Monday, August 10, 2009

Top Chef Masters - From An Enormous Hamburger To Rice Milk Ice Cream

The week has gotten away from me. But, MC, please know that I watched every single second of you last week on Top Chef. Here’s the proof:

They called Michael a maestro as they introduce all the chefs. I like that.

They come into the Top Chef kitchen greeted by a huge table, laden with hamburgers and French fries. Art is afraid they’ll have to cook from those actual ingredients.

The Quickfire is all about burgers, Kelly says, with her hair looking particularly thick and luxurious. Rick tells us that when he makes them for his family they never turn out. Hubert tells the group that he has a $5000 dollar Fleur Burger (with a wine pairing) on his menu. I hope that price tag includes the table it’s served on…AND the chair.

I have to say I didn’t like my Mikey joking with Hubert about his Frenchness and then saying (to us) in a fake French accent that Hubert has worked in more Michelin starred restaurants than Michael has eaten at. First of all, HE doesn’t have to feel at all inferior to Hubert and secondly, let’s face it, in the kitchen, being French is a huge advantage.

Kelly introduces the judges as Art says he smells a rat - a big one. The judges are Spike Mendelsohn from season 4 Top Chef and owner of the DC burger joint, Good Stuff Eatery, Sang Yoon of Father’s Office – voted best burger on The Today Show and Morgan Spurlock, maker of the fabulous Super Size Me documentary.

We’ll have to find out if it matters that Rick judged Spike in season 4. (Oh good, the judges don’t know whose burgers they’ll be tasting.) The chefs have one hour to create a burger and side dish. Anita says she’s tired. Michael says there’s a lot of pressure as he makes a 2½ lb burger(!) Rick is doing 3 different flavors of guacamole.

Art is making a hoe cake to go with the burger. Hubert is under pressure because he sells over a thousand burgers a day. Anita is doing something outside of the burger box…Hmmm, will she be the genius this week or the goat? Michael’s burger is HUGE!

Rick - Queso Fundido Burger With Trio Of Guacamole

Sang: “You had me at guacamole.” I feel the same way! Morgan likes the flavor and Sang (I think) says you don’t need three dishes of guacamole. Spike agrees. Rick is outraged because it doesn’t seem as if they know those are 3 DIFFERENT guacamoles. Morons!

Art - Cornmeal Hoecake Burger With Fried Green Tomatillos & Coleslaw

These chefs are AWESOME! Do you REALLY think they do this all in an hour? It’s really amazing. It would take me a half hour to walk over to the fridge, stand in front of it and look inside to see what I wanted to make.

Spike says Art’s is bursting with flavor. He says he wouldn’t change a thing and that this represents who the chef is and he loves it.

Michael - “Hamburgese Enorme” With Truffle Manchego Potato Chips

The judges laughingly call it an interactive burger, because they can cut off however much they want and serve it themselves. Morgan: “Great burger, pretty delicious.” Sang: It has “the flavor of a great steak”. Spike loves it too. Hold on! Is there any burger (anywhere!) that Spike wouldn’t love?

Anita - Cheddar Soup With Grilled Burger, Ketchup Crouton & Bacon Fried Onion Rings

Incredible! It takes longer than an hour just to SAY everything that Anita is making!

Ooh, trouble. As it’s put down and they see it’s not a standard burger, Morgan says, “Uh-oh!” Some of their not-so-great comments: “Burger shake.” “It’s like a wish burger. You WISH there was a burger.” “Boiled meat.” Sang says he appreciates creativity but “when you think of a burger, you think of something soul-satisfying.“ These fellows obviously did not get Anita’s higher level of thinking that went along with her cooking.

Hubert - Beef & Roquefort Cheeseburger With Caramelized Onions & Rustic Potatoes

Sang: “This is visually very appetizing.” Morgan: “Like a tower of fun.” I don’t remember any other judges having this much fun and getting into the challenge as much.

Sang likes the cheese, Morgan does too, but he thinks the cheese is overpowering the taste of the burger. Spike says it’s lacking in wow factor. Hubert suggests to his fellow chefs taking Spike up to the roof and Rick suggests pushing him off.

Hubert is disappointed by the comment, because he says people just LOVE that burger at the restaurant.

The scores:

Hubert 3 stars

Art 3½ stars

Anita 1½ stars

Michael 4 stars

Rick 4 stars

Rick is pleasantly surprised.

For the Elimination Challenge, they learn they’ll be catering a lunch party for Zooey Deschanel. Art says (again) I smell a rat. Zooey sends them a video message.

