Thursday, July 29, 2010

Top Chef: Season 7, Episode 7

The Case of the Missing Pea Puree

Previously: The cheftestants judge themselves, Angelo helps Tamesha and Stephen, but was he really helping? Someone who didn’t need help was Kevin, who wins the challenge while Tamesha was sent home. It was such a boring elimination I didn’t even remember what she made that sent her home.

Wow, there are just as many people gone as there are still around. We open with scenes of … the cemetery? You know how some people like to go and take pictures of the cemeteries? Yeah, not me.

Kenny is still hurting about being in the bottom, and even though Chef Michelle Bernstein said his food sucks, Kenny still thinks there’s a conspiracy to get rid of him. “Who do you want around, Kenny or Amanda?” he asks no one in particular. I want you both to go home! You for being too cocky and Amanda for being an airhead. Hope I get my wish.

Angelo says he’s upset that Tamesha’s gone, and Tiffany is singing the same old song from last week about how she believes Angelo isn’t really upset that Tamesha’s gone and instead that he had a role in her leaving. She wonders if Angelo is really helping or hurting? Then she does that “hmm” sound like she’s in some cartoon.

The cheftestants arrive at the Top Chef kitchen and there with Padma is this baby-faced Congressman. I bet he gets mistaken for a page all the time, but he has the Congressman’s pin on his lapel and Padma introduces him as Rep. Aaron Schock, the youngest Congressman in the U.S. House. No kidding. He’s also kind of a cutie, and I Google him and you know what I found? A few images of Rep. Cutie on the beach showing off these amazing abs.

Anywho, Rep. Frat Boy says the first thing they learn when they arrive in D.C. is ethics and how they can’t have lunch with lobbyists or else it’ll seem like they’re being swayed by a plate of steak. So Padma says Congress actually has a toothpick rule, which means elected officials can only eat food paid for by lobbyists if they come on a toothpick. Yes, someone actually thought of this rule and wrote it down.

So their challenge is to come up with a great tasting gourmet dish that can be served up on a toothpick. Basically, they’re making hors d’oeuvres or appetizers that your grandma used to make for New Year’s eve.

Oh, and it’s a high-stakes quickfire, which means they get immunity and $20,000 and everyone’s salivating over the money even before they win. Who couldn’t use $20,000? I know I could. $20,000 is how much Sears says I need to pay them to renovate my kitchen in my little studio. Yeah, wait till I get on Top Chef and win a high-stakes quickfire and I’ll get you that $20,000, Sears.

Everyone starts running around and a lot of people are cooking with scallops, and I love scallops but I don’t see how it’ll stay on a toothpick. If you pierce a scallop, it kind of breaks in half easily, so I see a mess ahead for a few of them. Alex is burning bacon and Amanda is talking about how she hates making hors d’oeuvres so she’s just going to make a lamb kebob. Bor-rrrring.

Tasting. Here’s how it went down when Rep. Schocky Schock and Padma did the rounds:

Kevin: Grilled pork and mushroom kebob. Nada.

Andrea: Buttermilk fried chicken on a cheddar waffle, which she said earlier was Southern comfort food on a stick.

Ed: A duo of tuna that’s grilled and confit. Rep. Boy Wonder says he likes being able to go to Asia without taking the long flight, especially since he’s not old enough to own a passport.

Tiffany: Crispy pork roulade with prosciutto.

Amanda: Lamb kebob, which Rep. Flirt says lamb happens to be his favorite, and Amanda does her silly girl smile because she’s not beyond calling herself an intern and wearing a blue dress. Oh. No. I. Did.n’t.

Kenny: Tandoor spiced salmon, and Rep. Aaron says he likes getting his liquor and meat all in one stick.

Angelo: Cucumber cup with spiced shrimp and cashew.

Stephen: Scallop and beef with what looks like a lot of bĂ©arnaise sauce. Rep. Newbie says it’s “very meaty.”

Alex: Pan-seared scallops with crispy bacon. Padma makes a weird face.

Kelly: Nantucket bay scallops with watermelon. I like it when people cook with watermelon. I should make something with watermelon before the summer’s out. That’s if summer ever starts up here in the Bay Area.

