Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Top Chef 8/18/10--"Covert Cuisine"

Previously on “Top Chef”: we had Restaurant Wars and everyone forgot that 1. the cockiest team generally loses, and 2. this is the challenge that causes strong chefs to go home. It looked like Kenny’s team was working well together and that their food turned out better, but that was not the case. Ed won, based on delicious turbot. Alex mostly seemed to fail, and his team didn’t trust him to make a dish so he didn’t really make one, but since his team won he gets a free pass. I know. I don’t like it either but that’s how that works. Also it feels like the producers really want me to hate Alex, and while I do find him annoying, when people are so obvious they want me to think something it makes me want to be contrary just because. The judges decided that even though Kenny was a good leader, he made mediocre food, and they didn’t want him to stay just because he was a good leader. Even though they’d eliminate someone for being a bad leader. So Kenny went home. Tom’s said in his blog that he has been lobbying for the show to hire actual professional front of house people, that know what they are doing and can still comment on whether the kitchen is screwing up front of house stuff. I think that’s a fantastic idea. (click for more)

Kevin is still complaining about Alex. Everyone is whining about how Kenny is stronger than Alex (and Amanda, let’s not forget) but do they ever watch this show? How many times have they had Restaurant Wars and a very strong chef is eliminated? Tre? Seriously. Alex points out, rightly, that he had nothing to do with their team losing. Angelo politely refrains from gloating that his competition is gone.

The Quickfire apparently will involve large black boxes with question marks on them. And Wylie Dufresne. I like that no one this season claims to do molecular gastronomy so we don’t have to deal with that arrogance. Padma says they’ll start their dish with what’s in the box, but at some point more mystery boxes will arrive with more ingredients to add in. So it’s like a super hard episode of “Chopped”. (Kmanpat: “’Since they stole Ted Allen from us, we’re going to use his show as part of our Quickfire and mutilate it.’“) Tiffany is kind of freaking out. Also this will be a high stakes Quickfire worth $10,000. Angelo mentions that he wants that money to move his fiancée here from Russia.

40 minutes to cook. Inside the box is a fish, fava beans, and a tin can with no label. HA! Alex asks for a can opener, someone says Tiffany has one, but she doesn’t. This prompts Alex to talk about how everyone hates him but he doesn’t care. He continues to ask for a can opener, and dude. Get your own can opener. Inside the can is hominy. There appears to be a large amount of flailing, which is to be expected. Angelo admits to being lost. A Secret Service guy shows up. Really, like, black suit, shades, the whole bit. Inside the box is squid and black garlic. Black garlic? Apparently it’s fermented. Kelly says it’s smoky and sweet. She doesn’t want to confuse her flavors. They seem to be about halfway through. Then another guy shows up with ramps and passion fruit. Ramps are like wild onions, mostly. I think. Tiffany doesn’t know what to do with ramps, and we’re talking things like, do you eat the leaves? That’s important, or it could be. ANOTHER box, with jicama. I love jicama, just raw. Although if you get an old one the texture suffers and gets mealy. Angelo is seriously freaking out.

Alex: rockfish with fava bean puree, ramp fondue and sautéed squid. Guess it was rockfish. His plate looks kind of, eh. He knows it though. He claims the ramps have been “slowly melted”. Tiffany: fish stew with hominy, fava beans, saffron, and black garlic. These dishes are all going to sound the same. Kelly: “Yucatecan” seafood stew with black garlic, fava beans, & grilled ramps. Amanda: crispy skinned “striped bass”, squid fricassee, leek and mushroom fondue. I put the fish in quotes because I’m not sure where she got striped bass from when everyone else has been saying rockfish. Kevin: pan seared rockfish, hominy puree, jicama and passion fruit salad. Ed: rockfish sashimi with hominy-basil puree and grilled squid marinade. Angelo: smoky hominy pot-au-feu, squid, rockfish tataki, and passion fruit gel. Pot-au-feu is beef stew, tataki is quickly seared fish that is then marinated in vinegar and served with ginger, and gel is apparently what you get when you want to serve gelee but can’t cool it in time.

Wylie says that Alex’s puree was good but the rest of the dish was poor. Amanda’s dish was oily and the skin was not crispy when “crispy” was in the title of her dish. Tiffany integrated her dish well, and Kevin’s fish was well cooked. Kevin now tells us how he would love $10,000 for a new, bigger house. But Tiffany wins again.

