Friday, December 8, 2017

Top Chef 12/7/17--"It'll Take More Than Pot Luck" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: I really think if you don't have enough people for All-Stars then you just need to suck it up and not do All-Stars. Also see the last post for a recap of Last Chance Kitchen. (click for more)

Jen Carroll, Kwame, Marcel, and Lee Anne are competing on Last Chance Kitchen. Jen was eliminated last week, and the remaining three will battle the losing chefs from this season. So we could see Lee Anne come back and win the whole thing! I'll be honest, I love Lee Anne so I'm going to be a giant hypocrite about her winning, as opposed to Brooke.

Everyone files into the kitchen as voiceovers go on about where people are from. No one is wearing chef's whites. Padma welcomes everyone and asks if anyone has jitters. Bruce says no, so Padma immediately says she's suspicious of him. Bruce has been on TV before. Anyway, your first Quickfire is a potluck! P.S. Bravo, “potluck” is one word. 45 minutes to cook for both the judges and each other. Make whatever you want. Gail, Tom, and Graham will be back to give someone immunity.

OK now everyone has chef's whites on. Christopher says something about Amish soul food. Plenty of shoving around the fridges. Tanya makes wings. It's a little simple but people like them. No one brings anything fancy to a potluck anyway. Tyler is going to bake chorizo in the oven, which he's never done. Won't all the fat render out and burn? This might be a bad idea. Joe (this season's designated Hipster Mustache Representative) is making pasta. Risky. The other contestants side eye the mustache. I've seen better, it's basically a regular mustache with a tiny curl at the end. Carrie tells someone she's making “grilled summer bruschetta”. There's a big wood-fired oven in that kitchen this year. Plenty of running about happening. Tu David (not sure if he uses both names) knows everyone is making meat, so he's going with a salad to stand out. Melissa appears to be flailing. Tyler has of course overcooked the chorizo.

In the center of the kitchen there's a big table, with a smaller table set perpendicular for the judges. Everyone takes some of everything, as I notice that they have those fucking metal chairs that every fast casual and hipster restaurant have now. I hate those chairs. They're too narrow but everyone loves them. Fuck those chairs. These ones, you guys know.

Rogelio: chorizo stew with candied beans and jalapenos. Delicious. Tyler: potato salad with green chorizo and fennel herb salad. He sasses Tom about how his restaurant is a farm thing because “everything is a fucking farm.” The chorizo is maybe not going over well. Christopher: Amish style dumplings with broccoli rabe and mushrooms. Bruce: Florintina skirt steak, salsa verde and warm fennel corn salad. Bruce apparently knows the entire judging panel except for Padma. He also knows a good chunk of the contestants. Joseph (there are two Joes, this is the non-mustached one): roasted red snapper with fennel, orange and herb salad. Joe (mustached Joe, whom I think I will call Hipster Joe): pasta with pork sugo and roasted cherry tomatoes. Mustache Joe? It's not enough to have Joe and Joseph, not when one of them has a hipster mustache so it's easy to tell them apart. Tanya: chili honey glazed chicken wings with grilled cabbage slaw. Brother Luck (SIGH): pork carnitas with avocado, currants, and pepitas. He just opened his restaurant this week. Claudette: mole coloradito with marinated skirt steak and matcha salsa. Tu: corn salpicon. It's basically a chopped salad? Or maybe a stuffing? I'm not sure and the internet isn't helping currently. It looks like egg salad, so chopped ingredients bound by mayo or dressing or something. Laura: grilled eggplant with sauteed chickpeas. Melissa: panchetta and potato chowder. Carrie: bruschetta with jalapeno blueberry jam and salad.

Everyone compliments each other. Oh are we going to be nice? I guess it's too early to shittalk people. The contestants will be voting. You vote for the best and the worst, and you can't vote for yourself. Interesting. After Padma tallies she says Melissa and Carrie were on the bottom. She forces the other contestants to give critiques. The potatoes in Melissa's chowder weren't done, and Carrie's bruschetta was muddled. The top was both Joes and Tu. Joe's snapper was well done, Tu's salad was a great potluck dish, and Hipster Joe made pasta. The winner is Tu. Nice.

Elimination Challenge. Padma and Gail start talking about how Denver has had a culinary Renaissance or whatever. They'll all be hosting a block party, and putting their own spin on “meat and potatoes”. I remember the last block party they had on this show. It didn't go well. 200 guests, some of them chefs.

