Friday, April 11, 2008

Top Chef Turns Into Top Gun With Knives Blazing

Plus Another Gunn Could Really Help Things

Top Chef - The Elements Of Style

Push ups and knife sharpening are going on. Zoi is mad that she got "jacked” in the last challenge. Ryan notes that 2 guys and 2 girls have gone home.

Quick fire challenge with Ming Tsai as guest judge. He’s testing their sense of taste. He says a chef’s palate is a powerful weapon in his/her arsenal. The chefs get pairs of items to taste - one is high end, one is not. 20 seconds to tell.


Ryan first - Maple syrup that’s easy. He gets it right. Bacon correct
Stephanie - Crab wrong.
Dale - Chocolate correct
Stephanie - aged cheese correct.
Dale - Asian ingredients right…caviar wrong.
Richard - correct.
Spike - wrong.
Kinda confusing the way they did it.

The loser is Stephanie. She only got 6 out of 15.
Tying for runner-up are Ryan and Jen with 11 correct out of 15.
Top place goes to Antonia with 12 out of 15.

The Elimination Challenge is cooking for a Meals on Wheels celebrity ball. They have to create, in teams, a first course for 80 people.
Ming says to keep it simple and execute it perfectly.

Each team represents one element - Earth, Water and Air.
They draw knives to determine teams and have 15 minutes to plan their menus.

Team Water - Richard, Mark, Andrew
Richard says 15 minutes is not enough time and he seems to be taking control, which may not be such a bad idea.

Team Air – Jen, Ryan, Nikki
Jen says air is birds. That’s just dumb. It has to say AIR, people!


Plus, Top Chef folks, PLEASE give us the names of the chefs everytime they appear. I don’t who they are. They all look alike. Why can’t they have their names tattooed on their foreheads?

Team Earth – Antonia, Spike, Zoi
Antonia is completely against Spike’s and Zoi’s idea of squash soup. She says it has to be higher end. Spike and Zoi go along somewhat reluctantly. They finally decide that
carpaccio is much more elegant.

Why couldn’t they do little pots of a really great soup, with some amazing garniture, that would add the elegant element they are looking for? And as long as they put white chocolate somewhere, they would be fine.

Team Fire – Dale, Lisa, and no clue what her name is

Dale’s my boy! He likes the idea of a seared beef tartare (Is it beef TARTARE then, if it’s seared?) He’s working with 2 gals…One is Lisa, the other? NAMES, Please! Lisa puts the kibosh on tartare.

Dale wants to wrap the beef around tuna or maybe an egg. He doesn’t want to take the fire element so literally. Oh I get it. Fire=Devil=Devilled eggs.


Nah, Dale, don’t do it. What if the judges don’t think it was technically challenging enough? But the other nameless gal/chef likes the idea. Dale is getting fed up with Lisa, because she’s too negative.

Lisa says the egg idea is weak and she doesn’t think it’s enough as a first course. Obviously, this episode has been edited with this exchange getting a lot of time.

What could it mean? Dale and Lisa will have a humongous fight? Dale and Lisa will make passionate love on the kitchen floor in front of Padma, Tom and Ming. (Oh wait, is Lisa part of the gay couple?) Or maybe Lisa and Padma will…or Dale and Ming…I just don’t know.

No, what will happen is that either Dale will be the hero, because of his genius idea or he’ll be the goat, because the judges will agree with every word Lisa says.


Care to place a wager? I say……I don’t know!!!! To be honest, I think they’ll hate it, but Dale won’t go home. Maybe the third one will, whose name they refuse to show, because she just went along with everything OR Lisa will go home, because her opinion didn’t prevail. Okay that’s what I think. I’m taking a stand. They’ll hate the dish and Lisa will go home.

On to the supermarket (Whole Foods), they go. Richard likes his idea of fish cooked in water. He’s directing the whole thing.
Richard tells us he’s going to poach it in a controlled water bath. What makes it controlled, I wonder? If he adds a hydrocolloid, I’ll have to smack him.

Team Air – Ryan says to go with duck: Air…Seared…Cold….Huh? I don’t think their theme is going to go very far.

Dale is proud of his concept and thinks the judges will like that it’s been thought out so carefully.
Lisa obviously hasn’t signed on, because she says to the camera that it’s really stressful to go shopping without a clear idea of what they’re doing. Oy!

Dale wants to get a beef tenderloin and rub it with “crazy hot spices”. Lisa likes the idea, but thinks they should implement it differently, which basically means she DOESN’T like the idea. She thinks they should go strictly Asian. Asian Dale, says he doesn’t want to go Asian. Lisa thinks it would be a good idea for guest chef Ming Tsai.
Stephanie is their teammate, by the way. They finally identified her.

