Friday, July 30, 2010

Project Runway 7/29/10--"And Sew It Begins" summary

Previously on Project Runway: A mostly OK season that Seth Aaron won. Seriously, that’s most of what I can remember about it. It was very long and there were way WAY too many decoy collections. And starting with 17 designers? With Fashion Week in September? They’re headed for the same problem. 17 people is just too many. That’s how many people “Top Chef” started with this season, and I’ve only just managed to remember who everyone is. It’s too many to keep track of. And by the time you’ve whittled the numbers down, it’s likely you’ve lost some viewers because they don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know, that’s my opinion anyway. (click for more)

My recording started in the middle of Tim and Heidi talking about designers. Why, Lifetime? Thankfully it just seems to be them talking about the new contestants but they don’t seem to be saying anything super important. And they’re just going alphabetically as far as I can tell, from the bio page here. It’s really not that exciting. There is some eye candy. Then they get bored and they start the show proper.

Once we get past the opening, which is just Heidi saying “This! Is Project Runway!”, then we get designers talking about themselves. Ivy (30, Hawaii) says this is the Ivy Show. She’s so cute! Her clothes look pretty good. Casanova (33, NY) is originally from Puerto Rico. His first name is Carlos, but he wants everyone to call him Casanova. He talks about “taking New York from the balls” in his broken English. Should be entertaining. Sarah (27, California) might make some crazy clothes. AJ (26, St. Louis! Represent!) is some of the aforementioned eye candy. He has “party wear”. He also says he could get on there and say how he’s going to win and kill everyone, but everyone knows people who say that in the beginning have no idea what they’re talking about. I hope he stays a while. (Kmanpat: “Oo, me too!”) He says something to Sarah about being afraid of meeting “some old lady who doesn’t know what’s going on”. Cue the jaunty tootling music that they usually reserve for dogs or high school girls. Peach (50, Illinois) designs for “ladies who lunch”. She fully expects to be the oldest on the show. She seems non-Wendy Pepper. Nicholas (32, New York) seems normal. I don’t know, we don’t see much of him.

Kristin (39, Philadelphia) and McKell (29, Utah) hang out with Casanova. McKell has dreadlocks. She knows she will have to overcome the Utah image. Her clothes look OK. She’s left her 9 month baby behind. Kristin lets her mistakes be part of the final piece, like a crooked zipper. Jason (33, Connecticut) talks about being straight and making tough clothing. Also he has a bowler and feels this will intimidate everyone. Gretchen (28, Portland, Oregon) greets Jason and he immediately asks her what nationality she is. Except…she’s Irish-German. I don’t know, everyone asks me what nationality I am but as I’m half Japanese and half Caucasian they’re asking because they can’t figure it out. I was under the impression that unless you look slightly exotic no one cares, but I suppose I could be wrong about that. It was weird is all. They have nothing else to say to each other. Mondo (32, Colorado) is on a ferry. I think they took the designers in groups of two or three and sent them around to meet up in little groups before they met in a big group. Mondo thinks if you are misunderstood then you have something good going on. Nicholas used to be an architect. Ivy shows up too, and it turns out she’s wearing one of her own tops. Christopher (30, San Francisco) is also eye candy. He makes ready-to-wear and he says there is nothing like seeing someone walking down the street in your clothes. April (21, Savannah) knows people will think she’s too young to do this. Well…yeah. She is pretty young. She’s inspired by morgues. Her stuff is fairly heavy and Goth-like. Michael C. (27, Palm Springs) makes couture. He makes devil horns in confessional but that is just annoying.

Everyone ends up with their luggage at Lincoln Center, which is the new home of Fashion Week. A moment for Bryant Park, if you will. Heidi and Tim greet them and everyone claps and is pleased with themselves. Tim claims that they couldn’t narrow the group down to the usual 16 (which is still too many) so their first challenge is the last phase of the audition process. Everyone freaks out and is pissed, but seriously? You’re already on TV. It’ll be like you got eliminated first. Heidi says “one or more of you” will be eliminated, and I hope for “or more” but I’m sure it will only be one.

Back from commercial, Heidi tells everyone to open your suitcase and take out one item you want to incorporate into your garment. Michael D. (31, St. Louis again!) uses a lot of knitwear, but does this with his automatic knitting machine in his loft. So…I don’t know that he can do that here. Once everyone has their item, Heidi busts out the twist: pass the item to the person on your right. Ouch. Casanova freaks out because for some reason he took out one of his favorite pairs of pants which cost $1070. I don’t know that I would have used that even knowing it would stay with me. They will have 5 hours to finish their garment. Whatever item they have must be visible in the final piece. Plus, I guess you can ask the person who has your clothing not to rip it up or whatever.

Tim makes them walk all their crap to Parsons. Gretchen (28, Portland, Oregon) says her design aesthetic is “one part contemporary minimalist art, and one part 1970’s bohemian”. She also uses sustainable fabrics and materials and is a “pseudo hippie”. Everyone gets to Parsons to get started. Valerie (29, Cleveland) starts talking about growing up poor and working with what clothes she could get her hands on. She’s doing this for a lot of people aside from herself. And we have our first crier!

Tim comes to explain the sewing room, the HP touch screen notebooks for everyone, and how Mood has brought them fabrics. They have 15 minutes to sketch. Andy (23, Hawaii) started in pageant gowns but it’s not what he likes. (Me: “Look Kman! Asian!“ Kmanpat: “Where?! Yay!“) April wants to do a “long” coat dress, “long” translating to “just above the crotch”. Michael C. makes offensive comments in interview. Ivy declares she will have enough time to finish. Tim has them pick out fabric, which is as exciting as it usually is. People bitch about the non-ideal clothing they’ve gotten from others.

Valerie has received the $1070 pants and proceeds to rip the seams apart. She says Casanova hadn’t even worn them yet. Well that was stupid on his part. Andy has provided Jason with a kimono so he seems pleased with himself. Andy doesn’t want to see his kimono cut up. Peach is irritated because Michael D.’s scarf unravels into thread the minute you touch it. Michael feels she should know how to handle it.

Tim time! McKell is frazzled but Tim thinks her dress is adorable. She has weird embellishments that may not show up on the dress. Nicholas cut up a polyester jacket to use for a neckline. Tim likes it and tells him to push it. Casanova is obviously upset, and Tim tells him to make sure his dress is sexy but not vulgar. They argue a little bit, and Tim says to make sure the model works it. April has turned a tuxedo jacket inside out but she doesn’t quite know how she’s going to finish it. Jason has made himself a corset. Yeah…I don’t know. He hasn’t added any new fabric to his piece, just turned the kimono around backwards. He says he’s doing something with the neck, maybe…there’s a plan. Gretchen has some sparkly jacket, and she already has accessories. Tim is pleased. Peach complains about the scarf. Tim agrees. He thinks she should mesh it under something and glue her model in. Mondo is next. He started with a green coat, and has made a dress with some zigzag panels. Tim says it’s matronly.

The models show up for 10 minutes of fitting, followed by hair and makeup for an hour. The accessory wall is now by Piperlime. Frantic pinning and work. Ivy says she’s a fast sewer. Like the Energizer bunny. Zany tootling for Jason trying to dress his model. He says she has a large chest and he’s distracted. More sewing and hair and whatever. Kristin forgot to get her model to hair and makeup. Jason has a staple gun. When Tim calls time, Casanova’s model is not dressed. Tim sighs heavily and tells him to just keep going and put her in it. Tim is pretty irritated.

The runway seems shinier than it used to be. Guest judge is Selma Blair. Valerie: short dress in red and tan. It’s kind of shiny and the red makes up a front panel of the skirt and most of the bodice, except for two circles over her boobs. Valerie opines that her model is walking well, except she totally isn’t. Her model can’t walk in heels so it looks like she’s shuffling. Upon closer inspection the dress has some pleating and a yellow hem. The back is wonky. Peach: very simple sundress with a halter neckline and a black print on a white background. The top of the neckline and the tie in the back is the scarf she was supposed to use. It’s cute. McKell: halter neckline and very full skirt. The shirt she started with is now the bodice, and the skirt is different fabric. There is also a tail. Andy: his model is all in black, with a jacket or a big vest thing, pants, an obi-style corset, and a blouse with a cutout in the back. Also there is a conical hat and chopsticks, but it all goes together. I can’t believe he made all that in 5 hours. Sarah: gray jumpsuit with short shorts. There are turquoise stripes up the sides of the shorts. Nicholas: long gown in a shimmery dusty blue. I think the original piece is the neckline? She also has a pouch on her hip, which is weird with a gown. Mondo: short dress with black and white zigzags and an olive green panel in front and on the sides. Ivy: toile crop pants in black and white, and a gray sleeveless high-necked top with diagonal strips. It looks fantastic. Michael C: hot pink halter top and short black skirt. There is no back to the blouse.

