Friday, February 2, 2018

Top Chef 2/1/18--"Bronco Brouhaha" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: it's Restaurant Wars. You know the drill. This year everyone had to make nine different dishes per restaurant, instead of six, so they got some extra help from eliminated contestants. This did not result in drama. Claudette was picked last, because Carrie didn't want to deal with her. Then Chris told her to be executive chef, and she didn't really protest, but she then decided that she wasn't going to micromanage because “everyone is adults”. Basically so she could have plausible deniability. Of course, the other team, whose executive chef was actually tasting the dishes in the pass, won easily. Joseph ended up winning for excellent FOH service. It briefly looked like Hipster Joe was in trouble, because he did three dishes and they all were kind of not great. But Claudette's dishes were also poor, and either the judges were personally offended she was a poor executive chef, or they don't like Claudette. Or they reasoned that things like burnt garlic should never had made the table because Claudette should have caught it. But anyway, she was sent home and immediately interviewed that the judges were idiots and only wanted boring food and they'd regret it. I don't regret it though. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, both Brother Luck and Claudette had to make vegetarian dishes with old vegetables. Of course Claudette made something Mexican and didn't explain what she was talking about, because I suspect part of why she uses the Mexican names for things is so she can feel superior to everyone else who doesn't know what she's talking about. I mean, I don't care that she always makes Mexican food. People who only make one cuisine never bother me. It's that she'd say “I'm making molotes”, knowing full well that even most chefs don't know what molotes are, and then she'd never explain what molotes are. And I think it was so she could feel superior, because she knows and others don't. Anyway, she lost so now she's gone forever.

Adrienne is happy she doesn't have to worry about Claudette throwing her under the bus anymore. We get a flashback to how Claudette claimed this is how she runs her restaurant. Joseph still kind of can't believe he won.

In the morning Hipster Joe gets to call home and talk to his girlfriend. They just moved and he says something about crystals or something. Hipster Joe believes in crystals. Everyone else brainstorms about what crazy shit they'll have to do today. Maybe baby food.

When they walk into the kitchen they all curse because David Kinch is in there and they all seem to know him. The Quickfire involves edible flowers. 30 minutes to make a dish with edible flowers. There will no longer be immunity, and also this is a Sudden Death Quickfire. Bottom three battle and someone will be eliminated.

Fatima says edible flowers tend to be bitter, so you have to know what you're doing. Chris chops seafood while Bruce makes pasta. He claims bucatini (hollow spaghetti) is his “spirit noodle”. Sure. Fatima is going to try to make rack of lamb in 30 minutes. Joseph roasts radishes to get rid of some of the pepperiness. Bruce can't work the pasta extruder so he's changing what shape of pasta he's making. Carrie is using lavender, I think in toast. Like a fancy toast. Honestly there are few things more hipster than toast with fancy toppings. Hipster Joe poaches squash blossoms and runs in place for no reason. He practically rolls his eyes about fancy toast and then says something about foraging in Golden Gale Park, possibly illegally. Anyway, he says he's poaching the squash blossoms instead of frying them like everyone else does, because frying will mask the flavor. Joseph's radishes aren't as done as he'd like. Fatima says her hands are shaking, and Joseph tells her to clench her buttcheeks which actually works. Hee.

Adrienne: seared scallop carpaccio with watermelon radish, black radish, radish blossoms, and yuzu. Chris: sea bass and scallop tartare with charred onion, wonton crisps, chive blossoms and onion flower. Fatima: mustard flower rubbed lamb with chili de arbol, Fresno chilies, broccoli florets and orange blossom. Carrie: “fancy toast”: lavender, fig, and goat cheese toast with candied pecans. It's basically a piece of bread with salad piled on top. Joseph: roasted radish salad, crème fraiche, buttermilk dressing, radish and arugula flowers. Hipster Joe: stuffed squash blossom with goat cheese fondue, watermelon radish and radish flowers. Bruce: ricotta cavatelli with squash blossom, grape tomatoes, arugula pesto, and arugula flowers. Padma gets sassy and complains about getting pasta again. Who told Padma to sass back to everyone all the time? It's weird.

Why is this commercial break presented like a picture-in-picture thing with a small window in the corner with extra footage? I don't know.

Fatima used the flowers in a rub, which was a great idea. Carrie used her lavender really well. Huh. Well it easy to fuck up lavender so it tastes soapy, so I'll give him that. Carrie wins. For fancy toast. The guest judge says something about how the simplest is the best sometimes. She doesn't win immunity, but she will get an advantage. The bottom three are Joseph, for having too much sauce and the radishes aren't roasted enough, Chris for having too much liquid on the plate, and Hipster Joe who apparently gets nailed for not being creative enough? Sure?