Spike is worried that carpaccio and salad isn’t enough. NO, says Antonia, we’re going KU-AHL-IH-TEE. Huh? Oh, quality, she’s trying to say. For a minute I thought she was saying Koala. Spike says he’s not enjoying this. He’s suspicious because Antonia has immunity and it doesn’t matter to her what they cook….Dumdum dumdum. He could be right…

Okay let’s move this along…Spike is getting annoyed. Zoi can’t make a decision. She likes BOTH carpacchio and butternut squash soup.
Spike wonders if they go together. Ok, Spike, that’s an easy one…NO!

They’re at the fish counter getting fish for carpacchio and Dale’s team sees they’re doing the same thing. His team walks away and Lisa says she’s just not comfortable with their idea. Uh-oh. You gotta go with something and then stick with it! Suddenly Stephanie wants to do spicy grilled shrimp. They stop and talk about the dish and, yay, finally they’re all on board.

Meanwhile, there are actually some other teams in the challenge this week too. People are grabbing their last ingredients. Richard’s team likes their fish in water concept. Of course, he will execute it beautifully, I’m sure, but it doesn’t really grab me.

They’re cooking in the old Marshall Fields kitchen, it’s huge. They have 2 ½ hours.

Team Earth gets to work, so does Team Water. OH, I see where Richard is going now. He’s cooking his fish
sous vide. Of course he is…(But I sure hope no one is poisoned. Read this.)

Mark is doing a parsnip vanilla purée. (Of course, all my dedicated readers remember the potato purée that H had in Paris last year. It had vanilla and was served with scallops.)

Richard says his role is basically executive chef as he cuts the fish into portions and carries on with his sous-viding. He is a little pompous, but he is definitely leading this group.

Team Fire’s Stephanie dealing with the shrimp. Dale is putting together a really gorgeous chili salad and
Lisa is taking entirely too long to explain how she’s cooking her bacon with the fat all facing the same way and she’s going to put something sticky on it. That was the gist of it… yada, yada, yada…

The Air folks (WHY didn’t they air pop popcorn….I just thought of that!) have a harder time. I haven’t heard anything that indicates that their dish has any air elements in it.
Isn’t there something you can do with duck breasts and a hair dryer? Or is that just a kinky scene I remember from a Saturday night of my youth?

Dale explains how negative Lisa always is. She keeps ranting at people. Ooh, girl, you gotta stay cool…
Lisa is unhappy with her bacon. It’s too thick. Maybe if she had talked about it a little less and done more, she wouldn’t have had a problem.

Nikki comments on Ryan being frazzled. He uses all the pomegranate juice for one thing and doesn’t save any for the Pomerini. THAT could be problem…sort of like a Bellini without the champagne. They decide to juice something…I can’t tell what, but it’s all under control.

Tom strolls into the kitchen. His visits serve absolutely no purpose other than to disturb the chefs. At least when Tim interrupts the contestants, he has something to contribute. Tom just wants to see how much they’re messing up.


There is something really sexy, though, about Tom’s confidence. Has he ever been unsure about ANYTHING? (You know what they say about bald men? It’s the same thing they say about men with big feet…as in, what does it mean if a man has big feet…it means ahem, ahem that he has really big…
shoes.)

Tom asks Spike how he likes working with Antonia and Zoi. He says, very smartly, it’s been a pleasure. I want him to ask Dale and Stephanie about that witch Lisa. Richard is kind of a blowhard with Tom, making him guess what they’re doing to the fish.

Tom, talking to the camera, says the Air Team doesn’t seem to have an idea of where they’re going with the dish. YES, Tom, right! Have I said lately, how smart I think Tom is and how I think his kitchen walk-throughs always add something valuable to the competition. (I’m more of a suck up than Richard.) Tom is worried that Dale’s team dish will be too spicy.

As for Richard…TC's not impressed by his cockiness and he says THAT’S when mistakes happen. Hmmm. Another clue to the future, perhaps?

The Ball starts. The teams have to plate 80 servings quickly.
Team Water finds scales in its fish. That can't be good.

The servers come into the kitchen looking like undertakers ready to roll the casket out.

Here are the dishes and comments:

Team Water
Poached Salmon (Remember sous vide!) with faux caviar, parsnip purée and watercress salad.
The judges like the fake caviar, noting that that had been done before.
Andrew was worried about the scales left on the fish. He should have been…

As far as the forward thinking sous vide technique, Tom said “some things aren’t good sous vide and salmon’s one of them”. That’s bad, really bad.

Team Fire
Grilled Shrimp with pickled chili salad, deviled aioli and miso smoked bacon
Padma: “The shrimp is amazing”. Ming agrees.

GO Dale’s team! Can I pick them or not?!! Oh, wait, I said the judges would hate this dish...Never mind.

In my defense, though, how could I know that the dish would come together so well? And that the flawless Richard would stumble so badly? Tom did note that the dish was spicy, but the others said not TOO spicy. Other random diners liked it too, even with its hotness.

Team Air
Duck breast with citrus salad and pomegranate prosecco apéritif.

Nikki blah blah blahs about how their dish is a “quality product”. Why is that so unusual? Shouldn’t the dishes ALWAYS be made with quality ingredients? She loved it all, except for the apéritif….Shows what she knows.

