Thursday, February 8, 2018

Top Chef 2/8/18--"Red Rum and Then Some" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: there was a Sudden Death Quickfire that involved edible flowers, and then cauliflower. Joseph was eliminated, because he used the cauliflower to replace rice in a risotto-type dish, but didn't chop the cauliflower finely enough. Duh. Then everyone else got into pairs to tailgate for the Broncos. Carrie and Chris made chili fries, which looked fantastic. They won tickets to this year's Super Bowl, which was made even more fantastic because Chris is an Eagles fan. Adrienne and Hipster Joe made ribs and soggy mac 'n cheese. Side note: Hipster Joe hasn't really been doing very well, has he? Fatima and Bruce for some reason made two separate dishes, so when Fatima's nachos were soggy, the judges said she was more responsible (since Hipster Joe and Adrienne had worked on all dishes equally) so she was sent home. Two strong chefs out. (click for more)

On Last Chance Kitchen, Fatima and Joseph battled Brother Luck to make tacos. They had to make a taco bar, and Tom would make himself a taco, meaning he might leave something out and then your taco wouldn't be balanced. Fatima didn't cut her steak pieces small enough, because she didn't want to ruin the herb coating. But it was hard to eat and she was eliminated.

Hipster Joe says he can't play it safe anymore. You'd think he might figure that out before the final five, but here we are. Bruce says he's been cooking longer than some of the other contestants have been alive, and he's not doing great which is sobering. Chris really wants his Michelin star, and he feels he's really close and can't stand it.

Back at the house it's after 11pm. Adrienne is writing a list of things to improve, as she does after all challenges where she's in the bottom. She really wants to win an Elimination Challenge. In the morning Chris wakes everyone up like a dad. Carrie calls her dad to talk. He always wanted sons, but she was enough of a tomboy he seemed to treat her like a son? Then she asks him what he needs, and he says “pants”. I thought it was a dad joke at first, but she says he's got early-onset Alzheimer's. That's terrible. She seems really supportive though.

In the cars everyone notices that they're not going to the Top Chef kitchen, they're headed to the mountains. To the Stanley Hotel, which is the hotel which inspired “The Shining”. Nice. Inside is Padma to tell them it's the last Quickfire before the finals. She references “The Shining” and says they'll have to make a dessert. Oo, scary. Padma wants a visual of their worst nightmares on the plate. Oh so it's not enough to make an edible dessert? Huh. Carrie tells us that she doesn't watch horror movies because she has vivid dreams, and last night she dreamed about a tater tot made of pine nuts, stuffed with jam. What? I love Carrie. She's just odd but it's endearing.

One hour. Carrie talks about the grand ballroom from the movie. Or the book? They didn't pay for any rights to anything so there are no movie clips. Chris helps her figure out the ice cream machine. Adrienne started in pastry, so she's got some experience. She's doing something where blood will seep up? It sounds really cool. Hipster Joe claims he never remembers his dreams. He's also “been told” that happens when you smoke a ton of weed. So his worst nightmare is when you break open an egg and it's bloody, so I guess he's going to try to make some balut? He's talking about opening an egg and there's a chicken, but he never once says the word “balut”. I wonder if he knows what that is. Anyway, balut is that thing they eat on “Survivor” all the time where it's an egg but when you crack it open it's a fully formed chick. Hipster Joe is also making meringue for the first time. Chris used to make pastry too. He has a decent list of nicknames from that time and he's making marzipan people. Bruce is making panna cotta, which on this show is terrifying in and of itself. With pomegranate because he's decided to make pomegranate and therefore is inventing a story about being afraid of seeds as a kid. Sure, why not. He also can't find the sheet gelatin so he's using powdered gelatin, which he's never done before but surely it's fine, right? Never make panna cotta on this show. Carrie points out to him that the directions say how much gelatin to use, and as far as I can tell he has used nowhere near the proper amount. He says two packs, and Carrie says the package says four cups. Oops. Now he's freaking out that he won't have anything to plate. I told you.