Kristin: black dress with the black and white kilt as a collar. The dress is all folded with those origami folds that were popular. Chris: dress with a ruffled collar. It’s got a print but it’s kind of boring. April: very short skirt and top with cap sleeves. Man, that is short. Gretchen: black dress that is longer in back than in front (but still doesn’t hit the floor), and cap sleeves with sequins. Michael D.: wrap dress in a light print, with long loose sleeves. There is a big cowl drape in the back. It looks cool. Jason: black dress with a high neckline. His model looks uncomfortable. The back is riding up. Not good. AJ: black dress with a strapless bodice and a poofy tulle skirt. With a big silver bow. Casanova: so his model basically has on a bikini top, and then a very low-slung skirt in gray with a handkerchief hem. Nina makes a face.

FINALLY we’re done. AJ, Andy, Valerie, Sarah, Peach, Kristin, Michael C., Mondo, Michael D., and Chris are safe. They go backstage and celebrate. Heidi says one person is the clear winner, and that is Gretchen. Unanimous! Wow. Her dress is interesting and can be worn by a lot of people. Nina says it’s perfect. Everyone else is in the bottom. Ivy kept the pants she got, except to put some pleating in them. Kors starts in that she didn’t transform the pants, and Ivy interrupts him to say that the challenge wasn’t to “transform” but to “integrate”. Ooo. She’s right though. Kors says it doesn’t tell a story. Nina is also bored, and then Ivy interrupts Nina to insist that she did put a lot of detail into the pants. Oh, HONEY. You are asking for it. Bad styling, poor blouse, they hate the pants, etc. Ivy stands by it though. Jason says he “adjusted” the fit on the kimono but it kept “sinking”. Heidi says it looks like her hairdressing cape and it’s the same as what he got. Selma says it is interesting? But hangs in a boring way? I can’t tell if she likes it or not. Nina is insulted that Jason might have thought he could get away with just turning the kimono backwards. April cut out the front panel of the jacket she got, turned it inside out, then added more black fabric for the rest of the garment. She wanted it unfinished. Heidi asks if that’s because she doesn’t know how to finish. It is a hot mess. Kors says they still need to know she can construct. Nina says “80’s streetwalker”. April begs for more time. McKell wanted a good time. Nina likes the mix of fabrics but not the styling. The girl has a Mohawk, but with curls, and a big pink bag with a big flower. And side cleavage. McKell says this is not really her design style. Nicholas put the jacket on the neckline and I think the pouch on the side. Heidi is bored. Nina loves the idea of sportswear plus evening but this gown is boring. He also begs for more time to show them something better. Casanova. Oh, Casanova. When the model is standing still, you can see that there are two layers to the skirt. One is a gray with a handkerchief hem (that is the original shirt) and the other is a sheer floral fabric that is almost ankle length. Kors declares it “pole dancer in Dubai” and Nina says it’s fascinating, but fascinatingly bad. Heidi says for him to make one last attempt to defend himself. Casanova doesn’t even know what she is saying so Nina has to translate. Nina speaking Spanish! I love it! He says he was thinking out of the box but in a more conservative way.

Judge bashing time. They hate that Ivy didn’t do enough to the pants, which were ugly to begin with and they all hate her blouse but I didn’t mind it that much. She has execution skills but possibly no taste. Casanova’s taste level is also questionable. Selma and Kors think his dress is sold at Razzle Dazzle’s, the store in the mall that sells wigs too. Jason had a lot of fabric but didn’t do anything with it. It had some potential, with the hair and the movement. April was frazzled but at least had modern taste. Selma wants to cut her some slack for the time constraint. McKell had a good idea to mix the shirt with another fabric, but the dress was unflattering and the styling was a disaster. Nicholas made a boring dress but at least he can sew. Kors wonders if you reward the safe person, or the person who took a risk.

April is in. Nicholas is in. Jason is in. McKell, Casanova, and Ivy get some more criticism. McKell is out. When she gets backstage everyone claps but she has to tell them she didn’t make it. Both Ivy and Casanova are in. Sigh. I was hoping for fewer designers. Tim tells McKell that her dress was adorable but just didn’t fit and had styling problems. McKell is kind of bummed but she won’t quit.

Everyone arrives at Atlas to unpack and oo and ah over their rooms. Kristin wants booze. Everyone goes to bed.

Next time: I think a Marie Claire challenge, surprise twist, people who don’t sketch, Casanova is wearing a muppet.
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top Chef 7/28/10--"Power Lunch"

Previously on “Top Chef”: the Quickfire involved some “exotic” proteins like ostrich and foie gras, and also actual exotic proteins like llama and emu eggs. Padma makes everyone switch around once but it doesn’t change much of anything. Kelly won with an emu egg omelet which was a pretty good idea. The Elimination challenge involved two things: serving cold entrees and also being judged by your peers. One group was fair about judging, and one group was so negative about every dish that Tom called them out. Kevin won, while Tamesha went up against Kenny for elimination and lost. In other news, Angelo tried to help everyone, including Tamesha, and now people think he screwed up her dish to make her lose on purpose, instead of Angelo just being arrogant and thinking he knows more than everyone so they need his advice. I would be more concerned with Alex, who knew Amanda had cartilage in her chicken terrine, but said nothing, even though this was when they were already about to serve and she couldn’t have done anything about it anyway. (click for more)

Kelly says the people in her room “keep getting whacked”. Kenny is still convinced that he was in the bottom last challenge because everyone was threatened by him. Never mind that Michelle Bernstein the guest judge said she could talk all day about how his food sucked and she doesn’t know him. I mean…I don’t think that Angelo and Alex weren’t happy to nominate Kenny and possibly get rid of him. But I’m sure they were relieved that his food wasn’t that good and they had an excuse. He says he’s too much of a beast to go home. Angelo says he’s sad to see Tamesha to go. Tiffany believes that Angelo hurts the people he claims to help since both of them (Tamesha and Stephen) had poor dishes.

Padma is there to greet the contestants with a young man who immediately reminds me of Gareth David-Lloyd (he played Ianto Jones on “Torchwood” but sadly they killed him). His name is Aaron Schock, who is the Representative for the 18th District of Illinois. (Kmanpat: “OH! That’s MY district! Cute.” Me: “Yes, you‘re special. Woo Peoria.” Kmanpat: “I meant he‘s cute, not that it was cute my district is on TV.”) He’s the youngest congressman. He starts talking about ethics, and says that a lot of ethics talk is about food. No one wants lobbyists to have that much influence. Apparently the solution that chefs and caterers have found (to the problem of getting everyone in the same room? That’s a problem?) is toothpicks. Padma lifts the cover off a dish and there is one square of American cheese with an American flag toothpick stuck in it. To make sure elected representatives are not influenced by lavish meals, any food served to a member of Congress must be served on a toothpick. Really? That’s…kind of a cool rule. Weird, but cool. I was afraid this would be another amuse bouche thing where someone would get in trouble for making their food too large. This is the Quickfire challenge. Winner will get immunity and also $20,000.

30 minutes. There is such a dash for the fridges I’m surprised no one gets trampled. Kenny is going to infuse a cocktail in his dish too. Kelly says she’s going to season as she goes. Stephen is fairly confident. Alex talks smack about him. Tiffany has a pork roulade but it looks kind of big. Amanda is flailing as she thinks this challenge is boring. Andrea is making chicken and waffles. Yum. Angelo’s food is falling apart. Ed can’t get his food on a stick.

