Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Top Chef 1/8/14--"Oui Si a Challenge" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: I’ve missed an episode! I was out of town and couldn’t get to the episode. Then when I got back the DVR had malfunctioned so I didn’t have it. Plus, weather and travel disasters so I just said forget it. Anyway, new episode on New Year’s Day. John Besh was heavily involved. For the Quickfire, everyone made crawfish etouffee and Shirley won immunity. The Elimination challenge was catering for some party, each chef making a dish that highlighted at least two different kinds of seafood. Before that, though, everyone got to go to John Besh’s house for dinner, which was fun and looked delicious. Stephanie won the day with her fried oyster. Carrie made fritters from her nice fresh fish which ruined it, so she was sent home. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, Carrie battled Louis with broccoli. Carrie got ballsy by making ravioli in half an hour, but it was not enough to overcome Louis’s broccoli three ways. Louis doesn’t have much farther to go to get back on the regular show.

OK, in stupid Nicholas news, he’s still bitter about the oven thing, so when Carlos asked to borrow his knife, first Nicholas bitched about how you shouldn’t do a crudo if you don’t have knives that are good enough, and then he made sure to mention how great he was that he lent Carlos the knife after all. Although, Carlos asked the last person he should ask for a favor. Later Nicholas fished his knife out of Carlos’s stuff and then got his panties in a wad because it wasn’t clean. How do you know he wasn’t going to clean it before you got so impatient? I’m not taking Nicholas’s side on this one, they’re equally annoying. Stupid. Now I’m done with this drama and it seems to be the only drama going down.

We open with Nicholas still bitching about Carlos, like, whatever dude. Stephanie is ready to go with the next challenge. They all troop into the kitchen to see Jacques Pepin. Nice. The Quickfire will force everyone to show off their technical skills. Each of them will make Jacques’s favorite dish: Dover sole, artichokes, and asparagus. They’ll watch him make it, then have 35 minutes to see if they recreate it. They have to do a bunch of stuff, like julienne vegetables, clean the fish, make a butter rose…stuff like that. Jacques pours himself a glass of wine before making them all run off to cook. Hee.

Nicholas whines that someone bought his restaurant and offered everyone their jobs back except him. Wah. Nina does not want to talk to anyone so she can focus. Carlos is self-taught so he seems to be the most worried about the techniques. Stephanie is failing at skinning her fish. With five minutes left Carlos is still cutting fish, but Nina’s burners are not even on. There is a lot of flailing.

So everyone made the same thing, it looks like. The differences have to do with how some people’s plates look like disasters and some of them don’t even have sauce. Brian didn’t have any sauce, Stephanie’s fish was undercooked. Carlos had no tomatoes. Shirley did really well, as did Nicholas. They are close, but one dish had everything come together at the right moment and that is Nicholas. Sigh. He has immunity.

Elimination challenge has to do with both French and Spanish cultures. Julian Serrano (a Spanish master) and Dominique Crenn (a French master) come out. There will be two teams, and they will make a five course meal. Each meal will highlight five “quintessential” ingredients found in both cuisines, only each team will do either French or Spanish style. Olives, almonds, chicken, mussels, and chocolate. Best team (overall meal) wins, someone from the losing team goes home. Nicholas, Shirley, and Stephanie make up the French team, and Nina, Carlos, and Brian are the Spanish team. They’ll have all day today with their coaches, and then they’ll cook tomorrow. I like this idea. They have the same ingredients but should make two different meals.

Dominique says something about cooking outside the box. Something about ice cream. Chocolate duck. Nests. Stephanie seems lost. Julian tells the Spanish team to keep it simple. He tells them not to do a bunch of stuff, because they should keep it to things they can do. It sounds kind of condescending, to be honest. Like he doesn’t think they can do anything complicated.

Cooking begins. Shirley is doing snapper crudo (with olives, I guess), Stephanie the mussels, both girls together on the chicken. Nicholas is doing something with chocolate and Cornish game hens, and almond dessert. Stephanie trusts him. Nina is making the olive course and almond gazpacho. Carlos has mussels. Brian has arroz con pollo and I think chocolate flan. Poor Stephanie doesn’t have a lot of confidence. Julian is micromanaging. Dominique is drinking.

Back at the house, Stephanie talks about how nervous she is while Carlos gets his phone call home to talk to his daughter. That’s about all from that scene.

Cooking time. Nicholas thinks Shirley and Stephanie are leaning on him to get them to win. Shirley is making olive oil ice cream with liquid nitrogen, which she has never used before, so she flails a bit. The diners and judges come in. Emeril is here.

First course is up. Shirley: snapper ceviche with dehydrated olives and ice cream. Nina: ensaladilla rusa with green olives, gulf shrimp, and potatoes. I think it’s basically potato salad with olives. Also isn’t ceviche South American? The ice cream is good but not with the fish. They do like the potatoes and olives.

