Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Top Chef 1/15/14--"Po' Boy Smackdown" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the Quickfire featured Jacques Pepin, which was cool. He created a fish dish with a lot of technique and then made everyone try to replicate it, which resulted in plenty of fail. Nicholas won, and gained immunity. Then the chefs were divided into two teams of three, to cook the same ingredients in different cuisine styles. French vs. Spanish. The Spanish team ended up doing the best overall, and Nina won. The French team only seemed to have one week link: Nicholas. While Shirley and Stephanie made the best dishes of the evening, they were on the losing team. Nicholas had terrible dishes, made worse by the fact that his team warned him and he ignored them. The judges suggested he give up immunity and quit but Nicholas refused, so Stephanie was sent home. I mean, he’s entitled to keep the immunity he earned but that doesn’t mean he’s still not a jerk. (click for more)

Last Chance Kitchen: I wondered if Stephanie would win this challenge and all the remaining challenges until she got back to the competition, since she was unfairly eliminated. But that didn’t actually happen. Louis and Stephanie made beignets and Louis won.

Shirley is really upset about Stephanie’s elimination. No one comforts Nicholas. Nina tells everyone that Stephanie “pushed boundaries” and they should be proud of that. I think she’s trying to say that Stephanie is a good chef and she did well. Nicholas responds “Oh, so I sent Stephanie home so I should be proud of that?” You had the chance to NOT send her home, so don’t bust out this hurt martyr bullshit now.

In the morning Carlos hopes there will be Mexican food. Nina admits she doesn’t know if she could give up immunity either. This honest answer makes me respect her more. Not that I think everyone should always keep immunity in every situation. Just that when people say “Well I would NEVER keep immunity because I just couldn’t”, I never quite believe it. It’s the final five and little mistakes count.

Padma introduces Roy Choi. Nice. Padma is wearing a tank top with a thick layer of long fringe hanging down over her chest like a bib. New Orleans is known for po’ boys, so the Quickfire is to make your own take on po’ boys. They are still giving out immunity for the winner. It seems a little late in the game, doesn’t it?

20 minutes. You need a good balance of everything in your sandwich. Shirley is not that thrilled to make sandwiches. Carlos is clearly making Mexican. Nicholas says something about New England but I wasn’t listening that closely. Everyone seems to be reaching back their roots.

Nicholas: fried shrimp po’ boy with mayo, sriracha, fennel, and pancetta. Shirley: sautéed catfish po’ boy with mirin, ginger, garlic glaze and cabbage slaw. Nina: fried mahi po’ boy with mojo aioli and pickled onions. Brian: Asian inspired lobster po’ boy, gochujang aioli and yuzu with pickled Napa cabbage. Gochujang is Korean chili paste. Carlos: al pastor po’ boy with guajillo chilies, pineapple, onions, and roasted garlic. Al pastor is pork, so I guess a po’ boy is the bread? Like “bahn mi” technically refers to the bread? I always assumed a po’ boy had seafood in it.

Padma asks Roy how everyone did, and he says they all missed the boat. Oo. They had the chance to tell their story and they fucked it up. He says if they worked in his kitchen they’d be having a serious conversation. They are thinking too much as “chefs” and they need to find their soul. Really? Not one of them was cooking with soul? I mean, I’m not there, but that seems weird. Carlos’s al pastor didn’t have enough flavor, Nicholas was salty and the sauce wasn’t spread enough, Brian’s was tasteless, Shirley did well but as a representation of Chinese cuisine it was “pedestrian”, and Nina’s didn’t pop. Damn. Roy is kind of an ass. Padma adds that some of them were fine until you had to eat it with two pieces of bread, and then it got lost. So the winner (I guess the best of the losers) is Shirley.

Elimination challenge. Padma brings out Jon Favreau, who is making a movie about cooking that is supposed to be good. He tells them they will have to cook using only what they find in dumpsters in the French Quarter. Everyone stares at him until he admits he’s just kidding. That would be a hilarious challenge though. No, he talks about his film, which is about a chef who has lost his voice and no longer connects with his food. I call BULLSHIT. The guest judge says everyone’s Quickfire selections suck ass because they weren’t true to themselves or whatever, and then the other guest judge comes out and says “oh, I’m making a movie about a chef who forgets how to be true to himself” and you expect me to believe that’s purely a coincidence? Shut up, show, I’m not stupid. Shirley says something about spending the last year not doing her food. The challenge will be to make a dish that represents a turning point in their career, that led them to discover their voice. You can’t tell me that Roy’s asshattery was just because their food all sucked. Or because he’s secretly an asshat. Please. They’ll have 2.5 hours to cook tomorrow, but today they’ll drive around to food trucks and do “research” or whatever. They certainly are spending a lot of this season wandering around and not cooking. It’s kind of nice.

