Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top Chef 12/18/13--"Giving It the College Try" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the Quickfire involved product placement, which is annoying but preferable to having the product placement in the Elimination challenge. Anyway, make something with coffee. Shirley won with coffee crusted tenderloin. Then everyone was supposed to make a dish they crave when they go “home”. The secret requirement today is “comfort food”. Nick made gnudi, the same way he makes them for his kids, and he got emotional about it. I think the judges remembered that because he won. Travis made biscuits and gravy, with jam, which might have been good if the biscuits were cooked. So he was sent home. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen both Travis and Louis had to make Asian dishes, to mock Travis and his “Captain Vietnam” cockiness from previously. They both managed to do a really good job, but in the end Louis’s tripe won. So Louis has held on so far.

Nina says Travis was her escape, they would just talk about whatever, not competing. All her friends are gone. Now that there are only eight of them, it’s not enough to just not screw up.

Questlove is here for the Quickfire. He says he will go anywhere to try food. Today is a stop for…a marching band. Well maybe just drums. Oh, because drumsticks. UGH. That is a lame tie-in. It’s almost as bad as product placement. Almost. Whatever, anyway, drumsticks, and at least they have things other than chicken. Winner gets immunity.

30 minutes. It’s first come, first serve, and in the rush to not get stuck with giant turkey drumsticks a lot of things end up on the floor. Like Shirley. Nick tells us how he’s such a great human being that he helped Shirley instead of getting what he wanted and now he’s stuck with quail. Because Shirley took the duck that he wanted. Don’t brag about what a martyr you are, Nick. Stephanie got turkey which she dunks in the deep fryer and then onto the grill. Nina is going spicy as if that is a shock to anyone. Carrie took squab, and she is confident even though it will be easy to screw up. Justin feeds Nick’s martyrdom about being a good person and getting stuck with quail. He’s got a frog leg recipe, so he’s fine. The duck is overcooking. Brian is making…chicken soup? With the drumstick meat? Also goose shrinks down when you cook it. Carlos tries to cut the bones with a chef’s knife so they don’t stick out so much. It doesn’t look very successful. Nick is kind of obnoxious about Carlos and “self-taught” people. On the one hand, don’t be condescending. On the other hand, if culinary school will teach you not to dent your knives on cooked goose leg bones then I guess that’s good information.

Carrie: squab legs marinated in thyme, juniper, and cocoa powder, with fig mostarda. Brian: chicken soup, chicken skin crackling, with parsley and Thai basil. Shirley: crispy duck leg with Szechuan chili salt and mint. Nina: jerked guinea hen charred with juniper berries and scotch bonnet peppers. Stephanie: fried and grilled turkey leg with sriracha and sour cream buttermilk dressing. Nick: twice fried quail legs with sesame sauce rolled in gomaiso. The chyron says “quail eggs”, like, way to go Bravo. You correctly spelled “gomaiso”, which is unhulled sesame seeds and salt, but you couldn’t figure out “legs” vs. “eggs”. Justin: chicken drumettes with smoked aioli, herb salad and sorghum vinaigrette. Carlos: fried goose leg with cranberries and apple salad. Padma asks if he smashed the bones because she just got a shard of bone. Oops.

Nick’s quail was too salty, which I’d like to point out has nothing to do with getting quail instead of duck. Justin was not creative enough. Goose was overcooked, plus Carlos didn’t need to smash the bones. Clearly. High marks are Carrie (squab was cooked properly), Nina (also cooked properly and not spicy), and Brian (the skin was still crunchy like a drumstick). Carrie wins. Nina and Brian look pissed.

Elimination challenge: cook for freshman orientation at LSU. Hee. They have to feed lunch to 500 freshmen at the dining hall. The dining hall has all their supplies, which are the same supplies the food service always uses. So no fancy Whole Foods things. Winner gets a car. Giving the car away a little early, aren’t we? Tonight they’ll sleep in the dorms, as if this is a hardship for 8 people who have been living 4 to a room already for weeks.

As people are packing they talk about their college days which is random. Shirley wants to win the car to give to her mom. Brian is super excited about going to college and is babbling about keggers and whatever. To be fair, he’s responding to what I am sure is a producer-prompted question from Nick. But Shirley is realizing how annoying she must be when she talks all the time. High fives for the two perky student tour guides. They seem like every student tour guide ever. They get a tour, including to see the live tiger they keep as a mascot. That tiger looks bored. Justin makes a “revenge of the nerds” reference. They actually have to make their own beds, which is hilarious, but they all get single rooms so it’s not like it’s so terrible. Carrie doesn’t know how to make a bed.