Kevin: roast port kabob with mushroom and sherry vinegar. It’s in a little cup with the sauce…I guess sauce is not included in the “toothpick” rule. Andrea: buttermilk fried chicken, pecan cheddar waffles and black pepper maple gravy. Ed: duo of tuna: tuna confit, grilled tuna with avocado, sweet and sour watermelon. He’s used a cocktail umbrella, and the food covers the whole toothpick up to the bottom of the umbrella. Tiffany: crispy pork roulade with prosciutto, dates and red pepper coulis. Amanda: lamb kabob with heirloom tomatoes, and salsa verde. There is some smiling and slight flirting but I can’t blame Amanda because I’d probably flirt with him too. Kenny: tandoori spiced sockeye salmon and shrimp with mango mojito relish. Angelo: cucumber cup with spiced shrimp and cashew. It’s in a Chinese soup spoon, with a toothpick in it crossways. He’s embarrassed to use cucumber cups I guess. Whatever. Stephen: scallop and beef with crispy potato and béarnaise sauce. Aaron declares it meaty so Stephen thinks he’s in. Alex: scallops with crispy bacon, strawberries and basil essence. Padma makes a face. Kelly: scallops with watermelon and watermelon vinaigrette. She salted the watermelon which, if you’ve never put salt on your watermelon, I suggest you do so. Delicious.

Alex’s dish had too many flavors, and Ed’s dish looked better than it tasted. Kelly’s food lacked flavor. (Watermelon with a little salt on it is still delicious.) Kevin’s dish was the first one, and Aaron thought about it the whole rest of the time. Angelo’s cucumber was like “fireworks”, and Stephen had “a lot on that stick”. Angelo wins. He claims if he “lives it” too much he won’t keep going to win it all. Kevin thinks Angelo is a one-trick pony.

Elimination challenge: a power lunch. They will be taking over the Palm Restaurant for lunch. Each contestant will serve 24 people using main ingredients from their menu. Knife drawing commences for ingredients. Lamb chops, lobster, swordfish, porterhouse, or salmon. There are two chefs using each ingredient, but it’s not a head-to-head challenge. Alex and Tiffany seem especially excited.

$300 to shop, and 30 minutes. The Palm will give them the proteins so they don’t have to buy those. Stephen does mostly power lunches so he has 3 salmon recipes that he knows are successful. Even though there is no direct competition, Kevin feels the pressure that Kenny has the same protein he does. Andrea only spends $183. That can’t turn out well. That never turns out well. Plus she has swordfish and she doesn’t like swordfish.

2 hours to prep today. Angelo is kind of afraid of the giant lobsters. Ed points out that everyone else’s proteins are already prepped. Or at least prepped more than live lobsters. Tiffany knows her dish very well. Alex is cutting down his filets of salmon because he says they are huge. Amanda has never cooked a porterhouse steak before. She has no intention of serving a porterhouse in an Elimination challenge. Kelly interviews that once Amanda cut her meat off the bone, she turned her porterhouse into filet and NY strip. Yeah, that might come back to bite her in the ass. Kevin is very confident with his lamb chops and goat cheese. He does something that involves a lighter. Angelo is not familiar with power lunches but of course he’s going to be fine. Andrea is making vanilla bean mustard beurre blanc. Ed’s pissed because he’s spent most of his time breaking down lobster.

Back at the house, Kenny is wearing his pimp robe and Andrea has a T-shirt with a skull and crossbones but the crossbones are made of bacon. Alex tells them he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He says something about peas, and that they turned out poorly somehow, but then the other two ask him if he got the same peas Ed got, because Ed has peas and they looked good before he pureed them anyway. Ed is busy talking to Tiffany about his pea puree and says he trusts her. They’re not really flirting at this point, but Andrea interviews that Tiffany’s fiancée probably wouldn’t be terribly happy about that. Tiffany says Ed’s not flirting with her.

Everyone arrives at the Palm and is greeted by the man who runs the place, who tells them that Tom will be around to watch them. This is the first time they’ve handed the Palm over to anyone else. The winner will get their dish on the menu but also a caricature on one of the walls. Kelly bitches at Amanda and interviews that she should go home. She doesn’t even bring salt or pepper with her. Well that is kind of dumb. Amanda claims she would share, but she doesn’t have any so that’s easy to say. Alex asks for salt too, and Kelly tells him she only brought salt for herself. Alex now he knows what he’s going to do. He says he’s going to make a pea puree first thing, which is risky because his whole concept revolves around this pea puree.

Tom time! I think he just makes everyone nervous. Tiffany is back in hiding somewhere where no one will bother her. Someone’s pan is flaming so high it’s touching the shelves above the stove. Tom tells them to clean up after themselves. Kenny’s glad to have lamb because his cold lamb dish didn’t do very well. Ed goes to get his pea puree but can’t find it. He says he put it in a cooler. No one has seen it. Tiffany knows that Alex suddenly has pea puree that he hadn’t made before. Ed knows it too. Tiffany tries to get him to calm down and offers him some other vegetables but he’s pretty pissed. There are no interview shots from Alex defending himself or addressing the issue in any way. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, just that the producers chose not to show them. Tom’s blog notes that this all happened before he got to the kitchen and no one told him about it, so the judges had no idea until they watched the episode. Kevin has to reheat his sous vide lamb but is pretty confident he’s done it right.

There are a bunch of politicians and reporters but also Art Smith. Kelly: porterhouse with crispy potato arugula salad, and roasted shallot demi-glace. She makes sure to state it’s “on the bone”. Amanda: “duo” of NY steak and filet mignon, red wine with pomme parisienne and arugula. Kelly’s portion is huge and slightly salty, while Amanda’s meat is cooked well. Poor Tom has to eat in the back in the kitchen by himself. Tiffany: swordfish with olive raisin tapenade, broccolini and bacon. Andrea: pan-seared swordfish with “risotto style” couscous, asparagus, and beurre blanc (the vanilla bean and mustard beurre blanc). Andrea’s dish is very sweet and buttery, to the point where Art is worried what it will do to him. Tiffany’s dish is busy but it all works. However her fish is a little overcooked. Stephen: salmon with warm vegetable salad and Worchester vinaigrette. Alex: apple wood smoked salmon on black rice and English pea puree. Alex’s portion is perfect, and the pea puree is wonderful. Stephen’s salmon, however, is messy and kind of heavy in presentation. Angelo: butter poached lobster with lobster froth and jicama, arugula and Asian pear salad. Ed: butter poached lobster ballotine, eggplant caviar, and English pea-asparagus fricassee. I guess because he didn’t have puree no one said anything about the peas? No one likes Angelo’s lobster, it’s chewy. They do like Ed’s food though. Kenny: peppered lamb, fig-pistachio bread pudding, and vanilla-morel demi-glace. Kevin: double cut lamb chops with olive and goat cheese rissole (like a croquette), mache, and tomato concasse (just a peeled and chopped tomato, I don’t know why it needs a special name). Kenny’s dish was tasty but needed some greens. Kevin overcooked his lamb, sadly, since the other flavors were strong. Maybe too strong. Gail thinks the tomatoes are spicy.

Tom rejoins Gail, Padma, and Art in the now empty dining room to report on the kitchen chaos. Art says he knows there was love in some of the dishes. Cut to Ed saying he wants to know who the fuck took his pea puree. Kevin says “supposedly” someone saw Alex’s puree in the blender. We don’t hear what else the judges say, but when they get up you can see that apparently Padma decided to wear hot pants today.

Commercial interlude: Stephen says he’s holding a seminar about being on the bottom. Then he gets up in the Stew Room and starts talking like a motivational speaker, including standing behind a box like a podium. Tiffany admits she was listening to him. Stephen says he focuses on these words: then they bleep his cursing. That was entertaining.

Back in the Stew Room there is much whispering about the pea puree. Alex finally gets his interview to defend himself, but he says it was just “coincidental” that Ed couldn’t find his puree and that he didn’t even know Ed was making pea puree. Cut immediately to the flashback of Kenny and Andrea telling Alex that very fact. I’d like to say that I find it interesting that Alex said it was a coincidence that Ed couldn’t find his puree, not that they both made pea puree. There’s just this smugness to his tone that makes him look guilty. I can’t tell if it’s because he did it and he’s not sorry, or because he just is smug in general. Padma comes to get Alex, Tiffany, and Ed. They are the winners. Tiffany is especially relieved because she knows she overcooked her fish. Tom and Gail reassure her that her other components had enough moisture to compensate. Art tells Ed he knows Ed was “challenged” but didn’t show it. Alex admits to not knowing what to do at first. Art praises the salmon and the puree, as we get shots of Tiffany and Ed not looking happy. Alex wins. No one claps for him.

