Saturday, January 17, 2009

Top Chef - Down Home On The Farm And The Wrong Chef Went Home

Is it really necessary to see Glad Press’n Seal in almost the first shot? It seems like they said, “Stefan, in this shot we want you to cover this dish with Press’n Seal. Make sure your hand is just so, so we get a perfect shot of the box.” It’s so obvious that it’s annoying.

Jeff is putting on a shirt and Leah is drying her hair, so one of the three must be going home. I vote for Stefan. Oh, he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Okay, I’ll wait 58 minutes and then I’ll vote for him to go home.

Leah and Hosea are special friends.

Padma is in the kitchen with Hung Huynh, the winner of season 3. I didn’t watch that season, so I have no sense of what his deal is. He seems to be famous for being fast.

The Quickfire Challenge consists of, as Jeff puts it, dealing with “a bunch of garbage”. I never liked him as much as when he said that. There’s a whole gurney filled with canned food that they have to use.

Padma explains it as “creating a delicious dish without fresh ingredients”. That sounds nasty, as if they want them to use rotten ingredients, but, no, she means no FRESH, as in unprocessed, ingredients. This is another dumb challenge. Who cares if they can use condensed soup in a decent way? Let’s hope they never really would.

In honor of Hung being the fastest Top Chef “in history” (that’s a bit histrionic, isn’t it?), they only have 15 minutes. The clock starts and they race to choose the ingredients. Radhika says she NEVER uses canned ingredients, like “housewives” do. *Bleep* her, could she be more patronizing? Stefan is opening a can with the tip of a knife. I DO NOT approve of that. He entreats Hosea to give him some of his spam. He does.

The dishes do look decent.

Waffles with Strawberries & Sausage
Hung: “Crunchy.”

Baked Bean & Spam Soup with Grilled Cheese & Spam Sandwich
Hung: “Was the soup well-seasoned or did you add something to it?”

Mac & Cheese with Roasted Artichoke & Chili Pepper
Hung: “I like the heat.”


Spicy Red Bean Dip with Grilled Bread
Just a “Thank You” from Padma.

Sweet Pea Soup with Spam, Onion Rings, Pork Rinds & Hearts of Palm
Hung: “Pork rinds? I love pork rinds.”

Deep Fried Baby Conch, Coconut Sauce & Pina Colada
Hung: “Is there fish sauce in there. You can’t hide that from me.”

Bruschetta with Garbanzo Beans, Artichoke & Smoked Mussels
No reaction from Hung.

Open-faced Turkey Spam, Sandwich with Gravy & Cranberry-Pineapple Chutney
That sounds really vile. Plus it was made on white bread. It looks like hospital food from 5 decades ago.
Padma:”There’s turkey spam?” I wondered that too, but SHE’S the one who gave them the challenge. Hung: “Interesting.“

Asian Salmon Cake with Fried Green Beans & Lemongrass-Ginger Mayo
That actually sounds good. Padma and Hung agree that the mayonnaise is pretty good.

Leah disappoints Hung. He also doesn’t like Radhika’s or Jamie’s dish. Hosea made one of his favorite dishes. Stefan and Jeff did too. Hung thought Jeff used his time wisely. The winner is Stefan. Ick. Hosea should never have shared his spam. Oh, that’s what Hosea just said. Padma thanks Hung.

The Elimination Challenge is Back to Basics. YAY! Maybe the Contessa will show up. Oh, sorry, wrong network. They pick knives with the choices of chicken, pig or lamb on them. Ariane is on a team with Hosea and Leah. She is uncomfortable being with “the love birds”.

The chefs have to create a seasonal meal (including dessert) around pork, lamb or chicken for 16 people. Jamie is unhappy that she’s on a team with Stefan.

The teams confer on their menus, back at the apartment. Stefan and Jamie fight about the menu, which makes it difficult for Carla “to create, in that friction”. Fabio’s accent seems to be getting stronger. Jamie and Carla want to change the menu. Stefan doesn’t want to. Jamie and Stefan start throwing around the word douchebag and she storms out. Hosea is worried about the lamb. Ariane thinks Hosea and Leah aren’t listening to her.

They think they’re being taken to the store, but arrive at Dan Barber’s restaurant, Blue Hill, at Stone Barns farm. He greets them along with 3 of the farmers, who will “shop” with the chefs. They go out into the field and Jeff picks green tomatoes. Team Lamb goes a visit with the sheep. The pigs get visited by Team Pig, where Fabio waxes lyrical about the value of life. Team Chicken is surrounded by lots of chickens. One of them attacks Jamie. Stefan says he likes being outnumbered by hens. He is such a putz.

They walk into the kitchen of the restaurant and the proteins are waiting for them. Radhika wanted to do a fig bread pudding, but because there are no figs, she’s not doing it. It doesn’t take a genius to think…why not make it without the figs?!!