On the way to the store Fatima talks about how she used to watch some travel show that Padma did. Laura cooks at Denali National Park. Sweet. Of course they're at Whole Foods, and she doesn't have those in Alaska, but she and her son have watched every season of this show. And she knows everyone goes to the meat counter first. This is still true, so there are 15 people shouting at the poor butchers. Joseph wants to do a tartare to counter everyone else's heavy dishes. Adrienne (who worked at Le Bernadin) wants to push herself. Laura is planning to make potato bread. She's getting a lot of screen time but I don't find her very interesting, which is not a good sign for her longevity on this show. Or is she supposed to be "hick in the big city"? Shopping is the usual.

Cooking time. I'm not sure how long they have to cook today. Tyler has big slabs of pork belly. It is “porky, salty, sweety...sweety? Smokey. The...four...dwarves...of pork.” Heh. He then claims he'll never make something on Top Chef that he's made before. That seems very risky. Bruce does a lot of charity festival-type events. Joseph tells Hipster Joe he's making lamb tartare, and Hipster Joe is like “Cool I thought I was going to be the only one!” Joseph curses good-naturedly and labels it “a Joedown Throwdown.” Nice. Melissa doesn't eat potatoes usually. Now she's going to make a potato puree, which I think she is making today so it'll be a day old.

Tom Time! And he's brought Graham. Chris is making chow chow. This is his fifth time auditioning for this show. Carrie had a mentor who was on Masters. She's also making short ribs to prove...she can braise short ribs. That seems like a dumb idea. Shouldn't you pick your dishes based on what goes best? Also can't everyone braise short ribs? I feel like I could braise short ribs and I'm not a chef. You know? Rogelio is going to make and fry croquettes tomorrow at the event. This whole segment feels like very heavy foreshadowing.

One hour left. All the ovens are full. Laura can't make her bread now, so she's going to make pitas in the pizza oven. That's a good save. Or at least she tried, you know? Bruce is in the weeds, so Tu offers to help him finish. Bruce gives him some tasks, as everyone watches. Listen, that's between Tu and Bruce. If Tu wants to spend time helping his competition then that's his option. Bruce should get his shit together, but eventually everyone will be too busy to help him.

Time to see what the house looks like this season. It's huge. Chris references MTV Cribs which makes me laugh. Some of the guys label their room “The Bear Den” because they're all bears and they all plan to snore. Heh. Claudette bitches about how she doesn't want to live with 14 other people and she doesn't like it. Bruce is worried about his gnocchi tomorrow. He doesn't want to be that guy. That guy who had to have someone prep his vegetables on the first day? Too late, my dude.

At the festival, each chef gets their own tent and station. Hipster Joe says the fryers only go up to 375, to which Tu replies that he should use the induction burner, and also he has a pot Hipster Joe can borrow. Is Tu going to be that guy who constantly talks about playing with “honor” and shit? He gives Hipster Joe a pot and then takes his hotel tray and lays it across two induction burners. OK it's one thing to help Bruce when all your own shit is done. But making your life harder so you can be nice to a competitor? Come on, dude. On the third hand, he does have immunity so I guess it doesn't matter. He says he's confident he won't scorch his stew. Bruce is forming his gnocchi. It sounds like he maybe didn't even get all the dough made yesterday. Fatima thinks she might be the only one not cooking red meat. Everyone shouts at each other with questions and encouragement. I feel like this is all producer prompted. Carrie humblebrags that random pedestrians are shouting encouragement at her and it's so crazy! It's a humblebrag because she makes sure to mention that no one is yelling at the other Denver chefs. They show a shot down the street, and in the usual Top Chef fashion, they've just corralled everyone behind a gate so when time is up they can mob the tables.

Fatima: braised chicken, potato and pea samosa, with tamarind beet and plum sauce. It's not really a samosa so much as it is a fried giant wonton wrapper and stuff piled on top like a nacho. Or maybe it's chicken skin? Padma likes the flavors so Fatima is kind of freaking out. Tu: bo kho beef stew with five spice and filet mignon. Bo kho is Vietnamese. Gail thinks it's a little bitter, possibly because he's scorched it. Keegan Gerhard is here. Remember he used to host those pastry competitions on Food Network, and then he started judging them? I like Keegan.

