Thursday, December 04, 2008

Top Chef: Season 5, Episode 4

No Longer the Crème de la Creme

Previously: Team Rainbow gets formed and it doesn’t last very long as week by week the trifecta crumbles, starting with young Patrick and last week with the downfall of Richard the Bear, who unfortunately serves spit-like banana s’mores during a Foo Fighters Thanksgiving. Gosh, they’re really milking the crying scene from Richard. Oh, and Ariane makes a good turkey.

Opening scenes of busy New York traffic. You know, I have to say the editors at The Next Food Network Star put together better opening scenes showing off the beauty of the Big Apple. It’s boring in Top Chef land. Anywho, we see Jeff the Hair having breakfast in front of the New York skyline and The Cougar (Ariane) feeling confident from her turkey challenge.

Alex misses Richard the Bear, who was his roomie. And apparently when they film the axed cheftestants packing their knives, they really do leave the kitchen all alone. But as we saw from last week, Richard was a whole bottle of emotions so he had to write them down in a letter to Alex.

“Dear Alex, even though we were roommates for a brief moment, I believe we have bonded, And even though I’ve lusted over the dashing and shiny domed Tom Colicchio, who would take me to super Bear status if I brought him back to my circles, I will miss you the most, my cuddly furry friend. Love, Richard. P.S. Tell Padma I’ll miss her outfits the most.”

OK, so I kid. That’s not really what the letter said. The hand-written letter actually looks pretty long and Alex is reading it to Jamie and Carla, and Alex is getting just as emotional as Richard probably was when he wrote it. Alex says reading the letter (which really just wished him luck and stuff) made him miss home even more. Jamie, the surviving member of Team Rainbow, is wearing her rainbow T-shirt and says she made a rainbow-colored bracelet in memory of Richard. Awww.

The cheftestants arrive for the quickfire challenge and this week the guest judge is Rocco DiSpirito, who was on last season. (How come he’s back already and we haven’t seen Ted Allen yet?) EU Fabio disses Rocco for being Italian, but not a real Italian like him, which I don’t really know what that means but I guess Italians don’t consider Italians born in the United States as real Italians, capiche?

Padma says Rocco’s most likely surgically altered face is one of the most recognizable in the culinary world, so he needs no introduction so let’s just get on to the challenge. The cheftestants have to come up with a breakfast amuse bouche, which sounds odd considering how people barely have time to make breakfast itself, let alone a little tasting of what’s to come. Rocco throws in that he loves bacon, and Padma says who doesn’t? And I have to say, I like it but don’t love it because it can be salty and greasy, so, yeah, I’m one of those who doesn’t, so there.

They have 30 minutes and off they go, with EU Stefan busting out a special device to cut off the top of eggs perfectly. Eugene is cutting up bacon (ass kisser) and Daniel is working with corn flakes and zucchini flowers. EU Fabio says breakfast in Italy (again with the Italy, we know already, you’re Italian!) doesn’t really consist of bacon and eggs but typically just something sweet like a brioche and cappuccino. Ah, the breakfast of champions!

So everyone is working mostly with eggs, and I’m starting to notice that some of these don’t really look like an amuse, which is really a small tasting —often just one bite— to start your meal. And even Leah agrees with me, as she notes that some of her counterparts are really just making mini breakfast dishes. But bring on the tasting!

Rocco and Padma go around, and among the highlights is Rocco loves EU Stefan’s heuvos ranchos breakfast inside an egg. And while I like the idea, I think the whole presentation of an amuse in an egg shell is so 1980s, but Padma and Rocco seem impressed.

Jamie did a spin on a bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich but with an egg on top, and it actually looks a lot like what Leah made, except Leah used a quail egg and hers is more an amuse bouche size compared to Jamie’s mini bite.

Rocco didn’t like Daniel’s cornflake-battered zucchini flowers, saying it was too sweet. He also didn’t like Fabio’s, which was like a miniature dessert plate. He did like Stefan’s egg thing and Leah’s and Jamie’s competing mini egg sandwiches. He ultimate goes with Leah, which really burns Jamie up because she’s all like, “well Leah won it last week. That’s not fair.” Hmm, I didn’t realize there was a rule saying you can’t win immunity back-to-back. While Jamie’s festering in rainbow colors, Rocco gives Leah a copy of his latest book “Rocco Gets Real.” OK, how much do you want to bet Rocco’s number is hand-written inside?

Elimination challenge. Padma says it’s important to raise their chef’s profile so people will know them and what to eat their food. So they have to come up with a 2 ½ -minute food demo for a live TV audience, although not really live and not a real audience. But it’s going to be just 2 ½ minutes, dang it. Leah is scared of TV and live demos so she’s already thanking the Top Chef kitchen gods for giving her immunity yet again.