At the food truck gathering everyone eats and talks about turning points. Actually Brian mostly, who says he got burnt out and started drinking and eventually spent a night in jail. That’s rough. Everyone else seems kind of uncomfortable listening to him. Shirley claims she found her voice when they went to the shrimp boats. Finding your voice on the show? No, that could happen. It’s a risky thing though. Also hard to judge. How do you tell someone they aren’t being true to themselves when you don’t know them? It’s like telling someone they don’t really feel what they feel. You can’t tell people what emotions they are feeling or should feel. They feel what they feel.

Back at the house Brian sets up the dart board with a crappy stick figure of Roy Choi on it. Heh. Carlos especially seems to enjoy throwing darts.

Shopping. Nina is making pasta, referring to Scott Conant. Nicholas is making like 5 kinds of carrots. Sure. It’s like a duo only more so. He claims to Nina it’s “simple” but she shoots that down. She interviews that Nicholas puts too many things on the plate and also has a short fuse. Carlos is making something from his restaurant that is popular. I don’t know if that equates to “cooking from the heart” but if it’s good then that should be OK.

Cooking. Nicholas quickly grabs some pots and lines them up on the stove. They’re empty but I guess he’s going to claim the best burners or whatever. Carlos asks him about it, I guess to see if he can move them since they’re empty and Nicholas is across the room. Nicholas says “You can do whatever you want, those three pots are mine, please don’t touch them.” Too late, Carlos just moved one. Nicholas loses his shit and is like “Don’t touch my pots or we’ll have a problem” but he won’t even look at Carlos because he’s a jerk. “You understand me?” No, he doesn’t understand you, because you thought you would be smart and start your sentence with “do whatever you want” and it backfired. Ass. He claims he would need a reason to get mad and he can’t work with people like that. The longer he is on, the more I understand a restaurant that would change owners, fire everyone, and then rehire every single person EXCEPT Nicholas. Nina’s rolling pasta but the kitchen is so hot it’s ripping and falling apart. Shirley is not getting too crazy. Nina scraps her filled pasta for fettuccine because that won’t fall apart as badly.

Tom time! And he brought Jon. Tom kind of teases Shirley about not really being careful with her fish because she has immunity. Heh. I think people are trying to do similar styles to the Quickfire, trying to redeem themselves. Nicholas has a gang of things. He burns some quinoa which makes me laugh. The oven is at the wrong temperature so of course he posits that he could have made a stupid mistake, but it could have been someone else. Whatever, dude. I think we can all agree that the only person here who would risk outright sabotage is you. Now he says he’s screwed. Brian opens a door into Shirley, but she says it’s not her face so it’s OK. Brian laughs that yeah, it’s not your moneymaker, as Shirley tells him to shut up. Hee. See, healthy interaction. The restaurant fills up with judges and random people.

Shirley: seared snapper with crustacean broth, silken tofu, and Napa cabbage. She says she was inspired by the shrimping trip with Emeril. It seems weird, but she did really well in that challenge. Everyone is tilting their plates to scrape up the last bits of the broth. Nina: fettuccine with charred calamari, pine nut gremolata and crab meat. It represents her desire for simplicity. Pasta is perfect. Tom says this is how they should be cooking at this point.

Brian: chicken anticucho with twice cooked potatoes and feta walnut pesto. Anticucho is a Peruvian dish that I think is just meat skewers? Brian was inspired by his current boss. It’s chicken breast, and they seem bored. Somehow someone got a raw potato. It’s heavy. Carlos: braised pork belly with sweet potato puree and chipotle tamarind glaze. It’s one of the first dishes he created for his restaurant. You can taste every ingredient and they all have a purpose.

