Thursday, May 08, 2008

Top Chef: Season 4, Episode 9

This is a special vacation edition of my Top Chef recaps. That’s right, in between the beach and the non-stop eating, I’m recapping a special 75-minute episode for you all. Even though I’m three hours behind California, and I’m trying to watch this extended episode while not ignoring questions from my niece, here you have it. So hang loose, brah, and enjoy!

Till Dale Do Us Part

Previously: Australian Mark thought his blowing was perfect, but apparently his curry wasn’t, despite an assist from someone half his size. Antonia misses her daughter, but it’s Mark who goes home crying. No worries, mate.

At stake is the title of … TOP CHEF. Or what they call the Big Kahuna here in Hawaii.

Cue the dance montage. Sigh, where do they think they are? The Ellen Show?

The wind’s blowing the trees outside the cheftestants’ apartment and inside Andrew is comforting an “upset” Spike who’s missing his boy Mark. The bromance on this season is off the charts! But no problem, because Andrew’s going to move in with Spike. All’s well with the boys. For the girls, they look determined and Antonia says this is the first time in Top Chef history that so many women have made it through this far. So that increases the speculation that this year we might see the first female Top Chef. And if we believe Nikki, she’ll be a fighter. That’s right. A Top Chef and a Heavyweight Champion. Go figure.

Quickfire challenge. Chef Tom Colicchio is in the Top Chef kitchen with Padma, so already the cheftestants are all like, brah, dat lo lo (translation=that’s crazy). BTW Padma, Sgt. Pepper called and he wants his jacket back.

Padma says that from now on, the Quickfire winner doesn’t get immunity. Dale is maaaaaad.

This challenge is supposed to be a combination of two of the Top Chef favorite challenges. I can’t believe someone went around determining which Top Chef challenges were the most popular. I think it’s really just the two challenges the producers felt would torture the cheftestants the most. OK, I guess I can go for that.

They split the cheftestants into two groups. They pull knives and they either get a spoon or fork. Then there are a bunch of products at the table that needs prepping, so this is the Mise en Place relay race where last season we got to see Hung do a Jack The Ripper on a poor chicken. Here, it looks like they have to peel and section five oranges, clean two artichokes, clean and fillet two monkfish and make one quart of mayonnaise from scratch.

The teams take a minute to divvy up the work, and Nikki is stressing about making mayonnaise without a food processor, so of course she gets pushed to do mayonnaise. Dale feels people like Nikki who can’t make mayonnaise are trying his patience. He’s wondering why she’s still around. You’re not the only one, braddah.

The race begins and it’s Lisa vs. Antonia with the oranges. Lisa is all shaky hands and Antonia is Miss Perfect with the oranges, so Lisa and her shaky orange sections get the lead and her team moves on to the artichokes with Spike doing a machete job on a poor artichoke.

Eventually Antonia is done so Andrew steps up to do the artichokes. Spike is already on his second one but he falls behind when he massacres his second artichoke and has to start all over. Andrew moves quickly (like fire, he says) because he discovered the peeler.

Andrew catches up and he and Spike finishes at the same time. Next is monkfish and it’s Richard vs. Dale. Naturally, Dale is butchering the monkfish while Richard looks like a sushi chef the way he’s carefully cutting into the fish. (BTW, monkfish is one ugly-ass fish.) Even though Dale is going fast, they both pretty much end at the same time. Leaving it up to the mayonnaise round with Stephanie vs. Nikki.

This is the tough round because they need a lot of arm muscle to whisk the eggs and olive oil. Stephanie is going fast and furious while Nikki’s arm looks a bit disjointed while she’s whisking. So that means Stephanie makes up the most mayonnaise and wins.

Dale is so angry that his team lost that he says fuck really loud and punches the lockers behind him. You know, I don’t know if the beep by the editors is too short or if I already know he’s saying fuck, but I really felt like I totally heard Dale say the F word clearly. Anyone else heard it? Anywho, Antonia has the funniest line when she says Dale is such a baby, and basically he punched the locker then he had to get a diaper change.

