Friday, May 23, 2008

Top Chef - Restaurant Wars Showdown

Let’s fast forward through the Quickfire Challenge, where the 6 contestants have to cook eggs in a greasy spoon for the early morning breakfast rush. The only thing notable about this challenge was Tom entering the Top Chef house before 6 am(!!!), while the chefs are all sleeping. That was a bit weird. I guess he had to get some face time, because he was off at a “charity event” and wasn’t going to be judging the Elimination Challenge this week.

The Quickfire ends with Dale and Antonia as the best two. Antonia is pronounced the overall winner at mastering the art of fast egg cooking.

The chefs are directed to a big empty space and Padma tells them it’s…Restaurant Wars! Because Antonia is the winner, she gets to pick two other chefs for her team. She chooses Stephanie and Richard. Uh-oh, that leaves Dale with Lisa. I don’t like that, but I guess it makes for drama.

The menus are decided and after what looks like an all too quick trip to Whole Foods for $1500 in groceries and Pier One for $5000 for dishes and décor, they begin to cook.

During the prep time, Tony strides into the kitchen, saying he’ll be replacing Tom this week and “bringing his warmer, sunnier disposition to the challenge.”
He wanders around asking each team what they’re doing.

Let’s cut to the chase. The restaurant is open. They get started. The judges enter and Padma introduces guest judge Chef José Andrés. Oh, I like him.

Antonia, Stephanie and Richard (Mr. Ras el Hanout)
1st Course
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Ras el Hanout Spices (again!!!)
Linguine & Clams with Sausage & Horseradish Crème Fraiche

Tony tasting the pasta: “This is better than what I would expect.” José: “I love the texture of the linguine. Stephanie pipes in “I made the pasta myself.” Ted says the Goat Cheese Salad (or is he just talking about the goat cheese?) is really delicious.

2nd Course
Trout with Cauliflower
Lamb Loin & Braised Lamb Shank

Ted: “This is a nice presentation.” Tony: “I was thinking exactly the same thing.”

Whoa, slow down a second, guys…EVERYTHING can’t really have been so good thus far. It’s obvious that this team will be the winning team and that Dale’s team will have some failed dishes.

Okay, this is my prediction: the two losers will be Dale and Lisa and LISA will be going home, because if they send Dale home, I ain’t watching this show anymore, because there is no one else I want to win.

I mean it. I WILL hold a grudge. I will be unreasonable and mean and I’ll spend my Top Chef evenings watching House Hunters instead. Where was I?

Tony repeats how much he loves the lamb. José is really impressed by the level of cooking and Padma says “We’re not joking around here on Top Chef.”

It is so evident that all this praise is just a set-up for how disappointing the other team’s menu will be. I almost don’t want to watch it…AND I bet something horrible will go wrong with Spike’s décor, like a giant mirror will fall off a wall or something…I SWEAR I’m writing this as I’m watching, so if that really does happen, I am absolutely psychic…

3rd Course
Gorgonzola Cheesecake with Sweet Potato Puree & Concord Grape Sauce (Gag me!)
Banana “Scallops” with Banana Guacamole & Chocolate ice Cream

The desserts didn’t go over QUITE as well, but they liked their innovativeness and, luckily for them, the judges didn’t actually hate anything.

Dale, Lisa and Spike
Mai Buddha

1st Course
Spicy Coconut Shrimp Laksa…Padma: OOH, isn’t that beautiful?
Pork & Pickled Plum Pot Stickers

Tony on the laksa: “It was just too damn smoky,” WHICH IS EXACTLY what Dale said back in the kitchen. Padma adores the dumplings. Ted loves the char on them.

2nd Course
Braised Short Ribs with Pickled Red Cabbage & Apple Basil Salad
Padma: “I love a short rib.”
Butterscotch Miso Scallops, Spicy Eggplant & Pickled Long Beans

Tony: “It’s like Willy Wonka scallops.” Padma in horror: “No, really?” A random diner says she has no idea what she’s eating...probably not a good sign. Equally, it’s not a good sign when Lisa says Dale isn’t happy with his food choices and ultimately the executive chef is responsible for the food. That can’t bode well. Lisa, it better be you or I’m out of here…

3rd Course
Halo-Halo with Cantaloupe, Coconut, Kiwi, Avocado & Candied Nuts
Mango Sticky Rice with Toasted Coconut

Tony's take on the Sticky Rice dish: “It’s baby vomit with wood chips.” He was “okay” with the halo-halo, although he didn’t “particularly love it”. José did. Random diners HATED the sticky rice dessert.

Spike’s take on his teammates’ performances: “Poor,” which also means he thought HIS wasn’t.

Needless to say Antonia’s team won. Tony: “I was really impressed by all of your comportment.” Why do I think he would have behaved more like Dale in the kitchen, who everyone is down on for acting temperamental when things don’t go right? Isn’t that the definition of a chef?

The winner is Stephanie. She wins a culinary tour to Barcelona and a guided wine tasting tour for two.

The other team goes in to face the judges. I’ve just noticed that Dale is wearing shorts and hideous blue shoes. Are they crocs? I can’t quite see…Remember it better be Lisa!

Tony: ”ALL of us were unanimous in finding some very unpleasant aspects to this meal.” Well, TONY, I find your face unpleasant! Especially, if you even think of sending my Dale home!

