Thursday, December 10, 2015

Top Chef 12/10/15--"Spines and Vines" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the chefs had to do pop-ups with various “ethnic” cuisines. “Vegan” counts apparently. There was little drama in terms of people getting bossy or failing at getting food out of the kitchen. Marjorie won for making a Persian dessert so good the owner of the restaurant is going to put it on the menu. Despite Grayson's constant bitching that she couldn't use any meat in her dish, Renee's stuffed beets were deemed worse and Renee was sent home. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen Garret and Renee both had to make dishes with the ingredients they lost with, but in a twist they swapped ingredients. So Garret was stuck with vegan items and Renee got Vietnamese or whatever Garret was trying to make. Garret still did better so Renee is gone for good. Probably.

We open in the Stew Room after judging. Marjorie jokes she's going to make dessert for every challenge now. Hee. The vegan team is still kind of delusional about how they should not have lost. Grayson tries to not let it get to her head. Padma comes in and says tomorrow they'll be “road tripping” to Santa Barbara. Woo. So I guess they won't be in one place for very long.

In the car Kwame says he thought he might be going home last night. But instead the judges told him he saved his team, so now he's got some confidence. Jeremy talks about his daughter and how he thought he'd name her a food name but they all sounded like puppy names. So he named her Madeline. I think they let Phillip drive? Sigh. Last week one of the teams drove by his restaurant and in addition to having meaningless “deep” phrases around there is a giant picture of him out front because of course there is. Frances has overcome drugs and a rough childhood. Finally they get to Santa Barbara and end up on the docks talking to an urchin diver. She busts out a bucket with fresh urchins to taste. Hmm. She gives them a whole cooler full and sends them to a winery.

Padma and Dana Cowen greet the chefs and they are both wearing long dresses and shawls. It's not a poor fashion choice or anything, just odd they're so similar. Dana greets Jason because he was a Best New Chef. Sudden Death Quickfire! You will cook with sea urchin and wine. Winner gets immunity, loser “will face” elimination. Thankfully she's moved away from her “immediate elimination” nonsense but it's STILL NOT sudden death unless the loser is automatically eliminated. 25 minutes to cook, and a display of wines to match to.

Some people run for the ingredients, some run for the wine. Frances doesn't have as much experience with wine because she's worked for seven years in the Middle East where there is nowhere near as much drinking. Chad also stopped drinking so he's reduced to reading the notes on the bottle. Or...not doing that because he's out of time. Giselle wanted to make eggs and uni, but can't find the eggs. Eggs are there though. Isaac is treating the uni like crab roe. He is kind of funny and random babbling. Karen is whipping uni with egg yolks and putting it in soup. Angelina wants to play it safe since she might go home, and it's better to be unnoticed than on the bottom. Grayson is making crab salad and she's kind of snobby about other people's stuff. Karen's bowls are too small so the uni just kind of dissolves. After time is called Giselle notices other people have eggs. Oops.

Jeremy: opah with sour apple, cucumber, radish vinaigrette; chardonnay. Angelina: cacio e pepe with uni butter and Parmesan; chardonnay. Cacio e pepe is pasta with just Pecorino Romano and black pepper. Grayson: crab salad with cucumber, grapefruit, and uni; viognier. Jason: salpicon seafood salad with jumbo crab; chardonnay. A “salpicon” seems to be a bunch of stuff chopped and bound together, like stuffing. Karen: seafood hot and sour soup with whipped uni; chardonnay. Giselle: potato with onion jam and uni; chardonnay. Carl: sea urchin omelet with herbs and green chili; chardonnay. Amar: uni with shiitake tempura and lime ricotta cheese; pinot noir-vin gris, which seems to be a rose. Frances: coconut curry with uni and yuzu pickled apple; viognier. Wesley: creamed corn with uni, fennel, roe, and scallop; chardonnay. Chad: Asian goulash with uni; pinot blanc. Isaac: uni potato salad; pinot noir-vin gris.

Grayson made a really simple dish that showcased the uni, Wesley's flavors all built on each other, Carl used the classic pairing of eggs and uni. Grayson wins so hopefully she won't bitch quite so much today. Angelina's uni butter was too salty, Karen's soup didn't have a lot of uni, Giselle's potatoes were not cooked. The loser is Giselle. She must pick one chef to battle head-to-head. If she wins, Giselle can stay. If she loses, Giselle goes home. She picks Angelina, and explains in confessional that it's important to be “fair” and pick people who were already on the bottom, and Karen has more experience than Angelina. Oh please. You picked her because you think she sucks. She's not in danger of going home so “fairness” has nothing to do with it. 25 minutes to cook with ostrich eggs.

I think Giselle has pepitas. Someone makes some Latina comments and they have to remind the crowd that they're both Latina. Marjorie thinks Angelina is better than everyone thinks she is. Angelina knows she won't go home no matter what, but the fewer people who are around, the better her chances. There seems to be scrambled eggs on both sides? Also a lot of running around. Giselle: soft scrambled ostrich egg with avocado chipotle salsa. Angelina: ostrich egg scramble with spicy tomato jam. Dana says Giselle's plating is rushed and there were too many pepitas. Angelina did too much to the egg and it was overwhelming. The winner is Giselle, so this whole thing was a waste of ten minutes of my life. Why do we have these things if you don't automatically eliminate people?

