Friday, March 21, 2008

Top Chef - You Have To Buy The Premise

It’s a beautiful day in Chi-Town. I’m not from Chicago, so I can say that, even if it does irritate Chicagoans.

Stephanie is lifting weights. I wonder if she’s doing that just for the cameras, she doesn’t look like she’s done it a lot before. (Of course, I know as much about weight lifting as I do about Chicago, so forget I just said that.) She and Valerie know each other from before…

The chefs have to meet up at the Farmer’s Market, where the Quickfire Thing-a-ma-jiggie will begin. They are instructed to prepare a dish with DUMDADUMDUM...only five ingredients.

OMG, they are horrified! They are held aghast! They are shocked and stricken at the mercilessness of this challenge. OH COME ON!!! This is dumb, really dumb. That’s not exactly what I call much of a challenge for a chef…or really anyone AND the five ingredients don’t include oil, salt, water…basic stuff like that.

Now work with me here. If YOU were told that you had to prepare a dish (not a meal, A DISH) with 5 ingredients, would you go into a tizzy? NO, you’d probably be relieved, because it would make things simpler.

I'm not saying there isn't pressure to have to think up a dish and find the ingredients within 30 minutes, but they were reacting to the initial challenge and it really just isn’t as gobsmacking as they made it out to be. When you think about it, don't you often prepare dishes with only 5 ingredients? ALL the time.

Anyway, Spiky Haired Guy, as opposed to “Spike”, got eucalytptus, Dale rejected meat, because it was frozen (I LIKE Dale. Wait, didn’t a talented Asian guy win last time? Does that mean that Dale won’t win this time? I sure hope not. He’s my pick.) Mark, after being quite snippy to the purveyors, forgot his bag of mizuna lettuce. Back at the kitchen they are introduced to guest judge Wylie Dufresne. Wow, THAT is cool.

Here’s what they came up with Wylie’s (even his name is cool) comments:

Richard (Oh, HE’S spiky haired guy)
Chicken soup with chicken – apples, apple cider, eucalyptus butter. W: “It’s not terribly strong eucalyptus” NOT what Richard was hoping for.
Ryan – lettuce, radishes, potatoes, sirloin steak, Dijon mustard. ”Properly cooked, simple, tasty, nice”.
Dale - mushrooms, shallots, radishes, eggs, butter. “Very nice”.
Valerie - seared rib eye, grilled peaches, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, arugula. “Refreshing, very refreshing.”
Spike - tenderloin tips, apples, bread, apple cider, rosemary. Wylie thought it should have been a steak sandwich.
Erik - pan seared lamb chop, baby carrots, potatoes, mint and garlic
“All right, thank you” (What does that mean? I don’t think it’s good.)
Mark - sirloin steak, turnips, mushrooms, peaches, butter. “Peach and the turnip is nice. Bittersweet.” AND he liked his sideburns.
Andrew - lamb chops, peaches, onions, mint, potatoes, balsamic vinegar. Uh-oh, anyone else spot the problem? Yup, he used SIX ingredients. He thought the vinegar was one of the givens. Wow, the caption says he’s a souschef at Le Cirque. What’s he doing here? Maybe it's one in Butte, Montana.

Is that right? Is that all of them? Who knows? I’m definitely missing Stephanie and a few others, oh well…Did they perhaps not show everyone’s dish?

These are the folks Wylie judged to be at the bottom: Spike - he should have been more creative: Erik - wasn’t much of a composed plate: Richard - Wylie was “pulling for” him since they “play in the same sandbox”, but the dish was oily and could have been more refined.

The winners – Ryan - his dish was moist and juicy; Valerie - “managed to pull a lot of flavor out of those few ingredients”; Mark – “the bitterness of the turnip played off the sweetness of the peach nicely”. The overall winner was Mark.

For the elimination, they divide into teams with animal names. The twist is that they have to prepare appetizers for a cocktail party with ingredients that their animals would eat. I thought they were going to judged STRICTLY on that criterion, but the judges didn’t even seem to particularly notice the specifics of the ingredients used. Here are the dishes with the people that made them, if I could figure that out.

Team Lion
Beet Salad with Yuzu, Ras el hanout (Are there a lot of lions in Morocco?)
and Goat Cheese Foam. “Good” Wylie said .
Bison Tartare with Tarragon Coulis. Gail liked the spices.

