Saturday, December 30, 2017

Top Chef 12/28/17--"Little Tools, Big Challenge" summary

Previously on "Top Chef": the Sudden Death Quickfire involved Denver omelettes, to get that out of the way. The bottom three chefs had to make classic French omelettes, and not Denver omelettes in the French style which is what I thought at first. Laura ended up making a raw, runny omelette that looked gross, even to me, and I like my scrambled eggs almost underdone. So she was sent home. The Elimination challenge was to work a food truck and serve college students, which is a great challenge, to be fair. None of the teams had any drama or fighting. Hipster Joe won for making chicken wings with kale, which is somehow fitting. Rogelio lost for making warm corn salad. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, Tom made everyone cook with gross combinations like vanilla and pickles. Claudette did the best, which is weird because she didn't seem that competent on the show. Rogelio and Laura were both eliminated, which is not surprising.

Hipster Joe brags about winning and we have to watch a montage about how everyone praised him. He's not that annoying. Yet. But I can see how that could be a problem. Everyone hated to see Rogelio lose. 

Bruce and his wife are adopting, and the baby is due while he's on the show. He and his wife have been trying to have kids, and the adoption agency went bankrupt, and so he's got a lot of shit going on outside of the competition.

Padma and Curtis Stone are here. Carrie fangirls. I'll allow it because Curtis Stone is hot. Padma references "Top Chef, Jr." I have watched some of that show and it's not a bad show. In general I don't like kid's versions of things, and I don't recap them, because I would feel like I had to be nice to the kids all the time and I probably would fail at some point. But it's not a terrible show. Anyway, the Quickfire is to revamp something off the kids' menu. Usually the kids' menu is unhealthy. This was a challenge on the other show so Curtis has high expectations. Everyone draws knives for dishes, and then some kids roll in. They've found kids of some Denver chefs to taste. Also a rack of toys. Or, "kid-size tools". So small pots and toy mixers and whatnot. I don't know why everything has to have multiple twists but whatever.

40 minutes. Carrie puts something on the cutting board and it falls off and into the trash. Hee. Carrie wants to make a corndog nugget. I've done that. We mixed up some cornbread muffin mix and put it in mini-muffin tins and then put a piece of andouille sausage in each one. It was delicious. Tyler talks about his own kids and how he's sure these kids eat well. The producer-driven conversations are terrible. I know this wasn't as bad before, right? Adrienne makes cauliflower pizza crust. Fatima uses one of the toy mixers, which is like a fake wooden paddle thing. She says the tools are small for her and she's not a big person. The kids come back in and Tanya warns everyone to watch the F-bombs. Tyler got spaghetti and meatballs and is making pho and shrimp meatballs and zucchini noodles. Zucchini noodles are weird. Don't eat them expecting them to be like pasta. There's some terrible fake conversation between Brother Luck and Bruce about his kid, but then Brother Luck points out that he can fit three saute pans in his hand at once, which is hilarious. Tanya burns her breadcrumbs. Watching these people try to cook with small utensils is not as entertaining as you might expect, or as much as I'm sure the producers thought it would be. 

Adrienne: cauliflower crust pizza with ricotta spread, tomato compote and fried quail egg. Hilariously, while cooking she had said you can't tell kids it's cauliflower right away, but the first word out of her mouth is basically "cauliflower" and the oldest kid rolls her eyes. Carrie: cornmeal breaded corndog with chiffonade kale and pecorino romano. Tu: chicken quesadilla with charred pineapple salsa and cheddar fondue. Joseph: pan roasted chicken breast with gochujang Szechuan peppercorn glaze with caramelized pineapple. This was supposed to be chicken teriyaki. They're letting the kids insult everyone as much as they want. Fatima: Caesar salad with crispy grilled cheese croutons, tomatoes, avocado and black garlic anchovy dressing. She did not get "salad" but "grilled cheese" as her dish. Tyler: shrimp meatballs with zucchini noodles and herbs in spicy broth. Was spaghetti and meatballs. Hipster Joe: almond breaded chicken sausage with fresh tomato ketchup and creamed kale. Chris: chicken rillettes taco with crispy chicken skin and mole. Tanya: orecchiette pasta with gruyere parmesan bechamel, crusted with bacon and pretzel crumbs. Brother Luck: buffalo burger with avocado on pretzel bun with jicama fries. Jicama is tasty but it's not fries so I think some quotes are missing here. Bruce: cornmeal crusted striped bass and shrimp croquettes with potato and romesco sauce. 

