Friday, September 4, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas - Serving The Troops Really Great Food And Poor Pronunciation

We’re reminded of last week’s challenge. Jen was mad because it was boys against girls and she found that stupid. Ashley was mad about catering for a wedding-related function, when marriage isn’t legal for everyone. And Eve is mad because the judges expected her food to have flavor. The two Josh Lucas look-a-like brothers did the best.

Jen is my pick to win for her cooking skill and tough broad attitude.

The new episode starts with a bunch of unrecognizable chefs. Have we even seen these folks before? I only know Laurine, because Tracy said she’s from her home town.

Jesse somebody (all kinds of stuff sticking out of her lips) is talking a lot. Does that meant that she be gone at the end?

For the Quickfire Challenge, Mark Peel from Campanile is there, standing before lots of potatoes. The Quickfire Challenge is to create an “out of this world” dish featuring potatoes.

Rings-In-Lip Girl is getting A LOT of airtime. Jen is going to use mussels, Haitian guy is using fish and says something about Bob Marley. Some guy I never saw before is making sweet potato ice cream. What a cool idea!

LipRings is making sweet potato soup, which will probably stink, so that will set her up to go home. I mean, seriously this is so obvious, that, even to the untrained reality TV eye, it’s clear she’ll be eliminated this week.

Mike (Michael?), whom everyone hates, is making a risotto type potato dish. Big mistake, I bet. Ashley is making gnocchi.

Preeti mistakenly uses Ashley’s water and there’s a huge brouhaha. Jen says she wouldn’t have been as “nice” as Ashley (who wasn’t nice at all).

Oh, here we go, LipGirl says her soup is way too spicy and not balanced. GO ME! I knew it. Even a rock could have figured out that she’s going home.


Sweet Potato Custard With Toasted Pecans

Oh that’s the guy I never saw before. Ash’s ice cream didn’t work out, so he called it a custard. Surely they won’t buy that.

Mark says good texture. Funny. Ash is really amused that he got away with it.


Sunchoke & Yukon Gold Vichyssoise With Applewood Smoked Caviar

It looks fine, but it’s annoying how he pronounces vichyssoise. He says Veeshy-Swah. NO! There’s a reason there’s an e on the end. It’s Veeshy-SwahZZZ. Got it?

He says it’s served slightly warm, which is obviously because he didn’t have time to chill it properly. Mark says it could have been gluey but it’s not.


Saffron Poached Russian Banana Fingerlings With Asparagus & Tomatoes

Looks pretty. (Get it? Preeti, pretty.) Mark says very nice.

Michael V (Bryan’s Brother)

Confit Tuna & Potato Sandwich

It looks dreadful…like a block of gray spam. It does have a few slices of beautifully cut cucumbers as garnish. Mark is giving A LOT more feedback than usual to all the chefs. He says aside from the tuna being underdone, the balance of texture and flavor is great.


Steamed Mussels, Yukon Gold & Blue Potatoes With Lemongrass Potato Sauce

Padma says very nice.

Robin (Who’s that?!!)

Purple & Fingerling Potatoes, White Yams with Pancetta, Frisée & Fried Egg

She had me at the fried egg. All Mark says is that it looks like breakfast.


Steamed Sweet Potato With Fish Sauce & Lime, Purple Potatoes & Ham, Smashed Fingerlings With Yeast (why?), Yellow Chile, Slow-Cooked Egg & Cream

Hector’s accent is so strong, it’s hard to tell if he’s speaking English. He’s about the third or fourth person to say he’s cooked potatoes 3 ways. Mark says good flavor. I’d say it’s more like a miracle, how did he cook ALL of that in 45 minutes?


Vegetarian Potato Burger, Portabella Mushroom Bun & Fingerling Chips

That’s impressive. Mark says the chips are perfectly crisp.


Poached Cod With Blue, Yukon & Sweet Potato Purées

Mattin looks like a caricature of a French sailor or chef (I can’t decide) with his gaily tied red bandana arranged rakishly around his neck.

Mark looks at his dish and says beautiful!


Bacon-Braised Yam With Potato Sauce, Asparagus, Mushroom & Cauliflower

Mark says very good.

Goodness! This is why I hate these early episodes, we’re only 13 minutes in and they’re not finished.

