Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top Chef: Season 7, Episode 2

Flunking in Nutrition

Previously: The cheftestants arrived in D.C., or as we’re reminded, Obamanation. Kenny is all “check, check, check” but he doesn’t really check his ego at the door because he thinks he’s already Top Chef, but it’s Angelo who wins both the quickfire and elimination challenges. Then John and his birdnest of a hairdo is the first to go.

I’m going to try and watch the intro more carefully this time because I still don’t know all their names. Hey, what’s up with all the girls playing with their chef’s coats like some striptease?

More cherry blossom scenes, so pretty, and a couple of guys doing push ups like they’re in the Army. Jacqueline is impressing everyone by cooking with a lot of butter for her breakfast (two major slabs). I just realized that the butter is foreshadowing the school challenge coming up, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Quickfire challenge. Padma is in the kitchen, and she’s wearing that bright fuschia blouse that we just saw in the intro. For some reason I think it makes her look thick, whatever it means to look thick. Standing next to her is Sam Kass, who is definitely not thick. He’s the one-time personal chef for the Obamas and now cooks for them as assistant chef at the White House (he’s not the executive chef, because I remember watching Iron Chef America and the White House executive chef is a woman). Kass is like the face of the Obama administration’s nutritional policy, and why not when you have a camera-ready face like his? Padma talks about bipartisanship and says their challenge is to make a bipartisandwich. Geez, they’re really milking this politics thing, maybe that’s why their ratings are down because they’re just too cheesy now.

The cheftestants have to pair up and wear these Blue State-Red State aprons like Tweedledee and Tweedledum or, say, Joseph Biden and John McCain.

So they have to make a sandwich in 30 minutes tied together, and they draw knives to see who they’re paired with. Angelo is with Tracey, and she admits that she has a secret crush on him (who wouldn’t?) and that she’d probably switch teams for him. And just for emphasis, she throws in a creepy laugh. Heh heh heh.

Amanda is together with Tamesha and Amanda looks kind of dorky as she runs around along with Tamesha carrying ingredients. Tim is tied with the bald guy (still learning their names) and the bald guy is all nervous that Tim will slice his fingers off while they slice a loaf of bread.

Time’s up and Kass and Padma do the tasting. Here’s how it went down:

Angelo and Tracey are first with their flounder sandwich with siracha hot sauce. Sam calls it “tasty.”

Andrew and Kevin makes a “Philly” Cuban sandwich that actually looks really good. (I love Cuban sandwiches.) Sam likes the pickle in it.

Amanda and Tamesha made a grilled sandwich with prosciutto. No reaction.

Alex and Tim went French and made a “croque madame,” (for some reason I eat a lot of this when I travel, love it!) using ground lamb and eggs.

Stephen and Jaquelines made a chicken breast sandwich and they stick two rosemary twigs into it like some lonely skinny sandwich. Looks weird.

Kenny and Ed made a Korean chili-rubbed ahi sandwich that looks really complex, and Kass says it’s spicy (but I think he likes the spice).

Kelly and Arnold made a curry-rubbed grilled chicken. Silence.

Tiffany and Lynne made some kind of sandwich that all I know is Kass found it hard to eat.

Kass gives the polling results, which was that Stephen and Jacqueline’s chicken breast sandwich lacked creativity and Lynne and Tiffany’s didn’t have enough texture. But rising to the top was Tracey and Angelo who had a “bright and lively” sandwich, and Kenny and Ed’s Asian slaw sandwich with perfectly seared tuna. And the winner of this challenge is … coming up. Wuh? Sam Kass, who do you think you are? Ryan Seacrest?

Commercials. OK, I’m supposed to believe Marisa Tomei is the mother of Jonah Hill aka “Cyrus”? Also, kudos to Southwest to still letting you check in two bags free. Thing is, nobody checks in bags on Southwest. They just carry them on.

Sam/Ryan chooses Tracey and Angelo as the winners and they both get immunity. Of course, Angelo, having won the challenge last time, gets all the dagger shots from the rest of the cheftestants.

Elimination challenge. Kass gets to promote his cause that’s the cause of First Lady Michelle Obama, which is her “Let’s Move” campaign to fight childhood obesity. Padma says their challenge is to make a school lunch with the government budget, which is horribly $2.68 per child. And Sam Kass takes away 4 cents from the total because he says that goes for overhead.

The cheftestants have to work in groups of four, each making a course in a four-course lunch (for $2.64 people!) and Angelo and Tracey can pick their pairs since they won and they pick Kenny and Ed, and Kenny immediately jumps on the conspiracy theory, saying Angelo has immunity so if their team loses the challenge then Kenny or Ed will likely be eliminated. Not just an ego but paranoid to boot.

The other cheftestants pair up into teams and then start planning their meals. They’re talking about chicken nuggets, burgers, etc. But in one group Tamesha suggests gnocchi. For kids? Amanda’s in the same team and she shoots that idea down right away and bring up her brilliant suggestion of chicken thighs braised in sherry. For kids? This isn’t Gourmet High School.