Stephanie: pickled and poached mussels, crustacean jus and tomate (tomato sauce). Nina: ajo blanco with almonds, crab, and cherries. Ajo blanco is a white soup, served cold. They like the soup, but someone finds grit in the mussels. Flavors are good though.

Carlos: mussels a la romesco with crispy leeks. Stephanie and Shirley: chicken liver mousse with roasted chicken bouillon. Nicholas and Carlos are announcing all the courses; I wonder how they decided on that? The chicken dish is fantastic, although Julian doesn’t like the softness of the mousse. The mussels are good but the dish is more about the sauce than the mussels.

Stephanie tries to protest the corn silk nest but Nicholas refuses to listen, even though he has immunity. Boo. Brian and Carlos: pollo con arroz—chicken and saffron rice. Nicholas: Cornish game hen and spiced chocolate with corn silk nest. The chicken might be dry, Dominique says. Julian and Dominique also fight about the corn silk. Julian won’t even try it. The judges seem to roundly hate the corn silk. It does look weird.

Brian: flan de chocolate and strawberries. Nicholas: almond flan, plum, and dark cocoa. The almond flan doesn’t have good custard and needs to be a step up. The chocolate is maybe too sweet. As the judges discuss the meals, Tom points out that his most favorite and least favorite dishes are from the same team.

Commercial interlude: Julian and Dominique go back to check on their teams. There are high fives and then they leave. Pointless.

Stew Room. No video today! Hooray! I don’t like the video. Padma calls out the Spanish team. This is the winning team. Nina was so worried about her olive dish, but it was perfect. The soup was elegant also. The chicken turned out really well with the lemon Carlos put with it. Brian made a flan because Julian basically told them to. There is some laughter but they won so it’s not like Brian is going home. Nina is the winner! She breathes a sigh of relief.

Loser Gong. The olive oil ice cream was good but maybe didn’t go with the fish. The mussels were nice, and Padma raves about the chicken dish. Nicholas babbles about his chocolate sauce, but the judges didn’t taste anything he said was in it. Tom says it was their least favorite dish. But the almond custard didn’t work either. Tom points out to him that they just got done praising his teammates for how great their dishes were. Jacques goes there and asks if his team should be penalized for his mistakes or if he should resign. Nice. Nicholas just stands there while everyone stares at him and then says he thought he did well enough yesterday to earn immunity. I don’t know what I would do here. Clearly he should go home, but if you were on this show, would you fall on your sword? I don’t know. Tom just nods and Padma kicks them out.

Nicholas explains what happened as Stephanie interviews that she would totally have given up immunity so she can’t even look at him right now. I never fully believe people when they say stuff like that, but I don’t blame her one bit for being pissed. They can’t eliminate Nicholas, so they nitpick how Shirley’s ice cream was too sweet but the mussels were great but the croutons were soggy. Tom argues that Shirley did more work on the chicken dish than Stephanie did, even though the mousse was delicious. Shirley also interviews that she would give up immunity. As the judges announce they have a decision, they all agree they don’t like it and Tom says he’s still hoping Nicholas falls on his sword.

So they drag it out a REALLY long time to give Nicholas the chance to volunteer to go home, but he stays silent and Stephanie is eliminated. She says at least she knows she was a serious contender. Aww, she’s upset. She hugs Nicholas which is more than I would have done. I would have kicked him.

Next week: Roy Choi is pissed, Nina curses at pasta, Nicholas is mad but he’s losing cred for sucking.

Last Chance Kitchen: So the question is this. Last season Kristen was eliminated during Restaurant Wars, and most everyone agrees it was unfair. So then she got a second chance. This situation is clearly also unfair. Will Stephanie miraculously win all these battles and get a second chance? She’s pleased to see Louis but then Emeril comes out? They have history? Oh, because last season he was the one that kicked her out in the first episode. Right. Beignets. Make one sweet and one savory. 30 minutes. Louis does not know what he is doing because this is the one New Orleans food he didn’t practice. Stephanie knows she makes killer beignets but 30 minutes is insane. Louis is just putting stuff in a bowl, including baking powder because that will be more forgiving than yeast. Louis’s practice ones are great, but he’s worried the batter will change too much in the next five minutes. The peanut gallery now owns a shirt with Louis’s picture on it. He is shirtless, smoking a cigar. Hee. Stephanie is thinking about getting to the next challenge, not about the finale. Lots of running. Stephanie: white chocolate and cherry, and Andouille and corn. Louis: persimmon and pine nut, and crab and black garlic. Stephanie’s savory was delicious, but the sweet one was heavy. Louis’s had the reverse, the savory was heavy. The winner is Louis. Ooo. That’s not what I thought would happen. Also why did they bring Emeril?

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