Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top Chef New York Episode Three

Top Chef New York opens in Brooklyn, where Ariane is stuffing her face fulla breakfast.

Ariane knows the rest of the chefs are looking at her like "why is she still here?" But they're looking at each other like that pretty much all the time.

Superior European Stefan was really happy for Almost-as-Superior Fabio's win last week.

...and Richard was getting to know the other cheftestants...

Finally the ritual morning shenanigans are done and the chefs head to the Top Chef kitchen where they find Padma and chef Grant Achatz, of the restaurant Alinea in Chicago. You might be wondering why Grant wasn't featured on last season's Top Chef Chicago. It's because he was battling tongue cancer, a particularly horrific disease to strike a chef. You can read all about it here, in this great New Yorker article, but finish reading my recap first.

A great chef must learn to roll with the punches. And the Quickfire Challenge is going to deliver a few. Cheftestants are then instructed to choose a knife from the block; each comes away with an different number.

The chefs have one hour to do their own spin on the recipe assigned to them by the knife block, using any ingredients they find in the Top Chef kitchen.

After a period of time, Padma stops the chefs.

It's time for the punch - Padma and Grant have decided they want soup, instead. The cheftestants must take the ingredients they've assembled for the cookbook recipe and create a soup with them in fifty minutes. Since one can't make stock in that short amount of time, they are encouraged to cheat by using products from a new sponsor.

I'm sure the judges would love some tube sock, rubber band, duct tape, and paper clip soup!

After tasting all fourteen selections, Grant choses Jamie's, Leah's and Daniel's as his favorites, with Leah's white asparagus and tuna version as his number one. Leah now has immunity from elimination in the next challenge.

Speaking of which, the Elimination Challenge involves dividing into two groups and cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for the Foo Fighters on the road, at a stop in beautiful downtown Rochester. Because Leah won the Quickfire, she gets to choose which chefs she wants in her group. No dummy, she picks Jamie, Stefan, Fabio, Radhika, Melissa, and Hosea, competitors whom she thinks are the most talented of the bunch.

The chefs must prepare food for 60 people, including the band, roadies, and entourage (for most bands that would be the groupies, bodyguards, drug dealers, and drug dealers' bodyguards). The team whose food the Foos like best will be invited to watch the show. The losers have to stay backstage and clean up the mess.

The chefs hit the road for Rochester. Once there at the ├╝ber-glam Blue Cross Arena, one of the Foo's roadies takes them on a tour. Who cares about the arena itself?

...and he gets his answer.

Voila! The keetchen is outside, featuring banks of microwaves and toaster ovens, one burner, and no freezers. Who needs freezers in November, right? Oh wait...this was filmed in the heat of summer? Oh, too bad, dudes.

I think what Fabio is trying to say is that if they can construct a full Thanksgiving meal for 60 people while lacking a functioning kitchen, then there's no excuse for anyone not to be a decent cook.

The chefs pick names for themselves. Leah's team is, inexplicably, Team Sexypants. Chef pants are not the sexiest apparel out there, but that's probably her pet name for Hosea or something so whatever.

Team Loser, I mean, the other team, is Team Cougar, a slur on Ariane. But she doesn't realize that.

Duh, woman. Duh.

Ariane wants badly to redeem herself after the last two episodes, so she takes the task of cooking the turkey.

Piece-a cake. Fuggedaboudit.

The chefs head out to do their shopping, afterwards having three hours for actual cooking before service. The enterprising Gene decides to jury rig a grill for himself with some racks and charcoal in order to cook his pork dish. Genius. And on the opposite side of the scale, Richard sets himself up for major failure.

Hey, wasn't that the name of a Jessica Simpson movie?

The Foos' rider lists that they like frozen chocolate-covered bananas, a thought that turned Richard on, big-time. But with the lack of freezers, that would be an impossible feat, so he decided instead to make a variation on s'mores, using bananas, chocolate ganache, and some vanilla foamy stuff.

As the cheftestants do the best they can cooking outdoors, Mother Nature decides to make things more difficult for them by adding some rain to the picture. They rush to cover food while people rush around with tents to cover the cooks.

Tragic, right?

Finally, time is nearly up and the chefs have to move everything downstairs to the catering area.

I believe the correct but no more glamorous phrase is "by the skin of our teeth." Otherwise, you're not going to be able to sit for at least a week, Gene.

The teams set up their chafing dishes and then the roadies and band enter for their meal. Hosea is all impressed.

Maybe because they are rock stars?

Richard is more impressed when Tom enters the room. He even gets butterflies in his Team Rainbow belly.

Everybody gets in line and just like an actual Thanksgiving, has two plates of everything. And then they get to go jump around on stage. >burp!<

After eating, the Foos choose their favorite - Team Sexypants! Team Loser has to clean the dining area while the other team gets to clean themselves and enjoy the concert.

Too bad Daniel was all dressed-up and had no place to go.

After the show, they still have to endure Judge's Table. Team Loser is excused one by one until only Daniel, Jeff, and Richard remain. Daniel's neck is on the line because his potatoes were undercooked. Richard's s'mores were a big bomb and Grant Achatz seemed particularly offended by them. And Jeff made both too-dry spoonbread and unpleasant parfait.

When asked about team leadership, Daniel pointed at Jeff. Richard clarified that he didn't actually claim to be the leader, he just organized things.

The judges deliberated for a while on the three. I thought for sure Jeff was toast, but surprisingly, Padma announces that young bear Richard should pack his knives and go.

Richard was very sad. Me too. :(

Team Rainbow loses another member. Now their fate rests solely on the shoulders of Jamie, the Lone Lesbian. A shame Richard couldn't recruit Alex.