Friday, May 30, 2008

Meat the Chefs

No? What's at Steak? Steak Your Claim? High Steaks? A Lot at Steak?

Anyway. Sorry this is a little delayed, but I had computer problems yesterday and then this stupid thing called work sort of interfered.

This week on Top Chef, the judges FINALLY cut the Sultan of Smarm, the King of Kiss-Ass, the Monarch of Mean-Spiritedness… yes, finally, SPIKE. It was about time he or Lisa went, and it was a close call between the two. I’m not okay with Loser Lisa staying, but I’m more than okay with Spike going.

I can’t believe Loser made it to the final four! It’s a travesty that Dale isn’t there; I wonder if Tom was mad when he heard what the stupid guest judges did last week. I still can’t believe Bourdain was so stupid.

Okay, I won’t go into that again.

This week, the cheftestants had to butcher and grill tomahawk chops for the Quickfire. I missed the beginning of the show, so I don’t know what exactly happened as they prepared for this challenge, but Antonia, Loser, and Spike did well, and Spike actually won. Gag. Anyway, the Elimination Challenge was for each chef to create an appetizer and entrée to be served at Rick Tramonto’s restaurant. (He was the guest judge this week.) They had to use ingredients found in his kitchen and they had, I believe, three hours to prepare their dishes and each had his or her own workstation to prepare their dishes.

Spike’s advantage for winning the Quickfire was to choose his proteins – in five minutes – for each dish (appetizer and entrée), and no one else could use what he chose. So he went into the cooler and poked around and decided to use the tomahawk chops for his entrée and scallops for his appetizer. The scallops were frozen and practically every other chef told the camera they were glad he had chosen them, because they wouldn’t have wanted them anyway. So as usual, bonehead Spike completely wasted his advantage.

The others chose their ingredients and everyone got started. They had to cook dishes for guests at the restaurant as well as judges Rick Tramonto, Padma, Gail, and Tom, and the VIP guests – the winners of the first three seasons of Top Chef: Harold Dieterle, Ilan Hall, and Hung Huynh. What they showed of those previous winners was actually pretty positive; they seemed to be judging dishes fairly and not trying to be overly critical.

What we saw of the comments of the judges as they ate was, as near as I can remember:

Appetizer: Warm Mushroom and Artichoke Salad, Poached Egg, Bacon Vinaigrette

Egg poached perfectly, but salad limp (the word soggy may have actually been bandied about)

Entrée: Bone-In Ribeye, Roasted Fennel, & Cipollini Onions, Shallot & Potato Gratin

Very good, well-rounded entrée, perfect for a steakhouse

Appetizer: Grilled & Chilled Shrimp, Confit Lemon Zest Salad with Baby Tomatoes & Crustini

Shrimp shouldn’t have been chilled, but lemon was great

Entrée: NY Strip Steak, Spicy Apple Caramel Sauce, Peanut Butter Mashed Potatoes

Surprisingly, they liked the mashed potatoes, though it sounds gross (apparently there’s just a hint of peanut butter in them), but the steak was - you guessed it - under-seasoned

Appetizer: Hamanchi, Crispy Sweetbreads, Radish & Yuzu

Perfect, delicious; Rick Tramonto said he would put it on his menu in a heartbeat.

Entrée: Prime Beef Filet, Potato Puree, Turnips & Red Wine with Pickled Brussels Sprouts

Pretty good, I think; I can’t remember much about what they said here. I know that, at judges' table, Tom said the meat wasn't cooked consistently, but he didn't eat with the other judges in the restaurant, he acted as Expediter for the cheftestants instead.

Appetizer: Pan Seared Scallops on a Bed of Roasted Hearts of Palm & Oyster Mushrooms

Not good. Scallops not good, hearts of palm apparently didn’t seem fresh either.

Entrée: Tomahawk Chop, Sweet Potato Puree, Blanched Brussels Sprouts & Cipollini

I can’t remember what they said here except that it seemed like he had added honey to the sweet potato puree and it was way too sweet. Well, yeah, I guess if you add something sweet to sweet potatoes, it would be too sweet. Who would do that?? Oh, yeah, Spike.

Appetizer: Veal Sweetbreads with Sweet & Sour Sauce of Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts

Very good; the only negative comment was from one of the past winners of Top Chef (I think Harold, who is so awkward and prissy and kind of mean); he said he would have liked the pine nuts roasted, but otherwise it was great. Everyone agreed it was great.

