Thursday, April 17, 2008

Top Chef: Season 4, Episode 6

Someone’s Tail Gets Knocked Out the Gate

Previously: Zoi isn’t seasoning her mushrooms, which she believes are delicious. Spike wants to squeeze a lemon on them. There’s a whole lot of bleeping, and Zoi is gone, leaving Jennifer behind. Can their love story continue in Chicago? We find out tonight.

And in case you forget. No it’s NOT Top Model. It’s NOT Top Designer. It’s the title of … TOP CHEF.

The sunrise’s back over the Chicago skyline, but the camera does this weird slo-mo action up the steps of a Chicago brownstone, which totally doesn’t look like the brownstone the cheftestants are living in. Spike’s ears are burning because he hears the gossip that everyone thinks he should have gone home, but he says they’re all threatened by his passion and maybe his fakery.

Jennifer, not surprisingly, is bummed that Zoi’s gone but is fired up to win it for her spirit (like she’s some kind of ghost that will make a guest appearance at the finale to lift Jennifer to the title of Top Chef). And Ryan is stretching in some really odd-looking pajama bottoms. Dude, you’re from San Francisco. Way to represent.

We get a segment stretching out the fight from last week between Lisa and Dale, who were actually teammates. Lisa confronts Dale to try to work things out since they have to live together and Dale apologizes for yelling at her but stands behind the fact that Lisa’s negativity still throws off his mojo. Lisa keeps repeating “that’s your opinion,” which is really a fancy way of saying “you’re rubber and I’m glue.” They kiss up and make nice at the end but Lisa interviews that Dale can go fuck himself. Geez, that worked out well, didn’t it?

The Top Chef kitchen has turned into some pub, and there are a slew of pitchers of beer on a counter. Padma (who is wearing some odd stretchy striped sweater that’s half Waldo-inspired) introduces guest judge Koren Grieveson, head chef at the Chicago wine bar Avec. (She was recently named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs of 2008 and for you San Francisco people, she cooked under Michael Mina at Aqua. But since most people won’t know that, they get Chicago girl Stephanie to vouch for Grieveson’s kitchen creds.)

Their Quickfire Challenge is to make a dish to pair with one of the beer. (Beer and fancy food are on the upswing now in San Francisco Bay Area, but apparently not so much in Chicago last year when this was filmed given the cheftestants’ reactions.) Each cheftestant gets to taste three beers and selects one. They come up and start tasting and most of them seem to try to pick something interesting except for Spike the Faker who could give a rat’s ass and is all like, “where’s the Bud?” because they all taste the same.

The cheftestants start cooking and most of them are repeating the mantra of “keep it simple, stupid” so we see a lot of sandwiches and meat bites. Dale is blending up pretzel and it’s really turning into dust. (I would have just put them in a plastic bag and pulverized them into bits with a rolling pin.) Australian Mark hasn’t looked happy since the start of this episode and a sauce he’s mixing in the blender explodes on him right before time is called.

The tasting begins and the guest judge, Chef Grieveson, doesn’t look like she wants to be there, let alone be drinking all that beer. (Maybe it’s because it’s probably 10 in the morning. Damn those Top Chef segment producers!) In fact, Grieveson rarely says anything. So for this recap, I’m tallying how many words the guest judge actually spoke for each person.

Richard’s grilled tuna sandwich. Spoken words: 2 (“thank you”)
Andrew’s Rainbow trout with raspberry. Spoken words: 0
Dale’s roasted pork tenderloin with miso and pretzel crust. Spoken words: 2
Antonia’s miso-glazed cod. Spoken words: 2
Nikki’s citrus-marinated shrimp and cole slaw. Spoken words: 1
Stephanie’s mussels with cilantro vinaigrette. Spoken words: 0
Mark’s Juniper-spiked lamb rack with honey. Spoken words: a whopping 11! (“I can’t taste the beer but the flavors are very nice.”)
Disclaimer: Ryan made something here and I totally missed it because I was busy counting words. I guess this wasn’t a good idea after all. Don’t hold me to the word counts because apparently I’m bad when not reviewing a tape. But you get the point.
Spike’s charcuterie platter and clams. Spoken words: 2
Lisa’s bacon cheeseburger. Spoken words: 3
Jennifer’s shrimp and scallop beignets. Spoken words: 2