Commercials. Wow, two car commercials. And not one of them is an American brand.

The cheftestants do their run at Whole Foods with Fabio going straight for tuna. How do you say predictable in Italian? He goes behind the fish counter to cut himself a block of the tuna, which I think is kind of arrogant. Oh, wait, Hosea and Eugene do the same thing. Did they all once work as fishmongers or something? Oh, Eugene is bustin’ out the Hawaii pidgin’ talk already with the ‘brah that he says to the Whole Foods guy, who’s probably thinking, dude, go catch a wave or something.

Alex is the only one planning a dessert, which is a rose-infused crème brulee, which sounds delicious. But everyone’s saying he can’t do it in an hour, which is how much time they have to prep back at the Top Chef kitchen.

After a few more glimpse at what others are doing (Jamie’s doing a salad with duck egg, Radhika’s doing some sweet shrimp thing, Carla’s making tortilla soup, The Cougar is cutting up watermelon), Gail, Padma, Tom and Rocco waltz in and they set up a makeshift kitchen demo spot.

The judges act like talk show hosts huddled around the cheftestant and Gail is holding some kind of weird timer that looks more like a calculator. The Cougar is up first and she’s talking about being from New Jersey and making something with beef steak tomatoes. She serves it up with a quick basil oil and watermelon for a salad, and the judges seem to like it and she has 14 seconds to spare. Wow, I’m impressed. (Although, it’s not like it’s the first time anyone’s made a salad with watermelon.)

Jamie does a bitter green salad with duck egg and caviar and she’s feeling pretty confident, which is a sure sign of impending doom. Sure enough, the white around the yolk doesn’t really set in time but she still plates it up and forces the judges to try it with her salad.

Alex makes his dessert and Padma asks him about vanilla extract and he’s busy yakking and time runs out. They try his crème brulee and Gail’s shaking her head and Tom doesn’t look happy.

Jeff is making some Middle Eastern food called malfouf. You know what’s weird? When he’s doing his one-on-one interview and they put up his name, if you read really fast the name of the restaurant he came from, it looks like it reads Dildo Beach Club, but it’s really Dilido Beach Club. Come on, I bet I’m not the only one who noticed that.

Then the next few minutes they do quick cuts of the other cheftestants and it goes by pretty fast like they squeezed all the rest into 2 ½ minutes. The highlights include Daniel smoking up the joint, Eugene making sashimi and not really knowing the difference between that and sushi (sushi contains rice and sashimi doesn’t) and Melissa nearly killing all the judges with her habanero hot pepper soup.

The cheftestants are back in the stew room asking each other who ran out of time (almost all of them) and who thinks they’re leaving (Jamie, Alex, Melissa, Leah, and amazingly NOT The Cougar).

The judges talk about the demo and Rocco is especially harsh, I think. He definitely didn’t like the raw egg in Jamie’s demo or Carla’s nervous energy. Gail likes Daniel’s charm, but Tom thinks he’s a goofball. Rocco is having a wet dream over Fabio, saying he’s the perfect TV guest, but all the girls agree The Cougar knocked it out of the park with her watermelon salad.

Padma comes in to get the bottom three — Melissa, Alex and Jamie — and then the top three — Jeff the Hair, Fabio and The Cougar. There’s a noticeable gasp when Padma named Ariane as one of the top three.

Instead of going to the judge’s table, they go home because apparently it’s too late and they’ll pick it up tomorrow. The chefestants do more talking about how badly they did, except for Jamie who’s crying herself to sleep. Meanwhile, Alex is saying how some people “pussy-ied out” and did something easy like salad, which doesn’t sit well with The Cougar. Leah tells Melissa that she has to fight for herself and I just keep thinking, doesn’t Melissa look like a young Daryl Hannah?
They go to bed, and then we see Chef Tom arriving at what the editors tell us is 2 a.m. He goes to get The Cougar, Jeff the Hair and EU Fabio. Of course, they’re not happy since they probably only went to bed just two hours ago. They’re whisked away to a restaurant next to the NBC Today Show studios. So not only don’t they get to sleep, but they have to cook early in the morning.

Chef Tom tells them that the Today Show hosts will taste the finalists’ dishes and then choose the winner live on the air. EU Fabio is excited, except I don’t think he realizes that he’s not going on air, just his dish.

Bianca, the food stylist for the Today show (I want her job!) tells them to put their food on the cart and she takes them to the green room. Back at the homestead, Eugene wakes up and notices the three of them missing. Gosh, imagine if they were actually kidnapped, all the cheftestants would sleep right through it. Anywho, the others wake up and they see a big screen TV set up in the living room, which makes me sad to think that they normally don’t have access to a TV. (I can’t imagine living for weeks without one.)

