Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Top Chef 10/15/14--"Sudden Death" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: Nicholas won and that wasn’t so great. He was kind of a jerk to his servers. Whatever, it’s over and this show is better than “Project Runway” or at least hides its producer manipulation better. Usually. (click for more)

This season is set in Boston, so I am hoping for some good Boston accents. Some random people walk in and talk about how important this show is and stuff. We all know. Everyone wants to win. Everyone thinks this is their ticket. Etc. Padma tells us the prizes, which are the same as usual. Was the prize always $125,000? I feel like they upped it a while ago.

Everyone walks into the Top Chef kitchen to be greeted by Padma and Richard Blais. Richard is now a judge, because apparently trying to replace Alton Brown on Food Network doesn’t pay enough. Or he’s bored, either way. The chyrons are really small this season, but I do have a super old crappy TV. Everyone introduces themselves. The first guy (Katsuji) describes himself as “Japanese Mexican who owns a kosher restaurant”. Heh. Mei has worked for Michael Voltaggio. Woo. Lots of name-dropping ensues. Keriann (ugh, spelling) won some award about “best new chef” or something, so we have to have an asshat (Aaron) talking about how he doesn’t care. George is Mike Isabella’s business partner. Dude. Padma asks for some dirt but George is like, you saw it all. Joy is intimidated by everyone’s titles.

Time for a Sudden Death Quickfire! That’s when the loser is immediately kicked out. Padma hints they will face “a few” of these. Mise en place relay race! Teams of four, based on how they’re standing. The stations are: three lobsters, 20 oysters, eight Boston Mackerel, and 21 littleneck clams. I guess you are cleaning them. Each thing is supposed to take the same amount of time. They will keep track of everyone’s times. Padma says “the slowest chef on the slowest team will be up for elimination.” Not “will be eliminated”? Sure.

Everyone discusses what they want to do. Keriann and Adam fight over the lobsters. Mostly other people are cocky about what they can do, but there doesn’t seem to be the same level of disagreement, where no one will compromise. The race starts. Adam seems to have won the argument. Mei is kicking ass. Adam of course is fucking it up. Yellow team is the last. Joy’s shucking oysters but she’s feeling the pressure. I like this challenge because there really isn’t anything to narrate. And because it’s early we don’t know who any of these people are. It’s all people talking about how great they are. Ron destroys the mackerel. The blue team is winning…until Katsuji gets to clams. He has no idea how to do this so he’s putting the knife into the clam and then slamming the whole thing on the table. What? That’s not how you do it and I’ve never done that before. Yellow team has been in last but they’re making a comeback. Keriann is doing well with the clams she’s stuck with. Adam has the balls to tell her to use her anger at him. Sigh. Green team finishes, so I guess Adam and Keriann will forgive each other. Yellow team comes from behind to get second. Katsuji somehow manages to shuck all the clams. Red team still has to finish so they can figure out who was the slowest.

Padma reveals the slowest person on the losing team was George. But! George can pick one person to compete against in a “sudden death cookoff”. If he wins, they can both stay. If George loses, he goes home. George picks Gregory. Why? Because Gregory said he could do the mackerel and then was too slow, in George’s opinion.

They have to make a dish out of the stuff they just cleaned. It seems exciting but I just met these people so I can’t muster up any interest in who wins, you know? There is some trash talking, which isn’t even that funny. George: pan-seared mackerel with fennel orange Kalamata salad and warmed clams. George claims he added the clams to add some flavor, instead of probably because Gregory had more than one kind of seafood in his dish. Gregory: oysters with yuzu and ginger mignonette, mirin marinated mackerel, and lobster with coconut and tomato sauce.

Richard says George’s dish was elegant but could have used heat. Gregory’s dish was bright, but making three dishes means three opportunities to fail. The winner is Gregory. Ouch. So George is eliminated, 23 minutes into the episode. He’s pissed. Whatever, one less person for me to remember.

Elimination Challenge. The Top Chef Food Festival! Why can’t things like this happen here? I mean…”The Great Food Truck Race” came through but that was nowhere near as exciting. 250 people, bloggers, critics, etc. three hours to cook. The dish should be an updated version of the first dish they remember cooking. Huh.

Shopping, I assume at Whole Foods. I didn’t catch the sign out front but the signage inside looks like it could match. Adam talks about cooking with his grandfather. Joy wants to make fried chicken but with the time limit she’s just frying the skin. Aaron is making bacon and eggs. Sure.

Three hours. They’re at the Museum of Science, where I guess there’s the commercial kitchen they use for the restaurant or whatever. It’s very crowded. Gregory is making stewed chicken with spicy relish. Katie yells about she usually serves twelve people. She seems kind of shrill. She’s trying to be sarcastic about how 250 is sort of more than 12? She’s making…broccoli salad. What? Michael makes chilled corn soup. He is this season’s molecular gastronomist. Dude, but Blais is here. You can’t do better than that.

Tom Time! And Blais! Mei is shellshocked to meet Tom. She’s making congee. Tom tries to get Aaron to admit he’s in over his head, but Aaron is just like “I’m not here to toss salads”. Everyone laughs. Katsuji appears to be making a shrimp quesadilla that involves squid ink. I don’t know. Squid ink, chicharron and cream. Peppers. Saffron couscous. Hard boiled eggs. Calm down, dude. That is too many things.