One team is talking about mac and cheese (safe) and another is talking tacos (smart for kids). They all go shopping at some restaurant depot because you know they don’t have a Whole Paycheck.

They all go to check out at the register and realize many of them are way over their $130 budget and start getting rid of ingredients. They should have thought about this before going shopping.

Commercials. Venus Williams is a machine. Or am I thinking of Serena? Hey, what’s up with all these car insurance companies advertising on a food show? I guess they’re thinking you need to drive your car to the grocery store?

The cheftestants head back to the Top Chef kitchen and start prepping. Kelly talks about her taco and Arnold’s looking at her like, “Whatcha talking about Willis?” (RIP Gary Coleman.)

Amanda gets really hoppy when she’s panicked and cooking in the kitchen. On her team, Jacqueline is making a banana pudding but the banana is too starchy when cooked so she adds more sugar, which doesn’t sound very healthy to me.

Back to Arnold, he’s all upset that Kelly likes to use the word “I” even though there’s no “I” in “team.” (Although we all know there is an A in A-Team.)

They head home and Kelly is talking with Tracey outside because Kelly’s a smoker (and the way she’s dragging on that cigarette she looks like a heavy smoker). We learn that Tracey has a kid from her girlfriend and she gets all misty thinking about her and promises momma's not going to feed her fast food anymore when she gets back, although I bet she's eating a McDonald's happy meal right now watching her mom. But enough about the sweet kids story, let’s get down to the bitchiness.

When Kelly walks into the home, she’s ambushed by Arnold and the rest of the team who confront her about taking all the credit for the food on their plate. I don’t think they resolved it and actually it does seem like Kelly wants the credit, especially if it’s the winning plate. I'm pretty sure they all went to bed angry.

The cheftestants arrive at Alice Deal Middle School, and Kelly talks about how special this challenge is for her because she works for a similar program back in Colorado. Angelo is making a peanut butter foam on celery but his foam gun is broken. He tries to borrow one from another team, and you can figure out how that went down. (No help.)

Tom arrives looking like a principal and he says this challenge is special to him because his mom used to run the school lunch program for 20 years. (You know what? This episode is special to me because I use to volunteer in the lunch room at my elementary school and I miss those lunchroom ladies! LOL)

As Tom goes around, Arnold is quick to talk about how he finished all his work so he could help the rest of his team. And Tom actually doesn’t like that because he wants accountability because there is an I in accountability. (Actually two I’s.)

The kids come in and they go to the different stations to choose their lunch. Then the judges arrive with Sam Kass and they head to Andrea, Alex, Tim and Kevin’s table, which serves up a BBQ chicken with cole slaw, mac and cheese, and melon skewer with yogurt foam.

The judges seem to like everything and Kass likes the yogurt idea served up as whipped cream. Tom’s not a fan of the mac and cheese.

Then they head to Angelo’s team (with Tracey, Kenny and Ed) and serve up a tray of chicken burger, peanut butter foam on celery, sweet potato puree, and apple bread pudding.

Kass says the sweet potato has too much pepper, which will turn kids away. All the rest of the judges seem underwhelmed. And Kass wants to know where are the vegetables. (Apparently, there wasn’t enough of the celery to make it seem like a vegetable dish.)

Then we get to the table with this cheftestant named Lynne who I know nothing about and don’t even remember from the first episode. Anyway, she made a black bean cake with sweet potato strings on top. Kelly made the braised pork carnitas taco (well established, especially by Kelly), Arnold made a roasted corn salad, and Tiffany made a carmelized sweet potato and sherbet.

Gail loves the color all over the plate, and Tom is very happy with most of the food. They show a clip of a kid who likes the vegetable with the sherbet.

They go to the final table of Amanda, Tamesha, Stephen and Jacqueline, eating their braised chicken thighs (with sherry jus), sweet onion rice, bean and tomato salad, and banana pudding with strawberries. There’s a funny moment when Stephen introduces his rice dish and says it has 165 grams of fat, and you could see Kass’s heart stop until Stephen corrects himself and says it only has 165 calories. These cheftestants must always have fat on their minds.

Well, turns out his rice probably needed the fat because the judges weren’t that excited about his dish, nor did they like the pudding. But of course, the editors show Jacqueline feeling all happy that the kids kept coming back for her dessert and she sold out. Um, maybe its because you poured in a whole bag of sugar?

Commercials. Another car insurance commercial? I have to say, though, that this Esurance commercial is pretty funny. And are people still buying Toyotas?

They show a Top Chef snippet and Padma’s asking the kids about the food, but pretty much they all just want to give her one big mosh pit hug. I mean, she is Padma.

The Capitol dome has to be one of the prettiest buildings at night. The cheftestants arrive at the stew room and Angelo is busy trying to get Kenny to rate their dishes from 1 to 10 in various categories. (Angelo, I rate you a 9 right now in the OCD category.) Then they briefly laugh at Kevin sleeping and snoring. Yeah, like no one else has done that with these long filming days.

