Thursday, February 12, 2009
Previously on Top Chef...
Eric Ripert! Le Bernardin! Eric Ripert! I love him! Oh, and Jamie's tattoos were asked to leave!
-Way to start the show off with a monstrously obvious skanky down-blouse cleavage shot from Leah. Oooh... you're whiny and have boobs... yeah... make that bed all leaning over way more than is necessary... Mmm... excuse me, I need to go die from puking..
-Jacques Pepin, who is tonight's culinary Jesus du jour, looks like a beefy Peter O' Toole. This has no relevance on anything; just throwing it out there.
-Carla used to be a MODEL, you guys! Crazy, bird-lady, mystic spirit-follower... THAT Carla. Was a model! You think you know the order of the universe and you think it's a place where cuckoo-banana hippies aren't strutting down runways while learning French cooking techniques and then BAM... world upside down, black is white, dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA. Carla is officially the most interesting person on this show.
Great stuff overall. ZERO product placement, unless you count the schmancy bottle of wine given out to the winner at the end of the episode (which we don't). ZERO "witty" lines from judge Toby Young. AND... the show's ending finally delivered some relief for those of us who've long been hating on a certain contestant who sucks worse than the Devil and might just be featured in a photograph at the top of the page. But we'll get to that in due time and, oh... my children... it will be GLORIOUS.
You know eggs? Cooks some eggs.
That's basically the entire challenge. No drawing knives, no using only canned ingredients, no incorporation of a football betting pool and/or a gospel choir... all they have to do is cook an egg dish. Something fancy. And they've got an hour to do it. Truly, I do so enjoy the rare times when this show stops dicking around and just lets the chefs COOK.
Since there's only five of them left, here is... briefly... what they came up with (going entirely from memory, as taking notes interferes with shoveling bowls of cereal into my mouth):
Stefan... Eggs "two ways." One was this panna cotta thing with mango inside it. It looked like poached egg, but wasn't. Trickery! The other way was just a gussied-up Eggs Benedict.
Fabio... He had like three things going on and they were all kind of bullshitty. Don't really remember what they where, although I do recall him having some kind of gross soup poured into an empty eggshell and perched atop a mini-Greek column. (I think he thought the secret ingredient was organic, farm-fresh What The Fuck)
Leah... She made some sort of dense potato ravioli thing that sucked in several languages and also some Fail Benedict with Disappointment Sauce on a toasted Crap Muffin.
Hosea... This was gnarly: He did something weird with egg whites that turned them into a thin sheet, then he used it to wrap up asparagus and ham in a freakish imitation of sushi. It looked kind of arty and interesting, but think about how that would actually TASTE! All wiggly cold and greasy and that's not even getting into the whole asparagus issue. Blargh times a very high number.
Carla... Every year, there's some sort of breakfast-y challenge and every year someone thinks they're oh-so-clever for making green eggs and ham, like the... hey... you remember?... that book?... Dr. Seuss? It never goes over well.
Um... except for this time, when it won Carla the Quickfire Challenge. I don't know man; I really don't get how the world works anymore.
It's all about the concept of the "Last Supper;" i.e. what would you want to eat as your last meal before you laid down for the eternal dirt nap. It was actually pretty straightforward: the contestants are asked to draw knives... each one denotes a different heavy-hitter in the world of cooking. Whoever they draw, that's who's idea of a Last Supper they'll be cooking... to be judged, it should be noted, by said heavy-hitter at a weirdly-lit dinner where everyone kind of looks like a soft-focus ghost (that last part wasn't explicitly part of the challenge, but it IS what happened).
As is so often the case with big-time chefs/restaurant industry professionals, the Last Suppers chosen were all fairly simple dishes. Roast chicken, Eggs Benedict, shrimp scampi, etc. No farting around with truffle oil and basil foam or any such nonsense. Because when you're about to die, do you REALLY want to eat a food-based science project, say, or a plate so elegant you feel like you're going to get challenged to a duel by a prince if you touch it? Of course not. You want comfort food, man... something soulful and warm, something that stirs up memories of days gone by. Of course, as Top Chef has proven time and time again, it's usually the simplest things that are the easiest to fuck up.
