Thursday, March 13, 2008

Top Chef Season 4 - "Anything you can cook, I can cook better"

Well, it's that time again, Project Runway has ended, which can only mean one thing - Top Chef is back! I love Top Chef (shocker, TV + Cooking = Iko's kryptonite), I think Season 1 was, by far, the best, come on, Harold? Awse. I still have to hit up Perilla to actually try his food, but he was so cute, so pissy, so focused only on the cooking, what's not to love? Season 2 was a waste. Season 3 was back to goodness again (Dale!! Hung the douche-hat!! Tre - the hot one who got sent home too early), what does Season 4 have in store for us?

A fancy (slightly) new opening in which Padma seems less high than usual. I also had a little shiver of rage when I saw Ilan happily winning his title in the opening montage...grrr...

I like how none of the chefs looked surprised when Padma and TommyC (looking a little bit pissy, if I do say so myself) rolled into the pizzeria to bring them to the Quickfire...they learned quickly from some other seasons, didn't they? I also loved the gratuitous Toyota (plug #1) logo shot (the first of many to come this season), along with the subsequent reference directly to the "Toyota Highlander."* My only issue is the couple thing. I mean, I get that the Bravo producers wanted some "added drama," but come on. There wasn't one other chef who tried out who was better than one of the two in the couple? Plus, the giant, "drama"-filled announcement about it was way too much. I don't know how it should have been handled, but they acted like it was the biggest deal in the world. I mean, I can see an issue if they're the two final chefs or something, oh, wait, who am I kidding, no woman will ever win Top Chef...even a lesbian women. I guess we don't have anything to worry about.

First, their new kitchen looks awesome. Plus, it's filled with spices from Whole Foods (plug #2).
Overall, I think the Quickfire was a good challenge, simple, to the point, and actually having something to do with the city they're using as the backdrop. Some interesting dishes came out, too, my favorite (clearly without tasting them) had to be the peach and taleggio. Seriously. Drool. I like how Rocco was all like, "I thought this bitch was crazy with the peaches and the sweet tea...but after I tried it I came around." Whatever douche bonnet. I can't believe he and Anthony Bourdain were in the same room together during the final judging without one of them being killed (that would be Rocco), but more on that later. I also loved how they had to transport their pizzas in the insulated pizza delivery boxes to their own house...they couldn't have Rocco come on down to the kitchens? And, WTF??! The "Glad Family of Products" couldn't take this moment to unveil their new line of, "Glad, Disposable Pizza Transportation Devices" (plug #3)??

Some stream of consciousness about the Quickfire challenge (from my notes last night): I'd make thin-crust, mofo.

Dale - Who likes hot sauce on their pizza? I was rooting for you until you said that...Buddakan (plus one). Hot sauce (minus 10). But, he is talking smack about other people's pizzas...maybe he's regaining my favor...also, talking smack about all the other fu**ers! Heart!**

Rocco DiSpirito - that douche-hat! HAHAHAHAHAAA! I like how they all have to call him a "star in the culinary world." That's kind of depressing. I bet all 15 chefs cook better than he does.

I'm kind of getting a seizure from all the quick shots of the food, people, and Padma's oddly-grinning face...her eyes look glazed over. I think she and Rocco smoked a fat one before the chefs came over. That explains the gorging on 15 pieces of pizza. How do they decide which chef's Quickfire critique to show and which one's not to show? And, really?! They don't pick a Quickfire winner?!

Their house is awesome. Now that the cooking has stopped, the drinking starts. As all good seasons of Top Chef begin...

Elimination Challenge:
Yeah, I'm not going to lie, this part confused me. Why would you allow the losers to pick the dishes to cook against the winners? If anything, it should be the other way around, give the winners the last pick (the food) and the losers the first pick (who to cook against). The way they did it, it seems like there was no advantage to winning. The show is about cooking, right? So, shouldn't the winners get to choose what they cook? This way, there's basically no advantage to winning. You should lose. That's what they're going to teach the chefs? Really Bravo producers? Losing is good?

And, REALLY, why did they even put souffle up on the list? There are TONS of other classic dishes. Coq au Vin. Chicken Chausseur. Mac and Cheese. Chicken Parmesan...I could go on and on. I mean, I get Tommy C's point about knowing how to cook the classic dishes if you want to be a (top) chef and I, certainly, think it's an important skill to have, but it seemed a little unfair to only give two people one of the hardest things to cook, period. Way to inject useless drama and make the chefs look dumb right off the bat, Bravo. Basically, I think if you're going to do a challenge on basic cooking skills, fine, but then, throw in some fish butchering, fastest chicken breakdown, perfect sauce making, etc. Crabcakes vs. souffle hardly seems fair.

Some stream of consciousness about the Elimination challenge:

WTF is wrong with Andrew? Why is he so angry and bitter? And he's making a foam... And Nimma? What the hell? Cauliflower custard with Shrimp Scampi?! Bitch is going home. And now cauliflower scramble?

