Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Just The Facts, Ma'am: Top Chef DC Episode 6

Real life got in the way of a timely recap, so I am throwing up a points summary in case a real recap doesn't make it's way up here before tonight's episode.


Quickfire Losers: Stephen (Gracie, -0.5), Alex (Saunter, -0.5), Andrea (Daddy, -0.5)

Quickfire Finalists: Tamesha (Daddy, +1), Amanda (All-Star, +1)

Quickfire Winner: Kelly (Garthmeister J., +3)

Elimination Finalist: Tiffany (Saunter, +2)

Elimination Winner: Kevin (Saunter, +6)

Elimination Loser: Kenny (Gracie, -1)

Tamesha (Daddy, -1)


Points Table

Daddy: 18.5 (-0.5)
All-Star: 14.5 (+1)
Gracie: 12.5 (-1.5)
Garth: 9.5 (+3)
Saunter: 9.5 (+7.5)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Top Chef DC 5: Down on the Farm

We are still cruising through the part of the season where the weaker chefs are obvious, and it seems just a matter of time before they will be jettisoned from the competition. Having said that, last week's elimination of Arnold, not to mention the near-elimination of Kenny, has definitely put everyone on edge. Who will be packing their knives this week?


Quickfire Challenge

The chefs enter the Top Chef kitchen, and BOOM: blue crabs are everywhere. Seriously, all over the place, all scuttling about doing crab-like things. The chefs run the gamut from happy (Tim, who's from the region), scared (Tiffany), or confused (Tamesha, who has apparently never cooked with crabs before?!). I, for one, hope no one does them badly; a couple of years back I had a "bad crab experience", which culminated in me projectile-vomiting all over AlCantHang's bathroom. True story.

The guest judge-chef is a weird looking dude who explains that blue crabs are adored in the region, and that they need to make a dish that makes the crab "sing". Alright then, weird chef-dude-who-might-be-on-a-sex-offender-registry-somewhere...

Quickfire Losers

Andrea (Daddy, -0.5): Andrea claims to have some problems with the blue crabs, as they are much smaller than the crabs she gets in Miami. Perhaps that caused her to overcompensate? Her warm crab salad with citrus gastrique and Mexican red chiles is deemed too "weighty", which is kind of a weird description for a salad. In fact, let's just make a blanket statement that avoiding salads (not to mention desserts) is a solid idea. Foreshadowing! Anyhoo, I think Daddy can take this result in stride.

Amanda (All-Star, -0.5): To my mind, Amanda is still one of the enigmas of the competition. Can she actually cook? Is she insane, or just mildly unbalanced? When the going gets tough, will she break down and start doing lines of sea salt? For the Elimination Challenge she comes up with a crab salad with sauterne ginger juniper gelee. The freaky guest judge comments that the dish is "unbalanced". To me, that's a bit of a chef diss, just a step above calling a dish "amateurish". For All-Star, he needs this girl to be avoiding the bottom as much as possible, while hoping that the voices in Amanda's head compel her to produce the occasional culinary masterpiece before she is thrown out of the competition for putting a cleaver into the back of Alex's skull (or some other variety of chef-on-chef violence).

Kevin (Gretchen, -0.5): Poor Kevin. And poor Saunter. When the season started, Kevin looked like one of the studs of the crew. Maybe not as good as Angelo, or in the same class as Kenny, but someone who could do some damage. Now he is a mere shade of himself, lacking in confidence, and producing a crab chowder that doesn't have enough crab in it, a clear failure to meet the "singing" part of the challenge requirement. Saunter has to hope that this guy gets a confidence infusion from somewhere, or he is going to be out in the near future.

Quickfire Finalists

Kenny (Gracie, +1): It is no secret the Kenny thinks he is the top dog amongst the chef contestants. He looks with disdain upon his inferiors, noting their poor attempts at culinary creativity, wondering how it can take people so long to produce dishes which pale in comparison to what he offers. For the crab challenge he decides to rub it in their faces by making three, count them: three, dishes (korean chili crab bisque, crab bruschetta, and warm crab with sesame, in case you were wondering). Is he surprised to be named one of the top chefs in the challenge? No, he is only surprised that he didn't win the whole damn thing. So is Gracie.

