Saturday, March 5, 2016

Top Chef 3/3/16--"Back Where It All Started" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: Martin Yan was here which was super awesome! Everyone made chop suey and Marjorie won. She got to pick her partner for the Elimination challenge and then assign everyone else's partners. The partners were eliminated contestants just for fun. Spoiler: there was no drama from this move even though one of the eliminated chefs was Phillip. The actual contestants had to make up a concept for a fast casual restaurant, then make a menu and one dish to serve the judges. Carl created a southern Mediterranean menu plan which looked really good and ended up beating out Marjorie's pasta idea for the win. Kwame wanted to do chicken and waffles, which was a good idea, but he used frozen waffles and was eliminated. (click for more)

Last Chance Kitchen: Kwame and Jason had to make breakfast in 15 minutes. They both looked fine but Jason won again because the universe hates me.

Carl is glad he's finally won a challenge. It's a marathon. They all know Kwame shouldn't have made frozen waffles. I mean Marjorie made pasta from scratch. Isaac thinks we'll be hearing about Kwame again because he's so young.

In the morning Isaac gets a phone call home. He tells his wife he wants to talk to his daughter but he'll probably cry, but that's fine. I like Isaac. He says if you're afraid of something you should still “suit up and do it.” Jeremy has been in the bottom a lot, so it's time to step up.

Everyone drives over to the Presidio to meet Padma and Traci Des Jardins. OK do not show a shot from a car driving from Oakland to San Francisco when they're in San Francisco already and are going to somewhere else in San Francisco. I've eaten at one of her restaurants in San Francisco, it was delicious. This is the last Quickfire. You must make a delicious slice of toast. Toast? Can we not make toast a thing? Padma says with a straight face that “artisenal toast” is a very San Francisco thing. You mean it's an overpriced hipster thing. The winner will get a $16,000 oven. Well that's a good prize, anyway. The bottom two will do the stupid “Sudden Death Quickfire” thing, with the difference being that Padma insists someone will actually go home.

I don't know how long they have to cook. Whatever. Amar plans like a whole open-faced sandwich with foie gras and duck, mainly because he basically rolled his eyes at the idea of toast. Marjorie gets some Dungeness crab. I missed my crab this past New Year's and it was sad. She thinks it might be too simplistic but she loves it. Carl plans to pair shrimp and burrata. He says he was raised with an appreciation for working with his hands. He also talks to himself about not being afraid of flavor. Jeremy appears to be going Amar's route with a bunch of stuff and fancy plating or something. Isaac insists that he can do more than Cajun. While he seems confident his toast will not be soggy, Carl is afraid his toast isn't going to be crunchy enough. The burrata may ruin it.

Jeremy: chicken liver mousse pickled cherries, white raspberries, jalapeno, and arugula on ciabatta. Marjorie: sourdough baguette with pancetta fennel marmalade and Dungeness crab salad. Amar: foie gras and duck breast, fig marmalade, balsamic truffle glaze and proscuitto on raisin sourdough. Carl: grilled sourdough with burrata, blistered cherry tomatoes, and shrimp. Isaac: butter-fried ciabatta with pecorino, proscuitto and roasted pepper spread.

Padma says one person stood out, and that person was Jeremy. He celebrates and is slightly obnoxious but he did just win a super expensive oven. The two people trying not to be eliminated are Carl and Amar. Amar's dish was too heavy-handed and masked some of the flavors, and Carl's shrimp and cheese was terrible. This is an important decision, so Tom appears to judge also. They have 30 minutes to cook whatever they want. No instructions or restrictions.

Jeremy gets out of the way and says he's glad one of those two is going home because it makes his life easier. Carl's making another crudo. There has been a lot of crudo this season. Amar does not want to make a crudo for that reason. He came here to cook. He's making up a new dish with flavors he isn't used to, but he wants to really go for it. Isaac tries to be encouraging by reminding them it's the most important dish they'll ever cook. Amar: pan roasted sea bream, watermelon radish, plum yuzu brown butter and pickled mushrooms. Carl: Thai snapper crudo, corn, nectarines, chilis, yellow tomato and rice wine vinegar. Carl himself has only made one other crudo. I think it's Jeremy that keeps making them. Padma still tries to give him shit about it though.

Padma says her favorite dish was Carl. Tom says Amar's dish was underseasoned but Carl's crudo was not about the fish, so he goes for Amar. Of course because that makes a tie. Traci tells the chefs that Amar's dish was well-composed, but she would have liked more radish. But Carl played it safe. Traci votes for Carl so Amar is eliminated. Aww. He's devastated to come so close.

This is the last Elimination challenge before the finale. Hubert Keller walks in. Nice. He hosted the first Quickfire ever, where he made everyone work the line and that one idiot put his finger in the sauce. Also a clip to remind us of Tom's terrible flavor saver facial hair from back then. Hubert closed his restaurant Fleur de Lys last summer but he's reopening it for one night so these yahoos can cook. They will produce the last meal from this landmark restaurant, making a “tribute dish” for a bunch of chefs. But before that Hubert is going to cook them dinner tonight. Yeah no pressure, just a world-famous restaurant's last impression depending on you.

The final four pour over old menus to see what's been served and what the dishes look like. Carl is thinking foie gras. It'll be a stretch but he seems very confident. I mean he's talking about his schedule out loud like he can do it. Marjorie says it's a three day process which sounds EXTREMELY familiar. Someone made a torchon one time with Tom's recipe and he said it would take three days. And the contestant failed. Yes, Josh did back near the finale of the Seattle season. Jeremy goes shopping with no plan but to pick up whatever and figure it out. He just gets some fish that he's used to and “classic French” ingredients. Marjorie is making lamb. Her dish isn't groundbreaking but it is simple enough she can't hide behind fancy sauces or anything. Isaac is at a disadvantage because he doesn't have a lot of fine-dining experience, but he is planning to make duck sausage? Like, wrap ground meat in duck skin. Sure.

Everyone goes to dinner, where the restaurant is still vacant? Well Padma said “June” and I think they film in the summer so June might have been a couple of months ago. Emeril also shows up with wine. I notice he's carefully wrapped the wine bottles in towels. Not to keep it cold but I am sure to hide the fact that it's not Terlato wine. Also apparently Emeril's job is to get the contestants drunk because that seems to be all he ever does anymore. Hubert brings out a big pot with the lid sealed with pastry and gives everyone what looks like a really rustic stew. Oh but it looks so good. They talk about cooking and this show and Jeremy wisely asks Hubert how he comes up with new dishes. He brainstorms after midnight and then draws out what the plates will look like. So artistic. Jeremy has decided what he's making and it apparently involves an old-school technique they have to give him credit for, even if the rest of the dish sucks.

I think they get three hours to cook today. Carl isn't curing the foie gras, because that's the part that takes three days. So he'll just cook it, then chill and roll it to make nice slices. Jeremy is searing sea bass and making pomme souffle? Potato souffle? You slice potatoes in little squares and then cook them in hot oil and shake the pan a lot so they puff up. They look good, anyway. Isaac has to break down six ducks for his ballotine. The skin has to stay intact so it's taking forever. He's basically peeling duck. He made chicken ballotine for a Quickfire so he knows he can do it. Marjorie is cutting up artichokes and using a lot of techniques to impress the judges.

Tom Time! And Hubert. Marjorie has a good plan but she's very nervous because she wants to impress everyone. Tom is shocked at Isaac's ballotine but he says if it works it'll be very impressive. Jeremy is slightly worried about how he works for Jean Georges and maybe if he screws up he'll get a bunch of shit for it. Hubert is like yeah, I play golf with Jean Georges. Hee. Tom basically tells Carl he's crazy for trying to make a torchon.

