding. Damn. Sam the guest judge says that’s what happens when you have inferior ingredients. Then he attacks Amanda for having the budget to buy sherry. She has no response. Ed’s sweet potatoes were too spicy for kids. Sam bothers them for not having vegetables, and Kenny says that’s why they put tomatoes on the burgers, and then Sam is all “Tomatoes are fruit!” but everyone knows they’re counted as vegetables. That’s why they count catsup as a vegetable. Then he’s like, the only vegetable was the celery, except that sweet potatoes are vegetables. Whatever. Tom asks Angelo if he would have made peanut butter and celery if he didn’t have immunity, and Angelo says “I can’t answer that right now.” Huh? Tom’s all, oh I’m not saying you would sabotage your team on purpose, because obviously you aren’t that type of person, to make a shitty dish while immune so you could get rid of someone else on your team. I love Tom. There’s brief confusion about who should have put a vegetable on the menu, and then Kenny claims he saw that but other people on the team made decisions without his input and they had immunity so they had to have agreement. Stephen for some reason jumps in and says that if someone knew they didn’t have vegetables then that person (Kenny) should have stepped up. Kenny slams their two pounds of sugar in their pudding, so Amanda fires back by saying processed peanut butter is possibly the worst thing ever, worse than their pudding. Ed’s like, whatever, you served the kids alcohol. Gail is like, hey, yeah, why DID you serve sherry, anyway? Hee. Amanda says she really likes chicken braised with sherry, and Gail is all, I like a lot of things, I like vodka, but I don’t cook with it. Exactly. The judges kick them out, and they all go back to the Stew Room to give the other teams the good news they are the winners. Or at least have high scores.

Angelo’s team had the worst menu, hands down. Kenny’s decision to not make vegetables hurt his team. Ed’s sweet potato was a good restaurant dish but was not good for kids. Padma feels both of them should have spoken up more because the other two had immunity. Tom thinks that while Angelo didn’t throw the challenge on purpose, there was “gamesmanship”, whatever that means. Meanwhile in the Stew Room Angelo is whispering to Tracey that he doesn’t like Kenny (after swearing her to secrecy). Amanda’s chicken was terrible, the kids didn’t like it, and Jacqueline’s pudding is horrible. Then they talk about the winners. The tacos were great, and Kelly’s team had a lot of food on the plate. Andrea’s team also did a really good job adding healthy foods into things that were usually not healthy.

Padma goes to the Stew Room and asks for Kelly’s team. They are the winners. Arnold’s salad was great. They all love Kelly’s tacos. Tiffany had the dessert, which had great texture even though it was low fat and she made some kids like sweet potatoes. Lynne’s dish was exciting so kids would eat it. Sam says that Kelly is the winner.

Kenny, Ed, Amanda, and Jacqueline get called back in. Tom attacks everyone and then Jacqueline gets sent home. She’s pissed she didn’t have more money, and claims she only was able to use 10% of the team‘s budget. But she was still going to have bananas, so…still too much sugar? She’s disappointed but proud of how far she got.

Next week: cook a picnic, someone doesn’t like Alex, Amanda gets defensive.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Top Chef 6/16/10--"House of Chef-presentatives"

(Housekeeping before we start: if you leave an anonymous comment I have to approve it, but I haven't figured out how to get Blogger to notify me when there are comments waiting to be moderated. So sorry if you submit one and it takes forever to show up.)

Hello everyone! Welcome to the new season of Top Chef! I feel like it’s been a long while. I know I didn’t recap “Top Chef: Masters” this season, but that’s because it’s hard to recap when everyone respects everyone else and it’s kind of boring. The critics are always nice and everyone screws up a lot less. I guess I could have commented on how Suser Lee never experienced anything, like tailgating. Eh. I hope you didn’t miss me! On with the show. (click for more)

17 chefs are in Washington D.C. 17? Sigh. But Eric Ripert has replaced Toby Young, so that’s something. I wish he had better things to do, but what are you going to do? Padma says “Hail to the chef!” which is almost as bad as the episode title. But not quite.

