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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