She tells them she’s a vegetarian and doesn’t eat meat, fish, eggs or dairy. The chefs yell out VEGAN! with the same gusto as if they were saying INFIDEL! THEN she says she’s gluten intolerant and eats no soy. Art: I WAS RIGHT! Vegan AND allergies!!! Quelle Horreur! They have to make a vegan lunch for 20 diners. Each chef has to make one dish.

Anita is at quite a disadvantage on account of her Quickfire low score. There is no way she can NOT go home, is there? They decide quickly and without dispute (THEY are such professionals) who is going to do which course.

Michael says to us this challenge is like thinking “of everything you love to cook and then just say no. No beef, no seafood, no dairy, no pasta. It’s off-putting to say the least.” Zooey DOES have magnificent looking skin.

Art isn’t comfortable making a vegan main course, so he decides to go with dessert. He BOUGHT a “beautiful” rice milk ice cream, which I guess he’ll serve with sticks or something (oh wait, sticks probably have too much bark on them). I don’t think that fake ice cream was a good choice.

Rick helps Michael out with some vegetable advice.

They have 2 hours to prep. Michael says he’s only done ONE other vegan meal in his life and it was for Hillary and he found out only just before that it was to be vegan.

They’re so clever. EVERYTHING sounds really good. Who needs dead flesh anyway?

Rick is worried (too!) that Art bought the rice ice cream. Art added some strawberry puree to it to try to rescue the flavor. I don’t see that being successful. I sure hope I’m wrong.

Michael helps Hubert to finish.

Zooey comes into the kitchen and thanks the chefs for cooking for her. Michael says she has to sing a few songs for them. (She’s sweet, but she doesn’t).

Folks arrive to lunch. All the Hollywood types are in black. Zooey says only her mom cooks for her.

Michael’s plates are about to fall off the table in the kitchen and Hubert helps him. Then as the waiters are serving Hubert’s plates with the little shooter glasses, they drop them and some break. Luckily, he had 2 extra. Dieu merci!


White Gazpacho With Grapes And Vanilla Oil

Timbale Of Avocado & Asparagus, Roasted Beet Salad

That timbale is thing of beauty. These chefs are superhuman.

Zooey LOVES the soup. The diners, in general, don’t like the avocado. Gael said the beet salad was extraordinary.


Spicy Grilled Eggplant With Lentil Salad & Cashew Sauce

The eggplant looks like an overly grilled sausage (or something worse) and it looks dry. The cashew sauce, which could be fabulous, is just a smear on the plate. She DID manage to plate the lentil salad into a square.

Zooey says the eggplant is a little too spicy. Her peeps says it's too spicy as well.


Quinoa Pasta With Salsa Verde & Pine Nut Gremolata, Tomatoes & Crispy Basil Leaf

Does that sound too simple and with not enough elements? I hope they think it’s rockin’.

Michael comes out and is sooo charming. He really has such a winning smile and way about him. He’s such a complete package, by which I mean he has cooking chops AND charm.

Zooey really likes the pasta. It's just like coming home her mother and she say at about the same time. Gael says it’s her first time having quinoa pasta and she loves it. James says he cooked it well – as dente. Zooey wants to hug him. ME too! Michael is definitely staying this week. I can relax now.


Sweet Corn Tamales With Chili-Braised Black Beans, Braised Greens & Glazed Mushrooms

Zooey: “These are probably the best tamales I’ve ever had.” Gael: “So many things to taste.” “So nicely spiced,” Zooey says. “Really lovely”, she continues.


Strawberry & Champagne Soup, Strawberry Rice Ice Cream & Almond Brittle

Zooey says she loves ice cream, but she says she’s had better vegan ice cream and then everyone starts dumping on the ice cream. ART! We all told you! Jay says he should have gone for sorbet. Zooey said the whole dinner was lovely.

Hubert says all five of them should win.

Michael says Rick reminds him of the professor on Gilligan’s Island. Art says he’s such a perfectionist. Rick admits he is absolutely meticulous.

At Critics Table:

Of Hubert, Gael says there was a kind of gasp of appreciation and that she was wildly in love with the gazpacho. “The avocado in the middle felt like a lull,” Jay says.

James is surprised that Anita’s eggplant had not been fried. She doesn’t give an inch. She says she soaked it in oil overnight. Jay says the people at the table criticized that the two main ingredients weren’t brought together and that the cashew cream wasn’t enough to do it.