Leah’s unhappy that she’s only doing the salad and dessert.

Fabio is unhappy that Radhika takes one hour to peel and grill a bunch of corn on the cob. Tom walks in and asks what everyone is doing. Tom asks Carla who her team leader is. She says let’s make Stefan the leader.

Tom is happy that they’re on the farm. He thinks that Team Lamb should have kept the lamb on the bone. He thinks it’s too warm out for chicken soup from Team Chicken. This WAS supposed to be a seasonal menu. He thinks the Crème Brûlée is a bit simple from the Pork Team, even as he reminds us someone was sent home for a bad crème brûlée.

Hosea is worried that Ariane is taking too long. To help her, Leah ties the lamb up quickly, but not well.

The guests arrive at picnic table outside. The chefs bring out the food. Jamie is worried their food is too simple.

Jamie, Stefan and Carla - Team Chicken
Chicken Cutlet with Mizuna, Corn, Onion & Tomato Salad
Lemon-Herb Roasted Chicken with Tomato Salad
Chicken Ravioli Soup
Nectarine & Strawberry Tartlet with Thyme, Cream & Lemon Zest

Padma: “I don’t really the point of the chicken team making the soup.” Tom: “Yeah, not on an 85 degree day.” A guest agrees that it’s too hot for soup, but says it was really, REALLY great. Toby, on the chicken cutlet: “The outside was quite crispy.” Dan likes it too. The head farmer, Shannon, thought the chicken was a bit dry.

Back in the kitchen Carla tries to tell Jamie everything was good.

Ariane, Hosea and Leah - Team Lamb
Roasted Duo of Lamb
Heirloom Tomato Salad
Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Summer Berry Trifle with Vanilla Cream

Dan: “The lamb is a mess.”

What did I say at the beginning? Leah is going home. I’ll bet my remote on it.

Tom: “Poor butchering.” Toby: “You’ve heard the expression Mutton dressed as lamb? This was lamb dressed as mutton.” Of course, if they hated it that much, I suppose it should be Ariane going home (even though I don't think she should), but it was Leah they showed drying her hair at the beginning, so I’m still going with her.

Padma on Team Lamb’s potatoes: “Lovely...” Tom likes the Swiss Chard. Other folks commented negatively on Team Lamb’s menu - they sliced it with the grain, so all the juices ran out and made it a bit dry. I think that was more a function of finishing the cooking just in time and not giving it time to rest.

Tom: “If you’re honoring the protein, this was no way to honor the lamb.”

Jeff, Fabio and Radhika - Team Pork
Sausage, Zucchini & Eggplant Ravioli with Pesto
Fried Green Tomato with Tomato Jam
Seared Pork Loin & Grilled Corn Salad with Bacon
Vanilla & Lavender-Scented Crème Brûlée

Pork Team’s ravioli is fine, says Padma, but you can only taste the pesto. Toby: ”The pesto is the big bad wolf, which has blown this pig’s house down.” Tom is unhappy that they also took the meat off the bone. They all like the fried green tomatoes.

They move on to dessert. Tom: “Carla makes a great crust.” He loves that she used thyme in the dessert. Dan: “Intelligently done.” Everyone seemed to like it.

Padma thought Team Pork’s crème brulée was too sweet. Toby says it tastes like someone emptied a Pimm’s on it. The other judges are polite and pretend to understand what he’s talking about. One of the head farmers liked the dessert.

Team Lamb's trifle doesn't go over so well. Dan: “Unappealing to look at.” Closeup on Leah. Bye bye, girl.

The chefs are back in their holding cell. Padma slinks out and wants to see Jamie, Stefan and Carla. Theirs were the winning dishes. Padma says Carla’s dessert was their favorite. Dan announces the winner – All Of Them. They hug. Carla – “Whoo-Hoo!” No prize again? Both of the other teams get sent in.

Padma says both teams did poorly. The Pig Team: Toby and Tom were unhappy that the fat was removed from the porker. Jeff said he did it. Dan doesn’t agree with that decision. They criticize Fabio’s pesto. There was too much of it and it was too strong.

Tom criticizes Radhika and how slow she was.

Ariane defends the way they cooked the lamb and she gets criticized by the judges. The whole team gets skewered for the lamb in general and for Ariane doing everything.

Padma says there are a number of chefs who should go home. “Bloodless and anemic” is how Toby describes the pork dish. He goes on to say when he’s faced with a beautiful piece of meat, he wants to have full blown unprotected sex with it, and here he didn’t even get to first base. Tom smirks. Ahem…is the food criticism in England, perhaps, slanted a bit differently than it is here?

Dan feels the errors were much worse with the lamb than the pork. The judges are also unhappy with Radhika’s laziness. Padma and Toby have it out a bit. She feels sorry for Ariane, because at least she went in there and butchered the lamb. Toby says he feels sorry for her too, because she can’t cook. Padma takes exception with that. Toby asks isn’t our “rubric” to COMPLETELY ignore what’s gone on before? Tom jumps in and says YES, absolutely.