Angelo (All-Star, +1): Another podium finish for our douchiest chef, though he must be confused that he is dominating completely like he was earlier. Was his douche-move when he tried to sabotage Kenny in the school episode resulted in a load of bad karma? Or is the competition just closer than we thought it was? Maybe if Angelo spent less time slobbering over Tamesha he's be bringing home more wins. All-Star certainly hopes that this is just a minor down-swing; after all, the dude is still bringing in points, this time with an Asian (surprise) themed crab broth infused with lemongrass and ginger.

Quickfire Winner

Ed (Daddy, +3): Ed Cotton, not-so-silent assassin. When he is not making eyes at Tiffany, Ed is definitely going from strength to strength, and right now appears to be one of the draft bargains at Number 4 overall. Ed's got so much swagger right now that he attempts to out-Asian Angelo, going for a Thai-inspired crab dish, and wins! Before too long people other than myself and Daddy are going to notice that Ed is starting to bring the noise, and start thinking about this horse making into the finale.


Elimination Challenge

Determined to show that Washington, DC is not a bustling metropolis, the producers take the chefs out of their element to Bumfuck, Virginia, where one of the pioneering hippie-farms resides. You know, one where the animals roam wild and free, or something, and everything is organic, and they get to charge like a gazillion dollars for a half-dozen eggs and some asparagus. For some reason the chefs are combined into one team to produce six total dishes: to add drama I suppose, and to make sure that they don't get 6 racks of lamb rather than some soup and some salad or whatever.

It seems obvious that everyone should work in pairs and bring something to the dish, but Kenny and Angelo get to shout at each other a lot before they all decide to be in the same pairs as last Elimination Challenge. The only sad people seems to be Ed (who doesn't get to make moves on Tiffany), Tiffany (more because she seems to think Tim sucks, as opposed to wanting Ed to press his doughy flesh against her), and Alex (who then realises that Ed doesn't like him). Just like High School!

The "twist" is that the chefs won't know what ingredients they will get to cook with, and what they will get too cook on. The horror! They do, however, get a lot of product placement as the chefs drive out to the farm, to cook on shitty equipment in tight quarters in cold weather. Fun!

Elimination Challenge Finalists

Kevin (Saunter, +2): You know one person who was happy about having the same pairs as last Elimination Challenge? Kevin - because then he gets to be paired up again with Mother Fucking Kenny. Mother Fucking Kenny (or MFK, for short) has no problems telling lesser chefs what to do. And when lesser chefs (read: Kevin) get their dish accidentally tipped onto the ground, MFK is gonna tell you to get your bitch-ass off the ground, and get backing to slapping those hos. Or something. Anyway, the MFK magic totally works, and Kevin recovers from having his first attempt dumped on the grass to produce a broccoli cous cous with lemon zest that wows the judges. All Saunter can hope for is that enough MFK rubbed off on Kevin, or that Kevin gets paired with MFK for the rest of the season.

Andrea (Daddy, +2): Andrea rebounds from her crab failure, and scores major points with her five spice rubbed grilled pork loin. There was some concern earlier about how it cook, and Andrea made the savvy decision to quarter the loin to make sure it cooked properly. Done and done, so to speak. I don't think Andrea is going anywhere soon, though I can't put her in the top tier of talent.

Kelly (Garthmeister J., +2): Kelly seems to have some reasonable cooking chops as well, scoring for the roasted shallot-apple balsamic jus, roasted beets, and roasted five-spiced apples which accompanied the pork. I do think that Kelly might have been the brains of the Five Spice Duo here. Garth needs Kelly to keep scoring if he is going to have any say in the final standings.

Elimination Challenge Winner

Kenny (Gracie, +6): Mother Fucking Kenny. When MFK sees people racing to get pork loin and other proteins, MFK just rolls his eyes. When MFK sees eggplant, he also sees hot and sour curried eggplant. And when he makes that hot and sour curried eggplant, he's not going to worry that he might bruise your delicate sensibilities with some spiciness. No, MFK is going to bring the motherfucking HEAT. And you will thank him for it, just you wait and see.

