Friday, March 11, 2016

Top Chef 3/10/16--"Magic Hour" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: an ACTUAL Sudden Death Quickfire involving...toast...had Carl and Amar battling to not be eliminated. Sadly Amar lost and was sent home right away. Then Hubert Keller came out and said everyone would be cooking the last meal before the finale at the location of the first ever Quickfire. Never mind that it's closed. This will be the last meal to come out of the Fleur de Lys kitchen. No pressure. Jeremy impressed everyone with his potatoes and fish and won the challenge. Carl tried to make a foie gras torchon in 3 hours instead of 3 days and was eliminated. (click for more)

Last Chance Kitchen: so first Carl, Amar, and Jason all battled with sourdough, and Jason finally lost. The second battle was Carl and Amar making fish in 12 minutes, which seemed to not be a disaster. But we don't know who won.

Jeremy, Isaac, and Marjorie arrive in Las Vegas. Jeremy says he has the most wins this season. Marjorie says she didn't always have the confidence everyone else had. Isaac has been underestimated. He says “I don't want to be the next Emeril Lagasse, I want to be the first Isaac Toups.” Interesting. It looks like they put all three of them up in the penthouse room. Also they were super mean and everyone has big hotel beds except for one lone cot that I guess the Last Chance Kitchen person is supposed to get stuck in. They have monogrammed pillows! Versus a cot.

The next day they all go to an arena to find Padma (with her hair up and in a red slip dress like she just got out of bed) and Tom. The Last Chance Kitchen winner is Amar. Really. Interesting. I mean I like Amar but I didn't think he could beat Carl. He's very motivated to win. Padma namedrops a bunch of chefs who have restaurants in Vegas, like Tom does. Tom says the winner of today's challenge will move on to the finale, joined by the person who wins tomorrow's challenge. Are both of these this episode? Padma describes the four suits of cards, and how they are representative of classes of people. Each suit matches up with a set of pantry shelves, with ingredients that would have been available to that class. I guess “matches”, because I'm sure this thing is not 100% historically accurate. So you need to make a dish for 150 people. I will note that Padma, in a dubbed over line, says they will have to make the best dish possible “inspired by” the foods in their pantry. The chefs line up to a blackjack table to “randomly” be assigned cards. I say “randomly” because I watch too much other reality TV (*cough*PROJECT RUNWAY) where it is nowhere near random. Jeremy gets merchants (diamonds), Marjorie has royalty (spades), Isaac has clergy (hearts), and Amar has peasant (clubs). So you can also get stuff from the pantries of the classes below you. So Marjorie can take whatever she wants, Isaac can take anything but from the royalty shelves, and so forth. So then don't say your dish has to be “inspired by” your pantry when three out of the four of these people aren't confined to one pantry. Oh and eliminated contestants for sous chefs. Marjorie takes Karen, Isaac takes Carl, Jeremy takes Kwame, so Amar gets stuck with Phillip. Winner not only is in the finale but gets $25,000. Marjorie calls Karen her good luck charm while Jeremy says Kwame is great and everyone else is an idiot for not taking him. Jeremy, stop being a jerk.

Marjorie quickly takes whatever she wants, but I think the salmon is from her own pantry. Amar discovers his protein options are tongue or chicken livers. That's not impossible. He grew up without a ton of money so he feels pretty confident with chicken livers. Isaac takes cod, fennel, and eggplant. He has nothing to prove to anyone but himself. Jeremy knows his dish sounds weird (pickled grapes) but apparently it will smack you in the face with flavor or whatever. Then he says he can taste the dish in his head and I hope he's ACTUALLY tasting the dish. Or maybe I don't and I would love to see him suffer for his hubris. Marjorie adds some Meyer lemons. She is afraid she will get slammed for not doing enough.

With 10 minutes until service everyone is prepping and tasting. Marjorie would love to stick it to the boys. Amar says his dish is perfect. As everyone shows up all at once there is a lot of business. The judges arrive with Rick Moonen. Amar: chicken livers and onions, root vegetable puree, crispy leeks & caramelized honey gastrique. It's well seasoned and the puree is good. Jeremy: butter poached chicken, zucchini puree, chicken crackling with pickled sweet & hot grapes. So the pickled grapes were a big hit. Who knew? Isaac: seared black cod with caramelized fennel, eggplant, and red wine vinegar. The toasted bread was too hard to soak up any sauce. Marjorie: seared salmon with vadouvan beurre monte, shaved vegetable salad and Meyer lemon puree. The lemons were great and the salmon is cooked well.

Tom tells the contestants that the food was really good today. Amar made great comfort food, and with simpler ingredients. Isaac's dish was lighter than he usually does and it was delicious. Marjorie had a bunch of components which all worked well together. Jeremy had those pickled grapes which I guess were a revelation and made the dish. The winner is Jeremy. Sigh. He curses and is just as obnoxious as the last episode. The other three have to battle it out again.

