Hello dear readers! Tis I, Iguanachocolate, here once again to bring you the gastronomic joys of the Top Chef kitchen. Last week we saw the departure of the last of Team Rainbow when poor little Jaime went down due to the inexplicable staying power of Leah. Seriously, why is she still here? Oh, yeah, that’s right, she’s the ‘sex symbol’ because of her dalliances with Hosea. Excuse me whilst I puke. Well, that’s soup under the bridge and if you didn’t actually see the show, make sure to read Phonegrrrl's phenomenal recap, here.
Morning has broken and Stefan has gotten over his infatuation with Jaime’s anger as he claims it is just one less person he needs to contend with during his march towards Tom’s Award, I mean in his journey towards becoming Top Chef. We learn that when college kids can’t, they go to culinary school like Leah. Wait, she had a life before the show? Uh oh, could this be Mr. Foreshadowing peeking around the corner? Could she be heading towards failure? Please? The lovely Carla admits to previous career in modeling and proves all my assumptions about models by telling us she used to buy cookbooks. Well, to be honest, she didn’t claim to actually using them. But she did start up her career in cheffing after modeling, so she is a Carla come lately to the culinary world. My Foreshadowing, don’t you dare peek around Carla’s corner. If you do, I will be forced to smite you.
The cheftestants gather in the Top Chef kitchen for the Quick Fire. In comes the bodacious Padma and in a rather skeevy pairing (hey, I don’t want to hear it, he bugs me), Wylie Defresne. Wylie is into molecular gastronomy which I don’t trust at all. Just cook the food, don't muck about with chemicalizing it. That’s what I say. Anyway, Wylie is something of an egghead and the challenge is that the chef’s must prepare something to tantalize him using the humble ovoid. The chef’s give lip service to molecular gastronomy and you see various chemical things being measured. Stefan goes for the classically trained boring, Leah tries to impress us that she can even say molecular gastronomy, but there really isn’t a light on in her oven, if you know what I mean. Fabio is not really into breakfast, so he is struggling. Hey, Fabio, eggs aren’t just for breakfast, dude. Hosea is doing something with sushi and an egg white wrap in the place of seaweed. Then there is dear, sweet Carla. Not feeling the molecular mayhem, she goes for simplicity. Would you eat them in a moat? Would you eat them with a goat? With a fox? In a box? Off of Padma? She decides on the Dr. Seuss classic, green eggs and ham.
After a lot of running around and the usual near misses, the judging goes like this:
Stefan: poached egg on brioche with ham and a béarnaise and a panna cotta with mango purée and a sweat béarnaise
Leah: quail egg wrapped in potato and a dab of caviar and a brioche with ricotta and bacon Hollandaise
Carla: green eggs and ham, with the green white given its color by spinach and a dab of green tomato salsa on the side
Hosea: egg white roll with salmon and asparagus, egg white sticky rice with poached shrimp and avocado, and a tempura fried egg salad
Fabio: quail egg on a buckwheat pancake, a coconut milk panna cotta with mango and a lychee soup served in a quail egg.
The losers are Fabio, who didn’t commit to the spectacularness that is the egg, Hosea whose dishes did not blend and progress in the traditional Japanese way, and Leah who had a heavy, greasy, potato ravioli. Carla and Stefan end up on top. Stefan, because it was technically very good (though I got the idea Wylie wasn’t nearly as impressed with the Ego as Stefan is) and Carla who went with playful simplicity. It was Carla’s dedication to executing one thing very, very well that won her the Quick Fire. Go Carla! You’re on a roll, Earth Goddess.
And here we are folks, we are down to the last challenge in New York before the final four head to New Orleans. In case you might have missed it the 14,633 times Padma said it, let me repeat. This is the LAST challenge in New York. After this, no more challenges in New York. New York is history. Gone. Never to return. Get the idea?
Out comes the ole knife block and the chef’s draw knives. Fabio pulls out the name Lidia Bastianich, Hosea pulls out Susan Ungaro, Stefan gets Marcus Samuelsson, Leah draws Wylie, and Carla gets Jacques Pépin. The chef’s will be cooking the last meal on Earth choice of the chef they drew. Carla will be cooking squab and fresh peas for Jacques, Hosea will be doing shrimp scampi and tomatoes Provencal for Susan. Marcus requests roasted salmon and spinach from Stefan. Fabio will be roasting a chicken for Lidia and serving it with roasted potatoes and a fresh salad. Wylie wants Eggs Benedict from Leah. Hmmm, interesting that all of them just happen to end up cooking meals in their preferred styles, eh? I mean, Fabio gets an Italian chef, Hosea is cooking seafood, and Carla is at the mercy of the French god of cooking? Hmmm Magical Elves, what have you been doing? Is manipulation going to be for desert?
The chef’s will have $300 and 30 minutes to shop at Whole Foods. The ‘Last Supper’ as Padma likes to call it will be served as a five course meal at Capitale, some kind of swanky venue in Manhattan. I just don’t want to see Tom Collicheo in the Jesus seat. That’s all I’m gonna say.
