Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Top Chef DC Recap 13: Island Party

We're just one show away from the finale! The conventional wisdom is that heading to Singapore for the Final Four means Angelo has an advantage, but we'll see how that pans out.


Quickfire Challenge

Our four remaining chefs gather at a Singapore food market, and pretend to be glad to see each other. Tom shows up with "Seetoh", an expert on Singaporean cuisine, who takes all the chefs on a tour of the market. After touring and sampling from a number of stalls there is "one final stop" and... surprise! It's Padma, with a challenge: create a Singaporean Street Food dish. The chefs are each given a wok, and a wide selection of ingredients that are labelled, but in Cantonese. The kicker? Winner gets immunity, and goes straight to the finals.

Quickfire Losers

Kevin (Saunter, -0.5): This is Kevin's first time cooking with a wok. First. Ever. Even when he knew he was coming to Singapore. Mouth. Agape. Short. Sentences. For all those out there who haven't yet cooked with a wok, you are missing out, much like Kevin did in his attempt to win this challenge. He created a seafood stew with lobster and cuttlefish and crispy shallots, which didn't seem to be terrible, but wasn't good enough either.

Kelly (Garthmeister J., -0.5): Kelly seemed to have done more preparation than Kelly, and had even read Seetoh's book. She also tried to incorporate things she had learned during the day in her Chinese noodles with lobster, cockles, bean sprouts and Chinese broccoli. Unfortunately, no go for Kelly, who hasn't been picking up many points recently.

Angelo (All-Star, -0.5): Our first surprise, self-avowed wok expert Angelo did not win. He prepared chili frog legs with pineapple and rambutan salad, after calling an audible and not going with chili crabs (a dish they had been served earlier at the market). He probably made a good choice not trying to replicate a dish he was just served (as I am sure that he would in all likelihood suffer in the comparison), but he still wasn't not good enough to win. That's gonna leave a mark.

Quickfire Winner

Ed (Daddy, +3): Ed has been loud and clear that he wanted to stick it to Angelo, and he did here with his stir-fry noodles with black pepper sauce, lobster, and gai-lan. He used two types of noodles, and Seetoh seems to think he really captured the essence of street food. I do have to say that Seetoh seemed to compliment everyone, so it isn't as clear if Ed just stomped everyone or if everyone did well and Ed was just better, though I guess it doesn't matter in the end. Ed is through to the finale!


Elimination Challenge

Dana Corwin must not have been happy with the amount of face-time she got during the "wine pairing" Quickfire, so she's back for the Elimination Challenge. The chefs are (once again) meant to be working as a team, catering a party for her and eighty of her closest friends. I still don't get the whole "working as a team" thing, to be honest. Is this so they all don't cook the same thing? Don't get it at all. Anyhow, all dishes are to be cooked a la minute, that is each dish is meant to be prepared to order. Given this last caveat, the chefs only want to cook one dish each, though Ed the sneaky sneak goes ahead and prepares for two, just in case (even though he has immunity!). And what happens at the last minute? Surprise! They have to prepare two dishes each. Good luck scrambling, non-Ed-chefs!

BTW - this was the worst party ever. It looked like a random bunch of people in a crappy looking restaurant. Dana Corwin is definitely not making the short list of party organizers for the next shindig at Chez Garthmeister.

Elimination Winner

Ed (Daddy, +6): Some might say that Ed had a distinct advantage, since he planned for two dishes from the get go. Still others might say is that's the case he is duly rewarded for his forethought. And the rest might go "Shut the fuck up, retards! Ed obviously CRUSHED the competition, and justice was served!" Ed also stood up and helped organised the (shitty) wait staff, as well as helping out Kevin in a pinch. His first dish was sweet and sour pork with crispy rice and potato cakes and gai lan, which got rave reviews from everyone. But then he knocked it out of the park with his banana fritters with red chile paste, which everyone freaks out about. Amusingly, this fritters was the "second" dish, so he has to be glad the judges wanted two dishes. Ed does seem to have a dab hand with fritters, as this reminds me of the dish he made to win the Elimination Challenge at the ball park.

Elimination Losers

Angelo (All-Star, -1): Angelo has to be super-pissed. Not only did he not win the quick-fire, but he wasn't able to win the Elimination Challenge, even when Ed had Immunity already! His first dish was his "emergency dish": spicy shrimp broth with ginger and prawn dumplings. His second dish was lamb tartare with rambutan ceviche and curry oil. A lamb tartare is unusual, and even though some of the judges (hi Dana!) admitted to not caring for tartare, they enjoyed this one. So despite not taking the challenge down, Angelo is alive to fight another day.

Kevin (Saunter, -1): It was a bit of a surprise to see Kevin make it through, especially when we discovered he had never used a wok before, but there you go. Kevin's first dish was clam chowder with flavors of Southeast Asia, which seems a neat way to meld his home cuisine with that of Singapore. It also didn't seem to be stated, but I thought this might be his "emergency dish". His second dish is more ambitious: farm egg with pearl tapioca and radish condiment. For this dish if the eggs aren't prepared exactly correctly, the whole thing is ruined, but Kevin managed to get it on point. And now has a chance in the finale!


Kelly (Garthmeister J, -1): BOOM! There goes Garthmeisters J's chances of taking back-to-back Fantasy Top Chef titles. Kelly did OK, despite cutting her finger open during prep, but her dishes weren't strong enough to see her through to the finale. Her first dish was her "emergency dish": cucumber-yogurt soup with bitter melon salad, balancing coolness with some heat. Her second dish was seared prawns, spicy red coconut curry and crispy prawn heads, which was probably not spicy enough (and which she admits to pulling the spice a little). Two decent dishes, but decent didn't cut it this time around.


Points Table

Daddy: 43.5 (+9)
Saunter: 38 (-1.5)
Garth: 17.5 (-1.5, +10 for 4th, ELIMINATED)
All-Star: 14.5 (-1.5)
Gracie: 10.5 (ELIMINATED)

And here we are, down to the final three chefs, and the final three Fantasy Top Chef Players. Thanks to Ed, Daddy has made a late push. But now it comes down to the finale. For the time being we'll ignore any possible quickfires (I can't remember if there is one in the finale!). The final challenge doesn't get "bonus points" for winning it (ie. winning chef does not get 6 points as they do during an Elimination Challenge).

Overall winner gets 50 points, 2nd gets 35, 3rd gets 20. If there isn't a clear demarcation between 2nd and 3rd, the chefs are awarded equal points (ie. 27.5 points).

IF Ed wins, Daddy takes the competition.
IF Kevin wins, Saunter wins the competition.
IF Angelo wins, it all comes down to who comes second. In a "tie" between second and third, Daddy wins, with Saunter coming second. If Ed comes second, Daddy wins, with All-Star taking the consolation; if Kevin takes second, Saunter wins, with All-Star taking the consolation.

If there is a quickfire that might throw a spanner in the works, but I'll try and work it all out as we go. Onward!


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