Chef Grieveson notes her bottom three and three favorites. And this episode the editors are especially childish because they’re continuing to fan the flames between the battling cheftestants. For example, when Grieveson says Spike’s dish wasn’t composed and united, the editors cut to Jennifer laughing out loud. And when Grieveson labels Dale’s dish as “not moist,” Lisa interviews that she’s all happy and like, “good bitch” to Dale. (Note to parents with kids wanting to grow up to be chefs: DO NOT WATCH TOP CHEF.)

Anywho, the bottom are Nikki (lack of seasoning), Spike and Dale, while the top three are Richard, Stephanie and Jennifer, with Jennifer being granted immunity. (This is when Spike interviews with some stupid remark and then does this lame, sarcastic “Go lesbians!” salute.)

Elimination challenge. It goes from Da Beers to Da Bears as Padma announces that they’re all going to a football game at Soldier Field to cook for a bunch of tailgating Bears fans. The fans will decide the top and bottom three dishes. They have two hours to prep and to learn what is a football.

Commercials. That girl in the Sun Chips commercial frolicking in the wheat field sure has a lot of freckles. That’s all.

The cheftestants run into Whole Foods to buy their ingredients, and Spike makes a mad dash to the meat section to buy up all the chicken wings. Everyone else is upset that he cornered the market on wings, so some start to rethink their plans like Dale who now goes for ribs.

Richard interviews that he’s never cooked for a tailgate party and that he likes more refined food. So he’s going to add his sophisticated twist to things by making a hamburger but calling it a pâté melt. He’s so proud of his bad self—thinking he’s such a rock star chef—that he calls himself a “wise ass.” Sigh. Richard, you don’t become a bad ass by calling yourself an ass. You just come off looking like one.

Other contestants talk about what they’re making. Australian Mark is all upset because everyone’s buying up the shrimp so he jokes, “how am I going to put the shrimp on the barbie?” And if you listen closely, Ryan says he’s not a sports guy. But the next few sound bites afterwards sound different, like his voice was dubbed in a studio from a later interview because it sounds all echo-ey. The dubbed in lines were basically Ryan saying something about how he’s more of a metrosexual and he’d rather go out and dance. It must have taken them months in editing to figure out the right line for him to say.

Back in the kitchen, everyone starts prepping their ingredients with Spike rubbing spices all over his chicken wings like crazy and Lisa beating up on a poor slab of skirt steak. Chef Tom Colicchio makes an appearance, chatting with Jennifer first about having immunity. (The editors show Spike making faces while she’s talking.) Chef Tom walks over to Antonia who’s making Jamaican jerk chicken and she says she imagines there will be a lot of “big fat men who like to drink beer” at the tailgate party so she figures they’ll like chicken. Isn’t she a sweet talker?

When Chef Tom talks to Ryan, he goes over his five-course menu that he’s creating including … bread salad (??). And when you look really close into Chef Tom’s eyes, you can see that just a wee bit of him died inside because he’s so bored at this moment with Pretty Boy Ryan. Really, Chef Tom could give one of his glazed eyes to Sandy Duncan. (Oh, bad recapper. I know. I’ve crossed the line.)

The cheftestants pack their food into plastic containers (I’m not even going to mention the product maker) and tape the refrigerators because they’re so overflowing with food. And it also ensures no one from the film crew can go in later that night to “have a snack.”

Back at the home stand, they show the cheftestants relaxing for the first time. A few of them are drinking red wine, Ryan is writing in his journal on a sofa (“Dear Diary, the people in the Midwest don’t seem to understand a metrosexual like myself.”) and Dale is doing his ironing.