At Whole Foods, Carla goes for the two peas in a pod joke, and I’ll let her have it. She’s just so cute about those darn peas! Her excitement over peas is almost making me want to eat some. I resist the urge and grab for the Pringles instead. Stefan and Hosea puff out their chests and slam each other behind their backs. Leah wanders around searching for the dairy department. Really? You don’t know where the dairy department is in a grocery store? Who or what are you, Leah? Fabio finds his chicken and they all troupe of to Capitale to begin their two hour prep work. Carla helpfully lets us know that they will have a 30 minute staggered start time and Leah is bemoaning the fact she is useless. Well, actually, she is claiming she has something to prove and I am saying she’s already proved she can’t cook, so why bother? Stefan is going on about how he is God’s gift to the food world and people should worship him as such and Hosea is worrying about butter. Now, long about this time, somewhere off camera, Fabio is getting himself in a bit of a jam. And not the good strawberry kind, either. Somehow he has broken his pinky finger pretty badly. As a veteran high school volleyball and basketball player, I wince in solidarity for poor Fabio’s injury. But being the man that he is, he has them tape it up, refuses to go to the hospital and with the strains of Rocky echoing throughout the halls, continues on painfully with his preparation.
Tom makes a cameo in the kitchen and warns the chef’s not to embarrass him. Inspirational stuff, I tell you!
Finally, it is the Last Supper. And true to the beating over the head Padma and the producers have been giving us with this whole Last Supper theme, the judging panel and fellow guest chef’s have been set up to mimic that famous Masterwork by Leonardo DaVinci. There’s even an attempt at weird mood lighting, which fails horribly, I might add. Padma tells us that Jacques will be representing all the guest chefs at the Final Judgment, I mean at the judges’ table. After everyone is thoroughly doused with wine, the meal begins.
Leah: Eggs Benedict and bacon on challa bread served with a mixed greens salad and a vinaigrette dressing
Stefan: salmon with spinach two ways and roasted potatoes with a dill sauce
Hosea: shrimp Scampi and Tomatoes Provencal with parsley, thyme, tarragon and a buerre blanc
Fabio: whole roasted chicken with herbs and lemon, herb-roasted potatoes, caramelized cipollini onions and a salad with oil and balsamic vinegar
Carla: roasted squab with a lemon thyme butter sauce and buttered peas with tarragon
Leah’s eggs are deemed both good and watery, depending on the personal taste of the judge, but her Hollandaise misses the mark by being too thin and not seasoned properly. Stefan’s salmon is universally panned as overcooked and his spinach two ways seems more like two piles of one way. Hosea’s shrimp are perfectly cooked, but not a true Scampi and he way overdid it on the butter. Carla’s squab is tasty, but maybe a tad overdone, this opinion being age dependant. Her peas are deemed perfection, and Jacques said he could die happy with her meal. Fabio’s chicken is considered the highlight of the entire dinner and worthy of a master chef, but his salad is deemed airline worthy.
The chef’s are gathered first in the holding room talking about Fabio’s injury. Leah says she doesn’t know what she would have done, implying she might have left. Fabio musters his macho and claims there wasn’t anything to be done but to cook. “It’s Top Chef, not Top Pussy,” he declares. Leah draws back in offense, but Fabio works his charm and she is mollified.
Padma comes in and calls the entire group to the table. Jacques says Leah’s eggs were underdone and her sauce was thin and wimpy. Leah says she may have thinned it out to far and Padma declares the flavor was thinned out as well. Jacques did not like Hosea’s Scampi, but Hosea is told that Susan did, even if it was not a true Scampi. Stefan’s salmon was way overcooked and Stefan did not like hearing that. I did. I rewound it a couple of times. I love seeing the Ego slapped down. Made my day. Fabio’s chicken was heaven on a plate and he is tickled to know that Lidia said it was just what she had in mind. They tease him about his ‘airplane salad’, and Tom tells him that the airlines are always looking for good chefs. Carla jumps in immediately with the fact her squab was overcooked, but Jacques said if you were blind and eating it, you probably wouldn’t have noticed. Everyone agrees her peas were sublime.
So, who wins and who goes home? The birds have it with Fabio winning it overall. He is presented with a ginormous bottle of wine and a trip to Terlato Family Vineyards in Napa Valley, CA. Carla is a close second with those peas being her saving grace. Who goes home? Well, I wish it were the Ego, but alleged sex pot Leah gets the knife. She thanks the judges and seems non plussed about the whole thing. She’s made friends (with benefits in some cases) for life with some of the competitors and that she should go with her gut. As long as her gut tells her not to cook fish, I say. Celebrations of the final New Orleans bound four ensue and happiness abounds.
New week it is Mardi Gras in New Orleans and the lovely Phonegrrrl will be there to take you on the culinary journey through her native Bayou. Mmmmm, gumbo.