Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Top Chef 11/12/14--"It's War" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: Katsuji was kind of annoying but he won immunity for making the best bar snack for George Wendt. Mostly Aaron was annoyed so who cares, right? Then everyone had to get in groups of three to make a three-course Italian meal. Right as service was starting they surprised everyone by having a guest judge who was gluten-free. I have a problem with this twist, because of how manufactured it was. Sure, in real life chefs have to accommodate people. Mostly. But they also specified the second course HAD to be pasta. In reality your second course could be risotto or something, but they couldn’t have that because then there might be a team that didn’t have to deal with the twist. So I feel like they forced everyone to make pasta, just so they could “surprise” them and make them scramble. Anyway, even though Aaron and Katsuji ended up on the same team because no one likes them, they won and were safe. The double elimination sent Rebecca and James home. (click for more)
People are kind of sad James is gone. I mean, not sorry they’re still there. Maybe sorry Aaron and his cocky bullshit are still there. Stacy was on the bottom and she’s demoralized. Doug says Katsuji is like his brother: he loves him but also wants to punch him in the face. Hee.

Padma greets the chefs, along with chef Jamie Bissonnette. For today’s Quickfire, Padma will call names and those people will pick other chefs for a head-to-head battle. Because clearly they’ve been sizing each other up, she says. Adam quickly says he can beat anyone in this room. If you call someone out, they will then pick out a dish and a cooking method. Plus there is product placement tin foil and those plastic bags you can bake in and stuff. Winner gets $10,000. Katsuji is up first and he picks Aaron. Of course. They will make smoked salmon. Doug takes Adam, and steamed mussels. Keriann, Stacy, trout en papillote. Keriann thinks Stacy’s the weakest. Melissa, Katie, smoked BBQ. “Smoked BBQ”? Whatever. Gregory and Mei are left with each other because they’re both strong and no one wants to deal with them. They get steamed dumplings. Oh Gregory. You’re dead.

30 minutes. Katie says something about making baked beans out of pine nuts. Everyone else seems to be more normal. Melissa is making cold smoked scallops which are not BBQ. Mei has been making dumplings since she was seven, of course. Katsuji asks Aaron what he would do with the $10,000, and Aaron says he’s taking Katsuji’s wife out. OK that was kind of funny. Katsuji busts out the liquid nitrogen. Frantic running around.

Gregory: steamed shrimp dumpling with ginger and herbs. Mei: pork dumpling with black vinegar. Both good. Katie: grilled chicken breast with pine nut baked beans, apple and cucumber pineapple slaw. Melissa: smoked and seared scallop with charred corn, smoked bacon, and grilled fennel. How are either of those BBQ? Katsuji: sake-infused chipotle broth with smoked jalapenos and salmon. Aaron: lightly smoked wild salmon with tarragon crème fraiche and pickled shallot. Keriann: trout with white wine butter sauce, bell pepper, fennel, serrano chili. Stacy: trout with heirloom tomatoes, basil, masala onions, and spinach glass. I don’t know what “spinach glass” is. Possibly fried spinach? Whatever. Doug: steamed mussels in orange and saffron butter, lemon preserve with roasted sweet peppers. Adam: vadouvan spiced steamed mussels, fresno chili broth with apple and toasted pumpkin seeds. Vadouvan is a spice blend that is apparently curry with a French twist. So sayeth Wikipedia.

The winners of the head-to-head battles are Katsuji (Aaron didn’t have enough smoke, ha), Doug (Adam didn’t cook his mussels properly for all his trash talking), Keriann (more texture and flavor), Katie (the pine nut baked beans apparently were a good idea), and Gregory. Wow. The overall winner is Gregory. Nice. Mei’s not really pleased.

