Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Top Chef 9/8/10--"Finale pt. 1"

Previously on “Top Chef”: wine and food pairings brought us Angelo’s first win in a while. Then everyone was supposed to cook for NASA, and have their dish freeze-dried and sent up into space. Of course that means that no one really took into account how things would look or turn out freeze-dried. Not that we should be surprised as the “themes” for the Elimination challenges really just are guidelines. No one ever gets kicked out for not following the theme. They get kicked out for not following the theme AND making bad food. Anyway, Angelo wins again, while Tiffany froze her mussels by accident, couldn’t compensate, and was sent home. That was sad. Oh, and Angelo won the car this season. So we’ll see about that. (click for more)

Singapore is gorgeous. Kelly is super excited. These shots are of the chefs wandering an outdoor market with food stalls and tables set up for eating. Kevin has a silly hat. The guys are in T-shirts and it’s kind of weird, somehow. Tom appears to greet everyone with Seetoh, who is labeled “King of Singapore Street Food”. Kelly says he’s an authority. They’re at a hawker food center, where there are many many food vendors set up. Yummy. He takes the chefs around to meet people and watch them cook. Some of them have been making the same dish over and over for decades. Angelo feels it’s destiny for him to win and everyone is envious of his passion. I think everyone is asking questions and details because they know they’re going to have to run a stall. I mean, it’s obvious. They taste a noodle dish and also a dish of poached chicken, served room temperature, that Seetoh calls the “national“ dish. And chili crabs. Angelo says that’s the only thing he wants to taste in Singapore. Seetoh tells them if you speak in a certain dialect to the vendors you get bigger portions. Hee. Ed says his goal is to kick Angelo’s ass. Kelly thinks her biggest competition is Kevin, because they cook similar food.

Eventually they make it to Padma. Oh, like they were going to “check out one more spot before calling it a night.” Please. Everyone make street food! Man, I wish St. Louis had street food. But there’s laws about how many food vendors can sell food on the street. Stupid laws. They must cook street food in a wok. They will get local ingredients, too. And the winner gets immunity. Seriously? Immunity? Free pass to the finale? I don’t know if I like that.

30 minutes to cook. All the local ingredients are labeled…in Cantonese. Ha. This throws Angelo. Everyone is smelling and tasting things. Ed wisely stays away from things he doesn’t recognize. Angelo schools us in woks and whatever. Ed interviews that Angelo is not a shoe-in. There is a ton of cursing. Angelo starts confusing himself by thinking about all the things he could be doing. Ed has used a wok many times. Kevin is making curry, or a stew, or something. Everyone is sweating up a storm. With 5 minutes left Angelo starts breaking down frog legs instead of the crab he was going to use.

Angelo: chile frog legs with pineapple and rambutan salsa. The rambutan is supposed to be like a palate cleanser? Vegetarian sea urchin? I don’t know. It’s a little spiky fruit that looks like a peeled grape when you get it out of the covering. Kelly: Chinese noodles with lobster, cockles, bean sprouts, and Chinese broccoli. Kevin: seafood stew with lobster and cuttlefish with crispy shallots. Kevin admits he’s never used a wok before, and Padma is like “What is wrong with you? You knew you were coming to Singapore!” Yeah, good point. Ed: stir fry noodles with black pepper sauce, lobster, and gai lan. He mispronounces “gai lan”. Oops. Ed says he likes to wok it out on the weekends. Sigh.

Angelo put robust flavors together well, and the pineapple was a good trick. Kelly seared her noodles, and captured the ocean’s flavor. Kevin’s was complex, and Ed captured his flavor in his noodles. The winner is Ed. I don’t think I like this immunity thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ed and I’m glad he’s in the final. I just don’t like that he can totally screw up and still be in the final. Angelo is pissed.

Why is immunity so important? It’s a team challenge. No way. They have to make a menu for a party. The menu has to celebrate Singapore’s local cuisine. There will be one team, to make up one cohesive menu. Dana Cowin is throwing the party, and there will be 80 people ordering. They get $200 to buy spices and dry goods. I guess proteins are provided.

Back at the Hilton everyone looks around their swank rooms and drinks champagne. Everyone gets a book, I guess to write down their dishes and shopping lists. Everyone decides on what they want, and Kelly asks if they need more than 4 dishes. Ed says he doesn’t think so. That’s a poor choice. They’re worried about the time, though, because the dishes have to be made to order. Ed only wants to make one dish, but he’s immune, so everyone else should remember that. But for some reason they all agree to each do one dish. (Kmanpat: “I’d only do four dishes. I’d rather do 4 dishes well, than 10 mediocre ones.”) Yeah, that’s true. Angelo tries to threaten Ed that he can’t pull them down. If each person does one thing, then other people can’t pull them down, right? Everyone agrees their menu will have 4 dishes on it.

In the morning everyone sits around and makes shopping lists, I guess. Kevin says he brought some vinegar from home, a whole bottle, and the others ask him for some. He makes a snide comment about “oh, are you all sharing? Because I thought we were competing”. Eh…such a minor thing. Plus, your budget is for your whole team so you might as well share your things with them. Ed steals some jam from the breakfast table to use later. Angelo is joking about cilantro salad. Ed still wants to kick his ass.

They found them some shopkeepers who know English so they can shop. Ed finds a random box that looks cool and appears to have plantains in it. He decides he wants to make a second dish for something extra. He seems to hide it. Angelo has convinced himself that having immunity makes you have less passion so he’s fine with Ed having immunity. Ed reveals that he has a learning disability so this is for all the people who told him he was an idiot.

