Thursday, November 20, 2008

Top Chef Week 2 Digestion...

...aka "How to Step Into Obvious Pitfalls"

Last week, Team Rainbow was whittled down to the Rainbow Duo (thanks Wow) when inexperienced Patrick was sent packing. Richard the Teddy Bear was bummed, and Spray Tan Ariane went on about how she deserved to stay because she's older. Spare us your whining!

I would like to, at this point, declare that Fabio needs to get as much camera face-time that the editors can give him. He said some sort of crazy saying about slaying a dragon and rescuing a princess...and all I could think about was him wearing a red cap and some overalls, jumping and breaking blocks with his head. More on this later, because it's time for.......Quickfire Challenge!

Joined by Donatella Arpaia (she of David Burke & Donatella), Padma declares that the challenge will involve a food that New Yorkers love and spend bucketloads of cash on each year. Immediately I think hot dogs and pizza, and lo-and-behold, I am dogs! They also bring in some famous lady from Brooklyn who has a hot dog cart, and it is supposed to be head-to-head judging against her hot dog, but it is simply for novelty effect, nothing more.

Here's my take on the Quickfire:
  • Putting something in the middle of rice or a wrapper does not make it sushi or a summer roll, Jill and Eugene (who let me down here, I think he's really talented)
  • Swedish Chef and Dan (aka Chops) all made boring dogs. Something inspiring and original was needed, not making a hot dog panini or topping it with sauerkraut.
  • Radhika "I don't only cook Indian food" served up Indian-style food again with her kebab-style dog. I don't mind if she goes with the flavors and techniques that she grew up with, but don't come out right away and say "I don't want to be known just for cooking Indian food"
  • First, FabioBros says "I love hot dog! Do I know how make hot dog? I not know how make hot dog. I know how make sausage!", then he eats a mushroom to turn into SuperFabioBros. Excellent - keep talking. He makes what sounds to me like the best of the bunch: andouille sausage with goat cheese and roasted pepper. Damn, I might just have to make that for myself (or at least attempt to)
  • Jamie goes with a pork/beef combo, and ends up with a bit of ground bone in the dog. Epic fail.
In the end, despite my displeasure with her, Radhika takes the win and gets immunity. Lucky for her...

So the Elimination Challenge is this: the entire team needs to make a 3 course lunch menu in the "New American" style: old-school dishes made with a cultural twist, peasant fare made with primo ingredients, things like that. Here's some reflections from that:
  • KitchenKen (Jeff) helps "the children" (his words, arrogant ass) divide up into three groups: apps, entree, dessert. I am shocked that people were actually volunteering for dessert - usually it is the kryptonite of Top Chefdom
  • Hosea wants to make a Dungeness crab salad, but it is summertime, and Dungeness season does not start until November, so all the have is canned crab (inward cringe). Hosea decides (unwisely) to attempt his dish with canned crab. Now I can pull off using canned crab when I'm making crabcakes for my friends and family at my house. However, his dish wasa delicate crab salad dressed with citrus and vanilla, where crab is supposed to be the showstopper. Not looking good for the Prophet.
  • SuperFabioBros orders the butcher just to give him the entire untrimmed filet and he'll butcher it himself. Right on! However, I'm worried because his planned carpaccio isn't really "cooked" per se.
  • Eugene is no-nonsense. I like his style, and I'm rooting for him and his deconstructed meatloaf. I also like Jamie's style as well - chilled sweet corn soup sounds tasty.
  • Jill decides she wants to make an asparagus quiche, which is tasty for Sunday brunch fare, but is not "New American". Compounding the issue is she decides to make her quiche with ostrich eggs. I've never cooked with ostrich eggs, but why wouldn't you make your quiche with chicken eggs? Not a good plan.
  • SprayTan Ariane is bemoaning that she is not a baker or a pastry chef. Why would you volunteer to make dessert (a lemon meringue martini? what is that?) if you're not a pastry chef?
Chef Tom Ripken Jr. comes in, and SURPRISE! Not only are the cheftestants cooking at Craft, but the diners are going to be 50 Top Chef rejects! One such reject proudly announces that he doesn't cook with animal fat or butter in his restaurant, which is precisely the reason why you were not chosen in the first place! Tom is going to expidite and be in the kitchen with the people when they're busy getting their dishes together.

There were no issues to speak of during service, so here's a rundown of what everybody whipped up:
  • Jamie: chilled sweet corn soup w/ mint and chili oil - I'm not a big fan of corn, but it looked tasty
  • SuperFabioBros: carpaccio with traditional accompaniments, and a cool olive "ravioli" made from mixing olive puree with sodium alginate then submerging it in a calcium salt solution. It creates a "skin" around the liquid puree which then bursts with a little bit of pressure. A really cool technique, and it made the dish.
  • The Prophet: Canned cab salad with vanilla citrus, avocado & mango - failed on many levels, mainly because of the canned crab
  • Leah: Scallops on Potatoes - not much mentioned, sort of boring
  • Melissa: Avocado & peaches, grilled - BORING
  • Jill: Ostrich egg asparagus quiche - awful and uninspiring
  • Eugene: Deconstructed meatloaf - looked promising, but reports were poor. The presentation was poor.
  • Swedish Chef: Halibut with champagne sauce and ravioli - no complaints, I'd definitely order it at a restaurant.
  • KitchenKen: Chicken with chorizo spoonbread. I liked the presentation alot with the little cast iron pot. I don't order chicken at restaurants, but that looked tasty.
  • Alex: Pork tenderloin with mushroom demi - boring and uninspired
  • Rahdika: Avocado mousse with chocolate wontons - this looked absolutely terrible. Avocado mousse? That sounds absolutely terrible.
  • Chops: Ricotta poundcake with a strawberry-lemon coulis. Awesome, especially since he'd never made it before. Looked awesome and would definitely order it.
  • Spray Tan Ariane: Lemon meringue martini - she ran around having everyone try it, they all told her that it was a little too sweet...gamesmanship since they all knew it was awful. Padma spit it out!
  • Richard the Teddy Bear: Banana bread with peanut butter and banana brulee - I agree with Gail, this was more of an afternoon snack than a New American dessert.
  • Crazy Carla: Apple tart with cheddar - the tart was excellent, the cheddar looked out of place, even though I love apple pie with cheddar cheese. She was worried about her pastry crust, came out excellent.
Tom tasted all the dishes in front of the chefs, talk about intimidation. I like the new method of calling the winners and losers into the Judge's Table - creates some more suspense. SuperFabioBros wins the day with his amazing olive alginate balls. Jill can't mount a good defense (or a coherent sentence for that matter) for her dish, and gets her knives packed.

My front-runners (in no particular order): SuperFabioBros, Jamie, Swedish Chef

Next week: FOO FIGHTERS!


Bakerloo said...

You are hilarious genius and, as usual, I agree with you on so many points here. SuperFabioBros is one of the best nicknames ever, only surpased by The Prophet. Brilliant.

I agree with you about Rahdika - I would have absolutely no problem with her pulling out the Indian flavors for every quickfire is she DIDN'T start the show with "Don't assume I'm only doing curry."

Also, I have always said that Coliccio looks exactly like Cal Ripken Jr. Well spotted.

Of the dishes, I was interested in tasting the corn soup, the carpaccio (you know how I feel about carpaccio), and the poundcake. Chops gets on my nerves but I think he's a contender.

PS - why do straight guys on Bravo competition shows have ridiculous facial hair?