Tiffany Derry, 27, from Texas. She started at IHOP. She references Obama and says she wants to be the first African-American winner. Stephen Hopcraft, 40, from Vegas. He is here to “change [his] life and kick ass.” Tracey Bloom, 33, Atlanta. She’s been voted a top chef in Atlanta. Kenny Gilbert, 36, Telluride, Colorado. He seems to not be an executive chef like everyone else, but owns a catering company. I think. He does not explain what he does but brags that he cooked his first egg at 3 years old. Hey, I started cooking meals when I was in high school, and now I’m 33 and cook as little as possible. I don’t think your starting age matters a lot.
Everyone goes to a museum balcony to party. Or I guess I should say “party” because they probably aren’t really going to have a party with no tasks. Alex Resnik (33, Hollywood) talks about how great it is to have this season in DC where so many famous chefs are, and he namedrops for a while, ending on Eric Ripert. Which makes me wonder if he knew he was a judge. Kelly Liken, 33, Vail, Colorado. The average age of the chefs has gotten older the longer this show goes on. It’s the opposite of most reality shows where everyone is under 25. She says she doesn’t lose. Lynne Gigliotti, 51, Highland, NY. She is not an executive chef but is a professor at the CIA. Nice. I wonder if she’ll get bossy. She says she’s boring but her food tastes good. Arnold Myint, 33, Nashville. Arnold says in preparation for this show he got a wardrobe stylist and a facial. His bio is my favorite as it states he is a chef/owner of Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, used to be a professional figure skater, and occasionally appears as Suzy Wong to promote stuff. I think I just found who I’ll be rooting for. Kevin Sbraga, 31, New Jersey. He wants to represent Jersey. He knows Kenny and thinks that’s huge competition. Jacqueline Lombard, 33, Brooklyn. She owns a catering company and wants to prove a self-taught chef can beat these people, except her bio lists her culinary education as “French Culinary Institute, WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust, I think), and The Sommelier Society of America”. That would be, not self-taught. Timothy Dean, 40, Baltimore. His wife died recently and he’s going to win for her. Angelo Sosa, 35, Durham, Connecticut. He says his restaurant was the first Chinese restaurant to receive a Michelin star. No, he’s not Chinese. He claims this is war. Timothy is unimpressed with Angelo.

Suddenly a side door opens and Padma and Tom come out. No one cheers for them the way they cheer for Tim Gunn. John Somerville (42, Michigan) feels like he’s out of place. He is a chef de cuisine and not an executive chef. Also he has dreadlocks. I am not a big fan of dreadlocks. Tom and Padma introduce their first Quickfire: the mise en place relay race. They did that last season for the first challenge! Couldn’t the producers come up with anything new? Oh wait, spoke too soon. Last season was teams. This season is individuals. First leg is to peel 10 potatoes, and the fastest 12 will move on. Second leg: brunoise 10 cups of onions, 8 move on. Third leg: break down 4 chickens, 4 move on. Final leg: prepare a dish with these ingredients. Oo! I was watching “Next Food Network Star” and that was their first challenge: take chicken and potatoes, pretty much a blank canvas, and make a dish that shows who you are. The winner of this Quickfire gets $20,000. Wow.

Potato peeling commences. Most people are using paring knives and not a peeler like the average person. Kenny is apparently moving very quickly. Amanda Baumgarten (27, LA) says she has a good resume but knows she is competing against people with more experience. She is a sous chef. She also cuts her hand. Kenny finishes first and everyone pauses while Tom checks their work. Angelo moves on too. Someone has to redo her potatoes. Padma kicks the losers over to the side.

Onion time. And we all learn something new: “brunoise” doesn’t just mean to dice, it means to make 1/8” cubes. So specific. Only half of them can move on. Plus, 10 cups is a ton of onions. Kenny wins again. He’s like Hung. I cut onions and stuff so slowly, I’d probably still be there. Andrea Curto-Randazzo, 39, Miami, says she’s been recognized as one of the best chefs in America but she can’t dice onions.

Chicken violence. Kenny like, destroys the chickens in two minutes. The final four are Kenny, Kevin, Angelo, and Timothy. They will have 30 minutes to make something with chicken, potatoes, and onions. Kenny wants to impress everyone. Angelo feels like a ninja. At least I think he said “ninja”. The only other option is “Injun” and I’m pretty sure that’s not what he said.
Angelo: roasted wing and thigh, curried onion jam, potato noodles. Sounds pretty good. Kevin: boneless chicken wing with hot and sour broth, tomatoes, fennel, potato, and mushroom. Tim: garlic roasted chicken, potato galette, and oyster mushrooms. And cherries, somewhere. Kenny: duo of chicken with Moroccan spice, potato puree and onion confit. I’m not sure what the two types of chicken are.

Tim used too much cream, and Kevin had a very salty broth. Kenny had a great roasted potato and good flavors, and Angelo also had good flavors. The winner is Angelo. He’s proud of himself and thinks he can win every single challenge. Kenny thinks Angelo is an “obstacle” but not a “threat”.