They only have one hour to prep. Wow. The kitchen has proteins and vegetables and stuff like that. Angelo is talking to himself and flailing. He’s making lamb tartare with rambutan ceviche and curry oil. Ed jokes around a bit, Angelo bitches at him, and then Ed is like, I’m glad I have immunity. Angelo calls him an asshole. Hey, what happened to “I have more passion because I don’t have immunity”? Ed tells Angelo not to touch him. Ed is doing sweet and sour pork with crispy rice and potato cake, and gai lan. Gai lan is Chinese broccoli, I think. Kevin reminds us that they all agreed to only make one dish. He is making “clam chowder with flavors of southeastern Asia“. That’s what the chyron said. Kelly is cooking a variation of fish head curry: seared prawns, spicy red coconut curry, and crispy prawn heads.

Tom time! He’s shown up halfway through prep time to berate them for not making more dishes. He asks if they think four dishes is enough. Ed grins and says he’s planned for two dishes all along. Oh, Ed. That was a dirty trick. I like you but…that was kind of low. Everyone else looks pissed. Tom says he thinks they should all do two dishes each. They all agree and Tom leaves them to flail.

Ed is trying to joke, when he probably should shut up, and says “That was predictable, huh?” The response is cursing. It makes the whole group look bad. Kevin comes up with congee with egg, and tapioca instead of rice. Kelly can’t get a can open. She’s going to make chilled cucumber yogurt soup. Ed says they should have known this is the time to knock it out of the park. Angelo flails and decides to make a shrimp broth in a wok. He is walking to the cooler when he notices there is blood on the floor. And we’re talking a lot of blood. Kelly’s cut herself badly. Oh, so much sweating and flailing. Kelly can’t even work the plastic wrap.

Commercial interlude: some night they were there, they find some person with a big horse trough or a fountain or something and fishing poles for prawn fishing. Huh? You can do that just randomly on the street? I wanna do that! Kevin, for a chef, is strangely reluctant to touch live prawns. Kelly even had to bait his hook. Oh, that sounds bad.

Everyone gets ready for service. They have 90 minutes to cook today. Kelly says everyone has to work together, but they don’t know how they’re going to expedite anything and they haven’t met the waitstaff. Kevin’s egg for his congee is going to be a “63-degree” egg, which means that the yolk and the white are barely cooked…or perfectly cooked? I can’t find good information about it. Anyway, it involves the immersion circulator. Ed’s being a smartass. He says he’s sarcastic, and it makes people think he’s a douchebag, but if it’s Angelo, he’s probably really being a douchebag. The waiters show up, and Ed talks to them and gets an expediter and stuff like that. Ed is done early so he’s helping Kevin open cockles.

Orders start coming in. Everyone is cooking last minute, yelling at waiters, telling waiters to go…it seems to be chaos. Tom pretends he is ordering for the table, which is stupid. We all know you’re tasting everything. They can’t get their stuff together to serve their food at the same time. Angelo is freaking out because the waiters aren’t taking his food out fast enough.

Kelly: chilled cucumber-yogurt soup with bitter melon salad. It’s acidic but it’s nicely done and balanced. Kevin’s clam chowder does not get explained any more than it was. Oh, it has cockles in it. Angelo: spicy shrimp broth with ginger and prawn dumplings. It’s refined. They liked Kevin’s dish too. Angelo’s lamb tartare turned out well. Ed’s sweet and sour pork makes someone say “yummy!” so that’s pretty impressive. Someone is writing tickets in Chinese. Nice. Kevin: 63 degree farm egg, tapioca pearls, and radish condiment. It’s a play off congee, which is rice pudding. The egg turned out properly. Kelly’s prawns and curry are a hit. Ed: banana fritters with red chile paste. The judges all love them. They want a giant pile with ice cream. Oh, that would be good. The chefs get to come out for applause and recognition.

UGH I just noticed this is an extended episode. No wonder I’m tired already. Judges’ table. Angelo claims to have forgotten he was competing. Tom tells them it was the best food they’ve had all season. Angelo has never done a lamb tartare before, but he wanted to challenge himself. His flavors were bold, but his prawn broth had a little too much body and was more like a sauce. Kelly’s soup was wonderful, but her fish was a little mishandled and she should have gone for the spiciness she usually backs down on. Ed’s dishes were “tastealicious” according to Gail. Seetoh wishes he had fried his rice cake to make it puffy. Tom says that the fritters were perfect stoner food and that is a compliment. No one has anything bad to say about the fritters. Kevin’s chowder was great, and the tapioca congee was a great risk that paid off. But Seetoh wishes there was texture, something crunchy.

The Stew Room is full of people deciding they are the ones going home. Except for Ed. The judges are pleased that Ed worked hard and didn’t slack off. Kelly’s shrimp didn’t stand out, but the guava salad did. There was fish in her cucumber soup (how did I miss that?) and it was a problem. However Gail would pick her soup over Angelo’s soup. The tartare was very well done. They really like Kevin’s dishes, although his tapioca would have benefited from some added elements.

The winner is Ed. Good for him! Tom praises everyone else, and then Padma sends Kelly home. Angelo cries. She says the competition was much tougher than she thought. She’s disappointed, but thankful for what she has at home.

Manly hugs and backslapping. Everyone is thrilled. Padma makes the three of them come back to Judges’ table right now. Oo.

Next week: Ilan, Mike V., and Hung are waiting for our chefs. Man, you couldn’t get someone other than Ilan? Angelo is sick and in bed. Like, getting a shot in the ass sick.


Anonymous said...

Another great post - Thanks!

Anonymous said...

leave Ilan alone!

Anonymous said...

I love reading your recaps! Though I must say I don't get why everyone hates on Ilan. Overall, he actually did pretty well his season with two wins, one high ranking, and only two bottom ranking ones. I don't think he can touch some of the other winners (Hung, MVolt, Stephanie, Harold, and any winner that wasn't Hosea come to mine), but he really didn't do that poorly.