Friday, January 30, 2009

Top Chef Fumbles

Carla is playing with Glad bags, so is she the one going home? Leah is cleaning up. She says, "I need to cook good food." Yeah, well, that hasn’t happened yet.

"There’s no room left for error," says Hosea.

They start the Quickfire. Padma is with a cute guy, oh, Scott Conant. He got 3 stars from the New York Times last July for Scarpetta. She explains something about squares and football.
Oh gosh, this is going to be complicated.

They have to write their names in a certain square and that determines what they’re cooking. Fabio says, "There is no reason to eat vegetables when there is meat and fish around.” Padma reveals the key ingredient that they all have to use - OATS. I guess that's why she calls it the Quaker Oats Quickfire challenge. What this has to do with the Super Bowl, I'll never know.

"He can’t quiet the creative monkeys," Carla says about Jeff. They rush around.

The Quickfire Dishes:

Stefan – Dairy
Banana Mousse with Quaker Oats & Oat-Almond Petit Four

We don't hear Scott's reaction to it.

Fabio – Vegetables
Quaker Oats–Crusted Eggplant with Corn & Parmesan Salad
Fabio is upset with Scott’s reaction.

Carla – Nuts & Grains
Pecan & Quaker Oats –Crusted Tofu with Oatmeal & Lentil Salad

Scott: “What was the tofu marinated in?”

Jamie – Fruits
Coconut & Quaker Oats -Crusted Shrimp, Nectarine Salsa & Avocado Crème Fraiche

Scott: “What else is in the crust?”

Hosea – Meat
Quaker Oats–Crusted Wiener Schnitzel with Warm Potato Salad & Mustard Sauce
Scott: “Thank you,” and shakes his hand.

Leah – Seafood
Quaker Oats–Crusted Branzino & Mussels with Escarole & Bacon
Scott wants to know what the inspiration is for the bacon with the escarole. Leah says, “I love bacon.” Deep.

Jeff – Poultry
Quaker Oats–Crusted Chicken Paillard, Grits & Fried Zucchini

The Losers:

Padma asks Scott who fumbled.
Leah had a good idea, but it wasn’t executed properly. In Fabio’s dish, he only tasted the oats. Scott said Jeff’s dish was very brown looking and heavy.

The Winners:
Carla did a great job bringing in the tofu. Jamie’s shrimp was cooked perfectly. Stefan’s dish had great texture and great flavor combinations.

Stefan wins. He pretends to be surprised, but then reminds us that he’s won 5 challenges in a row.

For the Elimination Challenge, they're told that there’s a surprise in the Stew Room. Oh, yeah, that’s what they call that room. They each get football jersey-ed chef’s coats in honor of the Super Bowl. Leah wants to cook for Tom Brady because he’s hot.

Back in the kitchen, they find out about the Top Chef Bowl. The opposition is a bunch of former Top Chef All-Stars. Spike and Andrew are there along with Josie(?) Andrea, Camille(?), Nikki - "the human pasta machine" and Miguel from season one.

Jamie says she’s a little intimidated.

Each Season Five chef will compete against a former Cheftestant. They pick teams according to ingredients that match different football teams’ home cities.

Stefan gets to pick his competitor first. He picks Andrea. Fabio says,“She really doesn’t cook nothing but vegetables.” The rest of them huddle to choose ingredients. It’s a little confusing.

Somehow chefs are chosing ingredients and who they're cooking against. I just know that Carla is going head to head against Andrew and that they have 2 hours to plan a dish.

Jamie’s mind goes blank. She has no idea what to do. Jeff is cooking against Josie and the Miami Dolphins is his team. Josie played for a professional football team. (?!?) How did she do that? They’re doing a bunch of cooking, which I guess is just a test for tomorrow. This is not making all that much sense.

Spike says that all the anxiety of being on Top Chef is coming back. Fabio says, "This is not cooking, it’s rushing.” Oh, and he mentions monkey ass again this week…he must really love it.

Andrew is gross. Leah sounds really bored as she says New York has no regional cuisine.

Stefan says maybe Andrea finally learned to cook since she left Top Chef. I’m not finding this all that interesting. The commercial with Stephanie and some homely guy in a weird hat is not holding my attention either. I do love the Dr Pepper commercial with the “Where everybody knows your name” song. Too cute.

