Thursday, February 05, 2009
Previously on Top Chef...
Super Bowl (but not really)! The phrase "All-Stars" got redefined as "Mediocre Ex-Contestants Who Were Available!" The handsomest chef in all the land got banished back to Miami!
-Leah just grates on my nerves more and more, man. Hosea too. They both remind me of people I went to high school with... her, the slutty student council Treasurer who's across-the-board incompetent and communicates mainly through pouting, and he, the future frat boy jock who's never actually played a sport and cries when he breaks a sweat... and the fact that they are both STILL on this show is Exhibit A in the ongoing trial of why Season 5 generally sucks nards. More about these two chuckleheads later.
-Judge Toby Young hit a new low with his "witty" wordplay tonight; despite generally giving good criticism throughout the episode, we as a nation cannot let his quip that referred to a well-cooked piece of escolar as "Pablo Escolar" just slide on by. DUDE... how can someone be so unaware of one's own self to not recognize that everyone wants to stab them in the neck with a butter knife?
-Eric Ripert is the guest judge tonight, as well as the axis around which the entire episode turns. And as you might have gathered from the picture above... I love him. Despite being one of the best and most highly-regarded chefs on the planet, he comes across as just a regular French dude chillin', enjoying life and being handsome before taking the concept of seafood and ramming it up your ass with class, beauty, and elegance. Dude is the shit and you DO NOT speak ill of him. It will only lead to your downfall... (this is foreshadowing)...
I know that I said this last week, but this time I really mean it... best episode of the season so far. The more I've thought about it, even though it was entertaining, last week's Super Bowl-themed challenge was a bit of a conceptual mess and it really highlighted the gimmick-y excesses on which Top Chef tends to lean. THIS WEEK'S EPISODE, however, showed exactly how good Top Chef can be when it stops worrying about being clever and focuses on the actual skill and craft of cooking professionally at a high level. What a concept. Let's get to it, shall we?
It's another Knife Skills challenge... this one involving the filleting of three different types of fish (well, two fish and an eel)... and, as always, it shows who's got their chef-ly talents locked down tight and who among the contestants be straight trippin', boo.
The start off having to fillet sardines... which looks crazy difficult... and Carla fucks it up so bad, all she can do is crack jokes in a flopsweat puddle of crazy. It's actually pretty charming though; big freaky bird-lady is kind of growing on me. Her and Jamie are both knocked out, then it's on to the Arctic Char (which looks like salmon to me, but whatevs). It's here that we see, finally, the real Leah and why exactly she's awful. About halfway through the filleting job, she just gives up. There's still time on the clock, the other contestants... even those that aren't doing a spectacular job of making their fillets... are still grinding away, trying to do the best they can. She, however, goes into full-on pouty cheerleader mode and decides it's TOO HARD and walks away. Um... I'm sorry... that right there should be grounds for immediate elimination. If you quit on a challenge, even if it's only a Quickfire, you should pack your knives and whatever is left of your dignity and get the fuck out. That is bullshit, plain as day.
Even Hosea, who's basically her show husband, is like, "Leah, I'm just not that into you now." Seriously, and with only a mild amount of hyperbole, she's the worst person on the planet.
Anyway, it comes down to Hosea and Stefan. Hosea makes a big hairy deal about how he's a seafood chef and, thus, has to win this and all other seafood challenges or he, himself, will be deboned and filleted by his staff upon returning to his restaurant. This, of course, means he's about to get clown-stomped by Stefan. And wouldn't you know it... they are asked to skin and fillet an eel; a task which, it turns out, Stefan has been doing since he was but a tiny, bald chef in his native Germany. (side note: I thought he was Swedish... hmm...)
Stefan is declared the winner by a million miles and, though not given immunity, will be given a valuable leg-up in the Elimination Challenge.
Eric Ripert invites all the chefs over to his restaurant... foodie mecca Le Bernardin... for a casual lunch. This is a trap, naturally, but apparently none of the contestants have ever watched the show before. They get all giddy and excited, "we're going to eat good food at a super-expensive restaurant, we're so lucky, what could POSSIBLY go wrong???" Here's a tip: Whenever the reality program you're on is suddenly nice to you for no reason, you should immediately go on Full Alert. Unless they are regularly being plied with the finest foods New York has to offer, the fact that they're being let out of the condo cage at all should be enough to set off alarm bells.