Padma says it’s time for war. She tries to educate us with a list of “critical” battles in the Revolutionary War. There are two teams: the people who won their Quickfire battle, and the people who lost. Each person will go head-to-head against someone on the other team. The first team with three points wins, so this will be like that All-Stars tennis thing where someone might not even have to serve their food. The team of losers will have to “reveal” their “strategy” first. So I guess that means they pick someone, and then the team of winners gets to figure out who to put up against them. Battle of Lexington and Concord: Adam vs. Doug. Battle of Bunker Hill: Katsuji vs. Melissa. Aaron wants to go, but Adam thinks they can’t afford to lose, and I guess he assumes Aaron will lose again. Hee. But Melissa is that great? Battle of Trenton: Gregory vs. Mei. Clearly. Battle of Saratoga: Keriann vs. Stacy. Battle of Yorktown: Aaron vs. Katie. Padma pretends to be surprised at how many rematches there were, but of course there are. Also it looks like Aaron will be last so his team will possibly not have to depend on his dish. They will serve 100 guests, and then just because they need another twist they only have $1000 per team. So you can only spend $2 a head. Because “food is scarce in wartime”. 2.5 hours to prep here, 1 hour on site tomorrow. Once they serve everyone then “the head-to-head battles will start”.

Shopping is just as boring as usual, just that now everyone has something to talk about with the budget restriction. Stacy says she started working when she was 14 to make money for school clothes. That’s about it.

Katsuji worries about Melissa, who has awards and whatever, even though she has been practically invisible on this show. Both she and Katsuji have ended up doing vegetarian which is kind of cool. Katsuji announces he wanted to go up against Aaron but apparently Aaron doesn’t have the balls. Ha! Aaron is making his stupid shrimp noodles or scallop noodles or whatever he made during that Sudden Death Quickfire that time. Gregory has appointed himself leader of his team, making sure everyone is good and tasting everything. Adam thinks he is the leader of his team, but he is not trying to make sure everyone is on-point because ultimately they are individuals and will be tried as individuals. EXACTLY. Which is why team challenges seem like they are just for drama. Melissa is worried about the texture of her soup.

Service is outside at some estate, where they’ve set up some counters and toaster ovens on the lawn. Adam is hooting and being loud for no reason. Melissa says her texture is still not where she wants it but the flavors are good. Aaron continues to shit talk everyone. Clearly. All of a sudden Mei is hollering at Aaron. It looks like she is looking back at the back counter where there are some burners, and she starts to say his name and then they both lunge at the counter. Apparently his pot with his dashi fell off the counter. It sounds like Mei had enough time to watch it fall so he probably didn’t put it back on the burner squarely or something. Now Aaron has to jerry-rig some broth with instant dashi (loaned by Mei) because that’s all that’s keeping his noodles moist. I’m waiting for him to start making snide comments about sabotage, because of course he has no idea how this happened, and he would be the first person to point fingers like that.

The judges arrive, and Hugh is here to ask Jamie if he brought a musket, and then give a tiny disappointed headshake when he did not. Then he claims you can open-carry a musket in most Southern states. Hee. Some guy in uniform fires a musket to announce the start of the head-to-head battles. They get five minutes to plate. People seem to be assuming they were supposed to have some kind of war theme? Like, “beef tartare is a good dish for war”? Or something. Adam: salt and pepper grits with cheddar cheese, poached egg, bacon and onion jam. I would eat that right now. Hugh approves of the grits. Doug: beef tartare with ginger aioli, radish, chili oil, and cilantro. They like the sourness. Adam sweeps it. There are flags next to the judges, so Adam takes one and waves it around while hooting.

Katsuji starts plating and somehow develops a panic attack. His team helps him finish plating. Katsuji: tostada with charred cauliflower, olive, date, and goat cheese. A little rich and heavy, but the texture and flavors are good. Melissa: white gazpacho with cucumber, green grapes, marcona almonds, and mint. Flavors are good, but it’s too thin. Katsuji wins three to one. So that’s one for the losers and one for the winners.

