Thursday, July 08, 2010

Top Chef: Season 7, Episode 4

Serving Up for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner: Bitterness

Previously: Ed thinks Alex is a slob, and makes weird pies. Arnold wants his sous chef. And Kevin served undercooked beans. But it’s Tracey who is sent home for insulting Italians.

Prize rundown. Right, like I’ll ever get invited to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen.

More cherry blossom shots. You know they only last for a couple of weeks, so they’re really using up those footage. Arnold is all excited about winning the last challenge, even if the grill clogged his pores. Andrea is sad to see her buddy gone, but maybe this episode the editors will give her more face time with Tracey out of the picture.

Quickfire challenge. Tom is there, and that’s never a good sign. There are lots of baby toys. Oooh, rubber duckie! (I love everything about rubber duckies, what they represent, their yellow color, their sound. LOVE. THEM. Rubber. DUCKIES.) Tom and Padma both had babies, but not together. I didn’t even realize Tom was married, but he has an 8-month old boy while Padma has a 2-month old girl. Padma says their challenge is to make food appropriate for an adult and then puree it for a baby. That’s a weird challenge because everyone will just cook for the adult and throw the dish in a blender. I’m expecting to see a lot of gray guck in baby bottles.

Several of the non-parent chefs are freaking out, like Lynne who has never met a baby because she doesn’t even know what they’re like. (Um, Lynne, they eat and then they poop. Now you know everything about babies.) Oh, and this is a high-stakes (non-Vegas) challenge, and Tom and Padma will each pick a winner that will each win $10,000. Arnold says he wants to give the money to an orphanage in Thailand (awww). Alex wants a hooker and an 8 ball. (I did not make that up. Rewind the tape.)

As everyone cooks, we get more into the chef’s business and learn that Kevin has a baby on the way, and Kenny’s wife died years ago when their daughter was really small so he had to raise her as a single parent. Dang it. Kenny, you’ve now taken all the fun in teasing you by playing the dead wife card.

Tasting. Kevin has several components missing from his roasted duck dish and he’s obviously upset. I think in the back of his mind he’s blaming Timothy who was working next to him and apparently splashed some juice on his plates, making him have to clean that off his plates. I don’t know if that’d take up so much time that all you can do is plate your duck and then that’s it.

Kenny is up first with chicken curry with mango salsa and grilled mushroom. Tom and Padma: nada.

Timonthy presented sautéed lamb with mushrooms. Tom looks like he’s chocking.

Kevin’s pan-seared duck was just that and he had to say he ran out of time.

Kelly made a roast pork loin with grilled peaches and ginger. Padma makes a weird face, and then spits out a lemon seed. Like the government says: choking hazard (and not just for babies but reality TV hosts).

Lynne did a chicken breast with sweet potato and fruit compote. She tells Tom and Padma that all her kids have four legs (get it? Pets).

Angelo has a new son and he made a fenugreek broth with poached tuna. His baby food is layered in the jar, which catches Tom’s attention.

Bringing up the rear are Alex’s seared duck with spinach basil puree and Tamesha’s salmon with vegetable chowder.

Tom names his disappointing dishes, which were Timothy’s overcooked lamb and Alex’s overly herbaceous puree (which no baby would eat because it looks like grass). Padma says she didn’t care for Kevin’s pool of blood under his duck and Kelly’s pork meat was bland (which actually is good for kids who like bland food).

Their favorites were (Tom) Lynne’s great flavors, Tamesha’s puree with some texture, (Padma) Angelo’s elegant layered baby food, and Kenny’s spicy but still kid-friendly dish. But who gets the $10,000 high-stakes win? Tom says it’s … coming up?! Darn you Ryan Seacrest!

Commercials. Dear Baskin Robbins: I don’t understand what “birthday cake” flavor tastes like, and I don’t want to buy it from a porcupine. (Wait, was I on drugs when I saw that commercial?)

Tom names Tamesha as his winner while Padma picks Kenny. They show Angelo again, just to remind viewers that Kenny doesn’t like Angelo and vice versa.

Elimination challenge. Padma welcomes Beth Scott, who is apparently some big muckety muck with Hilton Hotels. You know, the same Hilton we see every time they return to the Top Chef kitchen. (Product placement.) She’s looking for a sophisticated signature dish to serve at their restaurants for the busy traveler. Yes, this is the hotel restaurant challenge (almost like the airplane food challenge, I feel).

Hey, what’s this? A new format? Top Chef mixing it up baby. So it’s tournament style, and the cheftestants have to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner and working in teams of two the winner of each meal will be safe while the remaining cheftestants move to the next meal of the day, until dinner with the final three teams will cook it off to save their lives because TWO cheftestants will be eliminated as they both win and fail together.

And what? No knife block to pick the teams? They have to go look for their own partners? Wow, I am so confused with how things are run on this episode. Too. Much. CHANGE.

After they pair up, they go shopping at Whole Foods. That’s where we get to see a bit more about the pairs, including Timothy and Tiffany, and Tiffany is all alpha dog and taking the lead because Timothy has been on the bottom a few times. Lynne is with Arnold, and she’s alpha dog (no surprise), and Kenny and Kevin are paired up and Kenny talks about his dead wife. I have nothing.

