Thursday, February 05, 2009

Top Chef New York Episode Eleven

The six remaining chefs have gone through ten weeks of challenges and are about to face their eleventh. First, however, comes the regularly scheduled lamenting and mea culpa-ing of the previous one. In this case, it's the never-to-be-lengendary Super Bowl challenge in which Stefan had his first bitter taste of being a loser.

Fabio wants to win an Elimination Challenge. Hell, he wants to win the whole shooting match.

We see Fabio on the "bunky bed" having a phone conversation with his wife. Rather than the usual tearful, "I miss you, how are the kids?" type discusion, Fabio is more concerned with Cafe Firenze and wonders if his restaurant has burned to the ground in his absence. Oh those Italians - always so romantic.

Hosea has a realization...

...and Carla makes a promise.

Over at the Gorton's/Mrs. Paul's Kitchen, the cheftestants find Padma standing with celebrated Frawnch chef Eric Ripert, of the Michelin 3-star restaurant, Le Bernardin. Despite the deceptively aging mane of white hair (due in part, no doubt, to spending time throwing back shots with his good buddy, Tony Bourdain), Chef Ripert is only 43. Like moi, but cuter.

In case Hosea flubbed it again, this time Fabio gets to say nice things about the guest chef. But even Hosea couldn't get this wrong. Or could he?

Padma then introduces the MickeyD's Filet-O-Fish Quickfire Challenge: the chefs must filet three types of fish, according to Ripert's specifications.

As a special MinxEats treat, Fabio has generously volunteered to narrate the Quickfire for us.

Tank you, Meenx. First, we have-a da sardines. Een five a-meenits, we have-a to fillet two of dem. I am-a Italiano, and we eat-a da sardines. Easy! But Hosea, beeg feesh man with-a da feesh restaurant, he's all intimmy-dated. Carla and Jamie - they-a both fock up-a da feesh beyond recogneeshon and get eliminated from-a da competeeshon.

Next, we have-a da Arctic char (eets like-a da salmon). We get a-five meenits to cut two filets. I not do so good with-a da beeg feesh. And Leah geeve up.

Hosea and Stefan are left in-a da tird round. Dey have-a to skeen and fillet da beeg sleepery eels that are-a steel weegling.

Speaking of-a da sex, I am wondering - has Hosea a-geeven up on-a da Leah? (Not that I can-a blame heem!)

Stefan takes out-a da beeg hammer and nails-a the eel to hees a-cutting board! Then he streeps off-a da skeen as eef he was undressing Jamie. Hosea just stand there like-a da beeg dummy.

Stefan, of course he's-a ween! He's a-European.

Thank you, Fabio, for your play-by-play. Stefan does indeed win the challenge. He does not get immunity, but he will have an advantage in the Elimination Challenge. And you know how well that worked for him last week.

Eric Ripert then invites the smelly and fish gut-covered cheftestants to join him at a special lunch the next day, held in the private dining room at Le Bernardin.

The next morning, the chefs gussy themselves up as best they can and head to Le Bernardin, where the dress code has been momentarily suspended.

Stefan puts on his formal clean jeans.

At the restaurant, they are joined by Tom and Eric for a six-course feast. And these are six full-sized portions ...I don't know how they are going to cook after eating so much. What? You didn't see that coming? Come on - they do it every season - take the chefs out for a meal and then make them sweat in the kitchen on full stomachs.

Fabio is appreciative of the clean flavors of the many feesh dishes.

But Jamie dared to diss the great Le Bernardin. She was particularly not fond of the bass dish with celery. I can empathize - I'm not a big celery fan myself.

For dessert, the chefs are presented with the knife block. Geez, that thing is everywhere!

This week's Elimination Challenge is to recreate the fish dishes just eaten. Stefan's advantage, from winning the Quickfire, is first choice of the dish he would like to prepare.

Carla draws the first knife and gets the escolar, Fabio gets the sourdough crusted red snapper, Hosea gets the monkfish with za'atar, Leah gets the mahi mahi with miso, and of course Jamie gets her favorite, the black bass with braised celery.

They must cook these dishes relying only on their taste memory - no recipes will be provided. However, each chef does get a tray full of the correct ingredients - including whole fish that need to be filleted, etc. Tom announces that the dish that falls farthest from the mark will lead to that chef's elimination.

The cheftestants get two hours to prepare their mise en place, and to make a test dish for Eric to taste.

Leah has trouble with working the miso into her dish. So she uses her fingers.


After two hours are up, the chefs go up to the main kitchen and get an additional 50 minutes to fire their dishes.

As each dish is finished it is brought to the judges, along with a plate of the original version as prepared by chefs at Le Bernardin. Fabio comes first and scores pretty closely, although his sourdough crust is a little toastier than it should be.