Gregory is confident. Shitake mushrooms and coconut milk broth, turmeric, green curry, and dill. Good hot weather food and seasoned perfectly. Mei: kimchi vegetables, New York strip loin and scallion salad. Beef is perfectly cooked and the kimchi is great. Gregory wins. Mei is still pissed.

Keriann knows that if she wins the competition is over and her whole team is safe from elimination. Aaron is like “Pff, she can’t win, she can’t cook”. Shush Aaron. Stacy: marinated beets, pecan-sage yogurt, horseradish brittle, fresh horseradish. Flavors are a little off but the beets are cooked well. Keriann: herb meatball with red onion jam, ginger mustard and port reduction. Padma loves the jam but Tom is like “You foolish woman, this was a terrible dish”. Ouch. After a commercial break Stacy is declared the winner.

Commercial interlude: Katsuji never shuts up. Apparently this is not universally hated. The end.
Hey just like on “Hell’s Kitchen” when there’s always a tie and it comes down to the last dish! Aaron claims he will shoot himself in the face if he loses. Sigh. Hugh and Tom get their dishes and exchange amused glances. Aaron: pork meatball and scallop noodles. I guess where you steam pureed scallops into sheets and then you cut strips for noodles? Noodles have no texture, and he has to explain about his dashi because clearly the instant dashi is not that great. Katie: imperial stout chocolate cake with smoked sour cream and pomegranate-molasses strawberries. That sounds really good. Good cake, if not really exciting. Padma asks about their rivalry, and Katie throws Aaron under the bus by telling the judges he said doing dessert was a cop-out. Oh right, he did just announce that to the room in general. Tom is like, um, WTF, everyone always fails on desserts on this show so if you can do one well then what is the problem? Aaron tries to cover his ass by smarming that he thought this was a “war” challenge and who brings chocolate cake to a war? Hugh is like, who brings a scallop noodle to war, at about the same time I am yelling that at my TV. Everyone laughs and Aaron just stands there because BOOM you got served, son. Katie sweeps! Whee! So the team of winners wins again.

Padma thinks this was the best food all season. The judges decide Adam and Mei did so well they shouldn’t be up for elimination. Adam did win his round. So it’s Stacy, Melissa, and Aaron. Jamie tries to be clever by saying Stacy’s dish wouldn’t get her into Harvard, but Melissa’s dish would flunk out of home ec. Aaron was ambitious, and maybe someone should have talked him out of his dish. Padma then says “I think we know who’s going home”. Huh.

Judges’ Table. Loser Gong. Tom asks if the losing team considered that they would just have to beat one other person on their team. Most of them did. Tom says of course they should. For example, Mei lost her battle but should have been able to look at her teammates and feel pretty good about not going home. She says she just tries to do the best she can. Adam and Mei are safe. Melissa admits she didn’t like her gazpacho texture. She had to nail it because the dish was so simple. Aaron was too ambitious. He says if he could do it over he would have built texture in the noodles. Hugh stops him and asks if he knew the noodles would be mushy. Aaron says he wanted some texture contrast, and Hugh is like “so did I”. Padma tries to yell at the rest of his team for letting him hang himself instead of correcting him, but Adam tells them that Aaron had confidence and no one could tell him what to make. Meaning, I wouldn’t have listened and I bet Aaron wouldn’t have either. Gregory raises his hand and says “I would never have allowed that to happen.” No one asked you, Gregory. Tom just got done praising this team for thinking of themselves. Adam maintains that he didn’t sabotage Aaron on purpose, but Aaron was confident and he trusted him. Stacy is a little confused since she won her battle, but she really only won because Keriann’s dish was so terrible.

Aaron goes home! Yay! Now I don’t have to listen to his dumb shit talking! Tom says he let his team down. Some ass-kissing about what an honor it is and he didn’t go to culinary school and he’s the youngest and blah blah. He says he proved a lot. Sure. I’m not buying this story that Aaron is an inspiration, Bravo.

Next week: cranberries, Tiffani (yay!), old-school cooking over fires, nothing turns out good.

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