Spike and Mark, in the meantime, have fired up the bubbles in the tub and are both soaking in and enjoying themselves. They try to get Lisa to join in on their “Real World” escapades, but she’s all, you’re not the right gender. Antonia walks by and is all freaked out at the sight of the two guys, calling it a “cheap porno.” Just because two men are in a tub together (both wearing board shorts, I might add) doesn’t mean it’s gay. I actually applaud Spike and Mark for being comfortable with themselves to sit in a tub together as friends, although I understand now that they’re both trying to adopt a child from Africa. (I’m kidding. Geesh.)

Commercials. That AARP commercial is so odd because did you notice it doesn’t feature one single old person? They just show kids talking about how lucky grown ups have it because they get to do things like fight Medicare for proper reimbursement or scramble for the last remaining Sunday matinee tickets at the Opera.

It’s game day and there’s a weird Bear mascot with an apron on doing some martial arts moves in front of Soldier Field. This must be a football game or a really bad premiere for the animated movie Kung Fu Panda. (In theaters June 6.) The cheftestants come running in dragging their coolers behind them and they each get a station with a grill to set up their food. Also, looks like typical Chicago weather. A bit of rain. A bit of wind. A bit of sun.

The judges all walk in wearing jerseys with the number 4 emblazoned on the front. I’m guessing it represents Season 4 of Top Chef. But since there are four of them, I guess it could also help them remember how many judges there are in case one gets lost. (Can you see it? Gail gets lost in a group of big, burly football fans and they’re like, “So pretty lady where’s the rest of the gang?” And she’ll be like, “I don’t know, but I know there’s four of us.” Hmm, I guess the number 4 could be for that very reason.) So the four include Padma, Gail, Chef Tom and Chicago chef Paul Kahan, also of Avec. (I guess Koren Grieveson was exhausted from all the talking she did in the Quickfire. Oh, and Chicago Stephanie once again has to vouch that Kahan is indeed popular and respected.)

The fans start piling up to the cheftestants and start eating food. And given that these are tailgaters, they basically love everything so far. I mean, it is free. Then Dale is getting ready to serve up his ribs when all of a sudden he’s surrounded by these really big guys in blue jerseys, and I wouldn’t know who they were if they didn’t captioned the segment. Apparently, Dale is a huge Da Bears fan and so he already knows this is Richard Dent, William “The Refrigerator” Perry (even I’ve heard of him) and Gayle Sayers.

Dale’s all in awe that he’s serving up all these Bears legends, and he’s basically shoving his tandoori-style dry ribs down the throats of these big guys. The judges give it a try too, and Gail declares it tasty (although it looks really dry to me on TV).

Spike the Faker is telling the fans around him that he’s a Bears fan as well, but they catch on to his web of deceit early on when he asks, “So when was the last time they won the Super Bowl?” (The answer would be 1986 if you were a true Bears fan.) Still, fans like his spicy hot wings with jicama pineapple slaw.

So the fans have a scorecard and they rate each cheftestant as either scoring a touchdown or fumble. Pretty Boy Ryan has a line growing in his area and he starts charming the fans to get them to help him set up. Behind his back some fans say that his food was too fancy and hard to eat at a tailgate party, which is pretty much what the judges think when they arrive.

Oh no. Andrew is wearing a helmet. And he doesn’t know how to take it off. I’m worried he’s going to hurt himself, or that a bunch of bullies are going to attack him.

Over at Australian Mark, the other cheftestants are commenting on how messy he is. And like I said, he hasn’t smiled this whole episode (except when he was in the bubble bath with Spike). He looks pretty stressed, and when Padma arrives, he drops a tong. He made New Zealand chowder and chicken skewers with a soy and onion glaze. Tom calls it an “absolute disaster” but I think partly it’s referring to Mark’s messy station and not just the food.

