Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Top Chef DC 10: I Spy

Holy crap, I still can't believe Kenny is gone. Neither can Gracie, as she becomes the first person eliminated from the Fantasy Top Chef competition. Time for everyone to catch their breath...


Quickfire Challenge

For this episode's Quickfire, they chefs are confronted by noted molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne. Man, that's quite the name. I bet poor Chef Dufresne has spent most of his life spelling out his name to people on the phone, who still manage to mangle it. Also: do you think Chef Dufresne was called "Wylie Coyote" as a kid? I sure do.

Anyhow, Chef Coyote, Super Genius, has set up a crazy challenge for everyone: each chef is assigned an identical "mystery box", from which they all have to produce a dish. But wait! Before you go claiming that Top Chef has just ripped off "Chopped" (or cooking competitions everywhere), there's a twist: new "mystery boxes" will appear throughout the challenge, which need to be incorporated into the final dish. Crazy! Insane! Loud noises!

For their troubles, the winner of the challenge will get 10k. Is it me, or have they really been throwing the money around this season? Not that I'm complaining, but I definitely noticed.

Contents of Box 1: fish, beans, unlabelled can (which turns out to be hominy)
Box 2: squid, black garlic
Box 3: ramps, passionfruit
Box 4: jicama

Quickfire Losers

Amanda (All-Star, -0.5): From those "wonderful" ingredients Amanda came up with crispy skin striped bass, squid fricassee, and leek and mushroom fondue. Chef Coyote asked her whether she used oil or butter during the challenge (Amanda said she used both), and the apparent motive behind the question is because her dish was indeed extremely oily. Urgh. Nothing worse than oily passionfruit. Deduction: All-Star.

Alex (Saunter, -0.5): This almost isn't fair anymore. Can we just shoot Alex in the back of the head and put him out of his misery? We all know Stephen was shitty, and hung around waaaaaayyy too long, but at least Stephen didn't have other chefs talking about how much he sucks every episode. Alex? Alex has that in spades. I mean, can you imagine being him, and watching the aired episodes? Has to be embarrassing. Also embarrassing? Alex's rockfish with fava bean puree, ramp fondue, and sautéed squid. During the challenge he repeatedly said he didn't have a concept of the dish, was going to prepare everything separately and then put it together at the end. And he did it all terribly, and it showed. The end.

Quickfire Finalist

Kevin (Saunter, +1): During the challenge it always seemed that Kevin was the first chef to the next Mystery Box, ready to take on the next challenge, and this enthusiasm seemed to show in his dish. He produced pan-seared rockfish, hominy puree, and jicama and passionfruit salad (which actually sounds great), and even added red pepper flakes into the squid marinade for some extra zing. A confident Kevin is a dangerous Kevin. Watch out, chefs.

Quickfire Winner

Tiffany (Saunter, +3): Besides Confident Kevin, you know who else to watch out for? Tiffany. This woman is a one-chef wrecking crew right now, and is going to have to be considered one of the favourites. For this challenge she produced a fish stew with hominy, fava beans, saffron, and black garlic, and collects another ten grand. Good for her.


Elimination Challenge

So wither the Elimination Challenge? Why, CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia! The chefs are required to draw knives for a dish, which they are then required to "disguise". In this context "disguise" seems to be some kind of combination of "re-imagine" and "decontruct". The dishes will be presented to a number of CIA employees, including Director Leon Panetta. The winner, besides not getting eliminated, will also win a trip to Paris. Hurrah! The losers will be water-boarded.

Elimination Finalists

Kelly (Garthmeister J., +2): We haven't heard too much from Kelly recently, but here she is, back on the podium. Interestingly Kelly professed not to know how to cook Asian food, or at least Kung Pao Shrimp, but came up with the clever idea of looking at the ingredients of bottled Kung Pao sauce to get an idea of the flavour profile. She disguised the dish as a soup, which seemed to go over well, despite her screwing up the rice and having to scramble at the end. Garth will be pleased.

Ed (Daddy, +2): Ed was given chicken cordon bleu, and decided to make it "inside out". I actually think he could have gone a lot of different ways (you have chicken breast, ham, and cheese... GO!), and went for the easiest of disguises. But the reason he was a finalist is because he cooked the shit out of that chicken. Good job Ed, even if you fail at disguises.

Elimination Winner

Tiffany (Saunter, +6): Can Tiffany be stopped?! All signs point to no! Tiffany produced a wonderfully deconstructed gyro, which everyone raves about. And in the span of a single episode Tiffany has a trip to Paris and $10k for her upcoming honeymoon. Solid choice for her to decide to come on this show. In addition, Saunter is in danger of running away with Fantasy Top Chef if Tiffany keeps this up.