The Sudden Death Quickfire involves Tom rolling in with cauliflower in all different colors. Make a dish where cauliflower is taking the place of another item. You know, that's not a terrible idea. I know you're supposed to be able to replace rice and carbs with it, but also roast steaks for a protein replacement. Our local hipster fried chicken place makes roasted cauliflower that is absolutely delicious. 30 minutes. Hipster Joe is making buffalo cauliflower, and he says if Carrie can win with toast, he can win with buffalo cauliflower he's roasting in the oven. Chris is replacing eggplant in caponata with the cauliflower. Caponata usually is eggplant in a sweet and sour sauce. Joseph is making risotto. Adrienne wants to keep him focused because she likes Joseph the best. Hipster Joe scoffs that the guest judge has a dish on the menu that's risotto without rice, so maybe that's a bad idea. Says the guy who is making something low brow and is proud of it. To be fair, recreating a dish the guest judge has on his menu is tricky, so I'll give him that. Hipster Joe worries his smoking has cooked the cauliflower in a way he did not anticipate.

Hipster Joe: smoked cauliflower buffalo wings, cauliflower crème fraiche and pickled cauliflower stems. Joseph: purple cauliflower risotto with caramelized cauliflower puree and pickled romanesco broccoli. Chris: cauliflower caponata with white wine vinegar. Tom doesn't like Hipster Joe's dish, because the texture is terrible. I mean he hates them all, but Hipster Joe's is the worst. Joseph didn't cut up his cauliflower small enough, so it didn't work as risotto, so the guest judge goes for him. Padma's least favorite was Joseph, so he's gone first to worst and out and it's not even a full episode. That sucks. Fatima is really upset. Adrienne too. There are several people visibly wilting and frowning.

For the Elimination Challenge, Padma introduces Adam Perry Lang, to talk about BBQ and the Super Bowl and the Broncos and tailgating. Bruce knows him because apparently Bruce knows everyone. Is that contributing to why he's made it so far? I'm not saying he's a terrible chef, because I don't think he is. You'll see. Work in pairs to create the best plate of “Super Bowl food” for 300. That's a lot of people. Carrie gets to pick her teammate (she takes Chris) and then she also gets to pair up the other pairs. Adrienne and Hipster Joe, and Fatima and Bruce. I don't think these are weird pairings. Not like if Claudette was still here.

Chris and Carrie mock each other's fandoms and it's cute. Chris is an Eagles fan so he must be dying currently. I'm going to root for the Eagles in the Super Bowl because fuck Tom Brady. Don't @ me. Fatima and Bruce talk about using orange and blue, and nachos with lentils. Bruce likes the idea but doesn't know how he fits in, because those aren't his flavors. See this is why people get so offended at a chef that only does one kind of cuisine. Bruce does Italian all the time, but when asked to do something that isn't Italian, he freaks out. Meanwhile Claudette has shown she can sort of do non-Mexican so I don't care if she does Mexican the rest of the time. Does that make sense? Adrienne talks about ribs with Hipster Joe, and it's a risk to make ribs for a BBQ person, but she seems confident. Also they discuss fried mac 'n cheese. Chris and Carrie decide on poutine, or more accurately, chili fries without cheese. Adrienne gets St. Louis cut ribs instead of baby backs, because they're on sale. They're just at Whole Foods and that's a lot of food to try and buy from somewhere that's not a restaurant supply. Bruce says that he and Fatima have very different flavor profiles, and when you're actually tailgating, you get multiple dishes, so he's doing a separate dish from the nachos. So it looks like he's ignoring the challenge to make something different from Fatima, so their team will have two separate dishes.

I don't think they said how much time they're getting to prep. Adrienne isn't smoking the ribs, because she doesn't have time, but she's got them in sealed hotel pans to cook. Fatima makes lentils instead of beans, and chutney. I can get behind nachos with Middle Eastern flavors. There's a food truck that tried to get started here, that was supposed to be a Mexican/Indian fusion, but then their nachos were just regular tortilla chips with chicken marsala and I wanted naan chips. You know?

