Friday, February 26, 2016

Top Chef 2/25/16--"Wok This Way" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: everyone had to make up rap names, which was terrible and best forgotten. Then the Elimination challenge asked everyone to pick a historical time period and make a dish that would be from that time and place. I really liked this challenge. It's creative and is not just “cook something good”. Amar got Paris and Belle Epoque, which means he got fancy French fine dining. He made a great dish that reminded everyone of culinary school and fine dining and he finally won a challenge. Karen pouted that she couldn't pick China (no, she actually made a passive-aggressive comment about it out loud) so she took Japan. Then she decided to make a Chinese dish anyway so she was eliminated. (click for more)

Last Chance Kitchen: Karen and Jason had ten minutes to prep and then ten minutes to cook teppenyaki Benihana-style. Jason won this one somehow also and I'm kind of tired of Jason.

Back at the hotel (the Fairmont, fancy) everyone decompresses and Amar celebrates his win. Marjorie is going to miss Karen. When they joke that Marjorie is the last woman standing but she still has balls, she says they're the biggest. Hee. She vows to stick around and not let this be a sausage party.

In the morning Jeremy calls home and finds out one of his kids is on the Honor Roll. She got there by reading 125 books. Nice. That's about all that happens in that scene, aside from the fact that Jeremy claims credit for the honor roll because he's the one who made his daughter read 125 books.

The chefs meet Padma in Chinatown where there is a guy with a wok and flames showing off. Also Martin Yan! I love him. Back in the day (holy shit I am so old) before Food Network I watched all the cooking shows on PBS and Yan Can Cook was a favorite. He always said to “put a tiny tiny bit of” whatever in your dishes and also he has sick knife skills. The Quickfire challenge is to make chop suey. The official definition is a bunch of stuff, proteins and veggies or whatever, all chopped up and served together. It's really useful for using up leftovers, if you make it at home. Martin reminds them a professional wok station is really hot. No immunity but “a considerable advantage”.

30 minutes. Marjorie tears up lobsters with her bare hands and talks about delicate sauces. I think everyone is worried about burning their dishes. Jeremy says you can burn everything in seconds. Amar has never used a wok before, which you can tell because he has set everything on fire so badly he has to start over. Isaac yells and acts up. Kwame is not as impressed by people like Martin Yan because he is too young. Sigh. “Do you know Martin Yan?!” “I know Marvin Gaye”. Heh. Kwame says he is “blanch frying” eggplant. Isaac might have left his chicken in the cornstarch mixture too long. Also let me point out that I would have been watching his show 25 years ago and Martin Yan looks exactly the same.

Jeremy: Dungeness crab stir-fry with bok choy, red Thai chili, long beans, and onions over rice. Marjorie: lobster chop suey with ginger, Thai chili, orange, and fresh vegetables over rice. Carl: Szechuan-style lobster with snow peas, ginger, chilies, and scallops. Amar: pork chop suey with vegetables and Szechuan peppercorn over fried rice. Isaac: spicy General Tso's chicken with crackling, sambal, orange juice, and broccoli over rice. Kwame: chop suey stir fry with crispy beef, eggplant, long beans, carrots, cabbage, and noodles.

Carl didn't use enough vegetables, Kwame's eggplant got greasy because he let it sit too long, and Isaac was right about the cornstarch and had gummy chicken. Jeremy handled the crab well, Marjorie had a good balance of protein to vegetable, and Amar had a good mix of elements. The winner is Marjorie. She's glad to prove to herself she can do it.

The Elimination Challenge seems to involve innovation? Venture capital? Their guest judge is Adam Fleischman, who owns Umami Burger and has fast casual experience. They are going to have to think about fast casual restaurants. Think of a fast casual concept that will work in “any city” in America. It must have a clear vision and be appealing. Tomorrow they'll have to cook one dish for 150 people, plus have a concept and a menu. Oh and because this is a lot of work here are eliminated contestants to help you! Bleh. Marjorie's advantage is that she can pick her sous chef first, and she immediately picks Angelina. Not Karen? OK. The rest of the advantage is she gets to assign the rest of the teams. She interviews that she's taking this advantage to get rid of people. Jeremy and Jason (because Jeremy is a bro and Jason is not), Carl and Chad, Amar and Karen, Isaac and Wesley, Kwame and Phillip. Hilariously pretty much every single person interviews “Don't give me Phillip”. In confessional, she admits she knows they have fought before and hopes he'll fail. Out loud Marjorie admits she saved Phillip for Kwame, and he calls her out to ask why. “You should have the opportunity to work together again!” Then he says he doesn't care because Phillip gets shit done. Sure. Three hours to prep tonight and one hour tomorrow.