Crikey, this is the mistake they made in sending Dale home, because one week he completely stank. The judges go on and on about how bad all the chefs were this week. Leah is going home, I’m sticking with that.

Ariane goes home. She’s disappointed. She thinks Hosea and Leah were not good team players.

This was a huge mistake. The idea that they are judged ONLY for their last meal is ridiculous. Of course their overall competence should be in the mix. Ariane wasn’t afraid to jump in and get her hands dirty. The little misfits, Leah and Radhika, who hung back and let others do all the work and take the fall, are still there. Dumb. It seems clear from the preview that, next week, it will be Leah that goes home. It should have been this week.


DebCarol said...

Correct - Leah should have been sent home this week. I never thought Ariane would make it to be Top Chef but this was not her time to go (although why anyone would want to "tenderize" baby lamb is beyond me.) Biggest cringe moment for me was Stefan opening the can with his knife.... is he insane? No I take it back biggest cringe moment was every time Toby opened his mouth - its like he writes his silly one-liners ahead of time and just tosses them out at random. Don't like him as a judge.

Sue said...

I think you and I share a brain. Just tell me what you think and that's what I'm going with.

Tracy said...

I agree:
- Leah should have gone home
- Radhika's comment about housewives was patronizing
- Stefan is a douchebag.

An excellent distillation!

And I agree with DebCarol - cringed every time the Brit opened his mouth (I'm not going to learn his name because I hope he goes away).

Anonymous said...

Toby is awful, and so annoying with the stupid comments. He must be REALLY annoying for Padma to jump in like that. His stupid "rubric" comment meant nothing - Padma wasn't saying that wasn't how they worked, just that he was WRONG when he said Ariane couldn't cook. It just seemed wrong that Hosea knew how to butcher lamb, it was his idea what to make, Leah said she knew how to tie and did it poorly, and Ariane goes home. They let her screw up. so basically a Top Chef is somebody who will let his staff make bad food. Right.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I always hate these "cook from canned foods" episodes, because the cheftestants get crazily snobby. Like they didn't eat that stuff when they were younger. Jamie said herself she used to eat chef boyardee from a can for breakfast as a kid. Do they never eat a ho ho, or do they always, always, always make their own cupcakes when they want something. it's one thing to be "ooh, this isn't the kind of food I want to make", but to totally act like you have never eaten this stuff in your life, please. Like you're so better than the rest of us b/c you're eating malouf rolls every night, and sometimes I'm just too tired and pull out a can of condensed soup to eat for dinner.

Anonymous said...

OH my GAWD I am so sick of Radhika. Nothing she makes looks edible to me, and she is just plain patronizing. She doesn't use one pot ever to make a dish and I guess cans are completely foreign to her. When she talks it is like nails on a chalkboard, seriously. Leah isn't far behind with her boring drone tone.

I'm not sure what Ariane was doing with that lamb either.

I agree too DC that Judge Toby just has a bunch of quotes waiting for something to apply them to. I also don't get why they are just judging on one event. They don't do that in the final, so why do they do it here? Makes no sense.

Sue, thank you again for your synopsis! While I was watching this week I was wondering what you would say about it. I love reading your musings!

;) amy

Sue said...

If THIS is so obvious to all of us about not getting rid of Ariane (for the moment, at least), then why don’t the judges get it?

I think Toby is going to be with us for the rest of the season. But it does seem like they may realize they made a mistake with him. Even by his second show, they didn’t include his comments that much…except for the pig sex one, of course.

Hi Amy,
Yup, you’re right. They sure do seem to be favoring chefs who will let bad food happen and throw anyone in the way under the bus, while taking no responsibility for the outcome.

The crappy food challenge was crappy. It does make various of them sound like jerks.

Aren’t Yodels the much better version of Ho-ho’s? Yodels are soooooooooooo great. I used to bite off the ends first, then carefully eat only the delicious wax-like chocolate coating, before unrolling the jelly-roll like yodel and then eating the cake and cream. Oh, I saved the thick edge of the chocolate icing for last, but I never ate crap...never!

Hey Calm Amy,
You are so welcome. I love hearing what you have to say too.

Radhika IS really annoying. She has made one good dish so far, it seems. Her personality doesn’t really shine in this type of show that is so much ABOUT personality. What did they see in her that we’re missing? I agree about Leah and I think Ariane just lost her way for the moment.

Toby is trying to shock us, which he has with his tasteless metaphors and going on way too long in his comments. He adds nothing.

Jen said...

Hi Sue--

I agree with everyone's comments... and I was so shocked to see Ariane go home. Has Leah ever done anything well? and Ariane won like 2 or 3 challenges in a row...