Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Top Chef 12/4/13--"Restaurant Wars" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: first, make hot sauce for an unintelligible musician. Then, butcher a whole hog and make dishes out of the whole thing. Actually the Elimination was cool. Brian won the first part, and Carlos won the second part. I was just surprised at how many people claimed to have butchered a whole hog before. Justin tried to cause some drama with the grill, and overcooked his pork, but in the end Louis went home. I guess he was boring? Had too many things going on? Because everyone said his pork was cooked perfectly so I don’t see why they would send him home over Justin and Stephanie who had flavorless pork belly. I mean, pork belly is delicious. Somehow making it flavorless seems more of a travesty. (click for more)

In Last Chance Kitchen Louis and Janine had to make dishes with only three ingredients. Janine didn’t dig deeply enough into her ingredients and Louis upset her to continue on.

Carlos says winning is amazing. You don’t need classical training, just passion. That’s all for the pre-Quickfire house visit today.

Only Padma (in a caftan) is in the kitchen to greet everyone. She says it’s time for Restaurant Wars! Excellent. The guest judge today is David Chang. Clearly he is Brian’s idol. Restaurant Wars is early this season, because they are having two teams of five, instead of four. Random draw. Green team is Sara, Carlos, Justin, Shirley, and Nina. Damn. Purple team is Nick, Brian, Carrie, Stephanie, and Travis. I don’t know, I think that’s actually not a terrible split. Brian knows what he’s doing, and Stephanie and Carrie seem pretty solid. I can’t predict a disaster like I usually can. Each team has to pick an executive chef, and someone for front-of-house. Also there is a VIP table full of rando foodies that have today’s product placement credit card. Actually if my credit card contacted me to ask if I wanted to be on “Top Chef” I’d knock people over to get there. It sounds like they’ll eat at both restaurants and talk to the judges but not actually vote. Also Danny Meyer will be here.

The green team decides on “modern American” because all of them do such different cuisines that’s the only way they can think of to meld them. Sara says she has a dessert recipe. On the purple team Travis volunteers to do front-of-house, because he’s done it before. “Gays belong in front-of-the-house! Duh!” Sigh. They very quickly decide on seafood. Sara says she’ll do FOH, and she says whoever is the executive chef has a target on their back. Wow, putting it out there. Justin volunteers for that. He claims to have been training for “Top Chef” since he was 16. They sort of discuss décor, which pisses off Carlos because they don’t have a menu. Somehow Sara argues that she needs to know about the décor before she can plan her dishes.

Everyone goes to the space, which is really nice. They wander around trying to find the kitchen, which of course does not exist. Oh, they’ve done that before. Purple team agrees to let Nick be the executive chef. At least I think they do. At first I thought Stephanie disagreed but then she only says one thing and then nothing else.

Décor shopping is only interesting in that people seem to be picking out place settings based on what plates will look cool with their dishes. This is a problem for the Green team because they still don’t have a menu. Justin gets pissy about it but he does have a point. What if they’re planning the same things? But then he brings it up and says “We didn’t discuss it and we’re not discussing it right now so drop it and go back to plates.” Oh, here is the team that is going to implode. Sara wants to be professional, which, it’s too late now that you’ve had an argument in front of the other team.

Food shopping is the usual Restaurant Depot/Whole Foods split. Green team STILL doesn’t have a menu. How do they have a shopping list? I guess everyone is just buying their own stuff? Nina claims there are no ring molds for Sara’s cake. When they call her, she immediately thinks they half-assed it and didn’t look very hard.

I’m not sure why people have to put together a kitchen from nothing. What is the thought process in that extra step? Just for extra drama, I guess. It looks like everyone on the Green team is doing one dish. I’m not sure how that works out in terms of courses, because they usually make you have two choices per course and there’s only one dessert. Their restaurant is called “Found” for some reason. It’s marginally better than the Purple team whose restaurant is “Fin”. Travis makes sure to clarify this is a reference to “the dorsal fin of a fish”. Wow, I would never have figured out “fin” was a fish reference! Sara asks about coffee service, and Justin is like, we ordered a coffeemaker. Apparently they ordered a 12-cup model. Sara is skeptical about the ability of this 12-cup coffeemaker to serve 125 people. Justin yells at her to be positive and cook great food. “My food’s turning out great right here, let’s just focus on the food right here.” What? You can’t make coffee for that many people quickly enough. Duh. Brian all of a sudden realizes he bought xanthan gum instead of agar-agar. This means his corn thing won’t set? I think that’s what it means.

Back home the teams discuss their restaurants some more. Justin shows Sara how to take orders, which is kind of bossy but at the same time kind of a good idea. That way they will all be the same. The fish team does not get to talk about how pumped they are or whatever.

