Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"It's Muffin Winthrop."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You would think I might manage to catch up, rather than sitting on my laurels and congratulating myself on being only two episodes behind instead of three. You would THINK. Not I, however, the self-proclaimed queen of non-productivity! Granted, there has been distraction in the form of a lovely weekend away, a flurry of academic tasks requiring completion, and bridesmaid dress drama for the FOURTH impending wedding of the year. I do have other occupations beyond scrutinizing episodes of my beloved reality cooking show.

Before I begin to rectify the situation, however, I must heartily congratulate Top Chef for its first Emmy win, knocking out the seven-times-crowned Amazing Race. I thought I couldn't love Tom more, but I found it was possible as I watched a motley group of hosts and producers awkwardly spill out of their seats to collect their trophies. Tom was BESIDE himself with happiness and pleased shock. It was nothing short of adorable. Gail was like a kid at a candy store on the podium, which I also found tremendously appealing. The only big disappointment was the mic-hogging Padma. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, though. She seems the type.

Now onto "Covert Cuisine," the aptly titled tenth episode. Tomorrow night, the twelfth episode airs. Here's to hoping I will have successfully written about the eleventh before then!

Opening scenes:
Quite understandably, the chefs are reeling from the elimination of one of the stronger chefs. Kenny's departure has done the opposite of taking pressure off Angelo. Kevin is still fuming about the fact that Alex is still in the house and chooses to ignore him in spite of the hated chef's creepy stares. Amanda cheerfully makes coffee and thanks her lucky stars she's still in the competition.

In the Top Chef kitchen, Padma awaits the chefs with a new partner in crime, the ever-quirky Wylie Dufresne, king of molecular gastronomy in America. Scattered around on the tables are mysterious black boxes emblazoned with question marks. While Ed wonders what kind of chemicals might be hiding in the boxes, Padma informs the chefs that they will be working to create a dish based on the ingredients in the boxes. Each box contains identical ingredients. The twist? More mystery boxes will continue to arrive during cooking time, and the final dish must contain every single ingredient.

The original box contains fish, fava beans, and a can of hominy. Interestingly, a few of the chefs are stymied by the hominy. Except Tiff, of course, my Texas girl. Angelo is all over the place, nervously cleaning his chopping board over and over. Kevin fears for his sanity.

A man in black comes into the kitchen with the next mystery box, which is full of squid and black garlic. This challenge is TOUGH! I can't even begin to think of how hominy would really "go" with squid. Approximately 30 seconds later, box #3 arrives, containing ramps and passionfruit. I'm thinking ramps is great, adding a bit of onion flavor, but passionfruit? Clearly, Angelo is having the same troubles I am. He is talking to himself and starting to develop a nervous twitch. I worry what he'll do when the last box, bearing jicama, arrives.

The chefs are pouring sweat by the time the judges come back. I don't even think they particularly care about winning the money (another high-stakes quickfire) or being on the bottom. Wylie did not relish Alex's strange puree and disorganized dish or Amanda's butter-heavy dish. He adored Tiffany's seafood stew and Kevin's balanced fish, puree, and fresh salad. Tiffany used the crazy ingredients best, and joyfully pulled out a second high-stakes win.

Elimination Challenge:
Padma begins a meticulously rehearsed monologue about the elimination challenge, complete with raised eyebrows and borderline winks. The chefs will be taking on the role of spies, and will be serving a dish at none other than the CIA headquarters. Their task will be to create a new identify for a classic dish. Among the dishes to be disguised are chicken cordon bleu, french onion soup, and kung pao shrimp.

At Whole Foods, Angelo purchases puff pastry for his beef Wellington. Clearly, he has lost his mind. Not only because now his dish is going to be all "Hello, I'm beef Wellington, pleased to meet you!" when it's served to the spies, but also because LEARN TO MAKE YOUR OWN PUFF PASTRY ON THIS SHOW YOU FOOLS!

Kelly has never cooked Chinese food before in her life, so she makes the smart move of studying the back of a Kung Pao sauce bottle to figure out what flavors she needs. Thankfully, because the chefs shop at Whole Foods, she is likely to find a sauce with real ingredients and not MSG. Amanda is essentially making french onion soup, despite her aspiration to be a spy named Natasha wearing a gun in her garter. Alex succeeds at annoying everyone in the kitchen except Amanda.

Remarkably, the CIA allows all the knives to pass smoothly through entry, and the chefs gaze with fascination upon the portraits of famous agents and the CIA seals on the floor. After Ed does a preliminary run through the kitchen to find all hidden cameras and microphones, the chefs get going on their disguised dishes.

Not a whole lot occurs in the kitchen, other than Kelly's rice fiasco, a problem that occurs with frequency on this show. Amanda has the revelation that her dish is basically the same as the original. The majority of the chefs find time to criticize Alex.

Padma, Tom, and Wylie arrive with Eric Ripert, and are seated at a table full of officials and important people like Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA. Truly, this season is pulling out all of the proverbial stops.

Angelo's dish was immediately recognized as beef Wellington. Hilariously, Director Panetta said that they "would have captured this individual and hung him." Kelly's shrimp fared considerably better, stumping a few of the diners and tasting all-around delicious. Tiffany's take on gyro was hugely successful, even if the flavors were guessed immediately. Kevin's dish was yummy, but not disguised well enough.

At this moment, Director Panetta received some sort of secret communique, and had to leave dinner abruptly. I'm pretty sure the note said something like, "Dear Director Panetta, In order to preserve the drama for our episode, it is imperative that you leave immediately. Hearts, The Top Chef Producers."

Thankfully, the director missed Amanda's poorly disguised and overly sweet french onion soup and Alex's wretched veal parmesan. The final dish, Ed's chicken cordon bleu, was unanimously liked, but not properly disguised.

The judges decided that Tiffany, Kelly, and Ed made the best dishes. However, as Padma so dramatically stated, there can only be one winning trip to Paris. Tiffany's elegant gyro-inspired dish was the clear winner, and the boisterous, kind-hearted chef added another prize to her bag.

Angelo, Amanda, and Alex found themselves on the bottom, for a host of predictable reasons. Angelo was dinged for the puff pastry, Amanda for a poor disguise and two-sweet oxtail marmalade, and Alex for the all-around horror that was his veal parmesan. Despite having the best disguise of the night, Alex was finally sent packing.

Everyone heave a sigh of relief. No longer must we gaze upon that strange bald head and wonder what he might do next. In related news, according to Tom's blog and post-show interviews with other cheftestants, Alex did in fact make his own pea puree. The scandal doesn't exist.

On to the ball game!

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