It's the next day. They wake up. Hosea is stressing out about cooking his dish. Fabio can’t believe that he’s 30 years old and he has to sleep in a bunk bed. His Mama is sick and he needs the prize money to pay for her care. Stefan mocks Carla for meditating and “getting centered”. He is a jerk. They put on their chef’s coats with names and numbers on the back and arrive at ICE for the challenge.

They’re in a dem kitchen with culinary students for the first Top Chef Bowl. These are the rules. They’re almost as confusing as football’s:

1) Two chefs cook per Round
2) Judges’ vote scores A touchdown (7 points) What does that mean?
3) Fan tasters’ vote scores a Field Goal (3 points) Huh? Maybe this will be made clearer as they proceed.

Padma does look cute in her football jersey. The judges are there. Toby looks really snarly and bored. Scott looks hot and Tom is Tom. (Shave!)

Round 1 is Nikki versus Leah. There’s cheering from the audience which includes the chefs who have been eliminated. Why is Padma standing right there as they cook? Each pair is cooking at the same time on opposite ends of the dem bench. They have to finish in 20 minutes.

Nikki: Chicken Livers with Onions & Goat Cheese on Challah
Leah: NY Strip with Creamed Corn, Snap Peas & Arugula Salad

The votes: Padma picks Leah’s. Toby picks Nikki’s. Hey, what happens with a tie? Scott picks Leah’s and so does Tom. The five “fans” voted 3 to 2 for Nikki (are you still with me?), so Leah has 7 points and wins freedom from elimination and Nikki contributes 3 points to her team.

Wait, I have another question. What happens if all of this season’s chefs win in the individual cook-off? Then how do they eliminate anyone? I suppose this is set-up, so that won’t happen.

Hosea is next, cooking against Miguel. Hosea thinks Miguel is doing too much and he (Hosea) keeps saying he feels good about his dish. So he’ll probably lose and complain about it.

Hosea: Crispy Salmon Roll with Ginger-Blackberry Sauce (That makes me want to have dessert. Of course, most things make me want to have dessert.)
Miguel: Cedar Plank Salmon with Noodles & Mushrooms
Padma: Hosea. Toby: Hosea. Scott: Hosea. Tom has to be contrary. He votes for Miguel. The fans vote for Hosea unanimously.

Carla is worried because the two current-season chefs before her have won. Carla says she knows NOTHING about football. She seems to be more scattered than usual.

Carla: Crayfish & Andouille Gumbo over Stone-Ground Grits
Andrew: Crayfish Crudo with A Spicy Lime Vinaigrette

The judges all vote for Carla. She doesn’t win the fan vote, but that’s okay. The All-Stars are still ahead.

Stefan kisses Andrea at the beginning and tells us that of course he will beat her. She says she likes spicy food like her men. Stefan says he’s in love with her. “Call me”, he says. Eww.

Stefan: Roasted Pork with Coleslaw & NY Steak with Corn Salad
Andrea: Tex-Mex Chili with Fried Corn Chips & Guacamole Coleslaw

These are the votes - Padma: Andrea. Toby: Andrea. Scott: Stefan. Tom: Stefan.
The fans break the tie. They prefer Andrea’s dish. Stefan’s not so in love with her anymore.

Andrew mocks Stefan’s accent (really well.) Hosea is happy that Stefan lost. Jamie is opposite Camille. Jamie thinks her dish is weird.

Camille: Miso Sweet Potato Mash with Mustard Crab Meat & Salad
Jamie: Crab Cioppino with Olives, Basil & Toasted Sourdough

Padma: Jamie. Toby: Jamie. Scott: Camille. Tom: Camille
The fans break the tie and vote for Jamie.

Jeff versus Josie
Josie: Warm Rock Shrimp Ceviche with Papaya
Jeff: Rock Shrimp Ceviche with Sangria Sorbet

Only Padma votes for Jeff. The fans also preferred Josie’s. Jeff is a big loser. Ok, so he’s the one going home, I bet.

Fabio says let’s get ready to rumble. The score is All Stars: 26 Home Team: 34. So if he loses big, their team JUST loses. He’s cooking against Spike.

Fabio is cooking venison in honor of the “hunting thing that’s going on in Wisconsin” and cheese in honor of the state's cheese-making. He asks Spike what cheese is in HIS dish to honor Wisconsin cheese-making. Spike says he doesn’t have any cheese. "If your food is big like your mouth, you win for sure," says Fabio.