Mike I.

Potato Risotto With King Crab & Mascarpone

Oh gosh, again with the bad accent! Mike says he cut the potatoes into a brunoise. Fine, but it’s not a Broon-Wah, it’s a Broon-Wahzzzzzz. People! If the French word ends in an e, SAY the last consonant. It’s not that hard. (I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule, but not for brunoise and vichyssoise.)

Mark says it’s a little salty. Mike pretends to be surprised, but Padma gives him a huge smile and says “Nice idea.”

Still more chefs?!!


Potato Gnocchi With Hen Of The Woods Mushrooms & Homemade Ricotta

How in the world did she make her own ricotta? Mark is really impressed by that.

Seriously, if there’s one more person, I’m going to scream. AAAYYY!!! I never saw the next guy before, really.


Yam Purée With Pistachios, Whipped Bliss & Bourbon Maple Syrup

That sounds really good! Mark says, wow. Unfortunately Padma gets a piece of shell. Oh, don’t hold that against whoever this is.

I am seriously NOT going to do this again. There are still more contestants!


Sweet Potato Crusted Yellowtail With Fennel And Leek Stew

Mark says his favorite part is the fennel and leek on the side.

Jesse (She’s the one that I’m sure is going home.)

Sweet Potato Soup With Ginger, Brown Sugar & Cayenne Pepper

Mark says he likes the texture and color, but that it’s really spicy, which she already knew.

FINALLY, they’re done. I like it when Mark tells them that from being on Top Chef Masters he understands that their most difficult ingredient is time. (Incidentally, I think Mark should have won against Anita in his Top Chef Masters episode.)

The results: Eli’s dish was too sweet. (Mark didn’t mention the shells). Ron’s fish was overcooked and Jesse’s soup was too spicy. His favs were Jennifer’s mussels, Ashley’s gnocchi and Ash’s custard. Ash is totally surprised. He says he’s laughing to himself so hard he can barely look up, because his dish was basically a failed ice cream.

The winner is Jennifer. Yay!!!! She kinda looks like she expected it. Mike is bitter. She gets immunity in the Elimination Challenge.

The fact that Mark loved Ash’s custard doesn’t surprise me at all. One of my most favorite things in the world is Craig Claiborne’s custard from his vanilla ice cream recipe in The New New York Times Cookbook. That custard is sooo awesome that I use that recipe for Floating Islands and actually whenever a custard is required.

The Elimination Challenge is to create a meal for 300 airmen (no women?) at Nellis Air Force Base, home of the Thunderbirds, the United States Aerial Demonstration Squadron.

The chefs are not told what or how they’ll be cooking. They divide themselves in teams of two, with Jennifer acting as the supervising or executive chef, because she has immunity.

They arrive at the kitchen and see mostly a lot of canned food and some different meats.

Their dishes all sound good. These folks are really chefs and they are heads above the other seasons. There are a few loser types, but most of them seem highly skilled.

The French guy really sounds like Pepé Le Pew. Actually, that’s not true, Pepé sounds much manlier. Hector’s English is getting worse.

Ash tells us he actually thought that Jen was soft spoken. I didn’t think that after seeing her for 10 seconds. She’s not afraid to tell Hector to stop with his stories (that no one understands anyway).

I’ll be surprised if the pasta salad tastes like anything. That is sooo boring. Pepé Le Pew is being kind of slow. They load the food up to go to the hangar, where they'll be serving. They get taken there in a cool looking convoy.

One of the brothers (no idea which one) says the emotion starts to kick in as they realize how important this is. Jen is really awesome. WHAT is she doing on this show? She should be running her own restaurant.

Preeti acknowledges that her pasta salad looks really simple. Oh there’s a bit of question about how one of the brothers and Mike will be serving their dish. Could this be a potential problem.

Padma arrives and gets out of the jeep with a serviceman helping (leering at) her. Michael (Mike?) is overwhelmed, and he’s going too slow. Quite a bit of Padma cleavage is going on. Is that patriotic?

