Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Top Chef 11/2/11--"Everything's Bigger in Texas" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: It feels like forever since we’ve had a regular season of plain ol’ Top Chef, doesn’t it? Between All-Stars and Desserts, I mean. Not that I’m complaining, because All-Stars was a very good season. Did you know Spike thought he could compete on “The Next Iron Chef” on a season subtitled “Super Chefs”? Against people like Marcus Samuelsson and Anne Burrell? He was able to pick pairs based on the luck of the draw, placed himself with Marcus, and promptly lost, forcing him to cook head-to-head against Marcus. Spike never had a chance. In other news, 29 contestants, WTF? (click for more)

So I thought I should go to the website and look at bios, and also so I could have a reference. But not one contestant bio is listed. We begin with Padma talking about how successful Top Chef winners are, and then she says that contestants must qualify to be one of 16 “finalists” or whatever. So we’ll have groups and then some people qualify from the groups? And THEN the show starts? Why did you take the one part of Masters that everyone hated and jam it onto this show? Hugh Acheson and Emeril are judges this season. Now I have to watch this randomness full of people I won’t see again after this week. Why are all my reality shows changing formats and making themselves worse?

Padma waits for everyone at the Alamo. Chris gets the first sound bite of the season and he wastes it drooling over Padma. Chaz knows something’s up based on how many contestants are standing there with him. Boo, there’s more than one Chris. Oh well. Tyler Stone made his casting video like James Bond. He irritates me on sight. I don’t know. There will be three groups, each group will compete in one challenge. If you excel in your test, you can earn your place in the house.

Everyone goes to the Top Chef kitchen. I think it’s everyone. No, it’s only one group. There’s a whole pig, and Emeril and Tom. Chris Jones says “Bam” in his confessional. Sigh.

Qualifying challenge, group 1. Uh…Tom says introduce yourselves? I can’t hit all these people. Everyone brags on themselves. Chris Jones and his friend are chefs at Moto, which does molecular gastronomy. Someone works for Joel Robuchon. There seem to be several people from Chicago. Tom holds up the official chef’s jacket. They must each create a dish using one cut of meat from the pig. Ten contestants, ten cuts of meat. So then if each group has ten people, that’s 30 contestants, but all the commercials say 29. Did someone quit? Anyway, the pig has been partially butchered, but some pieces have multiple cuts so they’ll have to figure it out. Emeril has to have his lines dubbed in. The chefs will serve in three groups, everyone gets an hour to cook. Tom and Emeril will wander and judge them as they cook.

Everyone starts talking at once because of course everyone is used to getting their way. Grayson takes tenderloin because she thinks it will be the quickest to cook. Once the cuts are divvied up, now they have to finish butchering the pig so everyone can get their meat. Tyler is a personal chef, and has never done any butchering on his own, but of course he thinks he can totally do it perfectly. Now you see why I didn’t like him on sight. Tom and Emeril stand behind him, hands to chins, watching. Grayson left her tenderloin to others to cut up. Actually…I don’t think anyone knows what they’re doing. Except Chris Jones. Molly, who is the executive chef on a cruise ship, is making soup from the cheeks, and she seems to have it together. Simon wanted whatever Tyler ended up with, and it sounds like he knows how to butcher the pig, so he’s pissed. Tyler is behind and this screws everyone. Like Grayson, who is discovering that he has no freaking idea what he‘s doing or what the tenderloin or possibly what all the cuts are called. It’s cut in half, and in the end this poor girl has like, a piece of meat the size of a bratwurst. Tom basically tells Tyler he’s ruined Grayson’s dish and also his own, there is no way it will get through this round, and he should just go home now. Harsh, but fair. Emeril got in on it too, a little bit. Tyler should be able to cut up a piece of a pig, at least more competently that he did. Tyler, to further our image of him, does not care one bit that he ruined someone else’s cut of meat. When Tom tells him to go home right now, he says Tom should give him a chance. Tom is like, “Uh…no”. And Tom was serious. He’s out. Tyler says its’ a bad decision because they couldn’t taste his “expertly cooked pork chop”. But he’s still going to the top. Yeah, the top of the list of losers! Zing!

Everyone freaks out. Tom asks Grayson why she let Tyler destroy her cut of pork, and she says she wanted time to get started. Bad assumption. Tom says her tenderloin is “fucked up” (actual quote) and that this is a good first lesson: never trust anyone. She’s stuffing the tenderloin with mushrooms to stretch it. Sarah is making ravioli with pig skin. Simon taught himself to cook. Heather put too much salt in her grits. Richie, who works under Chris Jones (not like that, pervs) tells us that he has a “salty palate” and that Chris keeps him in check. That sentence did not get any better. He also has a real Mohawk with curly hair. Many people run out of time and get frantic. Colin pours soup, but it splatters everywhere and he doesn’t have time to clean the plates. They look terrible.

When the first group serves, poor Colin makes up some story about a foamer or something. Tom and Emeril send him home without even tasting his food. They’re really harsh this season, or at least right now they are. I like it. Colin knows he should have watched the time. Padma lays down the rules: majority rules in all decisions. However, she says “if we agree” they should be in, they’re in, but “if two of us” think they should go home, then they go home. The third option is if they’re undecided, in which case they are on the bubble and have to compete in one more challenge. Like a cookoff.

Chris J.: caramel apple stuffed with braised pork belly and sweet applesauce. It’s a half an apple, stuffed with pork and placed cut side down on the plate, drizzled with caramel. And candied peanuts. Sarah: pig skin ravioli. Tom liked Chris’s dish and votes him in. Emeril agrees, so he’s in. Sarah pulled off a great dish with pig skin, a difficult ingredient. They pass her through also.