The odd couple is Ed and Alex, because if you remember in the “previously,” Ed didn’t think highly of Alex, calling him a slob. But there they are, cooking together.

Oooh, lots of shots of the Metro tunnels around D.C. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen any D.C. scenes. I mean, this is Top Chef: D.C., right?

Back in the kitchen, the chefestants meet the judges, which is a large panel of the typical Tom, Padma and the return of Eric Ripert, along with a few former cheftestants, including Mike Isabella (Season 6), Bryan Voltaggio (Season 6, love him!), and Spike (that other season in Chicago). Oh, there’s also that Hilton woman again and for no apparent reason there’s this chef named Nora Pouilla who owns a restaurant named Nora.

Then they have 30 minutes to make breakfast. Tiffany and Timothy are making Tiffany’s idea of crab cake benedict, which sounds kind of routine to me. Not very original. But then again, this has to appear on a Hilton menu, so maybe it’s just right up their alley. Alex and Ed looks like they’re burning something, and as time runs out, they realize they haven’t put the hollandaise sauce on their plate. (I can tell there’s going to be a lot of egg dishes, like that’s the only thing we eat for breakfast?)

Commercials. I can’t believe someone thought America wants a sequel to “Cats and Dogs.” I’m a little sad for America. OK, I love that commercial where those large saffron colored fabric drapes all over monuments and stuff around the country. Have you seen it? Love the song, love the saffron color, love the impossibility of it all. Don’t love the fact that it’s an AT&T commercial, though. Oh well, I just turn away at the end.

We get our Top Chef quick ad early in this episode, and it’s all about Angelo (don’t forget he has a son) flirting with Tamesha, who’s his partner in this episode. He gets pretty risqué, and Tamesha is all like “dude, you’re totally too pale for me.” But you know she would do him.

Round 1: Breakfast.

Alex and Ed serves their dish first, a prosciutto potato cake. Spike and the Hilton lady don’t have a potato cake on their plate. They are going down.

Angelo and Tamesha is next with a slow-cooked egg (that’s 1) with bacon. Tamesha brags about how she knows how Bryan likes his eggs, so of course the editors show Bryan criticizing the egg as messy and over cooked.

Arnold and Lynne has the most creative dish, a tortilla espanola with chorizo and bacon. Ripert likes it, but Tom says the texture is off to him.

Kenny and Kevin offers up a soft poached egg (that’s 2) on an herb brioche. If I saw this on a menu, I’d be mad that the hotel plans to charge me money for putting an egg on a slice of bread. Anywho, Spike says there’s no texture, and Tom says too much is going on.

Stephen and Amanda made a poached egg (that’s 3) with pancetta. Spike and Mike like the confit bacon, saying it’s different than just serving up crispy bacon.

Kelly and Andrea made a bacon cheddar whole wheat waffle, with eggs (that’s 4) and a mango-lime-mint smoothie. Ripert says his eggs have no seasoning.

Tiffany and Timothy deliver their crab cake eggs benedict (that’s 5) Louisiana-style. Bryan says the dish is seasoned well. Tom says they didn’t need the hash and Chef Nora agrees.

All the cheftestants return, and Padma says Amanda and Stephen and Timothy and Tiffany are both safe and they have the winning dishes. The rest will have to move on and make lunch now in 45 minutes.

Kelly and Andrea are frustrated because they have no feedback, but have to go back and cook without any sense of what they did wrong. In fact, several of them are grumpy, like Kenny (no surprise) and Angelo.

Round 2: Lunch

First up is Ed and Alex and their sea scallops with ricotta gnudi (yum, I haven’t had gnudi since the brilliant dish I had at the Spotted Pig in New York). Tom likes the gnudi, and Bryan says the flavors are sharp.

Tamesha and Angelo made a beef carpaccio with a jicama-Asian pear salad. The Hilton lady asks how it will travel. I didn’t realize they had to make their dishes to go too? Hilton, you’re weird. Eric thinks there are too much onion. Tom wants it as a spring roll.

Lynne and Arnold did a take on tuna salad, but it looks like sushi. They call it a tuna cannelloni. Arnold is stressing out. Spike doesn’t see it as an easy dish. But everyone agrees the salad is refreshing.

Kevin and Kenny used the ingredients for hummus into a pasta dish. Mike likes the flavor of hummus.

Andrea and Kelly served a crispy skin red snapper and bread salad. Of course, they’re all nervous serving fish to the fish guy, Ripert (who BTW looks amazing in that silver-grey suit). Mike asks if they cooked the beans, Kelly says because of time and budget, they used canned beans. Tom took offense by that they didn’t bother to cook a bag of beans. As for the fish, Ripert didn’t look impressed.

For the lunch round, Padma says the winning teams (and thus safe) are Angelo and Tamesha and Alex and Ed (wow).

The rest go to the dinner round, making their dish in one hour. Everyone’s frustrated and bitter, which makes me think how are they supposed to be at their best when they’re all focused on the past? Only Arnold, surprisingly, has the best attitude about moving forward and cooking their best.

