Top Chef: Let Them Eat Chicken

by moderndomestic on February 13, 2009

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What's that computer programmer doing standing next to Padma? Are they in Seattle? Did she meet him on Match.com?

This episode of Top Chef was so focused on cooking, it was weird. There were no disgustingly obvious product placements, no big dramatic blow outs, no making out. Instead, the chefs just had to cook a good meal. Is anyone else a bit bored now that we’ve become so inured to the crazy Top Chef drama? Or maybe it’s that compared to Gretchen’s copious drinking on The Real Housewives of Orange County, this seems tame in comparison?

Anyway, the little recap of last week makes me sad, because I still think that Jamie shouldn’t have gone home. She was really, really talented, and she consistently made excellent food. Even Tom Colicchio can’t explain this one away, in my opinion.

Moving on, the guest judge this week is Wylie Dufresne, a world-famous molecular gastronomist who really, really needs a hair cut. Seriously dude, you look like all those creepy computer programmers who are on Seattle Match.com (not that I would know anything about that. Oh no). Even if you do own wd~50 and you’re extremely famous, it’s all the more reason why you can afford a hair cut. And a stylist.

Dufresne is well known for his love of eggs, so the Quickfire is to make an egg dish. I actually like this challenge, because I really like eggs – they’re one of those underrated but perfect food items that are versatile, easy to cook, and delicious. Since all the chefs know that Dufresne is a molecular gastronomist, they feel that they have to do something weird and scientific with the egg. Unfortunately, they forget that the dish also has to taste good.

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Don't you think it's time to shave those side burns?

Hosea ends up in the bottom three he because attempts too many things: his egg white roll with salmon, poached shrimp with egg white sticky rice, and tempura fried egg just don’t quite cut it. My Boyfriend Fabio makes a quail egg with buckwheat pancake, coconut panna cotta with mango puree, and lychee soup with melon yolk. Dufresne seems impressed by the concept, but ultimately doesn’t think that My Boyfriend is comfortable making breakfast. Leah is also in the bottom; Dufresne thought her quail egg in potato with caviar, brioche, and hollandaise was too heavy.

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Hosea's channeling Jeff in this Quickfire, doing three things poorly rather than one thing well.

Stefan is in the top (shocking), for his dish of poached egg on brioche and panna cotta with mango puree. Dufrense thought Stefan’s technique was strong, and he loved the way his presentation for the panna cotta and mango mimics an egg. Carla decides to keep it simple; she makes green eggs (flavored with herbs) and ham, with a green tomato salsa. Dufrense loves her dish and is impressed that she decided to do something simple, without Jeff-ing it up.

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Carla's green eggs and ham.

Thank God, Carla wins the Quickfire! I totally though it was going to be Stefan again. Thank you, producers, for keeping this moderately interesting. I won’t dessert this show for Chopped just yet.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs draw knives, each of which has the name of a world-famous chef. My Boyfriend Fabio draws Lidia Bastianich, Hosea draws Susan Ungaro, Stefan draws Marcus Samuelsson, Leah draws Wylie Dufrense, and Carla draws Jaques Pepin. Since this is the last challenge in New York, the chefs will get to cook the dinner that each of these famous chefs would request as their “last meal.” Well isn’t that cute? Pepin and Dufrense will be sitting at the judges table, and all the famous chefs will be tasting the “last meals.”

As the winner of the Quickfire, Carla has the option to switch dishes with another chef, but she loves Jacque Pepin and is excited to make his last meal of roast squab with peas. Drama averted, the chefs march over to Whole Foods (Product Placement Number One) to do their shopping and gather those important sponsorship dollars.

Their shopping complete, the chefs troop over to Capitale, where they’ll be doing their cooking. The prep is uneventful, except that My Boyfriend Fabio has an awful slip up and seriously breaks his finger! Like, he murders it —a medic had to wrap it up in a huge bandage, and afterward My Boyfriend can barely peel a potato.

Alas, even with Fabio’s injury, the show must go on. Stefan is up first, serving Marcus Samuelsson’s last meal of salmon, roast potatoes and spinach. I was ready for Stefan to dominate, as usual, but all the judges agree that the salmon is overcooked. Who hoo! Finally, something unexpected happens.

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Stefan's salmon is overcooked - shocking!

Leah is up next, with Wylie Dufrense’s last meal of eggs hollandaise with bacon. Dufrense thinks the egg white was watery, and Pepin thinks the hollandaise should have been thicker. One of the judges remarks that eggs benedict is all about contrasting textures, but the texture of the dish wasn’t quite there.

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Leah's egg dish misses the mark. Is she even still on this show?

Hose goes next, making Susan Ungaro’s last meal of shrimp scampi with tomatoes provencal. Ungaro thinks the scampi is lacking garlic, and Pepin thinks that tomatoes aren’t seared enough. As Pepin  puts it, Hosea “didn’t cook from his guts.”

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Hosea's gutless shrimp scampi.

My Boyfriend Fabio is next, serving Lidia Bastianich’s last meal of roast chicken with roasted potatoes and a leafy salad. Despite his mangled hand, his does a magnificent job. “I was hoping it would be just like this,” Bastianich says. Wylie thinks the chicken is “awesome,” although he comments that the salad is a little lacking.

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Fabio's chicken is perfect - he even did it with one hand metaphorically tied behind his back!

Carla is last, serving Jaques Pepin’s last meal: roast squab with lemon thyme butter, demi-glace, and peas. Ungaro thinks the “peas were perfection,” and Tom appreciates Carla’s “audacity” to serve such a simple dish. But the judges are split on the squab – the younger judges think it is overcooked, while the older judges think the squab is perfect. But if the person Carla really needs to impress is Pepin then she’s done her job. “I could die happy with that,” he says of her dish.

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Carla's peas are perfect.

At judges table, all the chefs are called in for a solid-reaming out, but it’s clear that Stefan, Leah and Hosea are in the bottom, while Carla and My Boyfriend Fabio are in the top. Toby praises Fabio’s chicken for being neither too fussy, nor too refined. Padma thinks the chicken was “delicious,” although Wylie criticizes the crappy salad. Pepin also praises Carla, saying her peas were “incredible.”

Amazingly, I’m surprised for a second time in this show, because MY BOYFRIEND WINS THE CHALLENGE! Whoo hoo! Whoo hoo! And he even did it with a broken finger and all. His prize is a bottle of Terlato wine and a three-day trip to the famous Napa winery. Who thinks that bottle of wine was gone by that morning? The judges also praise Carla, saying that she’s made it to the finale in New Orleans.

As for the chefs of the bottom, the judges have to choose between Stefan’s overcooked fish, Hosea’s overly refined and weak shrimp scampi and tomatoes provencal, and Leah’s too-think hollandaise. Thank God that it’s Leah who goes. Seriously, she should have gone last week, and then we could have had Jamie in the finale (you know she would have rocked an eggs benedict).

Next week: It’s part one of the Season finale in New Orleans! And I’m sad to say that, due to circumstances entirely out of my control, I won’t be able to do the recap for next week’s episode. But never fear – Elpis and Justice will be stepping in to save the day and keep you up-to-date on the Top Chef madness. Stay tuned.

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