Commercials. Arby’s Rescue Brigade. We’re supposed to believe a flat bread melt (which looks like a soft taco) will save a life? Hey, did you see all those food porn shots from that Wolf Sub-Zero commercial? Or was that just here in Hawaii?

Elimination challenge. So Padma says the second “most favorite” Top Chef challenge is Restaurant Wars, you know, where they have to create a restaurant concept from scratch overnight. I love watching that challenge too. But Padma introduces this couple as some restaurant experts. She says they’re also getting married, so the twist is instead of creating a restaurant, they have to cater their wedding.

OK, how is this supposed to be like Restaurant Wars? And does that mean they’re not going to do the restaurant challenge this season? I’m so frustrated it’s really bumming out my vacation. Anywho, they have to cater a wedding but each team has to make food for the two sides of the wedding: one for the groom and one for the bride, about 125 guests each. Padma says they’ll have cots available because they have to go non-stop until tomorrow night.

The winning team in the Quickfire (Richard, Andrew, Stephanie and Antonia) get to choose which party they’ll cater and Richard says they’ll choose the bride (Cory) because it’s really the bride’s day. Spike interviews that they’re crazy because who would want to run the risk with working with a bridezilla. He wants to play it safe and deal with the groom (J.P.) who will probably be happy with anything. Good strategy to challenge yourself Spike, you Faker.

Andrew interviews that he’s excited about the prospects of pulling an all-nighter and that he has “a culinary boner” at this time. Ah, the mystery quote from last week. It was a preview, and Andrew does have a reason for a culinary boner apparently. If working like slaves and being sleep deprived can get someone excited. Whatever floats your boat, Andrew.

The two teams talk to the couple separately and the groom says his favorite cake is German chocolate (oooh, that used to be mines too) and the bride says she wants something Southern because she’s from Atlanta. Richard says he’s from Atlanta so he thinks he’ll have an edge. I don’t really see how that’s an edge because it’s not like Atlantans (are that what they’re called?) all eat the same things

For the groom, he says he likes Italian so the team of Spike, Nikki, Lisa and Dale start to come up with a menu, and they’re relying heavily on Nikki because she has the most experience with that cuisine. But of course, Nikki being Nikki says just because she cooks Italian doesn’t mean she likes cooking Italian. WTF? Then why has she been cooking that for all these years? I think Nikki just don’t want to take the lead and run the risk of getting all the blame if things fall apart, and you know with this group, it might. (In fact, Dale says no one likes each other on the team. Dale, I think it’s more like nobody likes you.)

The teams drive off and gosh it looks like an unusually sunny day in Chicago. The shopping is pretty boring so I’ll just basically say they buy food from Restaurant Depot, which is like Costco, and the guys go buy flowers. Richard is trying to fill in the role as a metrosexual since Ryan left because he says he’s the best person to go buy the flowers because he watches Martha Stewart and wears pink shoes. I’m pretty sure he was being sarcastic, but I think he does have pink shoes. (We know he does have a pink shirt.)

It’s 9 p.m. and the cheftestants arrive at the Top Chef kitchen to start cooking. They have 14 hours to cook before the wedding. We get a better idea of what each team is making. For the groom, they’re making flat breads, bruschetta, tortellini, an antipasti with mixed vegetables and cheese, filet mignon and Chilean sea bass. Lisa is in charge of baking the cake, which will be a chocolate hazelnut.

On the bride’s team, they’re making pizza, pulled pork sandwiches, short ribs with blue cheese, crispy chicken, brisket, filet mignon, creamed spinach and potatoes and Stephanie will be baking a chocolate and lemon cake.

Richard is taking the lead on the bride’s side again by default, even though Andrew is trying his best to get Richard out of his business so he can focus on making his creamed spinach. On the groom’s team, everyone’s leaning on Nikki for the Italian cooking and she looks like she’s taking the lead but won’t admit it. While she’s the Italian consultant, Dale becomes the workhorse by grabbing all the responsibilities for cooking everything, basically. He’s going to be tiiiiiired.

Commercials. Do iPod really need to have commercials? Don’t they sell themselves? What is that song they’re using? Some freaking and shut up song. I’m so out of the iTunes.