Elimination Losers

Amanda (All-Star, -1): Amanda is assigned French Onion soup, and cleverly decides to disguise it as... soup. Good show. She also manages to fuck up the soup, which is just adding insult to injury. Back a few episodes ago, didn't she say she was some kind of French food expert? Too bad for her, since she seemed to be so into the spy thing, but now the CIA knows her food sucks. Though, since they are the CIA, they probably knew that already.

Angelo (All-Star, -1): Wow, Angelo. Just a completely lack-lustre episode from him. Perhaps he misses his sparring partner Kenny? Or is this just a gradual regression from his hot start, due to lack of confidence? Angelo was meant to "disguise" beef wellington, so he made them into mini-pizzas with the dough of the pizza being pre-made frozen puff pastry. Yes, the exact same component that helped the hippy chef get eliminated in the very first episode of this season. Now, that wasn't the sole reason the hippy got zapped, but that doesn't stop every chef from saying Angelo should be gone for that junk. I guess Angelo should count his lucky stars that someone is around with a worse dish. And to be frank, I think Amanda's was worse as well.


Alex (Saunter, -1): Finally Saunter loses her first chef, but unfortunately for Garth, Daddy and All-Star the chef eliminated is Alex. He was meant to disguise veal parmesan, and managed to come up with an interesting idea, but then managed to completely screw up the execution. Want to know a reason why that might have happened? Because he's only been cooking for 6 years; his first job was a videographer. Would have been awesome if we knew all that before, since he would have been picked last in the Fantasy Top Chef Draft, deconstructed borscht or no.


Points Table

Saunter: 37.5 (+8.5)
Daddy: 25.5 (+2)
All-Star: 18.5 (-2.5)
Garth: 12 (+2)
Gracie: 10.5 (ELIMINATED)

Thanks primarily to Tiffany, Saunter has leaped out to a 12 point advantage - and she isn't going to be bleeding points thanks to Alex. All-Star is the only other person with two chefs remaining, but it might be better for him if he lost Amanda, as it's hard to see her contributing too many points to the positive side of the ledger. Of more concern is the tailspin Angelo seems to be in; if he doesn't watch out he might not go much further. Daddy and Garth have to be happy overall with Ed and Kelly, respectively, but both need to pull out challenge wins to keep them with a chance of taking the comp home.


We have a new leader in the Bravo Top Chef competition! Louddownunder has leapt into the lead, due to savviness and remembering that she can change her team each week. For those of you still in the comp, remember to substitute your eliminated chefs with cooks still in the competition. Though if you actually had Alex in your team, you deserved to lose. Badly.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top Chef DC 9: Winning the Battle, Losing the War

Ah, Restaurant Wars. How will the teams shape up? Who will be forced out the front? What retarded names will they come up with for their restaurants? I can't wait!


Quickfire Challenge

Tag team cook-off! You might remember this one from last year, when the chefs are divided into two teams, and then take shifts cooking a meal, except the "yet to cook" team members are blindfolded. Yay! The chefs draw knives for team leaders, who then take turns selecting their team members.

Team Kevin: Kenny (no. 1 pick overall), Kelly (eschewing Angelo), Amanda.

Team Ed: Tiffany (shocker), Angelo (a save, since Kevin could have picked him), Alex (lowest overall).

And who is the Guest Chef? Nancy Pelosi, a James Beard winner, and owner of the restaurant Actually I'm Just a Fucking Politician, So Too Bad If You Wanted a Chef or Someone Who is a Food Expert. At least she doesn't give us some retarded ethics lesson like Congressman Doogie Howser from a couple of episodes back.

Quickfire Losers

Team Ed (Daddy -0.5, Saunter -0.5, All-Star -0.5, Saunter -0.5): Let's be clear: this is Alex's fault. For some reason, despite going second, Alex seasons the fish. What the hell? Seasoning the fish should be done just before cooking, which Angelo does, not realising that Alex has decided to do it already. It's also worth mentioning that Angelo thinks the station looks like a bomb-site... perhaps some foreshadowing for disorganisation during Restaurant Wars, hmm? Anyway, Chef Pelosi thinks that the dish (red snapper, wilted greens, and Maitake mushrooms) is too salty. Thanks Alex.

Quickfire Winners

Team Kevin (Saunter +1, Gracie +1, Garth +1, All-Star +1): Team Kevin seemed to do a good job of leaving little sign posts along the way of what the previous person wanted done by the next person. Having the prep-beast Kenny go first was a solid idea, and Kelly had a nice and tidy station, so she could finish the dish off with a minimum of confusion. Chef Pelosi enjoys the sautéed shrimp, angel hair pasta, mustard sauce, and basil, saying it reminds her of San Francisco. Nice try, Chef Pelosi.


