Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Top Chef 10/23/13--"Captain Vietnam" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: The Quickfire involved cooking for Dana Cowin and convincing her that trends are not all evil. Shirley won by making rice porridge with a shirred egg, which I would totally order if I saw it in a restaurant. Aaron’s dish ended up too salty so he was sent home. Then everyone went to Commander’s Palace to recreate classic dishes just from taste. They told them before they ate, though, which was nice. Justin made perfect beignets and won. Bret didn’t get grill space, so his chops were not cooked well and he was eliminated. (click for more)

Louis is relieved he didn’t get eliminated. He talks about getting better from his first negative review. Back at the house Nick gets today’s phone call home. He and his wife got married fast.

Emeril comes to their house with Eddie Huang. It’s really entertaining how Eddie saunters in with his Mario Batali-approved orange crocs and is like “Hey, ‘sup?” to everyone. No Quickfire today. Instead they will be working in groups of 5 to create a Vietnamese menu. Served to Vietnamese people. Carlos has never had Vietnamese. One of the dishes must highlight shrimp. Emeril divides them into teams based on how they’re standing. Travis seems confident. The rest of today is a “crash course” on the cuisine. Travis gets really cocky and says he could teach Emeril something about that.

The party bus is insane. Shirley starts throwing out ideas, although she interviews that “the group” is working. She’s the only one talking though. Michael shouts about bakeries and asking Emeril random things to show off. Nina says he’s “faker than Pamela Anderson’s breasts”. Ha! They arrive at a Vietnamese bakery to take notes and eat. This food looks so good. It’s like, bread stuffed with sausage and coconut pastries and stuff. On the way to the next place Travis wants to use romaine in lettuce wraps and he kind of intimidates Sara into agreeing. You know when someone is supposed to be the expert so they just insist they know. I wonder if this will come back to bite him in the ass.

The bus arrives at the docks so they can watch the shrimp boats being offloaded. Eddie tells them to ask the fishermen for recipes, which Shirley has no trouble doing. Everyone eats fresh shrimp which sounds great. Someone tells Michael to make a stew. Janine says she knows about Vietnamese food…because she’s worked in a Thai restaurant. Sigh. I mean, I guess it’s better than nothing. Travis says there is some dish with spicy tomato sauce and lime and Thai chili and salt. Janine interviews that she’s never had a Vietnamese dish with tomatoes (Travis of course is saying it’s traditional) but as long as their team listens to Travis and Sara they’ll be fine. Uh oh. Carlos is nervous which is making his whole team nervous.

The last stop is a noodle house for lunch. It looks so good. Shirley interviews that she wants Patty to eat as much as she can. Because it will help her? I’m not sure. Shirley is bossy. Travis is still talking about how much he knows. Like, they toast and say “cheers” and he WAITS until everyone puts their glasses back down to tell them all how to say “cheers” in Vietnamese. Sara calls him “Captain Vietnam” and tells him to bring it.

Bene does not know anything about Vietnamese food either. But we’ve heard about Carlos already more than once and this is the first Bene’s talked all episode. Each team gets $200 to shop at an Asian market. Lots of frantic shopping. Travis says Sara has grabbed things he’s already got and she doesn’t trust him and he’s not sure what is happening. Maybe you’re annoying. It’s not clear what exactly happened but they’ll probably end up missing something.

Cooking time. Two hours, looks like. The Red team’s menu: Vietnamese BBQ shrimp, beef pho with rice noodles and lettuce, raw beef salad with pickled vegetables, and lemon custard with caramelized banh mi. Banh mi is the name for the bread that the sandwiches are served on. The red team is Shirley’s team. Looks like Shirley, Justin, Patty, Carrie, and Nina. Green team is Janine, Bene, Sara, Travis, and Stephanie. Their menu is fresh gulf shrimp in spicy tomato sauce, grilled pork sausage wraps, dim sum “duo” pork and shrimp, and coconut coffee macaroon. Bene is making the tomato sauce. The third team is the Orange team because with only three teams they couldn’t pick three colors that stand out from each other. Jerks. Anyway, Orange team is Michael, Carlos, Brian, Nick, and Louis. Michael says he’s responsible for “supporting the team” and not for an actual dish. Black pepper squid with cabbage, fish head soup with pineapple and tamarind, pork belly spring rolls and dipping sauce, and beef pho. So no dessert.