4 hours until service. Sara is confident in her FOH because she was an executive chef for Wolfgang Puck. Executive chef is not FOH. Whatever. She gets bossy, which would explain why Justin’s bossiness makes her so mad. Travis is also bossy but manages to not be as annoying. Justin says something about bowls, and I’m not sure what happened but Nina thinks she did what Justin said and Justin is insisting that she fucked it up.

OK, time for service. Or almost. No, time to go. Fin seems to be doing OK. Found has a big long table, which is a trend that I’m not sure I’m a fan of. It’s not that I hate people…OK I do hate a lot of people. But when I go out to eat I don’t particularly want to talk to random strangers. The VIP table shows up to Found to the long table so that’s OK actually.

Judge time at Fin. Gail is here. Brian: scallop crudo, corn and squash relish, with purple corn gel. The gel is what probably didn’t set. And the judges confirm it didn’t set. Nick is expediting so well even Stephanie comments on how awesome it is. Meanwhile at Found, the VIP table never got menus and the waiters are not filling out the tickets the way Justin told everyone to. Carrie: sautéed gulf shrimp, chickpea puree, oregano and lemon. Stephanie: linguine with caviar, oyster cream, and fennel. Carrie’s shrimp is a little overcooked, but the flavor is good. Stephanie’s pasta has a great al dente texture. Service here is getting high marks from the judges, especially Tom. Meanwhile Justin is flipping out and telling everyone if they would just do what he tells them they’ll all be fine. Nick: roasted black drum, king trumpet mushrooms, oxtail, kale, and hibiscus reduction. Delicious. Travis: olive oil cake with Greek yogurt, cherries and pistachios. Travis’s gel has turned out perfectly, so why didn’t he help Brian with his? Gail says usually olive oil cake is really moist but this isn’t, but it tastes nice. The judges get up and leave without the show making a big deal like they were ignored. Sometimes they like to badmouth the service and imply that no one would notice if they walked out.

Time for Found, where at least Sara has managed to meet the judges at the door. This is derailed when Padma wanders off to greet the VIP table and ask how it’s going. It’s too slow and they’re going to miss their reservation at the other place. Or at least be late. David thinks this menu looks better, but clearly the service sucks. Padma complains about the service, and when Sara goes to say something, Justin says “Well, you didn’t give me tickets”. Sara told him the judges were there, and she needed two of everything fired or whatever, and he’s like “OK, but write a ticket.” So you’re telling me that he KNEW the judges were there, the people who control whether he wins or loses this game? And he didn’t cook their food because he wanted a piece of paper? What is wrong with you? Justin interviews that it’s outrageous there’s no ticket for the judges. Do you really need a ticket? Maybe I don’t know enough about restaurants. I just feel like Justin is being an asshat for no reason. Of course, then Sara drops off the dishes and then walks away which is the kiss of death. Padma appears to yell after her to no avail.

Carlos: red snapper crudo, avocado mousse, pickled baby carrots, fried plantains. The fish is not cut well. I’m not sure how they know this is Carlos’s dish. Whatever. Justin: roasted parsnip agnolotti (small ravioli), Mississippi rabbit and collard greens broth. It’s terrible. I think Tom is trying not to spit it out. They complain about the plates, of course. Justin wanted bowls, but got giant entrée bowls, and so the broth is too spread out. Shirley is keeping her head down and working. Shirley: olive oil poached cobia, blanched ong choy and salsa verde. Delicious. The VIPs finally make it to Fin. Sara drops off plates and leaves again, which is really weird. I know people have done that before, but they haven’t tried to do it for every course. Especially since the last course Padma got bitchy and demanded Sara explain the dishes. Nina: pork tenderloin with sunchokes and trumpet royale mushrooms. They really like this one too. Sara’s mascarpone broke in the heat, and Justin says he doesn’t want it on there. She’s about to cry as she interviews that her dish is half gone now.

Commercial interlude: David and Tom talk about opening restaurants. It is very boring.

Sara finally returns with her dessert, and she stays to explain it. Not sure if the judges asked her about it and they just edited that part out, or if Sara really was only planning to talk about her dish and screw everyone else. Summer nectarine brown butter cake with moscato nectarine salsa. Padma clears up my earlier confusion by muttering that this explains why this is the only dish Sara explained voluntarily. So she only explained her dish but not anyone else’s? Terrible. Gail labels it a “weird greasy cookie”. They ask about the mascarpone (I guess from the menu) and she admits it broke. Travis is all smiles. See, that was the editing. Someone from Fin (I think Brian?) said that they thought they were screwed because of how many wins the other team had. That was the editing clue that Fin would do better. Fin had a better vibe and better service. Tom knows it might not be 100% Sara’s fault.

