Mixing Old Fashioneds
Top Chef 5/14 Recap: Cooking for the Fuzz
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There are seven remaining contestants on Top Chef after Nikki’s departure last week. This means we are into heavy foreshadowing mode, what with those magical elves at the helm. Wouldn’t it be nice that, if for once, the Keebler elves were in charge and they all had to make cookies in a tree? So the show starts off with Lisa says it is sad to see Nikki go and there is a high level of competition at this stage. Richard is just tired, having stayed up for over 40 hours straight and then only getting a few hours of sleep before the next challenge. Spike is tired in a different way—he’s sick of Dale’s “I’m not here to make friends” crap and thinks it will come back will haunt him. Dale, of course, sees the attitude as everyone thinks he’s acting like an ass but he’s not going to pay attention to them and focus on task at hand. Andrew opines that everyone is beat down at this point except him. He’ still has a crazy fire in stomach and he’s not sure if he’s going to stab someone or make some amazing food. Ooohh a promise of violence—that could be good for drama!
Bringing the sexy back.
The chefs arrive for their Quick Fire challenge and are met by Padma and season two’s Sam. Antonia swoons at the sight of Sam and I know a lot of the viewers like him, but I am no fan because he looks like he needs a bath and a proper shave. It’s a pet peeve of mine—either commit to a regular beard or buy a razor. Sam is there to challenge the chefs to bring the sexy back to salads. I guess I should just be glad they didn’t get Timberlake on this show and just went with Sam. The chefs have 45 minutes to bust out the sexiest salad they can come up with. Spike does something with grilled meats that will, in his words, make people want to have sex. Lisa is wrapped up in the fact that some people are still there that don’t have any business in the competition. Stephanie focuses on fall flavors while Antonia wants to make a decadent, fatty salad. She notes that Lisa is using high-quality ingredients and has come on to be a real competitor. Time goes quickly and Lisa runs out of time plating the food. Sam and Padma come around and sample:
Andrew’s “Thai fruit salad” with mangoes, strawberries, raspberries, and sriracha dressing.
Spike’s “Sensual beef salad” with pineapple, radish, cucumber and skirt steak.
Lisa’s “Sexy banana salad” with grilled squid, lobster tail, banans, and yuzu vinaigrette.
Stephanie’s “Fall duet” with pear vinaigrette, poached pear, and artichokes. There were also artichoke chips didn’t make it on the plate.
Antonia’s “Poached egg and wild mushroom salad” with bacon vinaigrette and squash blossoms.
Richard’s “Fresh and clean salad” with ceviche of fruits and vegetables.
Dale’s “Poached chicken salad” with nori paste, mirin, sake and rice wine vinegar.
Sam thought the worst salads were Richard’s, Stephanie’s and Lisa’s. Richard was supposedly going for ceviche (something Sam should know about since he made it on about every episode of his season) but there was no acid. Stephanie’s dish was just lacking and she didn’t plate everything even though there was plenty of time. Lisa’s was just a hodge-podge and the banana was too prominent. Sam did like Spike’s salad because the steak and pineapple worked well together, Antonia’s because breaking a poached egg is sexy (what?!?!), and Dale’s because it was unique. Sam picks Spike as the winner; he won’t get immunity but will get a “significant advantage” in the Elimination Challenge.
Sam and Padma then bring in two giant trays of fast greasy fast food, which Padma says is the typical lunch order at the Chicago police academy. Their challenge will to make a boxed lunch for the police officers that is healthy. It must contain whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables. As his bonus for winning the QF, Spike will get 10 extra minutes for shopping and get to choose the grain, protein, fruit and vegetable first and no one else can pick those same ingredients.
Boxed in a corner.
Off they go to Whole Foods, while everyone waits to spend their $175 while Spike gets his extra ten minutes. Andrew isn’t worried about Spike’s advantage because he has a background in nutrition. Spike gets crafty and chooses chicken, bread, lettuce and tomatoes to screw over the other six contestants. Of course Andrew thinks Spike is just counting on the idiocy of the other competitors and he won’t have any problem with Spike’s choices because he isn’t going for the obvious. Andrew is a bit puffed on this challenge, don’t ya think?
Shopping goes fairly quickly. Lisa was going to make a soup and sandwich but the sandwich is out since Spike claimed all breads. Richard shops for burrito ingredients, which include bok choy and tuna. Dale makes the bold move of picking bison for his protein. Everyone works around the no-chicken rule and they’re headed back to the kitchen.
