Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Squid ink scare a lot of people."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I'm churning away now, hoping I can finish penning my thoughts on episode 4 BEFORE the next episode actually airs. Thankfully, I have the Pacific time zone on my side! I will persevere!

Opening scenes:

We are immediately assaulted by multiple scenes of cherry blossom-laden trees, their fluffy pink clouds of petals beckoning us all to visit and witness the charms of Washington D.C. ENOUGH with the cherry blossoms! Andrea laments Tracey's departure and the fact that she's always in the middle. Timothy reminds himself that it's not how you start, it's how you finish.

The chefs (and me) are immensely alarmed to walk into the Top Chef kitchen and be confronted by a table covered with baby items. Next to the table stands a warm and glowing Padma,
accompanied by Tom. She announces that this challenge is of a "personal" nature, inspired by the fact that she and Tom both have infants at home. For the high-stakes, no-immunity quickfire, the chefs will be required to create a delicious dish that can be pureed into a "baby version." I'm still cringing at the idea of what kinds of things these particular chefs might puree when I hear Alex declare that he'd use the winnings of the quickfire to obtain "a hooker and an 8-ball." Blech. This season is straight-up sleeze.

Kevin's wife is pregnant, giving him an edge as he thoughtfully begins preparing roasted duck and banana polenta. Tamesha plans on making a vegetable chowder, and while I contemplate on the wisdom of such a dish, Kelly loudly requests veal stock. I cross her off as a possible contender for winning the challenge. We learn that Kenny's wife passed away in a car accident, and that he's been the sole caretaker for their daughter. Stephen, father of infant twins, SHOULD be amazing at this challenge. Angelo has a son (OF COURSE), and prepares a strangely layered "tiramusu."

As Tom and Padma made their way round a carousel of baby food jars crammed to the brim with a paste that was almost universally a sickly shade of tannish-yellow, it becomes rather obvious that babies really don't have it so great. Poor Kelly suffers through Padma's indelicate, overly dramatic spitting out of a stray lemon seed. Angelo's fenugreek-flavored baby food and Tamesha's licorice oil are a big hit. Disappointing dishes included Timothy's lamb and Alex's watery, herbaceous puree. Kelly was dinged as well, though we all know it's because of the lemon seed. Padma loved Angelo's elegant, layered baby food and Kenny's use of bulghur, while Tom appreciated Tamesha's veggie chowder and Lynn's flavorful tropical chicken dish. They decide to award Kenny and Tamesha with $10,000, but no immunity.n

Padma introduces the chefs to Beth Scott, the VP of restaurant concepts at the Hilton, who has somehow magically appeared in the kitchen while Tamesha is picking herself up off the floor after winning all those "smackaroos." For the elimination challenge, the chefs must create a new signature dish for the Hilton menu, an "easily executable, quick dish" that can be served to business travelers. The chefs will compete tournament style to develop breakfast, lunch, and menu dishes. They'll work in pairs of two. All teams will compete in the breakfast round, and two teams will be deemed safe. The remaining chefs will compete in the lunch challenge, and so on, until there only three teams working on the dinner challenge. In the end, two chefs will win, and two will be eliminated. Definitely a high-stakes challenge.

There is quite a bit of freaking out about cooking in a team. Tiffany worries that Timothy has been on the bottom "quite a bit lately." Kenny and Kevin have a good groove. Alex and Ed, arch-enemies, are working together.

After the panicky shopping trip, the chefs arrive back in the Top Chef kitchen to be greeted by the judges. Padma and Tom are joined by my darling Eric Ripert and the rather random Nora Pouillon. Sitting smugly next to Beth Scott are Mike Isabella, Bryan Voltaggio, and Spike Mendelsohn, three former contestants. Seeing those guys, oozing with superiority and general cocky behavior provides quite a large amount of motivation as the breakfast portion of the challenge begins.

During the commercial break, viewers are treated to a borderline creepy analysis of Angelo's calculating admiration of Tamesha. She wins one challenge and he's all in her business. Gross.

Alex and Ed's hollandaise-less, poorly-constructed plate doesn't win anyone over. Tamesha's egg and Angelo's bacon and cheddar broth are pooh-poohed by the two Mikes, thus beginning the tiresome stint of former contestants nit-picking every single aspect of each dish. After breakfast, Amanda and Stephen's hollandaise and Timothy and Tiffany's crab cakes are elected as the best dishes. The remaining chefs must head straight to lunch.

After an intense prep period, the chefs bring out lunch dishes which continue to be ridiculously scrutinized by Spike and the two Mikes. Ed and Alex's gnudi is admired, while Kenny and Kevin's chickpea pasta is too heavy. Kelly and Andrea used canned beans, a BIG no-no, and also earn the disdain of fish expert Eric Ripert. Best lunches go to Angelo and Tamesha and Ed and Alex.

It was physically painful to watch the remaining three teams shoulder their disappointment and head back to the kitchen. I was especially anxious about my two K's, who should certainly have managed to get out of this position by now. Both Kenny/Kevin and Kelly/Andrea decide to make short ribs, adding even more tension to an already stressful final stage of the challenge. Lynn and Arnold fight about the cooking time for fresh pasta.

As the chefs served dinner, it became obvious that Kenny and Kevin's horseradish-infused short ribs fell short on the sauce (the business) side. Kelly and Andrea's short rib had a "real, dark flavor" that the judges appreciated. The weakest link was Lynn and Arnold's squid ink pasta and pineapple red curry.

In the end, Kelly and Andrea won the challenge, for having the "most wonderful flavors." It was a bit disappointing that the chefs who performed successfully in the first and second rounds weren't considered, I think. I panicked a bit as the judges grilled the remaining four, but was relieved to see the Arnold and Lynn team begin to fall apart-it certainly is NOT time for Kenny and Kevin to go home! It seemed fairly clear that the sauce proved to be their main issue, rather than the whole dish.

The mess of squid ink pasta was enough to send Lynn and Arnold home, as Tom emphasized that the judges have to rely on each individual performance, not the contestants' history on the show. Thus, Arnold went from top to absolute bottom. Sad for him, but glad for Kenny and Kev to see another day.

Yes! I am (somewhat) caught up! I must only complete ONE recap in the next few days!

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