Carl wants “southern Mediterranean”. Amar is thrilled to be paired with Karen. He's doing rotisserie chicken. Jeremy claims to be doing “funky cool” tacos, like octopus and tripe! Dude, I can get octopus tacos in St. Louis. Wait, is that the place that's closing? Anyway, if you could sustain that here that's a good sign for their requirement that it be viable in “any city”. Kwame wants to do chicken and waffles, but use all frozen waffles. Oh, Kwame. That is a terrible idea. Marjorie wants to do something with pasta. Isaac was going to do burgers, but the guest chef owns Umami Burger so nope. So he's doing gumbo. Amar gives Kwame shit about the frozen waffles which he should. Wesley is also joking about being paid to sabotage people which is funny. He was kind of a hot mess when he was on the show but now that he's off the show and in the peanut gallery on Last Chance Kitchen he's pretty funny.

Carl is making lamb stew. I would eat at a Moroccan/Turkish/North African fast casual place. Isaac is loud. He's very excited about his gumbo and Wesley is encouraging him. Amar's plan includes different choices for sauces for the chicken. Kwame is finally realizing buying frozen waffles was not the best idea but it's too late now. To contrast this choice that he has made, Marjorie is making pasta from scratch for 150 people.

Tom Time! Jeremy's restaurant name is “Taco Dudes”. Of course. The tacos will have an Asian spin. The name is from, he's a dude, and likes tacos, and something about surfing. Kwame has a good idea for having different waffles and stuff, but the look of horror he gets about frozen waffles is not a good sign. And then Tom leaves so that was productive. As they're packing up Marjorie realizes she didn't think about how to cook her pasta, and they don't seem to have pasta baskets so she might be in trouble.

Kwame says Phillip has been doing what he's told so he's a perfectly fine sous chef. That's true, they haven't shown him trying to boss Kwame around or anything. Marjorie thinks Isaac has been doing too many soup things? Really? That's your complaint? Whatever.

Competition day. Marjorie's solution to cooking her pasta is to fill her deep fryers with water. Interesting. Carl sets up his food in a Chipotle-like concept where you build bowls or whatever. So you pick couscous or pita or a salad, then add lamb or chicken or whatever “main”, and then there are different veggies and toppings also. I don't like Chipotle but I can't deny their “system” of building dishes works pretty well. Marjorie is relieved the water is boiling in her deep fryers. Why are you surprised? Oil for deep frying is at like 350 degrees. Plenty of heat if you're just boiling water. Jeremy brags this is “instinct cooking” and that he pulled this concept out of his ass at the last second. OK having an option of lettuce wraps for your tacos is fine's tacos.

The guests arrive and Kwame says they all immediately got in his line. Actually I think everyone has a line. Blais is here. Carl (Savory Med): lamb and piquillo pepper stew with couscous, yogurt, feta cheese, and fresh herb salad. It's not too spicy and has a lot of fresh herbs, although maybe fresh herbs are not sustainable in a business. Isaac (Gumbo For Y'all): gumbo ya ya with chicken and sausage. The menu is different gumbos with different ingredients. It's good gumbo and he's planning to sell like, gallons for takeaways. Like going to buy a bucket of chicken. Plus there are sides and whatnot.

Kwame (Waffle Me): whole wheat waffle topped with fried chicken, maple jus, mustard seeds, red onion, & scallions. Padma makes sure to ask how he made his waffles. The chicken is great but it's little mini waffles and the waffles are not good. The menu listed different waffle flavors like sweet potato, and spice levels for the chicken, and several sauces. They really dislike the size of the mini waffles, like an appetizer. Marjorie (Pasta Mama): house-made spaghetti with olive oil-poached tuna, chili, garlic, and lemon bread crumb. The menu looks like you pick a pasta shape and a sauce (mostly with proteins), then put cheese or bread crumbs or something. She wants each store to have an extruder. The tuna is moist, and they like the concept. Blais starts brainstorming how you would get an actual Pasta Mama to be in the window.