Anita says almost sullenly that it’s subjective. I think she isn’t too interested when you don’t get her food. Gael says the plate was sad looking. Anita says she didn’t want to overcomplicate the dish. Is it becoming clearer that she’s going home? It is to me.

James says admiringly that Michael seems very confident. (Well, most hot men ARE!) Michael says Italian food doesn’t have to rely on meat. The critics like his dish a lot. Jay asks him about buying the pasta instead of making it. You can tell MC thinks they’re insane for questioning that, because in Italy chefs always buy hard pasta from the artisan who made it.

Rick says traditional Mexican food has a lot of vegetable dishes in it. Jay (or was it James?) says it was a true delight. Jay says his only problem was that it was a bit ungainly.

Art wanted something delicious, but not overcomplicated. Gael says the rice ice cream was disappointing. Art agrees. Jay asks him about it. He says he bought it. Jay says, “YOU BOUGHT IT? He says he asked Michael about buying the pasta, so he has to ask Art about dealing with a possibly inferior store-bought product.

Art gets really testy: “I’m not going to make something I don’t know how to make without a recipe. Of course, I know how to make ice cream. I know how to make sorbet.” Then James, wanting to placate him, says he’s amazed he made brittle without butter.

The chefs are excused to the kitchen. They drink.

Gael says she loved seeing the excitement of THE VEGANS. Every time Gael says “the vegans”, it sounds like she’s saying “the aliens”. Funny. Jay loves the explosion of color.

Jay says Hubert did amazing things with those beets. “Anita didn’t shine today, “Jay says. Gael says the cashew puree was cool and sweet. James was not impressed with the eggplant. Jay says, "There was a failure of execution.” Anita is definitely on the firing squad.

Jay says he forgot he was eating a vegan dish, when he had Michael’s pasta. James says it was delicious, although he didn’t like that it was store-bought. Jay says there was nothing wrong with it.

Rick says their questioning the pasta is not smart.

They loved Rick’s dish, even though James says it needed to be pulled together.

Gael thought Art’s dish was messy and the rice ice cream was a failure.

The results: Hubert, Michael and Rick have the highest scores.


Quickfire 3

Diners 4

James 4

Gael 4 1/2

Jay 3 1/2

Total 19


Quickfire 4

Diners 4.5

James 4

Gael 5 Michael blows her a kiss…of course he does.

Jay 4.5

Total 22


Quickfire 4

Diners 3.5

James 3.5

Gael 4

Jay 4

Total 19

Michael is this week’s winner. Yay!!! His charity will get another $10,000. They can all return to the kitchen


Quickfire 1.5

Diners 2.5

James 2.5

Gael 3.5

Jay 3

Total 13

SHE must be going home, because of her low Quickfire score.


Quickfire 3.5

Diners 3

James 1.5

Gael 2

Jay 2.5

Total 12.5

OMG, ART is going home! What just happened?!! That really stinks. Kelly seems really sorry to tell him he has to pack up his knives. That really stinks. Really…

This is going to be interesting. Next week, my boy, Dale, talks smack to Michael. How will a Dale-lover like me react to that?


Cynthia said...

We don't get BRAVO here in B'dos so once again, I am truly grateful for your site and the updates. Thanks love.

Phyllis said...

Omigosh, I love your Top Chef episode musings, even though I've seen this episode twice, I still get such a kick out of your observations (like Kelly's thick and luxurious hair - LOL). I've been to Hubert's burger bar, but I didn't see that $5,000 burger on the menu, not that I could afford it. But I did treat myself and got some pretty fancy toppings like a truffle sauce that cost $6 a pour. I can't wait to see the showdown between Dale and Michael Chiarello tomorrow. I know you are a Dale-lover but I can't stand his attitude - I was so appalled that he would talk to a senior chef in that way!

Sue said...

Hi Cyn!
Count on me…even if it does take me awhile to get to it.

Being without Bravo means that you don’t get any of the Real Housewives. Gosh, that’s great. You must get so much done!

Thanks so much, Phyllis.

Kelly DOES have great hair. Wow, you’re lucky to have eaten at Hubert’s.

Dale does have a crummy attitude, bad language and he doesn’t respect his elders, but HE CAN COOK! Plus I love Buddakan, so I’m biased.

Emily said...

I can't wait for tomorrow!

You reminded me of that cheeseburger soup that Anita made. That didn't sound very good to me.

Michael has been so strong in this show! I think he might win.