Saturday, February 20, 2016

Top Chef 2/18/16--"Hammer Time" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the second part of Restaurant Wars allowed people to learn from their mistakes. They sort of did? But while the two teams were mostly even after lunch service, Palate did a much better job at dinner, with much better food. Isaac won, which was nice after the girls complained so much about his not being elegant enough. Phillip seriously failed at FOH, and the service was crap, and his dumb salad was dumb. While Kwame and Amar did well enough at lunch to save themselves, Phillip and Jeremy did not. But Jeremy's poor executive chef timing at lunch and his terrible risotto at dinner were no match for Phillip's terrible service and his salad that Gail said was stupid. So no more Phillip. (click for more)

Last Chance Kitchen: Jason and Phillip, two people I don't care to see any more of, had to cook sweetbreads in 20 minutes. Phillip managed to cut himself and bled through the whole challenge. Then he failed and so Jason remains the winner.

Isaac is right back in it. Carl talks about how Phillip made his weird food and stood behind it. There's a weird respect for him for that. Yeah...Phillip was annoying but in the full list of “reality show villains” I actually would be fine with him around. Amar talks about how his dad's passing drives him to be better.

OK so they're actually not going to San Francisco but to Oakland, which is across the bay. Marjorie talks about her chef philosophy, which is to take care of people. MC Hammer is with Padma out on the marina. Hell yeah. Isaac tries to do the “2 Legit 2 Quit” hand motions which makes me love him more. Carl loves hip hop. Hammer says he got his name from when he worked for the A's. The Quickfire is to come up with your own rap name (SIGH) and then make a dish about it. Winner gets immunity.

30 minutes. I do not want to watch all these squares make up rap names. Amar babbles about girls (because his name is “Santana Lovah”) and does a dumb dance. OMG these names are terrible. Both Jeremy and Kwame are making Dungeness crab broth. Kwame actually had a short-lived rap career, where he used to give away free food at his shows so people would come. Like, Karen's rap name is “Pink Dragon”. Come on. Carl considers “Soigne Ploosh” as his rap name but rejects it for being a stripper name. Ha! His actual name, “Dr. Funky Fresh”, is one of the less eye-rolly today. Marjorie (Miss Punch-a-Lot, sigh) has extra time so she's worried she's not done enough. Kwame puts cream in his broth so Jeremy interviews that he doesn't like cream and so he's pretty confident he'll do better than Kwame.

Karen (Pink Dragon): hot and sour soup with pork meatballs, shiitake and morel mushrooms. Carl insists on rapping his dish information. Sigh. He demands someone drop the beat but no one does. Ha. Carl (Dr. Funky Fresh): beef tartare lettuce wrap. Amar (Santana Lovah): soy-glazed Chilean sea bass with dashi broth, enoki mushrooms and shishito pepper. Marjorie (Miss Punch-a-Lot): fried chicken sandwich with honey sriracha and marinated watermelon radish salad. Isaac (Toups Legit): scallops with BBQ sauce and grits. Jeremy (Spicy J-Rock 305): spicy broth with Dungeness crab, grilled summer squash and halibut cheek. Kwame (Bay-Lish): seafood broth with Dungeness crab and grilled lobster. Padma basically demands that Kwame rap for Hammer and he does. It's better than Carl's rap anyway. Then Padma gives him a kiss on the cheek for a reward which is cute.

Amar's was boring and Marjorie's bread toned down the spicy chicken. Kwame's sauce was too boring. Carl made a succulent dish. Isaac made a dish with great flavor. Karen did a great job? Whatever. Isaac wins! He's on a roll. Isaac is kind of a giant dork with his dancing and whatnot but I like him.

