Saturday, January 10, 2009

Part One - Top Chef: One New Hunky French Judge Means Lots Of Eye Candy

I’m glad there is a fast recap of the season, which I need after a couple of weeks away. They also remind us that the Top Chef will be winning a bunch of plastic bags. I guess every little bit helps in this economy.

We see Fabio cooking breakfast. Is that a toaster oven on the counter or some cool tiny convection oven? (I’m noticing because I just had to replace a toaster oven) Eugene is po'ed, because last night he was in the bottom three. I don’t even remember what that challenge was. Could this early glimpse of Eug mean that he is going home this week?

Melissa is getting dressed and drinking water. Hosea is happy. Stefan is full of himself. Jamie is in a bad mood. WHY is Melissa wearing faded lilac capri pants. She’s skinny enough to wear something more flattering.

Padma introduces the extremely hot French chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli, who, she tells us, will be seen in the upcoming Bravo show called Chef Academy. Seriously, he is so gorgeous that he doesn’t matter whether or not he can cook his way out of a paper bag. (He appears to be taken, but we can still dream.) In spite of all that, though, I suspect we’re meant to think that the fact that he’s French and heavily-accented means that he’s one fine cook. Oh, lookie here, it says under his name “Michelin Star Chef”, so I guess that qualifies him as being a competent chef.

I’d be happy to forget about these other folks in the room. I snap back to reality when I see Carla’s goofy, but oh so well-meaning, smile. Those ARE wild glasses too that she’s wearing.

They have to make a dessert WITHOUT sugar for the famous chef. They have 45 minutes to use any non-sugar ingredient to make a wonderful non-diet tasting dessert.

Jeff is delighted because he intends to make something with honey. Wait a sec! They can’t possibly mean that they can use honey in place of sugar and consider that a NON-SUGAR dessert. Apparently that IS the case. Not much of a test of their ingenuity then.

This challenge is brought to us by Diet Dr. Pepper, so Ariane is using one of those.

Jamie is using agave syrup. That’s even sweeter than sugar, so where’s the problem? How in the world is Carla going to make baklava with banana ice cream in 45 minutes?

Ariane is making a whole wheat crêpe with Diet Dr. Pepper. That sounds dreadful. Why are they all making this such a big deal, if they can use other sweeteners? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Padma yells, “Utensils down” while J-C stands in the background… We see his strong hand stroking his chin, as he waits to judge them.

Fabio says it’s a pleasure to meet him. His dish is Granola and Oat Tart with Eggless Pastry Cream and Fresh Berries. Ick.

Jean-C, with an unbuttoned shirt straining my powers of concentration, says, “Are you pleased with this? I believe the cream was not cooked enough.”

Ooh, he’s tough. Sorry, Fabio, this time you’re not top dog in the pheromone category. Fabio mentions (to us, not Jean-C) that Italy beat France in the world cup 2 years ago. He thinks that the French judge is probably holding a grudge about that.

On to Jeff’s dish. He tells Padma to scoop something or other and put it somewhere or other. SHE should tell HIM where to put it.

Frozen Cherry and White Fig Yogurt with a Baklava Spring Roll

Is he rolling up a bunch a phyllo and filling it with honey and nuts and calling it baklava? Oh, I guess that IS what it is…mostly, but the spring rolls look very dry and the yogurt looks like it has old flowers in it. J-C: Very interesting combination. Jeff: Thank YOU.

Hosea looks really worried and he’s not even next. Eugene makes
Mini Blini “Burgers” with Banana Lumpias “Fries”. Cute idea, but not exactly a healthy concept, which is part of what they were looking for. J-C: Very original.

Padma says to Melissa, “What did you DO?” almost as if she was accusing her of something. Oh, she might be. She made a Baked Dessert Burrito with Greek Yogurt Sauce. That is about the worst name for a dessert that I’ve ever heard. It gives no clue as to what’s inside and baking a burrito doesn’t give me much hope. Nothing about it says delectable dessert.

We hear NOTHING from the chef, except "Thank you". Probably not a good sign.


Bread Pudding with Sautéed White Peach and Roasted Cashews
I don’t love Radhika, but that sounds the best so far. J-C looks into her eyes and says “It’s very adventurous.”

I can be that too, Jean-Christophe!” Oh my, did I just say that out loud? Pardon me.

They move to Leah, who seems to be keeping her voice rather low and sexy. Listen, I’m all for using whatever you’ve got. She's made Crêpe with Whipped Ricotta, Strawberries and Balsamic Reduction. THAT could be good too. “C’est bon. Very interesting”, says J-C. I just noticed he’s wearing a gold necklace, which can be very manly…in a metro way.

Stefan has a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper sitting out next to Sugar-free Chocolate Mousse with Cherries. THAT will not be good, I predict. Just as replacing fat with sugar is often not a good idea, replacing sugar with dreck isn’t either.