For the Elimination challenge, the chefs will be cooking for the CIA. Padma says something about secret agents, and then says that they will be taking on a classic dish and then giving it a “disguise”. But the flavor should remain the same. So immediately I think of meat cake. Like, it looks like cake, but it’s really meatloaf with mashed potato frosting. They did this on “Dinner: Impossible” once. Whoever was in charge for challenges this episode must watch Food Network. Amanda: French onion soup. Ed: Chicken cordon bleu. Angelo: beef Wellington. Kelly: kung pao shrimp. Tiffany: gyro. Kevin: Cobb salad. Alex: veal parmesan. Padma says they’re serving tomorrow to some CIA officers and also the head of the CIA. Amanda blathers about seducing spies. The winner gets a trip to Paris. Random. Ed says his girlfriend has been bugging him about going on vacation.

30 minutes and $200 to shop. Alex talks about himself and how he used to be a professional videographer. After watching him with the waiters last week I can’t imagine he gets along with his clients. He claims that not having been a chef for very long lets him be more creative. Kelly has never made Chinese food in her life. She is planning to find some kung pao sauce to write down ingredients. Oh good, for a minute I thought she was planning to use bottled sauce. Angelo is buying puff pastry to make pizza. Ed comments on his buying pastry, but I think puff pastry is a pain to make.

2.5 hours to cook. Tiffany loves spy stuff. She seems to be deconstructing her dish in order to disguise it. Amanda also talks about spy stuff but somehow is more annoying about it. She’s still making soup. Kelly says it better be awesome soup if you’re disguising soup by…making soup. Kelly is also making soup, but has no idea what kung pao is supposed to taste like. Why didn’t she open the bottle and taste it? Alex tries to give her advice but she sniffs in confessional that he has no idea what he himself is doing so she’s certainly not going to believe he knows what she should be doing. Amanda says she likes and respects Alex. Of course. He’s making his veal stuffed inside tortellini. Angelo feels that the judges will be cool with his puff pastry, since it’s not the main focus of the dish. Kevin reminds us that John, the first contestant out, also bought puff pastry. But I also think that when you took out the puff pastry, John didn’t do enough. I might not do it, though, were I on this show. Alex says his spy name is “Dr. Zhivago” but that his favorite spy is “Get Smart”. 1. that’s not his name, his name is Maxwell Smart, and 2. don’t talk about his shoe phone like no one knows about it and it’s awesome because EVERYONE KNOWS THAT. Ed is putting his chicken on the inside and the ham on the outside. Kevin is changing textures, but he’s concerned it might not be enough of a new identity.

The CIA building is pretty impressive. They make it seem like they just waltz on in, even though I’m sure there were security people everywhere and some metal detectors. 1.5 hours to cook today. Ed is looking for cameras in the corners of the kitchen. Angelo knows his dish is not his best but he talks about how this is his life. Kelly says an hour and a half is plenty of time to make rice and do her cooking. Amanda is realizing she didn’t really disguise her dish. Alex says he decided at the beginning that for this show he wasn’t going to make anything he’d ever made before. Seriously? That doesn’t seem like the best strategy. Ed is unimpressed. Kelly confirms that her rice cooker should shut off when it’s done, and there is an ominous screen shot that I paused to look at. It does have a “warm” setting, but even if it doesn’t, rice cookers at least turn themselves off when they’re done cooking. Tiffany is getting worried because her dish is pretty simple. Kelly’s rice cooker begins to beep, and she finds it to be mush. She flips out because she’s used to cooking at high altitudes. But…it’s a rice cooker. You put in rice and water and push a button. Maybe she put too much water in? Tiffany encourages her to make rice on the stove so she can have rice. Tiffany also helps her plate, and spouts the reality show cliché of “I only want to beat the best”. Angelo continues to freak out. He’s kind of falling apart.