11:15 p.m. The bride’s team is pretty confident. 2 a.m. Andrew is cooking spinach, which will take five hours. I think he just said he’s making Popeye’s wet dream. Or maybe I’m so tired that I heard wrong. Sounds like something he would say.

Lisa feels Dale is doing a half-ass job. He’s doing a lot so why is she bitching instead of helping out? Spike says he needs to get his hands on one dish so Dale doesn’t take all the glory. He chooses the sea bass and starts cooking that dish.

It’s now 5:33 am. They’re all tired and I bet a bit stinky. Would you want someone cooking food for your wedding when they’re probably stinky and sweating all over things? Ugh. They say everyone’s different when they get tired. So apparently Andrew stops talking (which everyone agrees is a good thing), Spike keeps saying he’s going crazy in case people don’t believe that he is, indeed, crazy, and Antonia makes this weird face and never breaks out of that.

Now it’s sunrise, and in comes Chef Tom at 7:33 a.m. He checks with both teams and I really never get much of his conversations with them. The only way these visits from Chef Tom gets interesting is when he interviews outside on his early thoughts about what’s happening in the kitchen.

So Tom says the bride’s team is making food that can be pulled off if seasoned well and he believes it’s a strong team. He thinks the groom’s team has the advantage by making Italian, which he thinks is easy. But he did note that Lisa’s cake, which doesn’t have to look pretty because it’s for the groom, still looks like a battleship. I agree.

Commercials. Coppertone. Am I seeing this only because I’m in Hawaii? I brought a big tub of sunblock with me, but not Coppertone. What’s that commercial with all the tennis balls for something called the Ladders? Are all these commercials different in Hawaii? Odd.

Wedding time. Everyone’s happy but it’s the windy city so the wedding guests are all dressed up but their hair is getting messed up. The editors rush through the romantic wedding ceremony because they know we just want to get to the food.

Of course, after hours of little sleep and all the ego in the kitchen, people are a bit grouchy as they’re putting the last-minute touches to their food. Padma walks in with the judges’ panel and it’s Tom, Gail and another Gale (Gand), the pastry chef at a Chicago restaurant called Tru. Again, Chicago local Stephanie vouches that Gand is the best pastry chef in the city.

J.P. and Cory exchanges their vows. The servers come in and it’s game time. OK, so I’m not clear about the concept because one team cooked for the groom and one team cooked for the bride. But are they eating separately? What a way to start a marriage. Actually, I think everyone is eating everything, so it’s really not as split as they made it out to be. (They should have made one team cook for the groom as a cocktail reception and the bride as the main dinner. That’s what I would have done.)

After the appetizers, which everyone seems to like except for the crunchy bruschetta from the groom’s team, they move on to the buffet. Antonia’s funny because she’s out with the guests with Richard while Andrew’s in the kitchen because they “don’t allow Andrew to touch the guests.” Too funny.

On the groom’s team, things aren’t as pretty. Nikki lacks focus, mostly because of lack of sleep, and Dale and Spike are in the kitchen. The bride Cory seems to like most of the food, and she sure does eat a lot of meat. One female guest is going crazy for the creamed spinach, which I personally am not a big fan of. It’s like old people’s food, just green mush.

Padma seems to like all the food, and the other judges are going on and on about the horseradish sauce. If they were in Hawaii, they’d say it was “ono.” Now the groom gets his plate. He grabs some of the fresh vegetables and cheese, some roasted vegetables. There’s some tortellini and Spike’s Chilean sea bass.

Both sides served filet mignon, but I have to say the bride’s team had the juicier looking piece of meat compared to the groom’s team. Gail says she thinks the groom’s team dishes looked a bit uninspired.

Time for the cake. I’ve never been to a wedding where they had two cakes, but it’s a Top Chef wedding so they do. They cut into Stephanie’s cake, which does look pretty with the white frosting and flower petals for a trim (smart move). The groom’s cake looks like a mess. Despite looking like a crap load of chocolate, the groom J.R. gives a thumbs up. Or he could be indicating that he’s going to get some tonight. ;-)

The exhausted cheftestants clean up and leave the party. The bride’s team is pretty confident and the groom’s team just looks plain mad. I think that’s about right.