Elimination Challenge

Restaurant Wars! The teams will take over some restaurant called Redwood (never heard of it) to do their cooking. It looks like the restaurant has two different eating areas, but the teams will have to share the kitchen. And we have a real Guest Judge: Frank Bruni, who is a renowned attack dog of a food critic, formerly of the New York Times.

Alright, enough preamble. Team Ed names their restaurant for "EVOO" (i.e. Extra Virgin Olive Oil), which is such a douchetastic name that Angelo had to have come up with it. Team Kevin goes for "Twentyone 21", which I at least don't actively hate. Apparently that's the address of the Top Chef house, so at least it has something to do with anything.

BTW, if you're curious about the Top Chef house, here's an article about it being sold recently, including photos and a link to a Google map. It's just around the corner from the Hilton used as the main Top Chef kitchen, and a reasonably short work from the Disco Finery Mansion.

Elimination Challenge Finalists

Angelo (All-Star +2): No surprise that he is the Executive Chef for Team EVOOdouche. The thing is, the kitchen seems really unorganised, and not running smoothly at all, with Angelo generally losing his shit repeatedly. I'll talk about this a little later, but instead of having one of the chefs out the front of the house you could have them in the kitchen - you know, actually cooking. That would allow you to have the front of the house run by a Guest Judge, or at least someone who could give the judges some inside info, to help determine how well the kitchen ran.

The food: As a starter Angelo serves a tomato soup, with squash, and olive crouton, which the judges like. As the third course, he apparently co-authors a dish with Ed, a seared rib eye steak, crushed walnut potatoes, and balsamic fig reduction. Once again, this seems to be a little end-around the rules, with no one chef being responsible (or at least, being named responsible) for this dish, though every chef was "named" responsible for at least one dish. Fucking Team EVOOdouche.

Another thing you might have noticed? No desserts from Team EVOOdouche. Savvy move, or more rules dodging? At this point I'm going to blame the format: I think the teams should be forced to make a dessert, pure and simple. So not producing a dessert just seems like a safe decision, which doesn't get penalised. I'm looking at you, Top Chef Producers.

At this point I'm just going to mention that EVOOdouche was meant to have Mediterranean influences, but this didn't seem to have made an impression on the cuisine, which the judges duly note, and then apparently disregard. Like the kitchen disorganisation, deplorable front of the house etc. etc.

Tiffany (Saunter +2): Tiffany kind of got screwed over by Team EVOOdouche's attempts to find something for Alex to do that he wouldn't mess up. After he was screwing up butchering the lamb, he got sent to prep Tiffany's fish. And he screwed that up too, leaving scales and bones in for Tiffany. Despite these setbacks Tiffany produces a starter and a main. Her starter is a crudo of black bass and yellowtail snapper with lemon-caper relish which the judges think is (wait for it, wait for it) too salty. ALEX!! Is it possible he seasoned the fish after he fucked up the prepping? Her main is striped bass, stewed spinach, chorizo, and littleneck clams, which while overcooked seems to redeem her overall performance.

Alex (Saunter +2): Let's be clear: Alex should somehow have been sent home, and Saunter will be grateful for the points. Team EVOOdouche clearly seemed to violate the spirit of Restaurant Wars, ensuring Alex did as little as possible in the kitchen, and sending him out to the front of the house where the real damage (i.e. damage to the food) could be limited.

But! I hear you say (actually, no you probably don't): that's not Alex's fault! Well, it's not his fault,exactly, but then again he also completely fucked up everything he was given to do. He fucked up butchering the lamb chops, so was taken off that. He was then sent to prep Tiffany's fish, which he also fucked up. And the front of the house? Holy Christ, did he fuck that up. Bossing around the waiters, not even having them taste the food, making bullshit demands. And when he said that "all my employees love me" I had David Brent (from the original version of The Office) flashbacks.

And that's not all: Alex wasn't around to meet the Judges, he messed up the descriptions of the dishes, the courses took forever to come out, and he didn't bother to say goodbye to the Judges. Just terrible. The thing is, Team EVOOdouche did manage to limit the amount of damage Alex could do, and thus managed to avoid being the team up for elimination.

I wonder if after this debacle the Produces deign to change the format of Restaurant Wars, ensuring everyone is in the kitchen with perhaps a ringer in to run the front of the house. In his blog Colicchio says he has been begging the Producers for years to modify to this format, and maybe this episode is the catalyst for it.

Anyhow, the dish which is allegedly Alex's is the third course: pan-seared lamb chop, English pea puree (ha!), smoked bacon, and Parmesan foam. Surprise, the judges don't like it.

