Friday, December 5, 2008

"The scariest thing about failing is failing."

Friday, December 5, 2008

I’m noticing a trend with the weekly Top Chef New York opening scenes-one or two chefs are shown engaging in some sort of morning ritual (Dr. Chase working out, in this case) and then we’re given another shot of Ariane attempting to convince herself that things will get better. So far, I’ve assumed that the producers are pulling their usual editing tricks to constantly make us believe that Ariane will be going home at the end of the episode. They’ve fooled me every time!

Things quickly became emotional as Alex read a letter from Richard. Everyone cried. Team Rainbow is dead. Well, with the exception of Jamie and her rainbow bracelet and her arrogant profession that she is the strongest one of Team Rainbow. We shall see.

It was tough to decide what quote I would use as a heading for this post. Melissa said so many crazy things. I think it’s not at all impossible that she spends her down time at the house rolling joints and trying to figure out where she’ll next be able to show off those crazy Elaine-like dance moves. Case in point-as the chefs headed out for the quickfire challenge, you could hear Melissa say “Let’s roll like a doughnut down the hill.” Am I right?

The chefs were greeted in the kitchen by Padma and Rocco di Spirito. Now, Rocco has faced some opposition in the culinary world, but he continues to show up as a judge on the show, and all the chefs fawn over him and he usually takes every possible opportunity to spout off little criticisms in the hopes that his fifteen minutes of fame might be extended. Fabio immediately points out that Rocco is not really Italian. It’s hilarious to hear that declaration coming from him. Rocco mistakenly refers to Padma as Podma, and the two of them tell the chefs that they will be creating a breakfast amuse-bouche. Podma (sorry, Padma) makes it very clear to the chefs that an amuse-bouche (literally translated: amuse the mouth) is an “elegant mouthful”, one bite! Not a sprawling plateful! One bite! Can you tell that chefs of the past have had problems with this concept?

Rocco gives the chefs a huge advantage by actually telling them what he loves: bacon. Seriously, if you want to do well in this show, USE BACON. BACON IS THE KEY!

I’m wasn’t sure what to think as the chefs go about crafting their itsy bites. Jamie is not a breakfast person. Apparently she grew up eating Chef Boyardee for breakfast. Daniel surpasses Jamie in weirdness-he used to have his bowl o’ corn flakes accompanied with zucchini flowers. Dr. Chase admits he is “thinking too much”, and decides to make several components for his dish. Dude, LEARN YOUR LESSON. Stefan uses a nifty eggshell slicing tool and creates huevos rancheros, served inside of the egg. Too many people make French toast for my taste.

In the end, Rocco is torn between Leah and Jamie. Jamie’s breakfast actually sounded better-a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with balsamic syrup and fresh basil. However, it was two bites. That is an important distinction. Leah’s bacon, quail egg, and cheese sandwich was a perfectly-sized amuse-bouche. And she certainly wasn’t afraid to point that out. I have to admit, while her comment was slightly catty, I have to give her credit for defending her dish. They aren’t there, after all, to make friends. Jamie’s dish was clearly not a true amuse-bouche (I don’t care what Rocco says), and Leah deserved to win the challenge. While I certainly admire Jamie’s talent, she has shown an edgy, defensive side of her nature over the past two episodes that leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Leah has a bit more humility, and I like her. So does Rocco-he pronounced her the winner of the challenge and presented her with a copy of his newest cookbook.

For the elimination challenge, we were treated to a speech by Padma about how important it is to “raise your profile” because the more people know you, the more they’ll come to your restaurant. The best way to do this, obviously, is to appear on the Today Show and give a 2 ½ minute presentation teaching a possibly inexperienced home cook how to make something. This is definitely going to be a challenge. Especially for Fabio-he knows how hard it will be to explain a dish in perfect English. Plus, Carla probably told him that “They will cut you,” if he does a bad job.

For this edition of shopping at Whole Foods, we were treated to a tuna-slicing competition between Hosea, Eugene, and Fabio. They all decided that they should slice their own tuna, behind the counter. I was worried about Eugene deciding to do sushi for a demo, but it is his specialty. Cooking what you cook best is usually a good bet.

Lots of juicy tidbits during the prep time! Jamie is apparently a television star, having performed a demo cooking lesson on live television before. I’m beginning to think she might have been slightly over-qualified for this kind of reality show, although hearing her worries about cooking her duck egg in the allotted time was at least a medium-sized red flag. Huge alarm bells went off as Alex’s sureproof plan to make a rose-infused crème brulee began to crumble. I was worried as I watched Ariane chop up a HUGE watermelon, but Tom seemed pleased with her, giving the camera a winning smile. Dr. Chase wasn’t worried about his Middle Eastern dish, because he has done a fair amount of television-we know, on House!

The chefs all performed the demo in the Top Chef kitchen with Tom, Padma, Gail, and Rocco. Several weren’t able to complete them in the given time. A few were terrified. Jamie’s egg was not cooked. Daniel smoked up the whole studio. Carla had a “nervous energy.” Melissa’s mountains of habanero peppers completely turned off the judges. Seriously, you need to use gloves when you handle them. What was she thinking? As we could easily have predicted, Alex’s crème brulee failed miserably.

On the winning side, Fabio was a huge success, a “dream guest” for a talk show. Ariane gave a perfect presentation, and Dr. Chase’s shrimp rolls were delicious. Thus, these were the three that were woken up, by Tom, at not even the crack of dawn to head over to 30 Rock where they would hopefully run into Jack Donaghy on their way to the Today Show. The hosts of the show would be tasting the dishes and choosing a favorite on live television. Of course, Bravo woke up the rest of the chefs and dragged them into the living room to watch the show together, awaiting the results.

I wanted to yell at Dr. Chase for saying the Today Show hosts have unsophisticated palates, but it is probably true, and I couldn’t help feeling a bit bad for him when Kathie Lee Gifford rudely spit his food out. It was bad, really bad. Ariane’s clean, fresh salad impressed the ladies, and she managed to pull out a win.

Judge’s table was intense. The bottom three, Alex, Melissa, and Jamie, trooped in to face the music. I noticed they were all wearing capris-is that a chef thing? Tom didn’t appreciate Alex’s defense, the ol’ “no one else was going to make a dessert so I thought I’d try it” thing, telling him that “The point of this competition is to win.” Melissa was a disaster, spouting off lines fed to her by Leah and saying that she loves spicy food. Rocco hates Jamie, and habeneros. He seems frightened by both. Despite his insistence that undercooked egg is a major problem, Alex was sent home.

Now that we’re getting a feel for the chefs and their personalities, the season is improving. I haven’t ever seen such obvious division among groups of chefs before, however, so I have a feeling there will be some fireworks. There is also love, or at least “sexual chemistry”, between Hosea and Leah.

Next week I’ll be writing my recap from the comfort of my own home! No more scrambling to watch the episode and seeking out various wireless hotspots…I can’t wait! I included a photo of Ariane's winning dish, because it did look delicious and I would order it if I ever happened upon her restaurant in New Jersey. It was a Jersey beefsteak tomato salad with watermelon and feta cheese.


Hanne Tidnam said...
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Hanne Tidnam said...

Jaime is COMPLETELY getting on my nerves. Especially in the previews for next week when she claims that Stefan is in love with her and "Can someone say lesbian?". I mean, do we really need another dose of Jaime arrogance at this point? I'm kind of done with her. Fabio is creeping up in my esteem though, now that he's dropped the "We are European" bologne to some degree.