Oh look, it's Gregory from the Boston season. Bruce: potato leek dumpling with braised pork shoulder and chicarron. Bruce says “dumpling” but then Padma says “gnocchi”. Is he hedging his bets in case someone complains it's not really gnocchi for some reason? Carrie: braised beef short rib with russet potato chip and lemon goat cheese. The chips are burnt. Oops. Carrie says she set eight perfect chips aside in the oven to keep slightly warm. Well that was dumb. Of course they cooked more and got burnt.

Hipster Joe: beef tartare with with potato and fermented shiitake, seaweed and crumble rumble. What the fuck is “crumble rumble”. He says it's fried onions, yeast, and potato flakes. Whatever. Anyway, this is also nachos, potato chips with stuff piled on top, although much smaller than Fatima's. It looks like you should be able to put the whole chip in your mouth at once. And Padma just giggles about putting meat in her mouth. It's very cold, which Tom likes. As does Padma. She hates warm slimy meat.

Brother: purple potato puree with lamb and goat cheese. It's actually very pretty, with edible flowers and a raspberry for some reason. Rogelio: potato and beef croquette with basil, mint and tomatillo sauce. Tanya: Yukon gold potatoes with jerk tri-tip and pineapple piccalilli. How does my spellcheck recognize “piccalilli”? It's basically pickle relish. The jerk seasoning is kind of weak. Oh, Hosea's here. Pfff. Tyler: sweet potato puree with crispy potatoes and smoked pork gravy. Chris: potato waffle with barbecued beef and corn chow-chow. Claudette: harissa aioli tartare with ras el hanout ribeye and salad. Tom says it's missing salt and acid. How do you use both harissa and ras al hanout and not salt? Joseph: Colorado lamb tartare with potato, pickled mushrooms and aioli. Laura: potato flatbread with marinated flank steak and spicy slaw. Melissa: Yukon potato puree with braised pork shoulder and fennel salad. Padma tells her the potatoes are cooked, then immediately walks away and tells Tom that she didn't like the dish. Heh. Adrienne: sweet potato tostone with pork belly, caramel and radish salad. The sweet potatoes are too sweet. There are some major storm clouds outside but no one seems concerned. Seems legit. You stay outside right until the last second with those things unless the sirens are going off, and sometimes after that.

The judges meet to discuss. Good: Fatima, Tyler, Hipster Joe, Chris, Bruce. Bad: Carrie (hilariously Graham got a raw potato chip), Rogelio, Melissa. The storm rolls in with hail.

Judges' Table. Not even the Stew Room? Not one shot? I hate this “everyone stands at judging” thing. The top three are Tyler, Chris, and Fatima. Fatima's dish was well-executed and you could taste every flavor. She used chicken to stand out, and made great street food. It did look good. Chris's dish had great barbecue and was a very interesting fusion. Tyler had the best potatoes. He did something to make them curl? Which involves pinching each individual potato? Wow. Tom says they all had really good dishes, but the winner is Tyler. He's superstitious because often the person who wins the first Elimination wins the whole show.

The bottom three are Adrienne, Melissa, and Carrie. Padma also calls out Tu for sucking, but he has immunity. There is no Loser Gong which is terrible. Adrienne usually makes that dish with uni, and she thought the pork would be good. But the pork was sweet too and the texture was weird. Melissa didn't braise her pork long enough. Tom tells her “it ate dry”. Knock that shit off, Tom. It was dry. “It ate dry” is stupid and annoying. Just say it was dry. It tasted warmed-over, and the potato puree wasn't great either. Carrie's dish was all about the lemon goat cheese instead of meat or potatoes. Plus the chips were all inconsistent.

OK now they can all go to the Stew Room and drink. Adrienne's potatoes were not successful, and her pork didn't make up for it. Carrie didn't make meat and potatoes, essentially. Yeah bad chips and dip is pretty disappointing. None of Melissa's dish worked, and Gail doesn't get what exactly she did to screw up this badly.

Melissa is the first one out. Her dish was too basic, but of course, Last Chance Kitchen. Tom teases that Last Chance Kitchen is “a little different”. She's really upset to be the first one out because she didn't get a chance to show everything she could do.

So then there's a clip of Tom coming to get Melissa in what looks like a lounge. Is this right after elimination? Then they go to the kitchen to greet everyone, and they show all of them so I guess the All-Stars isn't a secret to the viewing public. Either that or they really want you to go watch. They show Jen too, although you don't have to even try hard to see that she's not in the group shot when Melissa walks in and she's also not wearing a chef's jacket.

