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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