Ha! Mayonnaise-gate!

TONY BOURDAIN!!! TONY BOURDAIN!! Just as "No Reservations" ends, "Top Chef" begins! Well played, Bravo!

(Side bar about the commercial for Top Chef on the Bravo website - Ted Allen, you can teach me how to make baby back ribs anytime...yes, I know he's gay, I still love him).

Mark - Asian Duck (in pieces) - Tony's confused. Why would Mark assume that the group of people judging his food wouldn't like something? Don't they all basically eat everything? And, even if they didn't like it, isn't it their job to taste and critique everything?
Stephanis - Asian - Not reconstructed. She won because she mixed her food together. It did look good, though.

Crab Cakes:
Andrew - Traditional, "amalgamation" I think he's on crack. The loser. He also uses douche-y words like "cat" and "badass."
Richard - Apples and Brussels sprouts (blargh - not my favorite thing to think of with crabcakes). Winner.

Jennifer - N. Italian, Autumn vegetables (didn't they film this in the summer)? Looks good. Lost on the undercooked rutabaga. So close.
Nikki - classic with homemade pasta and sheep's milk cheese. I'm impressed with her ability to make pasta and cook the whole dish in 45 minutes. Strong work!

(Note from last night - This whole thing is too rushed - I can't even get a sense of what they cooked, what it looks like or even what the judges thought. I looks like the judges don't really care, either)

Shrimp Scampi:
Antonia - YUMO! Tomatoes with shrimp and garlic. Winner! Wow. That looked GOOD!
Nimma - Cauliflower, blach (we already discussed this before...but I really, really hate cauliflower and the thought of mixing it with shrimp scampi makes me violently ill). Over salted - she's clearly going home.

Poached Eggs:
Spike - eggs and mushrooms and lemongrass...blah. Loser.
Lisa - YUM!!!!! bacon and lobster and egg. Winner!

Steak au Poivre:
Dale - Why are there little pieces of steak everywhere" Oh, wait, are those the "traditional and non-traditional garnishes?" Winner!
Manuel - YUMMMM!!! cilantro and scallion sauce. EFF the judges! Cilantro and steak is delicious! Loser.

Chicken Picatta
Ryan - chicken piccata traditional. OK, he clearly said Chicken "JEW," not chicken jus. Bigger loser of a pair of losers. Why would you bread chicken piccata (thanks, PW!) Ugh. And he's a drama queen....whining about how he's been cooking in restaurants since he was 11 - way to circumvent child-labor laws, Dad.
Valerie - Orange chicken piccata? Yuk. Winner, but still a loser.

Souffle (oh the drama):
Erik - cheese souffle with salsa LOSER!! Ha! Glorified Nachos, is right!
Zoi - sweet rice pudding WINNER!
I did think it was cute when they were both so excited about their souffles actually rising in the oven.

Yeah, that's way too many dishes to get through...I don't know how the judges did it. Well, Rocco I get, man-ho is getting kind of chunky around the middle, there...

For the overall winner and loser:
I think my favorite part about this portion of the show, was how Padma came into the waiting area looking so solemn, to ask for the top four chefs. I guess she didn't realize they already knew they were the winners. Maybe all that weed has killed more brain cells than she'd like to admit. Also, I could have sworn she said, "most favoritest" but that may have been wishful thinking on my part. Of the top 4 chefs, I do think Stephanie did the best. Her dish looked awesome and it clearly tasted good, so great for her. I hope she's really as sweet and talented as she appears to be after just this one episode, plus, added bonus, Harold and Ilan (shudder) both won the first Elimination challenge in their respective seasons, so maybe she has a shot? My only issue is that she doesn't seem to have won a prize...or maybe they just cut that part out for time. I hope she got a library of autographed Anthony Bourdain books, handed to her by the man himself. That's the best prize ever. Except for Season 3 when Casey won the laptop.

The four losers, I think it was fair. They all clearly deserved to be called out for their food, although, this is what I wrote last night, "if the souffle guy goes home, I'm not going to watch anymore. It's not fair to punish the guy for making a crappy souffle that none of the other chefs could have made anyway, let alone any of the judges." That would have been completely ridiculous. If they had all made souffles and his sucked the worst, then fair, but just because he was picked last he has to suffer over that souffle and go home? not right. I think the judges were actually pretty nice, too. even when they were ripping apart the food, they weren't mean about it...I guess it's still early, they have a lot of pissiness to get to, I'm sure.

Also, this is somewhat related and hysterical, but only if you've watched Top Chef for a while. Which would make you like me.
I'm sorry.

*Is that an upgrade? Didn't they have Rav-4s last season? Fancy.
** Did anyone else notice a profusion of Eff-bombs throughout the episode? I think they should stop with the bleeping and just move this bitch to HBO.

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