Tiffany tells the Stew Room that Alex won and that they loved the puree. She’s kind of a shit disturber. I love it. Kenny says there’s no way Alex could have done that in one day. Kevin, Andrea, and Kelly face the Loser gong. Kevin’s tomatoes were way too spicy and were just heat. His lamb chops were unevenly cooked and also the bones weren’t cleaned. Andrea doesn’t make swordfish, and it was obvious. Her couscous was overcooked, and the sauce didn’t work. She says she’s made that sauce before, and Gail says if they want the stuff she does every day they’ll just come to her restaurant. Ouch. Kelly knows her food was too salty. They try to nail her for talking about how she wanted steakhouse flavors and whatever, like she didn’t know what was wrong, but she knew when she sent the plates out. The judges send them back to the Stew Room, where Kelly breaks down because she’s upset about her food. Amanda gloats that “that’s what happens when you don’t share” and she deserves to be on the bottom. Shut up, Amanda. Bring your own salt. And don’t grin when people are crying.

Andrea’s swordfish was under the heat lamps for 7 or 8 minutes. Art says that not eating a food does not give you an excuse to cook it poorly, except that most chefs don’t cook foods they don’t eat if they have their own restaurant and set their own menu. Kevin’s dish wasn’t cohesive. Art thinks that he had a good idea but didn’t have the skills to execute it. Tom rants that if you sous vide something, and then sear it, it’s already been cooked perfectly so of course now it’s overcooked. Art thinks Kelly might have a poor palate. She says she was trying to season to what she thought they wanted, which is much bolder than she usually does.

Tom nails everyone again and then Padma sends Andrea home. She’s sorry she didn’t get to show herself but she thinks that her mistakes were all mental. She also says she doesn’t need four people behind a table telling her she can cook because she knows she can cook. Then why was she so concerned about Michelle Bernstein last week?

Next week: international food; Alex nearly brains himself on a shelf, Tiffany is very behind, Marcus Samuelsson in a FAB hat.
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Top Chef 7/21/10--"Cold War"

Previously on “Top Chef”: The producers, desperate for another ratings goldmine like Leah and Hosea, focus on various couples flirting with each other, or at least where one person is flirting and the other one isn’t outright laughing at them. At least I assume Leah and Hosea was a ratings goldmine. Drama usually is. Too bad none of it involves Amanda, who totally looks like Leah. The Quickfire challenged involved cooking crabs, and was won by Ed. Ed then had immunity. Then they tried to make everyone work together to provide dinner at a farm. Everyone just kept their teams from the last challenge and tried to make things that were somewhat related. No one said anything about if their whole meal was supposed to go together or what, though, and I thought it was. Not that they usually care if you don’t follow the theme. Oh, Kenny and Angelo had a fight about how that was all going to go down, but you pretty much knew that was going to happen, right? Obviously. Kenny won with his curried eggplant. Amanda made minestrone without pasta and got nailed for it the way the judges always nail someone who makes a “classic” dish but leaves out whatever the judges feel is essential. Stephen also failed with a poor salad, but Tim’s dish lacked flavor and no one could taste the turnips so he went home. (click for more)

Angelo says Tim’s exit made people kind of somber. He says he will keep up changing his strategy. Andrea brags about how she’s been in the top and is in a good place. Bad foreshadowing.

Michelle Bernstein is the guest judge. Cool. Weird proteins abound on the display table. Andrea is not happy to see her, because she already knows Michelle. Andrea claims there is a rivalry and that she’s equal to Michelle, and that she’s not comfortable with Michelle judging her. Interesting. Exotic protein time! They draw knives for picking order. The proteins are: foie gras, frog legs, wild boar, yak, duck white kidneys, crocodile, ostrich, llama, rattlesnake, duck tongue, emu eggs. I’m just going to list them all because you’ll see them in everyone’s dishes. So you’ll know who has what. I would argue that things like foie gras and ostrich are no longer “exotic”. However, “duck white kidneys” are actually testicles, a fact which Angelo did not know before he picked them, as you can see when they ask if he knows what they are and he backs away in horror. The look on his face is very entertaining. Ed tells an awesome story that when he worked for Todd English they made consommé with cock’s comb and duck testicles and they called it “cock and balls soup”. Kick ass.

45 minutes. I think the best part was when everyone laughed at Angelo and made fun of him. Kelly says some people had an easier time than others because for example Amanda is using a hacksaw to get into her eggs. Angelo is making testicle marshmallows. Alex is pretty confident as is Kevin. After 10 minutes Padma makes them all move one station to the left. Nice. Although, unnecessary. Everyone curses a lot. Kelly is making an omelet but it has to be perfect. Stephen went from crocodile to frog but he kind of shrugs about it. Kevin gets stuck with the duck testicles. He has no idea what he’s doing. Andrea complains some more about the judging.

Tamesha: duck tongue in broth with mirepoix, lime, and sriracha. Andrea: wild boar and risotto with dried cherries, almond, mushrooms, and red wine. Michelle says it’s a little chewy. Tiffany: foie gras with caramelized apples, and toasted pecans, brandy-caramel sauce. Alex: ostrich in caul fat and basil with mushroom duxelle and balsamic glaze. Kevin: duck testicles meuniere with beet and licorice puree. “Meuniere style” is dredged in flour. Angelo: seared crocodile with ginger, garlic, and chilies. He brags that he knows he had to combat crocodile’s chewy texture but Michelle says he screwed that up. Stephen: seared frog leg, frog leg confit, tomato grits, and blackened bourbon sauce. It looks really good. Kenny: rattlesnake francese and rattlesnake cake with leeks, bacon, and curry sauce. “Francese” means it’s dipped in flour and egg and then fried, and served with lemon. Kelly: emu egg omelet with goat cheese and harissa Vinaigrette. Amanda: roast llama, sauce soubise with leek, date, and bacon compote. Soubise is béchamel sauce with onions. So…white sauce with butter-cooked onions.

Stephen’s frog legs were “insipid”, Alex dried out his ostrich and screwed up his sauce, and Andrea undercooked the boar. Andrea claims that she knows she just psyched herself out. Kelly’s omelet was creamy and delicious, Tamesha’s tongue was perfect, Amanda did a beautiful job. The winner is Kelly. She gets immunity. She’s quite pleased with herself.

For the Elimination challenge, everyone has to make a cold dish. They will be divided into two groups so that Group A can serve food to both the judges and group B, and vice versa. At the end of service, then group B will nominate someone from group A for the win and another person for the loss. Group A will do the same. Kelly, since she won immunity, gets to eat with both groups. So she doesn’t have to cook? Awesome. They pull knives to divide themselves. Extra surprise: they’re going on a boat! Woo. They will plan their menus as they sail around the Potomac on the U.S.S. Sequoia, which is the boat version of Air Force One. Padma references the “Cold War” title of the episode a bunch of times.

The boat is really nice. Kenny worries because he thinks everyone is out to get him. Amanda thinks no one realizes how hurtful it will be to have the other group judge them. Stephen wants to do tempura green beans, but tempura gets nasty if you let it sit and get cold. Angelo tells the people on his team things they should do. Well…talking Stephen out of doing cold tempura probably is a good thing. Kevin spies on them and interviews they should make their own food, and not Angelo’s. Tiffany talks to Ed about what everyone is doing, and that she only trusts Ed because there is strategery afoot. Kenny doesn’t know why Angelo would give out advice unless it was to manipulate people’s insecurities. Kelly’s very happy to have the opportunity to eat everyone else’s food.

$200 for shopping. Alex says he’s going to be fair in judging tomorrow. Stephen wants to make filet mignon with Asian flavors. Instead of the tempura. Tiffany thinks Alex would never vote Stephen off. She says whatever, it’s one vote.

2 hours to prep. Tiffany has “spring and summer flavors”. Andrea has 3 tartares and is STILL worried about Michelle. She says she went and had kids while Michelle continued to be a chef, which is why I’ve heard of Michelle Bernstein and not Andrea, I guess. Kevin has tuna and veal surf and turf. Kenny has lamb, which I don’t know if I’ve ever had cold. He thinks the other team will vote him into the bottom to get rid of him. Amanda is making a chicken terrene. Her machinery is failing and she’s freaking out. Tamesha says she’d probably strangle her since they don’t get along, so she avoids Amanda. Angelo gets on Tamesha’s business. Why isn’t he making his own food? Seriously, he’s seasoning Stephen’s food. I don’t get it either. Unless he’s making everyone’s food worse with his suggestions. Stephen thinks that since Angelo and Kenny are on different teams maybe if one of them was gone it would be better for everyone else.

The next day everyone arrives at some nice ballroom at an unnamed location. Ed says he has no disagreements with anyone on the other team so he’s pretty sure no one will do anything personal. Kenny is done quickly and he brags that everyone must be thinking about how awesome he is. Amanda gives Alex some of her terrene and he says it needs seasoning. He then says in confessional that he thinks there’s some cartilage, but he’s not going to say anything. Kevin hopes everyone is professional. Psshh.

Tamesha says she’s going to try to be professional. See, I believe her. First group up is Amanda, Kevin, Alex, Kenny, and Ed. Amanda: chicken galantine with mache and plum chutney. Mache is a type of lettuce. Kevin: tuna and veal with romaine leaves, pine nuts, and Mediterranean condiments. Kenny: grilled lamb salad and lamb carpaccio with black eyed pea hummus. Alex: sous vide lamb with red beet puree and tzatziki. Also pumpkin seed dust, which I include because how pretentious and ultimately pointless is “pumpkin seed dust”? Ed: vodka cured sockeye salmon on pumpernickel bread, cucumber vichyssoise, and cream cheese. The contestants complain about Kenny’s lamb but the judges say nothing. Alex needed salt or something for the beets. No one likes Amanda’s chicken. Wow, these people are harsh. Angelo says he can taste the proteins coagulating. Shut up, Angelo. Andrea got cartilage. Oops. Kevin’s dish needs acidity, says everyone, and finally Tom is like, um, didn’t any one see that he had Meyer lemon slices? Everyone hems and haws and he interrupts them to say that he also had tomatoes that are acidic. Ha. Tom knows exactly what you are doing. Tiffany says she liked it. Angelo says that Ed’s bread is dry. Everyone tried so hard to sound smart. They all tried to sound like the judges. Padma says they have to pick a winner and loser. Everyone says Kevin is the winner, possibly because Tom defended him. Everyone also says Kenny’s dish sucks, except that Andrea says that she can’t get over having cartilage from Amanda. Kenny’s still the majority though. Ed doesn’t think there was any scheming going on but admits he might just be naïve.

Commercial interlude: Andrea tells Ed about how Angelo is trying to possess people’s minds. Ed says that he’s known Angelo for years because they used to date the same girl. At the same time. Ed tells Andrea it’s OK “because I used to bang his girlfriend”. Hee. Wait…that’s Ed, right? Everyone looks like each other.

The other group starts their cooking. Tiffany starts to doubt herself but it’s too late anyway. Angelo says he’s getting nervous and putting too much condiment on his salmon. He knows it’s too much but keeps on doing it. Tamesha likes her dish. The other group comes in and Tom is like, man, you should have heard them. Heh. Amanda says she can be professional in judging but others cannot. Tiffany: fennel and peppercorn crusted ahi tuna in gazpacho sauce with cucumber and arugula salad. Angelo: poached sockeye salmon with cilantro and chile condiment in pineapple tea. Andrea: steak tartare, tuna tartare with chile oil, and mushroom fennel tartare with roasted beets. Stephen: chilled beef with crispy rice and jalapeno oil. Tamesha: scalloped with pickled rhubarb, cilantro, basil, and long pepper in rhubarb jus. They like Tiffany’s dish. Andrea’s tartares need more seasoning. Stephen’s beef has vanished; Ed can’t taste it. Tamesha’s scallops are really spicy and the scallops have a weird texture. Angelo’s dish has a lot of condiments. Kevin says he thinks Angelo should win though. Everyone else says Tiffany so she’s up. They all put Tamesha up for elimination. Interesting. I expected Kenny and Alex and Amanda to be the mean group.

In the Stew Room Andrea lets Amanda know she got a huge piece of cartilage. Angelo tells Kenny they all decided he was in the bottom. Angelo’s just so smug, seriously. Padma calls in Tiffany and Kevin. Tom tells Tiffany they agreed with the nominations. Kevin’s sauce came together, and Tiffany’s dish was seared perfectly and they all wanted to keep eating it. Michelle tells Kevin he’s the winner. He also wins a week in Hawaii.

Kenny and Tamesha greet the Loser gong. Padma makes sure to say that their peers put them there. Tamesha says she used long pepper before in that jus. The texture was bad because it sat in the jus for too long and was also only seared on one side. There were a lot of flavors and the scallop got lost. Tamesha stands behind her dish. Tom tells Kenny that his dish had two parts but they didn’t come together. Kenny says the seasoning on each part was the same: capers, red bell pepper, scallions. There was a lot of other stuff, though, and no one could taste that they were the same. Padma asks him why they think their peers put them there, and Kenny immediately says it’s because he’s a threat. Michelle tells him that she, as a person who just got there, could talk about the problems with his dish until the end of the show. Woah.

Tom says Kenny’s lamb was kind of gummy and one of his purees was bad. Tamesha’s flavors fought with each other and she cooked the scallop poorly. I think maybe there was more? But my cable cut out and I’m sure it was not anything new.

Kenny’s dish didn’t come together, and Tamesha’s dish might be better with work but it wasn’t good tonight. Tamesha is sent home. Oh you knew that was going to happen the minute you knew she was up against Kenny. She’s pretty upset and feels it’s bullshit. Tiffany says that Angelo tasted Tamesha’s dish and knew the flavors, and yet didn’t say anything. Tamesha herself wishes she’d controlled her dish more.

Next week: Tiffany’s got a fiancée and should probably not flirt with Ed, Kenny drops a pan of food, Ed loses a pea puree which ends up on Alex’s dish.
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Top Chef 7/14/10--"Farm Policy"

Previously on “Top Chef”: Everyone had to make baby food, and I know that they couldn’t have actual babies on set because of allergies or whatnot, but I still think that would have been really cool. As it was, no one mentioned that Angelo included honey in his dish which you can’t feed to babies, but it didn’t matter because Tamesha and Kenny won. Then everyone had to pair up to make dishes for the Hilton, that I think were supposed to be designed for room service or possibly a to-go type thing. There was a weird elimination concept, which resulted in Andrea and Kelly cooking mediocre food twice and then winning the challenge. Kenny and Kevin made short ribs, which didn’t have enough sauce, and Arnold and Lynne made mussels with squid ink pasta, which was raw. The pasta, not the mussels. In the end both Arnold and Lynne went home, both for raw pasta and because they were supposed to make food that would appeal to hotel guests. The judges felt that short ribs would be easier to sell than squid ink pasta. (click for more)

Kenny says it’s somber in the house now because now everyone has relationships with people. So it’s hard when they leave. Angelo is telling Tamesha to take action and let others chase her. She says he is easy to talk to and she looks up to him. Angelo says she’s the only one he likes to hang out with, but that he also is attracted to her because he sees himself in her. Isn’t he married with a baby? He wants to “extract” her “inner passion”. He whispers to her, but it’s only about keeping focus and not worrying about what others are doing. Like, say, Kenny. Kelly thinks she should watch out because somehow helping Tamesha is part of Angelo’s grand strategy. Meanwhile Ed is hanging out with Tiffany. They’re having a good time anyway.
Many many crabs greet the contestants today. Live blue crabs. Hee. Padma introduces Patrick O’Connell, who has many awards and Kevin cooked for him at Bocuse d’Or. Woah. Kevin cooked in the Bocuse d’Or? My opinion of him just jumped way up. That is hardcore. Padma says “We’ve got crabs”. Angelo then says “Well, I had crabs. So…just brought back bad memories.” Thanks for sharing. Padma just says “your time starts now” and they’re off.

1 hour to cook. Tim knows to grab tongs. Ed’s baking his live crabs in the oven. Angelo is making soup and commenting on Ed. Andrea is trying to get the meat out of these crabs, which are pretty small. Tamesha was allergic at one point so she doesn’t know how to pick crab meat. Angelo helps her. Kenny says he’s got three dishes so he is a beast. Kevin wants to do chowder and he’s talking about his family so that’s not the best sign. Amanda seems amused that everyone is so busy. Tim feels good with simple flavors.

Tiffany: hot and sour crab soup, arbor chilies, spaghetti leeks. I guess, leeks cut lengthwise like pasta. Ed: jumbo lump crab with Thai basil, mango, and cucumber salad. Angelo: blue crab broth infused with lemongrass and ginger. Tim: beer steamed crabs with avocado, passion fruit, and heirloom vinaigrette. He picked the crabs and put the meat in a ring mold. I heard those were going out of style? Maybe? *shrugs* Stephen: crab salad in sweet bell peppers, brandy basil dressing. Tamesha: crab chowder with lemongrass, ginger, cardamom, and coconut milk. Sounds like Angelo’s. Amanda: crab salad with sauterne, ginger, and juniper gelee. Sauterne is a sweet white dessert wine. And my spell-check likes it. Weird. Kevin: blue crab chowder with potato, celery and espelette oil, and frozen bacon crumble. Andrea: warm crab salad, citrus gastrique, Mexican red chilies. Kenny: crab 3 ways (sigh); Korean crab bisque, crab bruschetta, and warm crab with sesame.

Andrea’s dish had heavy potatoes and overwhelmed the crab. Amanda’s gelee was too pungent. Kevin’s dish was so confusing the crab got lost. Kevin especially is pissed because this is the fourth challenge he’s been in the bottom. Good dishes: Ed’s dish brought out the “natural components” to the crab, Kenny’s trio was good, and Angelo’s dish was delicate. The dish that best showcased the taste of the crab was Ed so he wins. Nice. And he wins immunity too. Tim seems kind of bitter.

For the Elimination challenge: field trip time! Go to an organic and humane farm for the best ingredients. And! You’re all on one team! Ha! They have to make a minimum of 6 family-style dishes, and each one has to be responsible for something on the table. Not an entire dish? Just one thing? Tamesha knows there are a lot of egos in the house (cue shots of Angelo and Kenny) so she wishes it was individual. They can’t see the ingredients or equipment until they get there, but there will be some pantry stuff.

Everyone goes home to try to come up with a game plan even though they have no idea what is waiting for them. Kenny thinks they should pull names for the courses, Angelo disagrees, so they argue about it. Angelo thinks he has to step up and be a leader, which to him means getting his way. Tiffany tries to get them back on track but they totally ignore her. Stephen tries to get everyone to agree to serve a fruit plate as dessert but that fails too. The scene ends in the middle of the argument. Well that was fun. Oh, they want to continue after the commercial. Kenny wants to let people just come up with whatever, except that means if one pair does lamb, they’ll have a veg and a starch and then there are 6 different starches on the table, as Amanda points out. Yeah, she has a point. If you’re serving family style you can’t do that. Kenny thinks that wouldn’t happen and Amanda is crazy. Finally Tim tells everyone to check their fucking egos at the door and come together. SERIOUSLY. At some point Kenny asks if everyone just wants to work in the same teams they had yesterday, and everyone does except Ed. Ed doesn’t want to work with Alex. No offense though. But in the end he has immunity so he doesn’t care that much. They all break up into their previous pairs to decide what they want to do, without talking to each other. Tiffany isn’t very happy to work with Tim, so she’s pretending she doesn’t have a partner. Ed’s pissed too because he would have rather paired up with Tiffany. So he goes over to talk to her anyway.

In the morning, I think it’s super early morning, Tamesha talks a little bit about her family and how she feels everyone should have been more mature. True that. They arrive at Ayrshire Farms which is very pretty. They pull up to some very nice tables of meat and produce laid out for them. They’ve got 3 hours. Commence arguing about what everyone wants. Cooking outside! Hee! That’s always entertaining. Hotplates and grills. Immediately there is hoarding of space. Kenny is taking over because he feels Kevin doesn’t have enough confidence. They’re making hot and sour eggplant. Kelly’s making “accompaniments” and Andrea is making the pork loin. She’s worried because it’s cold out. Amanda is making “pedestrian” minestrone. Stephen is making salad with as many components as he can shove in there. Tim took a ton of vegetables and Kelly tries to cut him a deal, which…I think ends with her taking some beets? It’s hard to tell what happened, aside from that Tim isn’t pleased. Tiffany says she’s letting Tim do whatever instead of telling him what to do this time. Tamesha has cherry compote to go with Angelo’s duck which he “made love to”. That’s a quote people. Alex loves to work outdoors. Tamesha is doing something and all of a sudden a bowl falls over, dumping a ton of cooked cauliflower on the ground. No one seems to know what exactly happened. I don’t think Tamesha was near enough to it. Angelo thinks they can reuse it but Kevin refuses, so he gets some zucchini and broccoli. Tamesha gives some advice to Andrea, but all of a sudden Kelly is like “don’t let her make your decision” like Tamesha has no idea what she’s talking about. Kenny tells Andrea the same thing. Andrea is cutting the loin down so it will cook in time. Tim’s turnips are starting to get bitter and he’s worried about it so rather than do anything else to it he’s going to keep it rustic. Amanda is confident with her soup. Andrea is worried about her pork. Kelly decides to make a strawberry rhubarb crisp so they have dessert. She knows this may screw her. Stephen likes his salad. There are 40 farmers coming up the road, along with the judges (Tom, Padma, and Eric) in scarves and “rustic” clothes. You know…the kinds of country clothes that you know have never seen dirt ever.

Commercial interlude: Kenny owns a velour bathrobe. Tim loves it. Andrea and Amanda go through various nicknames. Amanda’s are more offensive in that they all have “black” in them. Actually all the girls think he’s smooth.

Kenny wants to win because he didn’t cook the main entrée. But he wants his dish to be so awesome it takes over from the main dishes. I think. They serve and bail. As a result everyone has to ask each other how they liked various dishes. Amanda: country vegetable minestrone with smoked tomato broth. Yum. Guest judge Patrick was shocked by the rusticity. All the vegetables are cut small except the carrots which didn’t cook through. Stephen: farm salad with balsamic, onion, egg, apple, cabernet vinaigrette and garlic dressing. It’s in a bowl, for some reason. Patrick hates the bowl. Tom is horrified the lettuce is bruised. Kenny: hot and sour curried eggplant with peppers and carrot tops. Kevin: broccoli cous cous scented with lemon zest. That sounds fabulous. The curry is spicy but Tom is OK with it. Tim: roasted turnips and asparagus with honey. Made no impression with anyone. Tiffany: collard greens with Swiss chard, turnip and chanterelles in duck broth. The greens are very undercooked. Andrea: garlic and five-spice grilled pork loin with shallot-apple balsamic jus. Kelly: five-spice roasted apples and roasted beets. They went well together and all is cooked well. Angelo: ginger grilled duck breast with oregano honey. Tamesha: cherry compote, red wine balsamic vinaigrette, grilled asparagus salad. The duck breast is OK, and the cherries, but the asparagus is boring. At least to Tom. Alex: Provencal beef tenderloin with ratatouille. Ed: ratatouille with eggplant, summer squash and tomato. The tenderloin is stuffed with the ratatouille. Eric is not a fan of the stuffing, but Patrick teases him that the French taught everyone stuffing by stuffing things with truffles. Eric points out that ratatouille does not equal truffles. Kelly also made the dessert: strawberry rhubarb crisp with basil scented whipped cream. Why do people put basil in desserts now? Is that a thing? Is it good? I don’t know. Tom points out she didn’t have to do it, but it seems to have turned out well. Eric cleaned his plate.

Back at Judges’ Table, Padma calls out Kevin, Kenny, Andrea, and Kelly. They’re the winners. Kevin explains that his cauliflower fell on the ground, and that he was glad to have vegetables and not a protein because it was more of a challenge. Kenny wanted big flavors and something spicy to keep warm. Padma liked it, and Tom points out that Padma is tough on curries so that is high praise. Andrea says she cut down her pork loin, and Tom praises the sauce and the sides too. Kelly says she and Andrea both thought they should make dessert if they had time. Patrick says Kenny is the winner. He’s pleased, as well he should be.

Loser gong! Tim, Amanda, and Stephen are the losers. Padma says the mistakes were very obvious because the rest of the dinner was so nice. Tim says he was going to do a mousseline, but decided against it. Eric points out that he had already cut his vegetables so small that the turnips vanished into the dish and the seasoning was off. He added asparagus for color, he tells Tom. Tom nails him for not liking his dish, and not being able to fix it. Stephen gets nailed for serving salad in a bowl, with gloppy dressing, even though the average American eats salad out of a bowl. He wanted to add crunch with apple, but he served a big piece of apple to each person so that didn‘t work too well. Amanda says minestrone to her is all the things that were in her dish, but Eric is like “Don’t you think it should have pasta too?” and Amanda has to cover her ass and say she’s never made it with pasta. Tom schools her on why you cut things uniformly: so they all cook evenly. She can’t even answer, and they keep on her that it was amateurish.

Stephen’s presentation was pretty poor, and his salad had a ton of things in it for no reason. Tim’s turnips were cut too small to serve whole, and a puree would actually have worked very well with the dish. He did a ton of work for nothing because no one could taste the turnips. Eric is still pissed that Amanda called it “minestrone” when there was no pasta in it. Plus they still hate on the carrots.