Elimination Challenge. Jonathan Waxman is here to be the guest judge. The chefs have to pick a time and place from these flags on a globe, and make a dish that is inspired by the ingredients and location and time of their flag. Food trends and culture and all of that. Interesting. Isaac picks Vikings. Heh. Jeremy takes the California gold rush, so 1849 San Francisco. Carl has Ancient Greece, Marjorie has Ancient India, Amar has Paris Belle Epoque (1870-1914), and Kwame takes the Han Dynasty of China. So Karen whines that she is last and loves Chinese food but Kwame took it. Whatever, Karen. She takes Empire of Japan (there are several other choices left we don't see), I'm sure because she wants to get as close to China as possible. They get two hours to research at the library, and 3 hours to cook and serve tomorrow. Padma promises them “special proteins” too.

I like this challenge because this is the kind of information I love to learn about cultures. What did you eat on a daily basis? How did you cook it? What was popular and why? What was daily life like? On the way to the library Karen interviews that she majored in women's studies in college because as a queer lady she thought that would be a good way to meet women. Isaac doesn't know a lot about Vikings except he assumes they roast meat over the fire and there are “horns of mead, and swords, and wenches and shit.” Watching these chefs read books is pretty boring. Jeremy is going to make chowder, because as people came out west for the Gold Rush they brought their foods from the East coast. Karen says something about when the Chinese came over to Japan? I wonder if she wanted to make Chinese food so bad she's finding excuses. Amar's era was all about fine dining, and he was trained in French cuisine so he's thrilled. Marjorie is kind of lost.

The chefs appear to get a night out at The Conga Room with tiki drinks. After they get drunk (actually probably before) Jeremy finds some drums to play and this is probably why the whole place is empty. I don't know if “finds” is the right word so much as he saw some drums and kept saying “I want to play those drums so bad”.

3 hours to cook. Marjorie learned some family recipes from an Indian family she used to cook for. She's making paratha which is a flatbread? Amar is taking truffle slices and cutting perfect circles with a cutter to put under the skin on the squabs. Isaac is cooking barley and reading the back of the package to know how to do it and calling this method an “advanced culinary tactic”. Kwame only has four ingredients, because he says his era didn't have a lot of different things happening. Eggplant, duck, black sesame duck jus, and lapsang souchong, which is a smoked tea.

Tom Time! And Jonathan is here too. Karen is making noodles. Because China. Kwame has some duck roasted so they ask for a sample. But it's totally raw. Oops. You guys Kwame did really well for a long time but he seems to be slowly sinking.

Marjorie's bread is not working! I know! It's a wheat bread layered with ghee which sounds good but she's kind of freaking out. And then she burns some spices. The other chefs give her some shit about trying to kill them. Jeremy had said he wanted chowder, but he's not going to make a thick traditional chowder. Instead it seems like he's making a thin soup. That...may not go over well.

Carl: marinated mackerel and calamari with olives and grapes. He explains the dish and then no one talks, which makes him nervous. But it's a good thing because they are too busy eating to talk. Marjorie: lamb kebab with heart jus, curried split peas, and paratha. Padma doesn't like the bread. It's greasy. The spices seem to pass muster though? Mixed decision.

Isaac is burning slices of wood to plate his dish on. I don't know. Isaac: cumin and mustard seared venison with caramelized onion grautr (barley porridge), and pickled beets. They like it and Tom is like “A Viking wouldn't do that” but he's laughing. Kwame: coriander-crusted duck with black sesame duck jus, eggplant, and lapsang souchong cream. Also goes over really well and I like that he thickened his sauce with silken tofu and not cream because Asians tend to be lactose intolerant. Like that is the reason he gave.

Jeremy is cutting his fish pieces to fit on top of bread and is very fancy. Jeremy: sourdough halibut with shellfish chowder. It's not a chowder but is more like a piece of fish with sauce. Plus there was Dungeness crab back there and he didn't use any. Karen: soba noodles in mushroom dashi broth with wagyu beef, and pickled mushrooms. The broth is too Chinese, which I predicted. Gail totally calls her out on normally making Chinese food and letting that influence her.