Elimination challenge: create a dish that reflects where you’re from. Kelly says she does this every day because she creates regional cuisine. Yeah, I feel like that’s such a huge thing nowadays. It’s probably not even a challenge for most people. Actually, it kind of screws you if you cook ethnic food. The other part of this challenge is that they’re cooking for a party for the kickoff of the Cherry Blossom Festival. 300 young professionals. Just to make it more complicated, they’ll be divided into 4 groups and then will compete head to head within the groups. One chef from each group will be up for winning, one for elimination. The 4 finalists from the Quickfire get to be group leaders and pick their competition. Angelo picks Tiffany, Kelly, and John. Kenny: Tracey (who immediately assumes it‘s because Kenny thinks she sucks), Lynn, Stephen. Kevin: Arnold, Amanda, Jacqueline (who assumes she’s been left until last because she’s so awesome). Tim: Alex, Tamesha, Andrea. Ed Cotton (32, New York) is the last one left, and he says he’s worked for awesome chefs so he is really good. Angelo sticks him with Kenny, to put more pressure on him. Kenny is non-plussed. $300 to shop and 4 hours to prep. And then 1 hour to set up on the day of the event.

Everyone enters the house which is a really super nice townhouse. John writes in his journal, and yes, I did pause it and read it but it’s not that interesting. He talks about really wanting to cook something.

Of course there is a Whole Foods in DC! Ed’s worried someone will clean out the meat counter before him. Jacqueline feels chicken livers represent New York.

The kitchens are in a Hilton. Arnold (I think) has purchased an orchid for some reason. He has a mom-and-pop restaurant so he’s not used to all this top of the line equipment. Tim is using rockfish. Alex was born in Russia and is using that instead of California where he currently lives. Nice. Amanda warns us in confessional that she is not an easy mark. Kevin talks about Jersey and Pennsylvania but is labeled “Mid-Atlantic”. He is sous-viding lamb. Jacqueline has apple cups? I think? Angelo is making a foam. Oh, sorry, “froth”. Then he says he is confident and has an “orchestra” of flavors and “I can tell you when it’s going to hit your mouth, why it’s going to hit your mouth…that’s what I do”. (Kmanpat: “He can make sure it hits my mouth anytime.“) John is making maple mousse. Oo, a dessert! He’ll stand out for that. Tracey says Stephen is a “hick from some country town”. Cleveland is not a “country town”, as much as I never want to live there (sorry Ohio!). Kenny wants to keep dominating everything. John screws up setting the ovens and has to redo some macadamia nuts. Jacqueline decides not to strain her puree, so I’m sure that will be important. She’s already unsure about that decision.

Lots of shots of cherry trees in bloom. The site for the party is gorgeous, and a lot of people have flowers so I guess they were told to buy decorations too. Alex loves cooking for cocktail events. Jacqueline’s chicken liver puree is grainy so she decides to cook it again because that will make it smooth out? I’m not sure how that will work but I’m not a chef. Lots of frantic plating and last minute searing and cooking. Guests arrive. The judges arrive. Padma calls Gail “luscious” and tells us that she’ll be hosting “Top Chef: Just Desserts”. Woo! I was hoping that had actually gotten off the ground. Amanda is starstruck for maybe 20 seconds and then starts talking about her California dish. Apparently to her “Wolfgang Puck-era Californian cuisine” is “neo-classical”. I don’t know that’s the right term. I think Tom is laughing at her. Red snapper carpaccio, cucumbers, Clementine’s, sencha oil, daikon and caraway gelee. Arnold (Nashville by way of Thailand): Kaffir lime and Thai basil cake, palm sugar anglaise and “myint” julep. Kevin (mid-Atlantic): Pennsylvania lamb, Meyer lemon and pistachio marmalade, and spring onions. Jacqueline (New York): duo of Hudson Valley chicken liver and port wine mousse. She says there’s no fat in it, and Gail is incredulous. Amanda’s fish is messy, and Tom says Wolfgang seasons better than that. They like Kevin’s dish. Jacqueline’s mousse is still grainy.

Ed (Ohio): potato crusted rib eye, celery root puree, scarlet stadium mustard vinaigrette. I don’t know what “scarlet stadium” means. Ed (Boston): sautéed cod cakes with Boston baked beans and shaved fennel salad. Lynne (New York): camembert ice cream on waffles with bacon praline and caramel sauce. Tracey (Atlanta): Port Royal rock shrimp and grits with maple cheddar. Kenny (Colorado): cinnamon and coffee rubbed trout, goat cheese polenta and quinoa, and black bean mole. I want that. (Kmanpat: “You had me at ‘goat cheese.’”) Tracey’s shrimp is too bland. Ed’s dish has too much filling in the cod cakes and not enough cod. No one can taste meat in Ed’s dish, just fried. Kenny’s dish is wonderful of course.