Tom thought Leah's fish was overcooked, and that the flavor was not right. Toby didn't get as much miso as the others and felt the dish was bland and boring.

Stefan's lobster was exactly right, except that his sauce was much thicker than the original.

I've had well-cooked lobster about twice in my life. Of course, I've never been to Maine. Nor have I had it prepared by a Superior European from Czechofinlandiacalifornication.

Carla's escolar was very loyal to the original dish, and Eric was impressed with her take on his red wine bearnaise, which of course was really a beurre rouge. Of course.

Hosea's sauce was good, but he used far too much za'atar. Not only that, the monkfish was a bit overcooked and he didn't let it rest as he should have.

Jamie's dish was marred by overly salty celery. Toby felt the dish was "remarkably poor." Jamie and I both thought "ick, celery."

Back at Judge's Table, Padma comes into the Glad Family of Products Commemorative Beer-drinking Room with her "I'm taking you to the gallows" face and requests to see Fabio, Carla, and Stefan.

Although impressed with both Fabio's and Carla's interpretations of their dishes, the Superior European's lobster was, well, superior. Not only did he get yet another win, but Eric also gave him many gifts, including his latest cookbook, On the Line, plus an invitation to follow him in three of his restaurants, accommodations at the Ritz-Carlton, and a trip to the Food & Wine festival.

Fab, Car, and Stef go back into the stew room and tell the other three that it's their turn to face the firing squad. Hosea is somewhat surprised to be on the bottom because of his experience working with seafood. But he had a heavy hand with the za'atar. (Didn't he taste the stuff? It has a very strong oregano/thyme vibe, plus salt and sesame, and it's not at all subtle.)

Leah, who never did figure out how to work in the miso (certainly not with tons of butter), was criticized for the oiliness of her dish. Toby said her dull fish was still stuck in his teeth. So not only dull but also pretty damn tough, eh?

Jamie knew her celery was too salty. Padma told her if she could have, she would have sent the dish back. It was neither appetizing to look at nor to eat. Toby felt it had a toxic flavor.

Ok, it was salty. We get it.

Tom questions whether it's worse to be aware of your mistakes and how to fix them, or to be completely clueless about ingredients. So I'm thinking yay! it's time for Skank Leah to go home, but noooo.... After deliberating for a while, the chefs are called back to Judges' Table where little Jamie is told to pack her knives and go. The third and final member of Team Rainbow has left the building.

And how many of you thought she was going to be in the Final Three? According to my poll, that would be quite a few....


David Dust said...

Personally, I think you are MUCH cuter than Eric Ripert. And I am horrified that Skanky Leah is still around and Team Rainbow is no more.

CLICK HERE for David Dust's Top Chef recap.


Anonymous said...

Your recap is the highlight of my day...Did anyone here Jamie's comment about Ripert not tasting her food? Sounded like she said "she" didn't have time for him...from what he advised the rest of the chefs, seemed like a fairly nice advantage to have his input. But she admitted to over-salting and not having time to fix it, so perhaps it was irrelevant?? Wish Pouty McSkanky would have gone home. Definitely thought Jamie would be in the top three.

Anonymous said...

Dang! That Eric is such a Hunkie Man. I was swooning over him last night. You recap is the best! I can just hear Fabio's voice in my mind as I read you reeecap-a!

Just to let you know. My hubby and I visit Baltimore a few times every year. Your reviews are going to be really helpful. I'm so glad I stumbled onto your site!

bernal_vernal said...

Leah is the Lisa of Season 5. No one likes her and they can't figure out why she's still there.

the dogs' mother said...

Love the Italian play by play!

Anonymous said...

You outdid yourself again. Spirit guides...we'll be the final four. Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Brilliant, loved it and laughed so much my tummy hurts!!! The best is your "Leah Cohen - Skank" caption. excellent . I was upset to see Jamie go, l felt she was a well rounded chef and was consistent. My Top 3 are , Stefan, (win) Hosea and Carla

FB @ said...


I was also upset to see Jamie go, because she has done some really great dishes before.

All right.. so now we have Stefan, Hosea, Carla and Leah?

I think Carla will go next.

Then Leah

Then Hosea

Then Stefan will win it.

It always ends up like that, Hosea trailing in second, and Leah giving up JUST before anything gets somewhere.

Fabulously Broke in the City

"Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver."

Cliff O'Neill said...

Well, I have to say that my one and only prediction since episode one was that Carla was in the final three. So far, I'm doing pretty well with that one!

And I'm still cracking up over Czechofinlandiacalifornication!


CLICK HERE for my Cliffieland recap.

Margo said...

Ha! Great recap! Hoping that Carla will make the final 3 along with Stefan. Please send Leah home already!!

Anonymous said...

Your recap rocks! I cannot thank you enough for your silly captions, so fun to laugh after a hard day of work!