These are the dishes:

Mike I & Michael V

Greek Salad With Cucumber, Chickpeas, Olives & Olive Oil-Poached Shrimp and Braised Pork Belly With Soy Mustard Sauce & Peanuts

Laurine And Preeti

Pasta Salad With Broccoli, Peppers, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Artichoke Hearts

Jesse & Ron

New England Clam Chowder with Roasted Corn

Hector & Robin

Three-Bean Chili With Roasted Chicken

Eli & Kevin

Georgia Style Braised Pork Shoulder & Potato Salad

Bryan & Mattin

Roasted Beef Strip Loin With Mushroom Demi-Glace & Cauliflower Gratin

Ash & Ashley

Chocolate Bread Pudding With Peanut Butter Sauce

Eli is sweet. He’s very moved at cooking for the troops.

Gail thinks the pasta salad is salty and not inspired. Every other dish is doing well.

The clam chowder is thick, but everyone really likes it.

They love the potato salad and pork shoulder. Michael and Mike’s slab bacon, which they braised, is fantastic, but the judges do not like the Mike’s shrimp salad.

Several of the judges say the bread pudding is a little dry, but very flavorful.

The colonel thanks all of the chefs. It is very nice and touching. The colonel dismisses them and they get a huge round of applause from the airpeople. Sweet. When is Oprah gonna come out and give everyone a house…or end the war?

Back at Judges Table, Mike, Michael, Eli and Kevin get called in first. They have the best dishes. Mark tells Kevin and Eli that everyone loved the pork. Tom doesn’t like Mike’s shrimp dish.

Mark tells Michael he’s the winner with his braised pork dish. The only thing he seems to care about is that he and his brother have each won one challenge so far. Back in the stew room, Bryan looks less than thrilled about his brother’s win.

Mike (Michael?) doesn’t understand why he gets called back in for having the worst dish, when he was just there as the winner.

Michael is po’ed that he’s there. Mark says he was responsible for the shrimp dish and it was bland. Michael (Mike?) says he wasn’t even 100% sure that he should serve it. Padma says, “THEN you shouldn’t have served it.”

All the judges start dumping on him. Doesn’t he know that you NEVER argue with a judge. Explaining is okay; telling them about your intentions is okay, but arguing? Never.

I guess Jess is off the hook for leaving. They’ll probably get rid of Preeti, because both her pasta salad and personality have been a bit bland. Michael (Mike?) yells at everything, so that’s good television. He says he’s angry at himself for messing up and that it won’t happen again.

Preeti says she thought her dish was better than a lot of others. The judges disagree. This is bad, they ask her if she WANTS to go home and she can't even answer the question.

It’s going to be Preeti. It’s going to be Preeti. It’s going to be Preeti.

And the loser is…Preeti! She’s gracious. She says what everyone says - that she cooks far better in real life than she showed. But then she says that the competition is a lot harder this year. It’s as if she’s saying she’s a crappy cook and, with fewer good competitors, she might have gotten further. Whatever. I just want there to be fewer of them.

My favorites? Still definitely Jen, who is certainly out French-cooking Pepé Le Pew. I like the brothers too, because every time I see them I think of Sweet Home Alabama, which was such a cute movie. I don’t remember or much care about any of the others.

I’m just psyched that (I THINK I heard this in the previews for next week) TWO of the chefs are being eliminated. Maybe then, I'll be able to keep them all straight.


Tracy said...

I agree, there are some skills on this show. The potato challenge was impressive -- some of those dishes were so pretty and colorful! Who knew you could do so much with potatoes. That's the kind of challenge I like, when everyone is on the same footing.

The elimination challenge seemed unfair. OF COURSE the guys who cooked a slab of bacon won.

I can't keep track of names yet, either, but glad Laurine didn't get cut.

Kathy and Judy said...

Yes! The whole vishy-swa thing drives me insane too. I mean, these people are chefs, should they not be able to pronounce food terms?

But then, I have been accused of being the grammar police more than once, too.


Sue said...

Hi Tracy,
I agree. Those quickfire dishes looked fantastic.

I won't say Laurine is my favorite, but I'll try not to root against her.

I'm glad I'm not insane (well, you didn't exact say that, did you?) in thinking that it's really dumb when they mispronounce what they're making.

We wouldn't need grammar police if people had been "learned" properly!

Emily said...

Yay! My picks are your picks! I also like the bearded red hair guy. Andrew? I can't remember.