Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Top Chef 10/2/13--"Soiree in the Swamp" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: there was actually a decent season, culminating in Kristen becoming the second female Top Chef which is pretty cool. I liked the “Iron Chef”-style finale, but apparently no one else did so that won’t be happening again. Also there’s some competition online? “Padma’s Picks”? I guess some people were competing for the last spot on the show and Padma got to pick. I haven’t watched any of them, because I tried to watch the first one and I made it about 3 minutes in before I got bored. Did anyone watch them? Were they worth it? (click for more)

Padma voiceovers that this will be really tough, especially because everyone has accolades and awards already. Remember when people were line cooks? And they could do reasonably well? Yeah. Anyway, many stereotypically establishing shots of New Orleans, like a street car and beignets. Sara labels herself a rockabilly and namedrops Wolfgang. The house where they are staying is awesome. Lots of shots of people sightseeing and walking around, and then a shot of the bedrooms with bunk beds. Come on Bravo. You couldn’t step it up a little? Jason claims to have been voted “Philly’s Sexiest Chef”. I’d buy that. He’s hot. Of course he has to ruin it by saying everyone thinks he’s a douchebag. Do most people think that when they see a hot guy? Or do they think that because you’re a douchebag? He knows Nick and those two give each other crap. Nick tells us he’s better. Janine (who is Australian) drops this wisdom: “The fact that I’m not so ugly, usually it’s something that I have to get people to overcome and respect me for my skills.” So, everyone has to overcome your beauty. Gotcha. Bene says he could be “the first top gay chef”. Then he realizes what he just said and starts laughing. Heh. If he looks familiar that’s because he was a sous chef on the season of “Top Chef: Masters” that was just on. Shirley grew up in Beijing but has worked for Thomas Keller and Jose Andres. She talks a lot. Justin is the local boy. Carlos has a Michelin star. Why is he even here on a TV show?

Padma enters and everyone starts freaking out. Shit just got real! Heh. Everyone knows if Padma and Tom bothered to show up they must be doing something. Tom needs a shave. Blah blah, New Orleans has a lot of food history, everyone is talented, etc. No Quickfire today. They will be cooking in the swamp! Yay! Everyone will have to make a dish highlighting a local delicacy. Tom throws beads to everyone and no one thinks about it before catching them. So everyone’s beads have an animal on them, which is what they’ll be cooking. Two hours today, two hours tomorrow in the swamp. 1oo guests invited by “an exclusive dining society”. All the guests will hand out beads and the top 3 chefs (with the most beads) can win. Bottom three are up for elimination. Then Padma talks about her “Padma’s Picks” thing. Michael and Justin are the two who won those two spots. They have immunity since they’ve already competed to get there. Nice! Michael says that he is confident, not cocky. Yeah.

Everyone splits up to get their proteins and then Whole Foods. The proteins seem to be alligator (two cars worth), turtle, and frog legs. Michael talks a lot. Bene had a pet turtle once, just like Fabio. Hee. Travis complains they don’t have fish sauce at Whole Foods. That does seem weird. He says he only dates Asian men. Hey, Kmanpat isn’t the only one. (Kmanpat: *epic eye roll*). Carrie grew up in the Midwest and is nervous about the talent level.

Back in the kitchen everyone talks about putting on the official Top Chef jacket. Stephanie was cut from last season, right in the first episode. So she’s out to prove something, I guess. Someone cuts themselves. That was quick, usually it takes longer than 15 minutes for someone to hurt themselves. During the running around Ramon tells Carlos he added mushrooms to one of Carlos’s pots of butter. Seriously? That sucks. Carlos stays pretty calm about it. Jason (who is still wearing shorts in the kitchen, which is just asking for trouble) slips? Maybe? He eats it, anyway, but seems to be fine. There is a ton of frantic prepping and working. The people with frog legs have to clean and prep 20 pounds each, it seems like. Aaron interviews that he was a drummer in a band, until he realized he wasn’t ever going to be famous. He has no plan for his dish, aside from that he’s going to cook his turtle tomorrow. That’s not a cocky brag, that’s a chef freaking out. Michael says “I know how they like it down here”. Carlos is from Mexico and came here illegally. They don’t quite say he’s not still here illegally. Nina is from Saint Lucia and is the daughter of the prime minister who gained independence for Saint Lucia from Britain. What? What are you doing here? I guess I don’t get why some of these people are spending time on a basic cable competition reality show.

Janine is still wearing shorts and sandals. Aaron interviews that this isn’t how you are professional. Seriously. Bret also makes a sexist comment. I get that they should not just think of her as a hot blonde, but that would be a lot easier if she was dressed like a chef.

Tom Time! He appears like, right after Jason cuts himself, and points that out. Heh. So immediately that’s his impression of Jason. Sara works in the airport to bring “real food” to the airport. She is waiting to run into Wolfgang (her former boss) on this show. Heh, that’s a good call. Tom chuckles and says probably but not today anyway. Carrie dodges Tom as much as possible, until he corners her to ask about her frog legs. She freaks out about Tom. Get used to it girl. Patty is David Burke’s sous chef, which is unusual for this show now. Pretty much everyone else is an executive chef. She only has five or six roulades so she’s behind and thinking about changing her dish. Ramon is cooking turtle soup with a Thai flavor. He’s a boxer? OK, he’s a boxer. The dashi he’s making is hot (temperature-wise), and he hasn’t left enough time to cool it properly so he’s just throwing ice in there and hoping it works. The cooling is important because you can get bacteria and make everyone sick, so I get the ice, but why didn’t you find some way to put the ice in baggies or something?