Tom Time! Carrie and Chris's poutine doesn't have cheese curds. Well then it's not poutine, is it? It's chili fries. Come on, guys. Hipster Joe is candying nuts. He also claims to have tried the cauliflower he served, and Tom scoffs. Bruce is marinating sirloin in pineapple juice. I hope it doesn't get mushy. See, pineapple juice has enzymes in it that break down proteins. If you don't do this properly, it breaks down all the proteins and you end up with mush. This is why you can't make Jell-o with fresh pineapple. It won't set. Canned pineapple is heated and the heating denatures the enzyme so it doesn't break down the proteins. It also doesn't exactly go with nachos, but Bruce is looking at how tailgating is kind of a buffet situation. Adrienne is really worried about her ribs being tender.

Back home everyone talks about how Carrie has the magic touch, but not in an annoyed way. More in a respectful way about how good she is. It doesn't seem like anyone resents her or thinks thinks the judges are praising her unfairly.

Carrie says to the camera that WE, i.e. she and Chris, are Bronco fans. Chris just shakes his head. Everyone goes to play football outside. We also get a great picture of Carrie on a horse from one of her barrel racing competitions. Hipster Joe gets prissy about how gross basketball is because the ball touches the ground a lot. He doesn't like any sports. How are you able to handle raw meat but the idea that a basketball has contact with the court is horrifying?

Outside the stadium everyone starts to set up with two hours of time. Fatima and Bruce giggle about how she's never been to a football stadium. Wait, except for a Taylor Swift concert. Hee. She also referenced cricket earlier, which is hilarious. Cricket is so weird. Anyway, Bruce is all “Which one?” and Fatima says “The 1989 tour, obviously.” But Bruce meant which stadium. Hee. Adrienne hopes she can figure out her ribs. The actual fans show up for the actual tailgating, with the RVs and facepaint and stuff. The fried mac 'n cheese isn't working, so Hipster Joe is dusting it with cornstarch. Hopefully that will make it firm, so it sets, and they can have crispy fried things with creamy middles. This is a big production with the mayor and announcements and a street sign or some shit. And some former stars, just like when they tailgated in Chicago.

I just have to point out, there are a lot of shots of cornhole, which is a very Midwestern game that I never heard of until I moved from California. One of the guest judges used to be Carrie's boss. Aww. She says it's like seeing your mom. Chris and Carrie: pork green chili poutine with stadium fries. That sounds so good. It's good without just being spicy. Carrie has really grown on me. I think earlier I didn't really have an opinion on her. If anything, I thought she was too cheerful and was about to be cannon fodder at any moment. But she's actually really good and I like her.

Don't forget Bruce knows the BBQ guy. Bruce and Fatima: grilled sirloin steak, bread and butter beet salad, horseradish aioli. Actually that's just Bruce. Fatima made “blue and orange” nachos, achiote rubbed chicken braised in beer, black lentils, sharp cheddar cheese sauce and peach habanero salsa. The nachos are a little muddled but the steak is fine. But there is no cohesion. Padma does rub it in that Bruce is not doing pasta.

Adrienne and Hipster Joe: fried mac 'n cheese, miso-glazed St. Louis style ribs, kale slaw, kimchi aioli. The mac 'n cheese is not crispy and the ribs are bad. Uh oh.

The judges wander around to the other booths so they can try everything. They really like the poutine, all around, but the nachos are universally boring. The ribs are tender but they never got the mac 'n cheese right. No one team got universal praise except for Carrie and Chris. After the judges all get together, Tom claims he doesn't see anyone really going for it. Afterwards they let the chefs on the field, or at least they let them walk through the tunnel and stand right next to the grass.

Judges' Table. Tom immediately tells them the food was just average tailgate food. Not what he expects from these chefs. But Carrie and Chris are the clear winners. They did elevate their dish. The chili was good and flavorful without being too spicy. They each win a trip to the Super Bowl, which is awesome. AND Chris is an Eagles fan so he's probably dying right now.

Loser time. The nachos were soggy, and the lentils were a fine idea but everyone makes nachos. And these were not good enough. Fatima talks about her ideas, and Tom says that they don't mind nachos, but they'd better be good nachos. They also yell at Bruce for not making steak nachos. Adrienne and Hipster Joe's ribs were tender, so it was fine, but the slaw and mac 'n cheese were both heavy. Tom is really frustrated, because he knows they can make better food than this. It's not that the ideas weren't fancy enough, but that they weren't good enough to justify how simple they were.