Nicholas is still complaining about his quinoa. He snipes in confessional that he’s made personal sacrifices to be here. The sentence cuts off weirdly like they took that quote out of context. Nicholas: yellowfin tuna, “several preparations of carrot” and fennel pollen dust. Even the chyron doesn’t want to list all the carrot things. Nicholas lists them, but there are 5 and he talks fast. He also mentions the quinoa, which is dumb because they don’t know you were going to have quinoa. You don’t tell them stuff like that. The fish is underseasoned, and Tom is irritated that apparently one of the preparations is just raw carrot slices. They do all agree that it needs texture.

Commercial interlude: Jon says Roy really helped him develop his script and fix things like vocabulary that he was unaware of. This interlude actually goes between Nicholas complaining about his sacrifices and presenting his dish to the judges.

Judges’ Table. Padma collects all of them. Nina explains how she changed from a filled pasta to the noodles because of the kitchen. Notice how only Tom and Jon knew she didn’t plan on fettuccine this whole time. Because you don’t tell the judges things like that. Nothing but praise. Brian’s dish was heavy. Tom asks why boneless, skinless chicken breasts? Brian starts to say he didn’t know what kitchen he was going in to, I guess he went that route because he knew he could execute that no matter what? Tom says in that situation you buy a whole chicken and break it down if you have to. The chicken was flavorless. Shirley had a great dish and Gail tells her she pretty much drooled on herself. Hee. She’s found her voice. Carlos tells the judges this is one of the few signature dishes he has, and he gets choked up talking about how this is his life. They really loved the flavors. Nicholas tells them about how the quinoa got ruined, but he won’t do anything about it so he needs to shut up. Either tell the judges you think Carlos sabotaged you or shut your damn mouth. Gail didn’t like the fish because it didn’t go. Tom agrees and says the dish should have just had carrot. OK, normally I ignore the text polls, but this one says “Was Nicholas sabotaged?” and 77% of people said No. Think about PeaGate. Think about any other time where someone’s oven wasn’t at the right temperature. It just is a good example of the audience’s opinion of Nicholas.

Nicholas claims he would be surprised if Brian went home before him, but I can’t tell if he’s serious or if he’s just fishing for attention. Gail says Shirley’s dish really came together, but Padma argues for Carlos for the win. Jon is impressed with Nina’s improvisation and how simple the dish was. Brian’s dish was tender but Tom’s very being hates boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Also raw potatoes. Nicholas I guess had a hard day, but Tom makes it sound like there are too few people left and the stakes are too high to just throw things in the oven and ignore them.

The winner tonight is Shirley. Yay! She and Carlos and Nina are dismissed. Tom runs through the mistakes Nicholas and Brian made. Specifically he tells him the quinoa might have improved things but they can only judge on the dish they got. Sure. They don’t always do that, because I think someone who clearly has a vision but had execution problems might manage to survive over someone whose dish was always going to be terrible. Brian is eliminated because I just told you. Nicholas tells him “It should have been me” which is total bullshit. You’ve had plenty of opportunities to quit so shut your mouth. The judges discuss Nicholas’s “second” chance and how he has to step it up, but last week counts so I think this is his third chance. Brian has respect for everyone and he would totally do this again.

Next week: cooking for Emeril, Nina freaks out, Carlos doesn’t make a new dish? I’m willing to bet Nicholas is an ass?

Last Chance Kitchen: I would like to know if Tom’s hatred of chicken breast put Brian over Nicholas and his textureless dish. Because you know if the judges really thought Nicholas should have gone home last week they could have remedied that. Brian thinks he can beat Louis. After today, there will be one more challenge. So…they’ll get down to three, one more Last Chance Kitchen, then that person will join back up so they’ll have four again. OK. Tom rails on Brian some more for the chicken breast, so they’ll have to cook with chicken skin and bones. 45 minutes to cook. Louis says there are pork bones and other animals, in addition to chicken. He puts pork skin over some vegetables and throws the whole thing in the wood burning oven. Awesome. Brian sees Louis in the zone and it puts him back in the zone. Running around and pressure cookers. I think Janine and Sara now have shirts with iron-on photos of Louis. Hee. Wait…I think they all do? Crazy. Brian seems pretty confident. Brian: seared eggplant with chicken broth, oyster mushroom and chicken skin. Louis: bouillon, crispy chicken skin, roasted vegetables and olive oil poached egg yolk. Both of them developed flavors perfectly. Tom says this is the best dish Brian’s made all season, but Louis’s dish was the best dish he’s TASTED all season. Damn. So Louis sticks around. Brian is kind of sad but he is proud that it took the best dish Tom’s had to beat him.

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