Monday, December 20, 2010

THIS Is What Top Chef SHOULD Be About – TOP CHEFS! Plus Tom Admits He’s Not Jimmy Page

We’re all busy, I know. I am REALLY going to attempt to keep this post to UNDER 3000 words. Let’s see if it’s possible.

We revisit the shock of Jen going home last week and Mike saying that Jen is a much stronger chef than Jamie. How about the fact that she’s a much stronger chef than MIKE?

PS There’s a postscript about Jen leaving Top Chef at the end of this post.

David Chang is in the kitchen with Padma and the chefs are in awe.

They divide randomly into teams of four by the order in which they entered the room. Fabio is happy to have Angelo on his team, even if Angelo “wears his pants a little too tight”. Alrighty, then.

Spike has no use for Stephen’s cooking ability, but says “he’ll be able to open a bottle of wine for us”.

For the Quickfire, each team has to test its mis en place abilities by prepping artichokes, lamb and garlic in the fastest time possible. Then they have to create a dish IN 15 MINUTES using all the ingredients they’ve prepped. No immunity, but the winning team members will each get $5000.

The Green Team of Angelo, Mike, Tiffany D. and Fabio finish their prep first. The other Dale reminds us of when Casey, on her season of Top Chef, screwed up a relay race, so she’s “killing the lamb” now. Antonia is peeling the garlic ONE BY ONE, instead of smashing them. Stephen, on a different team, is also doing his garlic way too slowly.

The Green Team finishes first. Oh, this is bad. Each team doesn’t have 15 minutes. They have 15 minutes from when the first team finishes (I think). It’s not a surprise that 2 teams decide to make lamb carpaccio.

Richard tells us he’s taking the lead for his team. I’m not sure the other members of his team agreed with that.

Many of the chefs are still plating with 30 seconds to go.

Carla, Dale, Marcel, Tiffani F.

Lamb Carpaccio Artichoke Chips, Artichoke Salad And Garlic Oil

“Thank you” is all David says.

Stephen, Tre, Richard, Spike

Crispy Lamb Chop With Artichoke 3 Ways

David asks about the spice in the dish and says, “Nice Job.” The chefs are thrilled with that.

Antonia, Dale L. Casey, Jamie

Lamb Carpaccio With Capers, Garlic, Reggiano & Salad With Artichoke

Padma comes up to their station and says “Hello ladies” not seeing (the other) Dale. They all giggle. No reaction at the moment from Dale.

Angelo, Tiffany D. Mike, Fabio

Lamb With Garlic, Tandoori Spiced Yogurt, Slivers Of Artichoke, Dill Salad

Angelo says, “We have a beautifully cooked lamb…” Shouldn’t he let David decide that? “Thanks, guys” is all they get.

Least favorites dishes: Antonia’s team - “The parmesan and parsley overwhelmed everything.” Angelo’s team - “I felt that the thyme and the dill sort of blew out the yogurt.” Angelo looks incredulous and he says (to us) that he’s embarrassed.

Favorite dishes: MY Dale’s team - “The carpaccio was a very unique way to serve lamb raw. It looked straightforward, but (it was) deceivingly complex.” Richard’s team - David liked the crispy lamb chop. “You have a lot of bold flavors, so it was a very tasty dish.”

And the winner is…Richard’s team. Well, (my) Dale was close.

The Elimination Challenge is rather awesome. Each group will go to one of New York’s greatest restaurants (I suppose that could be up for debate, but they are to going to some pretty awesome places) and then each chef will create a dish for the menu.

Angelo’s group gets Má Pêche and is thrilled. He says Má Pêche is “eclectic Asian food and straight-up yummy”.

Antonia’s team gets David Burke’s Townhouse. Spike’s gets the Italian restaurant Marea. I love Michael White. He seems like the NICEST, low key, soft-spoken chef I’ve ever seen. Let’s see how cutthroat he is on Top Chef. MY Dale gets WD-50.

Padma makes sure they know that they are working as individuals and their teammates ARE their competition. AND TWO of them will be going home. Fabio is bit flummoxed by having to cook French Vietnamese food.

Má Pêche is the first restaurant. The first dish is pickled watermelon with crispy yuba (wait let me look that up…oh, of course, it’s beancurd skin…what else could it be?)

“You have the depth of the sausage but then the corn kept coming back into play,” says Angelo. He loves the “pepper notes” of the arugula and how it “cleanses” the palate. He’s narrating everything that touches his taste buds and Tiffany is getting annoyed, really annoyed.

Fluke with pistachios and strawberries is served. Mike jokes that Fabio will make pasta no matter what they’re tasting.