Elimination Challenge. Padma says to pair up to make surf and turf. Grayson has immunity so she is working by herself. Interesting. So if Giselle had gone home, they'd have an even number and it would be fine, but if no one goes home then the person with immunity can just do double work since they can't go home and it doesn't matter if they fail. Everyone else pairs up with whoever they want. Angelina gets stuck with Giselle and she's not particularly happy. 2 hours to prep and cook tomorrow. Winner gets to come back to the winery to “select” your own estate wines with your own label. Padma then waves her hands in the direction of the proteins, which are all over on tables off somewhere nearby, and then says “see you tomorrow!”

So now everyone is racing to get what they want. I think there are two of each thing? Jeremy gets spot prawns and his partner Phillip gets rib eye so they're thrilled. Kwame gets rock crab and somehow his partner Chad gets lamb and he immediately is freaked out. They don't know what to do at first, but I think Kwame wants to go Asian. Jason and Frances (pork and black cod) are butting heads because Jason does Italian and Frances does Asian. I think they're trying to meet in the middle. Karen brags about how great her partner Marjorie is. They have pork loin and rock cod. Phillip wants to make gnocchi that have some crunch to them somehow. Angelina and Giselle have quail and mussels, and Angelina is throwing out random vegetables and Giselle is shooting them all down. She says “young chefs need to learn how to tone it down.” Watch it, Giselle, you just almost went home so I don't know that you're in a position to talk down to anyone.

Shopping. Grayson is super thrilled to not have to deal with anyone else. Giselle and Angelina are already kind of sniping at each other. Meanwhile Frances is joking that Jason is her long-lost twin. The kitchen they'll be in is pretty sweet. Aaaand then Tom shows up. Everyone knows this is terrible. Tom says they are now competing with their teammate and it's surf vs. turf. Tom, why couldn't you have told them that before? Now people have ingredients for dishes they don't want to make because they were trying to compromise. Like Jason and all his random Thai ingredients he has now instead of the Italian stuff he'd be more comfortable with. SIGH. Loser from each battle is up for elimination. Grayson can pick which team to battle and whether she wants to make surf or turf. Marjorie was looking forward to working with Karen and collaboration. Phillip of course thinks this is the greatest twist ever. Giselle tells Angelina she wishes she'd told Angelina to get everything she wanted. Giselle, shush. In confessional Carl is like “I should have picked Giselle” and he and Isaac cackle. OK that was funny. Poor Jason.

Everyone relaxes at the hotel or wherever. Grayson picks Wesley and Amar to go up against, to challenge herself. That's all that happens in that segment.

There is plenty of good-natured trash talking. Grayson is making pork belly. Angelina is glad to be up against Giselle because it makes her more confident. Wesley is putting his rib eye in the sous vide. Chad is thrilled to not have to try to pair lamb with crab. That's true. Kwame helps him butcher the lamb because Kwame is proving to be awesome. The judges are outside and Cat Cora is there with Blais and one of the guys from Animal and Suzanne Goin and Dana again. Wesley is putting green sauce on plates with a stencil. Sigh. Grayson continues to talk shit about the boys and like, how they're slacking and whatever. Grayson, I love you, but please make your shittalking more interesting. Wesley fails to season his asparagus or put herbs in it or anything. He just throws things on the plate. Also after time is called he I guess finally tastes the meat and finds it's still tough.

Also Wesley just became executive chef of Blais's old restaurant. Oops. Amar: olive oil poached halibut with eggless Bearnaise, asparagus, and morels. Delicate but fish is kind of overcooked. Wesley: sous-vide rib eye with asparagus puree and morels. Underseasoned and Tom is annoyed by the stencil. Grayson: lacquered pork belly with spiced carrot puree. They love the flavors so Grayson wins by a landslide. So BOTH Amar and Wesley are up for elimination.

Phillip is trying to get Jeremy to be impressed but Jeremy is like, just shut up, dude. Jeremy: pan-roasted Santa Barbara spot prawns with potato gnocchi and English peas. The gnocchi are not overworked and it all goes together really well. Phillip: center-cut rib eye with rutabaga puree and nori beurre blanc. Phillip would like you to know he made his own butter. Very tender but someone calls him out on his “beurre blanc”. They both actually did a really good job but Jeremy wins.

Giselle is shocked by how pretty Angelina's is. You are so cocky. Angelina: marinated mussels with escabeche sauce, fennel leek puree, and potatoes. The mussels are flavorless because she drained off the juices. Giselle: quail with cucumber radish salad and tamarindo sauce. Some people got a lot of chilies but it works. Giselle wins and Angelina is pissed. Kwame: rock crab salad, turmeric, asparagus, and radish. It's fun and playful. Chad: spicy bean, honey, and orange-lacquered roasted lamb with asparagus mint puree. It is delicious. There is actually disagreement and it's close but Tom gets to cast the deciding vote and Kwame wins.