I don’t get his critique about the napkins. He asks who came up with the color. No one takes responsibility. He says that the décor “announced itself as a place where a greasy dumpling would be unforgivable.” Was Tony saying that the décor was SO elegant and well done that he expected the food to follow suit? It sure didn’t sound that way…

Then the judges go off on the author of the butterscotch scallop dish - Dale. (Frankly, I’ll take butterscotch any way I can get it, especially if cute Dale is dishing it out.) José said nothing worked in the dish. Padma said it was way too sweet. “Hearing the words butterscotch and scallops together in the first place was very worrying to me,” says Tony. “It looked like a melted candy bar.”

Tony goes on to rip the laksa and says it was like “putting (his) face in front of a campfire”. Dale actually points to Lisa just as she actually takes full responsibility for the dish.

Could it be that Dale IS a little bitch as Spike (was it?) always calls him? Never mind, Lisa’s a bigger one. They go on to criticize basically everything about Dale and Lisa and their nitpicking over whose responsibility everything was. SHE really is a tattle tale, but I’m getting an uneasy feeling that as the executive chef of this challenge, HE’S going to take the fall.

But CLEARLY, he is the better cook. He’s won more challenges including being in the top two in this very episode’s Quickfire. Dale, you better stay, buddy…José doesn’t like the lack of teamwork that they’re showing, but what are you supposed to do when you don’t want to take the fall for someone else’s mistakes?

Oh good, José opines (correctly) that because Spike was in the front of the house, he considers himself away from all the trouble in the kitchen and above it all. And he was fortunate that nothing falls off the wall.

Dale makes the point that you’re only as good as your weakest link. Lisa comes back with you’re only as good as your leader. I agree with Dale. Buh-bye Lisa. They leave to let the judges deliberate.

The judges agree that Spike was smart to stay out of it and that he did his job ok. They agree that Dale fell down as a conceptualizer, executor and something else or other. BUT the judges agree that Lisa “botched” both of the dishes she made – sticky rice and the laksa and that she’s really bad at taking criticism. Are they are picking Lisa….or not?

OOH, Lisa and Dale are still having it out. Dale isn’t that nice, but he’s still a better cook than she is.

The three chefs go back in, Dale looks mad; Lisa looks belligerent and Spike looks a little too self satisfied.

WHAT?!! DALE is sent home. That really, really, really, really stinks. He’s okay with the whole thing. He actually breaks up talking about it.

Dale being sent home is a huge mistake. A HUGE mistake. A huge MISTAKE!!! I’m done… Without Dale, I don’t care who wins…I wouldn’t even have minded if Richard had beaten him in the final two, but the remaining chefs are of no interest. Top Chef is dead to me.


David Dust said...

Can you believe that either SPIKE or LISA will make it to the Final Four?!? Ridiculous.

CLICK HERE for DavidDust's Top Chef Chicago Recap.


Anonymous said...

Dale is a little bitch, I think (I agree Lisa's just as bad, if not worst). I pointed out to my husband how when they were ripping the laksa, he pointed at Lisa before Tony could even get out of his mouth "Who made the laksa." At least wait for the girl to try to place blame elsewhere, before you point. I knew it was going to be him, it's always the executive chef on the losing team who goes - remember Tre last year, with his too smoky potatoes and the horrible bread pudding?

Catherine Wilkinson said...

Here is a hilarious re-cap from one of my favorite writers...

Emiline said...

Oh no! You can't quit now! I know you're upset, but...

Dale didn't deserve to go home. Just because he's done SO well in the past. Lisa should have gone.
But what's done is done.
I mean, Stephanie, Antonia and Richard are all likeable. I'll keep watching.

Maybe they're shooting for a girl to win this year, so they're actually trying to boot off all of the strong guys? They took Dale out at his weakest point.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

My assessment of the few shows I have seen is that Dale tends to be the most sucessful chef, but he and Lisa are both just not nice people. I know niceness doesn't count, but that was my impression of both of them. I was surprised they sent him home.

Sorry your show was ruined for you. *hug*

Sue said...

No, David, I can’t!!! Let me know who wins…

Hi Amy,
Yes, the editors made sure we saw that. It wasn’t one of Dale’s prouder moments, and to Lisa’s credit, this one time, she took full responsibility.

But let’s look at the bigger picture…Who wants to see Lisa compete for the top spot? NOT I!!!

Hi Catherine,
I want to read that…The link isn’t working. I’ll search around for it.

Thanks Emiline,
Yes about Dale. Yes about Lisa. NO about continuing to watch.

Yeah, you’re probably right. This year a woman will probably win, but that will be little consolation if it’s Lisa, which I can’t imagine it will be…

Hi Shortie,
Thanks for the hug. Niceness definitely doesn’t count here or it shouldn’t. The more I think about it, the more I’m disappointed that Dale didn’t make it. I wonder if he would have, if Tom had been there leading the judges...

Tracy said...

FYI, Anthony blogged about the decision, in case you're interested:

Tracy said...

OK, Top Chef is dead to you but I'm still obsessed with it. I'm back with two more links that may or may not interest you.

Colicchio's blog indicates he doesn't agree with the decision to cut Dale:

Harold's blog disagrees with Bourdain taking Colicchio's place, and says Dale got "hosed:"

So you are not alone...