Brian says he’s Korean, not Vietnamese, so he doesn’t automatically know everything, plus he cooks Peruvian mostly. The green team can’t find their lemongrass, because when they showed them arguing about shopping five minutes ago, you knew it would be important. They even show a clip about it, where it looks like they’re trying to blame it on Sara. Like, Travis said one bunch was enough and then Sara tries to say something like “take all that out”. But we don’t know what she was talking about. Justin says he has more than enough lemongrass if they would just ask for some. Offer it to them or shut up. Either you’re going to be a nice person and help them, or you’re competing and you refuse. Either way is fine just pick one.

Justin notices both he and Louis are making beef soup. Emeril and Eddie show up to do the investigating part that Tom usually does, where they bug everyone about what they’re doing. Eddie tells Bene if he needs more Vietnamese flavor in his sauce one of the owners can come put their foot in it. Hee. Then Eddie calls Travis “Captain Vietnam” which is also funny. Travis spins some BS about how the lemongrass was “lost in translation”. Sara curses at him, because why tell the judges you lost the lemongrass? Just pretend you weren’t going to use lemongrass. Travis digs himself further in the hole by saying “They don’t use it in everything” while Eddie and Emeril make faces to mock him behind his back. Eddie is like, OK, expert, and makes more faces. Can Eddie Huang come back a lot? I like him. Then Travis interviews that Eddie is Taiwanese-Chinese and only “knows a little bit of what he knows”. Also that Eddie is a douchebag. Ass. 1. You’re WHITE, and 2. It doesn’t matter what Eddie knows, what matters is your stupid cocky self bragging that you know everything and then getting called out because you don’t know everything. Emeril and Eddie tell Carlos to push his soup. But not what that means.

Carrie is feeling confident, unlike Janine, who is thinking she’s made a poor decision on how to cook the shrimp. She puts them in the deep fryer for a minute to crisp them up. Then she covered them in sauce so Justin thinks they’ll be soggy. He’s firmly in the “I’m letting everyone else fail now” camp. The judges are here, Gail and Emeril and Eddie.

Nick comes out to talk about the Orange team’s dishes. He makes sure to pair up chefs with dishes, so it will be clear Michael didn’t do a dish. I mean, he has to tell them though. The spring rolls are great; those are Brian’s. Carlos’s fish head soup has gotten worse since Emeril and Eddie were back there. It’s not sour enough. Nick’s squid is unseasoned. Louis didn’t serve all the herbs and aromatics you usually get served with pho and they miss it. Tom says this meal is making him want to go out for real Vietnamese food later.

Shirley doesn’t want to go home on the Asian food challenge. Red team time. Shirley’s BBQ shrimp has lots of sauce and bread to soak it up. Justin’s pho is way better than Louis’s. They love the BBQ shrimp, authentic or not. The beef salad tastes good, but the texture is weird. Custard presentation sucks but it tastes OK.

Eddie is busy telling the other judges about Travis and his “lost in translation” babbling and basically making sure they all know he’s full of crap. I love it. Sara gets to introduce things. The dim sum “duo” is two different fillings wrapped in rice wraps. The coconut macaroon is supposed to be a play on Vietnamese iced coffee which is a delicious thing. Travis’s pork sausage wraps are good but the sauce is terrible. Gail says you get smacked in the face by shrimp paste, to which Padma replies that she was happy to be smacked in the face by something. They discuss if lemongrass would have helped, and I think the verdict is “not enough to matter”. One of the dim sum fillings is bland. The shrimp is battered and then doused in sauce, which is cooked down like Italian tomato sauce. But it should be lighter. Also the rice sucks, which may be Sara’s fault. She was micromanaging. The macaroon is actually really nice. Gail says she’s glad she’s not on the actual Judges’ Table today.

Commercial interlude: everyone does a “plank-off”, which seems to be when everyone gets on the floor and lies on their stomach. Then you lift yourself on your elbows and toes like a pushup and you hold it there until you fail. Shirley wins.

Time to watch the judges slam people. You know, I realized another reason I don’t like it, because remember when people would come out and not know if they were top or bottom? I liked that. Louis gets slammed and the judges say the team should have made dessert instead of Carlos’s soup. Shirley and Justin did well. Stephanie did OK, but Travis screwed up the sauce, and Bene screwed up his sauce. Also the rice was bad. They show a shot of Sara after that so I guess we’re blaming her for that. Travis says they didn’t “get” his food.

The Red team is the top! Shirley’s dish had a ton of butter, because everyone on the docks said they put butter in their shrimp dishes and it worked. Nina and Carrie didn’t have a good texture on their tartar but the flavors were great. Justin gets lots of praise for his pho. I guess Patty wasn’t that great because they don’t show the judges saying anything to her. Eddie says the winner is Shirley. She hopes she’s rising again.

Green team is the bottom. Clearly. This should be good. Sara says they were excited they were going to cook “our food” and she starts crying. Already? They haven’t even said anything to you yet. Tom wonders how they could be so excited and then end up with Italian tomato sauce and shrimp. Travis says he’s had that dish in central Vietnam three times. Good for you. Tom gets offended and says if they went to Paris and said to cook Parisian food, technically you could find a McDonald’s and say you found it in Paris but seriously. Yes. Janine admits she was not confident because she has no experience. Eddie says he feels sorry for Bene and Janine because it’s like Travis saw a UFO and then told them to draw it. Hee. Bene was happy with the sauce, but it was too sweet and heavy. Janine admits she fried the shrimp again, but it meant they were overcooked. Sara says she’ll “take the bullet” for the rice, but then blames it on the rice cooker. She says they were just stupid for serving it. Stephanie’s “double-O macaroon” was in line with “the tradition of kind of janky, ratchet, Asian desserts”, according to Eddie. Oh, he needs to be on this show a lot. Tom says it’s still not that exciting. When Padma kicks them out, they all hug or whatever and she mutters “they’re all hugs now.” Heh.

Tom (and everyone probably) is convinced that Travis found an Italian dish in Vietnam and decided it was authentic. Padma thinks the rice sucked worse. Sara shouldn’t have served it. Tom argues the shrimp may have been a bigger disaster. They sort of slam the dessert but I don’t remember hearing anything from Stephanie until service so I’m guessing she’s safe.

Everyone is holding hands which makes me irritated. Janine is sent home. OK…I’m mostly OK with that. She should have been able to cook shrimp. It’s not like Bene who was listening to Travis. It wasn’t a flavor thing. Still dumb, and Travis should be out but whatever. Janine says any fry cook at Hooter’s can cook shrimp so it just wasn’t her day.

Next week: everyone’s moms? Lea Michele (whatever), Michael is sexist, costumes. I believe Hugh is dressed as Prince William. Or possibly a Disney prince.

Last Chance Kitchen: Sigh. You know, I was comparing this show to other shows I watch (*coughPROJECTRUNWAY) and I was thinking how nice it was that I couldn’t tell if the producers were fixing the outcomes. I mean, if someone says the shrimp are overcooked, I don’t know. Whereas when someone is tacky and then everyone is like “it’s so chic” then clearly that’s a problem. But as soon as they do something like this, where eliminated contestants get to compete and Tom is the only judge? The conspiracy part of my brain starts working.

We are reminded how everyone sucks. Jason, Ramon, Aaron, Bret, and Janine. Jason of course interviews that he was eliminated too soon. We remember how Kristen was eliminated for not throwing Josie under the bus, and then she won the whole thing. Tom says they are always saying “I want to cook my own food”. So they can make whatever they want in 30 minutes. One coat. Janine really wanted her shrimp to be hot, even though this overcooked them. Tom gives her crap about it. Aaron has rabbit. Jason is embarrassed to go home so early but he’s convinced he can win. Tom is just really giving everyone crap about what sent them home. Janine is having serious problems shucking oysters.

Janine: fried oysters with southern vegetables and creole mustard aioli. Bret: seared bass with ratatouille and mascarpone polenta. Ramon: grilled lemongrass prawns with kale, nori, and peach salad. Aaron: balsamic marinated rabbit leg with corn fricassee and creole tomatoes. That sounds so good. Jason: Suzuki crudo with corn, white chocolate, and yuzu nectarine. Doesn’t that just sound like something he would make? Corn and white chocolate. Tom is like, what, and he says he didn’t want to add sugar so he put white chocolate instead?

Tom says one person hit it out of the park. Bret’s polenta is gummy, because he didn’t cook it enough. Half an hour. He is kicked out. Ramon’s food is beat up so he is also out. Aaron overcorrected and this dish was bland. Out. Aaron says Top Chef has taught him he doesn’t know what he is doing. He doesn’t have his own style. In the end, Jason’s dumbass white chocolate kills him and Janine wins. Ha! Jason sulks and says he doesn’t lose ever or something. She’s got redemption and she’s ready to go.

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