Tom says everyone made a mistake that doomed their dish. Tim is sent home. He wishes he could have gone out for overcooking lamb. No, that’s what he says. He has a hard time saying goodbye to everyone, but he knows he’s going to keep in touch with everyone. He tells everyone to season their food.

Next week: they get to judge each other, Angelo helps Tamesha and Stephen but not anyone else? Alex doesn’t tell Amanda her chicken might be bad. Everyone is mean.
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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Top Chef 7/7/10--"Room Service"

Previously on “Top Chef”: The chefs are forced to make pie, and most of them seem to handle it fine. No one had a horrible crust except Tracey, who had to make a second pie last minute anyway. Kenny won, even thought it looked like he made less of a pie and more of a cake with bananas in it. Looked good though. Then everyone had to grill for Capitol Hill interns. In the initial chyron it said “make one entrée and two side dishes” but then most people seemed to make only one side dish, unless we’re counting sauces as side dishes, which I guess could be happening. Stranger things have happened. Several people need help starting their charcoal kettle grills but no one burns themselves. Amanda is slightly annoying, but even Angelo likes her ribs. However Arnold beats her out with lamb meatballs. Tracey’s sausage sliders have too much fennel and aren’t cooked properly so she is sent home. (click for more)

Arnold is satisfied with winning and being recognized by the judges. Andrea is sad about Tracey but “you have to focus on the game”. She’s tired of being in the middle. Tim jokes that he knows where Angelo stashed the cash. He says it’s not where you were (the bottom) but where you end up.

The contestants are greeted by baby toys. Blocks and rubber ducks and whatnot. Tom and Padma are there. Tim’s like, oh, they can’t have us cooking baby food. HA! Silly boy. Both Padma and Tom have babies at home, so they must make a dish for the adults, and then a puree version for the babies. Awesome. And hilarious. Lynne says “What goes through my head is, ‘Oh crap, I’ve never had a baby. I don’t know what babies like.’” Well, I’ve never had a baby either, but I’m pretty sure they’re not super picky. Oo, are they bringing in the babies for the judging? PLEASE let them bring in babies for judging. 45 minutes. Oh, and also Tom and Padma will each be picking a winner and those winners will get $10,000. Arnold says his money would go to orphanages. Alex says something about “a hooker and an 8-ball.” No immunity though.

Alex tells us he’s practiced making a baby but not baby food. Thanks for sharing. Kevin’s wife is pregnant so he’s pretty confident. Tamesha used to take care of her little brother. She says adults need flavorful but kids need something a little more bland. Amanda yells a lot while cooking. Kenny’s first wife died when his daughter was a year old so he’s used to taking care of her. Aww! Stephen bitches about how Kenny has some diced apple--too much and babies will choke. All through this are shots of everyone’s kids. They even give them baby food jars. Kevin doesn’t finish in time.

No babies. Weak. Kenny: curried chicken, mango salad, confit of butternut squash, and maitake mushrooms. I guess Tom and Padma are tasting the baby food themselves. Tim: sautéed lamb with mushrooms, shallots, and ginger. Kevin: pan-seared duck with baby carrots. There is supposed to be corn and banana puree also. Maybe that is the little dollop on the plate. Kelly: roast pork loin with grilled peaches and fresh ginger. Her pork loin looks cooked but somehow unappetizing. I’m not sure why. Also when Padma tastes the baby food there’s a lemon seed in it. Lynne: chicken with sweet potato and fruit compote. Angelo: poached tuna with fenugreek broth, tomatoes, soy sauce, and honey. His baby food seems to be in layers. Alex: seared duck, with spinach and basil puree, dill couscous, and mushroom. Tamesha: salmon with vegetable chowder and lobster stock, Thai basil, and licorice oil.

Tim’s lamb was overcooked, although his baby food was OK. Alex’s baby food, on the other hand, had a ton of dill and was watery. Kevin ran out of time so his duck was sitting in a pool of blood. They make sure to include a shot of the dish he served the judges so you can see it. I guess on the display plate for the camera he had time to let it rest. Kelly’s pork was bland. Good: Lynne had good flavor, and Tamesha’s puree had texture and Tom loved the licorice oil. Padma liked Angelo’s “elegant” baby food and Kenny’s flavorful food. Tom picks Tamesha as his winner and Padma picks Kenny. They’re both thrilled.

For the Elimination challenge today, they must welcome Beth Scott, who is VP of Restaurant Concepts at the Hilton. The Hilton (supposedly) is looking for a new signature menu dish that is healthy and sophisticated. And they want the contestants to make one! I put “supposedly” because I very much doubt that Top Chef was talking to the Hilton and Hilton was like, “Hey, you know what? We were JUST talking about how we need a new signature menu dish! Could your contestants come up with one for us? That would be great!” If that was true that would be fantastic. They want easy quick dishes that are easily executed. They must make breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes that will be on the menu if they win. Tom says it’ll be tournament style, competing in pairs. All teams will make breakfast. Then they will decide what teams are safe. The non-safe teams will compete with lunch dishes, and then two more teams will be safe. Then the last three teams will make dinner, and one team will be eliminated. That means two eliminations. And they get to choose their own partners, which could be good or bad. Amanda bitches that no one wants to pair up with her--except Stephen, because no one wants to pair up with him either. She of course wants to win to stick it to everyone else.

$200 for shopping. Everyone is buying food for three dishes. Tiffany is concerned because she’s paired with Tim and he’s been on the bottom lately. Lynne doesn’t work well with others. She says. But Arnold has cooked with her before and he says it went well so he’s not concerned. He says if he wins, then he’s won a lot and “people might think I’m more than a Louis Vuitton bag”. Kenny talks about his wife again and being a chef at a 5-star restaurant. He’s talking about himself a lot. Alex wants to make pancakes and Ed is skeptical but lets him do it.

When they get back into the kitchen there is Spike (still with the asshat! Gah!), Mike I., and Bryan waiting for them. Mm, Bryan. Plus Beth from the Hilton, Nora Pouillon, Tom, Padma, and Eric Ripert. They all get to watch the chefs cook, which is interesting. 30 minutes to cook. Oh, I lied, all the judges just got up and filed out of the kitchen. Lots of running around and at least people are talking to each other. Tiffany took the lead on breakfast for her team, as did Lynne. Kelly is putting a ton of emphasis on breakfast. Alex and Ed are almost out of time because they had to make everything last minute. When time is called they don’t have the hollandaise on the plate.

Commercial interlude: Angelo flirts with Tamesha and interviews about how she’s sexy. Ed notices. Then Angelo talks about her “inner lining” which makes no sense. Tamesha says “not if he was the last man on earth.” OK, not really. She for sure is not interested though.

Alex and Ed: prosciutto potato cake, egg with lemon pancake, bellini cocktail. Spike and Beth did not even get a cake. Damn. Both Alex and Ed seem to blame Ed for it, although someone had to put the pancakes and the egg on the plate after the cakes went down and those aren’t small cakes that you could miss. It’s pretty obvious that plate is missing something. Angelo and Tamesha: egg, bacon, and cheddar broth. It looks like a soft boiled egg with bacon and some kind of sauce. And toast. Tamesha thinks her egg is perfect, but Bryan says that the yolk is overcooked. Plus I think the chalaza is still in the dish. That’s the ropy thing attached to the yolk. Bryan laughs that he got dinged for that when he was on the show. Arnold and Lynne: tortilla Espanola with chorizo and bacon, olive pear salad and papas bravas. Arnold even has a plan for to-go containers. I think that’s what they were talking about. So a Spanish tortilla is like a frittata, a thick omelet or a quiche without a crust. Not a flat thing you wrap stuff in. Papas bravas are fried potatoes. Tom doesn’t like the texture. Kenny and Kevin: poached egg on herbed brioche, prosciutto, manchego cheese, and Spanish olive tapenade. It looks pretty good. Spike says there’s no texture and Tom says there’s too much going on. Amanda and Stephen: poached egg, pancetta (actually she says “pancetta confit“…which is pancetta cooked in bacon fat), potato rosti, and grape ragout with hollandaise. “Ragout” means slow-cooked, I think, which you can’t do in half an hour, and a rosti is like a giant hash-brown pancake. This doesn’t seem terribly healthy. Also when Amanda starts describing her dish for some reason her voice is several decibels louder than anyone else’s voice has been. Spike likes the pancetta while Padma does not. Angela and Kelly: bacon cheddar whole wheat waffle, poached egg, roasted tomato salsa, pickled chilies, and a mango, lime, and mint yogurt smoothie. Someone went healthy. It sounds good though. No one seems to like any of it particularly. Tiffany and Tim: crab cake eggs Benedict, grilled asparagus, and potato bacon hash in hollandaise. Excellent crab cake, but the hash is unnecessary.