Jean-Christophe asks where Stefan is from. He says France and J-C is about to react to that when Stefan says, “No I’m kidding, I’m Finnish.” (More like finished, if you ask me.) Then Stefan says that Chocolate Mousse comes from Finland. JC looks terribly unamused and again Stefan says, “I’m kidding”. I’M not kidding when I say that a jejune statement to a serious Frenchman about FOOD is not the way to go to win this.

Hosea does Green Figs and White Peaches Brushed with Honey and Balsamic. Whoopsie, there’s a bright green puddle of something on the plate, which looks more worrying than delightful. J-C asks “Have you tried this?” Uh-oh. Hosea says “Yes,” and that he was happy with it. I’m thinking Jean-C wasn’t.

Ariane is so friendly, down to earth and clueless as she’s being judged by an Adonis. She has made Whole Wheat Crêpe with Caramelized Pears and Toasted Almonds. I don’t like crêpes enough to like whole wheat ones, unless of course, they’re buckwheat blinis lavished with sour cream and caviar.

She offers her French judge a little whipped cream. NON, bien sur, no whipped cream, he says gravely. Ariane looks a bit aghast that he turns it down because it looks overwhipped. But really, WHO would turn down whipped cream, because it went a second too long?

He says, “You can see clearly”, as he spoons through the cream. He’s RIGHT! It’s just this side of turning into butter. No one knows ingredients like the French. He just glanced at it to know it wasn’t right. Ariane complains to the camera that he’s literally picking apart everyone’s dessert. No actually, just hers.

Why is the next chef’s name spelled “Jaime”? (Have I been spelling her name wrong this whole time and no one told me? If you EVER see a mistake, PLEASE tell me and I will correct it instantly.) Nope, THEY seem to be spelling it wrong. On Bravo’s website, she's definitely Jamie.

Jamie is making a Ricotta, Mascarpone, Peach, Nectarine and Cherry Napoleon. I bet that will be good. She is unfazed by Jean-Christophe’s sex appeal. (I don’t care which team she plays for, he’s incredibly attractive.) J-C tastes and gives a whew sound and then says “Very interesting”. Actually, maybe his English doesn’t allow for more elaborate comments…or maybe he’s saving them.

Carla STARTS by saying “what I ENDED UP WITH today was…” That’s not good. Don’t sound defeated before the judging has even started. She has made Baklava with Chocolate Discs and Fried Bananas. She says her intention was to do an ice cream. Don’t be going on about your INTENTION, Carla. THIS is what you’re presenting, stand behind it and pretend it’s good even if it stinks! We hear none of his remarks.

The results:
His least favorites?
He says without hesitation Carla, because the bananas were bland…and NOT because something didn’t freeze, it just didn’t taste that great.

Next is Ariane. Oh well…but he does say her name beautifully in three syllables just rolling off his tongue. The last one is Jamie. Really? I thought he loved hers. He says the cheese overpowered the dish. She nods in agreement.

He names Radhika’s as the first dish that he liked. J-C believed it was a excellent combination. Then he picked Leah’s. He likes the touch of balsamic vinegar in the dish. And then Jeff’s. “Well-done”, he said. I thought it looked underwhelming. Chef Jean-Christophe picks Radhika as his favorite. She actually smiles for once. She reminds us in a slightly smirking way that she wins immunity “again”.

Stay tuned for the Elimination Challenge.


DebCarol said...

Well I suspect you are not the only one "smitten" with Jean-Christophe Sue. He would be a dream to cook for. But the photo of him with his wife? and baby is kind of strange - she reminds me of Elvira, kind of creepy. So far this Top Chef season is nowhere near as interesting as past seasons. I'm not really rooting for anybody and the food has been kind of so-so.

Anonymous said...

The whole "you can't use sugar but you can use other sweetener's" was stupid. When they said it, even my husband said "you have to do something with fruit." then when they showed Jeff with the honey, I thought for sure you couldn't do it, but then when they didn't do cut aways of the others saying "he can't use honey," and they're using syrups and stuff. . . just dumb. They probably did it to try and get people to use the Diet Dr. Pepper.

Sue said...

Hi Deb,
I thought they looked very glamorous. She's not his wife yet, so maybe there's still hope.

I agree with you. I have no real favorites...for their cooking ability anyway. Carla is growing on me as a really cool, fun person and I think Jamie probably has real cooking chops, but that's about it.

I know! It was a ridiculous challenge and even mentioning Diet Dr. Pepper in the same breathe as the word chef is disturbing. If it had been Diet Sprite or Diet Root Beer, THAT might have been a different story. ;-)

One good thing was that even though Ariane used the sponsor's products, J-C still rated her dessert as one of the worst.