The bottom was Carrie, for dry corndogs. Curtis does that horrible thing Tom's started to do and says the corndogs "ate just a little dry". They were dry. Just fucking say that and quit with this "it ate dry" bullshit. Tyler went too far from spaghetti and meatballs. Bruce's fish sticks had a weird texture. Adrienne did really well, I guess because the crust was good. The kids went for Fatima's salad, and Tanya made a great macaroni and cheese. The winner is Adrienne. She wins immunity and immediately has to be bleeped. She's feeling good. 

Elimination Challenge. Padma starts talking about immigration and food culture. Make a meal based on your own "heritage and backgrounds". Just putting in quotes because if this was "Project Runway" we'd be playing hard and fast with what this means. Side note: when they show a shot of the whole kitchen, aside from the weird wine racks full of what I'm sure are empty bottles, and some fermentation tanks, Padma is standing on a small square mat. I'm not sure why, and it's clearly designed to blend into the floor. It's just weird is all. Today all the contestants will be going to a "food incubator", which is a place where women who have just arrived here can get help turning their cooking skills into a career. That sounds really cool, actually.

In the car, Carrie admits she doesn't know what her heritage is. No one researched her? Hmm. I wish they had done that, like they did on All-Stars. Brother Luck tells a heartbreaking story about his father, who was Creole. He was doing a school project and his father wrote a recipe for dirty rice, and Brother Luck was embarrassed by it, and then his father died soon afterward so that's the only recipe he's got. Fatima tells him he definitely should make that. 

At Comal, the food incubator, there's a head chef who is a white guy, and then two mother-daughter pairs in hijab making kibbeh. Fatima jokes with the women. There are also some Mexican women making mole and telling Tu and Carrie they don't have a recipe, it's in their heart. Everyone is touched, etc. Listen, I'm not doubting any of it, and I think this is a fantastic organization, but I also know this was just an interlude so people can have personal confessional time and some kind of story since no one is fighting and we need some drama or something.

I'm not sure how much time they have to cook. I think Padma left that part out. I like the idea of this challenge but not how some people don't seem to know what their heritage is. Tyler, for example, points out he's a white boy from Southern California and his family weren't big food people. He knows he's at least part Swedish so I guess Swedish meatballs. Chris's whole restaurant currently is about soul food so he's got a much easier time. See? It's not that I dislike Chris or anything, but that he's got an advantage here because of the design of the challenge. Adrienne says when her parents got married, her father's family took a week to show her mom how to cook Southern food. 

Cooking time but we still don't know how long. Tyler has some kind of a plan with tri-tip and beets. Joseph has been to the town his family's from in Italy, and he was able to go with his grandmother. Nice. He's making pasta and says something about if he can get this finished he'll be "Soignee West", which is not nice but is instead ridiculous. Tanya is making her mom's gumbo. She wanted to open a restaurant with her gumbo but she wasn't able to. Aww. Hipster Joe tells the group in general he needs two woks and like three or four burners. Too much, dude. There are people other than you. He's making Italian also? Whatever. The judges arrive and chitchat. Gregory from Top Chef Boston is here.

Carrie: pierogies with herb creme fraiche and fava bean chorizo salad. She admits she has no idea what her heritage is, but she's from Idaho and her grandmother used to make pierogies. Good enough, I guess. Tyler: spiced tri-tip with Swedish potato pancake, Swedish meatballs and pico de gallo. He's trying to blend Swedish with Southern California. Tom is underwhelmed. Carrie's pierogies were good but maybe not the rest.

There's a shot of Padma and everyone turning around to look at the kitchen, I guess because Joseph is yelling about service and somehow he's going to be judged on that too. I don't think they should be, unless it's Restaurant Wars or the finale. If you didn't have to prep the servers, then you yelling about shit in the kitchen shouldn't matter. Joseph: saffron ribbon pasta with braised squid and parmigiano-reggiano. Tanya: Louisiana style gumbo with chicken, shrimp and fried okra over rice. The gumbo is great. The pasta isn't as impressive.

Hipster Joe is pretty cocky. I feel like he's supposed to be the villain of the season, but he's not even that evil because this whole season is full of nice people. As far as villains go, he's pretty harmless. Hipster Joe: chicken tortelloni with farro cabbage. It's a French/Italian marriage. Tu: canh chua with fish meatballs. He calls it"Vietnamese bouillabaisse". Hipster Joe's pasta is much better than Joseph's. Tu's dish maybe was missing something.

Fatima: dal chawal with shami kebabs. Rice and lentils and ground lamb kebabs. Brother Luck: stewed chicken with dirty rice and spinach. He tells everyone the story about his dad. Gee, do you think they'll be moved by the story? I'm so cynical. Fatima's dish is authentic but maybe not the best. Of course everyone loves Brother Luck's chicken.