So Rep. Aaron says he didn’t like Alex’s dish because it had too many different flavors going on, and didn’t like Kelly because there were too little flavor going on. Kelly says she now needs to focus and make her flavors big and bold. Oh, and Ed is also on the bottom, just because.

Who the Congressman does like is Kevin, whose flavors stayed with him throughout, as well as Angelo (“It’s like fireworks in my mouth,” a phase I’m sure a politician has said many a days) and Stephen. But the winner is Angelo, and he looks like he’s about to cry. Hey, I just realized they didn’t cut to commercial or pull a Ryan Seacrest. Kevin looks mad that Angelo won again (although to be fair it’s been awhile) and says something about how the judges must love Chinese food, so whatevs. Hey, what’s wrong with Chinese food? Without it you’d all starve on Christmas day.

Commercials. Mike Rowe is built Ford tough. Enough said.

Elimination challenge. Padma says the cheftestants will be taking part in the old school political tradition of the power lunch. And they’re supposed to make lunch for 24 diners at the Palm D.C. restaurant, which is supposed to be some kind of power lunch spot but I’ve never heard of it. I guess I’m not a power player. Kelly says she’s eaten there, but I don’t really think she’s a power player either.

Each cheftesants pull knives to find out what protein they’ll be cooking with, and they’ll be in pairs although they’re not necessarily going head to head or working as pairs.

They go shopping at Whole Foods. I notice Andrea’s wearing a T-shirt with the skull and bones, except the bones are bacon strips. I wonder what’s that supposed to mean? Is she saying that bacon kills? I don’t think she’s a vegetarian. Seems weird for a chef to be anti-bacon. But how is a skull and bone using bacon as a representation is supposed to mean something good? Thoughts? Anyone?

They head back to the Top Chef kitchen to start doing their prepping. Ed (and Angelo to some point) is overwhelmed by the 4-pound lobsters he has to break down, and I’m like, where can I get a plate of that? Tiffany is busy making a tapenade and she’s pretty calm but wonders if she should be doing more because there’s chaos all around her, and chaos is spelled E-D.

Alex is talking about how huge his salmon is (is everything bigger in D.C.? I thought that was only in Texas) and he doesn’t know what to do with them.

Amanda has the porterhouse steak, and she says she’s never cooked with it and she starts to remove the bone. Kelly, who also has the porterhouse, criticizes Amanda for removing the bone, saying it’s no longer a porterhouse but is not just a New York strip. Oh look, a pan of bacon is burning again. Alex!!

They’re done for the day and the cheftestants head home, where Alex says he doesn’t know what to do with his salmon. He says something about peas, and Kenny says Ed is also using peas. Then Ed’s talking about his pea puree with Tiffany and how he’s worried he’s going to be in the bottom and Tiffany is trying to reassure him. Andrea is watching and says something’s going on between Ed and Tiffany, and Tiffany says she knows people think something’s going on but “I got a man.” And she yells it out really loud like her man is 95 years old. I can imagine this is Tiffany’s conversation with her man.

Tiffany: “Man, get my shoes”

Tiffany’s man: “What?”

Tiffany: “My shoes, man, my shoes. Get. My. Shoes!”

Tiffany’s man: “What? You’re blue?”

Tiffany: “Dang. Where’s Ed?”

Commercials. Dear Clorox: Your stain remover only looks like it cleans just one streak along the clothes. I don’t like that. Can you make a wider swatch? Thanks. Pig Pen.

The cheftestants arrive at the Palm Restaurant, and like those old celebrity-based restaurants, they have a wall with framed caricatures of famous people who ate there. I always wondered how someone realizes that they want to grow up to be a caricaturist? Just a group of big headed-small body people, I guess.

This man in an expensive looking suit comes in and it’s Bruce Bozzi Jr., who’s like the grandson of the restaurant founder, I think. He says it’s the first time the restaurant has turned over their kitchen to “outsiders” so to be safe they asked Tom Colicchio to keep an eye out on them. Bozzi also tells the cheftestants that the winner will get their big head caricature on the wall of fame.

They start cooking and Amanda’s getting on Kelly’s nerves. It’s like a kid in the kitchen (talking about Amanda) and Kelly’s the strict mom who always has to tell Amanda to move her stuff or cook more on her side. I think all these petty skirmishes are going to mess up Kelly’s mojo. Amanda asks Kelly for salt and Kelly doesn’t want to share, saying she brought enough for herself and Amanda should have thought about bringing salt.

