Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Top Chef 10/16/13--"Commander's Palace" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the Quickfire involved making gumbo, which most people are not familiar with so we ended up with a lot of fusion dishes. However Carrie made a fusion gumbo and won, so what do I know? Jason was one of the ones on the bottom and cursed about it. The Elimination challenge involved being in a food truck and making lunch for Habitat for Humanity volunteers. For some reason one team pre-made a bunch of their food, so it suffered. I’m not sure why because they did it so they could schmooze everyone, but the judges didn’t say the volunteers were voting or anything. Jason’s dish suffered the worst so he was sent home. Carrie won again because the dough for her team’s empanadas was perfect. (click for more)

The Stew Room discusses how Jason clearly screwed up and maybe the teams should have had leaders so someone would have told him not to be an idiot. Yeah, I’m sure that would have gone over well.

In the morning Louis gets the first phone call home. He talks about setting a good example for his son. That’s about all that happens.

Padma and Emeril greet everyone and then welcome Dana Cowin. For some reason I spot Carrie mouthing her name along with Padma, because she knows who is coming out based on the credentials. It’s really funny. This Quickfire is about food trends. Specifically the unhealthy relationship some chefs have with being trendy. Dana picked the ones she hates the most: eggs (specifically putting eggs on top of everything), kale (which you only ever see as kale salad or kale chips), smoked, and bacon (ha!). You must convince Dana these trends are not horrible. Winner gets immunity; loser goes home. Stephanie explains how everyone realized this was important. Clearly.

30 minutes. Janine can’t get the scallops she wants so she’s using bone-in pork loin. Louis has some dishes with smoke at his restaurant so he’s really excited to show off. Michael has decided to have a ridiculous amount of smoke, without covering his pan so he’s pissing off everyone around him. Shirley is making shirred eggs which are delicious. Stephanie is using candied bacon in a sweet potato pasta dish. It sounds fantastic, but somehow this is “forward thinking”. Or I guess using the bacon fat to coat the pasta is forward thinking? Bret is still making kale salad, and gazpacho, but somehow this is not kale salad because it’s just a tiny bit on top. Aaron is frying his kale and then putting Asian sauce on it. Tina decides to make scotch eggs. Nice. Janine’s pork is rare, of course, because she only had half an hour. There is a lot of cursing from various people. Aaron says if he thinks his dish is salty, it’s way too salty.

Nicholas: quail egg, scallop, truffle juice, and duck egg vinaigrette. Nina: quail egg on confit potatoes with leek and potato puree. Carrie: soft boiled eggs with chili flakes and lemon zest on green beans. It’s all chopped and saucy looking. Shirley: rice congee and with shirred egg, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Sara: tuna tataki with arbol chili vinaigrette. She had “smoked” as her trend. Michael: cold-smoked oysters with mignonette. He’s all, “Let’s see if you can guess what my choice was” which is really obnoxious. He then says “smoke” so why bother? Janine: roasted pork loin with chipotle smoked caramelized apples. Aaron: smoked trout with lime and olive oil vinaigrette.

Bene: seared tuna in bacon with honey, vinegar, jalapenos, and corn. Brian: bacon with scallop, ginger, honey and sugar snap peas. Travis: bacon pho broth with seared scallop and sweet carrot puree. Carlos: bacon and halibut with apples, tomatoes, avocados, and bacon vinaigrette. Stephanie: pasta with lightly candied bacon and flash fried sweet potatoes. Delicious.

Patty: kale with toasted garlic, chili flakes, and shaved parmesan. Justin: kale steamed with lemon, anchovy syrup, and parmesan. Aaron: fried kale dredged in soy, mirin, rice vinegar, and yuzu sauce. Bret: kale juice and gazpacho with kale salad.

Dana really liked Nina’s dish, because it was simple with great flavor. Shirley’s dish was homey but a masterpiece. Stephanie would make Dana forget how much she is tired of bacon. The winner is Shirley. She jumps up and down. Aww. Now for the bottom. Bret made kale salad which he was specifically told not to do (duh). Aaron’s was too salty, but he already knew that. Louis didn’t put enough smoke into his dish. Aaron is sent home. He seems really upset he was eliminated early and that his boss will be mad and it’s really weird. It’s fine. Bret says he knows where Aaron works so he’s shocked to see him sent home, but that doesn’t make sense. Anyone can go home any time.

The Elimination challenge will involve cooking at Commander’s Palace. Tonight they’ll eat there to get a feel for the place. Sara says a lot of really important chefs have come through there. Once there, everyone discusses the challenge and what it might be. The executive chef comes out to greet them, and tells them they’ll be recreating some of the dishes they’ll be tasting tonight. They must be exactly the same in taste and presentation. So it’s like the challenge they had at Eric Ripert’s restaurant, only they’re telling them upfront instead of after the meal. The first dish up is shrimp and Tasso Henican. Tasso is a kind of ham. It’s shrimp stuffed with ham served on pepper jelly. But I don’t think they told them about the pepper jelly. Shirley says she is a “shadow chef”, which is a chef that does exactly this all the time: recreating dishes. Second dish is black skillet seared trout, with a whole crawfish on top. The chef says this dish was made by Paul Prudhomme. Next is veal chop Tchoupitoulas, created by Emeril. Tchoupitoulas is a street in New Orleans, it’s not a spice or something. Last is dessert: strawberry trio. It’s strawberry shortcake, a beignet, and a cocktail. They’ll cook in the groups they’re seated in (everyone is at a table of 4). And just to add to the pressure, Emeril and Paul Prudhomme will be tasting their food also. Everyone freaks out.