Guest start arriving and I'm sure I should recognize more of them. Oh Harold is here! People like Tom and Chris Cosentino get confessional time to talk about Fleur de Lys. Dominique Crenn! I remember her from the France vs. Spain thing. Back in the kitchen it is pretty frantic. Isaac ran out of time so he had to cook his stuff at a higher temp than he wanted. Isaac: duck ballotine, porcini, beluga lentils, broiled fig, and aged balsamic cherry gastrique. He says it was a lot of work, and he thought about doing it some other way but he needed to do something impressive and what better way to “send Fleur de Lys out”. The flavors and seasoning are fine but it needs more sauce. Too dry. Gail wants more refinement because it felt rushed.

Gail gives Harold some crap for being back here after he won the first season. Marjorie worries about her lamb, is it rested, is it overrested, when should she start cooking it, etc. In her own restaurant she would be totally calm and have no problems. Marjorie: roasted lamb saddle with artichoke puree, artichoke barigoule and roasted squash, tomatoes and olives. She tells them she didn't want to roast the lamb on the bone because she needed time for the other stuff. Tom is the one who asked her about it, and he makes a skeptical face. Hubert loves this type of cuisine, but the lamb didn't rest enough. But I think they can see where she was going.

Jeremy does not want to let anyone down. Especially the people in that dining room. Jeremy: filet de loup de mer, truffle potato puree, pommes souffles, and heirloom tomato. Emeril lets him talk about the dinner they had with Hubert last night instead of grilling him on some aspect of his dish. Apparently that's because they loved it. The presentation especially fits with Fleur de Lys.

Carl doesn't know if his foie gras has set. So we'll see. Carl: foie gras in gelee with black pepper, strawberries, and fines herbes. He says there's always a foie gras dish on the menu. They keep calling it a torchon, I think to reemphasize he didn't do it right. But he also says he's happy with how it's done. It's raw. Gail likes the rest of the dish, the other components, so she doesn't think it was a complete failure. Everyone tried too hard.

Padma comes in while they're still all standing around in the kitchen to collect them for Judges' Table. Hubert tells them it was emotional for him to be here. But there was one dish he would put on the menu, and that's Jeremy's. He freaks out. AND he made the finale. He's been kind of obnoxious today with the celebrating in front of everyone, but I guess that's how relieved he is? Maybe dial it back though.

Marjorie knows she didn't quite execute her dish, but she has trouble getting the words out without crying. The lamb wasn't cooked perfectly, and she knows it's out of fear. The fear holds her back, so she can't promise she'll overcome it, but she doesn't want to let it hold her back either. I think they accept her answer. Carl took a risk because he wanted to impress everyone, but he admits he didn't plan well. His ego got in the way of the diners' experience. Isaac thought his dish was mostly fine, but it was dry and Gail says there was not enough finesse. Emeril reassures him the idea was fine. He just didn't execute.

Padma kicks everyone out so the judges can talk. Marjorie did what she set out to do (mostly) but the boys were too ambitious. But Marjorie had a better presentation than Isaac. There is a small argument about if you would rather eat overcooked duck or undercooked foie gras.

Tom knows they'll have to say goodbye to a good chef today. Marjorie...please join Jeremy in the finals. Carl is eliminated. Wow. I love Isaac, don't get me wrong, but wow. Carl thought he could pull it off but he couldn't. Please tell me between him and Amar they get rid of Jason. Padma tells the final three the finale will be in Vegas. Isaac is on cloud nine. Marjorie can't believe she made it.

Next week: Padma wears a slip and whoever from Last Chance Kitchen returns. They don't show who it is but I FOR SURE see Kwame in the next shot. So I guess we're back to eliminated chefs as sous chefs. Also David Copperfield. Isaac is a goofball.

Last Chance Kitchen: So both Amar and Carl are here. Carl sees Jason and makes some rap-adjacent comments. Jason is actually surprised to see the both of them. When the peanut gallery comes out Amar is less than thrilled. Tom reminds them that he actually liked Amar's Quickfire dish but was outvoted. He also reveals he was outvoted at Carl's elimination. Really? Interesting. He did seem to be arguing against Isaac. Tom's favorite won in New Orleans so I am suspicious about this admission of favoritism. Also I am cautiously optimistic because that increases the likelihood the winner will be someone who is not Jason. All three of them will have to make a dish using sourdough. There's both bread and raw dough to use. The top two will move on to the “Last Chance Kitchen Finale.” This dumb webseries is already tedious, but whatever.