Others start to ask Kelly for salt and stuff, and to make sure she did bring enough just for herself, Kelly starts to use all her salt on her meat.

Then they cut to Alex, who says he’s going to use a pea puree. But I didn’t watch carefully so I don’t really know if I actually saw him making the puree. And then that starts the whole pea puree drama because Ed is looking for his pea puree, which isn’t in the ice chests. He asks everyone and they all say they didn’t see it. And he asks Alex point-blank if he saw his pea puree, and Alex says “I did not.” Which is weird because he was just working with pea puree. If I had made the pea puree, I would have said, “I didn’t see yours, but I made my own.” Which Alex really didn’t say. Hmmm, suspicious.

The judges arrive, and ugh, there’s that gross Joe Scarborough. There’s also some other “D.C. insiders” who I don’t really care about. Padma introduces them anyway, including Sen. Mark Warner, some woman named Micka Brezinksy, that Joe guy, John Podesta from some think tank, and Bruce Bozzi Jr. At Gail’s table, she has three NBC reporters and a slimmed down Art Smith, aka Oprah’s one-time personal chef. (Isn’t it weird how when you see someone who was once chubby and then they lose weight, they always looks like they’re sick and not necessarily healthy. That’s what Chef Smith looks like.)

They bring out the food, starting with the porterhouse from Kelly and Amanda. Gail like the sear on Amanda’s meat, even though it’s off the bone, and the NBC lady says Kelly’s cut is like eating a whole cow, it’s so big. Plus, it’s really salty, but Joe likes it because he likes his food salty and buried in butter.

They move to the swordfish and I’m so bored with the comments from the judges already. Tiffany is upset about her fish, saying she knows she overcooked it and knows she’ll be in the bottom three.

OK, this is so boring. The dishes look so big and I don’t understand how the judges are eating all these dishes in one seating. Are they just taking a bite and then passing the dish to some other table? Seems like it would be a waste of food if they don’t eat it, but if they did, I can’t believe how they can eat all that food because they don't look like chef tasting portions, they really are a full plate of food.

After they’re done eating, Tom comes out of the kitchen. He was watching and also eating in the kitchen as the food went out. He tells the other judges that the cheftestants were really sloppy and all over the place. Art Smith is all about some people having love on their dishes and others didn’t. Why is it that chefs from the south always talks about love on the plate? Just wondering.

Ed and Tiffany are talking about the missing pea puree, and Kevin jumps in because he loves to gossip. Kenny says that Alex wasn’t working on a puree the day before, so he really wonders how he could have made it just that same day. He calls the whole thing kind of grimy.

Commercials. Ugh, if those iPhone people use their video capabilities on the subway or bus, I’m going to die. I’m already tired hearing everyone’s half conversation, can you imagine hearing both sides? Whatever happened to just reading a good book when you’re on the train? Huh, I’m really turning out to be a cranky old man, yeah? That’s going to be the title of my new book, “Cooking with The Cranky Single Guy.”

At the stew room, Andrea asks about the pea puree, and Alex says it was “coincidental” that he has a pea puree the same idea as Ed, but I find it funny that he never really says that he made the pea puree. He just says he used pea puree just like Ed. Padma comes in and calls for Alex, Tiffany and Ed.

Oh, Art Smith is still there to judge. No sign of Eric Ripert again. I wonder why they promoted him so much as the new judge and I think he only judged two episodes? Anywho, Padma tells the three they’re the best and they’re all relieved because you know all three of them know they’re potentially sucky.

As the guest judge, Art Smith names the winner, and he chooses Alex, especially because of the wonderful pea puree. You can see Tiffany and Ed totally biting their tongue. When they head back to the stew room, everyone’s like, what? Alex won for Ed’s pea puree? No?! That’s messed up.

Alex sends in Kelly, Andrea and Kevin to the judge’s table. Gail asks Kevin about his tomato side, and she says it had too much heat (spicy). You know it’s bad whenever the judges ask “Did you taste it?” Of course they’re going to say that they tasted it. I want to see a cheftestant respond the next time a judge asks “Did you taste it?” by saying “did you?” LOL. That’d be funny.

