Thursday, September 09, 2010

Top Chef: Season 7, Episode 13

Pass the Fish Sauce

Previously: The cheftestants visit NASA, and Angelo has a successful launch while Tiffany’s spaceshuttle fizzles and so does her mussels, so she’s sent packin’.

Here we go, people. Season finale. Oh wait, this is just part 1 of the finale. Ugh. And it’s 15 minutes longer than usual so expect cranky Single Guy to make an appearance.

Oh, pretty opening scenes of beaches, temples, and bananas. Shots of grilled skewers and motorbikes. I’ve never been to Singapore but it reminds me of Thailand. But never been to Thailand too, so really reminds me of what I think Thailand would be like.

Kelly is first up and her hair looks totally flat and wet. I guess they’re just flying in after months back home after D.C. Ed looks like he’s starring in a “No Reservations” episode and he’s a chubbier Anthony Bourdain.

Then comes Kevin wearing a floppy hat, which is weird because he’s not in the sun. Angelo wraps up the quartet and he looks the same, but everyone’s sweating because this is Southeast Asia where they have two seasons – hot and hotter.

Kevin talks about his wife ready to pop. Isn’t it funny how guys always think pregnant women just pop their babies out like a cork? No sooner do we hear about Kevin’s wife that Tom walks in with a local guy. He introduces him as Seetoh King who is supposedly a food writer who’s an expert in hawker food, which I guess is what Singapore calls their street food scene.

Tom turns the cheftestants over to Seetoh (BTW, this guy’s name sounds just like my last name, except he spells it differently, but I’m pretty sure we’re related) who takes them on an eating tour of the hawker stalls. They try fried noodles with what looks like a lot of anchovies, and then the national dish of Singapore, which apparently is boiled chicken served room temperature. (In Hawaii, we’d throw a side of minced ginger and scallions oil and it’d be perfect.)

The food seems spicy too, as demonstrated by the chili crab (oh man, I’m hungry this episode). Of course, Angelo’s having an Asian orgasm just being in the country, and Ed keeps talking about kicking Angelo’s butt like he’s the front-runner.

The cheftestants think they’re near the end of their eating tour (they really ate a lot of food) and then they see Padma. And Padma must be pretty insulted that the cheftestants don’t look too happy to see her (they know what’s going to happen) except maybe Angelo who’s all like “hey Padma.”

Quickfire. Padma says they have to create their own version of Singapore street food using the popular cooking tool in the country, the wok. She makes it seem like that’s so hard to do, but a wok is pretty versatile I think. Seetoh says chefs have to work three to five years in a kitchen before they can even touch a wok. Really? Then who cleans it every night?

Padma puts on the pressure by telling them that the winner of this quickfire gets immunity, which is huuuuge because that means that person knows he’s (come on, you know Kelly’s not going to get it) going to be in the finals. Angelo gets all cocky.

They start cooking but first they look over the local ingredients, which looks like a lot of stuff but unfortunately everything is labeled in Singaporean. So they have to taste everything to find out what they are.

Then they spend a few minutes talking about how to cook with a wok. And Angelo gets all fancy because he knows all about “wok hay” or “wok breath” when he talks about the heat. I’m impressed. Maybe he is Asian on the inside.

Ed says he has a wok at home, and he’s actually using it to steam something in bamboo steamers. Kevin is the one having the most problems with the wok, but he’s going to make a curry. Weird how everyone is using the wok to make soup.

Angelo was going to make chili crab but then switches to frog legs, which I would so love to eat. Love frog legs. But Kelly thinks it’s a risky move because frog legs could get overcooked easily.

Commercials. They’re really promoting the new Top Chef: Just Desserts, which premieres next week. Hey, I just notice that they have that cute pastry chef from San Francisco named Yigit Pura. I’ve seen this guy at a cooking demo and he is he-larry-us. I’m definitely going to tune in. Eye candy, both him and the desserts. ;-) Oops, the company I work for just premiered its commercial on this episode. I can’t say anything because I like my paycheck.

Quickfire tasting. Here’s how it went down with Padma and Seetoh.

Angelo serves up chile frog legs with pineapple salsa rambutan. Seetoh asks if shrimp paste was the only salting agent, and Angelo says “yes.” Wow, that exchange was so titillating.

Kelly made Chinese noodles with lobsters and cockles (which apparently is really popular in this episode). Seetoh says not many people put these things in noodles, and he liked it. (This guy is very expressive. Translation=he talks a lot.)

Kevin serves up his seafood stew with lobster and cuttlefish. Padma asks if he’s used a wok before, and Kevin confesses that this was his first time. Then Padma goes off, something along these lines: “What’s wrong with you? What kind of lazy ass cheftestant are you when I tell you weeks ago we’re going to an Asian country for the finals, and you don’t even practice cooking with a wok when you know that’s all they have in this country? I have half a mind to kick your ass back to D.C. and bring back Tiffany. Shithead.” OK, my memory is kind of bad, but I’m pretty sure it went something like that.

Ed is last with his stir-fried noodles with black pepper sauce. That’s weird, I thought he was steaming something. I have to say the dish looks pretty. Ed describes the vegetable used as Lai lan, but Seetoh corrects him and says it’s gai lan, which he calls the Singaporean asparagus. We call it Chinese broccoli. Padma asks if he’s cooked with a wok, and Ed replies that “I like to wok it out on Wednesdays at my house.” That Ed. What a character.

Seetoh gives his assessment, and he pretty much has only good things to say. I mean, this guy is Asian. They’re always polite and diplomatic. It’s only when they come to America when they get all cocky and sassy. (Um, I’m not talking about moi.) Padma says one of them is already heading to the finale, and then it's more yada yada yada from Seetoh and something about his heart and his home like his heart is his home or he’s at home in his heart. Just tell us the fuck who won! Ed.
Woah, that’s huge. Angelo looks pissed. In his mind he thinks “we’re in Asia and Ed, the whitest looking guy among us wins.” You can tell Ed wants to rub it in to Angelo.

Elimination challenge . Padma says it will be a team challenge, and they’ll have to create a menu for a party being thrown by Food and Wine editor Dana Cowin. Oh, she’s back again. Food and Wine must have no budget if they’re relying on Bravo to pay for their parties. There will be 80 guests and Padma says they have to execute it a la minute. (BTW, that’s not pronounced MIN-ute, but mi-NUTE.) And supposedly that means you cook something to order, which is pretty much what restaurant chefs do all the time when a guest places an order.

The cheftestants head to the Hilton Singapore and gets excited about their room and pops the champagne. They each get a book with ingredients and they start planning their menu. Kevin wants to cook with cockles (apparently some kind of clam), Angelo wants to make chicken livers and Kelly wants to do curry. Ed wants to do pork belly, and Kelly wonders if they need to do more than four dishes. Everyone agrees that they’ll be all busy cooking a la minute that they should just focus on those four offerings.

BTW, apparently you have to wear beads when you go to Singapore because the cheftestants are all wearing some kind of beads.

It’s later and they’re still planning. Kevin says he brought a bottle of vinegar (wow, that must be a special bottle of vinegar to travel all the way with that), and Angelo asks if he’s going to share. They kind of banter like this is a team effort but still competing and I can’t tell if they’re being sarcastic or just plain petty. Angelo teases Ed about his immunity and says he can just make a cilantro salad and will go to the finals. Ed doesn’t like that comment and continues to talk trash talk about Angelo, but not really to him but just in his head. But is it really trash talking if the other person doesn’t hear it?

The next day they head to the market, and this is no Whole Foods. It’s like a dried goods market where they can buy spices and herbs. Ed finds a box with all sorts of ingredients and that inspires him to do a second dish. While shopping, he’s still goading Angelo and it looks kind of tense like they’re about to stab each other.

They head to what looks like a kitchen in the hawker section because it really looks like a temporary kitchen. I guess all the vegetables and protein are already purchased because it’s all in the back. But since they don’t know what the local vegetables are, Kelly is going around eating everything.

Ed gets mad that Angelo took all the pork, and Angelo is running around like Speedracer. Ed is just trying to get Angelo mad, or “in his head.” Then Tom walks in and tells Ed to get out of Angelo’s head long enough to fix the menu. He seems pretty disgusted that they’re throwing a Food and Wine party and there’s only going to be four dishes. This isn’t his typical walk-through. It’s basically his command that they each do two dishes, and Ed quickly tells Tom that he’s already planning to do two dishes. Well played, Pillsbury doughboy. Well played.