Bruce: Hungarian lamb goulash with spaetzle, braised cabbage and lemon creme fraiche. That sounds so good. Adrienne: stuffed pig's trotters with collard greens, mustard ham hock jus and potato croquette. Adrienne's flavors are good but the trotters are not cooked properly. Bruce's lamb is terribly cooked also.

Chris: lemonade fried chicken with collard greens, buttermilk biscuits and hot sauce. He claims you can go eight generations back and it's this same recipe. It's cooked well and the biscuits are delicious. You can feel the soul. Back in the kitchen Chris has like half a sheet pan of biscuits that everyone just devours with hot sauce. That was cute. I mean, I know he probably has a recipe that makes a whole sheet pan and he didn't cut it down, so of course there's leftovers, but it's always nice to see the contestants eating each other's food and praising it.

Oo, Tabatha. She was the best part of "Shear Genius" and don't pretend otherwise. I wish they'd bring that show back.

Judges' Table. Tom says sometimes the stories were better than the food. Ouch. Chris, Tanya, and Hipster Joe were the top. So this is what I'm saying. Chris and Tanya just made the food they serve in their restaurants. I'm not saying it's bad, because it looked delicious. But they had an easier time in terms of planning, because they already know these dishes and their heritage and they've done this before. And for service. Chris's dish was simple, just fried chicken and biscuits and greens, and it was perfect. Tanya's gumbo was homey and soulful. Hipster Joe took some basic flavors and elevated them. Padma says his sauce work was perfect. The winner is Chris. Cool. 

Joseph, Tyler, and Bruce were the bottom. The Bear Den, huh? Joseph's pasta was cold and Gail wanted more flavor. How do you screw up the temperature? Joseph needed to cook the sauce all day. Tyler doesn't know his heritage, except that his last name is Swedish. See this is what I'm saying. Tom says that he should have just served tri-tip and pico de gallo, instead of confusing the dish with the Swedish elements. So is Southern California "heritage" the same way "Southern" is? Because I don't think most people would say so. So then Tyler is handicapped even more than someone who doesn't make food that matches their background on a regular basis. Because he doesn't know. Bruce's lamb was terrible. Gail says the food was spread out over the plate so it wasn't cozy? Sure. Bruce grandstands and says now he knows he needs to make the rustic food he's good at, and it's very fake and is clearly just an attempt to kiss up so they don't eliminate him. 

Joseph gave himself too much work, and didn't have time to cook the sauce down. Tom didn't want more of the dish. Bruce got too fancy and they're still mad about the lamb. The judges insist that Tyler could have made "Southern Californian" food and that would have been fine. Instead it was too confused. 

Tom says some stuff about immigrants, which is what they've been focused on and why I think Tyler tried to figure out where he was originally from. Whatever. Anyway, he gets eliminated. I don't know how I feel about this. Tyler says that he overthought his dish and deserves to go home. OK that's fair, but I still am slightly uneasy with how this challenge was designed and how the guidelines weren't clear to everyone. Clearly "Southern" or "Creole" was considered heritage, but most people don't consider "Californian" a heritage. I don't and I'm the fourth generation on my mom's side from California. Tyler seems mostly fine with his elimination. 

Next week: camping in the snow. And cooking in the dark for no reason.

Last Chance Kitchen: is apparently two parts. UGH. Tom says it will "change Top Chef forever." Sure, Tom. Anyway, here's Tyler. He knows the veterans have tricks. Tom then tells everyone one of the four of them (Tyler, Claudette, Lee Anne, or Kwame) will be returning to the competition this week. Damn. Also that's really obnoxious for people who don't watch Last Chance Kitchen. I wonder how much time on the regular show they'll spend recapping it. Probably not enough. Well, at least everyone knows about it and it's no longer a surprise that the eliminated chefs are returning. First, though, is the two part challenge where three of them move on to the second part and then one of them returns. Shit, I wonder if they'll do like the finale where we don't find out who won until next week.

Tyler overthought his dish. He was caught in his head. So here are some heads. OK that's hilarious. Various heads, beef tongue, you get the picture. Tom tries to say something to Tyler, who says "I like any head I can get, Chef". Ha! Tom loses his train of thought, but you walked right into that one, Tom. 