As an aside, during the episode we get to see some B-roll of all the female chefs basically announcing that they would like to bang Kenny. They also call him a variety of nicknames, which include "Black Angus"(?). Noticeably absent is "Mother Fucking Kenny", but they probably cut that due to the FCC. However, it did become clear to me that MFK is obviously the inspiration behind Black Dynamite. Can you dig it?

Elimination Losers

Amanda (All-Star, -1): This time the voices told Amanda to make a minestrone, but unfortunately Amanda doesn't seem to know what a minestrone is, beyond being a soup of some kind. Eric Ripert even comes out and asks her if she knows what one is, which is kind of embarrassing. To top things off, Amanda does a really shitty job of cooking the vegetables. Fortunately for her, the voices in her head, and fans of train wrecks everywhere, there is a crappier chef than her in this challenge.

Stephen (Gracie, -1): I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Stephen sucks. He sucks really badly. This time he produces a really sucky salad, which... look, it just sucks OK? It sucked to look at, it sucked to hear him talk about it, and apparently it really sucked to eat. No doubt Gracie was imploring Padama to send this guy packing, but he survives to continue to bleed points another day. He sucks.


Tim (Garthmeister J., -1): What to make of Tim? He was somewhat confounding, always seeming confident with legitimate reasons for that confidence. In the grilling challenge? Why, he was using these awesome rubs and sauces he used in his restaurant. In the crab challenge? Hell, he's from the area, and knows you just have to let those crabs shine. This time? Sure, he's just producing grilled roasted turnips and asparagus, but you will recognise the simple brilliance in the dish. Alternatively the judges will sniff out the fact that you had no idea what you were doing and produced a retarded dish. Fuck off, Tim. Just... just fuck off.

And all of a sudden, we have the first fantasy player to have only one chef remaining in the game. Garth is officially on Death Watch.


Points Table

Daddy: 19 (+4.5)
Gracie: 14 (+6)
All-Star: 13.5 (-0.5)
Garth: 6.5 (+1)
Saunter: 2 (+1.5)

Daddy continues to flex his muscles, with Ed and Andrea contributing, and the solid Tamesha not making a contribution for this week. Gracie is riding the power of MFK, though the downer that is Stephen is only holding her back. All-Star needs the voices in Amanda's head to be more clear in their instructions, and Angelo has to stop being out-psyched by MFK and Ed. Saunter requires Kevin to build on the last challenge, if nothing else.

And Garth? Well, Garth better hope Kelly can fucking cook.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Top Chef DC Recap 4: Double Trouble

So far we've seen the consensus "worst chef in the competition" get eliminated, but this week we have a (dun-dun-dun) Double Elimination episode. Garth is hoping he keeps the rest of his team safe, lest his entire fantasy chef season go up in smoke.


Quickfire Challenge

As you may or may not know, both Tom and Padma have recently had children. This is also the reason that Padma is looking extremely, uh, bouncy this season. Apparently the producers have run out of ideas already this season, and decided to use the two co-hosts recent spawning as inspiration. The chefs are to make a dish with two versions: one for Mum and Dad, and one for junior. Um, sure! Padma and Tom will both pick their favorites, and those two people will each earn $10k. Arnold announces that he will donate the money to AIDs babies (seriously), while Alex announces that he will use the money on hookers and blow (seriously).

Quickfire Losers

Tim (Garthmeister J., -0.5): Garth must be seriously questioning his selection of Tim in the first round. Right now Tim has been nothing but an over-promising points sink. This time he overcooks his lamb, which is enough to earn a reprimand.

Alex (Saunter, -0.5): Alex, clearly excited about the prospect of spending ten grand on obtaining some feminine comfort as well as some Colombian Marching Powder to allow him to forget the pain and drudgery of his existence, has too much of a heavy hand with the spices. Sorry, Saunter.

Kevin (Saunter, -0.5): Saunter has a second team member betray her, and like Garth, it's her alleged top chef. Kevin's culinary crime was garnishing his dish with a nice pool of duck blood, which is considered unseemly by the judges.

Kelly (Garthmeister J., -0.5): Saunter isn't the only fantasy owner to be failed by two chefs in the Quickfire Challenge, as Garth is let down by both his first and second round draft picks. Kelly's pork is too bland, so I suppose she and Alex should have pooled their resources. Hell, they could have shared the blow.