At Marea, cutie Michael White comes out and tells the chefs he looks forward to seeing them tomorrow (when they cook a dish for him).

Sea urchin on crostini is the first dish. Tre says sea urchin is not his favorite and Stephen practically wants to shove it in his mouth. I think a fist fight is about to break out. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but Stephen is really pompous as he explains to Tre that Marea is one of NY’s best restaurants.

Next up is Sea Bass with a mustard vinaigrette and sturgeon caviar. “Looks beautiful, very fresh, man” says Stephen. They all love it. Richard is a bit worried, because Michael’s dishes are so simple and elegant and Richard says he needs restraint and editing sometimes.

Wylie comes out at WD-50. Carla tells us her food is very different, but now she has an opportunity to marry classic with modern.

Carla looks beautiful this season. She has great skin. I wonder if she’s a secret vegan. And I do love her cocktail ring.

After tasting Wylie’s food, Carla gets nervous and now she’s not so sure she “can pull this off”.

They’re served aerated foie gras. Dale (mine) says it’s “perfectly executed in a way I’ve never seen.” Dale tells us that he read that Wylie loves eggs and he decides “to go for broke” and make an egg dish. That’s my Dale, a warrior to the end.

The last restaurant is David Burke’s Townhouse. He’s a friendly guy too. The chefs sit down and are served a cocktail. It’s in a stemless martini glass resting in a larger bowl filled with water and a swimming fish. That’s what Casey says’s kind of hard to see.

Scallop benedict with a sea urchin sabayon comes out of the kitchen. THAT LOOKS SOOOOOOOOOOO GOOD! Then comes “Angry Lobster” with a lobster firecracker, which looks like a huge plate of deep fried succulence. Jamie says the food is very whimsical and playful. Antonia describes it as being larger than life. That’s certainly what the roasted octopus looks like.

As Stephen is planning his dish, he tells us that fashion has become a major interest in his life, which is a better obsession than cocaine. What the hay?

The next day the chefs go back to the kitchens where they dined to create their dishes. THAT chef will be tasting their dishes.

I’m wondering if Antonia’s dish is bit too simple. She’s making peas and carrots. Carla is trying to merge her idea of comfort food with Wylie’s modern take.

They start at Marea. Michael White is at the table with Padma, Tom, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Krader, the restaurant editor of Food And Wine Magazine.

Here are all the dishes. Here’s what the judges say:

About Spike’s dish - Michael: “Texture is very important to me…Caponata is usually not so loose.” Uh-oh. Anthony says that Spike “didn’t do himself any favors using the word caponata”.

Kate thinks Richard’s dish is “elegant and tasty”. Michael likes the “shards” of bread in the dish. Tom thinks it’s good and Tony says it’s “flavor forward”.

Tom likes the garnish on Stephen’s salmon, but Kate thinks the dish is too aggressive. Tony says it tastes “like a head shop”. Too “herby”, I guess.

Michael says Tre is on the money. Tom: “Nicely cooked.” Kate: “Delicious”. Tony: “Tasty.”

The judges hail a taxi…really?...and head off to Má Pêche. Tony says HE wouldn’t want to be in any of these kitchens.

We see Angelo in the kitchen. They’re making it seem like at the very last minute he decides to throw some white chocolate onto the plate with his fish and chorizo.

David Chang is at the table with the judges. Tony: ”I think Angelo’s dish was really creative, very flavorful.” Kate: “Putting white chocolate on this fish sounds crazy and I think it has an exciting flavor to it.” David: “I like the salmon roe. The flavors were all bold and were all very well-balanced and it’s the sort of style that I like. It’s a very innovative dish.” Wow!

Mike’s dish is “solid” according to David. Tom loves the eggplant in it.

Tom is confused by Fabio’s dish. David thinks it’s too heavy and combines a lot of ingredients that he would never put together. Tony: Oh no, what’s HE going to day about Fabio? “I sense a really talented cook who got hopelessly lost in the forest.” Is that an intentional (and huge) diss to call Fabio a cook, instead of a chef?

They like Tiffany’s dish, but they think there’s nothing special about it.

The chefs get back in a taxi to go to David Burke’s townhouse.

David greets then and they sit down. Dale’s (the OTHER one) roasted veal loin with peanuts, popcorn AND French toast AND caramel sounds REALLY strange. Is he trying for the fried chicken and waffle type dish?

Antonia added scallops to her pea and carrot purée.

Tony thinks the smoke in Jamie’s dish adds nothing to it. David says the whole dish could have been more creative with “more wow factor”. Ouch!

Padma says, “It seems like Dale has a sweet dish that just has veal on it.” David actually likes the combination and how he thought about the dish, but just thinks the whole thing is too sweet.