Stew Room and video time. David reminds everyone they are not designers, so they should worry about the plates only. Padma says one restaurant did a good job and one failed, and then they cut out the video. HA! Just like old times. Padma collects Fin. They are so relieved to win. Padma tells Travis he’s the best FOH they’ve had in all seasons, and I yell LIES because Fabio. Fabio was born for that job. Carrie said they all put their egos aside and let Nick run the place. Carrie’s shrimp had bright flavors. Brian knows his gel didn’t turn out, although Travis’s did. Stephanie had bite in her pasta dish. Nicholas combined strong flavors successfully. The winner is Nick. He looks surprised.

Loser Gong. Padma quickly tells them it was a disaster. Ouch. I don’t think they’ve ever said Restaurant Wars was a disaster. Sara tries to argue that it wasn’t a disaster. What? Padma calls her out on not explaining any dishes, and she says it didn’t occur to her. But she explained her dish! Sara either can’t remember, or is trying to save herself, and says maybe she was prompted. Padma shuts her down and says she purposely didn’t prompt her. Oo, she is not having it. Nina says there was a communication breakdown between the kitchen and the servers. Justin had a plan and a way to do the tickets and it didn’t happen. He says maybe he should have trained the servers himself. Sara pipes up that the kitchen was disorganized. Basically, Sara says the kitchen fucked up a lot, and Justin says that’s because the tickets were written so poorly he didn’t know what was going on. Carlos cut his fish really poorly, and even though it’s just raw fish the judges waited 30 minutes for it. Justin brings up the stupid lack of a ticket but everyone makes giant faces and asks why Sara did a verbal fire and no ticket so I guess she’s wrong? I guess I don’t know how things work. OK, so that was Sara’s fault apparently. Justin then complains about the plates but the rabbit was dried out too. Shirley gets praise for her dish so she seems to be safe. Nina’s dish was Gail’s favorite. Sara has decided she’s going home, or that she doesn’t give a shit anymore, because when they ask her about her dish she’s just standing there with a bitchface saying how she apparently already told them about her dessert, it was the only thing she did tell them about. Maybe she hasn’t ever seen the show before? I can’t imagine why she didn’t think to explain things. David tells her that she should have known it would be hot in the kitchen and not serving something on the menu makes everyone look bad. Tom asks Justin and Sara if one of them should go home and they agree. Of course, they’re each thinking about the other one, I’m sure.

Sara took on more responsibility, but maybe Justin should have more blame for not taking more authority. Tom asks if Sara’s lack of training caused all the kitchen problems, and they seem to agree that it does. Gail does point out that Justin’s dish would have sucked either way, with Sara’s dish a close second.

Tom says it’s Justin and Sara’s fault, and then Sara is sent home. Justin looks pensive. Sara thinks she focused too much on everything else but her dish. Meanwhile Tom is saying that there wasn’t enough preparation with the FOH stuff and that’s why the restaurant failed. Rather than talk about how confident she is about getting back on her feet, Sara talks about not being prepared for this show.

Next week: something about going home, crappy biscuits, lots of tears.

Last Chance Kitchen: Sara would like to prove to Tom that she is not a total fuckup. She also knows Louis has more technical skill than she does. Today the chefs have to make something with mascarpone, but savory instead of dessert. 30 minutes. No one can see what Sara is doing but she’s making polenta. Randomly Tom reappears and tells Sara and Louis to stop and go back over there. Aaron is making a hilarious shocked face. Sara complained about communication, so now communication is involved. Louis picks Jason as a sous chef, while Sara picks Janine. Jason immediately runs away into the pantry so Tom has to call him back. For the next 10 minutes only the sous chefs can work on the dishes. Plus, they’ll be blindfolded. Excellent. They have 20 minutes to go, so I guess after 10 minutes they’ll be finishing the dishes. Jason promises to bust his ass for Louis. Sara is about to freak out, telling Janine to give her a play-by-play and constantly talk to her. She also tells Janine to trip Jason. Heh. Louis seems much more relaxed. When they switch back, Sara says everything’s perfect. Then she cuts herself. Jason apparently even did stuff he wasn’t told to because he knew the dish would get ruined. Nice. Sara: mascarpone polenta with agrodolce mushrooms and Swiss chard. Tom takes a bite and then gives the dish to Janine. Heh. Louis: mascarpone poached snapper with beech mushrooms, snap peas, and potato. Jason says it’s delicious. Sara’s dish was crispy where it should have been but the Swiss chard leaves weren’t quite cooked perfectly. Louis’s shallots were a tiny bit bitter but it was delicious and is also the winner! Louis was a little more innovative. Sara says something weird about how Louis “has a story left to tell”. Huh? That matters why?

No comments: