Friday, February 10, 2017

Top Chef 2/9/17--"Adios Charleston, Hello James Beard" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: a Quickfire with shrimp and the elimination of Casey. And then an Elimination challenge with brunch mashups for some reason. I don't know either, but it's late in the competition and people are tired. Shirley made cheeseburger pot stickers and won. Sylva tried to make a fritatta hiding fish and lost. I'm not sure what his mashup was supposed to be and no one really explained it, but the bottom line is there are no rookies left. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, Casey, Sylva, and Jamie had a three-way battle with snacks. Use some snack foods to make snacks. Or something. Also ranch dressing. Sylva was eliminated and Casey and Jamie will move on. This part of the show is almost done, right?

It's the Final Four. I'm OK with this final four although I wouldn't mind Tesar being gone. Meanwhile Tesar is crying and insisting he's not crying. This was a tough challenge and he's all emotional for making it this far.

Brooke doesn't think she's hit her stride, not like her season when she started dominating near the end. The Top Chef kitchen has dividers. Guest judge Michael Solomonov says everything involves constant communication. When Padma asks if anyone has seen the divider walls before, Brooke says she thinks she saw it on “Top Chef Masters”. She then proceeds to describe in confessional basically this exact challenge. You get paired with a family member/loved one and have to yell instructions at them so they can make something. The contestants will make up a dish based on the ingredients they have, and then they have to walk their partner through making the dish so the dishes match. Winner gets a sous vide machine and $10,000. Nice. Sheldon wants cash for Vegas. Hee. Tesar says he doesn't know who his partner will be, but really. There are only so many options.

25 minutes to cook. OK so the first thing that is dumb is that no one seems to show any recognition of the person next to them. It's everyone's spouses except for Brooke's sister. Come on. Are you telling me none of them recognized the voices? ESPECIALLY Brooke because she's SEEN this challenge! Anyway Brooke's sister immediately says she needs a lot of instruction, so Brooke knows to make something easy. Shirley's bossiness is helping a lot. Tesar has no idea, because he's an idiot who would have us believe he can't recognize his wife's voice. Sheldon's wife says she can't find mushrooms, and Sheldon immediately looks up into the camera and then says “Hi hon” because Sheldon is the best. Of course he knows his wife's voice. Now he knows exactly what she can and can't do. Brooke gives really excellent instructions and is calm. Sheldon is also giving very specific instructions and is thrilled with his wife. Brooke shushes Shirley because Shirley is so loud Brooke can't give any instructions. Heh. Shirley doesn't care because she wants to win. Tesar is trying to make his wife cook scallops, which is tricky.

Padma asks if anyone knows who they're cooking with. Tesar claims to be in the dark. I would be so mad if my husband didn't recognize my voice. Tesar: pan-seared scallop with jumbo lump crab succotash & beurre monte. Beurre monte is basically butter that's been heated slowly so it doesn't break down into solids and ghee. The two plates both have scallops, but Tesar's plate has way more corn and sauce. His wife's plate looks like the scallops are on roasted vegetables. Tesar's looks almost like risotto. They taste the same but Tesar's is “more pronounced.”

Shirley also had no idea her spouse was here. She does at least say she's glad she didn't recognize his voice because she would be too flustered. Shirley: soft scrambled eggs with brown butter, corn & crab ragout. They look pretty close, although the proportions of egg to ragout are different. But the components themselves look identical. Padma says Shirley's husband maybe seasoned his better? Hee. Guest judge asks if they think they'll be cooking together more often now and her husband immediately says “No.”

Brooke says she didn't expect this. OK of everyone here, Brooke is the one who said she recognized this challenge so come on. Brooke: collard greens, corn & bacon hash with poached egg. They look exactly the same. The eggs aren't, but I wouldn't expect individual eggs to look exactly the same. Brooke throws Shirley under the bus for being loud.

Sheldon is the only one who guessed who his partner was. When they pull the wall back, his wife is ready with mushrooms or something to throw at him, and then he gives her shit about how dirty her station is. Aww. Sheldon: 6-minute egg with sauteed mushrooms, charred onion & brown butter grapefruit sauce. These dishes look very close too.

The winner here is Sheldon! Yay! He says “Vegas” and she says “no” so he says “OK we won't go to Vegas. We'll do something responsible.” I love Sheldon. I also love how Padma tells his wife not to throw the sous vide machine at him.

Elimination Challenge. Padma name-drops James Beard and introduces Mary Sue Milliken. She won a James Beard award before they were called that. Everyone except Brooke has been nominated. For this final challenge you must make a dish that represents your journey here in Charleston. If you win, you will make this dish and also develop a menu around it to serve at the James Beard house in New York. Everyone freaks out. Also tonight their family members are coming to the house for dinner and Padma's cooking. Sweet.

Shopping. Sheldon says he's developed a new respect for Hawaii, where he grew up. He's making chow fun, but with Charleston ingredients. Also okra, even though Tom hates it. Brooke is having trouble being creative. She would much rather have a concrete challenge with defined requirements. She buys ingredients from challenges where she did well, like radishes, and she thinks a more literal interpretation is safer. Sure.

2 hours to prep. Sheldon grinds up Carolina rice to make flour so he can steam some noodles for his chow fun. Shirley is poaching fish in tea. Brooke braises pork shoulder in cola in the pressure cooker. Tesar is making scallops and something about how they're near the ocean and it's green outside. He does worry he's not doing enough, based on what he sees around him. Shirley's cooked at the James Beard house, but as a sous chef, not representing herself. Sheldon's noodles aren't working, possibly because the rice was the wrong kind of rice. So he's worried about it, and then the scene ends.

Padma is already cooking when everyone gets home. For some reason there's frozen rice or something, but also chutney and chicken and it does look good. I mean I've got Padma's cookbook and I made something from there, and it was good although I almost died from how many peppers it said to put in. I'm sure she can cook. They also talk about the challenge and Padma does a decent job about not sounding like the producers fed her lines. Sheldon is still worried about his noodles. Shirley wants to make her husband proud. Tesar talks about how much he's grown up and isn't an asshole anymore. For his son.

Challenge day. Tesar has to make sofrito, which if course he says is very complicated. I don't think it is? It's just a version of trinity? But sure. Brooke's worried about cooking pork tenderloin, which is very lean, so she's put it in the sous vide. Sheldon adds more rice flour and some tapioca flour and puts his noodles in the steamer. The judges arrive, with some award-winning chefs and as far as I can tell no Graham. No Hugh. This season didn't have enough Hugh.

Tesar: sofrito-crusted scallops with braised leek sea broth. He was inspired by simple food and the ocean. It seems to have worked out. Once he leaves Tom says if you're going to do something “fancy but simple” like this you have to peel the peppers. Shirley says she's cooking for herself and her parents and grandparents, and her supporters. Shirley: oil-poached grouper with meat and bone “herbal tea” consomme, collard greens & cracklings. She hopes it represents her heritage and her journey. The aroma of the broth is fantastic. It's meaty and Southern but the aromatics are Chinese. They love it and Shirley is in tears. Tom says it should be a signature dish of hers.

Brooke's dish isn't coming together and she's not super proud of it. Brooke: braised pork shoulder & tenderloin with smoked island sweets, radish & egg yolk. I have no idea what “smoked island sweets” are. Don't Google that because all the hits will be about weed. I think, based on something Tom says later, that they're sweet onions. The ingredients were inspired by challenges throughout the season. The pork is sous vide with a little bit of sear. They asked why the egg is in there, and her reasoning is basically “Tom liked a dish I made with egg yolk one time.” The pork is a little sweet from the cola. Maybe the sous vide ruined the texture of the pork. Sheldon's noodles worked and he's very excited. Someone at the table says they're excited to have some okra, as Tom makes a face. Sheldon: Carolina Gold rice chow fun with pork belly, okra, annatto seed & turkey broth. All four of them served the dishes and had the waiters pour broth over the dish at the table. It's delicious and they point out Tom ate all his okra. Heh. Sean Brock, who worships Carolina Gold rice, is going to steal this technique.

Judges' Table. The tops were Shirley and Sheldon. They both made perfect dishes where all the components contributed and complimented each other. They're also both very moved by doing so well and making the finale. The winner is Sheldon. This is his first win, weirdly enough. Tesar left the skins on the peppers, and Tom didn't like it. But the sauce was good and it worked, and he defends being himself. Brooke's dish was comforting but sous vide was not the way to go. Brooke is glad to have made it this far, and then she loses it because she didn't want to come back and not do better. I mean, “do better” would mean she'd have to win.

As everyone hangs out in the kitchen Tesar complains that he would never take the skin off the peppers in sofrito so whatever. Tom says some of the chefs made better choices. Brooke's dish had way more components, which meant more chances for something to go wrong. Plus she had sweet onions and then sweet sauce. Tesar's dish was just on the edge and the bitterness was hard to overcome. Brooke doesn't want to go to Last Chance Kitchen.

Tom says there are no losers here, which isn't true, but fine. Brooke is eliminated. That sucks, but based on today she screwed up worse. She shakes everyone's hand, and Gail stops her to tell her emotion is not weakness. Today was about being the best, and she wasn't the best today. She doesn't like Last Chance Kitchen, but Kristen did it. Tesar says he's going to cherish this moment forever.

Next time: Mexico, cooking goat, someone returns, Blais is here.

Last Chance Kitchen: this is the first time Brooke was eliminated, since she made the finale her season. When Casey and Jamie come out Casey is like “what are you doing here?” while Jamie just curses inwardly. So Brooke shouldn't have included her pork tenderloin, apparently. They have to make a protein two ways. There's a list of cooking techniques on a board, and Casey and Jamie will pick one technique each that all three of them will have to use. Jamie picks saute, and Casey picks braise. Sauteing is not always good for proteins, and braising in the short time frame is hard.

30 minutes. Brooke takes bacon. Jamie says sauteing is basic. Casey has taken pork belly, and Brooke is mad because she had tried to find it and couldn't. Casey shares pork belly which is nice of her. Jamie has chosen scallops, which Brooke says are hard to braise. Casey has ground pork too, so two pork and one scallops. Everyone tells Brooke they're shocked to see her.

Tom Time! Jamie is very talkative and Tom almost can't wait to get away from him. Brooke braised her pork belly and then she's going to saute it on top of that. Casey has some okra for Tom and I love her laughing about it. Meeting Sassy Tom on his level. Jamie has three minutes left and he appears to be done. Casey is proud of her dish.

Jamie: braised scallop over a potato risotto & sauteed scallop over pickled tomatoes and cucumber. Tom grills him about the garnishes but Jamie seems to have solid reasons for them. Casey: braised pork belly with fish sauce & soy, sauteed ground pork with cabbage & Swiss chard. Brooke: braised pork belly & bacon with farro, sauteed bacon with cabbage & Asian flavors. She tells Tom about how Casey gave her a bunch of pork belly.

Tom loves that they put some things together so quickly. Jamie's risotto was undercooked and that scallop was under seasoned. Casey also under seasoned her dish. Brooke's pork belly was a little chewy. Tom also has good things to say about everyone's dishes, mostly meaty flavors and good textures. Jamie is sent home. So...why didn't you just have another All-Stars season? Seriously? The rookies were outmatched and there was no point to mixing them because none of them were at the level of any of the veterans.

Anyway, time for this last showdown right now. Casey says she and Brooke had talked about being in the finale together. Tom asks who wants to go to Mexico, and as the two girls stand there Katsuji says he would. Heh. Casey's been on this show three times and she wants to win. Brooke hates Last Chance Kitchen but right now she appreciates it. Tom asks them to be consistent. They will each make two dishes, and Tom is only going to judge one. They'll cover them, and Tom will pick one at random to eat.

45 minutes this time. Brooke goes for cauliflower. Casey says she and Brooke have similar styles, so she's going to stay away from anything she thinks Brooke might do. Brooke is making soup and salad, while Casey is making steamed cod, and steak with peaches. Casey makes compressed peaches and potatoes fried in duck fat. There is a lot of frantic working and peanut gallery yelling. Brooke makes fun of Katsuji. Casey makes lettuce cream? Sure.

Tom Time. He rolls out and makes a skeptical noise at what Casey's steak looks like. Just to play mind games. And ask “what's on the line?” all innocently. Casey is not thrown that much because she has two steaks, so she can just slice both of them and use whatever one is better. Brooke tells Tom her soup is hot, and Tom just stares at the clock. Brooke looks up also, then is like “Goddammit. You're going to go there?” and pours the soup back out of the bowls. She pours it in the blender, though, because that's all she has nearby, prompting Tom to ask how exactly the blender is going to make the soup hot. Hee. He goes over to the peanut gallery to mention that hot soup should be hot is all, and Jamie tells him after he ragged on Casey's steak she pulled out another one. Brooke meanwhile is yelling about how hot the soup will be, so don't burn your mouth on it. Tom bails so he can't see where anything is. Everyone is pretty confident with their dishes.

Casey: steamed cod with lettuce cream, aromatics of onion, ginger & garlic, crispy cauliflower. Tom tastes, and then takes the other cover off and is all “Well, this one can't go to waste, can it?” Seared strip steak with spicy rub, crispy potatoes, collard greens, chorizo & pickled peach. Tom actually doesn't taste it but gives it to the peanut gallery. Brooke: cauliflower soup with a garnish of olive, dill, pepper & preserved lemon. Also ground pork larb with apple & fennel salad. Larb is a Laotian dish which is basically meat salad.

Tom says both dishes were good but they should be so he's not surprised. Casey's fish was cooked perfectly and her garnishes balanced the dish. Brooke's soup was ballsy but it also was balanced. But of course you cannot know who won, because we have to leave that for next week on the actual show.

No comments: