Thursday, July 16, 2009

My Dream Has Come True – Michael FINALLY Appears On Top Chef Masters – Part One

I’m seriously demented. I am so excited by this episode that I wrote MANY different headlines. I settled on the one above, because I didn’t want to come across as a stalker. Although if you read a few of my many MC posts – especially the early ones - I probably do sound stalkeresque.

These were a few of the discards:

I’ve Waited Weeks For Michael Chiarello To Be On Top Chef Masters – Maybe Even My Whole Life (I definitely come off a bit scary there.)

Finally! The Chef I’ve Been Waiting WEEKS For On Top Chef Masters – Michael Chiarello (I didn’t like all those prepositions.)

Presenting Michael Chiarello - The Hottest Chef In The Universe On Top Chef Masters! (Sounds like he’s in a carnival…or a weight-lifting contest.)

By the way, I’m not the only one who has been eagerly awaiting this episode. MC has had viewing parties this week. I hope that means that he won.

One other thing - I wish I could tell you why I love Michael Chiarello so much. You know how sometimes there’s just a spark between people? Well, okay, I realize this is one-sided, but, in some ways, that makes it better. He can’t possibly disappoint me, because I love everything he does. He’s a cool, attractive, modern kinda guy. But I guess what I love most about him are his skillsbehind a stove. I love his tossy toss with the sauté pan. I love his eminently doable at-home recipes. I use, often daily, things I’ve learned from him. (Cook mushrooms on high, which I knew, and don’t salt them before they’re browned or they’ll steam, which I SHOULD have known.)

It’s starting! Ok, ok, we know all about Glad bags, let’s get to it.

Rick Moonen of RM Seafood in the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay Hotel is the first to walk in. Gael tells us he’s taken 3 NY restaurants to 3 star status - Oceana, Molyvos and RM Seafood. Tom says he’s dedicated to conservation issues. His charity is the The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association.

Nils Norén comes in next. He’s VP of Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute. Tom fills us in that the Swedish chef worked under Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit. Nils loves training the next generation of chefs. He’s competing for the Friends Of The FCI.

Lachlan Patterson comes out next and wants to know why the other two get the stations right in front of the stoves. Rick says it’s because they’re old and he’s not. Lachlan (Mackinnon-Patterson is the name on his restaurant’s website and everywhere else, for that matter) is the Chef at Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado. He tells us about his James Beard Award and winning best new chef from Food and Wine when he was 28 years old. Jay tells us that he got some of his training with Thomas Keller. His charity is the Denver Children’s Hospital.

Finally, Michael appears! I can barely contain myself. I want to watch the whole thing in slow-mo just to savor every moment. It would be funny if I transcribed every single word he says. Let’s see if I have the patience:

“I’m Michael Chiarello from the Napa Valley. I own Bottega Restaurant.”

Okay, I’m not going to write down each word he utters, but I will be watching with eagle eyes. Michael says he wanted to be a chef since he was a kid. He chef-ed for awhile and then he “stepped back” and did the television chef thing, but now he’s back and loving it.

Jay (foreigner Jay, how does he even know my Mikie?) says that since Michael been out of the restaurant world for so long, he may feel he has the most to prove. EXCUSE ME! I STILL remember the heavenly risotto I had at Tra Vigne when he was the chef. I have no idea if it was his actual hands on it, but the fact that he was the chef then and I still remember it over 15 (close to 20?) years later says that Michael has nothing to prove except that he’s the best!

He’s competing for Clinica Olé, just as Cindy Pawlcyn did. He says he came to win.

Kelly comes in and tells them their Quickfire Challenge is using junk food. MC says, “C’mon, you’re killing me.” Yup, their challenge is to create a fine dining experience out of the junk food. They draw knives.

Mike draws Number One. Yeah!!! Go MC!!! I have no idea what that means, but he’s happy, so I am too. OH, he gets to pick first from the junk food table. That IS good. He picks fish sticks.

Lachlan is next. He picks the hot dog. Rick says his first two choices are gone, so he goes with the corndog. Nils goes with the fried shrimp. No one took the Twinkies?!! What wrong with these guys? (Not Michael, of course.)

The judges for this Quickfire have very strong opinions, Kelly says. Oh NO! They’re not bringing back the girl scouts, are they?! Especially the redheaded one??! Please tell me that isn’t true.

Oh my, they may wish it were the girl scouts. One of the judges is the ever flip-outable, Jeff Lewis, from Flipping Out(REAL quality television. I wish I were kidding. I wonder what’s happened to him since the real estate market crashed.) Oh, his crew is there - Jenni (LOVE Jenni), the truly cute Ryan (he’s spoken for) and Carrie ,his real estate agent, who, if I remember correctly, married Jeff’s brother. I digress.

Michael says (to us) that it’s hard enough having a critic judge your food, but having someone that doesn’t know about food is even tougher. Kelly says they have 45 minutes to turn junk into genius. THAT to me is the toughest part - the speed with which they have to work.

They run to the pantry. Lachlan is amazing with what he wants to accomplish in that time. He’s making a sausage and using it in a stew. Rick is making a shrimp hot dog in a cornmeal batter. Wait! I’m confused. Do they have to USE their junk food item in their dish or make something that resembles it? Rick is funny. He says he loves working in a kitchen because he has such a short attention span (which he’s worked UP to 5 seconds) and there are always so many things to do.

Nils says he picked the shrimp because he likes to work with seafood. I’m really confused. It doesn’t look like any of them is using the junk food that they picked.

Lachlan says his biggest competition may be Michael, because he’s traveled so much in Italy and their styles are similar, but MC’s disadvantage, Lachlan says, is that he’s been away from a restaurant for so long. I’m not worried. I think Michael can take them with one hand tied behind his back. Oh, that was last week.

Michael says his dish should impress the judges. He says that in Italian cooking, it’s all about taking bits and pieces of fish, for example, and turning them into something wonderful.

Kelly goes out and sits down with the judges. Jeff says, with great seriousness, that he and Ryan are sooo busy that they don’t have time to sit down in a restaurant. He says he goes through a lot of drive throughs and he goes on to name every single fast food place in Southern California. He says,“We are white trash with money.”

The chefs rush. Rick is worried those he doesn’t have time to incorporate all the elements he wanted to. Lachlan loves his broth, but he’s worried that his sausage isn’t cooked. Nils is okay, because he says Swedes are very punctual and a 12:42 train leaves at 12:42. Rick is screwed because his corn dogs aren’t done. Oh, there’s a commercial for a new season of Flipping Out. It looks pretty darn great.

Luckily, MC clears up my confusion about the challenge.(Thanks, hon.) He says what Kelly should have – that the challenge is to cook a dish inspired by junk food. Rick is soooooooo mad at himself for not finishing and thus not having anything to present to the judges that he wishes he could disappear through a trap door.

Lachlan – Hot Dog

Prosciutto Stufado With Pork Sausage

Jeff looks at it, worried, and says “It IS cooked, right? It looks a little rare.” Carrie says the broth is good. Ryan (really, really, REALLY handsome Ryan) says that it’s all good, EXCEPT for the meat. That’s “the weird part.”

Michael – Fish Sticks

Swordfish Meatballs with Fisherman’s Sauce

Jenni is excited when this is put down, because she loves anything fried. Ryan is excited because he hasn’t had fish sticks since childhood. Jeff: “I like this one. I would keep eating this.” YAY!!!! Go TEAM MICHAEL!!! Jenni: There are three perfect balls and I like the color. Jeff giggles.

Nils – Fried Shrimp

Shrimp with Creamed Corn & Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

They’re blown away by the elegant presentation. Jeff: It’s very pretty. Ryan: It’s beautiful (so is he), but I don’t see the fried in the fried shrimp yet. Carrie says it doesn’t taste fried, it tastes boiled. This is SO going to go to Michael. Jenni likes the buttery crouton. Jeff: I find it a little plain without the tomato. Back in the kitchen, Nils says he guesses the interpretation of fine dining can vary.

Jeff is LIVID when he finds out that the 4th chef didn’t finish his dish. He would have had seconds of something else. Jeff is merciless to poor Rick Moonen as he says, “Didn’t he have 45 minutes to do this?” He feels like they got ripped off. Poor Rick, but I admit that I’M happy that MC only has 2 chefs to beat.

Rick says he’d like to see Jeff come to the kitchen and make a corndog in 45 minutes.

MC says what I just said. He says he feels bad for Rick, but now he has at least a 30% chance of winning. Actually, that’s a 33.333% chance.

Lachlan – 3 stars

He doesn’t look thrilled.

Nils – 3 stars

Rick – 0 stars

Michael – 4½ stars

He feels good. Do I or do I not know a little sumptin’ sumptin’ about what it takes to win Top Chef??? Michael is sooo going to win and reign triumphant. I just know it.

No comments: