Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Top Chef 12/11/13--"Like Mama Made" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: Restaurant Wars! Which I always enjoy. The people who have been winning were on one team, but of course that team crashed and burned. You can usually tell who will fail: either one team is clearly dysfunctional, or they both look sort of OK and then the “favorite” team will lose. Justin took over and was a jerk, but then Sara also failed at the front-of-house stuff. According to most sources I read she really should have made a ticket for the judges’ table, instead of just verbally telling Justin they were ready to eat. I’ve never worked in a kitchen so I don’t know. Anyway, in the end Sara was sent home for failing. Nick was a great executive chef and made a delicious dish and won. The judges also said Travis was better at FOH than Fabio, which I doubt. I mean, Fabio. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen Louis handily defeated Sara. They had to pick sous chefs and give them instructions while blindfolded. Louis was a little bit more innovative.

Justin talks about how he was afraid he was about to go home. Travis says he feels like one of the guys. Then he talks about how he’s been ostracized and how once he had a chef pull him aside and tell him gays weren’t allowed in the kitchen. Who does shit like that? Anyway, Travis says he’s really happy to be here which means his days are probably numbered. He’s made friendships that will last a lifetime. Oh yeah, he’s toast. Louis had a confessional saying exactly that the episode he was eliminated.

Hubert Keller! Nice. Ugh, product placement coffee. To be fair, it’s Dunkin Donuts coffee which is a thing people get crazy over, so at least when Padma talks about how great it is, there will be plenty of people who agree with her. They must make a dish using coffee. Winner gets immunity plus $10,000. Stephanie says all her stuff is old and crappy.

30 minutes. At least when cooking with coffee it’s not super important you have fancy brand-name coffee. Right? Plus no one is using the brand name. Also not everyone is doing dessert which is nice. Shirley wants a new air conditioner. Stephanie is making crepes and bacon jam and something sweet potato which sounds delicious. I would order that. Carlos tells us his wife makes the coffee for him, and talks about meeting her and when they started dating. Hmm, but Travis already got screen time. People run around and then Brian says he’s making risotto which is dumb. It’s a curse, but he’s just won the last two Quickfires so he’s feeling cocky. Nina feels her competition is Nick because he always thinks about everything. Carrie doesn’t have time to make crepes so she’s going to simplify them somehow. I don’t know how. Brian is out of time and is cursing a lot.

Travis: Alaskan sockeye salmon, coffee ponzu, and coffee roasted eringi mushrooms. Carrie: coffee custard with candied coffee beans and cocoa nibs. Brian: coffee risotto with Andouille sausage and sugar snap peas. Carlos: coffee and macadamia sponge cake with mascarpone coffee sauce. Nick: roasted sockeye salmon with hazelnut coffee caramel and hon-shimeh mushrooms. Hon-shimen? I can’t read my TV. That’s two mushrooms varieties that I’ve never heard of. I’m impressed. Shirley: coffee crusted tenderloin with garlic puree and coffee brown butter sauce. Stephanie: sweet potato and goat cheese coffee crepe with ham and bacon coffee jam. Holy crap that sounds delicious. The judges are non-committal but psshh. Delicious.

Brian’s risotto didn’t taste like coffee, but Hubert doesn’t say anything about uncooked rice so I guess that’s something. Nick’s was unpleasant. Oo. Shirley’s pairing with garlic was great, and Carrie’s custard was very nice and satisfying. Stephanie’s dish was surprising but all came together. Yay! I’m glad because if I was out somewhere I would have ordered that, and been really disappointed if it had sucked. Shirley is the winner! She’s about to hyperventilate.

Padma introduces the Elimination Challenge by saying going home is a good thing. Anthony Mackie comes out. He’s an actor that was in 8 Mile? Sure. I didn’t see that movie. He talks about the things he craves when he comes home after working. Today’s challenge is to make the dish you crave when you go home. $275 to shop and 2 hours today to cook. Tomorrow, they’ll have an hour to get it together. Leah Chase and her family will be there too (you’ll remember her from a previous Quickfire). The main thing to know from shopping is that Justin would use squirrel if he could, but that is not a thing they sell at Whole Foods so he’s buying chicken thighs instead.

This is a nice challenge. It’s not necessarily “Cook your heritage” or even “Cook your mom’s dishes” because it’s just whatever you like to make at home. You could use one of your own recipes that you like. I mean, my guess is the secret requirement today is “comforting”. But that means different things to different people. “Comforting” to me is sticky rice and seaweed. Actually I would make my mom’s baby back ribs recipe and sauce. Probably, assuming I made it this far and didn’t choke, which is unlikely.

Nina is making curry chicken which sounds great. She’s busting whole coconuts for coconut water. Nick is making gnocchi, or possibly gnudi. Stephanie throws her family under the bus and says they can’t cook, so she’s making mussels which is what SHE makes for THEM. Carlos wants to make some pork dish which normally takes six hours, so he has to bust out the pressure cooker. Shirley kneads dough, which apparently shakes the whole table. Stephanie asks her to try not to rock the table too much, and Shirley is like “Sure, but my next motion is also annoying.” Hee. I think everyone survives. Travis is making plum jam to go with biscuits and gravy. Oo…kay.

Tom time! Travis’s biscuits do not have buttermilk. Tom makes his “Are you SURE?” face. Shirley is hand-making noodles in a pork sauce. She tells Tom it’s like pasta Bolognese. Yum. Brian has steak and potato salad, because his dad always grilled and then mom made the rest of the meal. I hope it’s fancy. Lots of running around last minute.

Back at the house everyone smells something as they come up the stairs. Emeril broke into their house to make them dinner! Hee. The soup looks great. Brian reveals that his dad had three massive strokes last year. Aww. He starts crying and his solution is to keep on talking really fast to try to keep going. I like Brian. He’s kind of a spaz sometimes but that was genuine. After Emeril leaves everyone picks out the three things they’d pick if they had to only eat three things for the rest of their lives. Stephanie picks out mussels, bread, and cheese, which sounds pretty good. Justin picks champagne, caviar, and tacos. Heh.

Nina calls her grandmother. She’s feeling a little homesick because of the challenge. Her grandmother would take care of them when her parents were traveling. I wonder if that’s her grandmother’s curried chicken. Probably. Nick feels guilty he missed his daughter’s first steps and things like that because he was working. I always wonder about when people say things like that. You know you feel guilty that you’re not at home but you’re still here on the show. You chose to come on the show, you know? I mean, not that I don’t think he feels guilty but if he really felt super guilty he’d have stayed home, right?

One hour to prep. Justin has this one hour to make rice and he is freaking out that it might not be perfect. Brian discovers there is no grill of any kind, so he has to find a grill pan for his steaks. Travis tells us he made “tester biscuits” yesterday and they were great, but today he only has one shot. Shirley has immunity so she’s preparing to take some risks. Travis’s biscuits look fantastic, but when you break them open it looks raw. He freaks out, which seems to consist of putting his head on the counter and looking pale. Leah Chase and the judges and guests arrive. Leah says she came to the restaurant to be a waitress, but no one in the kitchen knew what was going on so that’s how she ended up in the kitchen. Carrie is trying to poach 13 eggs at once. Travis is covering the biscuits in gravy (as you do) hoping they’ll cook.

Carlos: cochinita pibil with black beans, orange pico de gallo, and corn tortilla. Brian: Korean BBQ New York strip with potato salad. Travis: biscuits with maple sage sausage gravy and sour plum jam. I don’t know if I like the idea of biscuits and gravy with jam also. The flavor of the gravy is great but the biscuits are raw. The wrong group to serve crap biscuits to. Carlos’s pork is delicious. Brian doesn’t have any charcoal flavor. Hmm, another secret requirement.

Nick is freaking out that he will run out of time. He cries in confessional, as we see footage of him crying while plating. Nick: ricotta gnudi with pancetta, peas, lemon, and parmesan. He gets choked up describing it. Shirley: Beijing noodles, fermented bean and pork sauce with pickled radish. She gives it a name but I don’t know what she said. Stephanie: mussels with spicy pickled peppers and tomatoes. And homemade focaccia. The gnudi are perfect. I think the judges are moved by Nick’s emotion. Shirley did a great job too. Tom loves the pickled peppers and mussel combination from Stephanie.

