Saturday, December 10, 2016

Top Chef 12/8/16--"Southern Hospitality" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: 16 contestants arrived in Charleston, 8 rookies and 8 veterans. Each group had their own challenge (cook chicken for rookies, make shrimp and grits for veterans) and the winners got immunity. Losers cooked in an actual Sudden Death Quickfire. Rookie Jim won immunity, even though there were two women who made more than one dish and he only used the innards for his one dish. Brooke won for making a shrimp scotch egg which looked delicious. Gerald and John Tesar (sigh, he's back) had to have a cook-off to see who would go home. They had 20 minutes to do an oyster roast. Tesar heated cream and oyster liquor and truffles and then poured it over oysters to poach them and then you eat it as a soup. Think about that for a minute. Hot cream with vaguely warm oysters. But somehow he won. Gerald was sent to Last Chance Kitchen. (click for more)

Also the first Elimination Challenge starts immediately. As in, we pick up right were we left off and everyone goes around the corner to another part of the plantation. Jim says he smells Old Bay. They meet guest judge Frank Lee, who is apparently the godfather of low country cuisine. He and Tom pour out a giant metal box with a shrimp boil, just a suitcase-sized container of shrimp. Sheldon says this is how he does it, and all he needs is a beer. “Which we didn't get.” Heh. It looks fantastic. Everyone talks about Southern food and Charleston's food renaissance.

Now Padma tells them about the actual Elimination Challenge: first of all, two teams. Each team will have dinner at the home of a local chef, so they can be inspired to make a family style meal. Also we are reminded Brooke and Jim have immunity. The two teams are Rookies vs. Veterans. Emily, because she's either committed to being the villain or she actually is this unpleasant, bitches that she's pissed because she's not a rookie chef. We're talking about being a Top Chef rookie, and everyone has figured that out. So shut up. No one thinks any of you are novice chefs.

On the ride back into town Amanda is loud and weird. So weird that Katsuji says she's cuckoo. So you know she's being weird. BJ says in confessional that he's really more of a veteran. People. Why is it so hard to understand? Would you rather be in a group of people where some of you are familiar with the time constraints and the judges? I'm guessing if that happened you'd all bitch about that unfair advantage. Stop whining about how you are labeled a Rookie when you know it's about the competition.

The rookies (I'm using it forever now because you were jerks about it) go to meet Carrie Morrey, who has a biscuit company. Veterans go to B.J. Dennis's house, who uses his Gullah heritage to influence his cooking. So there are West African influences but also things like collard greens with peanut butter and coconut milk. Rookies have to make biscuits. But they have cream cheese in the dough, that's the secret. BJ brags about cooking meat. Sylva is reminded of cooking with his mom, aww. Casey “ate Southern” while growing up in Texas. Basically anyone who grew up in the South or had Southern relatives are talking about how this reminds them of home. Even Annie, who grew up in a hippie commune. Also there is some schmaltz about sharing food and all being human or whatever.

The teams discuss their menus. Each person has their own dish, but at least they're vaguely coordinating the meal. BJ's making meat, Jamie's doing squash casserole to redeem his burned vegetables from the Quickfire, Brooke plans biscuits, Tesar is making okra even though they all know Tom doesn't like okra. “Well he must not have had good okra ever, that's all.” Eeehhhhhh I'm pretty sure Tom Colicchio has had good okra. Amanda yells but she doesn't seem to know how loud she is. Instead of it being a fight they just all laugh together, Amanda included. The rookies are not agreeing, of course, because Annie wants to do hoppin john, but Silvia wants to also and Emily jumps in to be like “yeah Silvia's been talking about hoppin john since the beginning” like, how is that your business. Whatever. Annie eventually takes the tomato pie, because “that's all that's left.” Everyone claimed everything else and Annie's either too nice or too shy to fight for anything, so she lost out. I feel sorry for her a little bit, but then again, I don't think I expect anyone else to be fair about this and it doesn't seem like she was trying and no one listened to her. It sounds like she didn't speak up in time. She could have jumped in.

We arrive at Whole Foods, where the veterans each appear to have a list, and the rookies appear to only have one list among the seven of them. Shirley is finding oysters, to replicate something her grandmother made. Sam has chicken wings. The rookies maybe repeat things? Like too many people bought eggs and butter kind of thing. They're $120 over budget. Emily immediately bitches that BJ rang in his pork, and ruined the budget, but I don't see why they can't take it back off the bill or whatever. See this is why you're a rookie. Because you didn't have a plan and now it's a clusterfuck. She also bitches that it's every man for himself suddenly, which is true because it's always that way. Everyone wants the things they think they need, and we all know you would never give up anything for the good of the group. BJ is condescending but I can't tell what he's talking about so I don't know if it's deserved or not. Shirley smirks that they've self-destructed because they're rookies.

Back to the house to hang out and discuss drinking rose with one ice cube. All the rookies are outside. Was that on purpose? Did the veterans claim all the good spots at the kitchen bar first? Do they all hate each other like Emily? Is it because, as Brooke says, they know all the tricks? Maybe. The veterans are drinking and slopping wine around. The rookies are seriously discussing how they went to “the biscuit queen's” house and no one is making biscuits. Do they have to make biscuits, though? If you're supposed to be inspired by your meal, doesn't that mean you don't have to do like the rookies have done and have a one-to-one correspondence of dishes? Emily throws Jim under the bus and says he should do biscuits, except she does it in the most obnoxious way possible by saying if anyone in their group should do biscuits, it maybe should be the person with immunity. Did you forget his name or something? Anyway, Jim flat out refuses. They already went shopping and no one has buttermilk and so it's a little late for this conversation. That's true. Emily continues to be an ass and insist that it's a component in a Southern meal and “we all” wish we could have biscuits. Then “you all” should have thought of that six hours ago or whenever you were menu planning. I think she's pretending she was just stating her opinion about how nice it would be if there were biscuits, which we all know is bullshit because that's not what she was doing. But good for Jim for refusing to do it.

Time for cooking. 2.5 hours to cook. Rookies have to serve first. Emily claims they're putting things behind them. I think we can all agree that based on 1.5 episodes Emily is the last person to put things behind them. We do establish that one oven is at 500 and one is at 325. The veterans roll in (Shirley being extra “woo!” about it) and discuss how there are no racks in the ovens so everything is going to bake on the bottom of the oven. Brooke is making biscuits. Casey is making collard greens but she's somehow briefly cooking them, not for hours.

Tom Time! Tesar tells him there will be caramelized okra and they laugh. There is briefly a discussion about an oven, but it's basically someone telling Tesar the oven is turned up, Katsuji saying he needs a hot oven, and Tesar telling him “do what you need to do and then turn it back down”. It was super calm and then Tesar hangs a lampshade on it and says “When I become the voice of reason we all have to start worrying.” Hee. Silvia is making hoppin john but with farro to make it more Italian. Sheldon has eggplant stew, but Filipino. Yum. Tom abandons them.

Annie is still trying to get her pie crust done, and now the oven is full. BJ's pork roast isn't hot enough, so I think he slices it and sears the pieces on the stove. The guests show up for dinner. Sylva is plating, and he's the only one, even though apparently there are two minutes left. Jamie burns his vegetables again just like last week. Good job. I think they get done?

The Rookies serve dinner, and the show is edited to make it seem like the first thing Padma said was “No biscuits.” I hope that's exactly how it happened. Emily says some shit about “if only we could have one more dish” and Padma responds with “It IS a glaring omission.” Burn. Jim: grits with charred asparagus, hen of the woods mushrooms, ham hock, and spring onion. Praise all around. Silvia: hoppin john with farro, crispy pork skin, refried beans and carrot puree. Too fussy? Too dry? I don't like this “let's give you immediate feedback” thing. Emily: pickled shrimp and dressed cucumbers. Sadly they like it. BJ: peameal bacon and pickled peaches with sorghum and pork gastrique. Peameal bacon is apparently Canadian bacon but rolled in cornmeal? Something like that. The peaches are great but the pork is inconsistent. Annie: tomato tart with smoked tomato vinaigrette, tomato salad, candied benne and mint. Benne is basically sesame. The crust is way off but the inside is good. Sylva: Cornish hen with dark meat rice, adzuki beans and Haitian-style permanent slaw. “Permanent slaw” is like chow chow, so a pickled relish type of condiment that I guess is “permanently” in the fridge. Adzuki beans are sweet; that's what red bean paste is made out of. Gail loves the rice and the slaw is excellent. Jamie: summer squash casserole with raw and roasted vegetable salad. Good but it's busy. Tom says the spirit is definitely there.

Veteran's team. There seems to be a lot of food. Shirley: pork and oyster stew with sweet potato, potato, and crispy pork crackling. B.J. says it's strong but he was expecting it to be strong, so that's good. Tesar: Carolina rice with caramelized okra, green onion and crab gravy. Tom admits this okra was fine. Brooke: sweet corn biscuits with salted benne butter and dulce de leche. She says they didn't do dessert so this is kind of a sweet/savory thing. They're not consistently cooked. Amanda: whole fish ceviche with old bay, cayenne pepper, sorghum, and lemon. It's a nice fresh break from the other heavy dishes. Casey: collard greens with turnips, coconut, peanut, crispy chicken skin, bread crumbs, and trout roe. The texture turned out great. Sheldon: pinakbet with eggplant, tomatoes, fish sauce, okra, bitter greens and pickled onions. Pinakbet is the Filipino dish he was talking about earlier, vegetables steamed in fish sauce. The textures and flavors work. Katsuji: shrimp stew with hot pineapple sauce. The flavors are perfect. Sam: vinegar and tea-brined fried chicken with pickled yellow beets and hot sauce. There's a whole gravy boat with hot sauce, and Sam warns them it has a kick and then implies they should dunk their whole chicken pieces in it. Padma acts like she's shocked, but I know you can handle spice, Padma, so whatever. It's bold but great. Did you know Sam's opening a fried chicken restaurant? Isn't that convenient! The whole menu worked really well together.