The next day everyone puts on their chef jackets and Justin says it would be a terrible time to go home, cooking these famous dishes in his hometown. Nina is overwhelmed. There’s a chef hovering, glaring at them. Travis is nervous. The people who have the trout dish have decided to work as a team to divide up the work. Janine is making all the potatoes, Carlos is prepping all vegetables, Nick the crawfish, and Louis is doing all the seasoning. They’re going to all cook on their own, but I guess share the prep. Louis has to make a crab boil spice, basically, and he grew up in California so his knowledge comes from the internet. He doesn’t think it’s going well. Stephanie sort of knows how to make biscuits, in that she has a ratio of flour to liquid to fat, but she has no idea other than that. Patty is trying to be perfect. Bret is waiting to grill, mostly because there is no grill space for him anyway. Upstairs the famous people are gathering. Hugh is here which is fun. The owner of the place is telling everyone about the secret door that captains could use to get into the restaurant and dine with their mistresses. Nina gets flustered and grabs Michael’s plates. I guess they have names on them. Anyway, as he is taking his plates back, he dumps her okra out just onto the counter. Ass. “It’s part of the game.” You’re still an ass.

The shrimp and Tasso is up first. Bene’s sauce is the closest, although it looks lighter than the original. Michael’s looks exactly the same but maybe the shrimp is overcooked. Travis’s sauce is too thin and the shrimp is not cooked well. Nina’s presentation is not the same, but the shrimp are perfect.

There is minor drama about the plating of the trout course. Hugh and Tom both notice everything is underseasoned. All the contestants’ dishes. Janine’s is the best in terms of cooking, and it all seems to come together. Nicholas’s fish is uneven, and it’s way underseasoned. Louis’s is overcooked and bland. Carlos actually seems to have burned his fish. Padma does cut them some slack because they have to recreate a dish for the person who invented it.

Veal chop. Shirley yells a lot about yellow beets that she thinks were stolen. Someone stole her beets. Peagate 2.0. I don’t think it’s ever really resolved. Mostly there’s a lot of yelling and someone finds a pot and her insistence that she used a bigger pot and whatever. Bret’s decision to wait to grill has screwed him because he doesn’t think his chops are rested enough. Brian’s Brussels sprouts are raw. Patty’s presentation is the closest. Shirley’s veal chops are not all good. Some are fine and some are overcooked. No mention is made of the beets. Bret’s sauce is the closest but there is no love in his meat. I’m just reporting the facts. Hugh says if they aren’t really organized and ready to go, one hour to cook is not a lot of time. Tom makes faces and eventually Hugh asks if he’s ready to roll up his sleeves and do this right now. Hee. Tom vs. Hugh cooking showdown. That would be so great.

Commercial interlude: Emeril tells a story about how his interview for Commander’s Palace lasted three months? On the phone? And they got him to agree to a three day visit and then he stayed? That didn’t make a lick of sense.

Dessert. Justin is racing around. Sara’s beignet is greasy and Padma managed to get a really messed up biscuit. Carrie did a good job. Justin also did a good job, which they decide is because he’s local. Stephanie’s drink is good, and there are some cautious opinions that her biscuit is better than the Commander’s Palace original. Then they all say this was the best course and Dana calls herself “a whipped cream whore”.

Stew Room. I still hate this “let’s make everyone watch the judges talk about everyone’s problems” thing. Also they talk about what people did well, which must be weird. Dessert was best, the shrimp were not all well-cooked, the veal overall sucked, and all the fish was underseasoned.

Stephanie, Justin, and Nina get called in first. Stephanie admits she was worried about it because she’s not a pastry chef. They talk about how much pressure there was, and then Justin wins. Nice. Sorry but there wasn’t much to say.

Louis, Carlos, and Bret are the bottom three. Louis explains how he made all the spice for the whole group, and now the judges know why that whole course wasn’t seasoned well. He also didn’t taste his dish before he plated. Tom can’t believe they all agreed to share the work. Carlos knew his skillet was too hot, but he didn’t want to lose the crust on the fish. Bret knows his veal was not cooked well. He talks about how the grill was all full, and Tom basically says he should have forced his way on there. His presentation was also sloppy.

Why is everyone always surprised when the bottom group comes back into the Stew Room and they don’t know what the decision is? They NEVER know. Don’t you people watch this show? The judges are really confused about the trout group and how no one tested the seasoning blend. Carlos burned his fish because he was so afraid to lose the crust. Somehow Bret managed to both overcook and not sear his chops. Hugh says they were steamed perfectly. Hee.

Louis’s dish was bland and not cooked properly. Carlos burned his fish. Bret didn’t sear his chop plus it was overcooked. Bret is sent home. He seems mostly OK with it. He says he understands his plate was bad and he doesn’t deserve to stay.

Next time: Vietnamese cuisine, shrimping, possibly teams, trash talking. Padma likes to be smacked in the face.

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