Justin is thrilled his rice turned out. Justin: Louisiana rice with chicken thigh gravy, pickled mirliton and jalapeno. I think mirliton is chayote. Carrie: creamed asparagus over toast and poached egg. Nina: curried chicken with fried bakes. “Bakes” are just fried dough, so then “fried bakes” seems redundant. Everyone raves over Carrie’s dish and the egg. Nina has great flavors but it seems everyone wants some rice. Justin’s is a little dry. But I think it still tastes good. It looks like everyone got praise except Travis, and he even got some praise.

Commercial interlude: Anthony gives Tom shit about…something involving “mechanically separated meat”. I have no idea what just happened.

No one wants to go home on a challenge where they cooked something so important to them. Video time. Everyone made delicious dishes and cooked from the heart. Carlos, Nina, Stephanie, and Carrie get praised. Stoned Padma makes a comeback when she says “I liked the mussels” in that monotone she used to do all the time. They also say Travis’s gravy was good but say nothing about the biscuits. Actually I think they say something nice about everyone. Padma collects Nick, Stephanie, and Carlos. These are the top three! Nick really doesn’t want to go home, but his dish was executed perfectly and was from the heart. Stephanie and her boyfriend go “fishing” but don’t catch fish, and Anthony gives Tom shit about that, so I guess the commercial interlude was about fishing? Why do I feel so out of it? Basically I think Anthony and Tom went fishing and Tom caught nothing so Anthony won’t let him forget it. Stephanie cooked everything beautifully and the pickles were a really interesting combination. Carlos had a delicious dish and they all wish they had had more tortillas. Nick is the winner! Anthony tells him to relax.

Loser Gong for Travis, Brian, and Justin. Padma says it was a difficult decision, and they had to nitpick. Brian knows the lack of a grill hurt his dish, because he couldn’t get any charcoal flavor. There wasn’t anything wrong with the dish, just that everyone wanted some charcoal flavor. Travis knew his biscuits were undercooked. Tom wonders why he would continue if he knew while making the biscuits they weren’t working. You can’t scrap half your dish on the day of with one hour to go. Come on, Tom. Justin says he craves his dish when other people make it, and they make it sound like it’s not “his” specialty. It needed more gravy. It sounds like he plated too early and the rice soaked up his gravy.

Padma wanted more chicken and less rice from Justin. Brian’s steak wasn’t that memorable. Travis had crappy biscuits, and they somehow think he should have not served biscuits. But you can’t just eat gravy and jam.

Tom tells the bottom three that it’s hard to send someone home for cooking something that reminds them of home. But then they send Travis home so I guess it’s not that hard. He says this show tests you as a person and he’s learned to be open about who he is.

Next week: college students, Carrie makes broccoli, Carlos throws people under the bus.

Last Chance Kitchen: Travis says he’s better than some people who are left, so he’s ready to go. Louis is here to beat Travis. Tom makes fun of Travis’s random striped socks. Then he brings up “Captain Vietnam” and basically tells Travis that he’s very cocky about Asian food. So here are a bunch of Asian ingredients for you to cook with! Prove you’re not full of crap! Heh. I’m entertained they didn’t have him make biscuits, but instead called him on the more annoying cockiness. You must use at least three of these proteins, plus shopping from the Hong Kong market. Louis reveals his wife is Korean. Oo, battle of the Asian spouses! 45 minutes to cook. Travis tells the peanut gallery he’s making bitter melon soup. It’s tricky but he’s pissed that Tom thinks he’s “self-proclaimed”. Because he really does know what he’s doing. Louis is putting tripe in the pressure cooker. Travis makes squid cakes. Everyone laughs at Louis for some reason and he says they’re assholes. Michael is still annoying even in the peanut gallery. Tom hovers and Travis has the balls to tell Tom he’s making him nervous. But then he says he nailed it. Everyone is confident. Travis: bitter melon soup with squid cakes. Louis: braised tripe, dried shrimp and Chinese sausage with bamboo shoots and bok choy. Now, they were supposed to use three of the proteins but I don’t know what other proteins Travis used. Both dishes were really good and they both managed to develop the flavors in under an hour. Travis’s soup wasn’t bitter and the squid was not rubbery. Louis successfully made tripe and had lots of flavors. Louis is the winner. Travis says he’s not angry because his dish was very hard to do and he pulled it off. Louis says he’s worked hard enough that this would be a good payoff.

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