The next morning everyone moans and groans about getting up, except for Carlos, who is praying. He says he was at a low point, and after praying about it things improved so now he prays every morning. The tourism board apparently left a huge gift basket for everyone. And then Emeril walks in with beignets. Shirley is starstruck so she shoves food in her face to avoid talking. Emeril remembers Stephanie, or at least the producers reminded him they’ve met. He gives some vague advice and bails.

The “swamp” is not really wet but it is outside and there is no actual kitchen. All of the equipment is in a giant pile so everyone has to work together to set up. Finally cooking gets started. I notice someone calls out an hour and 45 minutes, so either setting up everything only took 15 minutes or they didn’t count set-up against the prep time. Sara is pretty uncomfortable because she’s from Minnesota and it’s damn hot. Patty doesn’t have enough done, so she’s making a sauce instead? She’s’ starting from scratch. Nina is afraid her curry is too spicy so she makes a chutney. Cut to a big pontoon boat with everyone on it, including Curtis Stone, Tom, Padma, and Emeril. Tom makes a crack about “The Swamp Queen” and Padma quickly says “I am. I am the Swamp Queen.” Heh. Jason goes around offering help because he’s finished early. “I thought this was supposed to be hard.” Yeah, see, that’s why everyone thinks you’re a douchebag.

Bene: turtle croquette with cauliflower puree and shitake mushrooms. Nina: curried turtle meatball, chayote slaw and chutney with raisins. Janine flirts with Curtis a little bit, which I can’t really blame her for. Bacon and alligator confit with tomato jam and lemon frisee. Aaron: pickled eggplant with turtle confit, and turtle ragout with tagliatelle pasta. Shirley: turtle soup with goji berry and Chinese broth. She says she stole the recipe from her mother-in-law.

Carrie: poached frog legs with oyster emulsion and cold zucchini salad. Carlos: alligator rillettes with fennel and pickled red onion relish. Michael: fried alligator with sauce piquant and slaw. Sauce piquant is a “highly seasoned stew”, sayeth the internet. Sara: deep fried alligator with smoked chilis, sweet and sour sauce, and pickled vegetables. Padma says “Holy shit that’s hot”. So you know it’s pretty bad.

Commercial interlude: it’s really hot in the swamp. Shirley doesn’t like to sweat and also there are too many mosquitos. Carrie can see actual live alligators.

Ramon: braised turtle with Thai dashi. Patty: Cajun style alligator with yucca puree. Jason: frog leg croquette with roasted eggplant and fennel salad, and pickled cherry puree. Tom asks him “If you had this dish without knowing there’s frog legs in it, could you tell there were frog legs?” Jason asks if he’s not happy with the dish, and Tom just says “You’ll find out.” I do love Sassy Tom. Stephanie: frog leg butter confit with spinach and watercress puree. Ramon has like, two beads. Aww.

So…we only see dishes from 13 people? OK. The Stew Room appears to have an actual counter which is pretty swank. Usually they are stuck in the back storeroom. There’s also a TV where the contestants can watch Judges’ Table. Really? Damn. Is this going to end up like “The Apprentice”?

The crowds liked Nina’s curry, and Sara even though her dish was super spicy. Carrie got high scores so she’s relieved. Tom liked Shirley’s dish. Janine did well, and how many people are we going to talk about here? The bottom: Aaron (tough pasta), Patty (alligator not treated well), Carlos (soggy toast), Ramon (the Thai flavors didn’t come through), and Bene (poorly cooked mushrooms).  

Padma collects Carrie, Nina, and Sara. Sara says they’re “down South” so of course she brought the heat. Nina made a small meatball to keep the turtle tender, and that worked. Carrie’s frog legs were chilled, which is unusual but it was tender and delicious and everyone liked it. Curtis tells Nina she’s the winner. I just noticed the top three were all women. Nice.

Patty, Aaron, and Ramon enter to the Loser Gong. Ah, Loser Gong. I missed you and wish you were on my other shows. However I don’t miss that thing they started to do last season, with the zooming and quick smash cuts to the different contestants. Aaron thought pasta but didn’t think about where he’d be or the logistics of making pasta and serving a ton of people. Tom of course thinks that you should always make people wait if your food would be better cooked in small batches (as opposed to making it ahead of time to save time). Curtis disagrees and says maybe he shouldn’t have made pasta at all. Ramon’s dashi didn’t have all the flavors he promised. Too bland. He explains to them about adding ice to cool down the dashi, and the look of horror on Tom’s face is hysterical. You’d think he said he used expired dairy products. He didn’t have time to reduce it on site. Patty says she tried her roulade but that didn’t work so she just ended up with pounded-out alligator. She’s crying, and Tom says he’s surprised she even got a dish out. If she was a home cook, that would be one thing. But for all of them, this competition is too high-level. See, in the first or second season this wouldn’t have been horrible. No one made anything inedible.

The Stew Room offers Patty wine. Aaron couldn’t execute his dish, so I guess they grade that higher because the concept was good. Patty had problems with her protein and seems lost. They cannot believe Ramon put ice in his dashi. Like, I get it, you need to get it cold, but there are much better ways to do it.

Tom tells the bottom three that little things threw all of them. Yeah, these problems seem pretty minor compared to previous seasons. Ramon is out. Tom tells him he’s got Last Chance Kitchen (UGH) so he can get back. I don’t like Last Chance Kitchen, but fine. Ramon doesn’t think he should be out already.

This season: lots of sweating, Hugh, Hubert Keller, lots of drunk people. College students, apparently separate from the previous drunk people. Dumpster diving. Like, the guy says they can only use things found in dumpsters. Really, Top Chef? That might be your shark. John Besh (of course), and Gail. Fighting, of course.

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