Monday, July 27, 2009

Mel Astounds; Jeff's Dish Is Shocking And Debbie's Food Has No Spark

This week starts with the three of them getting ready in their Eden Roc Hotel suite. Melissa does have nice hair. I wonder if that means anything.

They go to Emeril’s Miami restaurant and the guy himself strolls out. He tells them about his great friend Julia and then starts talking about Julie and Julia . I’m dying to see it too. (How did those million people already get to see previews? I’m NOT dialing a radio station for 5 hours.) But what does this have to do with the price of eggs?

Emeril compares the three of them following their passion to Julia (and Julie). That’s a bit of a stretch, but anyway, they get to see a preview of the movie, which is cool. Then they have to cook a three course meal for 20 people and they have $1000 to shop AND they’ll be helped by sous-chefs to be revealed later. Gee, I wonder who they’ll be. They also have to do a dem about part of their menu. That’s a weird combo – to have a cook a huge meal AND demonstrate part of it. Is that at the same time?

They go shopping. Melissa exclaims when she finds a Morbier cheese. Her third course is “a cheese trio” with a salad and a sweet “pochette” Huh? Is that French for Hot Pocket?

Debby says she’s not taking a lot of risks with her menu and she’s just going to show them what Soul-to-Soul is all about?* What the hay is that?!! That sounds like a Tim Meadows/ Saturday Night Life skit.

She says when Julie makes boeuf bourguignon in the movie it reminds her of a Korean short rib dish.

If I had doubts about Jeffrey before (I mean about how much I dislike him and what a faker he is), I have a million times more now. He has just told us that he’s making a meal for “some of the most important people in the culinary world”. Jeffrey utters one little question which, if Bobby at least heard it, he would know for sure he’s not their man.

Before I say what that is, let me just review:

1) He has ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS with which to shop.


This is what he asks the employee at the supermarket:


Remember, he didn’t say beef stock. He definitely doesn’t have time to make that. He doesn’t have time to brown the bones, brown the veggies, add the water and boil, boil, boil and THEN clarify (through a crust of beaten whites, if he’s doing it right). He CERTAINLY doesn’t have time to make a demi-glace.

BUT do you know how much time it takes to make a fish stock? TWENTY MINUTES. In fact, you MUST NOT cook it for longer or it gets bitter.

If he’s making the most important meal of his life and depending on supermarket fish stock, it will definitely make its way into the final taste of the dish…which is not a good thing.

I am sooo fed up with Jeffrey. THEN he says “The bar is really high.” Not if YOU'RE still in the competition. He gets all worried in the checkout line that he’ll go over the thousand dollars. THEN we find out his total is $317.14. Putz.

The arrive at the venue and see a long table set up with all the name tags of the people who will be tasting their menus: François Payard , Marcus Samuelsson, the Neelys, Rick Bayless, John Besh, Emeril, Bobby, Morimoto, Tyler, Anne Burrell and Alex Guarnaschelli.

Debbie gets Michael, Melissa gets Jamika and Jeffrey gets Katie. (Good.)

Melissa’s Menu

Ratatouille & Potato Torte

Brick Herb Chicken With Orzo

Cheese Trio, Salad & Chocolate Orange Pochette

Melissa looks as if she doesn’t know how to handle a rolling pin and she’s rolling out pastry that looks like it’s 2 inches thick. She says she’s taking a risk doing two things with pastry, but if she’s going to go down, she wants to go down big. It sounds more like a badly conceived menu to me. Melissa tells us she connects with Julia (aka Meryl Streep), telling her viewers “Don’t be afraid.” She says she’s become fearless.

Debbie says her menu is “Debbie on a plate times ten.” Eww.

Debbie’s Menu

Chili-Rubbed Prawns

Kreen (Okay, Korean) Short Ribs & Crispy Grit Cake

Asian Pear Eggroll With Rum Butterscotch

Jeffrey’s Menu

Seared Scallop & Green Chile Chutney

Seafood Risotto

Chocolate Mousse With Biscotti

Do any of these folks understand about menu planning? If THIS is your one time to impress a bunch of foodies, are you really going to serve 2 seafood dishes, Jeffrey? Plus making risotto for 20 people in a high pressure situation (unless you’re a chef with lots of help) is not a good idea anyway. Let’s see if I eat my words.

Katie asks Jeffrey what his budget was and how much he spent. He says he’ll either be a hero or an idiot. (Guess which one I vote for?)

Michael is concerned that Debbie’s short ribs won’t be tender enough. She assures us that they will be, but when she says Kreens like to GNAW ON THEIR MEAT, I’m not sure that bodes well for her dish.