I don’t know what it was, but I haven’t looked up that many cooking vocab words in a long time. Amanda and Stephen, & Tim and Tiffany are safe. Everyone else has 45 minutes to cook lunch. Kelly complains that they haven’t gotten any feedback, just the news that their dish wasn’t the best. That is a good point. If you make it to dinner, you’re cooking to not go home, and not to win. Kenny complains that his flavors and techniques were solid so he’s heated. Kevin thinks their sauce is a little too thick but also that Kenny knows what the judges are looking for. So…I guess that means they’ll be critiquing their sauce later. Angelo is heated too. He says the kitchen is tense, “like you wanna get out of the pool and there are piranhas trying to bite you.” I think he demands that Tamesha do a wider chiffonade of something. Maybe. Alex is taking the lead and making sure they get everything on the plate. They’re still running around like crazy, and Ed says he never tasted the scallops so he’s worried.

Alex and Ed: sea scallops with ricotta gnudi and broccoli rabe. Gnudi are the inside of a stuffed pasta like ravioli, but without the pasta. They like the gnudi but Bryan says if he had pureed the ricotta first you get a smoother texture. Angelo and Tamesha: slivers of beef, jicama and Asian pear salad with mint, cilantro, and kim chee vinaigrette. It’s raw beef, if that matters. Angelo thinks it would travel well. There are a lot of onions, Mike wants something crispy, and Tom says if you put it in a spring roll wrapper then it’d be pretty portable. That would make a good spring roll I think. Arnold and Lynne: tuna cannelloni with forbidden rice salad and tomato vinaigrette. The tuna is in a roll with carrots, fennel, and cucumbers inside, on top of rice, so it looks kind of like sushi. They like it but it’s not really “easy to execute”. Arnold says it is not an option for him to have to cook dinner. He looks upset so I fear this is from later and he‘s had to cook dinner. Kenny and Kevin: chickpea pappardelle pasta with grilled chicken and tahini sauce. The flavors are good but the chicken is lost. Andrea and Kelly: crispy skinned red snapper and panzanella salad with mustard vinaigrette. Panzanella salad is a salad with chunks of bread, but bigger and less dry than croutons. They tell the judges they didn’t cook the beans in the salad because of time and budget. Padma says she’d send it back, Eric wouldn’t send it at all, and Tom doesn’t understand how they didn’t have time to cook canned beans.

Angelo and Tamesha, & Alex and Ed are safe. Angelo spends his interview gloating about how he beat Kenny. Andrea says she didn’t expect to have to do dinner, then they splice in her talking about an award she’s won, then back to worrying about being eliminated. You can tell it’s a splice because it’s so random, and I remember her saying that exact sentence a couple of weeks ago. One hour for dinner. Kelly’s bitter and complains about feeling like she’s on the bottom of the competition, possibly because she is on the bottom of the competition. Kenny is super heated now. Arnold tries to be positive. Andrea discovers that Kenny and Kevin are also making short ribs. Lynne preheats an oven and Kenny and Kevin take over it while she’s gone. No one apologizes but it’s a pretty low key argument. Lynne’s super concerned she’ll overcook the pasta so she refuses to cook it too soon. She and Arnold have an argument about it and then I think Arnold wants to put it in anyway, then begs her to move on. She says that if it’s overcooked it’s on him, and he’s like “fine”, but she bitches that it’s not fine because she’ll get eliminated too. She’s pretty pissed. He points out that all the rest of the dish has to get set up too, but she’s just all, “I’m not putting it in, fresh pasta 12 minutes ahead of time? I don’t think so.” He’s got a point though. Kevin is pissed because Kenny is putting horseradish in stuff without asking him. Andrea thinks the boys don’t have enough sauce on their short ribs. Arnold freaks out because he no longer trusts Lynne.

Kenny and Kevin: braised beef short rib, squash, potato and carrot confit, and tempura horseradish. They wanted something familiar to everyone. The judges seem favorable but they want more jus. Andrea and Kelly: braised beef short rib, polenta, shiitake mushrooms, and citrus gremolata, with herbs and crispy shallots. Right when she says they have short ribs they cut to a shot of Tom sighing and looking irritated. He tries to hide it but you can tell. They also have good short ribs but Mike thinks the polenta is stiff. Arnold and Lynne: pineapple red curry mussels with squid ink pasta and focaccia with coriander and cumin. The pasta? Is not cooked. The sauce is fantastic though. Spike thinks it makes sense conceptually.

Padma asks for the bottom three teams. Are they going to have a winner this week? How will that work? Padma answers my question by saying one team had the best dish of the day and one team is going home. Nora says that Kelly and Andrea had the best flavors and are the winners. Not only do they get their dish on the menu (they never say which one, which is stupid), but one of them will get a 6 night trip for 2 to Venice, airfare included, and the other gets a 6 night trip for 2 to Barcelona. Sweet. Heh, they have to pick blind. Not like either one is a bad choice. Andrea’s never left the country so she’s excited.

Lynne thought their flavors were good but the pasta was undercooked. After all that. Arnold says he thinks it was fine, with a nervous smile that makes it seem like he might be trying to boost Lynne, as opposed to trying to convince the judges. Or it might just be because he thought the dish was better than that. They wanted black pasta and black mussels on purpose. Kenny and Kevin had no glaze on their ribs, although they claim they did. They said they stopped because it was too salty, except that they talk about “sodium levels” which is fairly pretentious. Tom goes back to talking about salt, and tries to find out if they stopped because the ribs were too salty, or because they thought they had enough glaze. They thought it was glazed enough. They liked the flavor of the sauce, but Eric couldn’t taste any horseradish. Tom makes them back up their dish and beg for their lives. So to speak. Kevin says people would like it, it tasted good, and they’re proud of it. Arnold says his dish was different from everyone else’s, and if he was judging he’d like to see some creativity. Only Kevin and Arnold talk about why they should stay, which is kind of interesting. Kevin says their dish was good, and says “we”, but Arnold doesn’t mention Lynne at all in his speech. You know what? I thought when they got to the bottom they’d judge all three dishes. I guess we’re only considering dinner. So I guess Kelly and Andrea’s short ribs are going on the menu.

Tom appreciates that Arnold and Lynne took a risk. Padma thinks that the dish might be a hard sell on a hotel menu. Eric laments the undercooked pasta. Tom wanted more glaze on Kenny and Kevin’s short ribs. Kenny tells everyone he doesn’t deserve to be in the bottom. Eric didn’t taste any horseradish, and Tom says they should have had horseradish just as the garnish and not in the sauce too. In the Stew Room Kevin starts getting heated and says you have to tell “them” how to eat the food and how it’s meant to be. Amanda responds with “Who are you to tell people how to eat food? You’re no one and no one will listen to you”. Kevin starts in with “are you nuts?” But instead of attacking Amanda and telling her she’s no one he says “Of COURSE you have to tell people how to eat your food.” Eventually he applauds and says “OK, OK, shut up”. Amanda sulks and mutters “I’m just saying”. Kevin says he knows so I guess the fight’s over. I agree with Amanda though: if you feel you have to tell me how to eat your food, either your food is complicated for no reason or you just like bossing people around. If I can’t figure out how to eat a dish, then I feel stupid, and no one likes to feel stupid.

Tom says that Lynne and Arnold thought outside the box and the only flaw was undercooked pasta, and Kenny and Kevin needed more glaze and horseradish. So of course they send Lynne and Arnold home. What? I had to read the blogs, and aside from the fact that the pasta was apparently raw, not just undercooked, Tom says that the dish was also supposed to appeal to guests, which short ribs do. Arnold says he was true to what he does and I think he’s pleased with that. Lynne’s kind of upset. Arnold interviews that he had no idea that Lynne wasn’t pleased with some of the dish. Did you miss her giant passive aggressive rant? Lynne, for her part, says it was a mistake to let a younger chef take the lead. They’re both irritated to go so soon.

Next week: teams, yelling, Angelo vs. Kenny, outdoors again. Tamesha knocks food on the ground.
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