Andrew is making a salmon sushi roll but, instead of rice, he’s using a mixture of tiny diced parsnips and pine nuts. Dale is going to make cabbage cups with his bison and will incorporate Asian flavors. Antonia comments that Dale only cooks in the Asian style and thinks the judges will call him out on it eventually. Lisa is making a stir-fry with lots of vegetables, shrimp and brown rice. She talks about how she’s learned that the rules have to be followed exactly and she mentions that the brown rice will take a long time to cook. Andrew notes that she’s using shrimp and mentions to her that they are high in cholesterol. She decides to only use a few and hopes that the judges don’t dock her for using a high cholesterol ingredient.
Tom arrives to check on the progress. He sees Stephanie making a mushroom leek soup with turkey meatballs and samples the hot sauce Lisa is going to serve on the side of her stir-fry. Tom grimaces at the heat, but Lisa is sure that Chicagoans like their food spicy. He next visits with Spike who is making a chicken salad. So far the lettuce and tomato don’t really have a place in the dish as far as Tom can see, so he asks if he just picked those ingredients to screw over the others. Spike says he is going to use the lettuce and tomato. Finally, Tom checks in on Richard’s burrito prep; he’s assembling them on rice paper wrappers and says he is being particularly careful because he doesn’t want to go home on a boxed lunch challenge.
Tom leaves and gives a run-down of what he observed. He says that the contestants are really the cream of the crop at this point and are putting thought into what they are making. He’s optimistic that they will be getting good food because, echoing Richard, no one wants to be booted on a boxed lunch challenge.
The clock is running down and Lisa is about to pull her rice off the stove when she notices the heat has been turned up to high. The rice on the outside of the pot is burnt and the stuff in the middle is undercooked. She tries to make the best of it and boxes up the veggies and rice with some of the cooking liquid. She hopes that when the lunches are microwaved, the liquid will steam and cook the rice a bit more. Then the coolers are loaded and it’s off to meet the cops.
The chefs arrive at the Chicago police academy and set up their little tables with the boxed lunches and directions for preparing them. The cops arrive and go from table to table to pick what they want for lunch. Richard is being a bit of a tool asking each cop, “The question of the day is: Do you like burritos?” much to the annoyance of all the other contestants. Spike uses another ploy by only putting out two boxes at a time to act like his dish is the most popular. The rest of the folks act rather normal in explaining how to heat up the boxes and what their dishes contain. Pretty soon the lunch room is full of cops, cadets and the judges—Padma, her boy Sam, Tom, and Ted Allen. They taste:
Stephanie’s mushroom and meatball soup with barley, vegetable puree, and yogurt. Diners like it, noting the flavors came together well. Ted was impressed with the size of the soup portion and the good kick of spices; Tom agreed that it was well-seasoned.
Spike’s open-faced chicken salad with pita and raw vegetables. He says it could be eaten as a salad and there was no mayo used on the chicken. Some of the police like it but Padma thinks it is pedestrian. Tom notes that the bread, lettuce, and tomato are just sitting there and Ted comments that, since Spike had two hours to make chicken salad, he could have done something with the bread, lettuce and tomato.
Dale’s lemongrass bison lettuce wrap with brown rice and herb salad. A couple of the officers liked it; one thought the bison would be tough but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t. Ted thinks the dish was nice but could have used some heat, but overall the judges liked it.
Antonia’s curry filet mignon with jasmine rice, berries and figs with grape syrup on the side. The police and judges comment on how tender and well-cooked the beef was and Padma enjoyed the flavors of the dish.
Andrew’s raw dish of a salmon roll with parsnip-pine nut “rice” and pickled ginger wasabi. The cops are split on the wasabi but agree the dish is messy. Padma thought it was “strange” while Ted went further to say it was not great. The judges note that there was no whole grain in the dish as required.
Richard’s grilled tuna burrito with lentils and quinda in a rice paper tortilla. Ted thought it (luckily) tasted better than it looked but Tom liked it. One officer notes that it would be a perfect summer dish. I’m fairly certain that, at this point, the “real time” is somewhere in late October or early November, so it’s not necessarily right for the season.
Lisa’s shrimp stir-fry with brown rice, and fresh berries and yogurt. Ted enjoyed the spicy sauce but Padma has issues with the undercooked brown rice.
The chefs pack up their gear and ready themselves for the Judges’ Table. Lisa is worried about her rice and Dale is concerned too because, in his view, there is no clear winner or loser. In their pre-Table confab, the judges don’t say much other than they know who is top and bottom and Padma notes that Sam’s family contains a lot of cops. Tom merely says that the crux of the challenge was making good food that happens to be healthy. Pre-JT judges say nothing but learn that P knows S’s family is full of cops. Tom only way to get healthy food is that if it tastes good.
Winners and whiners.