Isaac: fennel crusted halibut, English peas, and brown butter hollandaise. Halibut is overcooked but the hollandaise is OK. Carl: roasted chicken thigh with prosciutto and English peas. Nicely cooked and it reminds Cat of home. Blais asks why they didn't try to screw each other. Shush, Blais. There is disagreement here also but Carl ends up winning. So far the only person who was pissed about losing was Angelina.

Karen is waiting until the last minute to cook her fish, but it backfires because she ends up short. There's a good shot of the fish still on the cutting board. It didn't even get cooked. Oops. Of course Padma gets the dish with no fish. Karen: seared rock cod with carrot orange puree, blood orange vinaigrette, and roasted carrots. It is apparently delicious, and as everyone praises it they keep cutting to Padma looking pissed off. Heh. Marjorie: roasted pork loin with olive oil crushed potatoes, glazed vegetables, citrus gremolata. The pork is dry and the dish is kind of sad. Karen wins because even though Padma wouldn't vote for her, everyone else did.

Frances is panicking because the blowtorch is not crisping things right. Jason: grilled pork loin with steamed crudites, Thai-style egg and green bean salad. It's not that great, the flavors need developing. Frances: ginger glazed black cod with jicama cucumber relish and roasted squash. The squash is pointless and the skin is not crispy. It's close but Jason wins.

Wesley is flipping out and Kwame is trying to cheer him up for some reason. Dude, he just said he was trained to do this. What is he even talking about? Who is trained for these random challenges? Wesley is still freaking out about how he didn't get beat, he lost because he failed, or whatever. Calm down, Wesley. I don't know why I have so little tolerance for him right now.

Judges' Table. Jeremy, Kwame, and Karen get called up as the best. Karen's fish was fantastic, but Padma of course says that since she didn't get any fish Karen can't win. Kwame's dish had a ton of flavor. Jeremy put his dish together well and also treated the spot prawns well, which is tricky. The winner is Kwame. He looks shocked. Good for him. He gets a whole barrel of wine from the winery. Sweet.

Losers are Frances, Angelina, and Wesley. Wesley didn't plate in time so he didn't taste anything or adjust seasonings. Tom is like, that's because you were fucking around with stencils. Wesley just agrees and says he cooked like a child. He said he sous-vided the steak because it didn't have any marbling and he thought he would have to. Angelina had too much going on. Of course, since she felt she couldn't just give them steamed mussels, the judges insist if she HAD just done simple steamed mussels they would have loved it. This is like when Probst asks people at the Survivor reunion if they would have voted for the other person and everyone is always like “Oh totally I would have changed my vote”. Whatever. Frances also put random things on her plate because she was afraid of not doing enough. Blais yells at everyone for saying two hours isn't enough time.

Tom makes some “surf and turf” jokes and then Padma sends Frances home. She's upset because she knows she didn't do her best. Padma tells everyone else to pack their bags for Palm Springs.

Next week: dune buggies, cooking outside, Phillip serves on random rocks because of course he does.

Last Chance Kitchen: Frances thinks she can make it all the way to the finale. When Garret comes out she says she can beat him because he's slow as shit. They immediately make fun of each other which is fun. Tom brings up the canned chickpeas again, even though he didn't say anything about it before she told them it was canned so whatever. They have to pick a vegetable (fresh ones, Frances, har har) and use all of it in three different preparations. One of these must showcase the [product placement] ranch dressing. You're going to give her shit about not using fresh chickpeas but then forcing people to use ranch dressing is totally acceptable? JFC that is some bullshit. Tom, don't sell me this line of shit about how this ranch dressing is committed to reducing waste. Anyway, they have to put all the waste on their station so Tom can see.

Frances takes broccoli and makes a song about kicking Garret's ass. Garret has beets, I think. Renee gets in on making fun of Frances but also Garret. They are having fun, for sure. Both Frances and Garret are taking their waste and trying to use it. Tom comes in to investigate. Frances used hers in a sauce and Garret is trying to fry skins. Tom says they're both doing well in terms of reducing waste. Frances says she's going to win, and Garret says it's OK, he used to live in a delusional world too. Hee. He also admits his plating is not as nice. “Garret, did you finish?” “Suck it, Frances.” Hee.

Garret: beet greens with pickled beet stems, crème fraiche ranch vinaigrette, grilled beets and fried beet skins. Tom likes that he fried the skins to reduce waste. Frances: stir fried broccoli with broccoli puree, dried chiles and pickled broccoli stems. There's also a broccoli puree that she used her waste for. Tom says they both did a great job with reducing waste and also using the stupid ranch dressing. Frances had good seasoning but maybe too spicy. Garret didn't season the beets themselves as well as he could have. The winner is Garret. The fried beet skins put him over. Frances is proud to go home on a good dish.

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