This season: the usual. People are friends, and they cry, and there is some ridiculous nonsense challenges, camping outside. And maybe one fight? One person saying shit in the Stew Room and someone else making a face? Huh. So is this season weirdly drama free or are they trying to make it a surprise?

Last Chance Kitchen: Melissa walks into the kitchen and has zero reaction. She says she's watched every season so she recognizes everyone, but there was no expression on her face. She's cursing about it in confessional though. Melissa screwed up her potatoes in both challenges, so clearly she's going to be making potatoes today. Kwame knows she wants it, but he wants it more. 

30 minutes to make a potato dish. That's not very much time at all. She says she just needs to stop being a pussy and just do it. What, not even a bleep? Damn, Bravo. Lee Anne wants to make a gratin, but she also knows she doesn't have anywhere near enough time. So she's making a potato puree with scallops. Marcel says some shit in an Irish-adjacent accent. He is making fries and mayo, only with a fancier hipster name so you can charge more. Listen, I'm not going to give anyone shit for eating hipster food because when I went to dinner and got foam on my plate I took a picture to brag about it. #peakhipster. Also you're supposed to highlight potatoes, right? Fries is perfect. Melissa is making fish and is interviewing about how she totally cooks fish all the time and she can just put it on the stove and not worry about it. That shit is going to fail. We all know it. For some reason Marcel's fries involve the freezer. Sure.

Tom Time! Lee Anne nearly stabs Tom with whatever greens were in her hand. She says she's making scallops, and Tom is like, scallops, or “scallops” as if Lee Anne is going to cut potatoes like scallops and do some Blais shit. Come on, Tom. Marcel has the liquid nitrogen, and Tom has to help him put the lid on his food processor. He tells Melissa not to mess up the potatoes again. Thanks for the help, Tom. Marcel is using the food processor to make his aioli instead of the blender for some reason. Kwame describes his dish but I don't know what some of the words are. OK I get potato crumble, which is like the crumbs at the bottom of the chip bag.

Marcel asks Melissa for dirt on this season's chefs. Like is anyone from LA? Lee Anne is trying to do a lot of fancy things and she feels like she's about to choke. Marcel is now realizing how much everyone else is doing and he's worried. Jen tries to ask what's up with whatever Lee Anne's doing but Lee Anne is like, oh sorry I can't hear you. Melissa wants to make a broth, but with no time left she decides an oil is fine. Marcel busts out the liquid nitrogen, and to his credit he mocks himself in confessional about “oh here he goes again, jeez”. OK if this is the new “evolved” Marcel this isn't so bad. Anyway, he explains that fast food fries are so good because they're frozen and then flash fried so they stay crispy. Kwame calls it a baller move. There's a fire in the deep fryer and I think it might be Lee Anne's stuff. She at least apologizes for it.

Melissa: pan seared salmon, confit fingerling potatoes, Yukon gold potato chips, chive oil with lemon. It...doesn't look appetizing. I mean, I don't know why, but it doesn't look that great. She meant to put more oil on the plate, but that failed. Kwame: potato ecrase, potato crumble, lemon, smoked paprika, crispy pancetta. Tom interrupts his explanation to ask him what he means by “potato ecrase”, so Kwame can clarify it means broken potatoes cooked in butter. But you know and I know that the chances that Tom doesn't know what “ecrase” means are basically zero. So is he asking to see if Kwame knows what he's talking about? Or because he knows a bunch of randos are going to watch this on the internet and there's no way THEY know what “ecrase” means? Marcel: French fry potato with aji amarillo aioli. Lee Anne: herb, kale and potato puree, crispy potato batonnet, potato ring, seared scallop and andouille sausage. “Batonnet” is a dowel shape. Tom makes a “Rollercoaster Tycoon” reference. Hee.

Tom's two favorites were Kwame's and Marcel's. Nooo! But then Marcel wins! Nooo! They might be the best fries Tom has ever had. Ugh, Lee Anne! Lee Anne's dish was too complicated and it was unseasoned and the scallop wasn't done properly. Melissa burnt her chips. Again. Plus the salmon was overcooked. I told you. Melissa is out. Phew. She swears if you come to her restaurant everything will be delicious. Marcel offers everyone fries. Kwame kind of wishes Melissa had stayed to make the competition a little easier. 

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