Thursday, May 15, 2008

Top Chef: Season 4, Episode 10

To Protect and To Serve (Box Lunches)

Previously: Dale goes 10 rounds with a locker, restaurant wars become wedding wars, Andrew still has a culinary boner, and Spike calls Dale “a little bitch.” But in the end, it’s arrivederci to Nikki for not being Italian enough.

The Food & Wine prizes are within grasp for one of our cheftestants, along with the title of … TOP CHEF.

Sunrise over the Chicago skyline and some quick shots of State Street and the L train. Spike wakes up shirtless, again, and someone is wearing a really bright orange towel, and Richard really does wears pink crocs. Spike is calling Dale a little bitch again. Dale feels the tension but doesn’t care. Andrew says everyone feels beat down, but he’s still jittery as usual and says he woke up this morning with fire. And his definition of fire in his belly means he’s either going to stab someone or make good food. Let’s hope for the rest of the other cheftestants that it’s the latter and not a special episode of CSI.

Quickfire challenge. The cheftestants walk in to find Sam Talbot of Season 2 (what, now we’re recycling the cheftestants? When is Marcel going to be a guest judge?) I think Antonia has a little crush on tall, dark and handsome Sam, who’s really looking street with his T-shirt, jacket and chains.

Padma tells the cheftestants that their challenge is modernize some classic salads like a Cobb, Caesar or Waldorf (all favorites of mine). Sam says they should bring sexy back to salads, which everyone agrees is a neglected course but a difficult one to bring creativity to.

Spike says he’s never won a quickfire so he wants to step up his game, so he’s making something with meat so someone will eat it and want to have sex afterwards. Hmmm, seems like our cheftestants have been locked in that Chicago flat a wee bit too long.

Lisa says 45 minutes is a long time to make salad. Then she throws in that some people don’t deserve to be here because their personality “suck ass.” Lisa, do you own a mirror?

As the cheftestants get working on their salads, Stephanie is going for fall flavors and Richard is making ceviche-type salads with fruits and vegetables. Huh? Ceviche is served somewhat raw, so how unusual is it to serve vegetables and fruits raw? This doesn’t look good for Richard. BTW, have you noticed the last few episodes Richard hasn’t busted out any fancy molecular gastronomy equipment?

Stephanie is being Shaky Stephanie again so she misses up something on her plate. Then time is called and she realizes that she hasn’t placed the other artichoke element on her “duet” salad. I guess it’s a solo salad now. (And it looks pretty sad with just a plop of food on that long, white salad plate.)

Sam and Padma do the taste-testing, and Sam tells Andrew that his Thai fruit salad has good flavor, and Andrew gets excited by saying “awesome” and making a super Power Ranger cross signal. (Moms, you know what I’m talking about.)

Lisa made a grilled squid and lobster tail salad with a yuzu vinaigrette, but Sam says he doesn’t taste any spices and Padma says all she tastes are the banana and it doesn’t look like she likes banana.

Antonia made a poached egg salad with wild mushrooms and Sam says it has great flavors. Antonia basically gushes like a school girl after Sam leaves.

So did anyone else notice that none of the cheftestants really “revamped” a traditional salad like Caesar, Waldorf or Cobb? They just basically made a fancy restaurant salad.

For his least favorites, Sam says Richard’s ceviche-style salad didn’t have enough acidic punch. He felt Stephanie’s pear vinaigrette salad with artichoke wasn’t really there, especially since she had 45 minutes to assemble it. And he didn’t like the banana taste in Lisa’s squid salad. Lisa looks like she’s ready to take Sam out back and kick his pretty ass.

For his favorite, Sam says he liked Spike’s well-balanced beef salad (they cut a shot to Lisa and she still looks mad and still wanting to kick Sam’s pretty ass), Antonia’s salad because who doesn’t like to break into a poached egg (yum!) and Dale’s unique salad with nori puree.

Sam names Spike the winner, his first win and Spike is all like “where’s Ashton Kuscher because am I on Punk’d?”

Elimination challenge. Sam and Padma come in carry two trays of food, and they look pretty gross. It’s a bunch of fast-food type things like hamburgers, fries, hot dogs, etc. And the producers have purposely made them look really dumpy and mushy, and they’re all a mess on the trays.

Padma reminds the cheftestants that the biggest problem in the United States is obesity (especially childhood obesity). So in comes Sam who’s also a diabetic, and he talks about how it’s a challenge finding low-fat, low-carb foods that are healthy and tasty.

Padma notes that this pile of mess is also the typical lunch for cadets at the Chicago police academy (funny, I didn’t see any doughnuts). Their challenge is to make something healthy for the cadets, and they have to cook with ingredients from the following groups: whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables.

Spike gets 10 extra minutes to shop because he won the challenge, AND whatever he picks can’t be used by the rest. Spike says he doesn’t care what the other thinks, he’s going to buy things that’ll screw everyone. Andrew says he doesn’t care because his background is in nutrition and he can make any kind of healthy food. For some reason he’s talking like a cartoon.

