Friday, January 16, 2009

"Where were you with the rolling and the tying?"

Friday, January 16, 2009

Oh no! Leah has fallen from the pedestal of my esteem! How did this happen? I have forgotten how quickly things can change. For the worse! Now, I’m not going to say that I was totally shocked by the judge’s decision, because in a way, it was a long time coming. However, the eliminated chef might not have truly deserved this particular exit. Alright, I will end with my cryptic early recap ramblings and get back to the beginning of the episode.

The producer in lust with Dr. Chase must have decided it had been too long since the viewers were able to gape at his chest-we got a quick peek as he dressed before the quickfire. There is some animosity brewing between Hosea and Stefan. Hosea, wearing a most darling and original “I love Padma” shirt, has inspired me to join Radhika as the second member of the “I Hate Stefan” club. Stefan is just supremely arrogant, and the few wins he’s garnered recently have just inflated his ego to an unbearable point.

Padma waits in the Top Chef kitchen in front of a large object draped with a white "Top Chef" cloth, with Hung, who until the arrival of Stefan, held the title of Top Villain. Now, there have been many chefs that aspired to the title of Top Villain, most notably Marcel of Season 2. Hung, however, was more of an ice-cold, not beyond sabotaging the other chefs kind of villain. Much worse. He’s also remembered fondly for his crazy speed-he can break down a whole chicken faster than I can measure out a cup of chicken stock. It’s almost scary. Fabio knows that Hung is especially great with fish, and is quite sure that under the “blanket” behind them is a whole aquarium. Cue the sweeping, ominous music…the “blanket” covers the contents of the Top Chef pantry. As in canned goods. The chefs have to create “the most delicious dish you can from the cupboard and pantry staples” in fifteen minutes! Holy cow!

It’s like a running of the bulls to the canned goods. Fabio and Hosea fight over a can of artichokes, Dr. Chase is getting terribly beat up (perhaps his iron physique is a bit misleading?) and there is just general bedlam. Of course, pure and perfect Jamie has NEVER worked with canned goods before, because she cooks everything fresh from the farm in San Francisco. I’m more than irritated with her by now, in fact, I’m barely able to respect her cooking. It’s insulting to the many working people in this country who don’t have those resources before them every evening. I’ll say this once, and I don’t feel that I’ll regret it: Jamie has got it coming! Stefan starts to saw a can of some unidentified gross product open-what happened to the lid, I wonder? I loathe him even more when he pushes Hosea into loaning him a piece of Spam.

Leah, Jamie, and Radhika landed on the bottom. Leah’s fried waffles were unimpressive, Radhika’s dish was essentially pureed beans with some toast, and Jamie’s dish showed little effort at all. He nailed her on that one, by the way, telling her that it looked like she just dumped the contents of the cans onto a piece of bread. Ha!

To be honest, the majority of the dishes looked absolutely terrible. While I love the episodes that present the chefs with huge challenges like this (remember the gas station shopping in Season 2?), I do NOT usually crave the ensuing dishes. I almost gagged as I looked at Ariane’s turkey spam slice, sitting in a grayish pile of gravy on a piece of toasted white bread. It looked worse than anything I've ever seen in a cafeteria.

Stefan, Hosea, and Dr. Chase proved triumphant. Hung loved Hosea’s split pea soup with pork rinds and spam, Dr. Chase’s fried conch and pina colada, and Stefan’s strange sandwich and soup. Unfortunately, Hosea’s generosity hurt him in the end, because Stefan won immunity. I wish that the good doctor could have won-obviously, I can’t know what the dish tasted like, but it looked great. Perfect presentation, in my humble opinion.

After several individual challenges, we were due for a team challenge. Padma brought out the knife block, and the chefs began to draw, selecting lamb, pig, or chicken. The chefs would be responsible for creating a seasonal meal based around their main protein. They will be cooking for a group of 16 people, and dessert should be on the menu! Problems arise almost immediately, specifically on the lamb and chicken teams. The lamb team consisted of Ariane, Hosea, and Leah. Ariane is instantly apprehensive, because she fears that the close relationship between Hosea and Leah will eclipse her contribution to the team, or at the very least, make it difficult. The chicken team, Jamie, Stefan, and Carla, is having problems mainly due to Stefan’s personality. He’s demanding and bossy, but strangely attached to Jamie, despite her dismissive behavior. Carla is stressing out because she “can’t create in that energy.” All she does during the strategizing is nod her head and look contemplative.

Despite my bad Jamie vibes, I could NOT believe Stefan’s poor behavior. Jamie was absolutely right-he had immunity, and should have allowed the girls carte blanche with the menu and planning. That’s commonly expected behavior of a chef with immunity on team challenges-at the very least, he should have collaborated with them, not attempted to take total control of the menu. I felt like I could actually feel the waves of anger and frustration THROUGH the television! Not to mention, Stefan continues to harass Hosea. I won’t stand for that!

Little did the chefs know, their Toyota Sequoias would not be taking them to Whole Foods Market. Instead, they headed right out of the city. When Fabio sees “bushes and trees “ he figures out that something is up. The chefs pull up to a beautiful, lush green farm, which Jamie, the one who knows everything, immediately identifies as Stone Barns. Stone Barns is a nonprofit farm and education center, which also includes Blue Hill restaurant, where Dan Barber is the head chef. The chefs learn that they’ll be “shopping” at the farm. I personally love the idea, though I had a flicker of concern that the chefs would be involved in slaughtering their proteins. Thankfully, the chefs just get the opportunity to meet the animals and then peruse the fields for fresh produce. Most of them are pretty excited about that.

Ariane is obviously a city mouse-she can’t even emulate the baa-ing of a lamb properly. Fabio waxes philosophically about respecting the animals we eat, and tramps around in the mud with the pigs. A chicken has an innate sense of Jamie’s unlikeable-ness, and starts attacking her. Dr. Chase gathers a bushel of green tomatoes for a fried-green tomato salad. He knows about those because he’s from the south. Yet another area of expertise to check off on his resume.

The chefs enter the kitchen at Blue Hill to find tons of fresh produce and carefully laid out pork, lamb, and chicken. It was really a lovely spread-like a perfectly organized stall at a farmer’s market. I start to feel apprehensive about Team Lamb-they haven’t divided up their tasks equally, which is always a problem. In team challenges, it’s important that every chef is responsible for at least one dish. Not every dish, and not just dessert. One strong contribution is essential. Team Pig works hard on ravioli, pork loin, grilled corn, and crème brulee. Crème brulee is like the kiss of death on this show-I’m not sure why Dr. Chase selected it as the dessert. Ariane is actually not a professional butcher, and she struggles to tie her roast lamb. It looked a terrible mess, and horror of horrors, I had a sneaking suspicion that Leah deliberately didn’t do much to help improve it. Team Chicken is surprisingly productive-for all his many faults, Stefan at least seems to be manageable when he is cooking.

Padma and the host of judges dove into the chefs’ dishes under a sweltering New York summer sun. Team Chicken was hugely successful, even though they made an ill-advised soup. I think that Stefan’s palate is likely very trustworthy-how else can you get away with soup at that time of year? Team Lamb failed miserably, largely due to the way the lamb was butchered. Fabio’s pesto overwhelmed the ravioli from Team Pig, and Dr. Chase’s idea of removing the fat from the pork loin was simply terrible.

Team Lamb and Pig both presented poor desserts. I told you it was a bad idea to make crème brulee! Dan Barber compared Team Lamb’s trifle to cafeteria food. Team Chicken’s tart had a delicious crust and great flavors.

Thus, it was no surprise to see Team Chicken called to the judge’s table first. Jamie’s chicken cutlet and Carla’s pastry were standouts, so Dan Barber declared the whole team winners. Jamie was probably inwardly fuming at this decision. The judges had little or no comments to make, which makes me think the food wasn’t absolutely outstanding, just well-suited for the challenge.

Team Lamb and Team Pig, on the other hand, were skewered by the judges. With Team Pig, the main problems were the extremely amateurish mistake of removing fat, which we all know is EXACTLY what gives pork its flavor, and a “heavy-handed” pesto. Team Lamb did not honor their protein. Ariane did her best to take responsibility for the dish, and when Hosea and Leah failed to back her up, she stood up for herself and confessed that she had requested help on multiple occasions during prepping. Leah barely admitted contributing to tying the roast, and Hosea could really only take credit for his roast potatoes. It was truly shameful. Tom and the judges eventually determined to send Ariane home, because technically, there is no excuse for not knowing how to properly butcher a lamb, but you can tell they didn’t feel great about the decision. Heck, I felt bad about it! I almost think that if Leah and Hosea hadn’t had such equally poor showings, it would have been a different decision. I don’t know if there is something going on with Ariane behind the scenes, but from what we’ve seen so far, she certainly didn’t deserve that kind of treatment from her fellow contestants. After this and watching the previews for next week, when we see Hosea finally falling prey to Leah’s feminine wiles, I’m going to have to say that I’m no longer Leah’s number one fan. Just when I was beginning to really like her!

Next week is Restaurant Wars! Almost always the best episode of the year!

1 comment:

Andrea and Arthur said...

I thought for sure that your quote pick would be "Cock. I love it," as stated by Stephan! LOL. I agree about him, of course, but the producers want us to hate him. Why do you call blondie Dr. Chase? Oh and I kind of like Jamie. She is a bit arrogant, but no more so than most of the men on the show. AND they ALL ALWAYS say that they NEVER work with canned/frozen/junk food EVERY season. It kills me. Just suck it and stop being so snobby. I agree about Leah too. Badly done, Leah. Badly done. xoxo