We get a voiceover of Padma saying she believes in ghosts and spirits. It's all flashy and spooky but it's daytime so it's wasted. Hipster Joe doesn't think his meringues are dried out enough, but he's up so it doesn't matter. Also they have to run their plates upstairs to the room Stephen King stayed in, so the ice cream has to be as cold as possible. Hipster Joe: “bloody chicken egg”: egg yolk ice cream with pistachio cocoa crumble, yuzu meringue and raspberry sauce. He spooned some sauce onto the plate, then smacked it with a spoon to make blood spatter. Padma wishes there was a little more pistachio.

Bruce can't figure out anything. Nothing is setting so he decides it's going to be semifreddo. Bruce: “seeds of dread”: semifreddo with passion fruit, buttermilk and pomegranate, prosecco sabayon. Padma looks like she does not buy that he was afraid of seeds. Dude, say you have trypophobia. That's fear of holes. It's an actual thing and you could argue whole pomegranates could trigger it. The sabayon is warm and then he torched it (?) so everything is warm. Warm semifreddo, which is supposed to be like ice cream.

Chris has cake and a little man and red splatters everywhere. It's fun, I think. Chris: “pushed from 12000 feet”: chocolate buttermilk cake with sour cream, black salt, and marzipan. I think it's supposed to be cake mountains, with the man and then green frosting here and there and red blood on the edges. He even put little sprigs of rosemary so it looks like the man fell and was impaled on the trees. Padma says this is what she was hoping for.

Adrienne's meringues are nowhere near ready, so she breaks them up and then decides to freeze the pastry cream to make ice cream. Adrienne: “into the woods”: cocoa blood ice cream with saffron, Grand Marnier, meringue crisps and chocolate branches. It's supposed to represent walking into the forest and blood starts seeping out of everywhere.

Carrie has also made panna cotta, which I didn't notice, but hers has also failed. It's too rubbery. She hopes maybe everything else will make it better, and then as she's walking to get everything the timer goes off. So her plates are one smear of sauce and two sad little circles of panna cotta. Aww. Carrie: “the ballroom scene”: tahini panna cotta with raspberry sauce. Missing are black sesame and cayenne ice cream, champagne granita, a goat cheese sugar cookie. Something to be bubbles. Padma says it's a good thing no one is going home for this Quickfire.

Padma tells them that obviously Carrie was in the bottom, and Bruce's dish was all melted together. Hipster Joe's dessert tasted good, although the plating was not perfect. Chris had great details and great cake. Adrienne had the most graphic plate, and her textures were on point. The winner is Chris. He wins $5000 for some website to buy equipment.

Elimination Challenge. Time to travel down memory lane, because it's the last episode before the finals. Which, I noticed, are still airing next week, even though it's the Olympics and NBC owns Bravo. Make a dish that tells the culinary story of your journey on this show. Chris gets nostalgic, and I can't tell if it's because he's winning it all or because he's out this week. After this challenge they're headed to Telluride. $250, and 1.5 hours to cook tomorrow for the governor at his residence. Apparently he used to be a chef? Plus other famous chefs.

Shopping. Hipster Joe says something about how you always tell stories with your food. He says his turning point was when Keegan said some shit to him, except that was a long time ago? And he didn't suddenly get great after that? Adrienne mentions Eric Ripert and Marcus Samuelsson and what she learned from them, and how it doesn't always apply. People have mentioned she namedrops a lot, and I hadn't noticed before but that was pretty obvious. Bruce is uncomfortable and lost. He seems to be where Brooke was last season, when they had this same challenge and she was basically like “well, what are all the dishes that I won with? I'll just lump them all together”. Like, he's thinking maybe he should find the ingredients that put him in the bottom and fix them? So the judges know he can cook them? This is a terrible idea. At the least, he knows not to make pasta. There's a montage to show he really has made a lot of pasta.

