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.


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