Friday, May 30, 2008

Apparently You Don't Have to Know How to Cook Rice to Go to Puerto Rico: Top Chef Season 4 - Episode 12

(shout-out to MD for the title!)
Well, the debacle that was "Restaurant Wars" is over. It was clear who would win, it was more clear who would lose, and it was not so clear why one of the most talented chefs of the season was sent home (also my personal favorite), while, inexplicably, douche-hat and bitch-face remain. Who went home tonight? Who remains? The final four of this culinary smackdown were determined tonight, let's find out who they are...

Opener -
Nothing really exciting happened, except that Stephanie interviewed that she was excited there are so many girls left in the competition, which I thought indicated that a girl was going home. Apparently the Bravo editing team pulled one over on me.

Quickfire -
Go to Allen Brothers and cut meat. That's what she said. Alright, straight up, I LOVE this Quickfire. Not as much as the relay race, but butchering is such and important skill for a chef to have, so to actually MAKE the chefs fabricate their own product is brilliant. I was a little upset about the huge amount of waste some of the chefs produced, I mean, come on guys, a poor cow had to die, the least you can do is treat it with respect. That said, I will begrudgingly admit that Spike actually (pleasantly) surprised me with his mad butchering skills. As a bonus, we had a dual Quickfire, in which the chefs had to bring their meat (TWSS) with them to the Top Chef kitchen and cook it to a perfect medium rare. Again, awesome - a perfectly relevant test of the skills a chef should have. I was a little concerned at first that no one actually ate the steaks, but once the Quickfire was over, the chefs got to eat their delicious meat. Spike really owned the whole challenge and I'm glad he won, he deserved it, even if his attitude is crappy. Clearly he knows his way around a piece of meat (say it with me now).

Elimination Challenge -
I love this challenge. I think it's the best one yet. Seriously. They took all the skills a chef running a restaurant should have and melded them together into a delicious stew of mad-skillery. First, design two dishes based on the ingredients in the walk-in. Something chefs do everyday. Next, just cook their dishes and fire them when appropriate. Again, exactly what chefs do everyday. Perfect. Finally, make the dish taste good and make it appropriate for the restaurant's clientele. Steakhouse. Make steaks and rich side dishes. I think everyone did well, with the exception of Spike inexplicably poor choice to use frozen scallops. Even I know not to use them. or at least not sear them. What about a mousse? A soup? Something where texture's not that important. Come on now, Spike. Let's see what you're made of - change your game plan midway through.

Some favorite happenings:
1. Before they got to the restaurant, Richard cleaning up the Top Chef house with a giant garbage bag with a perfectly placed GLAD logo directed at the camera. Do Glad Bags actually have logos on them? Curses, Gladware, you've made me curious enough to go buy a box of bags to see if they do. Strong product placement.

2. Tom's face during the Sniff and Sneer when he found out Spike was using those awful scallops.

3. Tom's reaction to the peanut butter mashed potatoes. Interesting sidebar - when Lisa says she made them before, at another restaurant, does that mean she's just lifting other chef's ideas and foisting them upon the judges? Is she this season's Ilan?

4. Speaking of douchebags. Ilan showing up and acting more douchey than usual (the comment about head shaving made me throw up in my mouth a little, seriously, what the hell is his problem. Why would you voluntarily remind people of how awful you are?). And what the F was up with his glasses and gay-ass T-shirt? You're at a nice steakhouse, dude, try to dress appropriately. They even got Harold to dress up.

5. Speaking of Harold, here is a direct transcript of my notes when I saw him: "HAROLD!!!! Eeeeeek! SQUEEEE!" (could he be anymore adorable?)

6. When Tom announced he was expediting. Ha! He'll kick their asses!

As far as the individual food goes, Stephanie's looked and sounded the best to me. Come on, crispy sweetbreads and a giant steak with wild mushrooms and salsify puree? What's not to love? Antonia's salad sounded good, but isn't it kind of what she made before for Sam, the sexy salad man? I can't believe the judges didn't call her out about making the same thing twice. I mean, it's good, but show your range. That said, her steak also sounded delicious, as did the famed gratin. Richards appetizer was by FAR my favorite thing any of the chefs made, though. Hamachi? Crispy sweetbreads? Avocado? Yuzu? SOLD, mother F-er!! Sold! I can only imagine the taste and texture that came along with that dish. I kind of want to make it, but I'll most likely fail miserably and be sad I wasted 30K on cooking school.

The two losers - Spike and Lisa, honestly, I don't know what to say. Spike's steak looked really good, but I still don't know why he kept on with those scallops. I guess once you have your mind made up, it's hard to change, but this is for the final four and Puerto Rico, pull out all the stops. As for Lisa, I like the idea of a giant prawn appetizer, but why you would choose to chill something covered with fat is beyond me. I think even an 8-year old child would know the fat would congeal into an unappetizing and disgusting mass.

Judge's Table -
It was interesting, that's all I can say. I cannot believe Spike called out Tramonto like that. Bad move, dude. I always knew you were a douche-hat, but I didn't think you'd start insulting the judges, especially the one whose kitchen you just used and whose customer's you just served. I was really happy with the decision to give Stephanie the win, she definitely deserved it, as both her dishes were the best and she worked calmly, cleanly, and most importantly, didn't insult anyone along the way. Plus, her prize was pretty cool, although hopefully the appliances work better than they allegedly did last season. It was adorable when her, Antonia, and Richard started dancing around in the Stew Room after they knew they were going to Puerto Rico. That must have been one of the best feeling in the world. As far as Spike's knifing, he needed to go, but Lisa needs to go more. I don't even know if she's that great a cook. Everything she makes is underseasoned (even though she has an "amazing palate," Padma?) and she just looks pissed all the time. You can't have a top chef that refuses to accept criticism. How can you grow as a chef if you think everyone's opinion about your food is wrong?

Next week: Lisa cuts her hair to look more like Richard! Seriously, I thought they were just showing him excessively! Puerto Rico looks beautiful! Someone may severely injure themselves hacking apart hunks of meat!


Beth said...

When Stephanie wins, we'll have to search back through comments and texts and find when I called it at the first episode. ;)

That said, Richard's appetizer looked like heaven on a plate.

Brian said...

Dude, you have to "cook" rice? I never knew...I guess that explains why its always so crunchy when I make it.