I thought they might let the contestants present their dishes but I guess not. Angelo: tartlet topped with slivers of beef, instead of beef Wellington. Ah…Padma is making them guess. The Director says it was a poor disguise and they would have captured this dish and hung it. Hee. It was salty and the pastry was hard. Eric Ripert knew he took shortcuts. Kelly: spicy shrimp broth with rice and Szechuan shrimp tempura, for kung pao shrimp. Wylie and Tom know what it is but some of the other guests guess pad Thai. It was good though, and seems well received. Tiffany: roasted leg of lamb with smoky eggplant, tomatoes, and pickled onions, for gyro. There doesn’t seem to be any yogurt. They guess right, but mostly because they know the dish is hiding something. I think that they wouldn’t have thought it was anything in disguise if no one told them. Eric says its the most elegant gyro he’s ever eaten. Kevin: romaine lettuce, tomato, bacon, Roquefort, avocado, cucumber, and turkey. It is the saddest little pile of salad, it looks like it’s about three bites worth. Tom doesn’t like that it’s still a salad, and he also liked it but he likes Cobb salad. Padma is making small talk with the Director, who gets a slip of paper in the middle of the conversation and then bails. Oo, big secret government happenings! Or a producer thinking how awesome it would be if it looked like there were big secret government happenings! I wonder if the paper says “Read carefully and then excuse yourself from the table”. The rest of the table looks annoyed for some reason.

Amanda claims Alex just fails at presentation and that makes her sad. Also she calls him “wise”. Amanda: consommé with oxtail marmalade, caramelized onions, and shaved gruyere. It doesn’t look like a lot of broth. They know it‘s French onion soup, but one girl thought the cheese was coconut and it threw her initially. Tom likes the idea of oxtail marmalade but this one is too sweet. Alex: veal and Parmigianino cheese tortellini with tomato sauce and tempura cheese. There is a cube of veal, and a cheese tortellini on top. That is important to the criticism, which is that the meat is tough. They sort of guess it‘s veal parmesan, but they might have lucked into it. Wylie thinks it was the hardest dish to guess, and Eric wants less disguise and more execution. Ed: roasted chicken breast, ham and cheese croquette, spring onion soubise (sauce). Eric knows exactly what it is. It’s an excellent dish, just very easy to guess.

In the kitchen everyone tastes each others’ food. Kelly tells Amanda her marmalade is sweet but tastes good, and Angelo wonders that there is eggplant in Tiffany’s dish. Angelo talks again about how worried he is.

Commercial interlude: Kelly and Alex talk about the director of the CIA and how he must know all kinds of shit, like who killed JFK and if there are aliens. Angelo says there’s one alien in LA, and then points at Alex. Ha! Then Alex is all creepy and “You never know!” which is not funny. I totally laughed at Angelo though.

Padma collects Tiffany, Kelly, and Ed for the top 3. Kelly knew soup would look completely different. The flavors were right and the rice offset the spiciness. Tiffany made her dish elegant and changed it from a handheld food into a plated dish. Ed perfectly executed all his components and cooked his chicken properly. The winner is Tiffany. She’s rapidly becoming the one to beat. AND now she’s won her honeymoon.

The Loser gong greets Alex, Amanda, and Angelo. Amanda knew her dish was not disguised enough. Tom wanted something other than soup, but she also made her marmalade too sweet. Angelo also failed to disguise his dish, and he knew it. Then he admits he bought pastry. Tom wanted something completely different, and Eric nails him for not having any creativity in a challenge that encourages as much creativity as you can handle. Alex’s plate wasn’t obvious, but Wylie says his disguise ended up being poor execution. He says that now is the wrong time to try something new that you’ve never done before. Tom says he’s had better cheese at street fairs and better tortellini out of a box. One of them is 7th best, and that is how they all cooked today. Damn. Tom’s pissy today.

In the Stew Room Angelo says he should go home. Kelly is not very sad. Padma says everyone failed to give them good food, but they also failed at disguising their dish which was the whole point of the challenge. Alex’s dish took a lot of time, and it at least was a good idea, but his execution was terrible. Amanda just failed entirely. Tom wished she would have done more than grate cheese and make bad broth. Angelo can do better than what he did, and they think he just froze and panicked.

Tom says the bottom three disguised themselves as poor cooks. Ha. Alex is out. God, now maybe everyone will shut up. Not that I’m sorry. It’s telling that when he goes back to the Stew Room everyone is like, “Oh.” He is unhappy, naturally, because he thought he would win. He knows that everyone disliked him because of the pea puree and also Restaurant Wars, and he was frustrated too but he chose not to “vent and create hostility”. Whatever. You’re still annoying. Bye.

Next week: concession stands. Sweet. Kevin yells at Angelo. Someone serves raw fish at the ballpark.

1 comment:

Nicole said...

The note said "The worst two chefs are about to serve their plates".