Both Andrea and Kelly and Kenny and Kevin are making short ribs dishes. But Andrea says the jus from the braising process is the sauce, which she calls “the business.” She feels her dish has “the business” but Kenny and Kevin’s do not. In short, their short ribs have no business.

Lynne and Arnold are making a pasta dish with mussels, and Arnold wants to start plating while Lynne doesn’t want to cook the fresh pasta yet. There’s some tension surrounding that and you know that’s going to come back and bite one of them (but in this case both since both will have to go down for their timing). Arnold is freaking out, and he throws Lynne under the bus saying he doesn’t trust her anymore.

Commercials. Reese’s is my favorite childhood candy. But I don’t understand their commercial about some kind of weekend candy. Whatevs.

Round 3: Dinner

Kenny and Kevin serve their short ribs. Bryan and Mike think all the flavors are there, although they don’t really get the crispy horseradish. Padma likes the jus, but Chef Nora says there’s not enough business.

Short ribs again from Kelly and Andrea. Tom makes a face like, “no mom, not short ribs again.” Spike says he likes the dark flavor. Mike says the polenta was stiff. Tom says both short ribs dishes were good.

Then Arnold and Lynne serves their pineapple red curry mussels with squid ink pasta. Bryan and Ripert say the pasta was not cooked, but everyone likes the red curry sauce.

The cheftestants are in the stew room, still looking bitter at having to cook three courses. Padma comes in and asks to see the three teams, which is doh.

Judge’s table. The past cheftestants are gone, and only Padma, Tom, Ripert and Chef Nora are left to judge. But Padma turns to Nora to name the winner, and she picks Kelly and Andrea. Not only will their dish appear on the Hilton menu (yeah, lots of people will be eating short ribs – such a light dish for travelers) they also win trips to either Venice or Barcelona. (Wow, that is a good prize.) Can you believe Andrea has never left the country? I’m amazed sometimes that there are people like that. Everyone should see the world, and not just on the Internet. Although passport prices are going up next week, so I can understand that being a deterrent. But still, it's the world.

They talk to the bottom two teams. Lynne says she was happy with the flavor of their dish, and she acknowledges the pasta was undercooked. Arnold says he’s surprised to hear that for the first time. Lynne seems really critical about her team. It’s like she already gave up, and just wants to stick it to Arnold.

Tom asks Kevin and Kenny about putting a glaze on their short ribs. Kenny said they did glaze but stopped before it got too salty. Then Tom gets a cheffy and technical about his questioning and then I got bored. Padma sends everyone away and they deliberate some more.

Tom says both teams weren’t consistent, and Padma is really down on squid-ink pasta, which I love. What’s wrong with black pasta? People are so particular. Back in the stew room, Amanda and Kevin get near blows talking about whether chefs should explain to guests how to eat their dishes (I think that’s pretentious of Kevin thinking he should go around telling his guests how to best eat his cooking. Kevin, buh-bye.)

Commercials. Exxon, what’s with the pixilated commercial? Trying to save money in case you have an oil spill?

Judgement. (Finally) Tom says Lynne and Arnold went out of the box, but the only flaw was the pasta was undercooked. Kenny and Kevin didn’t have enough business. Padma sends Lynne and Arnold packing. Arnold is the only one to speak. Lynne left 12 minutes ago.

You can tell Arnold feels like Lynne and her delay in cooking the pasta cost him his spot on the show. He’s not saying much to everyone else, and I don’t think he even hugged Lynne even though she’s leaving too. Lynn says she’s never letting a young chef run her kitchen again. But she loves cooking so she knows she’ll be doing more cooking, because she loves to cook. Someone really has to write better materials for their exit interviews. We get to watch two chefs pack up and leave, but separately. I’m just glad we’re down two cheftestants because we’re still only in our fourth episode and there are way too many people for me to recap. I wouldn’t be opposed to a big massacre elimination, if the editors might be playing around with that idea. ;-)

Next: They’re in teams again. Oh, help me, please. Kenny and Angelo are still bickering, and looks like they’re cooking outdoors and someone dropped a big bowl of rice. Bird feed.

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


Nate @ House of Annie said...

I wonder if the judges would have said anything if some contestants served up a nice bowl of chicken jook for breakfast.

Carolyn Jung said...

Sad to see Arnold canned. Man, what a brutal challenge. Even if you do OK, your teammate can do you in. Oy!

Hungry Dog said...

I was bummed Arnold got voted off. I liked him. Lynne was a bug.

Casey said...

Why was the winning team chosen from among the 3 teams that LOST the first two rounds? That makes no sense! Such great prizes for the best of the losers, but what about the two teams that WON the first two rounds? Anyone else notice this?

Ellie said...

a strange challenge with the babyfood my food is always much more flavorsome than the food i give to my children.

Single Guy Ben said...

Nate, I agree, it would have been fun to see some ethnic breakfast like jook!

Casey, I feel the same way! The people who won the first round must be the best so why give the grand prize for the "survivors." It was interesting doing the tournament rounds but seemed silly to award a prize for the last women standing.