Spike: Five-Spice Venison with Port Reduction & Micro Herb Salad
Fabio: Venison with Mustard Sauce & Mache Salad with Cheddar

Padma: Spike. Toby: Fabio. Scott: “Fabio overcooked that poor venison” He thinks Spike nailed it, so he votes for Spike. Tom really liked Fabio's sauce, but said the venison was already dead and it wasn’t necessary to kill it again. He votes for Spike. The fans go with Fabio, so he loses the round, but the Home Team wins with 37 points and the All Stars have 33 points.

The judges don't go into detail about what they thought about the dishes, but it seems that Fabio’s was the worst cooked. Are you as uninterested as I am? This week's episode has no verve.

In the coming up next clip, before the commercial, they show Fabio tangling with Scott at Judge’s table, ending with Scott saying, “I’M the judge, not you.” Uh-oh.

I just figured out why Stephen Starr seemed so nice and encouraging. He isn’t a chef. I guess it’s his job, among a million other things, to keep his chefs happy, so he’s a bit more supportive. Of all the judges, guest and otherwise (I’m not including Padma, who, until this episode, I didn’t even know was a full fledged judge) Stephen was the most encouraging. Of course, Toby isn’t a chef either, but that doesn’t keep him from being nasty.

Leah rubs it in and says to Stefan “I can’t believe you lost to Andrea.” Hosea says (to us) that whichever of the three losing chefs get axed, it makes his chances better, because they’re all “incredible” cooks.

Padma calls in the winning chefs. Why are all three girls wearing strange looking headbands? Tom says, "Nice Work." Toby thought Carla’s dish tasted really authentic. AND he said he “tasted the love”. Tom said they really, REALLY enjoyed it.

Tom thought Hosea’s dish was cooked excellently. Scott too. Toby liked that you didn’t need utensils to eat it, which is perfect when you’re watching a football game. (Why is he wearing yellow-tinted glasses?) Tom liked the dish too, even though he didn’t vote for it. Scott says he likes the way Jamie cooks. Leah said her dish was simple.

Scott announces the winner: Carla. Yay!

Scott tells her she’s won two tickets to the Super Bowl!!!!!! She yelps, “SHUT UP!!!” (I’d take a prize like that and put it on Ebay and get 2 tickets to Maui.) Touchdown!, she tells us. I’m not sure what Ba-Dow Ba-Dow means.

When Stefan hears what the prize is, profanity ensues. The three go in. Padma tells them seriously that one of them is going home.

They start with Fabio, who immediately admits that the meat was overcooked (when they tasted it). He sliced the meat, he says, and put it on top of hot cabbage and THAT overcooked it, because his dish was tasted second. He said it was beautifully pink when he sliced it.

Obviously Fabio should have taken the wait time into account, but I actually do feel for him. There IS a world of difference between tasting something at first and then tasting it 5 to 10 minutes later. Stuff does continue to cook after it leaves the pot, skillet or grill...but I suppose he’s supposed to know that.

Do I think he should go home for that? No, because I like him. But if that truly IS the most poorly executed dish of the week, then HE’S dead meat, right along with his venison.

Tom refuses to believe that it was medium rare when it went on the plate. Scott says INTENTIONS have nothing to do with anything and the only thing that matters is what’s on the plate in front of him. He wants Fabio to admit making a mistake, which he refuses to do. OY, this is not good.

Then Scott goes on to blast the other elements of the dish – the greens were wilted, the cheese had no acid. His goose is cooked…THEN Fabio argues back, "ACID with Cheese?! Puleez." Uh-oh, I don’t think you wanna be dissing the judge…"Take it easy," Scott says, "I’M the judge here, not you!" This is turning into a smackdown. And Scott goes on to say that everyone always wants to make great food and “You FAILED to make a perfect dish. That’s not our fault, that’s YOUR fault.” Awright already, we get the point. Even Tom is watching silently…

I did go back to look when Fabio first presented his dish and he’s actually saying that the meat was more cooked than he wanted it to be. So he was completely lying to the judges, which is fine when you’re trying not to be eliminated. Plus it’s not like he’s lying ABOUT anyone else or taking THEM down…l will be shocked if it’s not Fabio going home.