Team Vulture
Mark - Marinated Anchovy on a Quinoa Croquette. Gail and Padma loved it.
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatball (Is Morocco the new black?), ricotta, pomegranate syrup and pistachio. ”Delicious”, somebody said.

Team Gorilla
Roasted Pear and Crab Salad with Celery Root. Wylie: ”This didn’t follow through.” I think that means he didn’t like it.
Valerie - Black Olive Blini with Fennel Mascarpone, Rutabaga and Beets. Wylie: “Sounds delicious.” Tom “SOUNDS.” Oh, that’s not good, plus if Valerie says BELL-INI one more time, I’m going to douse her with a bottle of champagne and some peach pureé.
Minced Lamb and Edamame in lettuce cups. (Ick.) Wylie: “Great.”
Banana Bread with Salted Caramel Sauce (even if she, whichever SHE it was, said carmel) and Meringue. (Why did they have so many dishes?)

Team Bear
Chimay Cheese and Honeycomb on Cranberry Pecan Bread. Gail and Padma love it.
Spike - Salmon a la Plancha on Lettuce Cups with Pickled Vegetables and Peanuts. Padma stuffs the entire thing in her mouth and looks disgusted.
After discussing the mushrooms endlessly, Nikki ends up serving them. Bad move. Spike’s not happy and didn’t think the mushrooms should have been served. Dale strenuously shares that view.
Mushrooms Stuffed with Blueberries, Walnuts and Pecorino Cheese. Wylie: ”The cheese kind of gets in the way.”

Team Penguin
Yuzu and Mint Glacier. They’re all proud of themselves for making that. We find out later that Wylie agrees.
Andrew - Squid Ceviche with Soy Balsami Tapioca. I don’t think that sounds good at all. Wylie “That’s nice.”
Lisa (Who’s that? I don’t even remember that name. Oh wait, there she is. There are too many folks. The women in white chef’s coats all look the same.)
Thai Shrimp and Crab Salad with Watercress. “Not Bad.”

At the judges table, The Vultures and The Penquins are on top. Andrew wins. Of course, he does, I hated his dish. What do I know?

The losing teams are The Bears and The Gorillas. The losing dishes are the mushrooms, the blini one and the watery crab salad.

The judges are not happy that Team Bear didn’t taste the mushrooms (Nikki’s dish) after throwing more cheese on them. The judges also didn't like that the blinis were made in advance, I’m just not happy with how Valerie (Team Gorilla) insists on pronouncing it.

But I think it’s going to be one of the Gorillas that goes home. No wait, it’s going to be Nikki. It better not be Dale.

Let’s pretend this is Project Runway and in my best Teutonic accent – Valerie and Nikki, Nikki and Valerie. One of you is OUT and one of you is whatever it is Heidi says.

I think it’s Nikki, no Valerie, definitely. It SHOULD be Nikki. Well??! It’s VALERIE. Valerie leaves. I think I liked her at the beginning. It just goes to show there’s no point watching this until the last half hour.

When there are this many contestants, we’re not seeing the actual cooking and we barely see the results. Plus, it’s no fun rooting for someone and then having them leave. Such is the heartbreak of reality television.

A year ago today…

Like Sands Through The Hourglass, So Are The Days Of Sem-Eye-Homemade Sandra Lee
Anatomy of a Recipe Search: vs.


Emiline said...

I guess Moroccan is the new black.

Another great review. I watched it, but it always goes by so fast that I feel like I miss things.

Worst dish = Mushrooms with blueberries and cheese.

Did you notice how the guy that won the quick fire challenge was really rude when he was shopping at the market? I guess it doesn't matter, since he won.

Sue said...

Yes, Mark was horrible to the Farmer's Market folks. I thought they were going to add some manure to his bag or something. And I did not like the look with the headband. He didn't wear it like a jock, he wore it like a girl...not that there's anything wrong with that...

Alice Q. said...

Hee! I just saw your little sidebar review of my blog - you are so sweet! Thanks a lot - I really appreciate the links and nice compliments!

Sue said...

Thanks, Alice Q. It was my pleasure. Come and visit anytime.

Tracy said...

I agree, the show is more fun to watch when there are fewer chefs.

Sue said...

Hi Tracy,

It's so much easier to keep track when there's only a handful and not a gaggle of chefs.