What is also interesting is that in the Stew Room, the chefs from the losing team absolutely tear into Alex, with Kevin getting top Insane Rage honours. I so wanted to see a fight; that would have been better than watching Alex trip into a kitchen bench over and over.

Actually, screw it.

Elimination Challenge Winner

Ed (Daddy +6): Despite his questionable team selection (being fortunate to get Angelo despite passing on him initially, though the producers may have mandated Kenny and Angelo not be together), Ed managed to put together the winning group of chefs. His slow-baked turbot, eggplant caviar and black olive jus was also pretty tasty, garnering top honours for the challenge. Nice points for Daddy here.

Elimination Challenge Losers

Kelly (Garth -1): Kelly seems to do a great job at the front of the house, or at least managed to do the complete opposite of Alex. She produces one of the starters, a chilled sweet corn soup with Maryland blue crab salad. Unfortunately the restaurant is meant to be big on seasonal food, and corn isn't in season. The judges also think the soup is a little thin. Kelly also produces a dark chocolate ganache tart with blackberry chocolate chunk ice cream (dessert, *gasp*), which seems to be a spin on what she produced for the pie-related Quickfire earlier in the season. The judges seem to like the tart, but think the ice cream is ordinary. Nonetheless, Kelly has run the front of the house well, and produced two dishes. Quite the load, especially compared with the "efforts" of Alex.

Kevin (Saunter -1): Kevin produces a pan-roasted halibut, fennel marmalade, and tomato-fennel emulsion, which seems to be the overall hit of the losing team. To be honest, I don't have a lot more to say about Kevin except that it would have been neat if he put Kenny on Angelo on the same team. Kevin has a real chance to go deep in the competition if he keeps it together.

Amanda (All-Star -1): This was the consensus (and by "consenus" I mean "everyone except All-Star and the judges") person-who-should-have-been-eliminated. To be fair, Amanda was wrestling with a wood oven she was unfamiliar with, but that's not a reasonable excuse. She's shown getting dishes rejected by Kelly for being overcooked, which Amanda gives weird excused for (it was because she let it rest in the wrong place, grass-fed beef is weird, etc.).

Again, this is all stuff that would be noticed if there was a Guest Judge, or at least an outsider reporting to the judges, running the front of the house. I understand that the producers seem to be going for a simulation of a restaurant reviewer eating at a restaurant (backed up by Frank Bruni being the guest judge) but you can't have it both ways if there is a chef out the front of the house - chefs normally cook, not serve as a maitre d'.

Amanda's dish is officially grilled strip steak with roasted sunchoke and Maitake mushrooms. The judges complain that it's cut too thin so it can't form a nice crust. Bruni thinks it was over-cooked and under-juicy. The saving grace? The sauce. This seems eerily similar to the beef bourginon that Amanda messed up last week: meat was ordinary, but the sauce was good. Either way, she lives to cook another day.


Kenny (Gracie -1): And we have our first casualty: Gracie, who now has all of her chefs eliminated. In his blog, Colicchio defended this decision, and even stated that he knew it probably hurt the show. He also claimed that Amanda had one weak dish, while Kenny had two. His beet salad with warm chorizo-citrus vinaigrette, a starter, was described as "busy"; not exactly damning, but perhaps they felt more strongly about it than that. His crisped aged goat cheese on strawberry-rhubarb relish, however, does not go over well. It's huge, it's soapy, and the crust is salty. Pretty clearly this was the dish that got Kenny sent home.

Having Kenny sent home is a real shame for the show at large, and I'm wondering if it will have an impact on the viewing audience. The decision was pretty universally disagreed with, and is definitely going to affect the rest of the season adversely for everyone not named Angelo or All-Star. If nothing else, it's going to be a very interesting beginning to the next episode, as everyone reels from the decision (no doubt continuing to rip into Alex), all while Angelo looks like the cat who swallowed the cream.


Points Table

Saunter: 29 (+3)
Daddy: 23.5 (+5.5)
All-Star: 21 (+1.5)
Gracie: 10.5 (-1.5) (ELIMINATED)
Garth: 10 (0)

With Kenny's departure Gracie is the first person eliminated from Fantasy Top Chef, and unless Kelly is eliminated shortly looks destined to come last in the competition. The big winner was All-Star, who avoided having Amanda get eliminated, while having Angelo's biggest apparent rival eliminated. Daddy gets a much needed points infusion and adds to Ed's resume for a spot in the top few. And Saunter? Her three chefs are intact, and she even got a positive contribution from Alex.

