Sunday, August 15, 2010

Top Chef DC - Restaurant Wars: A Ridiculous Outcome And Frank Bruni Yells Coco Chanel’s Name

Maybe yelling is a slight exaggeration, but in response to a fashion question, Frank rushes in with the answer, “Coco Chanel”. More about that later and it IS amusing to hear who it was that brought up the style icon. Hint: It wasn't the former model who hosts Top Chef.

The Quickfire Challenge is the seen-before tag team cook-off. It's a good one. The chefs have 40 minutes to make a dish, with each one taking a turn to cook for 10 minutes. The chefs are blindfolded until it’s their turn, so they can’t be sure what went on before.

The blue team with Kenny at the helm gets off to a very strong start. He sets out everything like a road map and there is no wondering what to do.

Angelo’s red team wasn’t so lucky with Alex oversalting the fish. The blue team, Kenny, Kevin, Kelly and Amanda won. No immunity but they split $10,000.

The judge was Nancy Pelosi. I like her, but she did stride into the room with a bit of a queen-like manner. Plus, I’m not so sure Madam Speaker garnered herself any votes. I’ve never seen so much equivocating.

Oh wait, she’s a politician. Of course, she hemmed and hawed. Pelosi said she liked both dishes, but after a bit of sputtering, she finally admitted that the red team’s dish was too salty, so she gave the win to the blue team.

The Elimination Challenge is Restaurant Wars. I don’t know why, but it just didn’t seem as exciting as in past seasons. Did they have more chefs in the past?

Alex is kicked out to the dining room, because none of his teammates want him ruining the food.

It seems like we’re being setup for a shock, because the Blue Team is working together beautifully and calmly, in a very organized fashion. The Red Team is running around panicked that Alex will ruin anything he touches.

Flash forward to the unbelievable results.

They call the Red Team in first which is startling to the Blue Team. The Red Team seems pretty surprised to be in there too. HOW did they get to that decision? They don’t even mention the dishes that they didn’t like. What is going on? Ed wins. Whatever, this is NOT making sense.

The Blue Team goes in. They are as confused as the viewers. When Padma tells them they are the losing team, even SHE doesn’t sound convinced. Kenny says that their communication in the kitchen was spot on and that he’s really surprised to be there.

Then Gail pipes in that they don’t care what was going on in the kitchen. They just care about the food and SERVICE. Well, apparently not.

Frank says he liked Kelly’s hosting; they didn’t like her soup. They liked Kevin’s fish; didn’t like Amanda’s meat - but did like Amanda’s sauce. Okay, we know all this. But WHY was the Blue Team worse than the Red Team?

There are no satisfactory answers. And I think Kevin and Kenny are REALLY brave when they enlighten the judges about what was going on with the other team regarding Alex. How is it fine that Alex did nothing and did NOT contribute a dish, which would have possibly changed the outcome?!!

Tom actually asks Kevin if he thinks Alex should go home and Kevin says YES…almost grateful that the long Alex nightmare could be over.

They go back to the stew room while the judges deliberate. Kenny and Kevin actually tell the Red Team TO THEIR FACES how unfair their strategy was.

Is there actually a glimmer of hope that the judges will do the right thing? No, they call them back in and amazingly send Kenny home. What?!? AND they absolutely do not give a reasonable explanation of why. I’m kind of fed up.

Let’s rewind and look at exactly what the judges’ reactions were to the two team’s restaurants and dishes. Note: Frank Bruni was the guest judge.

Alex is really unpleasant to the wait staff and does not greet the judges as they come in. Oh, and the Red Team named the restaurant EVOO, pronounced E-VOOOOO (not the usual Rachael Ray way). That name is sooo dumb.

They say the food will be Mediterranean. Does that mean that an American restaurant should be named Ketchup? Or a Chinese one Soy Sauce or a French one Butter? Oh wait, THAT IS a good name. Never mind….except about the EVOO.



Frank says he eats "that and I think I want to taste Angelo’s cooking. I think his cooking could take me in some interesting directions.”


Crudo Of Black Bass & Yellowtail Snapper With Meyer Lemon Caper Relish

Gail: ”Tiffany missed the subtlety here. It is amazingly salty.” Tom: “I think it’s borderline.”