Tesar tries to antagonize the rookies in the Stew Room, but Annie is taking care of that by telling the veterans that they're all awesome and the rookies don't know what they're doing and freaked out when faced with the challenge. Jim and Silvia nod because they're not dumb.

Judges' Table. We're still doing that thing where everyone shows up all at once. Obviously the veterans won today. The three favorites were Casey, Tesar, and Sheldon. Casey's dish was deceptively complex and everyone loved the greens. Tesar made something welcoming and Tom even liked the okra. Sheldon let the vegetables speak for themselves, and then one of the other guests hates eggplant but liked this. The winner is Casey. Hilariously the guest judge says he always learned to make food taste like what it is, and Casey had a million ingredients in that dish. She's very proud of herself.

Padma makes the rookies talk about how they're feeling. Jim thinks they did pretty well with a few hiccups like stressing over time and not tasting everything. Tom tells them they didn't make a bad meal, but they're going up against a team that is perfect. The bottom three are BJ, Annie, and Jamie. Jamie's casserole looked good but it fell apart when you cut into it. There was a custard in there, and the squash juices fought with that. Jamie says he was intending to let it rest and set up, but there was no time. BJ also ran out of time and admits to slicing up the pork to make sure it was cooked. Gail tells him he sliced it unevenly, because there were some thinner slices that were cooked but her slice was raw. Annie took too long to make her pie crust, and it didn't cook through. Padma kicks everyone out. Oh we're back to this now instead of talking about it beforehand and kicking someone out right after talking to everyone? Sure.

In the Stew Room Sam tells the rookies they did well? It's tough to face the judges and be on the bottom? I'm not sure, but he is kind of condescending about it. The judges think Annie could never have made pie crust from scratch and she should have known better. BJ's pork could have been done, but Gail knows it's pretty bad if you can't make even slices and cook them through. Jamie's casserole was watery and almost curdled, and Tom thinks the salad on top was clumsy.

Tom tells the bottom three that someone just fell short on technique, and then Annie is sent home. Trying to make pie dough in the given time frame was too much pressure and she couldn't do it. She's disappointed, but I also remember her flailing during the Quickfire so I'm not that surprised.

Next week: mise en place relay race, Top Chef super fans, Padma's best meal ever.

Last Chance Kitchen: Annie vs. Gerald. Gerald wants to prove something, clearly, because he was the first out. I'm sad there will be no peanut gallery. Annie is nervous. Tom tells them they couldn't manage the clock. When Tom brings up Annie's tart, I'm reminded that on The Great British Bake-Off I'm pretty sure people make tarts and pies in 2.5 hours. So it's not impossible. No I just looked it up and that's the time limit to make tarts with pastry crust. Anyway, this challenge has a bunch of ingredients, all labeled with times. So as you design your dish, you also determine how much time you get to cook it. Two minutes to shop. You must use everything you take.

Annie grabs lamb and then tries to pick out other things. Gerald is trying to take his time and not take anything he doesn't want to use. When shopping is over he says he didn't get any acid. Annie has taken lamb, romanesco, herbs...and cheddar. Sigh. Oh and ketchup. What. Gerald has mussels, fennel, some pancetta. Gerald has 33 minutes, and Annie has 25.

Gerald gets to start first. He makes fun of Annie's cheese. But Gerald has no acid, and he needs it. When Annie starts, I don't think Gerald has actually cooked anything yet. He's cocky though. Annie makes a tartare, which is kind of a copout. Gerald is making chowder, somehow, with no liquid and no cream. Tom laughs at him. He also laughs at Annie for her cheddar and tartare, but she claims that they totally make beef tartare with cheddar in Texas. Sure. That doesn't make it good. Gerald has water, but Tom is still giving him shit about not taking anything good. Annie is still claiming she uses ketchup in her tartare. Really? That sounds gross. Then she puts lime zest on it. Gerald interviews that he learned how to be an adult in kitchens. Annie's biggest fear is that she won't plate in time.

Gerald: shellfish broth with turnip and fennel. There doesn't seem to be a lot of broth in there. Tom likes the slightly crunchy celery and how well the shellfish is cooked. Annie: lamb tartare with romanesco and harissa. She says she was nervous, and Tom is all “What do I make you nervous?” Hee. Annie likes raw meat. That's what she says. Then she admits she spaced out and didn't' end up using the cheddar. Gerald asks her what the plan was, and she's all “this” and just grates the cheese over the whole thing.

Gerald had a lot of pancetta, and it could have used acid. Annie ended up making something that wasn't terrible, but she didn't use the cheddar. She had time, she just forgot. This sends her home. Yeah, that's right. She didn't follow the rules. But she feels she for sure would have won if she had followed the rules. Gerald wishes he hadn't won because Annie fucked up.

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