Everyone gets to the kitchen and there's Tom. No one is sure if they should ignore him or gather 'round. They all know it's probably not good. He says that Judges' Table last week was pretty harsh, because none of them seem to understand what's at stake. Or maybe this is the best they can do. He tells everyone that he's getting better food from Last Chance Kitchen, and if they continue to fuck it up, he might bring TWO people back from Last Chance Kitchen. Get out of your comfort zone and bring it. Wow. OK so they've got prep time today. Hipster Joe is making lamb because the last time he made it, it sucked. Also pasta with beet tops? Adrienne is making roasted monkfish with venison sauce. Both she and Hipster Joe are talking about what they're doing tomorrow, which makes me wonder if they're going to pull a twist about it. I watch too much reality TV and am on guard for that kind of thing. Adrienne knows she has to execute perfectly.

Bruce is not making pasta but duck with braised fennel. And risotto. Carrie didn't have high expectations for herself coming in, but now she's in the final five. She's going to remember dishes she did well, and she's the one who's going to do the Brooke thing and put bits of those dishes into this one. Chris's dish is going to be about the people he's met. Ravioli for Bruce and Hipster Joe, and Carrie, and then something for Adrienne. I'm not sure what he said. He's never made pasta, not for the restaurant and possibly not even at home. Maybe not the best time to try something new.

In the morning the boys play pool and Bruce gets philosophical about winning, since his son is waiting for him at home. The governor's mansion is beautiful, but the kitchen is “a little small”, according to Adrienne. It's just a home kitchen, albeit the size of an entire studio apartment, practically. You can't tell me they don't have catered events in that mansion. I'm sure the kitchen is well equipped. Don't show me shots of the side storage closet with the china cabinets and tell me it's cramped. Bruce is making barley risotto and he's very confident. Adrienne and Hipster Joe are both struggling with trying to show off, as opposed to cooking “their” food. Chris is using his fine dining techniques.

The judges arrive and have awkward conversation. Hipster Joe is proud of his dish, but he worries the judges won't agree with it. Hipster Joe: lamb agnolotti (filled pasta) with beets, hazelnuts, and cacio pecora cheese. It's one of the cheeses from that dairy farm they went to. I think the pasta is made with beet tops. It's great pasta, and Tom says they've been begging for this food all season.

Adrienne interviews that something finally clicked during this challenge. It's a very focused dish. Adrienne: roasted monkfish, venison jus, green peppercorn jam, and roasted cauliflower puree. The jus is poured tableside. She says she wanted to focus on just a few things so they can be perfect. It's well cooked and seasoned, and Tom thinks she's figuring out where she should be.

Carrie: Colorado elk, roasted cauliflower, shishito peppers, blueberry poblano sauce, and shepherd's halo cheese. More cheese from the place. She babbles about seasoning and timing, and somehow manages to be more endearing than weird. It's very flavorful, and Graham tells the table she's come a very long way from that first challenge.

Bruce's barley isn't raw, but it's not cooked the way he wants. But there's no more time. He's going to have to fake it to the judges. Bruce: roasted duck with toasted barley and corn, topped with salsify. Padma asks leading questions about the barley until he admits that he didn't cook it as long as he would have liked. It's overseasoned too. Oops.

Chris likes the way the plates look, but as soon as he sauces them, the trout skin gets “moist” which is bad. Chris: lamb ravioli with crispy skin trout and roasted cauliflower puree. If you know the skin is no longer crispy why wouldn't you leave that part out of the dish name? At least the fish is cooked well. The lamb is off and dry, because he should have had some kind of binding or filling, instead of only lamb in the ravioli.

Tom thinks overall this may be the best food they've had all season. They got inspired. Padma thanks the governor for having them in the state this season. That was nice.