But no. They are all idiots. Idiots who get to eat Eric Ripert's amazing-looking food. For about ten minutes, Top Chef turns into the Food Network version of a porno; long, lurid shots of luxury foods all perfectly sauced and sexy looking, HOLY SHIT, I'm going to rob several banks so I can eat at Le Bernardin.
Ugh. It's like staring into the sun. At any rate, the contestants are served a six-course meal and everyone ooohs and aaahs appropriately... except for Jamie, who snottily proclaims (in the interview aside, not at the table) that his kind of food bores her and she's not impressed. OH NO YOU DIDN'T!!! Listen, Ms. Tattoos-Instead-Of-Personality, you bow and scrape when you're in the presence of greatness, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, you run into people who are just flat-out better than you. Way it goes. Respect it or you will get steamrolled... (this is foreshadowing)...
So, post-lunch, it's revealed that the chefs will each have to try their hand at recreating one of the dishes they've just eaten. Because DOYE. They're all shocked, but that's because they are all just so painfully stupid. Stefan, having won the QC, gets to pick which dish he wants to recreate. The others have to go by luck of the draw. After each dish is assigned, they're sent to the kitchen at Le Bernardin to give it a whirl. Here's how it all broke down...
Stefan - Baked Lobster w/ Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce: Not that this is a shock AT ALL, but Stefan was able to... almost exactly... recreate the aforementioned dish. His only slip-up was making the Hollandaise sauce a little too thick. Otherwise, it was spot on. He of course wins the challenge, bouncing back from last weeks Bottom Three appearance like a motherfucker. This victory, by the by, now makes him the winningest contestant in Top Chef history.
Carla - Oil Poached Escolar w/ Potato Crisps in a Bearnaise Sauce: So, apparently, Carla has decided to bring it. It's starting to look as if, under all the layers of insanity and hippie-mysticism, there's actually a talented chef ready to kick some ass, which I find absolutely shocking as I think we all had her pegged as an early-out. She's obviously too unstable to win the whole thing, but... if she's got some game left in her... she's certainly picked the right time to bust it out. She impressed Ripert with her French-cooking knowledge and made, by all accounts, an excellent recreation of her dish.
Fabio - Sourdough Encrusted Red Snapper w/ Tomato Basil Consomme: They refer to Fabio's recreation in terms of art. Well, art forgery. As in, on the surface it's an exact replica, but when you start looking closer... examining the details... you can see how different it actually is. However, despite that, they decide he got it mostly right. He, along with Carla and Stefan, obviously comprised the Top Three this week.
Hosea - Spiced Monkfish w/ Black Garlic: Too much seasoning, he didn't let the monkfish rest before he sliced it, etc. Lots of little mistakes that made his dish pretty underwhelming, particularly coming as it did from a seafood chef. He was the best of the worst, but still...
Leah - Bake Mahi-Mahi with Miso and Matsutake Mushroom Sauce: Since Leah has basically given up at this point, it's a fucking miracle she was able to make anything at all. Her recreation of the dish was completely different, flavor-wise, from Ripert's original; a fact that the judges chalk up her basically not giving a shit anymore. This, under normal circumstances, would be enough to get her sent home. However, there's...
Jamie - Sauteed Black Bass w/ Braised Celery and Serrano Ham Sauce: Ah, bitter irony. Previously, during the lunch, Jamie had bitched in particular about this dish and how she thought it was awful, so OF COURSE it's the dish she ends up having to cook. See what happens when you talk shit about Eric Ripert. Fate has got a wicked sense of humor. Jamie, of course, fucks things up royally. The fish was done okay, it seems, but the real issue was the braised celery... she over-salted it, rendering it... and by extension, the entire dish... totally inedible. And when you serve something inedible, particularly this late in the game, well... it's goodbye, farewell, and amen. (totally foreshadowed this)
So Jamie is cut. Team Rainbow is no more. And if anyone knows Eric Ripert, please... give him my number.
Next week on Top Chef...
The final four are chosen! An Italian is injured! Food is, presumably, cooked!