Gail didn’t like that they didn’t render the fat on the duck breast. Ming couldn’t believe that they didn’t score the breast. Tom (he gets grumpier with every show) “is not a big fan” of little drinks that accompany dishes. Ming likes them. I was sure I was going to find a little drink of some kind on Ming’s restaurant’s
menu, but I didn’t.

Team Earth
Beef carpaccio with mushroom salad and sunchoke aioli

Antonia says, slightly hesitatingly, that she liked the dish…okay. The judges did not agree. They didn’t like the rosemary. Ming said “just throw some salt on that meat, guys” and
Tom: “Absolutely bland.” The diners also hated the dish.

They judges wrap it up. They LOVED the shrimp dish. Ming said the scales ruined the salmon. Tom didn’t get the duck dish.
The salad and mushrooms bothered Tom the most, because it had no seasoning at all, which he said was cooking 101.

NOW Lisa is really happy about their dish. She certainly didn’t act that way while she was moaning the entire time they were cooking.


Richard is happy with his concept, not the execution. He’s trying to decide what he will say to defend himself.

Fire team gets called in. Winners!!! Who can call it?!! (Obviously, not I.)
But I did say I loved Dale…even if I basically got the rest of it a little wrong…ok, entirely wrong.

But WAIT, this is rich! LISA, the difficult, pain to be around chef is named the winner AND she wins a trip for 2 to Italy, because Ming particularly liked her miso bacon preparation.

Ok, this explains why focused on her so much this episode. Now we know that when one person is shown over and over again, that person is going to be the winner. (UNLESS, he or she is the loser.)

Dale looks appalled. “She made BACON?!! And she wins a trip to Italy?!! Are you kidding me?” I’m with you Dale and you should be bitter.

Earth and Water go in. The first question was who cooked the salmon. Richard answers a little too confidently that he thought it was cooked well. I’m waiting for Tom to say, “YEAH, if you didn’t care about the flavor, texture or scales.”

Gail asked “Were you the one that CLEANED the fish?” And Richard said, “In what regard?” IN WHAT REGARD???! What do you think that means, Dick (as in Richard)?

OMG, he is the perfect embodiment of not taking responsibility for a dish that misfired. He said he may have missed a FEW scales. Tom said there weren’t a FEW, there were A LOT!!! Tom didn’t like the parsnip in the dish, either. Mark doesn't defend it very well.

Over to the Earth team, Antonia said she thought the dish was great. Tom said it wasn’t seasoned at all. “The entire dish was bland.” Ming: “Every element needed seasoning.”

The judges chat amongst themselves. They have a hard time forgiving a dish that’s covered in scales, but the underseasoned bad effort from Team Earth is even worse. Tom wants to get rid of Zoi AND Spike. I think it’ll be Zoi…maybe…

Earth team is deemed the worst and Zoi is OUT.

The other strong-minded gals are appalled and unhappy. Jen is particularly unhappy. (Is she Mrs. Zoi? I think so.)

Spike yells at Antonia NOW. It’s a bit late. He blames her for Zoi losing. Stand behind your dish, A yells back. They all start screaming.

Dale yells at Lisa, saying Zoi isn’t the one who should have gone home and that all Lisa does is to complain and whine. Ooh, this is good. No one likes anyone. In next week’s episode, they will probably all stab each other in the back…literally this time. Dale is losing it. He’s right though, because Lisa is a jerk.

Next week: Dale tells Lisa that her constant negativity is wearing everyone down. This post is wearing ME down. I need some air, some water…but I could do without the earth part and the folks on that team.

3 comments:

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Man I love your recaps! I only occasionally get to see reruns of this so I count on the blogs to keep me updated.

I don't know why the air people didn't think of mousse.

I would have enjoyed seeing the look on Padma's face if two contestants did the nasty on the kitchen floor. Why does she piss me off so much? She's such a robot - a beautiful robot, but she's like Marvin the Paranoid Android's bitchy sister.

Emiline said...

Great review-you're very thorough.
This post was very...sensual. I used to have kind of a crush on Tom. Around season 2, I think. He just seems really negative lately, and it's turning me off. ;)
Pretty interesting stuff about bald heads...did not know.

Lisa annoyed me quite a bit. I didn't understand how she cooked the bacon, at all. At least she spoke her mind and put her foot down.

Hmmm, I guess I'm not surprised that Zoi got kicked off. I don't think she's a terrible chef though. Perhaps a little early for her to be kicked off. But what do I know?

Sue said...

Thanks Rach,

Mousse was the obvious choice, I agree.

Padma IS so gorgeous. I never particularly liked her until I saw her on a show that I can't remember, where she was showing some guy around India and she most affable...unlike on this show.

Em,
You know alot, plus we only know what the editors of the show want us to know. It could just be that Tom is the most lighthearted of souls and walks around dispensing only sweetness and light...but I kinda don't think so.