Quickfire Finalists

Lynne (Gracie, +1): Despite moaning about her lack of offspring, making her feel ill-prepared for the challenge, Lynne wins points for her chicken breast with fruit compote, striking a blow for childless old people everywhere.

Angelo (All-Star, +1): No surprise to see Angelo on the podium, with his fenugreek-infused broth with seared tuna. He goes overboard with the presentation of the babyfood, cleverly taking advantage of the fact that babies love well presented purees. Wait, no they don't, that's insane. Nonetheless, his pandering to the judges pays off, once again. No, I'm not bitter at all.

Quickfire Winners

Tamesha (Daddy, +3): Finally Daddy's second round pick surfaces, impressing with her salmon and vegetable chowder. Perhaps Tamesha is yet to make some noise in this competition, despire her initial quiet.

Kenny (Gracie, +3): Another contestant used to the winner's circle, Kenny takes down $10,00 with his curried chicken with mango salad. More bragging rights in the continuing Kenny/Angelo feud, no doubt, though Gracie can be proud of her team's performance in the challenge.

Elimination Challenge

After lacking inspiration in the first challenge, the producers have a brainwave for the Elimination Challenge. The chefs divide themselves into pairs, and have to cook three dishes. The top two pairs at each point pass the challenge and stop cooking, while the bottom team after all three rounds (both chefs) will be eliminated. The first dish is breakfast, the second dish is lunch, and the third lunch is dinner... with the twist that it is meant to be targeted at Hilton guests (thankyou sponsors!). Featuring amongst the judges are DC-area locals (and former Top Chef contestants) Spike, Brian Voltaggio, and Mike I. There is a quick frenzy to pick partners, and with that, we're off!

Due to the slightly different format of the competition, we will be awarding 2 points to each chef who is part of a winning pair, 6 points to each chef who is part of the winning dish, and -1 point to each chef in one of the final bottom pairs, whether they were eliminated or not. Got that? No? Too bad!

Elimination Challenge Finalists: 1st Round

Stephen (Gracie, +2) and Amanda (All-Star, +2): Stephen and Amanda appeared to be chefs no one wanted to pair with. When I saw Amanda paired with Stephen, my first thought was "kiss of death", having no faith in that man's ability to cook. Was I wrong? Absolutely, as the underdogs come out swinging, being one of the first pairs to be released for their tasty breakfast. Will this be a springboard for Stephen for further greatness? I say no.

Tiffany (Saunter, +2) and Tim (Garthmeister J., +2): Should Garth take solace from this effort by Tim? No. Pretty clearly Tiffany regarded Tim as the weak link in the pair, and she needed to pull him through. She was successful in her efforts, but this does not look good for Garth. Saunter can be encouraged that though her top two picks have been disappointing, she may have a genuine sleeper in Tiffany.

Elimination Challenge Finalists: 2nd Round

Angelo (All-Star, +2) and Tamesha (Daddy, +2): The only shock with this pair was that they weren't on top in the first round. Another thing to watch was that Angelo chose Tamesha as his partner. It seems that Angelo wouldn't mind sharing his secret sauce with the young chef, but I find it hard to believe that lust alone would make Angelo choose a weak chef to pair with.

Alex (Saunter, +2) and Ed (Daddy, +2): OK, how did this team come together? Previously in this season Ed has sounded off on Alex, so I can only imagine that that footage was taken after this challenge. They managed to screw the pooch royally in the first round, not getting their hollandaise to the plate, and also forgetting to plate a major component of their brekky. Despite these mis-steps these kitchen bitches hug it out, metaphorically at least, and save their own bacon at lunch.

Elimination Challenge Winners

Kelly (Garthmeister J., +6) and Andrea (Daddy, +6): These two ladies get their act together, and avoid going home. Despite underperforming in the first two rounds their Braised beef short rib, chevre-scented polenta, roasted shiitake mushrooms and citrus gremolata was enough for them to take down top honours for the Elimination Challenge.

