Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Chef All-Stars - Cooking And Competing On A Tennis Court

Top Chef All-Stars - Advantage Chef

The chefs head to the bar. Why does it look like they’re drinking coffee? Casey misses Dale. Tiffani is really short. I mean in stature, not in temperament. (My) Dale says he can’t think about the win (last week), he has to move on to the next thing.

Padma is in the kitchen with Tony Mantuano. I liked him on Top Chef Masters.

The Quickfire Challenge is to make stuffing. They’re calling it the “Swanson great stuffing debate: create a stuffing to win the debate.”

Whoop-dee-doo. THAT is sooooooo easy. I would just make this one. The only thing is I don’t use Swanson broth. On Thanksgiving, I use the turkey stock that’s simmering on the back of my stove.

Oh, there’s a twist to the Quickfire. They’re taking away the chefs’ knives and all their utensils. Well, it’s not they’re making a soufflé and expecting them to beat the whites with their hands. Maybe that’s not SO bad, but can they use their teeth to rip things in small pieces? Probably not. The winner gets immunity and $20,000. That’s one heck of a stuffing. They have 45 minutes to cook.

Carla is starting with quinoa. Casey is making an Asian stuffing.

Fabio compares a chef cooking without tools to a surgeon doing open heart surgery with “only his finger”. Fabio runs his parmesan cheese over the metal shelving of a bakers rack to grate it. He calls it genius, except what if it’s covered in dust? Or how does he know that rack hasn’t been cleaned with bleach. Ick.

Carla is hitting an onion with a frying pan. Tre is smart to freeze everything so it can be smashed into small pieces. This whole thing is kind of dumb.

These are the dishes. Tony says, “Very nice” to Jamie’s quasi matzo ball in a “fortified broth”.

Carla is funny. She calls her undercooked quinoa Un-Dente. She tells us that it’s not a $20,000 dish. It’s not even a 20 cent dish and then she asks Tony if he needs some floss. He laughs.

Spike tells Tony he used lemongrass spears to plate up his food. Tony says, ”Ingenious.” He says, “Great” to Richard’s stuffed onion. And Tony seems to really like Tre’s southwest cheesy bread pudding. “It’s got a nice kick to it.”

Dale’s sounds intriguing - Crab and oyster stuffing with olives.

Fabio’s polenta looks good and he tells Tony about his cheese grating method.

Least favorites – Carla’s quinoa was undercooked. Tiffani F’s stuffing was “overly sweet”, which she knew. Casey’s came off “as a plated appetizer”, not as a stuffing, according to Tony.

The best - Tre’s – “Well-balanced in its spiciness”; and Marcel’s. Tony liked Marcel’s stuffing and the bird he stuffed it into. (How did he even have the time to do that?) Which one wins immunity and all that dough? Tre! He is totally thrilled. He runs up and hugs Tony and Padma.

The Elimination Challenge is to cook at the US Open. They pick tennis balls to choose teams. They’re playing “culinary tennis”. Each chef has to make a healthy dish and then serve it head to head against a chef from the other team. Each dish that wins earns a point for the team. The first team to get to four points wins. Goodness! How long did it take them to think of this?

The two teams confer back at the house about strategy. The yellow team thinks they should put their weakest dish first against the other team’s strongest dish. Who’s going to determine which is the weakest?

Jamie wants to stay out of trouble and not get involved in any strategy planning. We’re seeing a lot of Jamie this week. Is that a sign that she’ll be gone?

They shop and the next day they go to the US Open challenge. They’re all talking about how they want to make healthy food for athletes. Antonia says she was never athletic in high school, she just smoked a lot of weed.

Fabio is making gnocchi again and makes it all by hand because he doesn’t have the proper equipment.

Casey is excited by her farro. Jamie is having a problem with her chickpeas. Angelo checks his mackerel and decides it’s too slimy to use. He asks Tre for some of his fish, Tre suggests Angelo use some of Tiffany’s tuna. She’s not into all the game playing, so she says fine.