Judges' Table. Better dishes today, so nice work. Carrie, Adrienne, and Hipster Joe were the top. Hipster Joe was stressed but he's proud of himself. He's finally started to edit. Adrienne knew the monkfish could stand up to the earthy flavors and game meats in Colorado. Padma asks a weird question about if she's discovered what her cooking style is like. Have they been bugging her about that? She sort of gives a non-answer but it was a non-question so whatever. Carrie cooked her elk perfectly, and the shishito peppers went really well with everything. The chef that had the most technique and the most passion is Hipster Joe. He did improve. I think the complaint is more how when he's in the bottom he never gets sent home.

Loser Gong. Bruce lost track of time and rushed too much. The barley was undercooked and really salty, and the duck was over-rested. The flavors were fine other than the salt. Chris admits he's never done pasta, but it was a total mess. Padma tells him they want the contestants to push themselves, but then also stay true to themselves. Tom bugs him for not knowing his own style? Maybe? He should have stopped at fish and lemon jam, and not put the cauliflower puree or the ravioli on there. Never make things complicated just for the sake of making things complicated.

Back in the Stew Room Chris laments that they've all been getting yelled at to edit, and at the very last battle he should have known better than to just pile things on. But now the foreshadowing is rearing its ugly head. Tom says there are multiple mistakes on each plate. Chris's ravioli was offensive, and if he had stopped at the fish it would have been great. But Padma hated Bruce's duck, and of course no one liked the barley.

Tom says something about how he doesn't believe in “you're only as good as your last dish”, which is interesting since they claim the judging on this show is only supposed to consider this challenge. Or maybe they're claiming to bend the rules because the challenge itself is supposed to involve the whole season? I mean, I agree that it's a stupid argument. The logic is, if someone comes to your restaurant and has a bad meal, they're not coming back, so you only have one chance. But if I go to a place where I've eaten several times and it was great, and then I have a bad meal, I'm probably going to assume it's a fluke and go back. But if I've never been there, then one bad meal probably means I'll assume the place is terrible and not come back. It's the first impression you can't get over. Anyway then Bruce is sent home. WHAT. OK, Bravo, you fooled me. Bruce knows he screwed up, but he also feels if he doesn't win he's wasted all his time.

Next week: Telluride, whoever comes back from Last Chance Kitchen, high elevation cooking.

Last Chance Kitchen: oh, it's two parts. Great. Anyway, Bruce is ready to go. They're quite pleased with themselves about bears and whatnot. Tom lets them know only one person is going back to the competition. Some mild trash talk and promising Tom they're ready to go. Tom tells Bruce he's made a lot of simple mistakes. Tom pretends he doesn't understand the Bear Den, or about bears, which we know is not true. So he says this is too good to resist, so you'll make something “just right”. “Honey?” “Bear?” Heh. Their challenge is to make porridge. HA! What producer peed themselves when they realized they'd have three bears at the same time? Tom says he has porridge on his menu right now, mixed grains cooked in beet juice, with smoked monkfish and horseradish confit. He says it's the best seller on the menu. I don't doubt it. I would order that in a heartbeat.

30 minutes. Bruce wants a barley redemption, so he has barley and farro. Brother Luck has quinoa with cherries. Joseph dumps a TON of saffron in his pot, like the whole bottle. He's making barley too, which I guess when properly made is like risotto. But is also up there with panna cotta in terms of things not to make on Top Chef. Brother Luck tries to find out from Bruce why he's here, and Bruce won't really tell him. Joseph's barley for his risotto isn't cooking yet, which is probably bad. Joseph is singing because that's what he does when stressed.