Of course, the three other cheftestants are mad that Ed showed them up. But I think they’re really mad that they now have to make two dishes, but that was really lazy of them from the beginning. They should have known they needed to make more for a menu for 80 people than just four dishes.

So they start thinking up new dishes. Kevin’s making congee, which is really a breakfast dish, but whatev. Kelly will make a chilled cucumber yogurt soup, which sounds nice but not very Asian. BTW, she’s so sick of tasting the ingredients to find out what they are. Angelo is going to make a spicy shrimp broth with ginger. What’s with all these soups? I like soup but I’d be so bloated eating this menu.

Angelo is walking to the cooler and sees all these drops of blood on the ground. And for a minute I thought Ed had stabbed Angelo just to get him out of the competition, but turns out it was clumsy Kelly. But that was a lot of blood drippings. She has to put on a glove over her bandage and it makes it harder for her to prep. I feel bad for her.

Commercials. I hope no kids are watching that Dr. Pepper commercial with the support group filled with Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, an elf, etc. Kind of creepy. Hey, lady in the Oral B commercial. Brush your teeth better! Lazy.

We get our Top Chef quicklook early and we see the four cheftestants after prepping go “prawn fishing.” Nuf said.

The cheftestants arrive at the beach resort, which looks amazing. They start cooking in the kitchen, which lucky for them looks like a professional kitchen. Angelo keeps asking people if they have an ingredient, and of course Ed isn’t helping out. Kevin sure is calm this episode. I don’t think he swore once. He’s making a 63-degree egg for his congee, or porridge. I’ve never heard of that in congee. The only eggs I’ve seen is the 1,000 year old eggs, and they are not soft-boiled at all.

In comes the wait staff dressed like sailors, and Ed takes charge and goes over the menu with them as well as enlisted a guy named Jetson to be the kitchen’s expeditor.

Guests start arriving, and in comes the judges: Gail, Padma, Tom, the Seetoh guy and Dana Cowin. The wait staff starts taking orders and the cooking commences.

Kevin can’t open his cockles and stresses for a minute, which I guess is a bigger problem than Kelly having problems using the can opener. Then they have even bigger problems with the wait staff. They can’t read the people’s orders, or there’s confusion about what goes out. This occurs throughout the night, and basically the cheftestants have to go force them to walk out with the food. I’m not sure why the wait staff is so confused.

But at the judges table, the food arrives. Tom shows off by ordering for the table, which is basically five of everything. (Oooh, big man.)

They start with Kelly’s chilled cucumber yogurt soup with bitter melon. Dana says there’s lots of acid. Dana tries Kevin’s clam chowder and makes a face but says it’s delicious. That’s her delicious face? I’d hate to see her face when she tastes something bad. Tom says the flavors are really clean. Seetoh likes the black cockles. Again with the cockles.

Dana thinks Angelo’s spicy shrimp broth is comforting but complex. Gail liked the mushrooms. Seetoh says he likes the prawn flavors. The judges and the guests seem to be enjoying all the food. Oh, look! Non-Asians dining too! I bet they’re Aussies!

Everyone loves Kevin’s 63-degree egg, although I think it’s weird to make congee with tapioca pearls. Seetoh really likes the guava in Kelly’s salad that came with her prawns. They end with Ed’s banana fritters and they all explode with excitement. Geez, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Top Chef judge get so excited about a dessert item.

The kitchen wraps up in the back and it looked like an exhausting experience, but everyone seems happy. Dana Cowin offers a toast to the cheftestants, and Padma spoils it by throwing out “we’ll see you back at judges’ table.”

Commercials. Maybelline. Charlie’s Angels is so 80s.

The cheftestants are in a fancy waiting room instead of a stew room, and Padma comes in and asks for all of them.

They’re doing the big tent design that they always do for the finale. Don’t know why they like to have people stand so far from the judges. Anywho, Padma asks them how it went in the kitchen, and Kelly says everyone worked well together, which I have to agree. Even Ed at the end was helping out.

Tom says it was the best food they had all season, which probably doesn’t say much because the first few weeks the cheftestants made boring or safe food. So they finally step it up in Singapore.

They go over each person’s food and basically everyone loved everything, especially that Seetoh who can’t seem to say anything bad about the food. But a few things creep out. For Angelo, they love the tartare but Padma says his soup was a bit salty.

For Kelly’s chilled soup, Tom says the fish was handled rough because the texture was off, and Gail wanted more heat in the curry. For Kevin, Tom says the 63-degree egg paid off (who doesn’t like a soft egg?) but Seetoh wanted some texture in the congee. (Wow, he actually had a criticism to offer.)

But they save all the love for Ed, especially Gail who’s all like “holy Asian extravaganza, Batman!” she loved the sweet and sour pork he made and everyone couldn’t stop eating the banana fritters. Tom tells Ed that if he loses Top Chef he should park a truck in the East Village and sell these suckers because it’s perfect “stoner food.”

The cheftestants leave so the judges can deliberate more. In the stew room, Kelly says it’s her turn to leave, but Angelo believes it’s him. And I really believe he thinks it’s him and not just saying it to be saying it. It might be him given the criticisms.

During the deliberations, you can tell everyone’s excited about Ed and how he stepped it up even with immunity. My bet is on Ed going all the way. I’m saying it now, with just one episode left! Ha! Gail liked Kelly’s guava apple salad but Tom wanted it blended in with the overall dish. And they’re still stuck on the saltiness of Angelo’s broth, although they all seem to like his lamb tartare.

They bring the cheftestants back, and Angelo looks like he’s crying already. Seetoh picks the winner and he’s going on and on. GET ON WITH IT! Ed.

Ed is excited that he beat Angelo twice, which is weird because there are two other cheftestants.

Tom says it’s tough to go half way across the world and only two makes it. Then commercials.

Back from the boring commercials. Angelo is going to burst. Put him out of his misery already. Tom says he wished all three could be in the finals. Then Padma sends Kelly home. Angelo cries but I don’t really see any water coming out of his eyes.

Kelly talks about how the competition was tougher than what she thought. Back in the stew room she hugs everyone and still no water from Angelo’s crying. He just scrunches up his face and turns all red. Kelly says she just made one tiny mistake, which I’m not really sure if it really was just one. I just think maybe her food wasn’t Asian enough. But now it’s a long boat ride home for her.

The three guys are now in the finals and they congratulate each other when Padma comes in and asks to see all three of them. Everyone goes dun-dun-DUH because what could she want? They know a twist is coming, and then NEXT WEEK.

Next: The editors weren’t really good about extending the suspense because from the glimpse of things, it looks like the twist is that the three finalists are going to be paired with one of the three past winners of Top Chefs, including last year’s Michael Voltaggio, that Ilan guy and Hung. Then Angelo gets sick (must have been eating the cockles) and he needs a shot from some doctor, while Hung is cooking for him in the kitchen. I guess Angelo is Asian.

Top Chef airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Bravo. Check your local listings. Photos courtesy of the Bravo TV website.


Nate @ House of Annie said...

I've been waiting for your review all week, and you didn't disappoint! :-)

Cockles: they're SNAILS. I hate 'em. If I found cockles in my chowder, I'd send it back.

Kinda interesting to see how non-Asian chefs adapt Asian ingredients. I'd be yelling at the screen going, "that's so WRONG!" at their concoctions (tapioca congee with a soft boiled egg? whaaaa...?) but it's also kinda refreshing to have your mind expanded like that.

JulieK said...

It is already finale time and I don't know who is who. Thanks for the recap, now I will enjoy watching this episode tonight. When I was a kid (11), I used to go to the sea and collect cockles, go home and cook them, and I don't remembers sharing them with my parents or siblings. They were like least that is what I remember, it was so long ago!

Jenster said...

There was so much sweating going on during the quickfire challenge, I swear I saw some drip into the dishes. I guess that's extra salt, right?

Jenster said...

I also had a good laugh when Kevin claimed he didn't have access to a wok back in New Jersey for practicing.

5ummer said...

@Jenster Ahhhh... Now I know why Angelo's soup was too salty lol