Entrée: Beef Tenderloin with Salsify Puree, Wild Mushrooms & Apple Sauce

I can’t remember comments except they all liked it.

(I’m sorry, I know I should really tape the thing so I can review it before I write this, but who has the time?!)

Okay, on to judges’ table.

They called all of the chefs in, since they’re down to only five, and began their critique of each cheftestant's dishes. When they told Spike they didn’t like the scallops and he shouldn’t have used them – Tom was really blunt about it, said he shouldn’t have used frozen scallops, period – they said it’s part of the chef’s responsibility to make sure he doesn’t use inferior ingredients, and shouldn’t even accept delivery of something inferior, and Spike shot back, “Well, it was in your walk-in. If it was inferior it shouldn’t have been in your walk-in.” Rick Tramonto said, basically, “Fair enough. I’ll take that, but you have to take this: you shouldn’t have used them.” Spike finally had the sense to shut up. When they were asked to leave so the judges could discuss, Spike went to Rick Tramonto and shook his hand (he’s big on shaking hands, even when he shouldn’t*) and said it was an honor, blah blah, backside smoochy smooch. Ugh.

*When he was sorting his sad scallops, Tom walked up to do his usual pre-challenge chat/mind games and Spike reached out to shake his hand, glove and scallop juice and all, and then went RIGHT BACK to touching the scallops. Doesn't anyone on this show believe in hygiene??

In the storage/stewing room (stewage!), Spike said he had no idea where that comment to Rick Tramonto came from and he couldn’t believe he said it. Well, here's what I think, Spike: you're an asshat, that's where it came from. Either he just lost his temper and blurted it out, or he thought he was going to get cut anyway so he made a comment like that so he could blame his elimination on that rather than poor cooking choices (or just plain poor cooking). I’m not sure he’s clever enough or humble enough for the latter, though, so I’m guessing he just lost his temper. Wow, what a puzzle, what a complicated guy.

Meanwhile, the judges discussed the chefs and it was clear right away that Antonia, Richard, and Stephanie were safe. Finally, sense reigns! They zeroed in on Loser and Spike. And here is the first time that I’ve been disappointed in Padma: she said that Loser “has an amazing palate” but just didn’t move out of her comfort zone or something inane like that, and Tom disagreed. Thank you, Tom! What amazing palate? They’ve said time after time that her food is under-seasoned, and last week she couldn’t tell her dish was too smoky until Dale told her it was and she still couldn’t fix it! (Alas, poor Dale!) Anyway, Padma, what were you thinking? Did you have too much wine with dinner?

Moving on, they called the chefs back in and proceeded to tell Richard that his appetizer was their favorite appetizer and he was safe. Then they told Antonia that her entrée was their favorite entrée and she was safe. Then they told Stephanie that they liked her dishes and she was the WINNER! So those three were all relieved and excited and had to leave the room. (Ha ha – they were asked to by the judges.)

The judges then proceeded to tell Loser she had been on the chopping block FIVE times, and Spike he had been on it SEVEN times. This, of course, begs the question of WHY one of them will be in the final four? And was Dale on the chopping block before last week? If so, it was maybe once. And have either of these losers won an elimination challenge? Okay, yes, Loser has won one; Spike has won ZERO. Dale won TWO. And it’s interesting that their track records suddenly seem to matter, when the judges obviously didn’t care about that last week! Okay, okay, enough about Dale. I wasn’t a fan of his personality, by the way, just his talent. I hate unfairness so his untimely elimination really rankles.

They finally told Spike to pack his knives and go and he took it pretty well. I would have been equally happy with either of them leaving and was really wishing the judges would throw convention to the wind and say BOTH of you pack your knives and skeeeedaddle! Wishful thinking. Ole Moana Lisa is still with us.

Next week: FINALE! I’m assuming Loser will get cut pretty quickly, despite her new manly, yet much more attractive - and apparently washed, hairdo. If she doesn't, I’ll be irate about that for a while. (But at least I’ll have moved on from the Great Dale Debacle of 2008!) Between the other three, it’s anyone’s game. I thought Stephanie was really strong for a while, then Antonia was doing well and Stephanie faltered, and now Stephanie has stepped up, so who knows? I still think Richard should be in the top two (if they go down to two, which I think they do; my memory is almost nonexistent these days), but I would be happy with any one of those three winning.

1 comment:

David Dust said...

I think Stephanie will win.

CLICK HERE for DavidDust's Top Chef Chicago recap.