Nikki is being really strict about passing out her sausages with onions and bell peppers. The servings look really tiny, but she says they can come back for more if they want. Of course, she starts serving seconds and doesn’t realize the judges haven’t made a spin to her area yet. So when they do arrive, all she has are a few sorry pieces of sausage and leftover shrimp. The judges don’t seem please at all. And guest judge Chef Kahan is slamming her for buying the sausages instead of making them.

Commercials. OK, it’s official. A bunch of teenagers are writing the poll question for Bravo TV. This week’s question (which will qualify you for a chance to win a Napa food getaway) is “Who would you most want to touch in touch football? A) Padma, B) Tom, C) Yourself.” Oh. Give. Me. A Break. You know what the sad thing is? I thought Padma would be the runaway winner but Tom won by 46 percent. And it was pretty much a tie for second between Padma and “yourself.”

Judgment time. Padma asks for Antonia, Dale and Stephanie. They’re declared the fan favorites. Tom says he liked Stephanie’s pork but it might have needed just a tad more seasoning. Gail says she was worried about the rosemary mayonnaise but it turned out all right. (What is up with her and rosemary? Last week she didn’t like the rosemary used in Zoi’s mushrooms either.)

The guest judge Kahan names Dale’s ribs as the winner for their complexity and depth in flavor. He gets a Top Chef jersey and a gas grill from Webber. Dale does this weird MJ fist pump and a Sammy Sosa chest pump to the sky in his interview. He’s so street. (What’s weird is Ted Allen on his blog says something about Dale doing a crotch grab ala Michael Jackson some time during this episode. I totally missed that.)

Australian Mark, Big Hair Nikki (seriously, have you seen her up ‘do?) and Pretty Boy Ryan go in to face the judges as the fans’ least favorites. The judges harp on Nikki for not making her own sausage but when they talk to Ryan about his dessert of poached pears with crème fraiche, Ryan goes into the story about creating a dining experience and how all the fans were so sweet. But I’m pretty sure his speech was edited because it seemed to go on and on and all of a sudden it was finish, but Chef Tom had that same Sandy Duncan-glazed look in his eyes again. With Mark, they didn’t like the yakitori sauce that he put on his chicken skewers and they basically called him a pig.

When the three comes out to let the judges deliberate some more, Nikki says she thinks she’s the one to go, and I totally would be on board with that train, but Antonia asks, “did you fight?” Yeah, that’s what we need, more talking back to the judges. It’s like Antonia wants to sabotage her. Nikki also tells Stephanie that Ryan is longwinded, and Ryan looks mad for the first time this season.

When the three comes back for judgment, Tom says they couldn’t bring the passion of football to their cooking. He notes that Ryan’s food was totally inappropriate for tailgating, and even if it was, it didn’t taste good. Padma tells Ryan to pack his knives and go, and he seems really pleasant and polite, thanking all the judges. He comes out to the other cheftestants and what’s weird is that their reaction is very muted. They’re either all in shock because he’s so good and they thought Nikki should have left, or they never really liked the pretty boy.

Ryan gives a little speech about his experience and he gets mostly hugs from the guys and maybe a few from the girls. Most of the others just give a lackluster applause. Ryan is now the third San Francisco cheftestant to go in as many weeks. So it’s not looking good for the Bay Area with only Jennifer left to hold up the San Francisco culinary flag. Ryan adds that he cooks with his heart, not his hand and that he hasn’t changed and will always be the same Ryan Scott, which I’m sure his mom is happy about.

Next week: Looks like it’s a pastry challenge and of course most of the cheftestants suck at desserts. And they get a turn on the improv stage and later serve dinner to a bunch of jokers.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't have much sympathy for Ryan (though I knew he was going to get the boot early....they always focus a lot at the beginning on the person who will get kicked off). He may not like football or tailgating but to thumb your nose at the challenge like he did was just plain dumb. -- David