40 minutes, which seems like a really long time, but most of these meats take a long time. Tyler goes for the pig's head, and Claudette gets pig tongue. Lee Anne has halibut cheeks, which doesn't seem that weird? Cheeks seem pretty common now, or maybe that's just me. Kwame has salmon heads, because they can cook quickly but have a lot of flavor. Claudette says she didn't want the pig's head because it reminds her of her ex. Hee. Tyler puts ears in the pressure cooker. Kwame spends a lot of time getting the meat off the salmon heads. Claudette is taking the "I want to make things I never made before" tack. We bring up Lee Anne's pregnancy for some reason. Kwame makes more flatbread.

Tom Time! Tyler is making some of his mother's dish, and he says he was kicked out for trying to interpret it, which seems like it's not accurate. But sure. Kwame is not using the salmon heads for stock, because salmon is already fishy. Tyler has managed to melt the plastic handle on his pressure cooker, which makes the whole kitchen smell like burnt plastic. He says since the pot is sealed, none of the fumes will get into his food, so it's totally fine and these wimps need to shut up about it. Oh Tyler. Maybe so, but no one wants to smell burnt plastic and also I've never seen anyone melt handles on anything in this kitchen. Then he manages to lose his spaghetti squash. How do you do that? Kwame puts his flatbread dough in Lee Anne's pan, which has sesame oil. He curses for like 30 seconds straight and then says "fuck it" and cooks it anyway, It's not like he has time to make more dough. Claudette shittalks Kwame that this is his third orange-colored puree. She also knows her tongue is not all the way done but she just dices it and serves it anyway. 

Tyler: pork cheek braised in brown butter currant sauce, sweet potato puree, spaghetti squash. I'm not sure what happened to the ears. Claudette: taco de lengua - pork tongue taco with mushrooms, cabbage slaw, salsa verde. It's very messy. Kwame: traditional Thai curry with salmon, garlic chips, and flatbread. Lee Anne: braised and fried halibut cheek, sauteed vegetables, lamb and black bean sauce. 

Everything was cooked well, but Tom's favorite was Kwame's. The curry worked well with the salmon. Claudette came in second, because the salsa was delicious. She can already picture herself back in the house. Tyler cooked the pig's head well, but Lee Anne's dish was pretty complicated. But Tyler's puree was too muddy and the combination was poor so he's elimnated. Huh. He thinks he should have won. Maybe just a general "I'm better than this" and not "my dish was perfect".

Time for Part Two. Tom says when they return, there will be ten challenges left. He lets everyone discuss why they want to win. Tom says they just showed they could cook with their heads, and now it's time to cook with their guts. Time for offal. One protein per person.

Another 40 minutes. We've got chicken hearts (Kwame), chicken liver (Claudette), and beef liver (Lee Anne). Claudette rolls her eyes at Kwame again, which isn't that weird, except that this season has been so nice. I can't think of another time that anyone has even rolled their eyes a little bit about someone else. Lee Anne says dumplings are her secret weapon, that she wrote a cookbook about. What!? I need that right now. Claudette's dough isn't coming together the way she wants. 

Tom Time. Lee Anne describes her dumplings, with both liver filling and liver sauce. She brags that she makes hundreds of dumplings a day, so I really hope she didn't just jinx herself. Kwame has another stew, with chicken heart skewers. Claudette explains what she's frying and talks about her sauce. Everyone chuckles about how they never know what she's talking about because she doesn't often explain all her Mexican words. 

Oh look, it's all the contestants. I guess they think they're going to walk into the kitchen for their Quickfire. Tom explains what's happening. Jen Carroll says they should be worried about whoever returns. A couple of people say hi to Kwame but he's trying not to be distracted. Claudette demands cheerleaders. Maybe Claudette is the villain. Although you can't be a villain if you aren't on the show. Fatima is terrified of Lee Anne. I think Claudette dabs. Boo.

Claudette: picadillo tetela with chicken livers and cherries, chintextle (Oaxacan mother sauce). So a tetela is masa dough with filling, which is deep fried. But you can see what people are saying about wishing for a translator. Kwame: chicken heart sofrito with crispy shallots, confit potatoes, potato tostones, and chicken gremolata. Lee Anne: beef liver dumplings with garlic, shallots, shoyu (that's soy sauce for you non-Asians), ginger and chili oil. 

All the dishes did a great job of not hiding the offal. Lee Anne's dumplings were great but the liver sauce was maybe thick. Kwame's dish was delicious but maybe stop putting everything in little bowls because it's hard to eat. Claudette's sauce maybe had too much anchovies but the flavors built really well. Tom makes Padma show up with the chef's coat, but she doesn't get to eat anything which is too bad. Oh and of course we will find out who won next week. Whatever. 

No comments: