Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Top Chef 1/28/15--"Getting Prickly in Mexico" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the final Quickfire involved beans, finally. I’ve been waiting for a bean challenge this whole time. So Mei wins, with her plan to get wasted on her trip to Napa that she won. Then the contestants must be innovative. Mei and Melissa got some interesting flavor combinations, and Melissa won which was kind of cool. Both girls went through to the finale. Gregory didn’t make anything innovative at all, and George screwed up his octopus, but then George went home which was unexpected. Gregory didn’t follow the challenge at all, but then again, George only showed up in the middle of the competition and I didn’t see him winning. (click for more)

Then in Last Chance Kitchen Doug was allowed to pick out ingredients to screw George, and he picked clams, knowing George can’t shuck them. We of course don’t see who won, since the winner will rejoin the competition tonight.

Everyone talks about how much they want to win. The finalists arrive in Mexico, and walk around the villa while Doug and George cook. I saw this part already. We eventually find out Doug wins and is back in the main competition. As it should be.

Padma meets everyone outside with Enrique Olvera. For the Quickfire the chefs need to make a dish with prickly pear fruit, called xoconostle. Winner gets an advantage in the Elimination challenge. 30 minutes to cook. All chefs are cooking outside. The fruits are sour, so everyone is adjusting and running around to get proteins and Mei can’t get her steak cooked so she goes raw on purpose and so forth. It’s all the usual stuff. Doug goes vegetarian. Mei doesn’t get what she wanted from her steak.

Mei: rib eye tataki with xoconostle salsa and nopales salsa verde. Mei’s meat is all different donenesses. Doug: xoconostle and tomatillo stew with roasted peppers and pepitas. Melissa: salmon ceviche with xoconostle, leche de tigre and prickly pear salad. Gregory: garlic shrimp with olive oil, prickly pear salsa, and xoconostle relish. Gregory’s olive oil was overpowering, Mei’s meat was not cooked well. Melissa’s dish was refreshing, but Doug’s vegetarian dish is how they eat here most days so he wins. Nice.

Elimination Challenge. Everyone gets an envelope to find an artist somewhere in town. Tomorrow they’ll have to create a dish inspired by their artist. Four hours to work, for both the chefs and the artist, who will be making a new work. 150 people. Oh but they need to be sure to execute properly so here are all the eliminated chefs for sous chefs! Doug gets to pick first and he takes Adam and Katsuji. Everyone laughs at him. Melissa takes George and James, Mei picks Rebecca and Keriann, Gregory takes Katie and Stacey. Interesting.

Everyone goes to meet their artist. The girls think they are matched up well. Doug gets an American woman which is weird to me for some reason. His mom is an art teacher. This woman is also from Texas so Doug is psyched. Gregory talks peasants. Mei has someone super colorful and almost abstract but she loves it. Melissa’s artist is planning to wing it when he shows up tomorrow which worries her a little bit.

Shopping is interesting because they get $500 which seems like a lot. Plus everyone has to brush off their Spanish. Mei wants chicken skin but she can’t communicate to the butcher to get any skin. Melissa was going to do a squid ink pasta but she can’t get any squid ink. I think she goes just for shrimp. They’re supposed to match the artist visually.

The chefs are set up outside in a courtyard, and each artist has some pieces and a big space to work. Sous chefs appear. Doug is going to attempt to make brisket in four hours. Gregory knows he has to let the steak shine through all the other stuff he’s doing. Mei has a crudo and maybe chicken skin, and lots of colors. Melissa mixes a ton of pasta for eggplant ravioli. Gregory manages to overcook all his steaks. Katie is like “Well that’s impossible because I cooked al the steaks” but Gregory is worried they’re too well done.

Guests arrive and Katsuji starts hollering about tacos for some reason. Adam tells Doug to ease up, because Doug is freaking out. Lots of drinking. Everyone talks up their food to their guests, and the artists describe their pieces. Gail is here but not Hugh or Emeril or Blais. Padma claims artists were assigned randomly. Sure. I mean no one got screwed on that but everyone said they got someone who was like them so don’t tell me they were random pairings.

Gregory: grilled strip loin with ancho chile, beets, cilantro puree and Valencia orange sauce. Gail thinks he did a really good job of matching the painting.

Commercial interlude: Katsuji is loud and slightly annoying. Doug sighs that he knew it was coming.

Doug: brisket Texas red with tomatillo and masa cake. It’s basically Texas chili with no beans. I think it goes over well. Melissa: smoked eggplant ravioli with shrimp, chorizo, and cotijia cheese. Padma loves the eggplant. Mei: snapper and bass crudo with chicken skin crumble, soy gastrique and radish pickles. I guess she managed to get chicken skin because they love it.

The judges discuss the dishes in the middle of the courtyard. Gregory had a good mix with his orange sauce. Padma doesn’t think Mei was creative enough to match her artist. Gail talks about how she thought flavor-wise Mei was really creative and Padma makes a face. Doug has not cooked like this all season. It was homey. Melissa maybe put some stuff on the plate just for colors and not for flavor.

Judges’ Table. Everyone did a really good job. Doug was the most literal, because he was lucky enough to get an artist that like, painted some stripes so he just replicated that. He returned to his roots and it was authentic. Mei knew she had to be colorful. Gail and Padma tell her they wish she had let go a little more. Melissa’s artist plays with charcoal so she wanted smokiness. She put shrimp on there, but it didn’t really go, it was just there for color. Then Tom says her chorizo was over rendered. Gregory wanted to get some orange in his dish since the whole background of the painting is orange, and it’s a peasant so he wanted earthiness. Gail really loved it.

Tonight’s winner will win the painting they were inspired by today. Nice. The winner is Doug. He is thrilled he served chili and won. Gregory also did really well so we’re down to Melissa and Mei. Aww I was hoping that would be the final two. Both of them did a really great job, though, it’s just that it’s the finals. Both of them are proud of their dish and wouldn’t change anything. Melissa is eliminated. Tom tells her she didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just that the other dishes were better. Aww. She says she cooks with no fear.

Next time: running, outside, ant eggs, Mei is maybe too simple and freaks out.

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