Cooking time. As everyone runs around Nick says they need to talk about stations before anyone touches anything. Eight stations, eight chefs. They start hollering about who wants hot or cold stations. Shirley immediately claims the station with the wide flattop grill. Carrie doesn’t really want a cold station, but she recognizes she has immunity so she just sort of shrugs it off. The chefs also have to call ingredients, because there’s not really enough of any one thing for more than one person to use. So if someone wants to use asparagus, there won’t be enough for anyone else. Shirley is making fried rice. The drama begins when Carlos says he is going to make some type of seafood that needs the plancha, the giant grill that Shirley called. Shirley says she needs that for the fried rice. Someone offers that other hot stations have grill space, but Carlos says it’s too hard to work on. There’s a wood-burning oven, but he can’t use that either. Shirley interviews that Carlos’s true personality just came out. I think Shirley may have agreed to use the oven, but I think she should have stood her ground. She already called it.

There is a terrible commercial for some kind of sauce things starring Brooke and Josh. Josh’s mustache has gotten more obnoxious. That’s what I got from that. I think it’s for those kits that have two sauces, one to cook with and one to finish with? If so, this commercial is better than those ones where Rocco and Carla Hall are children with terrifying giant heads.

3 hours to cook. Nick says he marked his oven so he could use it throughout service. Shirley did end up using the wood-burning oven, so she’s changed her dish. Justin doesn’t want to “cook down” to people so he’s making shrimp and asparagus and cauliflower. Stephanie wants to make pimento grilled cheese and she’s having to use whatever random cheese she finds.

Tom time! Carlos tells Tom he’s going to cook his fish on the flattop and then put it in the oven. So he does need an oven? He didn’t mention that, I don’t think. Stupid. Shirley talks about her charred tomatoes and does not say anything about Carlos. Nina is trying to make corn puree, but they only have a regular-size cocktail blender. Not big enough for 500 people. Justin rolls his eyes at people’s boring food. Some food service people show up to help serve. Nick fills his oven with plates, to keep them warm, I guess. Doesn’t the dining hall have some other way to do that? I mean…I would assume they don’t keep an oven set aside to warm plates. Unless they just serve everything on cold plates; I guess that could be the situation.

As the freshmen show up there is a lot of running around, especially for Nina, who is trying to fry chicken on the fly. Brian has a huge line for food, while not one person wants Carrie’s broccoli. She says “It’s not my fault kids are stupid and don’t eat their broccoli.” Sigh. Carlos realizes that the oven is full of plates, and Nick couldn’t care less about Carlos’s needs. Now he has to cook the fish all the way through on his plancha that he got through whining, and it makes him behind. I know Nick said he marked the oven, so either he didn’t do that very clearly or Carlos decided that wasn’t important. Or possibly Carlos didn’t bother to check to see if there was a free oven. Nick was jerky earlier but I’m going to side with him on this one. Stephanie is trying to be consistent with her grilled cheese and soup, and decides to just go ahead and put the sandwich in the bowl (propped up on the side) because she figures everyone is going to dunk the sandwich anyway.

Gail and Emeril are here for judging. Shirley: roast beef with potato puree and fire-roasted tomato relish. Nina: fried chicken with sweet corn puree and pickled onions. Brian: shrimp cake and spinach with chipotle aioli. Gail and Padma go sit with some students, next to boys whom I’m sure were thrilled. The shrimp cake has big chunks which is good. Shirley did a great job too, so good for her. Nick: roasted pork, parmesan grits and bacon brown sugar gravy. Tom says it looks like cafeteria food but in a good way. Nina’s chicken breading is falling off, and her puree is bland. Nick’s food is also bland, but the gravy is OK.

Carrie: broccoli salad with herbed yogurt sauce and pita bread. Justin: marinated gulf shrimp, cauliflower, asparagus, and garlic puree. Justin’s dish tastes weird. Gail is bored with Carrie’s dish. Stephanie: spicy tomato soup with grilled pimento cheese sandwich. Tom and Emeril go over to Carlos’s station, but he is still grilling fish so he makes them wait. The shot of them eating Stephanie’s dish as they stand at the counter is funny. They’re just chilling, eating soup standing up and talking about how he’s slow. Tom harasses him and says they’re hungry, to which Carlos replies “They, ah…took my oven”. When asked by Tom he throws Nick under the bus. Well that was quick. Nina hears him and is shocked at how ”fucked up” it is that Carlos is saying Nick stole things. Carlos: seared tilapia with chile ancho and Mexican coleslaw. After all that the fish is good. Stephanie’s decision to put the sandwich in the soup has backfired because by the time everyone got back to eat it, it was soggy and falling apart. Nina’s falling behind too. Tom and Emeril go to Nick to stir shit up and tell him Carlos is blaming him for stuff. Nick wonders aloud how an oven he’s been using all day could be “stolen”. A good point.

Commercial interlude: Stephanie thinks she is secretly a lunch lady. Then everyone talks about hairnets.