David Copperfield comes out. He just walks out, though, which is kind of lame. Padma calls him “The Magician of the Century” which seems excessive. The century? Really? David thinks he inspires people and that is the point of magic. They must make something magical and surprising and showy. Sure, OK. 2 hours to cook and plan to serve tableside. Jeremy can sit around and do nothing. Tonight though, they get to see David's show. I am expecting some Heston Blumenthal shit from these people. The magic show seems pretty standard.

In the morning everyone has breakfast and then they leave Jeremy in the penthouse. Marjorie wants to tell a story about where she started as a cook, starting with when she was 19 and had duck a la'orange. I wish she would use the French pronunciation though, instead of saying orange like an American. Isaac makes a pun on chicken fried steak with dry-aged rib eye and chicken skin. He wants his food to stand out and that's more important right now than showmanship. Amar has weird flavors like cauliflower white chocolate and savory meringue and mole and potato rings and making caviar out of liquids. Marjorie plans to use a bunch of liquid nitrogen to freeze an orange. She tries it, and then is like “Shit.” She didn't let the orange heat back up so the liquid nitrogen burnt her tongue. Now she can't taste anything. Oops. Plus she's never used liquid nitrogen before, so clearly it is not going well.

Gail justifies this challenge by saying that so many restaurants have open kitchens and chefs really are being asked to interact with the public. They are not required to be an entertainer. You encourage them to be entertainers with shows like this and how there are entire networks of people on TV instead of in a restaurant. I mean, they can't be total assholes because they will eventually have to deal with customers or the public somehow. But we're acting like the show is more important than the food and I can get that attitude at a damn Benihana. Marjorie comes out and serves plates, then says for them not to touch anything. She starts talking about duck a la'orange, and the plates she took back, and right now Tom looks bored. She's nervous and I think she could have just plated the actual plates without this super awkward “Don't touch the plates, OK? Oh. Wait. Never mind.”) She's just doing a cooking demo. Now she's making new plates, but she put too many oranges into the liquid nitrogen so they're all clumping. Roasted duck a la'orange with braised endive, caramelized romesco and fennel puree. STOP SAYING ORANGE WITH YOUR TERRIBLE AMERICAN ACCENT. I'm sorry but every time she does it it makes me feel like she never was in France or culinary school or anything. It's very good and things go together nicely but Tom says he's not getting the orange payoff. Gail thinks she did keep them engaged while she was cooking so that's something. Hey and they didn't say anything about the seasoning.

Isaac is suspending hollandaise? Something strange. I guess it's working because he's cackling about it. He's not talking a lot like Marjorie was, but I feel also like she was doing some nervous talking and wasn't that interesting. The judges like his “chicken skin stuck to steak” idea, and his upside-down shot glasses of sauce. He serves the plates and then comes back with a slight-of-hand trick with an egg. He fakes throwing it at Padma which is hilarious. “Chicken fried steak” dry-aged rib eye with crispy hen skin, quadruple fennel puree and yuzu hollandaise. The fennel puree is grainy but all his flavors are wonderful.

Amar tells the judges he's inspired, but he's too nervous to talk to them so he's just doing stuff silently. There's smoke and glass lids. Squab, white chocolate truffle ganache, whipped balsamic (this is the savory meringue I think), mole sauce and potato “onion” ring. The potato onion ring is a ring of potato crusted with “onion flavors”. YES this is the crazy molecular gastronomy shit I wanted. All the flavors make sense and are wonderful, although they were bored because he wasn't interacting with them.

Judges' Table. Tom starts by saying everything was delicious. Marjorie liked the story of David's show. They rave about her dish, although Tom wanted more orange. Amar did almost no interaction, but his plate was beautiful and interesting. So his excuse for not talking to them and having no showmanship was because he wanted them to be surprised? Sure. Isaac did a legit magic trick. He took a risk, and maybe they wanted more chicken skin. Padma asks if they want to tell the judges anything, and Isaac says thanks even if I'm out. Marjorie is ready for whatever's next because she's a better person now. Amar has been inspired by his dad and his first mentor (both of whom have passed) who encouraged him to make something of himself.

Marjorie had the most stage presence, but her dish wasn't a “wow” dish. More stage presence than Isaac? I guess the actual cooking part. Amar's food was far more technically difficult and surprising, but his showmanship was severely lacking. Then Padma says his dish made up for it, in which case, why have your stupid insistence on how chefs have to be showman in the first place? Isaac made an effort to go in another direction to surprise them.

Tom says a bunch of stuff about inspiration, and then Padma says the winner is Amar. Wow. Really? Wow. Didn't you make a big deal about showmanship? Why did you put all that in if you were going to ignore it? Also I'd like to point out Tom was outvoted on the vote that eliminated Amar, then Amar won both challenges of Last Chance Kitchen (which Tom rules over by himself) and now he's in the finale even though the judges themselves admitted he failed half the challenge. Marjorie still feels successful. Isaac is going to do things different, just to try different things. Amar tells the judges about how his dad would be proud, and his mentor that he'd talked about previously who had ALS. He's very emotional. Amar goes back to meet Jeremy and toast with wine and laugh.

Next week: Tom serves them lunch, a bunch of eliminated contestants again, Jeremy screws something up. It's the finale so someone will win.

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