Jeffrey says about his risotto, “It’s fragile, it’s risky, but I’m going to go for it.” YOU don’t know what you’re doing, and I’M going to go with that. Katie and Debbie are worried about the risotto too. Debbie, you’ve got your own almost-certain-to-fail dish to worry about…

Melissa, with a definite orange-y looking fake tan (on her face), says this is the most important meal she has ever cooked. Well, putting 3 blobs of cheese on a plate with hot pockets probably might not have been the way to go.

Jamika (apparently) oversalts Melissa’s orzo. The potato torte is not browned. Mel decides to switch the starches and serve the orzo first and give the potato thing a little more time to sit.

Ooh, Sunny is there too. Melissa strides out and starts her presentation with a VERY confusing statement. “We shouldn’t fear failure, we should fear success at the wrong thing.” She wants “this job” (TNFNS), because it fits who she is and she says something about her mom and her two little girls and I’m wondering if she’s going to get the Spanish household thing in. If only she could change it to Swedish to appeal to Marcus.

She’s kind of blathering on as she talks about a holiday mother-daughter tea party they used to have and they would cook for MONTHS…and that’s where she learned to bring joy to people or something like that. And THEN, OMG, listen to this: “When I was in college, my mom committed suicide.”

I don’t even know what to say. To be honest, I can’t remember if we knew that already, but the folks at the table certainly didn’t. On a purely practical level, that statement completely negates all that talk about the sweet holiday parties.

Obviously, her mother was cooking herself into a total frenzy and…Wait, Melissa is STILL talking. "My mom killed herself and so I got good with getting a meal on the table, I went to business school", she says, "And climbed my way up the corporate ladder." Huh? We’re still trying to absorb that shocking statement and she’s going on and on with more information.

I actually think it was rather brave of Melissa to come out with that, especially since it obviously was a big part of making her who she is. And, boy, am I going to feel dumb if I wrote about it weeks ago and just forgot! I’m not sure, however, that the sudden and surprising way she brought it up will work to her advantage. But maybe…

The thing I DO object to is that she’s been selling herself as a mom and housewife and NOW she’s using the (really hackneyed) phrase “climbing the corporate ladder”, so she can add THAT group to her fan base. PLUS she’s talking really slowly AND loudly. She’s already lost me and I’m sure she’s losing those folks.

Well, I got it completely wrong…at least what the culinary folks think. Bobby says she’s thoughtful and poetic. Emeril is looking at her with a smile. Sunny is touched by her story. I guess I’m just a scrooge, but I know what she’s about to serve them and they don’t.

Then she says she has a mother-in-law from Nice (goodie, now the French can join her devotees), who taught her how to make a proper ratatouille. Pat Neely says the texture is good. Rick Bayless says the flavors are delicious.

Melissa gives a demo right there and then during the second course. She’s talking at them, while they’re eating her chicken and potato torte. Maybe it’ll take their minds off the crunchy potatoes. Rick again is complimentary. François says she was talking about a crust and he never saw a crust on his chicken AND his was overcooked. Sunny says her chicken was one of the dry ones, but she loved the potato dish.

Melissa says they always have cheese and a salad for dessert at her house. Remind me not to go there during blueberry season…or chocolate cake season…or when I'm needing some crème brulée.

Sunny and John LOVE the pastry. He says she’s an artisan…Well, so are the people that make steel radial tires. He says her ratatouille was incredible, the potato torte was an A plus, and the pastry was incredible. Marcus says she’s done a great job. Bob says he had to hunt through the salad to see what she made and he found the pastry. Alex says let’s get rid of the cheeses and bring on a big plate of those “cookies”.

Debbie comes bounding out and she says her folks emigrated here 60 years ago and ALL they knew how to make was fried chicken, greens and cornbread. HUH? They learned THAT in Kree-a and brought it here? Or does she mean they emigrated from North to South…Carolina. I have NO IDEA what she’s talking about.

She goes into something about blending her southern cooking with her grandmother’s Korean cooking. No one at the table can taste anything Korean in her first course. Tyler says it’s southwestern. Alex says they’re waiting to see her express her culture…but obviously, she hasn’t.

Debbie says the short ribs are served for special occasions. Gina says they taste a little bland. François says they’re tough. Rick likes it that they aren’t braised.

Dessert is served and she does a demo of her Asian pear eggroll. Pat loves the demo, Marcus loves the filling, but says the dough is raw. She says she’s sorry.

Jeffrey comes out. He demos his first course, scallops. Tyler loves the demo and the first course. He says it was flawless.

Jeffrey says the next course is as much his wife as it is him. (Don’t blame HER!) He says they’ve travelled many times to Italy and he gets blown away by the texture of the risotto. As he’s talking, he notices that people are looking at him kinda cross-eyed.

