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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