Tom Time! Joseph has a steak on the grill, so Tom gives him shit about “steak porridge”. Then he sideeyes him about if the barley will cook in time. You know, when Tom just looks skeptical. Brother Luck explains his porridge and wishes Tom would just go leave him alone. Actually no one gets any kind of reaction from Tom. Brother Luck finds some sea bass. Tyler asks Tom if he's going to wear a wig for judging. Hee. The peanut gallery gives Joseph shit, and he interviews that he comes from a huge family so if no one is giving him shit while he's cooking it's weird. Brother Luck is plating with seven minutes left. It's all a plan, though, because he wants to brulee brown sugar over the porridge. Joseph is probably not going to get the barley cooked. Bruce jokes that he made pasta. Joseph is now claiming his grains are perfect, so we'll see.

Bruce: farro and barley porridge, seared sea scallop, poached egg, pickled mustard green, and wild mushroom. Brother Luck: white quinoa porridge, seared sea bass, cranberry apple chutney. Joseph: seared steak, barley porridge Milanese, tomato conserva, parmigiano reggiano. “Milanese” style porridge is not a thing, but I guess now it is?

Everything was good, actually. Joseph cooked his barley, and the tomato was a nice background flavor. Bruce made a rich dish, the scallop was a little lost. Brother Luck had a beautiful piece of fish and the chutney was a nice addition. Brother Luck was his favorite. Nice. The other person continuing is Joseph. Bruce made a good dish, but Joseph was just a little bit better. Bruce is glad to go out on a good dish instead of the crappy one.

Time for the finale right now. No time to freak out. Tom says the challenges have been focused, so now they can do whatever they want. Narrow your choices and focus your food. Joseph would rather do whatever he wants, but he also knows the danger of not focusing. This challenge also involves feeding the peanut gallery, because they'll get a vote in who wins. Tom says they get a “majority vote” whatever that means. Also Chef Lachlan is back. There will be three votes: peanut gallery (majority rules, I think), Lachlan, and Tom.

45 minutes. Lots of running about and dropping things. Joseph gets a bowl of ice? He's planning lamb with fava pesto. Brother Luck says he's making chili apples? He doesn't even seem to know what's up. Oh, the ice was to blanch something and then shock it. Brother Luck is making chicken because he says that's a true test, to see if you can do something great with simple ingredients.

Tom Time! Brother Luck is doing stuffed chicken and the chili apple, Brussels sprouts, etc. It sounds good. It'll be delicious. He's really not wanting to talk to Tom. He's learned a lot of these flavors and he seems pretty confident. Joseph is much chattier, but he's going for it. The lamb is shoulder cuts, which can be tricky. He's also leaving the skins on his fava beans, because that's what he did in Italy. Claudette complains that it's like eating paper. Tom and Lachlan investigate the fridge, so they can see what they didn't pick. Tom is confused, in his condescending, side-eye way. Joseph feels good to make his food. He certainly seems to be having fun, asking the peanut gallery to help him plate. Brother Luck has six components, which may or may not backfire. Joseph has to slice his lamb, which has to be done carefully so it's not chewy. Brother Luck busts out the liquid nitrogen to freeze some berries. Plating appears to be going pretty smoothly. Claudette claims they're going to vote for the best dish. I didn't' even think of that. Would you throw your vote to get your friend in? At least there doesn't seem to be a huge divide between Brother Luck fans and Joseph fans.

Brother Luck: stuffed chicken breast with pecorino and jalapeno, roasted chili apple, butternut squash and Brussels sprout hash, lime crema with nitro raspberries. Joseph: lamb shoulder, fava bean pesto, charred fava, pecorino, shallot and balsamic glaze. Everyone eats and gives some praise. Everyone is proud of everyone. Aww.

The peanut gallery gets to vote, but not by secret because their names are printed on the ballots. Tom counts them and mutters things like “that's interesting” and shit. Lachlan says Brother Luck took a risk to put so much on the plate, but Joseph edited it down. Tom liked the chicken breast and the hash, and Joseph had a ton of flavor and Tom didn't mind the unshelled fava beans. The meat was a little chewy, but then Tom says he expects lamb shoulder to be a little chewy. Tom and Lachlan turn around to mutter, and then Tom says it's unanimous. But we'll find out next week who it is.

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