Nina thinks this was the hardest service. Stephanie wants more wine. Nick brings up the oven, and Carlos rolls his eyes as if this has been blown out of proportion. You brought this on yourself, dude. Carlos’s defense? “I really need [sic] an oven.” Everyone else gangs up on him and says Carlos should have communicated that then, which he didn’t do. “But I didn’t say it in a mean way.” What? Insane. Nick lays it out: he used the oven to roast pork, then to warm plates. When Carlos came and asked to use it, he said no. Then Carlos told the judges that Nick “stole” the oven. This is petty, Nick says. Carlos apologizes and says his intention was not to throw Nick under the bus. Yes it was. Why else would you do that? I don’t buy his “I didn’t mean it” excuse. The video comes on and the judges liked Brian, and Shirley. Carlos gets nailed for taking too long, although the food was delicious. Stephanie hears her sandwich fell apart, and she looks upset. Justin had no seasoning, and Nina’s chicken fell apart. And there was a point where people were not getting corn puree. The judges slam Carrie for coasting on her immunity and making vegetables because she should be in the bottom. Oops.

Padma collects Shirley, Brian, and Carlos. Nick says “Dammit” quietly, and they put in a shot of Carlos grinning in a “Sorry dude” manner. Does that really go there? If so, don’t be an asshat. You’re not going to win because you took too long to serve. At least I hope that is the situation. Carlos only gets a small slap on the wrist for taking too long, as the judges are more interested in telling him how the fish was cooked well and the slaw was good. Brian had most students’ favorite dish. And somehow the spinach really worked. Shirley manages to tell the judges no one wanted the wood-burning oven, while not saying she got stuck with it or that Carlos stole her station through whining. I hope Carlos takes notes. Her roasted tomato relish was delicious and the meat was well cooked. The winner of the car is Shirley. Awesome. She’s so excited she’s jumping up and down.

Stephanie, Nina, and Justin have to face the music. Nina ran out of corn, and her server was serving chicken without waiting for more corn puree so her dish was incomplete. Gail thinks the corn was the worst part of the dish anyway, so the kids that only got chicken maybe got a better dish. Stephanie put cottage cheese in her sandwiches, in her quest to find whatever cheese she could. Plus the sandwich got soggy. Justin’s defense consists of “If I had made something simple and boring I could have crushed it but I did more work than everyone else.” Yeah…that argument doesn’t always work. They do gently let him down instead of nailing him for acting like he’s better than everyone. He was too “cheffy”.

Nina was inconsistent, and it’s a big deal that she ran out of corn. As the judges talk they realize she made several batches of varying quality. Justin’s food was consistently bland. Stephanie’s soup was fine but they get upset over the sandwich. This is one of those situations where if Stephanie had just said “grilled cheese sandwich” she might have been better off. Tom expects sharp cheddar in his pimento cheese, which she couldn’t find. Also she used cheeses that don’t melt.

Tom has one last chance to nail everyone for their screw-ups and make school-related comments. Justin is sent home. Tom says he cooked the worst dish, period. Justin says today proved he’s too stubborn to compromise his ingredients. Or season anything, apparently.

Next time: more serving large groups, more Carlos being unprepared. He needs a sushi knife, he asks Nick for one because he’s insane (Nick is the last person who’s going to help him), Nick refuses, Carlos is insulted. Duh, Carlos. Anyway, I think this episode is airing on New Year’s Day and I will be out of town, so I probably won’t have it up for a day or two.

Last Chance Kitchen: Justin wants to take it out on somebody. Sure. Louis is actually kind of surprised to see Justin “so early”. Justin is still convinced he’s better than everyone. Tom informs Justin that even though he is from here, he still failed at a lot of stuff. So he’ll have to make dishes based on ingredients from Louis’s home of Northern California. Louis will be using Louisiana ingredients. This seems unfair. Louis and everyone else have been using local ingredients this whole time. They probably studied up before coming out to be on the show. 30 minutes to cook. Louis ended up with crawfish, squash, corn, okra…looks like rabbit. Justin has sardines, quail, grapes, goat cheese. Crab. Nice. Louis knows he’s not shafted but he’d switch with Justin any day. Michael babbles about salt poaching or something dumb. Then he bugs Justin about why he got eliminated. Justin just says he didn’t get eliminated for sardines. Louis is going old-school French. Louis seems to be pretty on top of things. Justin reveals that he lived in California until he was 21 so this challenge “twist” is dumb on all levels. Justin knows he might have plated early. Louis is way behind and is still cooking in the last minute. Justin: grilled sardine with roasted corn and sherry vinaigrette. He did not use the crab or grapes in the box. Or avocado. Louis: redfish almandine with corn puree and crawfish sauce. He ignored peaches and rabbit. Louis’s sauce was delicious but a little spicy on the end. Justin got a good flavor from the grill and crunch from the vegetables. If Tom had to find one flaw, it would be the sardine was a little dry so Louis wins again. He is relieved because he thought Justin would be his biggest competition and now things will be easier. Justin is pissed because he thinks his sardine was perfect.

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