Jeremy (Taco Dudes): “bro ham” crispy pork belly taco with caramel glaze, Savoy cabbage slaw, lime aioli, and pickled habaneros (I think you can pick a crispy tortilla or a lettuce wrap). His menu might be confusing to people, but Tom thinks you could have a social media campaign to explain. Mainly it's because all the tacos have dumb names like “Tubular” and “Shaka Brah” and then the menu says “Sauces for Flave” like “Citron Emulsion” and there is a category of “textures” which is just different crispy things. Then Jeremy starts talking about the restaurant and says “gastropub” and “rooftop garden” and “hot waitresses” in the same sentence. The look of death Padma gives him for “hot waitresses” is very entertaining. The taco itself is kind of hard to eat. Amar (Pio Pio): rotisserie chicken with Spanish yellow rice, four bean salad, and choice of sauce. Padma seems to want a whole chicken or at least whole pieces. It's too bland, but Tom thinks it's authentic. You pick one starch and a sauce and a vegetable.

The judges hang out and they seem to like Marjorie's concept a lot. Carl's concept has great flexibility and was delicious. Isaac had great gumbo but Kwame's waffles are his downfall, as you could have guessed by how many damn times they have brought up his waffles this episode. They also hate how small they are, like you aren't going to order 40 of them for lunch for the office. Smash cut to Kwame saying you and your friends could order like, 40 mini chicken and waffle blini. That's the size they are. Amar's condiments maybe were special but his concept is not original. Jeremy's idea was confused and the taco itself wasn't great. Hilariously as I was watching I realized we have all these concepts in St. Louis, which I did not expect. They're not all fast casual, but we have a pasta place and an Ethiopian place and rotisserie chicken for fast casual, and regular restaurants for the rest. So all these ideas work, in terms of appealing to “any city”. You know that was a dig at the Midwest.

Judges' Table. Marjorie and Carl are the tops. Marjorie made a perfect dish and they loved the idea. Carl had a good concept which is popular right now and it also looked healthy. The winner is Carl. Nice. He was also the diners' favorite.

Bottoms are Kwame and Jeremy. Jeremy claims to have played around with this concept before, except for the part where he said earlier he pulled this concept out of his ass. The concept was too confusing, because he seemed to be trying to have his restaurant be a lot of different restaurants. Kwame had a decent concept but they wanted him to make his own waffles and maybe try some of the interesting flavors on his menu. And they tell him his dish had too much “technical precision”, whatever that means. I guess because he used tweezers to place the onions on top or whatever?

Tom says the fast casual industry is too crowded and you need to stand out. Kwame is eliminated. He started out so strong, but he's been faltering. He goes to the judges' table to shake hands, and tells Tom he's only been cooking four or five years, and he started as a waiter at craft. Going into that kitchen showed him what cuisine could be, and he thanks Tom for the opportunity. I think Tom is moved/feels guilty. On another person I would immediately assume that was an underhanded attempt at a guilt trip but I think that was genuine. Kwame knows he's the youngest and he's got more to learn.

Next week: the last Quickfire, which is “sudden death”, Hubert Keller, something Chris Cosentino calls a “legacy restaurant”, someone doing a torchon in three hours which I am POSITIVE is the exact mistake someone in a previous season did.

Last Chance Kitchen: Kwame wants to win “Top Chef” to get recognition for his restaurant that he's opening. He also knows Jason has won like four times and is a really strong chef. Jason is nervous because Kwame is young but talented and passionate. Tom admits sometimes he makes his kids frozen waffles for breakfast and Kwame jokes that everyone loves frozen waffles. Heh. 15 minutes to make breakfast.

Jason and his tight jeans rolled up to his knees and his long rainbow socks and his prancing (it's not just me, the peanut gallery agrees), he can go at any time. Kwame says he's making eggs bhurji. Grayson is like, I thought you said “eggs bougie” and Kwame is like “yeah I know bougie, I can make anything bougie.” Hee. He says he's Zen and takes his time. Jason's making migas, which is fried bread crumbs or croutons, with an egg on top.

Tom Time! Kwame describes his dish and all the delicious vegetables. Tom doesn't really give him a lot of shit about anything. Meanwhile Giselle and Angelina are doing a play-by-play of the action. They think Kwame is too slow. Tom is over at Jason's station juggling eggs for some reason. As Jason explains his dish and how it has a little sausage Tom is like “sounds like a personal problem.” I like Last Chance Kitchen this season. The peanut gallery is much louder and full of shittalking, and Tom is too. Jason waits until the very last minute to fry his eggs.

Jason: olive oil poached deep fried egg with migas. Tom breaks the yolk and mixes it up before eating. It's “super”. Kwame: egg bhurji, brioche and cilantro. Tom says it's unexpected but he doesn't seem as enthusiastic as he was about Jason. Kwame's flavors were fantastic. Jason had great texture. Tom would eat either dish for breakfast but Jason wins. Sigh. Kwame is sad to have lost because he wanted Padma to name him Top Chef. Two more episodes of this.

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