Kate thinks Casey “had a brilliant idea…so smart” to serve halibut to look like a scallop. They all like the idea of a “scalibut”. David says they could put that on the menu. David also really likes Antonia’s dish a lot and says that could also go on his menu.

One more cab ride and one more restaurant. We see Marcel telling (my) Dale about when a sous chef at WD-50 accused him (Marcel) of “culinary plagiarism”. We learn nothing of the circumstances. Why would a sous chef at WD 50 even know who Marcel is? Sounds odd to me (and to Dale).

Tiffani is in the kitchen saying she shouldn’t have frozen her melons, which is probably a good life lesson for us all. Nothing good can come of frozen melons.

Wylie asks the judges as they come in if they’re still hungry. (How COULD they be?) And Tom says they’ve saved the best for last. I know he was just stroking Wylie’s…ego, but that’s not a good thing for the other chefs to hear, is it?

Anthony: “I think Tiffani lost control of this mission on the launch pad. I find the melon, which is a major component an intruder at the party.” He DOES have a way with words. Wylie: “I would have liked to have seen her pare one or two things off the plate. It felt just a little murky.”

Wylie likes the runny yolk in Dale’s dish. Tony: “I love Dale’s dish, he took a lot of chances.” Tom: “The broth tastes like breakfast. Really cool.” Wylie: “I see what you mean. Like buttered toast, almost?” Kate: “It’s got a lot of levels.” Wylie: “I agree.”

Tom says Carla did a nice job. Wylie thinks her shrimp and grits are a little safe, but well-prepared. Kate: “I think given Carla’s background, this was a smart way to go.”

Tony thinks Marcel’s dish is more restrained and timid than he thought it would be. Tom: “Even Marcel’s cucumber was bland.” Wylie says that Marcel used a lot of the equipment in the kitchen, but he’s not sure it was used to improve the dish. Wylie says they were all successful in embracing his philosophy of taking something familiar and playing with it.

THIS is such a good episode. The chefs are cooking and other (really great) chefs are talking about what they cooked. What could be better…besides tasting the actual food?

It seems as if Dale (mine) could be on top, as well as Casey and Richard. The chefs in trouble could be Fabio, Marcel, Jamie, Tiffani and the other Dale.

Back in the stew room, Carla is bragging about using the circulator “y’all”. They all laugh. She does have a really positive energy.

Padma calls in Dale, Antonia, Angelo and Tre. They had the best dishes. This is confusing. Is it that one person from each team is eligible for the win? Let me look. Oh, I guess it is. So because they likes Antonia’s peas and carrots so much, they couldn’t also choose Casey’s scalibut? I guess.

The prize is sooooo random – a six night trip to New Zealand. WHAT does that have to do with the price of eggs?

Tony asks Dale if he knew that Wylie Dufresne was “a notorious egg slut”. Dale says he did.

The winner? It better be MY Dale. And…IT IS!!! GO ME!!! I mean, go HIM! I hope everyone realizes how outrageous it was that he went home so prematurely last time.

They send back in Tiffani, Fabio, the other Dale and Stephen. My Dale tells them to stand up to the judges. Carla says they should be nice. Antonia says, “Don’t pull a Jen”.

Tony is going out of his way to be solicitous to Fabio and he says many people have a hard time understanding David Chang. He continues that when painters lose their way, they tend to overpaint. Fabio doesn’t disagree.

Tom actually spars a bit more with Fabio than Tony does when he says that his cassoulet was over-reduced and didn’t have enough sauce. Fabio says he didn’t see anything like that in David Chang’s dishes. Tom says you have to have what the dish requires.

Stephen says he feels frustrated because he considers himself to be an expert in Italian food and wine and he blew it. Tom asks what he did wrong. He said he had elements in his mis en place that never should have made it onto the plate. Tony says there was an overwhelming flavor and scent of sandalwood that was really unpleasant.

Tiffani KNEW that she should remove the melon from her dish, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

I’m thinking it’s like when Oprah says to listen to that little voice in the back of your head. Of course, she’s talking about when you get into an elevator with a stranger and you just know he’s a murderer, but you don’t want to seem unfriendly, so you stay on the elevator and something bad happens. Here Tiffany is fighting for her culinary life and she should have followed her instincts.

Tom says, “Texturally, the whole thing fell apart because it was watery and mushy.”

Somewhat oddly, Dale (the other one, of course) explains his dish by saying, “Townhouse, it’s like food with jazz hands,” so he wanted “to embrace the sense of humor and kitsch.” Tom says the problem was he gave them a breakfast dish with veal on it.