The question remains: can anyone stop Angelo? Can Saunter gather enough points to hold All-Star off, if Angelo takes the whole thing down? Or can a surge by Ed or Kelly be enough to see Daddy or Garthmeister J to the top?

And what happens if Angelo somehow gets eliminated in the next few episodes?!?!?!??!?!??!?!??!?!!


I wanted to update everyone on the Bravo competition, with "Duck Fat" (who I believe is Donkey Puncher) and "supershua" holding down equal first position. HOWEVER: I have noticed people have eliminated chefs still in their teams. Make sure to alter your line-up to only include chefs that are still alive, to ensure you get points!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top Chef DC 8: Nobody Likes Brazil

Nine chefs to go. Though there are still some weaker chefs left in the competition, the top two chefs (Angelo and Kenny) seem to have come back to the pack a little bit. The next elimination is an important one; with eight chefs remaining the next episode should be Restaurant Wars. Who won't make the cut?


Quickfire Challenge

This week there is no pre-pubescent Congressman to regale us with tales of ethics violations. Instead we get a Real Life Chef, and one we have probably all heard of, Marcus Samuelsson, famous for his Ethiopian and Asian cuisine. Angelo may have actually ejaculated when he saw Marcus enter the room. Washington DC has a ton of Ethiopian restaurants, so the challenge is... cook something Ethiopian! Marcus gives some quick pointers, which may or may not help.

To be honest, this seemed like a bit of a cop-out of a challenge, but what do I know. Some of the chefs are going to have a big advantage on knowing what spices to use and what techniques to use, while some chefs maybe confused that Ethiopia actually has a style of cuisine.

Quickfire Losers

Kevin (Saunter, -0.5): Poor Kevin. Sometimes high, sometimes low. I'm willing to cut him some slack; Kevin seems a little at sea when he is out of his comfort zone. His dish of braised chicken with chickpeas, a cucumber mint salad, and yogurt didn't seem particularly Ethiopian-y and was pinged by Marcus for not being bold enough, which is a criticism we have heard before. This lack of balls when he's not cooking something in his wheelhouse could definitely prevent him going deep. GET SOME BALLS, KEVIN!

Alex (Saunter, -0.5): Alex went for beef and lamb tongue stew with cabbage and potatoes. OK, big ups for using tongue, but I have no idea where the cabbage came from. His stew is too dry, but we all know the real reason he failed; he couldn't steal Ed's pea puree. Zing! Alex definitely is in the lower tier of chefs, and I can't see him lasting too much longer. Saunter just has to hope that he doesn't drain too many points before he gets zapped, or that he at least can cheat his way to a few more victories.

Stephen (Gracie, -0.5): Oh, Stephen. Is it worse to crash and burn in the first couple of episodes, and claim you just fucked up and were unlucky? Or is it worse to limp along for episode after episode, stinking up the joint and generally producing shitty dish after shitty dish? Stephen is definitely testing this theory, and is making me think it is better to burn out rather than fade away. So, let's talk about this particular crappy dish: lamb meatballs and yogurt sauce, which looks terrible, and apparently the meatballs are dry. What makes this worse is that Stephen claimed to have been anticipating this challenge, due to the number of Ethiopian restaurants about the place... so does this mean he could have been even worse if he wasn't anticipating it? Or was he just lying, so we would think his Sherlock skills were better than his culinary skills (which apparently wouldn't be hard)? Whichever it is, he just sucks.

Quickfire Finalists

Amanda (All-Star, +1): The biggest surprise of the challenge was Amanda managing to deliver with her stewed goat on grilled injera. While preparing the dish Amanda admits that she has no idea what she is doing, and no idea what the spices are, but still manages to deliver something that impresses Marcus. I think Amanda is a mediocre chef who subscribes a little to the Alex-like "throw crap at the wall and hope something sticks" style of cooking, but there is one thing she does have in spades: and that's balls. Chefs like Kevin could take that from her, at least. But watch out, or she will cut you, just to watch you bleed.

Angelo (All-Star, +1): No surprise: Angelo producing one of the top dishes. Big surprise: Angelo did not win the the challenge. Angelo produced berbere spiced doro wat with egg, mango yogurt, and mint on steamed injera... I mean, that sounds like it should be appearing on an Ethiopian menu. Marcus goes as far as to ask if Angelo was born Ethiopian, and then they both make out with each other. Tell you what though, Angelo is not calling Marcus back after not getting awarded the victory. Fucking Angelo.

Quickfire Winner

Tiffany (Saunter, +3): I have been quietly singing the praises of Tiffany for a little while and she finally delivers, impressing Marcus with her beef goulash with poached egg, currants, peppers, and yogurt. Perhaps this victory can help slingshot her to greater heights. If nothing else Saunter has to feel right now that Tiffany is her strongest chef remaining. Tiffany now has immunity (but no monies) for the win.


