Friday, December 19, 2008

Top Chef Digest

Sorry this is delayed a day, I got busy yesterday afternoon. My bad.

A series of accurate predictions and an unfair challenge left me a bit unfulfilled by this week's top chef. Plus, they all pretty much sucked it up.

We start off with the cheftestants relaxing in the morning. SprayTanAriane is happy, the Tryin' Hawaiian is pumped about fighting his way to the top, SuperFabioBros and BorkBork are now referring to themselves as "The Euros" and the Prophet is talking with his sister on his oh-so-obviously placed T-Mobile Sidekick.

At this point, we feel they're setting up Hosea for one of two outcomes - the losing "now I'll have more time to spend with my sick dad" or the "I'm going to win this one for the Gipper!" win. Meghann voted lose, I was pulling for the win.

So here comes the QuickFire, and it's guest-judged by none other than MARTHA, carrying her new book. The IMs were fast and furious at this point, mostly consisting of "WE MET HER!" and "WE HAVE THAT BOOK SIGNED!" and other nerdiness. The challenge was this: make a 1-pot meal, holiday-inspired. Easy, right? Not when you've got the queen of entertaining at home judging your stuff. I'd be freaked-the-hell out.

Here's what everybody made, with annotations:
BorkBork - veal goulash. Martha thinks its tasty and approves.
Prophet - traditional paella. Martha approves.
Melissa - braised pork tenderloin. Martha likes.
KitchenKen - potato "risotto" with pork and brussel sprouts. Martha disapproves, saying that it is too starchy and heavy. Jeff also fails with me because he seems to like to name dishes inappropriately (like last week's "tomato carpaccio")...potato "risotto" sounds to me like lumpy mashed potatoes.
Jamie the Sparkplug - Potato/kale stew with scallops. I say meh, Martha approves. Maybe I'm sick of people cooking scallops, especially her (see below).
SprayTanAriane - Filet with cauliflower puree. Martha approves.
CrazyCarla - brined turkey with cranberry-apple stuffing. Martha says "tasty"
SuperFabioBros - polenta and duck. Sounds awesome, but gets a harsh "Thank You" from Martha.
Eugene - pork stew. He says he doesn't have the time to thicken the stew normally, so he thickens with cornstarch (I immediately cringe). Now, I don't think there's anything criminal in using cornstarch, but I'm also not a professional chef. It really is cheating when you can make a quick roux or some beurre manie.

SprayTanAriane wins...maybe she's more talented than she lets on or the general public believes? Too bad she annoys the crap out of me. Alas, the trials and tribulations of watching this show.

So in walks the Harlem Gospel Chorus Choir Singing People, and thus begins the XMas Bludgeoning, where the producers of Top Chef begin beating all the viewers over the head with holiday campiness, just in case we forgot...even for a microsecond...that this was an Xmas-themed ep. They draw knives, and each get one of the lines from the "12 Days of Christmas".
Clever, and Bludgeoning! They have to put together a dish for an event for 250 people, which means that this is yet another episode of Top Caterer. Unfair, if you ask me (and Tom brings this up later)

Everyone goes to Whole Foods, and they're doing their prep, and they're all on point with their kitchen work. There really hasn't been any sort of tradgedies when it comes to prep and service, and they're all rushing around and they all seem to be doing a great job (the sole exception being Hosea's smoking up the kitchen while cooking pork). Except when they all come down the next morning to do some prep, they find the kitchen was warm and left open and OH NO! Hosea and Radhika's dishes are completely ruined. However, the Bludgeoning begins again because everyone helps out with scraps and leftovers and they help them bring it together and put a palatable offering out on this holiday episode of Top Caterer! GO XMAS SPIRIT!

Here's what everyone put out, with annotations, of course:
BorkBork - 12 drummers drumming: chicken pot pie. Meh. I'm sure it tasted great, and the judges thought well of it, but I didn't see how it related to the theme. I'd have made something with duck legs or chicken wings.
Prophet - 11 pipers piping: smoked pork with chipotle mashed potatoes. I think it looks delicious and I would order that at a restaurant for sure. The judges were impressed.
KitchenKen - 10 lords-a-leaping: seared haloumi and kasseri with roasted beets and spices. His idea was he was "leaping" island to island in the Mediterranean. I liked his first idea, though...frog legs! Delicious.
SuperFabioBros - 9 ladies dancing: crabcakes. Bad inspiration, greasy and dense...Fabio is not impressing anyone since the get-go. Steph suggested he could've gone with something from the Nutcracker. Sugar plum faeries? One of the cultural things? Not a bad idea.
Melissa - 8 maids-a-milking: steak with gorgonzola. Excellen idea, but too much gorgonzola wiped out any flavor from the beef. Only a little is needed!
Jamie the Sparkplug - 7 swans-a-swimming: raw scallops "swimming" in vichyssoise. Ew. She definitely not impress in this challenge. Warm raw scallops. Could have done something with sous-vide (you know, it's swimming in water!)
SprayTanAriane - 6 geese-a-laying: deviled eggs six ways. Now I LOVE deviled eggs, and the idea was good...but deviled eggs? That's what I make to bring to a potluck, not to win a professional chef competition. Stick with the egg theme, or do something with caviar. Not quite geese-a-laying, but it's fish-a-laying
Tryin' Hawaiian - 5 golden rings: poisson cru with a pineapple ring. Sounded tasty, despite his terrible story, but it ended up being overtly super-sweet. Alas, keep tryin'!
There were no 4 calling birds! You thought I wouldn't notice...but I DID!!!
Leah - 3 french hens: braised guinea hen on brioche. Not a bad idea, and they liked the taste, but she put it on a dry brioche crouton. Better to have just served it straight on the plate
CrazyCarla - 2 turtle doves: chicken with duxelle and mushrooms. Idea looked good, but they said it was too salty.
Radhika - partrige in a pear tree: duck legs with pear chutney. I still have my issues with Radhika, but man oh man can she cook and really get the theme. Way to go. I was a fan.

Meanwhile, Tom freely admits that this Top Caterer challenge was unfair to other past Top Caterer challenges because it was a solo vs. a team challenge. I personally think its completely unfair, but I'm not the show's producer.

Prophet, KitchenKen, BorkBork and Radhika are tops, with the Prophet winning one for the Gipper! Did I call it or what?!? Tryin' Hawaiian, BoringMelissa and Sparkplug in the bottom. I originally predicted BoringMelissa...well...because she's boring and brings nothing to the show. However, the Bludgeoning finishes off when "in the spirit of XMas we are not sending anyone home"...looks like its Xmas in July!

Tom Ripken Jr. tough-talks the chefs...which is about as predictable at this point as my old swim coach tossing us out of practice and dressing us down at least once in October. No less entertaining. Next week: Free rein in the kitchen! Cook whatever you want! Can't wait!


Katherine said...

Let's not forget I totally called the set up with Hosea to be the LOSER! Alas, I too was wrong. At least the episode set-ups are THAT obvious...

Great post - keep 'em comin!

Bakerloo said...

I can't wait to see what non-Indian dish Radhika cooks next week.