Tom comes in and asks Jamie if her team has a strategy. Jamie says she can’t divulge it. Tiffani F. also says she can’t talk about it, but the loose-lipped, Chatty Cathy Spike and Angelo spill it immediately. They say they’re putting out their worst dish first. They assume the other team will start strong, perhaps with Richard’s dish, and thus the other team will have “wasted” its best dish. Tom smirks when he hears it. Actually, Tom always smirks, so it’s hard to know what he thinks about their strategy.

Carla cuts her finger BADLY….half her fingernail comes off. Dale is in awe of how she “manned up” and just wants to get it bandaged up and get on with her cooking.

Antonia reminds us of Jamie cutting her finger and going off to the hospital for two mingy stitches. I really do not hold that against Jamie, since she had no idea at the time that it wasn’t more serious. Carla thinks that since she (Carla) cut OFF part of her finger, there’s nothing to stitch up, so why leave the kitchen? She covers her hand with a huge glove.

Jamie’s chickpeas are still not done. Spike tastes his shrimp and they’re not good, so he cooks another batch really quickly without seasoning them as much as he would have liked.

They go out to the court…I’m told by the tennis expert in my house that that’s the Armstrong court, the second show court at the U.S. Open. Marcel says that when he stepped out onto the tennis courts, he felt like a gladiator entering an arena.

Spike, Jamie, Angelo, Tre, Tiffany, Tiffani, Casey and Spike are the yellow team. The others are the orange team.

The chefs (the male ones in particular) are sooo into this competition. Jamie is still not sure if her chickpeas will be done. They find out that Fabio is going first for the other team and they think his dish will be good. Spike, in particular, thinks Jamie should definitely go first with her uncooked chickpeas. She refuses, because she wants more time to get her chickpeas soft.

Casey finally volunteers. Spike is incredulous that Jamie isn’t going and their strategy is going to pot. (Sorry, Antonia, not literally.)

The judges are tennis player Taylor Dent, Tom, Padma, Gail and Tony. They all love Fabio’s whole wheat gnocchi. He wins the round. He goes WILD.

Marcel wants to go second, but Dale’s edamame dumplings need to be served now, so the orange team’s Dale goes against Tiffani F. “Two strong dishes,” says Tom. Padma prefers Dale’s dish, but the rest vote for Tiffani. So each team has one point. The chefs go wild…again.

The next pairing is Angelo against Marcel. Taylor loves them both, but the rest like Angelo’s dish better. He goes REALLY wild. Angelo jumps on Tre in jubilation. Marcel is po’ed and can’t believe that Angelo wins by presenting his food on a spoon once again. I don’t really remember him always doing that.

We’re seeing a lot more of the yellow team, so clearly they’re going to lose. They keep struggling over who should go next. Jamie says (to us) that she’s happy that Angelo won and they may get enough points to win without her having to go at all.

Tiffany is up against Antonia. The judges are pretty divided and Antonia wins. Her team goes pretty crazy too.

Richard is up against Spike, which Spike is not happy about. Angelo keeps putting his two cents (and some yuzu gelée) into Spike’s dish…which doesn’t make Spike happy.

Tony says neither protein was good in either dish, but that Richard’s tabboleh saved him. They really hate Spike’s shrimp and so Richard wins. Mike and Dale are completely beside themselves. Spike is “extremely upset” because Jamie is nowhere to be found. There’s a shot of her kind of pretending to do something behind (and under) a table, but it’s clear she’s trying to hide to prevent herself from having to go.

Team Orange is one point from winning. Orange’s Carla goes next against Tre. Casey’s not happy that it’s Tre, because he has immunity and if he loses he can’t go home, so there’s a greater chance that the other losers will go home.

Tre says Angelo asks if he can do anything for him and Tre tells him he can cook his fish. Why are they telling us this? I guess because Angelo ruins Tre’s dish, maybe.

Carla’s peanut soup, which no one on her team liked, beats Tre’s dish, but the only one who dissed Tre’s salmon was Gail, who said it was a bit overcooked. The others just really liked Carla’s soup. She hoots it up after she wins. Her teammates jump over barriers to get to her.

Spike is really mad that they didn’t follow his strategy. Tiffany says (to us) that his strategy was stupid. Jamie says (to us) that she just dodged a bullet and she SAYS she didn’t plan it that way, it just happened. Yeah, it just happened by her refusing to go and take a bullet for the team and hiding under the tablecloth so she wouldn’t go.