Andrea admits that swordfish is not her favorite dish to cook, and Art says that attitude was reflected in the dish. Plus he didn’t like the couscous. The camera cuts to Padma and she’s looking at Andrea with such empathy, like she’s sad to see Andrea squirm. But not Gail, who’s throwing out zingers left and right. When Andrea says she made that fish dish all the time at her restaurant, Gail shoots back “If we wanted to eat the food you cook every day, we’d just come to your restaurant.” Ouch, someone give Gail a cookie.

Tom tells Kelly she knows why she’s in the bottom, and she quickly picks up that she over salted her dish. Gail says it was like a “slap in the face.” See what I mean about the zingers?

The cheftestants head back to the stew room and Kelly talks about her mistake about too much salt, and she can’t even talk because she starts to cry. And then immature Amanda is all like, “oooh, karma for not giving me your salt.” Yuck, please go home you high school chef. What’s worse is Amanda says this with a smile, like she’s so pleased with herself that someone else is suffering.

They shoot back to the judges who are talking more about food being overcooked and Tom getting cranky (although not as cranky as the Single Guy watching these Top Chef episodes) about all the common sense errors. They shoot back to a crying Kelly who says her food is typically subtle and light, but she worried the judges would have called her bland, thus the salt.

Commercials. Pledge, I think I’ve watched you since I was a child talk about waxy build up. How I wish I owned stock in your monopoly.

Judgment time. Tom says the bottom three made lunches that made them want a power nap. Kevin overcooked his lamb, Kelly oversalted her steak, and Andrea ruined her fish with vanilla. Kelly looks like she’s going to burst into salty tears any moment. Then Padma sends Andrea packing.

Both Kevin and Kelly are bowled over with relief and they hug Andrea, who says “it’s all good.” What’s really weird about this moment of teary goodbyes is that the editors left in Padma looking kind of insensitive saying “that will be all, thank you.” It sounded a bit dismissive, like “leave already” and not the sweet Padma usual self. It was all very awkward.

I’m kind of sad to see Andrea gone. She seemed like the only sane one. Now we’re left with a bunch of sloppy cheftestants or egomaniacs. How fitting for D.C.

Next: They’re serving up food for some ambassadors and Stephen doesn’t know if Brazil has any kind of cuisine, Kelly says Alex gets too aggressive and he basically trips like some bumbling gourmand. And everyone wants to ask Amanda, where’s the beef?

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


Salon Fan said...

What an intense show! I hope someday I can cook like they do. Thanks for the review of the show!

~secret restaurant recipes

Anonymous said...

I love your running commentary on the show. I've been watching and not enjoying it at all this season. Maybe I'll stop watching and just come over here for your recaps - much funnier and more interesting than the show itself.

Anonymous said...

Good review. Entertaining. A bit snarky, but I had the same reaction to Amanda(?S) childishness about the salt. They're both childish actually -- Kelly is kinda a pratt too.

I don't mind Kenny's "arrogance" at all especially since it is relatively low key and if he doesn't fix it, it will be his downfall -- just desserts if he can't stop using 250 ingrediients per plate.

Hungry Dog said...

I'm still watching this season although ever since Arnold left I can't really get behind anyone. I like Tiffany--I think she's funny--but she probably won't last. I can't stand Alex, Amanda, and Stephen--I wish they would all get voted off. And Kenny bugs. He can go too. And frankly, Padma is seeming snottier and snottier. She's making Gail look nice, which is absurd.

Jenster said...

I love this recap, Ben!

I thought it took a lot of self-control for Ed-Tiffany (yes, they're one person to me now) not to yell, "Cheater!" when Alex got the win and kudos on his pea puree. For a reality show in which contestants will throw each other under the bus for not sharing salt, I thought this was a pretty unique moment.

I really wish Stephen would go. He's so mediocre it's painful. But no one asked me.

Kat said...

I finally watched the show tonight, and thus just read your recap. This season is pretty dull. The producers obviously know what happened to the pea puree and it's kind of bullshit that they left it an open question.

Yes, this season is so boring they're having to create drama with editing around peas.

Your recap is way better than watching the show. Love the "someone get her a cookie" line about Gail. I swear all I could think was, "Oh shit, they're both PMSing..."

Mrs. L said...

I'd still buy your Cranky cookbook! (and I promise not to do iPhone 4 video on trains, plains or where it bothers folks :)