Elimination Challenge Losers

Kenny (Gracie, -1) and Kevin (Saunter, -1): I am not sure how Kenny wasn't able to muscle his way through earlier. Of interest was that we saw a lot of footage of Kenny and Kevin adding horseradish to their braised beef short rib. Kevin was complaining that Kenny kept adding horseradish to the dish though he thought there was enough. The judges' main complaint? Not enough horseradish. Sorry Saunter, Kevin sucks.


Arnold (All-Star, -1) and Lynne (Gracie, -1): Arnold. Arnold, Arnold, Arnold. This promising chef is finally taken down by Lynne, from the Culinary Institute. Lynne claims to know how to cook fresh pasta, despite Arnold's repeated pleading for them to get it cooking. Alas it fell on deaf ears, and pineapple red curry mussels with squid ink pasta is the last dish they serve in this competition. All-Star must be gutted, know that his sleeper has gone out in such ignominious fashion.


Points Table

Daddy: 14.5 (+13)
All-Star: 14 (+4)
Gracie: 8 (+5)
Garth: 5.5 (+7)
Saunter: 0.5 (+2)

Daddy has a monster week, striking big with all three of his chefs, and is staking his claim to the title. Garth also did well, with Kelly doing all the heavy-lifting, but unless Tim lifts his game, he is going to be in trouble. Gracie lost one of her weaker chefs, and right now her hopes lie with Kenny. All-Star still has two quality chefs, but lost his looming sleeper. Saunter has all three chefs remaining, and maybe looking to Tiffany to bring her glory. These next few weeks are going to be important, as the competition starts to sort itself out. Stay hungry, my friends!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Top Chef DC Recap 3: Grillicious

With the draft over, everyone gets to see if their culinary judgment was sound. Is Angelo really the favourite to win it all? Does anyone know anything about Lynne? Is Tracey definitively the worst chef remaining? Let's find out!


Quick Fire Challenge

As blatant shilling for their new Top Chef spinoff, Top Chef: Just Desserts, Bravo trot out Gail (the hostess of the spinoff) along with the Chef co-host Johnny Iuzzini, who apparently really likes rockabilly. Given the set-up, it is inevitable that we're getting a dessert challenge. And we are. The contestants need to make a pie, which naturally causes everyone to freak out and panic.

Quickfire Losers

Alex (Saunter, -0.5): There's no reason to pile on all the chefs here, this was clearly something out of most of their comfort zones. Alex came up with a white cocolate, tapioca and chevre pie. The judges quizzed him about whether there was an egg in the filling, and when Alex replied in the affirmative he was informed that he had just made a quiche. That is exactly the point in time when Alex realised he wasn't winning the challenge.

Tracey (Garthmeister J., -0.5): As opposed to Alex, the exact moment Tracey realised she wasn't winning the challenge was the moment Arnold alerted her to the fact her pie was burning. Unless she realised it as soon as the challenge, despite her having "former pastry chef" on her resume. She gamely makes another pie, but unfortunately this second blueberry-almond pie, though unburnt, still sucks.

Ed (Daddy, -0.5): Ed had a great idea for a pie. A banana cream pie. To me, that sounds tasty, and if Ed had walked up to me and said "hey, want some banana cream pie?" I would say "fuck yes, that sounds great!". If Ed then added "it comes with salted peanuts and spuma" I would then say "urgh, no, and also what is spuma, I said no right?". Ed comes up with the brilliant plan to explain that this is how his grandma makes it, but the judges see right through him and his spuma.

Quickfire Finalists

Kelly (Garthmeister J., +1): Apparently Kelly is not a one-taco wonder, doing a solid job with her raspberry and chocolate ganache tart, which looks fantastic. Kelly did claim that opening up a restaurant at some extremely young age means she can do anything, so we'll see if that holds up.

Stephen (Gracie, +1): Stephen recovers from the abuse he took during the draft (from me), and scores with his curried apple pie. That'll show me. MGM Grand, represent!

Quickfire Winner

Kenny (Gracie, +3): If someone said to me "I have a great idea for a pie! It will feature Chinese 5 Spice!", well I would not eat that pie. Even if it was a bananas fosters pie. Kenny has gone and proven my anti-Chinese-five-spice-in-pie-even-if-it-is-a-banana-fosters-pie bias to be wrong and even wronger, by taking this challenge down. This was the first blood for Kenny, who has loomed as a potential challenger to Angelo, without actually winning anything. Until now. Gracie grabs the points with glee.