Before the chefs have a chance to settle into their waiting area, Padma comes in and calls out Dale and Stephanie. There is absolutely no suspense, but Dale nevertheless looks relieved to find out that they are the top two. Ted asks them what they considered while designing the healthy meals for the cops. Dale said he focused on making a hearty meal; Tom liked the use of bison because it has 50% less fat but is just as filling as beef. Stephanie said that the most challenging part was using grains, because she doesn’t cook much with whole grains. Ted assured her that the soup was very well seasoned. Sam gets the honor of choosing a winner. He picks Dale because his dish was more unique. Dale gets a magnum of Merlot and a couple of tickets to tour a vineyard. I didn’t get free wine or tickets, so they don’t get a plug.
I would have appreciated some wine for what went down next. Dale sends Spike, Lisa and Andrew, a trio of pleasantness if there ever was one. The questioning first focuses on Andrew, with Padma asking him if he truly thought the sushi roll was substantial enough. Andrew starts out by talking up his nutrition expertise, saying the ingredients all were specifically chosen to give the eater more energy. After mentioning said nutritional experience thirty thousand more times, he says that experts suggest that people eat fist-sized meals every three hours. Tom says yeah, but after three hours, these cops are going to go for the vending machine candy bar. There is more of a somewhat heated exchange between Tom and Andrew; Andrew says his food showed what nutritional food should be and he had people go back for more. Tom said that’s because they were still hungry. Andrew said that people liked his food, while Tom countered that it didn’t taste good at all.
Luckily that fourth-grade pissing contest is over soon enough and they’re on to Spike; the judges’ concern is with the way he used the bread, lettuce and tomato in the lunch box. The judges are convinced he just threw them in the box to screw over the other contestants. He denies the charge entirely, then Tom says the chicken salad wasn’t even that good—the combination of grapes and olives was gross. Spike says it was just the classic combination of salty and sweet and he is surprised that the judges couldn’t get the combination. It was, after all, just a boxed lunch and people liked it! Spike pretty much channels Andrew’s level of intensity, pissed-off-ness, and crazy eyes. It’s got to be something in those beards that make these two as crazy as Groundskeeper Willie.
Moving on, Padma asks Lisa why she thinks she’s there; she says that they put her in the bottom so they need to tell her. Basically, her dish was a mess: the long beans and shrimp were terrible and the rice was a mess. At this point, Lisa claims her rice was sabotaged and there was no time to recover. Tom points out that she called the dish a stir-fry, when, in fact, it was more a steamed vegetable dish, and not a very good one at that. Lisa then takes this time to point out that Andrew didn’t follow the rules because there was no whole grain in his dish. Tom says that they know about it, but she goes on about how some people have been booted for not following the technical rules and she thinks that this rule break shouldn’t be overlooked. Padma asks Andrew why he didn’t use any grains. He first says he lost his instruction card, then he says he likes to go against the grain (oh, my, aren’t we punny?). By this time, the judges have heard enough and send them to cool their heels in the storage room while they sort out the mess.
However, there is no cooling of heels in the waiting area. Andrew stares down Lisa like a psycho killer, freaking Antonia out. He can’t believe she “threw him under the bus” over the grain issue when he was the one who pointed out that shrimp have high cholesterol. For as someone as antagonistic as Lisa, she is the one who keeps her cool longer, but before all is said and done, they are fighting. Andrew suggests that Lisa screwed up her own rice and was just looking to lay blame on a third party. He nuttier than Mr. Peanut and I’m so sick of the phrase “threw me under the bus” I want to turn off the t.v. and throw myself under the nearest bus.
Back in at Judges’ Table, they aren’t buying Lisa’s sabotage theory and Ted says it really doesn’t matter because the shrimp were nasty. Sam can’t figure out what the hell Spike was doing with the bread, lettuce, and tomato other than screwing over the other contestants. Andrew, of course, didn’t use a whole grain and Tom concludes that Andrew just didn’t want to follow the rules.
The bottom three come back in and face Tom’s final pronouncements on the challenge. Andrew has apparently had his meds because he’s far more mellow than when we last saw him shooting death rays out of his eyes at Lisa. Tom starts off by saying it was a difficult challenge because the cooks had to consider their audience and incorporate healthy, hearty ingredients. Andrew hit the mark on the nutritional content but he didn’t on providing substantial, tasty fare. Spike had weird crudités, purposeless bread, and the unfortunate combination of olives and grapes. Lisa’s dish wasn’t a stir-fry but steamed vegetables and maybe she needs to keep a better eye on her stove. Padma then says that Andrew is out. He says security doesn’t need to be called and he’s like to shake everyone’s hand. Amazingly, that’s all he does and departs, saying that he’s all about honor, respect and loyalty. He’ll still be best buds with Spike and is nice to Stephanie as he departs, but Lisa better get a restraining order or something.
Next week: Restaurant Wars!
Last edited by PhoneGrrrl; 05-15-2008 at 03:20 AM.
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