Commercials. Memo to Verizon Wireless: It’s not Christmas yet so stop disguising your carol as a Red Hot Deal Day.

They go shopping at Whole Foods. What is that odd song they’re playing? Spike is running all around and everyone else is standing by the door waiting and looking pissed. Spike the Faker really rubs it in and waves to the other cheftestants. I don’t think he’s heard of karma because it’s going to bite, I predict.

So to screw everyone else, Spike chooses as his main ingredients chicken (because he thinks everyone else will think that’s the healthy protein), tomatoes, bread and lettuce (not because he has any plans but he thinks who can make a box lunch without bread, lettuce and tomato?).

When the other cheftestants finally start shopping, Antonia looks for some lean meat and Stephanie has to change her original idea for chicken with smoked tomatoes thanks to Spike the Faker. Lisa also has to regroup from her soup and sandwich idea and now is going for a stir-fry, grabbing some shrimp. She thinks shrimp is good for you, but it is high in cholesterol last I checked.

Richard is thinking of a burrito, but you know he’s going to substitute the traditional ingredients, so he’s looking at bok choy and tuna.

Andrew is actually pretty calm and not his jittery self. He feels confident of his plan for some faux sushi. He even rubs it under the nose of Stephanie, literally holding up his tuna to Stephanie and asking “What’s that smell? It’s the smell of success.” Stephanie scrunches her nose like “you know, it’s more like the smell of day-old fish to me.”

The cheftestants are back in the kitchen and they start cooking. They have two hours and then they have to pack it all up to take to the Police Academy.

So we get a better idea of what everyone’s making. Antonia is making curry beef with jasmine brown rice, Andrew is making faux sushi with parsnip and pine nuts grounded up to be the “rice” and Dale is doing lettuce cups with Vietnamese-style herbs and bison meat. Antonia made a really odd comment that Dale is cooking Asian food again and he’ll go down for it. I don’t get it, just because someone cooks a particular style of food all the way through, does that mean he or she is boring? And Antonia, did you watch last year’s winner (Hung who cooked Vietnamese)? I don’t get her logic.

Chef Tom Colicchio makes his appearance and goes around talking to everyone. When he talks to Lisa about her spicy stir-fry, she hands him her homemade chili to try and he looks like he’s about to burst. Someone hand the poor guy a cup of milk. He says it’s a good thing she’s not serving firemen because this would be a seven-alarm fire.

Outside the kitchen, Chef Tom says all the cheftestants seem to be working really hard at trying to make something healthy and he thinks there’ll be some great dishes. Wow, way to raise the expectations Judge Tom.

Lisa checks on her rice and finds that the heat has been cranked up to high when it should have been simmering all the while. So that means her rice has burnt outside but is hardly cooked inside. Because it takes a long time to cook brown rice and there’s only 10 minutes left, she can’t make a new batch. She is angry. She starts yelling who turned up the heat, and she thinks someone sabotaged her. Everyone else says throwing the sabotage accusation around is just a way for her to cover up her own mistakes. Anywho, Lisa is going to use the rice and hopes that pouring some liquid on it will help cook it more when reheated in the microwave. I don’t think so.

There’s just 10 minutes left and everyone who had been working so smoothly the last hour and a half all of a sudden starts crashing things, dropping utensils and basically swearing a lot to make up for all the quiet earlier.

Commercials. Those Apple-PC commercials are pretty funny, but this new one where the PC guy sings country is plain stupid. I guess that’s the point.

The cheftestants arrive at the Police Academy. The cops have this funny sign welcoming the Top Chef cheftestants but the disclaimer on the sign says “unauthorized persons will be subject to arrest.” Boy, they don’t fool around in Chicago.

In cafeteria, the cheftestants make labels with instructions on how to reheat their box lunches. The recruits come in wearing their uniforms looking like they’re ready to arrest somebody. BTW, these cadets look pretty fine and in shape. I don’t think any of them are necessarily eating unhealthy. The cadets go to each cheftestants checking out the offerings. Richard keeps asking everyone if they like burritos. And BTW, Australian Mark may be gone but he apparently left his headband to Richard because Richard is wearing it and his faux hawk looks even more pointed with this.

Spike the Faker does this trick to get people to choose his box lunch of chicken salad. So he puts out two boxes on the table to make it look like he’s running out. Maybe I should call him Sneaky Spike instead.

The judges go around picking up box lunches from all the cheftestants. Here’s their initial reactions:

Stephanie’s soup and fruits. Ted Allen thought it was pretty hearty and well seasoned.

Spike’s open faced chicken salad. Padma thinks it’s pedestrian and Ted thnks Spike could have done more with the tomatoes and lettuce rather than just throw it into the box.

Dale’s lettuce wraps. Everyone seems to like it but Ted says it could use some heat like red chili.

Antonia’s beef curry with fresh berries on the side. Padma likes the flavor and the meat is tender.

Andrew’s faux sushi. Padma thinks the parsnip “rice” is kind of strange and they realize he didn’t use a whole grain.

Richard’s grilled tuna burrito. Ted says it tastes better than it looks.