Padma comes in and asks for Angelo’s team and Amanda’s team. The other guys left behind think they lost, and Kelly especially seems indignant that her taco didn’t win.

Judges’ Table. Hey, I just realized Eric Ripert wasn’t in this episode. How confusing! They say he’s a permanent judge but he’s already gone by the second episode. I guess they can only have one hunky judge at a time (sorry Tom, I’m talking about Kass). Anywho, Padma tells the two teams that they produced the worst trays of food. Amanda literally has her mouth dropped open.

Stephen talks about his rice dish and how he had to sacrifice ingredients at the register, but wasn’t that the challenge? Kass asks about the sherry jus, and wonders how they didn’t have money for various ingredients but found the moolah for the alcohol.

Kass talks about Angelo’s team and says their plate lacked vegetables. Kenny says he worried about the lack of vegetables so that’s why he suggested a roasted tomato for the chicken burger, and Kass has to remind him that tomato is a fruit. (That is a tricky one to remember. Why is it a fruit when it’s not even sweet?)

Then Tom feeds the conspiracy theory and hints that Angelo is on the team, and he has immunity, so did he maybe sabotage the team by losing, hoping to get rid of someone like Kenny? I think that’s kind of rude of Tom to backhandedly accuse Angelo of that, but you know Tom’s an executive producer of the show now so he knows he needs to stir up the drama.

Speaking of drama, the two teams start to fight over each other’s food with Stephen jumping in first to say Kenny should have spoken out if he felt he needed more vegetables, and Kenny attacks Jacqueline for using so much sugar, while Amanda fights back that peanut butter has way more hidden sugar. This is getting really ugly, and really, none of them seem really on point or know much about nutrition.

Gail asks why they chose to cook with sherry, and Amanda says she really likes chicken braised with sherry. Gail’s like, “I like vodka.” I always knew Gail was a lush. Tom doesn’t want to say anymore, and Padma sends them all away.

They return to the stew room and everyone asks who won, but then they tell them that they’re the real winners. No really, you are. And they’re all kind of shocked.

The judges talk about who was worst and Kass names Angelo’s team with their overly starchy selections, and then Gail adds to Tom’s conspiracy theory by questioning Angelo’s motives again. Back in the stew room, Angelo whispers to Tracey that he doesn’t like Kenny. Big doh.

Then the judges talk about the food that they did like, mainly the BBQ chicken and for some reason the melon skewer with yogurt. That must be some really tasty yogurt foam because how hard is it to cut up melons and put them on a stick? Anyone?

The stew room is still stewing when Padma comes in and asks for Lynn, Tiffany, Arnold and Kelly. She tells them they’re the favorites, and Gail asks Arnold what he made, and he talks about his corn salad (which does sound good albeit simple) and you can tell he’s about to defend it until Padma says it’s delicious and he stops while he’s ahead.

As the guest judge, Kass names the winner and gives it to Kelly and her carnitas tacos. You just know Arnold is dying inside.

Commercials. Did you see that Buitoni commercial where they poured what looked like a cheese sauce over the lobster and shrimp ravioli? I could feel my arteries hardening watching that sauce being poured like concrete on the food.

Kenny, Ed, Amanda and Jacqueline have come to face the judges. Tom gives his little speech about nutrition and how Kenny could have been more assertive about more vegetables, Ed too, Amanda’s chicken doesn’t appeal to kids, and Jacqueline’s pudding was a sugary mess. He looks to Padma, and Padma really signals it this time because her head turns to Jacqueline’s end and sure enough, she’s the one to go. (I thought she should have gone home last week.) Oh. My. Gawd. Letterman is still showing that smoking baby from Indonesia. That’s just so wrong.

Oh, where was I? Oh yea, Jacqueline packs her knives and banana peels and goes home. She says the kids reminded her why she came on the show, but then she doesn’t say what that was and I guess we’re supposed to just know. But as I listen to her, I think: “She sounds a lot like Joan Cusack.” Bye Joan, I loved you in “Working Girl.”

Next week: The cheftestants make a picnic, and Arnold is not into grilling because it’ll clog his pores. Alex is annoying, according to someone I don’t remember, and Amanda is smoking like she lived in Europe all her life. (But not as much as that smoking Indonesian boy. I’m so glad I live in America.)

And for a sneak peek at the elimination challenge for next week's episode, here's a video from the Bravo people...

Top Chef airs every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Bravo. Check your local listings. Photo courtesy of the Bravo TV website.


Nate @ House of Annie said...

yeah, I don't get that cheese sauce on lobster either. ick!

I'd buy a Toyota. Nobody wants one so the deals must be good! heheheh

JulieK said...

I watch Top Chef, but prefer reading your recaps. I think next week I will read your recap first, then watch the actual show...

Mrs. L said...

I love the way you intersperse the commercials in your review. I may have to not fast forward through them the next time I watch :)

Carolyn Jung said...

If I had one of those Siamese-twin aprons, I'd most want Eric Ripert to be on the other side of it. ;)