Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top Chef DC - The Pies Have It

Top Chef DC - Capital Grill

Why are we getting so much Amanda and Kenny face time at the beginning of this episode? Amanda SHOULD have gone home last week, so if she’s eliminated this week, it won’t bother me.

After having Angelo’s amazing sandwiches, I like him a lot more. The more I read about him, the more skills I see him as having.

Some dude with a rockin’ 1950’s hairstyle is standing next to Padma and Gail in the kitchen. Oh, it’s Johnny Iuzzini, Jean Georges’ pastry chef and head judge on Gail’s new show - Top Chef: Just Desserts (Let’s get that promo in.)

I like when Johnny says, “As pastry chefs we need to be much more organized. For us it doesn’t happen at the last minute on the stove. A lot of what we do is about planning…about organization.” I never thought of it that way. That’s so true.

The Quickfire Challenge is to make a pie in 2 hours. I’m not sure how rushing around making a pie as fast as you can really demonstrates planning or organization, but that’s the challenge – to make a pie from scratch. The winner will get immunity.

I wish someone would challenge me to a pie contest. I would enter one of these three – but I’m not sure I could make them without a recipe. Well, maybe I could, I’d just rather not. Plus I like taking my time with pie-making…and just about anything else.

Kelly annoys Arnold. She is annoying. She tells us she opened a restaurant at 27 with her husband and she does everything, so this challenge isn’t too hard.

Angelo never made a pie before. (How is that even possible? This is America.) He says he’s going to pretend this is a “curry” challenge. He’s adding curry to sweet potatoes. I have never ever heard of curry in a sweet pie. EVER. I’m not saying it will be bad, I’m just saying it’s a radical concept.

Tim is not happy to be doing a pie. Kevin is doing a beautiful lattice for his pie. Lynne, the cooking teacher, says she’s at an advantage because she can cook without recipes. Amanda doesn’t like pie. (She wouldn’t.) Tracey has no clue what she’s doing.

Arnold makes the same point that Johnny made earlier. He says being a “savory chef, you can tweak as you go. Pastry chefs are more like mad scientists”. Huh? Then he makes more sense. “There’s no fixing along the way. It’s a profession of precision.“

Alex is weird and slightly gross. Ed (or is that Stephen?) says “Alex’s thought process is underdeveloped. He is a slob. He has no technique.” THAT was Ed. For some reason, Ed decides to add celery to his banana cream pie.

Tracey’s pie comes out and it’s a failure. She starts to make another pie.

Now this is strange, Stephen is ALSO adding curry to his apple whiskey date pie. That’s interesting. Two curry pies in one challenge.

The judges’ reactions:

Kenny’s Bananas Foster Pie With Five Spice Powder

Johnny: “That’s not a spice you see that often in pies.” Kenny says he likes the balance it gives the pie. Gail is licking her fork like it’s a lollipop. I think she liked it.

Amanda’s Apple Pie With Rosemary And Bourbon

Amanda squints as she says, “Given that I’m not a pastry chef, I didn’t mess anything up too terribly.”

Johnny says it’s a copout to say she’s not a pastry chef. “My grandmother’s not a pastry chef either, and she can make a pie.” Yes, score one for Johnny! I agree. If you call yourself a chef, you should be able to make a pie! Angelo smirks in the background.

Stephen's Curried Apple Whiskey Date Pie

Gail: “There’s something sour in there.“

Kelly makes a Chocolate Pie, which I’m surprised more people didn’t do. No one (hardly) doesn’t like chocolate (although one of these chefs said he didn’t), and you always get more credit for chocolate than anything else. I don’t think it’s a great test of ability if you’re judging something, but it’s smart if you’re BEING JUDGED to make something chocolate.

Johnny: “Your ganache is nice and smooth. You have a nice emulsion.” Is he getting fresh with Kelly?

Arnold’s Kalamansi (WHAT is that?) And Key Lime Pie

Oh, it’s this.

Padma: “What is the green herb?” Arnold: (without a hint of duh!) “It’s just mint.”

Angelo’s Sweet Potato Curry Pie

Gail: “Thank you.”

Tracey’s Blueberry Almond Crunch Pie

Johnny wants to know if Tracey used anything to thicken up the juices. Nope. Nothing.

Tiffany's Peach Cobbler

“It’s really dark.”

Lynne’s Mango Pie

Gail: “Have you made the crust before…with the basil?” Lynne: “No, I haven’t made the crust before…WITH THE BASIL. Byatch.” Just kidding. Sort of…about that last remark.

Ed’s Banana Cream Pie With Celery Spuma

He says his starting point was his grandmother’s recipe.

Gail:”How does it compare to your grandmother’s celery spuma?” Funny one.

Alex’s White Chocolate, Tapioca And Chevre Pie

UGH! Uck!

Johnny asks if there are eggs in the pie. Alex says yes, then Johnny asks, “Oh so this is more like a quiche?” Actually, I don’t think that’s the problem. I just think it’s a disgusting combination.

The losers:

Alex, Tracey and Ed (too many extra things).

Tracey (talking to us) compares losing with being called out for living in a trailer park. She’s got personality. I like her. There’s absolutely no artifice with her.

The best:

Kelly, (of course it WAS chocolate) and Stephen with his “surprising flavor combination”.

The winner - Kenny’s Banana Foster Pie. Good, I like Kenny.

The Elimination Challenge is to prepare a picnic for Capitol Hill interns that includes 1 main dish & 2 sides. Wait a sec. First Padma calls it a picnic, THEN she calls it a cookout. Those are two very different things. I think it’s a cookout.

Oh here’s Arnold’s line that they previewed last week – the smoke will clog the pores. He’s funny. I’d love to go shopping with him.

Tracey is funny as she talks to herself. She wants to make her own sausages, which apparently she does ALL the time. Why does that NOT surprise me? She’s having equipment problems, so she decides to form the meat into sliders rather than sausages. I think that’s smart.

Amanda is being a flaming witch when she takes Alex’s stuff out of “her” oven. When Tom overhears all the shouting, Amanda explains that those are “prison rules” not to take someone else’s oven. Yowza! And I still think she should have gone home last week for feeding booze to schoolchildren.

Back at the house, the chefs are discussing their dishes. Everyone seems to be second guessing Amanda. Angelo tells us that she’s a good chef, not a great chef, and there is no way she could beat him.

Are we being set up here for Amanda winning? Gosh, I hope not. She’s not a terribly sympathetic character, even after we learn that she’s fought her way back from various addictions, which is great. But it’s a shame it didn’t make her a nicer person.

Of course, she could be Mother Teresa in real life, but this is the world of three second sound bites and if you’re nasty even one time (and it’s been more than that for Amanda), it becomes your signature.

They arrive at Mount Vernon, where they’ll be feeding the Washington interns. Arnold is funny. He knows nothing about starting a barbecue with charcoal. So he watches Kenny and does EXACTLY what he does and gets a nice fire. He says his sister was an intern (in Washington?), which means basically that you’re someone’s bitch for awhile, Arnold explains. (He confides that he’s never been anybody’s bitch.)

Tim is excited because he loves grilling. Tracey is excited because she thinks she turned lemons into lemonade. Ooh, she made lemonade?!! Oh, she meant she thought of a way to make her dish work.

The judges show up. Oh goodie, Jonathan Waxman is one of the judges. And he was just on The Next Food Network Star this past week too. I’m thinking he may be enjoying his stints as a judge more than actually cooking for judges.

Here are the dishes.

Alex is fairly disgusting when talking (to us) about his pork butt dish. He says his dish is so good he could eat the ass out of his pig all day long. Ew. HE’S an ass.

Comments from the judges:

Arnold’s Lamb Kebab – Tom: “It’s seasoned really well.” Jonathan: “This is talented to take this lamb kebab and grill it.” Gail: “Arnold’s barley salad is really fresh.”

Jonathan feels that Tamesha’s Skirt Steak is a little overcooked.

Gail likes Alex’s pork, but Jonathan says the sauce is a little on the sweet side. He says he should have gone for it and added a little habanera, “had some fun with it”.

About Angel’s Asian taco, Jonathan says, “This is a magazine cover dish.” Wow, that’s high praise coming from the Obi Wan of the Top Chefs, which Padma noted in her introduction. Gail also thinks Angelo’s dish had flavor.

About Timothy's pork two ways: Tom: “I think the pork is pretty good, but the sides are just….”

Gail thinks Kelly’s Bison Burger is a super simple presentation. Is that good or bad?

They all like Amanda’s ribs and Jonathan particularly likes her grilled asparagus, which he says “gets his heartstrings every time“.

Unfortunately, my local boy Kevin’s beans are undercooked and they feel his food is underseasoned.

Kenny’s pork seems to go over well. Padma says Lynne’s lamb feels very heavy. She and Jonathan hate the addition of the cheese.

Jonathan says Tracey’s slider is way too big, “It ain’t no slider.” They all feel there might be a bit too much fennel. AND it’s a little undercooked.

Jonathan and Tom love Ed’s tuna. They say it’s perfectly cooked and perfect picnic fare the way he served it on crusty bread. Andrea’s root beer glaze is too sweet. Tiffany’s glazed salmon has no flavor, says Jonathan. Nobody likes Stephen’s fish wrapped in bacon.

Angelo tastes Amanda’s ribs and is blown away. He tells us that he thinks her dish is ACTUALLY better than his, if such a thing could be possible. Tracey’s likes her own dish and says everyone’s food is good.

Back in the stew room, there’s a bit with Tracey where she tells us she’s clairvoyant. She tells the other chefs stuff about themselves. She admits it’s very entertaining. She’s cool. I want her to hang around.

Back at Judges’ Table, they want to see Arnold, Ed, Angelo and Amanda. They had the best dishes. They’re happy. Jonathan says Ed’s dish was very bright. Tom says Arnold’s lamb was “full of flavor”. Jonathan tells Amanda that she “killed him” with that asparagus. He loved it and he really liked the ribs too. Tom tells Angelo his dish was “nice”. (Gee, thanks a lot, Tom C., Angelo is probably thinking.) And the winner is…Arnold!

They call back in Tim, Stephen, Tracey and Kevin. Huh? If Stephen doesn’t go home from that bunch I’ll eat my hat. (Well, not really, but I will be amazed.)

Gail says Stephen’s fish was overcooked. Tom says the bacon had no char on it and that his couscous was greasy. Gail says Timothy’s vegetables were not cooked uniformly. Tom doesn’t think they were well-seasoned. Jonathan kindly says, “I think you shied away from the dish, rather than push it to a limit.”

Padma says Kevin’s plate was the safest Puerto Rican food she’s ever had. He says that’s how his family cooks it. Gail asks, “Are they chefs?” He says no. Gail says, “EXACTLY! Show us great Puerto Rican food that a professional chef would make.”

Tracey says she should have crushed the fennel with the spices for her burger. Gail says hers was undercooked. Tom is sort of mean and says as an Italian he was insulted that she called that Italian food. He was kind of smiling, but she took it totally seriously and said SORRY and she meant it. She is kind of dear.

Jonathan says that part of being a Top Chef is that when things go wrong you “pull inside yourself and figure out how to fix it”. Well, she DID do that. When the sausage machine blitzed on her, she decided to make sliders. THAT was smart. He says she stopped trying and chefs should never do that.

I hope it’s bland Stephen who goes home. The chefs leave and the judges keep discussing. Jonathan says that Tim’s dish was at least edible, while Stephen’s fish was not. He says it didn’t look like a professional chef made Tracey’s dish. They like Kevin’s meat, but not the sides. Clearly, it will be Stephen.

CLEARLY, I’M WRONG AGAIN. It’s Tracey. Oh, I’m sad. I LIKE her. She’s so real! She says she didn’t leave because she’s a bad chef, but just that she had one bad day.

They don’t seem to be sending home the obvious choices. For pure entertainment value, Tracey should have stayed.

Next week, 2 chefs go home. At least that will give the judges the opportunity to redress the wrongs of the past 2 weeks.

1 comment:

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Man I missed it again! I kept saying if they put it on earlier, I'd watch it more often. I haven't stuck to that, have I? I know I won't see it this week because I am going to a Midsummer Night swing that night. Oh well.

I wish Angelo wasn't doing so well. I hated his attitude on the first episode and I totally would love to see him go down in flames (which I suppose is exactly what the producers want the viewers to think).