Bruce made the fewest mistakes. Adrienne also at least had tender ribs. Hipster Joe and Fatima both had problems, but Graham argues that Adrienne had a hand in the slaw and the mac 'n cheese, while Fatima was completely responsible for the nachos. Yeah but they were supposed to make ONE dish. The only reason she's completely responsible for the nachos is because her team didn't follow directions. The chicken in the nachos was the one thing that didn't suck. I don't like that we're not going to even mention how Bruce ignored the challenge. Sure his food was fine, but not even a verbal reprimand? If you're going to penalize Fatima more for being totally responsible for the nachos, at least mention it's because she and Bruce didn't follow the challenge.

Tom lectures that you can't make mistakes here and how “Top Chef” is the Super Bowl of cooking or whatever. Fatima is sent home. Boo. I get it, but boo. She's really glad she made Pakistani food and it was well-received.

Next week: a haunted house? Tom shows up randomly? Carrie runs out of time.

Last Chance Kitchen: Joseph's won twice and then he was eliminated. He's really ready to go. Fatima cooks outside every weekend for a food festival, so she's very frustrated to have lost on tailgating. Joseph didn't make his cauliflower small enough to be like risotto. Fatima's nachos were soggy. Fatima is a little worried that Brother Luck is on a roll. One person will be eliminated today. Tom says this is something they haven't done before. Most people make the same thing all the time for dinner, so they'll need to update a standard dish. It's Taco Tuesday. Tom rubs it in that it's too bad Claudette isn't still in the competition. Tom, you troll. I love you. The twist is that you have to make a taco bar for everyone, including the peanut gallery. Tom will make himself a taco from your station, and put whatever he wants in there, so make sure everything is good. Nice. Also there is product placement ranch seasoning.

40 minutes. Joseph is going Korean, and Fatima is going Pakistani, and Brother Luck (who just got done opening a “taco concept”) is doing tropical, I think. You're not making one dish, you're making several dishes because there's a whole bar you need, and the taco bar has to have several components. Joseph actually uses the ranch seasoning. Sigh. Wait, I think they have to, but we don't need some bullshit about how ranch dressing is exactly what is needed. Brother Luck has some prickly pear. Joseph lights a pan on fire, then blows it out and asks the peanut gallery if they saw him “chef that so fucking hard”. Brother Luck finds some tequila for beans, opens the bottle, and takes a big swig before putting it in the pot. Hee. He says he's pulling off a Julia Child: one for the beans and one for him. Joseph makes kimchi. Brother Luck has lost track of everything he has, because he's just making shit and going with it.

Tom Time! He just wanders around looking in pots and as people run by and check on pots they shout things at him. Joseph has decided to do tostadas. Which are not tacos. I guess he's frying the tortillas, but not making hard shells? I don't know. Everyone has to use the stupid ranch dressing. Claudette tries to give Fatima shit about nachos, but she hasn't earned the joking. You know? You have to be friends with people to give them shit. The rest of the peanut gallery basically says that. Joseph was going to beer-batter his fish, but he decides to just drink the beer instead. Joseph arranges his dishes and says he wants it to be cute as fuck. Fatima slices her steak carefully and runs around. She's got a crust on it, so she doesn't want to cut the slices too small. Otherwise she's afraid the char and spices will get lost. There is some frantic working. Everyone counts components, and I'm not sure if they had a minimum. But maybe they're just making sure they have everything.

Brother Luck: borracho beans, roasted tomato salsa, grilled carne asada, cotija corn, pickled poblanos, ranch chipotle crema. Tom puts everything on except one component, the pickled poblanos. Brother Luck is pretty sure the taco will still taste the way he wants it to taste. Fatima: chana masala, poached quail eggs, 7 spice rubbed New York strip steak, tamarind chili sauce, ranch and preserved lemon crème fraiche, avocado coconut crema. Tom leaves out the avocado. Joseph: ranch tostadas, ponzu and cilantro cod, mirin pickled onions, corn and napa kimchi, ranch yuzu crema, furikake radishes, gochujang salsa. Poor Tom can't eat it. He has to break it in half and it's a mess. He also left off the onions. So both Brother Luck and Joseph discuss how they hope Tom got enough acid or whatever because he didn't put the pickles on.

Tom liked all the tacos today. Brother Luck made very traditional tacos but they were great. Fatima made the flavors she should have been making, although the steak could have been cut smaller. Joseph had cleaner flavors and good fish, but the tostada was hard to eat. Tom's favorite was Joseph. Nice. Fatima unfortunately was the least favorite, just because the steak was too hard to eat. She's going to go back to New York and build on these flavors. Only two challenges left.

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