Elimination Challenge

What do you think of when you think of Washington DC? That's right, you think of interns. Top Chef decides to celebrate this by having a grilling challenge at some place called Mount Vernon, so they can feed a horde of interns. I sure hope these chefs know how to use a grill!

No, a lot of the chefs do NOT know how to use a grill. For shame. Hope they don't fuck up the food, which needs to be cooked! On a grill!

Oh dear.

Elimination Challenge Finalists

Ed (Daddy, +2): Did Ed think back on his use of spuma in his banana cream pie with regret? Probably. Did he second guess himself after Colicchio thought his dish for the Elimination Challenge sounded too busy? Definitely. Was Daddy pumped when Ed made the top 4 with his tuna loin sandwich? Abso-fucking-lutely. We'll see if Ed finds his sea legs, because if he does he could make some noise in this competition.

Amanda (All-Star, +2): During this episode we learned that Amanda is an ex-junkie. We also learn that she believes in "Prison Rules" when it comes to the kitchen. We also learn that a lot of the other chefs enjoy making fun of her. Let's just say, if next week we discover a few chefs have gone missing... well, I'm sure you can put the pieces together. The ex-junkie thing goes some way to explaining the sherry-chicken thing. And despite every other contestant recoiling in horror at her technique, Amanda does herself proud with her ribs and asparagus, which Angelo (much to his shock) professes to love. Go figure. All-Star looks like a savant with this pick, though she might be a boom or bust kind of chef.

Angelo (All-Star, +2): Kenny pointed out earlier in the episode that he notices that Angelo seems to trot out Asian flavours all the time, but hey - those Asian flavours win. Speaking of Asian flavours, Angelo made a Vietnamese lettuce wrap and a smoked egg salad. At this point it's not a surprise to see Angelo in the final four, it's just a surprise not to see him win.

Elimination Challenge Winner

Arnold (All-Star, +6): BAM! All-Star gets Elimination Challenge points from all three of his chefs, including the winner... and the winner wasn't even Angelo! Quite the start, and even better when his winning chef was the one blanching about grilling, and had to ape the movements of Kenny to even get his grill lit. But lit the grill was, and tasty his sesame lamb meatball with gazpacho and tabouli. I have to admit, when I saw a picture of the meatball it did indeed look great, and so it was.

Elimination Challenge Losers

Tim (Garthmeister J., -1): Tim claimed to love grilling. Tim claimed to have a secret weapon: a rub used in his restaurant. Unfortunately, the rub must suck, as his pork two ways was shot down by the judges. This was not what Garth was looking for from his first pick in the draft.

Kevin (Saunter, -1): Another first round pick, Kevin disappointed with his Puerto Rican skirt steak, which was apparently inspired by his in-laws. These top round picks have to deliver, as one can't rely on your lower picks to be top-shelf. Unless you're All-Star, apparently.

Stephen (Gracie, -1): This time, the MGM Grand does not represent. After announcing that "fish is his thing", Stephen then produces a mediocre bacon-wrapped sea bass dish. I have the feeling that Stephen has the capability to continually be bad enough to be one of the poorest dishes, but not quite bad enough to be eliminated - a worst case scenario for Gracie.


Tracey (Garthmeister J., -1): Ah, Tracey. The chef who was picked last turned out to have been indeed the least talented chef remaining. Showing an extremely amateurish approach in most challenges, Tracey decided to make sausages. "Easy," she said. When she ran out of time she decided to make sliders. Unfortunately the slides were seasoned completely incorrectly, overloading them with fennel, made them too large, and then undercooked them. This was enough to send her on her way, and Garth might count himself lucky to only lose a grand total of 1.5 points.


Points Table

All-Star: +10
Gracie: +3
Daddy: +1.5
Saunter: -1.5
Garth: -1.5

Everyone should be frightened. If Angelo continues to deliver, while Amanda and Arnold keep chipping in, All-Star could be hard to catch. Gracie and Daddy had their top picks do something, but Saunter and Garth must be scratching their heads. Tracey did indeed turn out to be the 15th pick, but is Andrea next on the chopping block?