Monday, October 19, 2009

Top Chef Spoiler Alert

I am not the most faithful Top Chef blogger. But I do this for free and sometimes things like camping and getting sick and doing apple challenges get in the way of my duties. Even though this is late, I still want to blog about the past two Top Chef episodes because 1) I care and 2) laser eyes.

For the Dinner Party episode: This was my favorite quickfire to date because each chef had to pull a lever on a slot machine to see what combination of "key words" they would have to match their food prep to. And the words were quaint: "umami", "Vietnamese", and "tired", are examples. Local pal Bryan V had the words "adventurous", "crispy" and "Asian". Bryan and bro Michael did well, but did not impress chef Tyler Florence enough to win. Kevin took the quickfire with his grilled pork and Vietnamese-style salad. This challenge inspires me. When I go to Volt, I say "three courses, gluten free." And that is what I get. Maybe I should just give them key words. It would be fun for me. For the chefs at Volt, not so much.

I also liked the challenge for this episode. Cheftestants drew knives to see which famous chef's grocery bag they would have to cook with, and they ended up in teams. Ash got paired with Michael V. Michael had an unfortunate break because he was not watching his fish when the circuits went out. As a conseqence, his fish was overcooked without getting a crisp on his pancetta.

Where Michael's halibut crashed, Bryan's soared. Bryan and Laurine made a halibut with polenta cake and chorizo vinaigrette that wowed Tyler Florence and the other judges. Am I surprised that Bryan's fish was excellent? No. Nobody, in my experience, cooks fish better than Bryan. The winning dish, however, was prepared by Jen and Kevin, and was a kobe beef in tomato broth. Jen won the challenge overall for the tomato broth. This, I was glad to see for Jen's sake. Jen is obviously an outstanding chef and it's good to see her get a win under her belt.

Ash so abdicated his own tastes that when he and Michael ended up in the bottom four, he defended Michael as the executor of the dish and compared himself to washing paintbrushes for Picasso. I believe the only reason Ash did not go home after those comments is because the judges send home the main executor of a bad dish, and Michael's dish was not necessarily flawed in concept (Though Judge Tom suggested Michael chose the wrong fish). But I think Ash established himself as second-rate amongst the chefs there with those comments, and set the stage for what happened in the next episode. Ashley went home for the undercooked spot prawns and tough, oversalted gnocchi she prepared with Eli. Michael's dish might have been good in concept, where it was clear that Ashley's dish was never going to be good.

The best part of this episode, though, was seeing Bryan stand up for his brother in the waiting room. He said he was tired of hearing everyone second-guess each other because they had not tried each others' dishes. Then he made laser eyes and turned the people in the room into smoke while making prehistoric bird noises:
That's how we roll in Fredrock.

On to the next episode! In the Pigs and Pinot episode, both Bryan and Michael faced their former employer, Charlie Palmer, as a judge. Neither one won. The end. Well not entirely.

Eli won the snack food product placement quickfire with a chive and fennel-influenced clam chowder. Eli also got into a tiff with Robin in the home kitchen where he told her that she's not his mom, basically showing his age (or lack thereof). At this point in the house it was "Everyone Hates Robin" because she kept outlasting their friends.

Michael, Bryan, Kevin and Jennifer ended up in the winner's circle, for matching pinot noir to their excellent pork dishes. Kevin won for his pork pate with mushrooms and pickled cherries, matched with an Oregon pinot. He stated early on that he had to win this competition due to his experience with pork, and it did come across that he knew exactly what he was doing with both the pork and the wine (whose vineyard he had visited many times, noticing the hazelnut trees on the grounds. Geez). There is no substitute for experience.

In the bottom three, we had Laurine, Robin and Ash. Laurine's dish was an abomination, where she tried to make a pork rillette using broth instead of fat. One of the judges compared it to cat food. Robin's dish with chick peas fought the wine...and itself. Ash's dish was "clammy" and did not speak to the wine. From watching the show, it was difficult to see why Ash went home. I figure his dish was worse than the editing made it sound, or the Judges had made their decision about him in the previous challenge, where he made himself out to be an also-ran. Certainly, it adds to the drama in the house to keep Robin in the competition. But honestly, there can be only one Highlander (to make an old reference) and she won't be it.

The competition gets more and more exciting every week. Good luck chefs!

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