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).

1 comment:

Limecrete said...

I think it was Buzz Aldrin in that preview, but freely admit I could be wrong, given that I was busy throwing a big grammar tantrum over Angelo saying that he is "literally going to be a sniper".