Lisa’s shrimp stir-fry. Padma says the rice is undercooked, of course, like Lisa could hide that.

All the cadets left, looking pretty satisfied, and the four judges remain to talk but they really don’t say much other than we find out that Sam comes from a family of police officers. Can you see Sam in a uniform? Niiiiice.

Commercials. Did you go for the free chicken biscuit today at McDonald’s? Oh, you have a buy a large soft drink first. Fake out!

In the stew room, the cheftestants ask Lisa what happened to her rice, and she talks about it being burned (and sabotaged). Andrew’s all like, you didn’t have to use rice. And Lisa’s all, what, didn’t you know we had to use a grain? Andrew’s like, oh oh.

Padma comes in for Dale and Stephanie. At the judges’ table, she tells the two that they’re the favorites. Tom says the bison in Dale’s wrap was genius because it tasted like beef but it’s healthy. (I like bison too, or buffalo, basically all the “b” meats.)

For Stephanie, Ted Allen tells her that several people had seasoning problems in this season, but Stephanie’s soup is the best seasoned dish so far this season. Hmm, I love well-seasoned soup. Now I want to try.

Sam names Dale the winner, and he gets a magnum of Rutherford Hill 2002 Merlot and two tickets to visit the winery in Napa. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in Napa, but I don’t think the Rutherford winery tour is all that.

The judges ask for Spike, Lisa and Andrew.

Padma asks Andrew if he thinks his dish was substantial enough. He says he studied nutrition and everything in the dish makes you stronger and energetic. He says he wants to leave them wanting more, and Chef Tom says three hours later when they want more, they’ll probably be grabbing a candy bar. Andrew says he wanted to make something healthy and unique, but Chef Tom is “what about something tasty?” Zoing.

Padma asks Spike why he made chicken salad, and he says he didn’t want to scare the cops with something weird so thought this would be a nice transition to something healthy. Sam says he didn’t really use the tomato, lettuce and bread in a creative way. Tom didn’t like the combination of olives and grapes, but Spike says he was going for sweet and savory. He looked like he was surprised Tom didn’t appreciate the whole sweet-savory combo, and Tom is not when it’s olives and grapes. Spike looks a bit exasperated dueling with Chef Tom about flavor for the common man.

For Lisa, they tell her her stir-fry wasn’t cooked properly. She says someone fucked up her rice. Ted Allen says if she’s sure somebody sabotaged her and she says she never touched her burner after turning it down to low.

Padma asks if they have anything else to add, and Lisa speaks up saying that this is a competition with rules and one person didn’t follow the rules. Tom says they’re already aware of that, and Andrew looks like he was stabbed in the back. In fact, remember how he says he was either going to make good food or stab someone? Well, since he’s in the bottom, you can conclude he didn’t make great food. So I think he’s going to stab Lisa right about now.

When they go back to the stew room, Padma tells the other judges that Lisa had a lot to say. In the stew room, Andrew is staring at Lisa and Antonia tries to get between it by telling Andrew that he’s freaking her out. Antonia, stay out of people’s business, ‘kay. Why get into it when it’s Andrew and Lisa’s beef. Andrew yells at Lisa for not having honor in the game and basically ratting him out.

For the judges, Tom says that even if Lisa was sabotaged, she still should have kept an eye out to make sure the rice didn’t overcook. Sam didn’t like how Spike didn’t use his ingredients the best he could. While Padma reminds everyone that Andrew didn’t use a whole grain. Plus Ted Allen thought Andrew was a bit arrogant talking about nutrition back to the judges.

Commercials. In the Quiznos commercial, a lady eats $5. That’s nothing weird compared to what we see on TV these days, but what’s odd is Quizno felt the need to put this disclaimer in tiny print on the bottom: “Dramatization. Do not try.” WTF? Who would?

Judgment. Chef Tom says this was not an easy challenge; there were so many things to keep in mind. The cheftestants also had to deal with the food police. (Is he talking about the cadets or the judges?) Padma sends Andrew packing with his knives (I bet one is missing because it’s in his back) and Andrew is the first to ask if he can shake hands with the judges. They all seem pretty sad to see Andrew leave on a technicality, and I’m going to miss him too because he was pretty odd and funny compared to the petty, shaky, angry, fakey people who are left.

Andrew says he won’t miss any of the other cheftestants, with the exception of his buddy Spike and they hug long and hard. Andrew says Spike will be his boy forever. I wish I had a boy forever. Andrew also says that he’ll always be the one going against the grain. Well said jittery boy. Well said.

Next: They face a humiliating challenge, and Restaurant Wars is going to take place this season! Lisa is having problems with rice again.

Top Chef airs 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.


David K. and Ann C.-K. said...

This season bothers me more than past seasons because the contestants are so unlikeable. And the cursing gets a bit old. I'm rooting for Richard.

Nanc Twop said...

LOL, perfect names: 'Spike the Faker' or 'Sneaky Spike' - either one works for me...

btw - I totally agree about those commercials...

And Lisa has problems with rice in the next ep. too?... I'll have to re-watch - I totally missed that in the preview.

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