Okay, the judges chitchat some more after the chefs go back to the stew room. Tony says it’s a fine line between homage and parody and that Tiffani was parodying what Wylie does. Tom says it was one technique too many.

The chefs go back in. Tom’s best line: “Stephen, you may have great knowledge of Italian food. I have great knowledge of Led Zeppelin. It doesn’t make me Jimmy Page.”

And it’s…Stephen and Dale to go home. I’m sorry about Dale leaving. He seemed like a great guy, jazz hand reference notwithstanding.

Stephen says he was cooking a lot more in Season One of Top Chef, but now the other chefs are just better than he was. I agree that, aside from Stephen, many of the chefs seem to have a lot more cooking under their belt. They seem more confident and comfortable than before. Top Chef started in 2006, so if they were on in the early seasons, they’ve had a bit of time to hone their skills.

I’m just happy that this season of Top Chef is so much more watchable than the Sean-plagued Top Chef Just Desserts. I’m counting on my favorite Dale to get all the way to the finale and triumph at last.

PS Jen called in to talk to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens Live. (PLEASE don’t ask me how I know this, except to say that Tom was one of the guests and SO I felt it was my duty to watch.) Jen was sooo bland, you would have thought it was Barbie on the phone. Tom reiterated that on her last week’s episode, he didn’t mind that she pushed back. (I guess he likes his chefs feisty.) When asked if she regretted going back on Top Chef, she said no, even with that outcome. Yeah, right.

PPS I made it! just a hundred or so words UNDER 3000 words!


Anonymous said...

The Quickfire was ridiculous with that time element. When the one team did lamb carpaccio, even my husband figured out that the final team could only do lamb carpaccio because there just wasn't time!

That was totally a goldfish in the cocktail. I'm surprised PETA isn't on him. It does seem kind of stressful for those fish.

I thought that Casey's dish was the favorite of her group; that is definitely the way they edited it, but I guess those peas and carrots were tasty.

I thought (not your) Dale's "jazz hands!" comment was funny!

astheroshe said...

This season is so great! I was sad to see Jen go, because she is a bad ass in the kitchen .

I am not a fan of Jaime, and her two stitches? Really? Every chef i know would black-ball her for leaving the kitchen for something so "minor". It is the hazard of the job. She acted like this was the first time she ever cut herself and had no idea what to do?..

Carla is my gal! and Richard( i do live in ATL) I love both their hairstyles :)

Sue said...

Hi Amy,
I ALWAYS think the time constraints are ridiculous. I really don't get how they are able to do what they do even with 45 minutes and 15 minutes IS almost impossible.

I agree about the poor goldfish and Casey's dish. They did make it seem as if her dish was a shoo-in for the best four.

Perhpas the jazz hands comment was funnier than I gave Dale (the other one) credit for.

Hi Astheroshe,
I know ! I am really liking this Top Chef series.

I think Tom said (was it on Andy's show?) that the medic on the set told Jamie that she needed stitches, so she, of course, followed that advice. I don't think that was too out of line. Wouldn't you listen to a medical professional in that case? I mean winning Top Chef is important and everything, but bleeding to death in order to capture the title might not be worth it.

I can't think what Richard's hair looks like this season. It's not that same over-product filled stand-up look, is it? I'll have to look closer this week.

Kitty said...

Darn, I forgot to record "Watch What Happens" with Tom C. Maybe I'll still get to catch it.

The best thing about this show was there were no Screaming Children, the Darlings. The noise they make cuts though me like a knife.

I still don't have a clue who the winner might be. Angelo seems to be doing all right, but so are some others.

I'd like to go to WD-50 because I saw a special on it showing how they made egg cubes (among other things). Seemed fascinating.

Ha, you mentioned TCJD. I so totally disliked that show at first (they had a LOT of screaming kids), but the further the season got on, the more I had to watch, because I was crazy that Morgan might win. Oh, Morgan! Hurt much?

Tracy said...

3000 very readable words!

I liked the episode a lot (and I'm loving this season). Bummer to see "not your Dale" go home, though.

Looking forward to tonight's episode. All Christmas preparations will stop dead in their tracks.

Sue said...

Hi Kitty,
Don’t worry. They repeat "Watch What Happens" almost as much as the Housewives.

It IS quite up the air who might win.

WD-50 would be amazing. I wonder if it’s good.

TCJD was so awful, but, unfortunately, I bet they'll renew it . Ugh.

Tracy, thank you!

I really am enjoying this season too. And you’re right, Christmas will have to wait.

Emily said...

HI!! Hope you have a good Christmas!!

I'm loving this season, too. Last night's episode was good. The challenges are pretty ridiculous though. No utensils? Really?!

I think Dale is going all the way! Richard looks good also.