François says he likes his personality, but that the risotto is the worst he’s ever had in his life. THEN François says, “It’s like killing the Italian cooking.” Good one!

Marcus says, “You had me” with the first course, but that the risotto is “a disrespect to Italy”. Yeah! And I’m sure that bought fish stock didn’t help things.

Bobby says we gave you $1000. He asks how much he spent. Jeffrey says $370. Liar. Not that it matters. He’s so over. (Debbie would have been pilloried for that.)

He starts babbling about the dessert and how he and his daughter make biscotti over the weekend and how he likes mousse and that it fills his mouth with lots of flavor. He oughta fill his mouth with something (ANYTHING) and stop talking.

Alex interrupts him and says she thinks it’s just delicious and that she’s really connected to him. (Maybe she’s going through a dry spell or something). Tyler likes it and him too.

He leaves and they discuss. Anne likes his demo the most and says he was the most polished. Rick says Melissa’s food was the best. Emeril thinks she was gutsy to do what she did. Marcus reminds them she’s not a chef and that people can relate to that. Morimoto, a man of few words, “To ME, Debbie”.

Evaluation time. My prediction: Melissa is safe for sure. They HATED Jeffrey’s risotto, but they liked HIM. Debbie didn’t seem to have as many boosters. I will say…Debbie will go home.

Bob tells Melissa there’s only one word to describe her week after week: surprising. He tells her that François Payard said her pastry for dessert was amazing. (Do you have to keep rubbing in how very wrong I was?) Bobby didn’t think her demo was particularly good. Bob basically says she talks too much and she does have stuff to say, but she needs to edit. (Maybe the part about violent death should be the first thing to go.)

Bob says he was incredibly impressed with Jeffrey’s first course. But the judges all remark on the poor risotto and how little money he spent. Bobby says he should have thrown 5 lobsters in there and just made it unbelievably aromatic. Hello? FRESH fish (or shellfish) stock, anyone? Bob says if the meal had been better, the money wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it didn’t feel like a luxurious meal.

Bobby says Debbie came off just like Debbie. He says he wanted more flavor from her dishes. Bob says she has warmth and humor, but that her food was mixed bag (of good and bad, I guess). Bobby says he doesn’t want her to change soul-to-soul, but he wants to TASTE it.

Bob gives them a last chance to tell them anything they want to. Melissa does her gross marketing spiel about how there’s a market out there not being addressed. She brings in the 4 kids again. (In the dining room, she was a high powered career woman. Who uses those words anymore anyway?) And she adds, “Good news, I can cook.”

Debbie’s plea for staying is that she’s a human. Yup, that’s what she said. (I AM really loving this episode.) And that she can enjoy her life and who she is. And she adds something about loving America.

THEN she loses them even more when she says, “Not only do I represent the Koreans (and) the Americans. I think I understand the whole population! And I think I’M the person THEY want to study.” You mean like behind bars in a zoo? Susie actually grimaces. Debbie is definitely gone.

Jeffrey's defense for keeping him is that he won’t let them down.

The three leave the room and Bobby says Melissa has improved the most. Bob says she’s a wild card. I guess that’s a good thing? He says Jeffrey is strong. And, good, it seems like Bobby is with me. He says Jeffrey hasn’t shown a lot of range during the whole process. Susie and Bob think Debbie is “camera-ready”.

They come back in. Bobby says it wasn’t easy. He says Melissa has made it to the final two. Knew it! Jeffrey is staying. Debbie is gone!!! She thanks them graciously. I didn’t think she was terrible this week, but since she should have been given the heave-ho weeks ago, it was lucky she made it this long.

Jeffrey and Melissa talk on the balcony of the hotel. Melissa, throw him off! Then you could add felons to your fan club.

*My VERY intelligent reader, Kathy, pointed out below that Debbie probably meant Seoul to Soul. That DOES makes A LOT more sense.


Sheila said...

I think Mel's got it. However, I wouldn't be surprised if they both get a show... kinda like last season. I might even watch a Melissa show :thud: at least a few times.

A_and_N said...

I didn't see this episode :|

While I'm glad Debbie's gone ( more than ecstatic- I baked a dessert at 11.15 in the honour of Debbie's leaving. Don't judge me) I'm not happy with M or J. yeah, J too :(

I'm tired of Melissa's self encouraging speeches, and her stories. This time was French, is it? So,does this mean she has a story for every occasion. doesn't matter if its true or not?

Jeffrey - he's lost my respect I think. I dunno nothing about fishstock, but I think he is over confident and what not.

And who u rooting for at the TopChef? Apart from MC, of course ;)

DebCarol said...

Well it comes down to who is more (less) annoying; Melissa or Jeffrey. I was also a bit blown away by Mel's story about her Mom - but it felt like she was saving that to pull out at the exact right time. Biggest cringe moment for me - when Debbie babbled about "Debbie on a plate" - yikes what a mental picture!

Adam said...

Sue, you pretty much had me laughing this entire review. It was great having you pick apart Jeff and Melissa (and that mom suicide thing is weird for her to talk about). I didn't see the episode, but it's crazy hearing about how it's who messes up the least in this competition. I don't seem to impressed with any of the finalists. And they are all humans :)

Kris said...

I watch the show and then read your blog to get your insights into an episode. It's nice to get a different perspective on things! Thanks!

Personally, Debbie rubbed me the wrong way since episode 1- don't know exactly why! Maybe it was the "Kreen" thing, maybe personality, maybe her point of view? Later on it was the lying that just put me over the top. I know it's a competition and every "man" for themself etc., but one should still have ethics. After all, once the winner has their own show, the viewers will remember back won't they? You can't just say anything to win, right? This isn't one of those
VH1 reality shows!
Don't even get me started on that other fellow (can't recall his name) that got the ax a few weeks ago. He had some truth issues also.

I'm not sure who I favor to win, if I had to make a guess I'd say Melissa. She's a little over the top personality wise, but if she would tone it down to a degree perhaps I'd watch her show. (If she had one!) Just wondering... could she not have just said her Mom died, why did she have to mention the suicide thing? (Sympathy ploy?)

Jeffrey- boy, if I were given $1000
to shop with I sure would have used
most of the money! His demo was good though, His mannerisms appeal to me whereas Melissa gets on my nerves a bit! His food always seems the same though.

Thanks for allowing me to vent here- my husband doesn't get into this show and non of my friends watch it either! Nice to have a place to discuss!

Sue said...

I'm with you. I think the Jeffrey train has stalled at the station and Melissa's still going strong.

Hiya A and N,
Judge you? I think you're awesome.

Interesting about Mel. So you think she was holding back that story for the right time? Although I must say I'm not sure when the right time would ever be...Maybe it's such a tough story to tell that she only wanted to tell it once and for maximum impact.

Jeffrey has been a thorn in my side since our first glance of him over-pronouncing "achiote".

Top Chef? Michael is certainly at the top of my list. (ANY list.) But I can see Rick Moonen and Art Smith doing well and Hubert has the chops to get far.

Jeffrey is DEFINITELY more annoying, although Melissa does register at least a three on the painful meter.

You also think Melissa was saving that story? Hmm. Could be.

YES! "Debbie on a plate" was a little too vivid for me as well!

THIS was a VERY entertaining episode. I'm glad that came across. Yeah, it seems to be down to who makes fewer mistakes and not who excells at something.

And I, like you, was happy to learn that Debbie, at least, was human. Jeffrey? Not so sure.

Are you me? You were irritated by Debbie from the beginning. You hated Teddy. You think Jeffrey should have spent all of his money (although I have NO positive reactions to him whatsoever) AND your husband doesn't watch the show. (MY husband had never even HEARD of the Food Network). Please come back anytime and tell me what we're thinking.

Kris said...

LOL Sue!
Nope, I'm not you- you seem to be a MUCH better cook than I !!!

Kathy said...

I am guessing that Debbie's Soul-to-Soul is actually Seoul-to-Soul -- Korea to the South.

Sue said...


I'm so dumb! Of course, that what it is! Not that it makes it any better, since her Krean food (including that boiled tough meant this week) has been underwhelming.

Emily said...

Great review! I just watched this!

Ahaha - I cracked up when I read about Debbie bounding into the room. Perfect choice in words. I didn't get her dishes.. the south meets Korea? She should just stick to Korean food. Oh well. She's gone now.

Shays Rebel said...

I wonder if Mel made that saying up – “We shouldn’t fear failure, we should fear success at the wrong thing” – thinking it sounded “deep” or “wise” rather than “stupid.” I’m still working on “We have nothing to feah but feah itself” so I’m not good with clever sayings.

“Climbing the corporate ladder” is just Mel’s way of saying “I had a stanky old job like everybody else” and at least she left out the “glass ceiling.” So there I was climbing the corporate ladder when I bumped my head on a glass ceiling which knocked me back down whereupon I landed on a stove and that’s when I knew I wanted to cook so I went to France just like Julia Child (I’m just like her) and here I am! Thank you for inventing this show just for me, plus I have four kids.

And Debbie, with her demonstration. Oh, please. Who DOESN’T know how to make an egg roll? You just push it, wow, thanks Debbie.

Really, I was impressed by their presentations. If you ignore the nonsensespeak, they all looked professional (to me), and they didn’t look scared or nervous. I can’t imagine talking in front of a group of chefs as they ate my food, let alone giving them a how-to presentation. I cried when I had to give a book report.