Elimination Challenge

In continuing with the international theme, Marcus and Padma wheel in a map of the world, with nine countries highlighted. The chefs have to draw knives for picking order, and then select a country; they will then have to produce a dish to serve to 100 people based on this nationality, in a venue without electricity. This caveat is a little reminiscent of the challenge last season, where the chefs had to prepare a dish out on a ranch over fires; in that episode, the chefs who tried to get away with ceviches so as not to have to use the grills were punished. Could something similar happen here?

The wild card of the countries is Brazil, which all the chefs profess to wanting to avoid, and lucky Stephen is the one who gets stuck with it. Also of note is Angelo gets his pick of the Asian countries, despite selecting in the middle of the pack.

Man, Stephen is so screwed.

As a bonus, along with Marcus we get the wonderfully insane Jose Andreas as a guest judge. If you want to get a better idea of Andreas, check out the No Reservations episode about DC (I believe it is in Season One). Most of No Reservations is available on NetFlix Watch Instantly, so Go Go Go! Look, it's Anthony Bourdain, awesome food, and an insane Spaniard. What more could you want?

Elimination Finalists

Kelly (Garthmeister J, +2): Kelly delivers with her beef carpaccio. I was initially concerned about her attempts to produce a dish that would not require heat at the venue, but those concerns were immediately evaporated once people started tasting the dish. Garth needs Kelly to keep delivering, but the jury is out on whether she can elbow her way into the top four.

Kevin (Saunter, +2): Despite never having cooked Indian food before, Kevin strikes gold with his stewed chicken with leek and parsnip puree, mango and cucumber salad, and lentils. This is a neat recovery from his Ethiopian failure, and will hopefully encourage him to not wilt when faced with a challenge that he is unfamiliar with.

Elimination Winner

Tiffany (Saunter, +6): Tiffany! Again! Tiffany was fortunate enough to be able to pick her country first, and selected Mexico. Being from Texas, she was confident in her ability to deliver a top dish, and duly did so with her chicken tamales with queso fresco and tomatillo sauce. What else does Tiffany get? $10k, which makes up for not getting anything besides Immunity (which she clearly didn't need) for winning the Quickfire. Maybe the producers felt she deserved something? Tiffany's win also means that Saunter has had two of her chefs in the top of the Elimination Challenge for the last three weeks, including the winner each time!

Elimination Losers

Ed (Daddy, -1): Oh Ed. Ed, Ed, Ed. What to make of this chef? I still feel he has top four potential, and could even take the whole competition out, but he keeps occasionally appearing on the bottom. The problem seems to be that Ed "overpromised, but underdelivered" with his tea smoked duck breast with crispy pot stickers in Szechuan jus. He and Tom also have a conversation regarding the fact that he should have rendered the fat from his duck first, and it is just clear that they speak the same culinary language. WHY WERE YOU HERE, ED?! To be honest, I'm surprised Amanda isn't here instead of Ed, with her dry beef bourginon. Perhaps her sauce ruled, and that was enough to keep her off the bottom, or perhaps the producers like the drama.

Alex (Saunter, -1): It's one thing to have to cook the national cuisine of a guest judge, when everyone else is doing it, like in the Quickfire. It's another thing to have to cook the national cuisine of a guest judge, when you are the only one doing so, which Alex had to do here with Spain. And it's yet another thing to have to do it, when the guest judge is insane, like Jose Andreas is. And it's yet another thing to completely SUCK at it, which Alex did. His braised veal with red wine sauce, olive and tomato salad, and a jamon torta is described as a "little nightmare" by our fantastically deranged guest judge. Alex is a shifty sort, however, claiming he knew the dish was bad (which seems to be a lie, based on his comments through the episode), and that he got over-excited by the chance to cook Spanish food... but Tom sees through that line of bullshit and informs him that, no, your dish just sucked. If Alex somehow makes it through the next couple of episodes, I am going to be shocked.


Stephen (Gracie, -1): And BOOM goes the dynamite. This elimination has been on the cards for most of the season. It was never going to be a question of "if", but merely a question of "when". Stephen's marinated flank steak in a chimichurri sauce with black beans, and rice was marred in particular by fucked up rice. Urgh. At the very least, Stephen's reputation will not continue to be tarnished further by crappy dishes. Gracie will be glad, as now the bleeding will stop, though she is now fully hitched to the good ship Kenny.