Amar is trying to go super old school. He wants sauce over the whole bottom of the plate. Amar: roasted squab, seared foie gras, sweetbreads, tourne vegetables, and truffle sauce. It's amazing. He goes back to everyone and says he's going home. Hee.

The judges talk about how they liked most of the food today. They're going to rehash everything when the chefs get in there so I'm not sure why we're watching this right now. Kwame, Amar, and Carl were the top. Kwame's dish was clean and not cluttered with garnishes. Amar used a ton of complicated techniques. All of Carl's ingredients were important. The winner is Amar. Nice. He says his strategy is to stay safe throughout the competition but it's nice to win. Karen, Marjorie, and Jeremy are the bottom. Tom starts by saying they were all good dishes but someone has to lose. Karen didn't edit, and her fussing with the broth made the dish too Chinese. Marjorie's lamb had too much rub, and she knows she screwed up the bread. She put too much ghee in the pan and it fried instead of just cooking. Jeremy was also too fussy, and so didn't really make chowder. I think part of it is when someone calls their dish something and then doesn't deliver and the judges always hate that. But also I think they wanted more rustic.

Tom says something about a trip they're all taking together? Or something? And then Karen is sent home. I'm not sad about it? She's starting to get on my nerves. Padma almost whispers her name. Like, she's telling everyone it's an honor to work with them and they're all life-long friends. It just feels fake and like a last-ditch attempt for some attention.

Next week: Martin Yan, woks, fast-casual concept, eliminated chefs for no reason other than to annoy me. Bleh.

Last Chance Kitchen: Karen tells all of us she's worked so hard she knows she can make it to the finale. Whatever. She's excited to see Jason, who is still rolling up his pants to his knees. He claims he's really himself now. Tom calls Karen's last dish “confusion cuisine” and now she gets another shot at Japanese food. Ha! They'll have 10 minutes to prep and 10 minutes at the grill to cook up some teppenyaki. Teppenyaki is where they grill at the table in front of you like at Benihana. Jason has never even been to a teppenyaki place. Jason wants to cook second, probably to see what Karen does.

Jason is worried because he doesn't cook Japanese food and Karen has won awards for her Asian food. Wesley asks who is flipping the egg, and if Karen is going to flip a shrimp into Tom's mouth. Hee. Phillip is holding forth on...something. Who knows, it's Phillip. Karen is going to wing it and maybe make some fried rice? Jason has mushrooms and quail eggs. Someone reminds him to get plates.

So Karen comes over to the grill, which is in front of the peanut gallery. As soon as she comes over all the the peanut gallery jumps on their stools. But they're right there? Whatever. Karen starts by banging her spatulas together which makes Tom laugh hysterically. The first thing she does is put down an egg to test out the grill. Tom asks who wants sake? Jason, go get everyone sake, peanut gallery too! Nice. Karen makes fried rice because her omelet got too brown. Lobster fried rice with quail egg, mushrooms, and asparagus. It looks pretty good. Tom wants a bigger plate.

Jason knows he has to be flashy and make some noise. I guess literally. “I like when people are watching me.” This is because he says he's a performer and does karaoke and drag. He tells everyone “Baby Bok Choy” is his other drag name. When Tom asks what his first drag name is, he says “Sissy Chablis”. OK the pictures they show, Sissy Chablis is a hot mess. On purpose, it looks like, so I guess that's what he's going for. The peanut gallery chants for sake, and Tom's like “if you can find another bottle sure.” But they can't find one. Seared wagyu New York steak with shiitake mushroom, asparagus and quail egg. Plus bonito flakes on top that are kind of moving from the other hot food.

Karen's lobster was nicely cooked, but maybe the asparagus and lobster weren't cut small enough for fried rice. Jason's flavors were also good but maybe the steak was a little overcooked. Jason wins. Sigh. She's way more upset than when she was eliminated on the main show.

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