Sunday, January 11, 2009

Part Two - Top Chef: One New Haughty English Judge Means Lots Of Eye-Rolling

The Elimination Challenge will include a new judge, restaurant critic Toby Young, from the UK. He’ll be taking over from Gail for the rest of the season. Fabio says he’s a “bad-ass” food critic. The chefs get the night off and will learn about the challenge tomorrow.

They show Leah drinking Diet Dr. Pepper. Eugene talks to his kids on the very visible Sidekick. I like him.

Radhika mentions (again) that she has immunity for the second time. Okay, we get it. She’s made exactly 2 decent dishes the whole time she’s been there. Great…I do like her scarves, though, and the rakish way she wears them around her neck. Melissa is wearing oversized hot pink sunglasses, which wouldn’t be so strange except that she’s INSIDE.

The hunky Tom comes in. I’m relieved he shaved that mess off his chin. Oh wait, he didn’t
, it’s still there. He pulls up a chair (stool?) and tells them the judges will be judging the food without knowing who cooked what. I like that. AND they can cook anything they want to best show off their skills.

They’ll also be feeding a bunch of foodies and critics. Okay, now this is a good idea. They can really strut their stuff. They have to cook a family style meal and two chefs this time are going home, since no one went home last time.

Radhika is happy to have immunity this week. She chose to cook with group A. I am unsure if they’re cooking in teams or not. Do they each make only one dish or are they making an entire dinner?

And do they have 100 dollars EACH? Eugene says they have to make a dish for 12 people. It doesn’t seem like they are coordinating at all, so I guess it’s each to his/her own this week.

Fabio is rolling out fresh pasta and making lamb sous vide. Didn’t someone do that last season and the food wasn’t cooked?

Group B goes to Whole Foods. Carla “slows it down” to hear the love. Huh?

Jamie is cooking scallops…again. Oh good, this is where Fabio says “This is Top Chef, not Top Scallops.” Funny. Eugene says he’s top dog at being original. Agreed. Hosea says Melissa is making really safe food.

Fabio says the lamb is undercooked. WHAT DID I JUST SAY?????

Before they go to break, we see a preview of Carla saying “THIS is the new judge? You have GOT to be kidding me? Gaaaaaaiii-lllllll!!!! She screams in her over the top, really humorous way. I don’t think her food has been the best, but I'm liking Carla more and more. She would make a great television host, I think, and then she could show us the love without being frazzled by the cooking.

The other chefs are mocking Fabio,”the Italian stallion”, for making pasta.
Well, if the lamb is undercooked, the pasta better be exceptional.

The judges come in and sit at a half empty table. The second group comes in to cook and they’re told to sit at the table. THEY will be the other half of the tasters. What a great twist.

Padma introduces them to Toby. He looks like a pompous Englishman. When group A comes out, they laugh to see their fellow contestants sitting there as judges. Hosea doesn’t like it one bit. He thinks they will rip apart their food, so THEIR food comes off better. Possibly true. They get to watch the judging on a monitor back in the kitchen.

Stefan, at the table, says he can’t even eat Radhika’s dish of Curried Crab Bisque with a Lemon Scented Crab Salad. She looks appalled. Other opinions - Tom:” too heavy handed”. Toby calls it a weapon of mass destruction and warns the others to stand well back. Carla, at the table, is laughing (or crying) into her napkin. That’s where the Gaaaaiiiiiillllll! remark comes in. Tom says he didn’t follow Toby at all!

Bacon-Wrapped Halibut with Roasted Vegetables in a Beurre Blanc Sauce

Carla: the vegetables were fantastic. J-C: Behind this dish is a person who doesn’t know how to say no. At least, I think that’s what he said. His English is, how you say? not perfect.

Toby goes off again.
This reminded him of a Hollywood movie in which classically trained British actors have been cast in character roles. Jeff looks confused and exhausted. Oh, I guess the point is that the two leads (in the hypothetical movie that Toby is blathering on about) were upstaged by the supporting cast, which means that he liked the vegetables and not the fish. Leah and Carla do NOT look amused. Is he going to turn out to be another bad idea of a British import?

Oy, I’ve figured out his shtick. Everything is a longwinded comparison or analogy or story about something. It’s kind of annoying.

Seared Scallops
(for the millionth time) with Fennel, Garlic, Oranges and Olives

Jeff said his was cooked well. Toby: The ingredients were well chosen. The fennel and scallops complemented each other very well. J-C: Well done.