They wait SO long for their entrées that Padma asks, “How we doing?!!” She actually says, “I want my second course.” Shouldn’t they have lost on the spot? Tom actually gets on his phone. To order takeout, I wonder?


Striped Bass, Stewed Spinach, Chorizo & Clams

Gail: “A little bit overcooked.” Frank thinks it’s a nice recovery from the first course and he likes “the chorizo presence”.


Slow-Baked Turbot, Eggplant Caviar & Black Olive Jus

Frank: “I really, really like Ed’s fish dish. There’s nothing overly aggressive about the way it’s sauced and seasoned.” Tom: “It’s really nice.”


Pan-Seared Lamb Chop, English Pea Puree, Smoked Bacon & Parmesan Foam

Frank: “I thought the lamb was beautifully cooked,” but he wishes there were texture in the dish.

Alex introduces the next dish as a PORK chop. Ninny.

Angelo & Ed

Seared Rib Eye Steak, Crushed Walnut Potatoes & Balsamic Fig Reduction

Tom does not love the steak, but he doesn’t mind the walnuts and potatoes. And Frank adds that he’s not getting the Mediterranean from their dishes and that’s their theme.

Frank says the service has been hit and miss. Y’think??? Alex is neither efficient nor warm. Frank also reminds the judges of Alex’s mistake at calling HIS entrée a pork chop.

They get up to leave and are interested to see if Alex will bid them farewell. Nope, no goodbye either, and he’s just standing there looking clueless and doesn’t move.

The Blue Team’s restaurant 2121 (the number of the Top Chef house) gets off to what we’re supposed to think is a better start. Kelly greets them warmly and shakes hands with everyone.

Kenny (back in the kitchen) says he created dishes to fit in with their American progressive concept, not to fit in with his ego.


Chilled Sweet Corn Soup With Maryland Blue Crab Salad

Tom: ”Not a lot of corn flavor. Also it’s very thin. There’s noo flavor in this dish.” Gail: “I do like that Kelly used crab, so there’s this seasonal localness.” But she points out that the corn isn’t seasonal at the moment. They agree that in a couple of months, this soup might have been A LOT better.


Beet Salad With Warm Chorizo Citrus Vinaigrette

(Why did they keep saying last week that Ethiopian food was everywhere in DC? I’m getting a definite Spanish vibe with all the chorizo being used.)

Frank: “Kenny has loaded the salad with A LOT of stuff.” And your point is?

Tom wonders who said “in fashion” one should always take off one accessory. In a split second, Frank offers that it was Coco Chanel. Tom: “I think he needed 3 or 4 accessories taken off this dish.”

BUT Tom hasn’t actually said anything was badly prepared in Kenny’s dish and he criticized Ed last week for ONLY having Steak, Rice and Beans in a dish. WHICH is it, Tom?


Oakwood Grilled Strip Steak With Roasted Sunchoke & Maitake Mushrooms

Tom: “It’s cut too thin, so you can’t get that rich crust on the outside.” Frank: ”You can look at it and know that you’re not going to get the pleasure from it that you want.” They like the sauce.

Kelly comes over to check on them. Apparently, in her restaurant (which looks really good from the website), she’s in the kitchen and her husband is in the front of the house.


Pan Roasted Halibut, Fennel Marmalade & Tomato-Fennel Emulsion

Frank: “I think this is really pretty. Kevin should paint.” Tom: “I think there is a lot of flavor in here. I think the fennel flavor is sooo present in this dish. It’s a really good sauce.”


Crispy Aged Goat Cheese & Strawberry Rhubarb Relish

Gail: “Is it me or is that a massive piece of goat cheese to serve for one person?” Frank: “This is awful.” (Tell us how your really feel Frank.) “It’s a horror show.”


Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart & Blackberry-Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream

Gail: “I love the salt in Kelly’s chocolate tart. I love the crust on Kelly’s chocolate tart. The ganache was creamy and silky.” Frank: “The ice cream had NO flavor.” Killjoy.

Before the judges leave, they agree that both teams had better luck with fish than meat. Frank hates the EVOO name and he says that BOTH teams had dishes that were embarrassments. And they agree that the service was much better at 2121.

So this seems to be the deal: They liked 4 of the Red Team’s dishes (but with quite a few provisos) and said 2 of them were bad.

And the Blue Team? They REALLY didn’t like 2 dishes, Kelly’s soup and Kenny’s goat cheese. But they loved Kevin’s fish and Kelly’s tart (but not her ice cream), and they liked Amanda’s sauce but not her meat. Even though the judges thought Kenny’s salad had too many ingredients in it, they never said they thought it was poorly executed. AND, again, they thought the service was really good.

Perhaps the Red Team had a tiny edge with the food, but that had to have been lost with the horrible, inadequate service.

During the Red Team’s service, Padma was sitting there complaining about the service; Tom was on the phone, so how could that NOT count hugely in the overall decision?

I’ve said this before - HORRIBLE service makes a HORRIBLE evening, NO MATTER HOW GOOD THE FOOD IS. And fantastic service can make just about anything taste better.

Since they didn't show us more of what went on between the judges, we're left wondering why the complete lack of decent service didn't count more against the Red Team. THEN they could have logically sent Alex home.

They are really risking antagonizing their viewers big time. I promise you NOONE wants to see a finale between Alex, Amanda and Ed.

I really wanted to see the judges go rogue and kick off Alex, even though his team won...which it shouldn't have.

As I was about to post this, I checked out Tom’s excuse for this week’s outcome. He snarkily reiterates (as if we were children) that Alex was on the winning team and so he wasn’t going to be eliminated AND that they ONLY judge on the current challenge.

I don’t mind the snarkiness (that would be mightily hypocritical on my part), but I’ve always hated the judging-only-on-the-current-dish thing. Surely Tom remembers one complete loser who was chosen Top Chef as a result of that dictum.

Eric’s reaction was interesting. His best point was that the failure of Kenny’s dishes had nothing to do with Alex’s shortcomings. And even if you’re the Executive Chef, you still have to taste your dishes and send out good food.

I’d kind of love it if the ratings went WAY down next week, so Bravo could understand that we weren’t ready to get rid of “The Beast”.

Oh, and I spied this in TINY print at the end of the episode; “Winning and elimination decisions were made by the Judges IN CONSULTATION WITH producers. Some elimination decisions were discussed with Bravo.”

Tom even says that the producers were not happy with the decision to eliminate Kenny. I wonder if they actually had to get the producers’ permission to send Kenny home. Bad call!!!


Anonymous said...

I think the judges are trying not to hold front of house service against the chefs, since this is a cooking show. Tom did say in his blog that he hates that part of Restaurant Wars (although I do think in the past he said it was totally fair, but whatever).

I don't mind Ed at all. It's probably going to end up being Angelo, Tiffany and Ed. Well, of those who are left that's who it should be.

And I think editing had a lot to do with why there was seemingly little reason Kenny's team lost.

Java Joggers said...

Ooh... I still am reeling from the fact that Kenny was sent home. What the what??? Also, on a side note, don't you find it odd that the hostess of the show was a former model, but wears such badly styled clothing? Regardless, great recap, Sue :)

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

My husband barely pays attention to this show and yet he was shocked that they eliminated Kenny saying, "He is a really great leader." Well, it's the tradition (unoffical) on TC that the leader of the losing RW team goes down with the ship.

I didn't like the way they threw Alex under the bus. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It was just uncool. Even if they were right, it wasnt' their place. The judges had already made their decision and now this guy has to live out his last days on the show dealing with this.

I think RW used to be more exciting because they used to have to build their restaurants from the ground up. I recall them shopping for decor and setting the place up. They don't do that anymore.

Very creative editing here making sure the blue team looked like it would win at the beginning.

Tracy said...

I agree. It's one thing to edit the show so that the outcome is a surprise. It's another thing to make the outcome inexplicable.

I think one reason Restaurant Wars seemed less dramatic is that they usually are given a barren shell to fix up, including decor. This time it was an existing restaurant. I'm glad they made this change -- it seems unreasonable to have chefs also play the part of interior decorators.