They show a bit in the stew room of the chefs dancing and Mike Isabella being really goofy. I don’t think he’s acting, though.

Mike asks if Jamie is upset that she didn’t get to go. She says yes and no, because she was sorry she didn’t get to present her food. Yeah, sure she was. Spike is still po’ed and says Jamie should have gone first. He tells us that because she had the worst dish, she should be up for elimination. That’s hard to argue with.

Padma comes out in short shorts and asks to see Richard, Fabio, Carla and Antonia. They are the winners.

The winner gets a trip to Italy. Padma asks about their strategy. Richard says their strength was they didn’t HAVE a strategy. The judges loved all the food. They don’t say anything bad about Richard’s lamb. And the winner is Carla!!! Oh goodie. And I think everyone is pretty happy for her. It’s hard not to be. She’s so great. She comes out hooting to the stew room.

All the yellow team’s chefs who lost a point go in, in other words, NOT JAMIE. Meanwhile, out in the stew room, Richard gives it to her and says,”JAMIE, you’ve got a story going now.” She says she’s insulted by what he’s saying. He says “It’s an ODD story.” Jamie asks, “Because I haven’t cooked?” EXACTLY…and for two weeks in a row.

The losing chefs are in front of the judges and Padma asks about strategy. Spike tells them about how they basically didn’t follow their plan and that other people had their hands in his dish (like Angelo).

Tony tells Tre his salmon was overcooked.

We see in the previews that Padma says to Casey that her “hearty grain was hard to digest”. Casey almost sounds like she’s going to pull a Jen and says “It was MEANT to be hearty.”

Back in the stew room while the judges deliberate, Spike says he should have told the other chefs to keep their hands off his dish. Tiffany says at the end of the day, they’re all responsible for their own dishes.

The judges discuss. It’s hard to know which dish they disliked the most.

The chefs come back in. And it’s…Spike. That doesn’t seem that fair, given all their comments. They liked his soup, just not his underseasoned shrimp.

Do you think it was fair that Spike got sent home? I don’t and neither does he. He says he got screwed and that “some people's” strategy was just not to serve their food. And other people’s strategy was to screw up other chefs’ food. He says (to us), “Jamie, this is a competition and at some point you’re going to have to compete.” True, very true. He says he still thinks he’s the best of the best.

Jamie was off the hook two weeks in a row and that begins to raise some questions. The first week I don’t blame her for. You’ll see why in my next post. But remember how I said that these chefs seem more self-assured and professional than in their original seasons? Well, not Jamie. She seems to have lost that spark of self confidence that she had when we first met her.

Next week is going to be awesome! The chefs are cooking against Tom. I hope they all trounce him, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.


Sheila said...

Mmmmaybe its time to start TiVo-ing Top Chef again... How's the blizzard-ing? Are you staying warm?

Tracy from Rah Cha Chow said...

I agree with you about everything... the "no tools" for stuffing was silly. I love Carla and was glad she won. And it was ridiculous that Spike got sent home -- but part of that was that the challenge was set up pretty unfairly. I can't imagine Jamie will last much longer.

Anonymous said...

My husband said the same thing about Fabio's cheese grating - what if it's dirty!?

It really makes no sense that Jamie and Mike didn't have to present their food. They should have made the judges taste it, but just not have it count against the team total. It just doesn't seem right at all, both ways - Jamie was not up for elimination, which was unfair since undercooked = worst, but Mike also wasn't up for the win.

Kitty said...

Thanks for giving us your recipe for dressing. I want to try this. I use bread and cornbread (unsweet!). Cornbread dressing is good during the non-holidays with cooked pieces of chicken in it. Yum!

I kinda feel sorry for Jamie. She's not her old self, but she certainly is prettier.

Do you think Angelo would really try to sabotage his own team? It's strange that he would actually add ingredients to people's dishes and overcook someone else's. I think maybe he thinks he's so superior to everyone else that he knows better than they what to add to their dishes and how to cook them. Could be sabotage. He's sneaky.

How come Fabio has not been called out for making gnocchi so often?

I'm beginning not to like Casey much at all.