Points Table

Saunter: 26 (+9)
All-Star: 19.5 (+2)
Daddy: 18 (-1)
Gracie: 12 (-1.5)
Garth: 10 (+2)

Another scorching week from Saunter catapults her into a decisive lead. Garth, Gracie, and Daddy are on deathwatch, as they all have a single chef remaining. All-Star has two chefs remaining, and while Angelo is his big hope he will want Amanda to keep her shit together, and not drain too many points along the way... and hopefully pick up a few too.

But it's Saunter with all three chefs remaining who is in pole position. Alex is definitely the weak link, and might not be long for the show, but Kevin and Tiffany can definitely put up some points, and Tiffany is also beginning to loom as a dark horse contender.

But what will happen after Restaurant Wars?!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Top Chef DC 7: Mind Your Peas and Qs

Let's get back into the swing of a proper re-cap, but before I begin... did anyone else think that this week's episode was going to be Restaurant Wars? From the ads I somehow got the impression from the way it was shot that this might have been that time of the season. Ah well, soon enough.


Quickfire Challenge

This week's guest chef? Well, he's not a guest chef at all! He's Rep. Doogie Howser, who looks to be younger than anyone competing in the challenge, and probably younger than your children. He explains that Congress has some rule that representatives can't accept any food item that couldn't fit on a toothpick, to avoid any potential ethics conflicts. Seriously, WTF! I think I also remember a rule how the Speaker of the House is chosen by trying on glass slippers.

Hey Congress, you know what would fit on a toothpick? A black truffle, stuffed with diamonds and caviar, coated in gold dust and cocaine. WHERE'S YOUR GOD NOW?!

And what would I receive for my truffle/diamond/caviar/gold/cocaine culinary masterpiece? $20,000 and Immunity! Well, either that or my proposed bill promoting strip mining using the tears of enslaved children will be passed. Either way, America wins! The only issue would be ensuring that Amanda didn't try and snort the toothpick before I won my 20k.

Quickfire Losers

Alex (Saunter, -0.5): Alex purports to be a canape master, and then somehow comes up with scallops with crispy bacon, strawberries, and basil essence. First of all: scallops?! Seriously, chefs, DO NOT USE SCALLOPS. In fact, the only way you could set yourself up for failure better would be to make a dessert featuring scallops. And looking at Alex's "dish" he almost did that; seriously, scallops and strawberries? Sorry Saunter, Alex still appears to suck.

Ed (Daddy, -0.5): Poor Ed didn't really seem to get a handle on his dish. He claimed to have an idea of what he wanted to cook, but wasn't sure how to make it work with the whole "toothpick" thing. Damned Congress! His tuna confit, with grilled tuna and avocado and sweet and sour watermelon(?!) didn't fit the bill (heh) here, and Ed seemed to know it. Cheer up, bucko.

Kelly (Garthmeister J., -0.5): Here's what Kelly made: seared scallops with salted watermelon and a watermelon vinaigrette. *sigh* Seriously, do I need to explain what went wrong here. And maybe watermelon needs to go on the "Death Food" list, along with desserts and scallops? Both Kelly and Ed managed to fail when using those ingredients.

Quickfire Finalists

Stephen (Gracie, +1): So, Stephen once again... no, wait, this is the finalists. HOLY SHIT, STEPHEN'S FOOD DID NOT SUCK. Granted, it wasn't an actual chef doing the judging, but some Congressman from 9th Grade, but even so. Even more than that, he avoided the scallop curse with his scallop and beef with a crispy potato cake and béarnaise sauce. The dish was described by Rep. Doogie Howser as "meaty"... I guess for the win Stephen should have just put a hunk of grilled rib-eye on the fucking toothpick (though Stephen may have fucked that up, so good job on what he made here). Sorry Gracie, this is a false dawn.

Kevin (Saunter, +1): Woo Kevin! This man is continuing his resurgence, if he was actually surging in the first place. So maybe this is just his "surgence"? Anyway, his surging is going pretty well right now, thanks to his grilled pork and mushroom kabob with sherry vinegar. You know what grilled pork is, btw? MEATY.

Quickfire Winner

Angelo (All-Star, +3): Fucking Angelo. He is so devious he even out-thinks Congress, creating a cucumber cup into which to stuff his spiced shrimp and cashew, with the toothpick stuck into the cucumber. By this logic, Kenny could have formed a vessel out of, I dunno, a halved and hollowed out giant pumpkin, and filled it with a pig that had been roasted on a spit. Meaty enough for you, Congressman? Seriously, Angelo should have just gone for my truffle/diamond/caviar/gold/cocaine idea, at least it's honest cheating rather than this pansy-assed skirting of the rules with fucking fucking cucumber. Fuck.