Before we get to the dishes and the judgement, there was a bit of pre-service craziness...
While doing... something (it's never really explained)... in the kitchen, our man Fabio manages to break his pinky finger. Like, badly. As the medics are bandaging him up, and as he swears in Italian, you can see his traumatized paw involuntarily shaking... never a good sign. But what's awesome is, when the medic asks him if he wants to go to the hospital, he just looks at her like she's crazy and laughs.
Dude plays through the pain, even saying that if it came down to it, he would just chop the pinky off and cauterize it on the flat-top grill... deal with it after the dinner service. That sort of thing shows an ENORMOUS amount of character; I guaren-damn-tee you that Leah would have cried for three days and demanded the competition be stopped forever as a tribute to her huwt widdle fingie...
Fabio, cooking for Lidia Bastianich - Roast Chicken w/ a Leafy Salad
Despite working hurt, Fabio managed to crank out a kick-ass roast chicken. Everyone was pleased, even though the accompanying salad was kind of lousy. It was enough, though, to win him the challenge... however, I do wonder if the fact that he did it all essentially one-handed played into the judges decision. Certainly upped the difficulty factor for him.
Carla, cooking for Jacques Pepin - Roast Squab with Fresh Peas
Once again, Carla brings it hard. Her squab was a little overcooked... the detail that most likely ended up costing her the win... but it was nonetheless enjoyed by all that tried it. It was her peas, though, that really smacked everyone upside the head. Again, nothing too fancy or show off-y... just fresh peas in a butter reduction with tarragon. But apparently the were the bomb diggity. Pepin flipped for them and, no joke, the dude knows what he's talking about. If he thinks it's awesome... it's awesome.
Hosea, cooking for Some Lady from the James Beard House - Shrimp Scampi w/ Tomato Provencal
As with 90% of the food he's cooked thus far, his dish was squarely in the middle of the road. Not horrible, not wonderful... just kind of bland. Also, because I haven't said it yet this recap, I don't like him.
Stefan, cooking for Marcus Samuelson - Salmon w/ Spinach
Leah, cooking for Wylie DuFresnse - Eggs Benedict
I'm doing these two together because they were the main source of drama for this episode, PLUS their situation brings up an interesting point about Top Chef as a whole. Basically, both of their dishes kind of sucked. Stefan overcooked the salmon... no one liked it... and he made a weird decision to cook two kinds of spinach (one with cream and one without) that left everyone confused. Leah's Eggs Benedict was a mess as well... watery hollandaise, runny eggs, etc. The dish basically has three components and she fucked up two of them.
So who should go home? Clearly... at least judging by the edit we saw... Stefan's dish was the least liked by all the panelists. And, as that's the case, the grammar of Top Chef... which has long-stated that you live and die by each challenge and that there is no curve given to a cumulative effort... dictates that he should be the one sent packing.
HOWEVER... he has clearly, since the start of the show, been the front-runner.
Especially when compared to Leah, who has made it clear from at least the halfway point of the season that she could give a shit, is bored with the competition, would just like to go home and have good, long whine to whatever nerdy guy happens to buy into her shtick.
Mercifully, blessedly, the judges decided... just this once... to bend their own rules and give Leah the boot. Of course, they never came right out and SAID they were doing this... that would call into question any further choices they make with regards to judging the competition. But really it was their only option. It's an issue of credibility when you get right down to it; cutting an exemplary chef for one bad night and keeping on a spoiled, talentless dipshit like Leah would have brought Top Chef to it's knees in the eyes of the viewing audience. No doubt in my mind about that. I know I, for one, would have stopped watching.
Anyway, LEAH IS GONE!!! Way overdue, bitch... way overdue.
Next week on Top Chef...
The final four! New, unfortunate haircuts! New Orleans! (Which, of course, means Emeril)