Even Stefan looks apprehensive when they get to him. Toby says his problem was that the dish was uninspired. Stefan is so cowed by the exchange between Fabio and Scott that he says, “I apologize. Sorry.”

Scott said there should have been more flavor and that the ironic thing was he had CHOSEN to cook against Andrea. Tom smirks and says, "You thought she was going to be weak.” WELL, YEAH!!! He’s not going to choose to cook against Escoffier if he has the chance to cook against the Colonel, is he?

This is getting nasty and dumb. There must be a problem when I feel I have to defend Stefan. And to his credit, he completely refused to engage the judges.

On to Jeff. He goes into a lengthy explanation about how he was trying to create a more fine dining dish and when he saw plastic plates, he was a bit put off. Tom is put off by that explanation and doesn’t understand what a plastic plate has to do with it. Again, I do sort of understand what Jeff is saying. Plastic plates are one kind of dining experience and eating off china is another. However THIS WAS a Superbowl challenge, so he's lucky they weren't eating out of cheeseheads.

He digs himself into a hole even further when he says he got beaten by a hot bean ceviche, as if he was above making that kind of dish. Tom says he got beaten by the fact that his dish wasn’t as flavorful. Jeff goes on to say he did about 19 more things than she did – a cilantro sauce, blah blah. I think he better stop or this isn’t going to go well for him. But, actually it's okay, because I’d prefer him going home than Fabio, so keep talking, Jeff. Finally Tom says his dish was “a watered down version of ceviche”.

Tom admits, when the chefs have left the room, that the 3 on the chopping block are among their stronger competitors. Scott repeats that Stefan’s salad was dreadful. Padma says it was abominable. Goodness.

Toby amazingly defends Fabio, saying he was dealt the most difficult hand. Scott isn’t having any of it. He says they CHOSE what they wanted to do. Tom blasts Jeff for complaining that Josie’s dish wasn't a real ceviche, while his wasn't either and that he POACHED his shrimp. Mon Dieu!

I don’t like the judges this week, but I have to say I was completely bored and uninterested in the outcome UNTIL Fabio started arguing with Scott. Let's see what they do.

Commercial for fan favorite. Who do you think should win? I think I’ll vote for Ariane.

Tom reiterates what the challenge was and what they didn’t like about each dish. And going home is… JEFF!!! Wow, I would have been happy with that any other week, but tonight I didn’t think any of them should go home. THEN Fabio opens his mouth again. Don’t do it! He says he believes in second chances and tonight he got the biggest one of this life.

Jeff says he has a problem keeping it simple (as if the rest of them suck for being TOO simple.) He’s very disappointed and says it’s going to stick with him for at least a decade. I wonder how he feels now.

They better perk up future episodes, or pick their competitors better. This season, no one is sickeningly obnoxious. No one is an obvious prodigy in the kitchen. No one is drop dead gorgeous. No one is creepy and scary. And I guess it IS looking as if it will be a showdown between Jamie and Stefan.


Anonymous said...

Jeff is stupid b/c he always seems so surprised when they say "you have too much going on." Dude, you get the same comment every week. It doesn't matter how many ingredients your dish has, it only matters that it tastes good. he screwed himself by whining about Josie not really making ceviche, when he didn't do it himself either.

And Stefan is a tool. I love how Tom called him out on the "you chose her b/c you thought she was weak."

Sue said...

Hi Amy,
It's weird that this was the one week when Jeff didn't bother me and Stefan didn't either (at the end). I thought Tom was the jerk to say that. Isn't it obvious that's what you'd do? Pick the weakest competitor. Having said that, Stefan is probably the most unlikable competitor of the group.

Jen said...

Hi Sue-- I agree that this episode was just sort of blah... the whole format bothered me as with the top chef bowl there was too much going on for them to focus on the cooking and the food and the voting for each dish seemed mostly arbitrary (especially in the audience). And- I keep waiting for Leah to go home since she never does anything exciting food wise but still manages to stay on the show.

Anonymous said...

I think Tom would've have said what he did, except when the guest judge (who was also kind of a jerk, I thought) pointed out the "irony" of Stefan picking and losing to Andrea, Stefan tried to say he did so b/c she was nice, and fun, etc.

Sue said...

I couldn't agree with you more.

Hi Amy,
Stefan is jerky, but I don't hold it against him that he picked who he thought was the easiest competitor. I think that was just smart, and yeah, it had nothing to do with the fact that she was nice.