They turn on the TV and see the crowds at the Today show and everyone’s jealous. Again, I don’t think they realize that none of the three will be on TV, but whatev. On air, we have what kind of looks like the ladies at The View, but its Meredith Vieira (wait, she was on The View), a very pregnant Natalie Morales (I heard it was twins), Hoda Cotb, and Kathie Lee Gifford (sans Regis). Chef Tom is with them to feed them the three dishes.

They start by eating The Cougar’s watermelon salad. Meredith hates watermelon, which I don’t get. Next is Fabio’s seared tuna, which they don’t say much, and then Jeff the Hair’s dishes, and all the ladies look confused about what they’re eating. Then Kathie Lee has to go spit her out, which is probably not the first time she’s done that.

Then the four morning show hosts huddle and I’m thinking, this is probably the most boring live television segment to watch, and they choose what they call the most original dish and that’s the watermelon salad. The Cougar screams in the green room (and Jeff the Hair generally looks happy for her) while Carla is screaming just as much back at the condo — maybe because she feels a mystical connection with Ariane.

Back at judge’s table, the top three reassembles, which doesn’t make sense because we already know The Cougar won the challenge. But we get to hear from Padma that Ariane will demo her dish live Thursday morning (I didn’t watch it but I’m sure YouTube has it) and Rocco gives her a thoughtful gift, actually, of hand-selected chef’s tools. Aww, he is sweet in that publicity-seeking-I-only-wear-designer-jeans kind of way.

In walks the bottom three cheftestants. Padma gives each of them a chance to talk about what went wrong, and Melissa says she tried her spicy soup, which Rocco doubts because he says it was inedible. Jamie says she got frazzled by the time, and Alex says he wanted to be different with his dessert choice. Then Melissa channels her inner Leah and tells the panel that “I want to be here. I really want to be here.”

The judges deliberate with Rocco saying all three dishes were inedible (I think that’s his favorite word). He also said Jamie shutdown, which is not good for a publicity-seeking celebrity chef. Back in the stew room, Melissa is going around telling anyone who will listen to her that “I want to be here, I really want to be here” and Alex asks Jamie if Melissa’s throwing him under the bus, and Jamie says yeah, and he says “that’s fucked up.” (But of course, I spelled it out while Bravo spelled it f - - ked up. I played hang man, you know.)

Commercials. Oh, we get another one of those out-of-the-blue snippets and I can’t tell if this is happening in this episode or in the future but it’s the continuation of the sexual dance between Hosea and Leah and this time Hosea grabs a red marker and writes on Leah’s leg “I (heart) H.” If this was Melissa, that would mean “I love Habanero.”

Judgment time. Tom says they thought the challenge was straightforward, but of course it wasn’t. He gives a recap of why they suck — Melissa … spicy, Alex … wrong dish, Jamie … raw egg. Then Padma sends Alex packing. Back in the stew room as everyone commiserates with hugs, Hosea whispers to Melissa he’s glad she’s still here. Hey, what about Leah? The cheat.

Alex says he should have stuck to his guns, which I’m not quite sure where they were pointing, and says you have to give 100 percent when on Top Chef, but he has a fiancé and a wedding in 20 days to think about so he only could give 87 percent, if even.

Next week: Gail comes flying in and announces that the cheftestants all have to cook at her bridal shower. Wow, talk about free labor. First, Chef Colicchio gets them to work at their restaurant, now free catering for Gail. What? Is Padma going to have the cheftestants stuff and mail out her cookbook, “Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet”? Geesh.

“Top Chef: New York” airs every Wednesday at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. Central) on Bravo TV. Photos courtesy of Bravo TV’s Web site.


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

Reality show cliche No.1: Why do these people always get so emotional when someone leaves. They act as though they've been friends all their lives and will never see each other again. They've been together maybe a week tops and it's a competition. Weird.

Reality show cliche No. 2: Alex, asking Melissa if she's trying to throw him under the bus. I swear every reality show features this phrase at least once a season. -- David

P.S. We saw Team Rainbow's Richard at the SF Farmer's Market last week.

Anonymous said...

You're not going to see Ted allen this season--his Food network contract prohibits him from appearing on Bravo

Single Guy Ben said...

That's too bad. I like Ted Allen, but I hardly watch his Food Network show.

David/Ann, was Richard just walking around or making an appearance? He seems like a fun guy, when he's not crying.

Anonymous said...

Creme brulee in an hour?!?! What was he thinking?! Oy vey....