Commercials. That Honda CR V commercial where they make a cookie dough lettering is pretty cool, huh? It’s a nice tie-in for a food show. But then again I saw the same commercial running on the Bravo Step It Up and Dance show, which doesn’t translate as well there.

Everyone’s in the stew room yawning. Spike the Fake actually makes a nice gesture by giving props to Lisa and Stephanie for making the wedding cakes, which no one would have wanted to make. Then Padma calls for the bride’s team. And even though they’re probably the likely winners, they still look kind of worried. Must be the lack of sleep.

But sure enough, after some questioning to see who did what, they’re told that they’re the winning team. As the guest judge, Gale Gand names Richard as the winner because she thinks he was responsible for the successful food. Hard to say, I think they all helped out. But Richard does a nice gesture by giving it to Stephanie, again because everyone realizes they would have been screwed without a wedding cake and no one but Stephanie agreed to do it.

What did Richard give up? A $2,000 gift certificate from Crate & Barrel. My guess is that they did this because 1) Crate & Barrel is such the common place to go for wedding gifts and 2) it’s a Chicago-based company. I bet Richard’s kicking himself now, but Stephanie is also nice so she offers to go half-sies. Everyone just loves each other on this team.

Then they call in the groom team, and no one wants to take responsibility for the food, although the judges are hinting pretty hard that Nikki must have been the leader because of her Italian specialty. But the real action is the piss fight between Dale and Spike. Dale is going on and on about how he did everything, and Spike is all “just come out and say it, you think I’m a lazy slug.” Dale pretty much comes out and says that (although I’m not really sure because every other word is bleeped) and Nikki has to break up the fight. BTW, Lisa doesn’t say much except stand to the side and look angry.

The judges deliberate and Gail says there’s a major ego war going on and that Dale should have asked for help instead of doing everything. Tom is disappointed that Nikki didn’t lead more despite her Italian specialty. In the stew room, Dale is egging Spike on but Spike is unusually quiet, while Nikki tries to get Dale to stop.

Commercials. Tropicana has made OJ sexy, and I’m talking orange juice, not that jerk Simpson guy. Pure Valencia Orange juice. Sex it up baby.

Judgment time. Tom says Dale did all the work but they didn’t care for a lot of it. Spike didn’t carry his share of the load, but he faked it well. But when it comes to who’s knives go home, it’s the ones that belong to Nikki. I’m not really sure how they came to this conclusion but I’m sure it’s probably along the lines of “oh, wait, weren’t we supposed to eliminate Nikki a couple of episodes ago?” So they finally get around to it, and Nikki goes home and she says she’s going full speed ahead to somewhere.

Next: They’re all shocked to see a tall, dark and handsome cook, but I thought we already had the hot chef in the dessert episode? Everyone’s focusing their hate on Spike, and looks like they’re in the police or military group. Spike looks like he’s falling apart.

BTW, I've realized it's hard to concentrate on recapping during a vacation. It's hard to think of Dale, Spike and the rest of the gang when the sun is shining and I just want to go to the beach. Next week I'll be back home and I can be my bitter self! Until then, Aloooooha!

Top Chef aires Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central) on Bravo TV. Check out videos and multiple blogs at the Top Chef Web site. Photos courtesy of Bravo TV.


Dowtown Oaktown said...

Finally! Yes! Yes! Nikki goes home! She's been skating by with mediocre for way too long!

And, I think the judges sent the right person home. She could have stepped up, she should have stepped, she was suppose to step up, and all she could say was, if I step up and this goes bad, I'm going she tries to play it safe by claiming she wasn't the master mind of any of it.

But she could have stepped up, but either she was scared or she didn't think she could do it. Or she didn't want to handle Dale or Lisa or Spike.

See ya Nikki!
(About time!)

foodhoe said...

yeah I agree it was the right choice. And that was classic when Antonia said Dale needed a diaper change...