As an aside: when giving her dish to the Congressman, Amanda did everything but lick her lips and announce that she just found men in positions of power so sexy. Maybe the Congressman is too familiar with these attempts at bribery, and just prefers whores of the non-crack variety.

And, hey, Congress... what if the toothpick is presented between the breasts of a naked whore? Who is also coated in gold dust and cocaine? God, I bet the fucking sub-committee who came up this rule thought they were being so fucking smart. It was probably Angelo.


Elimination Challenge

Given the appearance of a member of Congress in the Quickfire, it's no surprise that more denizens of The Hill appear in the Elimination Challenge. The chefs are to take over the kitchen at The Palm and cook for some of our elected representatives, making for them a "Power Lunch" which fortunately doesn't need to fit on a toothpick.

The Palm is actually a five minute walk from my apartment, though I have never eaten there. Apparently The Palm is famous for the caricatures on the walls of the dining room, and the lucky winning chef will not only have their dish put on the menu, but they will have their face put on the wall. The chefs draw knives for their proteins, and it's off to the kitchen.

Elimination Finalists

Tiffany (Saunter, +2): And here comes one of our dark horses, Tiffany. She reminds me a little of Eli from last season, just hanging about, then suddenly producing some good dishes and BAM all of a sudden they are going deep. She knows she overcooked her swordfish with olive and raisin tapenade, and broccolini with bacon, but it is still good enough to grab a top spot. Keep an eye on Tiffany.

Ed (Daddy, +2): Alright, this was going to happen. We're going to have to talk about peas, pureed English peas to be precise. Ed grabbed a spot on the podium for his poached lobster ballantine, eggplant caviar, and English pea-asparagus fricassee. English pea-asparagus fricassee, you ask? Yes; Ed had put together an English pea puree which strangely went missing on the day. Did anyone else use an English pea puree on the day? Yes. Did this person also claim to not know what they were cooking they night before, and then was told Ed was making an English pea puree? Yes. Did this same person claim afterwards they did not know Ed was even making a pea puree? Yes. Did this same person also win the Elimination Challenge? Yes. Are we guaranteed to have this come up win the Reunion Show? Fuck yes.

Elimination Winner

Alex (Saunter, +6): Oh, Alex. Unless the editors totally framed Alex (which would be pretty low, even for reality TV editors), it seems pretty clear he lifted Ed's puree. Reading Colicchio's blog, he didn't realise there was an issue (despite being in the kitchen for some period of time), and was shocked when he watched the episode. Probably doubly so since the component of the dish which Alex was praised for most was the puree itself. Perhaps it's apt that the visage of a cheater will be placed on the wall of The Palm, hangout of politicians. Saunter doesn't mind the points, almost the sole positive contribution Alex has made.

Elimination Losers

Kelly (Garthmeister J., -1): As you may have gathered, Amanda is a ditz. How ditzy? For this challenge she forgot to bring salt. That's like a chef forgetting to bring their knives. So... how does this affect Kelly? Well, Kelly hates Amanda. And Amanda wanted to borrow some salt. So Kelly over-salted her steak in a "sorry, whups, can't spare any salt ha ha!" move. What I'm trying to say is Amanda sucks.

Kevin (Saunter, -1): This just seemed like a poor dish from Kevin, whose "surgence" might be over. He cooked his lamb sous vide, then had to reheat it, which seemed to over cook it. He then served it with a tomato concasse, which apparently was like molten lava. Not well done, and time will tell which Kevin is the real Kevin.


Andrea (Daddy, -1): And all of a sudden Daddy has one chef remaining, joining Garthmeister J. I'm surprised; while I didn't think Andrea was a top tier chef, I thought she was more accomplished than Stephen and Amanda at least. Not to be, as she goes out for her pan-seared swordfish with "risotto style" couscous, asparagus, and vanilla bean mustard beurre blanc. Her mistake, besides hating sword fish, was the vanilla bean which sounds to much like dessert for my liking and overwhelmed the dish. She also wins the "eh, I don't really fucking care" award for person who doesn't seem to give a shit when they are eliminated. No points for that, Daddy, but kudos nonetheless.


Points Table

Daddy: 19 (+0.5)
All-Star: 17.5 (+3)
Saunter: 17 (+7.5)
Gracie: 13.5 (+1)
Garth: 8 (-1.5)

Saunter is coming on like a train, aided and abetted by Alex's (alleged) nefariousness, with all three chefs still alive. Daddy is lurching atop the table, down to Ed and Ed alone. All-Star gets some value from Angelo, though he is off the boil at the moment, and Amanda is off the reservation. Gracie needs Kenny to refind his mojo, and hope for anything positive from Stephen before his impending elimination. And Garth? Garth needs Kelly to do better than being on the bottom for both challenges.