After Tom leaves there is a lot of frantic running about and packing. They all wheel everything outside to a pavilion. Todd English introduces himself to Adam, who promptly freaks out. Kristin and Tiffani are here, and they of course go over to bother the contestants. Keriann talks about her kids. When service starts, they’ve of course let everyone in all at once. Katsuji has a cowboy hat on.

Joy: creamy yellow grits, sautéed greens, and crispy chicken skin. Gail is here today. Praise from Gail and Tom. Rebecca: citrus tart with ginger cherries and vanilla Chantilly cream. Richard and Padma tell her there is no ginger flavor. Adam: fish and chips, tri color salad with mustard mayo, nori, Aleppo pepper and cumin seed. Stacy: pulled chicken salad, sweet pea green goddess, cranberry mostarda, potato chip. That sounds good. Ron: shrimp cocktail with strawberries, shaved fennel, radish, and pickled jalapeno. Padma says it’s too spicy, so you KNOW it’s too spicy.

Commercial interlude: the mayor is here shaking everyone’s hand and eating the food. Stacy is super excited about it. The end.

Doug: fried chicken, pickled jalapenos, and watermelon. Katsuji: “petroleum shrimp”; shrimp, saffron couscous, serrano aioli, and squid ink fondue. I think somewhere there is a tortilla. It’s too hard to eat. Plus I don’t think anyone is impressed by how complicated it is. Ming Tsai jokes that he hopes he wins Top Chef. Hee. Keriann: chilled sweet corn soup with bacon jam, truffle crumple and olive oil snow. Blais hates olive oil snow. James: crispy harissa chicken thigh, creamed corn, BBQ spice and watermelon. Watermelon is sour. Melissa: spicy pork, ma-po tofu over spiced rice with eggplant, Szechuan peanuts and pickled cucumbers. Mei: congee with caramelized pork, fish sauce caramel, and black garlic puree. Both of those are deemed really good.

Katie: broccoli salad with tamarind aioli, cured black olive & bacon powder. Side dish. Seriously, Katie. Broccoli salad. Michael: chilled corn soup with pickled cherries and sriracha caviar. He serves it in shot glasses with the stuff in a bowl, so they can “see the presentation”. Seems pretentious. Tom doesn’t like it. Gregory: Haitian stewed chicken, fried bananas, spicy pickles, and scotch bonnet chili relish. The spice is balanced. Padma says she was really close to hating it but she didn’t. Random people stand around talking about dishes, totally not prompted by producers. Aaron runs out of food, so he has to serve Padma a fatty piece of pork belly. Tamari braised pork belly, miso poached egg yolk and bird’s eye chili caramel. She totally notices it’s fatty. And then she puts it in her mouth, makes a face, and gets a napkin to spit it in. OOOOooooo. You’re in trouble. She leaves a parting shot about how his station is dirty too.

The judges meet to discuss everything. Gail liked Doug’s fried chicken. Gregory’s dish was out there but ended up working together. Mei’s congee was good. Bad dishes: broccoli salad from Katie (side dish), Michael’s corn soup (apparently containing fish eggs), and Aaron’s pork belly (clearly). Tom confirms that the non-fatty pork belly wasn’t that great either. Plus Katsuji. Padma points out you can’t eat couscous on a tortilla. Yeah, not really.

Back in the Stew Room. Now with a table! Still with the shelves carefully arranged by some PA with all the boxes and labels facing the right way. Padma appears and asks to see everyone. Huh? Everyone? There is some chatter about how mostly people stepped up. Padma calls Doug, Mei, and Gregory. They stay in the middle, while everyone else stands off to the side. So now everyone can watch Judges’ Table? Why? It’s not like people were lying about what happened, were they? Anyway, these three were the top. Mei’s congee was delicious and Tom doesn’t think there were any flaws. Gregory had so many things going on, but it ended up being perfect somehow. Doug says being simple is being true to himself. Sure. The winner is Mei. Nice. She won with rice porridge, you guys.

Katie, Michael, and Katsuji are the losers, but there is NO Loser Gong! Boo! Also Aaron should consider himself lucky. Katie gave them broccoli salad which is boring, and there was bacon snow which served no purpose. Michael’s concept was good, but the salmon roe overpowered everything. Katie and Michael both agree with the judges, but the difference is that Michael admits to tasting the dish and not liking the salmon roe. He knew it was bad but it was already on the menu so he didn’t get rid of it. Well that was dumb. Then he says he liked it. Katsuji made such a complicated dish, and then he says if he could have put more stuff he would have. He starts listing the stuff, and Tom has to cut him off. He may have to spend a lot of time with this dish to make it successful.

The judges stare down the bottom three and then Padma tells Michael he is out. He says he tried to be original but it backfired. Sometimes you have to fail. True. He doesn’t care what Tom thinks, he’s proud of what he did.

This season: lots of yelling, Restaurant Wars (of course), making the judges shop so Padma spills fish all over the floor, cranberry bog, Fenway, that fucker Andy Cohen. George Wendt comes out and everyone goes “Norm!” and he looks irritated and says “Stop with that”. Hugh is going to be here! Yay! Some tears. So the usual, then.

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