Alex (Russia): deconstructed short rib borscht with crème fraiche. Tamesha (Barbados): jerked chicken sphere, soft polenta, with tamarind, papaya, mango, & cilantro. Andrea (south Florida via Italy): pork with chorizo potato gnocchi, calabaza and orange gremolata. Tim (DC): pan seared Maryland rockfish with pickled leeks, dill, and grilled crostini. Andrea’s gnocchi is good but isn’t really Miami. Alex deconstructed his borscht really well. Tim left the skin on his fish and it’s tricky to do that.

Tiffany (Texas): Cajun shrimp and crawfish salad, and chicken fried tomatillos. Kelly (Colorado): spice crusted NY strip steak, with asparagus, fiddlehead ferns and wild mushroom sauté. Angelo (Connecticut): arctic char with pickled shallots, tapioca, smoked bacon froth. John (Michigan): maple mousse napoleon with crisp macadamia nuts and vanilla sauce. Angelo’s had a lot of dill but Tom likes it. Kelly’s steak is well cooked. No one tastes maple in John’s dish.

The Stew Room is the same as ever. Padma calls Kevin, Alex, Kenny, and Angelo. They are the winners. Kenny’s food was well balanced and flavorful. Kevin’s dish, on the other hand, was very simple but excellent also. Angelo’s dish was “smart” and Eric praises the stupid foam. Alex deconstructed the borscht perfectly. Eric gets to announce the winner, who is Angelo. He claims everyone will chase him and he will “set the presidents”, whatever that means, but he totally said “presidents” and not “precedence”, not that that makes any sense either.

Stephen, John, Tim, and Jacqueline enter to the Loser Gong. Which they try to drown out with the rest of the music! Never! Stephen’s rib eye was so thin he overcooked it, but he thought he could cook it properly. Eric feels it looked like chicken nuggets. Gail takes Jacqueline to task for telling them up front she was trying to make low-fat chicken mousse, as chicken liver mousse is already unhealthy. No one expects it to be low fat. Jacqueline says she’s served this dish hundreds of times but never without her recipes. Tom asks if that’s “made hundreds of times” or “served hundreds of times.” She starts talking about how she thought it was under seasoned, not addressing the grainy aspect, and Tom interrupts her to make her answer his question. If she’s made it hundreds of times, why does she still need a recipe? Jacqueline says it’s not memorized, but I would argue that 1. after “hundreds of times” it should be and 2. it was grainy which has nothing to do with the seasoning, does it? No one tasted maple in John’s dessert and the pastry was soggy. He says the pastry was pre-bought, but it was just supposed to deliver the mousse to your mouth anyway. Gail says that his dish only had like 3 things, so telling them that a third of the dish was pointless isn’t really a good idea. John says he was stupid. Tim thought his dish was good, seasoned nicely. Eric tells him the fish skin was chewy and unpleasant. Tom twists the knife by reminding him he got to choose his competitors, and the other three won their groups. He knows he can cook better than he did, and he let himself down.

John admitted he didn’t make his own puff pastry, so his dish doesn’t really reflect him. Gail claims that was the whole challenge, but the challenge was “make something that reflects WHERE YOU’RE FROM” which is not the same as reflecting WHO YOU ARE. Also, since when have you cared that someone didn’t follow the theme? The mousse was grainy and Tom feels it was “amateurish”. Stephen’s dish was a bad idea, but it could have been great. Tom thinks he got caught up in the story. Jacqueline had a good idea, but the mousse was terrible. Gail thinks it should have had more fat. Eric thinks Tim should have known not to leave the skin on the fish, and having won the Quickfire he should have known better.

Commercial interlude: someone finds the beer in the Stew Room and make dice out of cardboard boxes to throw dice. A couple of people are like “I’m just here to cook, not to drink and have fun”. Sadly no one says “I’m not here to make friends”. Have some fun. Jeez.

Tom tries some revisionist history and says the challenge was to make something that both showed where you were from but also who you are as a chef. Then he says the same things to everyone that we just heard as judges table only meaner. Padma tells John he’s the first one out. He’s pretty upset but knows he took a risk making dessert. He plans to grow from this negative experience.

This season: um…people are stuck together? Angelo is a sniper. CIA, NASA, baseball, grilling, school cafeteria! Crying, yelling, that asshat Mike from last season (ok…Eli turned out to be worse, but still), Tony Bourdain (I *heart* Tony Bourdain), I think that is John Glenn (oh God I hope I’m right).
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