Grayson doesn’t have enough pork, but there’s nothing she can do about it. Molly: smoked sweet potato soup with pork cheek and tequila cilantro lime cream. Grayson: haricot vert with toasted hazelnuts and mushroom stuffed tenderloin. Molly had a good soup, but there wasn’t enough pork cheek. Tom is undecided and Emeril says something about how this dish wasn’t great, but he’d like to see her cook again. So she’s on the bubble. Is Padma ever going to talk? Grayson gets stuck on the bubble too, but I think in her case that’s the best she could hope for, after Tyler screwed her. Another chance to prove herself.

Nyesha: Tex-Mex ravioli with pork shoulder, roasted corn and pepita salsa. Richie: onion soup with braised and crispy pig ears, pickled shallots and frozen parsley oil powder. Simon: ham roulade stuffed with fig confit and goat cheese. Heather: maple and citrus glazed baby back ribs, with bacon, corn, and blue cheese grits. Nyesha had an incredibly balanced dish, and Padma finally says something and praises her also. Tom says “I guess that’s that” which makes it sound like he doesn’t agree. But majority rules, so Nyesha is in. Heather’s dish was satisfying and the flavors were comforting. She’s in. And then girl says she’s almost 40 and she doesn’t look it so good for her. Simon’s ham was overcooked and dry, so they send him home. Richie admits to his salty palate, and Tom agrees that his dish is almost too salty, but it’s also well thought out and has depth. Richie is in. So that’s 5 people who have made it through, and two on the bubble. And there are still 20 more people who haven’t competed yet.

The five who are in get to go to the Top Chef house to scope it out and be impressed. It seems that of the people that served with you, you know who made it and who didn’t, but if you didn’t serve with someone, you wouldn’t know they made it through until they got to the house.

BOO they’re going to go ahead and do another Qualifying Challenge. Now I have to learn ten new names. This time Gail is there instead of Emeril. They go through the same “introduce yourself” spiel as the last time. This group gets a whole tableful of different ingredients. As a group, they must agree on one ingredient. Then everyone has to make a dish using that same ingredient. Still one hour to cook.

This group seems kind of quiet, but they have a hard time making a decision. Eventually they decide on rabbit. Yum. I love rabbit. Whitney tells us Hugh is one of her mentors. Really? Interesting. Edward is Korean, and he thinks winning Top Chef will make his parents proud of him, as in Korean culture chefs are not highly regarded. Chuy says that his mom used to raise rabbits. His sister would name them so they never told her when they ate one for dinner. Chris C. is making a duo. Awesome. He compares himself to Blais. Ty-Lor (really) has a very diverse cooking background. Edward can’t use the vacuum machine and needs help. In the end he gives up on the vacuum. Nina, who is a sous chef and so appears to be outclassed, gets the third degree from Tom about whether or not she can keep up. She seems pretty confident. Keith has been in prison for selling drugs, but while he was there he discovered cooking was important to him and it gave him a focus. Dakota is putting chocolate with rabbit. Nina completely runs out of time and doesn’t finish plating. As in, doesn’t put her rabbit on the plate. Which is too bad because the battered and fried pieces look delicious.

Nina is quickly sent home. Whitney: rabbit sugo with tomatoes, shallots, asparagus, and bacon. A real sugo is a sauce that’s simmered all day long. Keith: herb-seared tenderloin, chicken fried rabbit, Yukon potato hash, braised rabbit confit. Edward: butter poached rabbit with butternut squash puree. Whitney took a different approach, and it was well cooked, so she makes it through. Keith perfectly cooked his confit, and the loin too. He makes it through. Tom makes a joke about the size of his coat, as Keith is a big man, but so is Tom so it’s not so bad, I guess. Sadly Edward did not cook his rabbit enough, but Tom and Gail are intrigued so he’s on the bubble. He goes back to the Stew Room where those poor girls are STILL sitting there.

Janine: rabbit nugget, rabbit rack, and rabbit loin saltimbocca with mushroom hash. There is a sauce somewhere that didn’t make the plate. Chuy: adobo-marinated rabbit loin with cashew pipian (like a mole with pumpkin seeds) and grilled zucchini. Chris C.: duo of rabbit--confit leg and butter seared loin with carrot polenta. Ty-Lor: confit rabbit leg with pickled cucumber and tomatoes in fish sauce. Dakota: roast rabbit crepinettes with “cocoa vinegar” bulgur wheat and vanilla jus. Dakota’s rabbit was well balanced, and apparently the cocoa worked because she is in. Ty-Lor had good flavors and everyone enjoyed the dish. He’s made it, which is good because now I can figure out how to capitalize his name. Chris C. cooked his rabbit the best out of everyone tonight, so he is in also. Janine had some good flavors, but Tom says she can do better than she did, so she’s on the bubble.

Commercial interlude: the poor people in the Stew Room try to figure out why they’re stuck there, and Janine comes up with “we don’t have any visible tattoos”. So she draws one on herself in purple sharpie.

Chuy is the last one left. Tom likes how the heat in his dish builds, and in the end he is passed through. Padma says this is the 11th spot, which means that out of the last ten contestants, plus the four on the bubble, there are five spots. Tom’s blog says maybe the people on the bubble will not have any spots left to compete for. This group also goes to the house to see who is there. Ty-Lor knows Heather as they worked together.

Next week: the final group, plus the group on the bubble. Hugh shows up. I didn’t really like him before, and I think as a judge he defaults towards “jerk” too much.

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