Thursday, December 11, 2008

Top Chef Digest

I don't want to come out and play favorites, but I will definitely say I have issues with 2 of the cheftestants so far. Swedish Chef is an arrogant douche, but not in a Marcel/Steven lovable sort of way...he's just an ass. I also can't get behind the sort-of-backwards-trucker-hat look from Melissa. Please. Either wear some tasteful headgear or don't wear anything at all.

This episode had 2 of my favorite things - palate tests and group challenges. All in all, a good episode, and I honestly got my initial projection wrong. More after the jump.

First, we're treated to a quick montage of Swedish Chef being creepy and hitting on/stalking Jamie, who is humored and repulsed at the same time. Note to Stefan: making clothes and putting them on stuffed animals will not win over a lady's heart. You'd have better luck running up to her and screaming BORK BORK BORK! in her face.

The Quickfire this week was a variation on the "palate test" that has been done every season thus far, but this time it was a head-to-head taste test tournament, naming ingredients in a Liar's Dice sort of way. One cheftestant would say how many ingredients they could name, and the other would either up the bid or call bullshit, at which point the cheftestant would have to name their ingredients. A novel idea, especially with Swedish Chef bumping up everyone on purpose and being an arrogant prick. Shrimp and Lobsert Bouillabase for Round 1, Green Curry for Round 2 and Mole Sauce for Round 3. In the end, The Prophet had better taste buds than Swedish Chef, and was victorious.

Can we just agree for a minute though that claiming "salt" or "pepper" as one of the ingredients is a bit lame. Let me see, odds are that since humans put salt in almost everything, there's a REALLY good chance there's salt in this dish! Please.

The Elimination Challenge is presented via knife block, dividing the chefs up into groups "Old", "New", "Borrowed", "Blue" - pretty obvious they're doing something involving a wedding. Out comes Gail (who I admit I think is rather cute) and says they're catering her bridal shower lunch, with a dish inspired by one of the four bridal thingys. The only limitations she puts on them is no veal and no black beans. I can understand the veal, from a certain POV (more on that later) but black beans? Must be a personal thing. Also, one of the chefs mentions (something I noticed immediately) is that Gail probably invited a bunch of her coworkers...who all work for Food & Wine Magazine. Tough crowd, this one.

Here I will describe the trials and tribulations of each group, culminating in service:

Something Old (The Prophet, Swedish Chef, Kitchen Ken): Wisely, they get to Whole Foods and realize "Even though this is going to air in December, we are shooting it at the height of tomato season...let's do heirloom tomatoes!". Swedish Chef rubs everyone the wrong way, telling them how to cook their dishes without worrying about his own. They go with heirloom tomatoes in old-school preparations. Prophet makes a gazpacho, BorkBorkBork makes a tomato terrine (which got panned by someone on-screen) and KitchenKen makes tomato carpaccio with a tomato sorbet, which gets rave reviews. (Can I just rant for a second: tomato carpaccio? Come on!) The dish is successful, with no adverse service problems.

Something New (Tryin' Hawaiian, Chops, Crazy Carla): Chops is going on about pickling spices (which does not say "new" to me), Eugene the Tryin' Hawaiian (thanks Meghann!) wants to make some sort of "new sushi" and Crazy Carla is just keeping everything bottled up. They "settle" on a "surf and turf sushi", but Eugene overcooks the rice, and tries to hide it by adding more ingredients (NOTE: Adding more things to food that has already been messed only ensures one thing - more messed up food). Chops then adds mushrooms at the bottom of the wonton cups under Carla's salad...and she doesn't say anything! To compound everything, Eugene "forgets" to explain how to eat the dish to the diners...nothing made me laugh harder than Dana Cowin flapping 2 nori sheets around her head.

Something Borrowed (Jamie the Sparkplug, SprayTan Ariane, Just Because My Name Is Radhika Doesn't Mean I'm Cooking Indian Food): Can anyone take a guess what THIS group is making? They're "borrowing" Indian flavors from Radhika's cultural background!?!?!?! ARGH!!!!!! Let me just repeat again I would have no problem with this if she hadn't said she didn't want to do it in the first episode! Anyway, they cook up a marinated lamb with an Indian-spiced carrot puree and it looked delicious (even though I thought it was rather raw from a far shot, it was actually cooked perfectly). They had issues with timing and plating was going to be tough, but some of the other cheftestants helped them out with plating and all was well. This should be a lesson to everyone else: better to make sure your main protein is cooked right and rush your plating, rather than having improperly cooked meat and failing miserably. SprayTan Ariane gets the win for this challenge, with a boatload of Calphalon kitchen electrics (LUCKY!)

Something Blue (SuperFabioBros, Leah, Melissa the Trucker): There is no such thing as blue food, as our heroes quickly surmise. SuperFabioBros wants to make something from the's blue...good idea. They do a blue cornmeal-crusted Chilean sea bass with a corn puree and some greens. I immediately call that it's a mushy fish, combined with mushy greens and a mushy puree...bad idea (turns out I was right). However, the most inane part of it was when Fabio is explaining how their dish is "blue" and he says "in the color spectrum, yellow and green make blue". You're playing in my sandbox now, big boy, and let me tell you that yellow and green certainly DO NOT make blue. You stick to cooking food and saying silly things, leave the science to the scientists. In the end, the dish is destined for failure because it is too safe and too boring (and Tom Ripken gets a good shot in, telling Fabio it's not that hard to cook 40 pieces of fish. PWN3D!)

In the end, Chops still insists they put out an awesome dish, which ultimately leads to his packing his knives. Alas, Chops, we hardly knew you! Sad though, I thought he could've been a contender.

Frontrunners: Sparkplug, KitchenKen, BorkBorkBork

Next week: MARTHA! Sweet.