Rack of Lamb with Cheese Ravioli and Mushroom Sauce
I think the lamb with the ravioli is a weird combination.

Remember that the judges don’t know whose dish they are tasting. Stefan: Undercooked. Little bit of seasoning missing. Ariane agrees that the lamb was definitely undercooked. J-C says the pasta was very well-done. The cheese makes it superb, he says, and the mushroom sauce is absolutely perfect. Without the lamb, it’s a perfect dish, he continues.

Crispy Red Snapper with Tomato, Basil and Daikon Fettucine
I hope they don’t think it’s too weird.
Jeff says the dish is beautiful. Stefan says where he comes from radishes are cold, not hot. Well then, go back there. Toby: The fish is overcooked. The whole dish was underseasoned. It was the bland leading the bland.

Eugene is going home, definitely.

This is not quite fair, because the other team sees how Toby is and, now, knows to season everything very well, which admittedly the first team should have known anyway.

Ahi Tuna Crudo Tacos

Say no more, I think Melissa is the second one going home. She could cook ANYTHING and THIS is what she chose? Her only garnish was a quartered slice of lime. Leah is unimpressed. Ariane couldn’t overcome that fishy taste. But MY question is how does Melissa get her bangs like that and how can she can see?

Padma asks Toby, what does this dish tell you about the chef?
That she likes to wear lilac capris. Just testing to see if you were still with me. He says it tells me that he or she isn’t terribly confident. BINGO. This guy’s got game. Then he adds that it tastes a bit like cat food.

The second team goes into the kitchen. There’s Jeff bragging about making 3 small plates and a lot of stuff from scratch. Wait, WHAT does that say on the screen? WHERE is he the chef? The WHAT Beach Club? Oh, the DILIDO…Beach Club. That’s not what I thought it said…

Stefan remarks that he was born in the Czech Republic. He seems to come from all sorts of different places, when it’s convenient.

The chefs pointlessly all walk out into the dining room just to be told that it’s a blind tasting and they have to turn around and go back into the kitchen. What was the point of that? They watch the monitor.

Roasted Duck and Braised Cabbage with Bread Dumplings

Radhika goes right for it and says the duck was cooked well, but the dumplings were a little dense. Stefan says she knows that’s his dish. Fabio says if you taste everything together, the dish works. Tom: I LIKED the dish. There’s SO much flavor in that cabbage. I think it’s great. Stefan explodes with happiness in the kitchen.

Trio Tapas: Oysters, Seared Tuna, Avocado Sorbet and Grilled Peaches
Eugene says the creativity and the idea was there, but he thought there was too much happening on the plate. Jean-Christophe: I make avocado sorbet and it’s never been as good as this one. Tom: I don’t like this at all! It’s not a dish. It’s a bunch of hors d’oeuvres. Toby: For me, this was the standout of the five.

Wow! There is certainly some divergence of opinion. Toby says the avocado sorbet was like….here we go again….Tom Cruise’s cameo in Tropic Thunder…an unexpected treat. This guy could get tiresome. Tom: I don’t see it.

Skate Wing with Pineapple and Cauliflower Purée

Melissa thinks the cauliflower purée went well with the fish. Jean-C: I think the skate is cooked perfectly. The pineapple introduction is very, very original. That was fabulous.

Seared Rouget Encrusted in Bread with Fried Beans in Chorizo Sauce
Jamie thinks the fried beans were greasy. Toby disagrees and says, as an Englishman, he’s a fan of fried food and he liked the dish.

Seared Scallops on top of Risotto with Gremolata Topping

Hosea loves the scallops themselves, not the topping. Jamie says the gremolata tasted bitter. Tom says he likes gremolata, but not with raw garlic. I think he must have meant not with THAT MUCH raw garlic, since gremolata is lemon zest and parsley with garlic (raw).

Padma excuses them.

Tom likes the second group better. J-C too.

The chefs assemble. Melissa is worried that she’s going home. Finally, she shows some insight.

Padma calls them in by the dishes they cooked. Ariane, Jamie and Stefan go in. They finished on top tonight.

Toby likes the fact that Stefan’s dish was undeniably German. Toby is rather full of himself. J-C says Jamie’s dish was so refined. Oh good, he’s added some words to his vocabulary, so please could we have the camera stay on him a bit more? Tom likes Ariane’s cooked pineapple. J-C believes strongly she’s done a great dish. J-C gets to announce the winner: Jamie…”Finally,” she says. So where’s her extra prize? There is none. Gyp.

The next chefs to be sent in are Melissa, Eugene and Carla. I think Carla will be there next week. Bye bye Bad Boy and Bad Bangs.

Carla explains that she tried to make the risotto vegetarian and then just added the scallops afterwards. She wasn’t surprised she was up before the judges. Tom said risotto isn’t a garnish, it’s a dish. J-C inquired into her motives. She gave a decent explanation.

Melissa said she really enjoyed the challenge and that she liked hearing her food critiqued. Tom said it was a failure of imagination. Very watery, bland, very overdressed. Toby said it smelled bad. She is so out of there.

Eugene says he does risky things. Tom kinda argues with him. J-C says the fish was overcooked. Toby said it lacked punch. Eugene doesn’t do much for himself in his final plea to the judges. Ditto for Melissa. Carla is cogent. Padma looks ill. Toby likes Eugene. Surprising.

Tom is sad that Eugene’s fish “lost its life” and then ended up in such a bad dish. Who knew he was such an animal lover? Tom says Melissa showed them who she was in her dish. Toby said that’s why she should go. Good one.

I can see Melissa cooking in Colorado or some hippy type place and sitting down with customers being all friendly and easy going, NOT in some high powered, snotty, upscale restaurant kitchen where millions of different interests are preying on her time and energies. She looks like the chilling-out kind of chef.

They leave to let the judges deliberate. They’re back. Toby has the glowering thing down pat. Tom says Eugene is wildly creative, but his skill level needs to catch up to his creativity. Melissa has shown a lack of imagination and Carla over-thought a dish that could have been really good. Melissa – GONE!!! Eugene – GONE!!!

Melissa cries that people that don’t know her don’t know how creative she can be. Eugene is fine. He has no regrets. I do. I wish he could have shown the judges the potential that I saw. C’est la guerre. C’est la compétition.


Anonymous said...

This must take so much time to put together and I for one really appreciate your efforts! I have never been sold on Eugene, he always seemed ticked off to me. And Melissa was just a bore. I am totally bothered by Jaime..when WILL she cook something that doesn't have scallops?

But, I still don't have a favorite nor am I inspired. However, the new judge is fun and definitely good TV! My favorite was the "tasted like cat food" comment.

Thank you for all that you do!

;) amy

Sue said...

Thank you! Please stop by anytime!

Yeah, I know that Eugene did seem a bit churlish, but I guess I was looking for a Dale substitute. Let's hope Jamie doesn't cook one more scallop dish. A one trick pony can only go so far.

Toby IS good TV, as long as they continue to edit his long winded "It's like when..."

Anonymous said...

I hope Jamie now shuts up, she was getting annoying with her "I never win." We hoped she'd lose to Ariane again, just b/c it's funny.

I also thought it was funny that Fabio explained that the "blind tasting" didn't mean they judges would be wearing blindfolds. You just know his English isn't good enough that he understood what it meant, and the other chefs had to explain it to him.

Sue said...

I totally missed that! That's really funny and kind of pathetic. But it is funny to have a non-great English speaking contestant being judged by a non-great English speaking judge. They can speak bad English to each other.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I think lamb is the cursed ingredient in Top Chef. Chefs need to stay away from it. Then again, whoever makes a perfectly cooked lamb dish will likely take the top prize.

I hope Jamie shuts up now that she won with another scallop dish. I don't like her. She just rubs me the wrong way.

jesse said...

HAHAHAHHAA oh my god, I LOVE YOU. Your sarcasm and wit just made my day. =D

Cynthia said...

It is interesting how these days the "thing" to do that has become acceptable on American television is to have someone with a British accent come and tell-you-off. It is so annoying and overdone.

We see it on American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Hell's Kitchen and the list goes on.

Jen said...

I thought the same thing a few weeks ago when Jeff's name and creds popped up!!! Luckily we had internet and could check it out although we were a bit worried about what we'd get in the google search...

Sue said...

You must be psychic about the lamb, judging from what happened on a later episode.

I don’t hate Jamie. I guess because I think (despite what we’ve seen on the show) that she can actually cook.

Thanks so much. Please come back lots.

You are so right. Why are we so impressed by that accent? We seem to think it makes anyone an instant authority. Although Toby is obviously knowledgeable, he's irritating too.

I’m sooo glad I wasn’t the only one that THAT occurred to.