30 minutes. Amar says he is not going to do anything with toast today. Heh. Carl is making gazpacho. Looks good. Jason tells the peanut gallery he's making toast. Amar looks confused. Amar is going “old school” which to him is beef Wellington wrapped in bread dough. Hmm. Can the dough cook in time? He demands cheering.

Tom Time! He seems skeptical of Amar's time management. Carl is the only one using bread that's already been baked, so he's a little worried. At the same time he doesn't want to deal with baking bread. Jason tells Tom he has “eggs on eggs”. The peanut gallery seems to be rooting for Jason for some reason. Amar takes his Wellington out of the oven and it's steaming? Is that good? The steak might be overcooked. Jason tried to bake some bread but it's charred on the outside and raw on the inside, so he fries some ciabatta instead. Amar's beef is medium so he breathes a sigh of relief.

Carl: green apple and green tomato gazpacho with grilled shrimp and sourdough croutons. Tom likes the sweet and sour. Amar: beef Wellington with grilled asparagus, red wine jus and Bearnaise sauce. All things considered it's not terrible. Tom says it's not the best he's had but not the worst. Faint praise. Jason: bruschetta with smoked salmon and hazelnut aigrelette, artichoke frittata and shaved radish. Aigrelette is a sauce. Jason starts to talk about how toast is trendy and Carl and Amar are like “dude do not talk to us about toast”. Good texture but the turnips and radishes could use seasoning.

Carl had good flavors but maybe needed more tomatillo. Well cooked and tasty. Amar did a brave thing making Wellington. Jason was unexpected in a good way. Tom's favorite was Carl. Joining Carl will be Amar. Woo! I thought that might happen. He didn't want to eliminate either of those two so this was a way to give them another chance. Whatever, bye Jason. Anyway, now Amar and Carl will battle. OH RIGHT NOW BECAUSE BRAVO CAN'T PLAN.

Seriously, why do I have to watch two episodes of this back to back? Just plan out your eliminations better. Carl looks like he might vomit and Tom hollers for a bucket. This season is the season of raw food. It's true. Jeremy is the worst offender. Tom is like, Carl, didn't you do a few crudo? And Carl says only two, well I guess the foie was a crudo. Hee! Tom had that coming. Amar never did a crudo because he came here to cook. Jason rolls the cart out and there are fish on it. Amar doesn't want to make a raw dish, but luckily Tom is not about to have any more raw fish. You will have to cook it, but how long will it take you? They'll start with 20 minutes, but Tom immediately reminds them he did that Quickfire that time in 8 minutes so surely one of them can do this in less than 20. They play chicken, because Amar is willing to say “I can do it in 17 minutes” but Carl is just agreeing with Amar instead of decreasing the time. “17 sounds good!” Carl knows Tom is looking at him like he's a bitch. He's also taunting the both of them out loud with how he's twice their age. Eventually we get down to 12 minutes.

Insane. Back in the pantry Carl blames Amar for this clusterfuck. I think Amar has some kind of plan. Carl is grilling. Tom rolls in to bug them and do things like taunt Amar for scaling both sides of the fish when he was only going to use one side. Carl does his best to ignore Tom. It is very serious in this kitchen right now. The onions Amar is using look cooked, he says. The method he was planning to use generally takes a long time.

Amar: crispy loup de mer with onion soubise and yuzu caper brown butter. Carl: grilled red snapper with apricot and ginger marmalade. Both dishes were technically great work. Amar used some Asian ingredients and cooked his onions properly. Carl grilled his fish perfectly and blended his flavors. Tom tells them the challenge came down to a few grains of salt, so I guess someone didn't season their food right. We won't find out the winner until next week when we watch the episode.

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