Thursday, August 12, 2010

Top Chef DC Episode 9 Recap

This week on Top Chef, the cheftestants have fun with team challenges! But first...

A warning. I'm afraid I'm finding it difficult to be funny this week. Not only am I completely disenchanted with the season, but I also have an icepick headache from hell. I'm blaming Padma. Additionally, I am wet from the calves down because I had to wade through flash flood waters to get to work. I think my bus literally floated through several intersections. And I nearly lost one of my favorite (thankfully machine-washable) shoes on the way. Worst of all...

...I haven't had my coffee yet.

So you are forewarned. Back to the recap.

At the Casa de Cheftestants, Amanda laments the loss of Stephen...

...and Alpha is perplexed that he has been stuck in the middle for the past few challenges. Maybe because he's not as great as he thinks he is?

At the Top Chef Call Me Crazy But I'm Really Starting to Miss the Blatant Sponsorship Kitchen, the eight remaining cheftestants find Padma all by her lonesome with a table laden with colored aprons and blindfolds. That's right, kids, it's the always-exciting semi-kinky Tag Team Cook-off! Two teams, each with a total of forty minutes, ten minutes per chef, must create a cohesive dish. While one chef cooks, his teammates must stand silently on the side, biting their lips and shaking their heads. And the ones who haven't yet had their turns get to wear blindfolds. For this challenge, the winning team will not get immunity, but will get 10K to split four ways.

The chefs draw knives to see who will be wearing the always-stylish blue aprons and who will be wearing the red ones. After Amanda draws a blank knife (which unfortunately does not mean, "go home"), Kevin and Ed pick knives marked #1 and #2 and are told they may choose their teammates. Ed picks his BFF Tiffany first, to lots of sideways glances and giggles, and Kevin picks his buddy Alpha.

When all is said and done, the teams shake out as:

Team Blue: Kevin, Alpha, Kelly, and Amanda
Team Red: Ed, Tiffany, Inigo, and Alex

Don't worry, Alex, you're not going to make friends here. They all seem to hate you.

After deciding the order in which they will proceed, the clock starts and Alpha and Tiffany begin assembling the components for their dishes. Ten short minutes later...

Amanda and Alex take their places. Alpha seems pretty happy with the direction that Amanda takes the dish.

On the other end of the room, Tiffany is worried if Alex salts the fish too soon, then the two chefs who come after him might also feel the need to salt it.

Alex salts the fish. Ed doesn't, but Angelo does again before cooking it. Meanwhile, Kevin and Kelly finish up the blue team's dish with much less sturm und drang.

Padma then announces that they will have an "extraordinary" guest judge for this challenge. None other than the former Nancy D'Alesandro, daughter of former Baltimore Mayor Tommy. Oh, now she happens to be Speaker of the House. Kelly thinks she's "awesome."

I think "yawn," and "man, my head really hurts."

Pelosi tastes the dishes and chooses a winner - the Blue team. Oh, like she's ever going to choose anything red. Plus the red team's fish is too salty. Ms Speaker is then whisked away by the Secret Service to do more tedious things on Capitol Hill.

Padma then announces that the Elimination Challenge will be.... Wait. I can't take it anymore. I have to go get some coffee.
Ok. I'm back. Ahh...I can feel the caffeine go to work on my headache, even if I still have to think about Top Chef. So where was I? Ah yes...

...Restaurant Wars! Team Red and Team Blue must each make a three course meal with two options per course and everyone must be responsible for a dish. The special guest judge for this challenge will be former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni. But wait, there's more! Bill and John Terlato of Terlato wines in Napa Valley bound in to reveal that they will be providing the alcohol for the dinner and will have a special gift for the winning chef.

I still think "Terlato" sounds like it would be Archie Bunker's favorite winery.

The teams then split up and head to Restaurant Depot and Whole Foods to spend their budget of $1500. On the way, three members of the red team plot to keep Alex out of the kitchen as much as possible and make him take front of the house duty. Ed refers to him as Skeletor, which is both mean and funny, but I think Nosferatu is more apt. It's the ears.

Back at the TC Kitchen the chefs have 2 hours to prep. Egomaniacal Inigo makes himself head chef of the red team and gives Alex the duty of breaking down the proteins, a task at which he proves to be pretty awful. Inigo shoos him away and finished the job himself.

On the Blue Team, Kelly gets front of the house duty while the other giant ego in the house, Alpha, takes the executive chef position. Alpha is watching the red team and sees Alex not being allowed to do anything while Inigo runs around like a chicken with his head cut off. He smugly decides that the the red team is going to crash and burn.

The next day, the teams head to Redwood, in Bethesda, to do their cooking. The kitchen is cramped and not only do the teams have to work side-by-side but also intermingled, which puts the chefs in a bit of a tizzy.

While the other chefs wrestle for counter space, Alex goes out to meet his staff of servers and rudely give them direction. He insists that they buff the tables and clean the seats before spit shining his shoes and taking his suit to the dry cleaners and gives them 10 minutes to do it.

It almost seems like Alex enjoys being hated.

Back in the kitchen, Tiffany is pissed because the fish that Alex portioned for her has both scales and bones.

Honestly, I think I'd be more upset if the fish came to me with teeth and hair, but that's just me.

Amanda is a bit intimidated by the wood fire grill that she will be using to cook steaks, but the rest of the blue team seems pretty confident. Alpha says that his matchup against Team Inigo is "the best against the Beast." We all know that he refers to himself as "the beast," but why is he acknowledging that Inigo may be "the best?"


Before we know it, time is called and guests start coming in to the restaurant to dine. They flood in, like hungry piranha.

Team Red's restaurant is called EVOO and will be serving Mediterranean-inspired dishes. The truth behind the name?

Team Blue's restaurant is called 2121, after the address of the house in which they are all living, and will be serving "progressive American cuisine." Whatever that is.

The judges visit EVOO first. They are served a first course of Inigo’s Confit of Tomato Soup, Squash and Olive Crouton and Tiffany’s Crudo of Black Bass and Yellowtail Snapper with Meyer Lemon and Caper Relish. Gail thinks the crudo is oversalted. Frank loves the soup and wants to taste all of Inigo's cooking. And maybe Inigo himself.

The second course takes a while to make it to the table, making Tom whip out his phone to call for pizza, but eventually they get to try Tiffany’s Striped Bass, Stewed spinach, Chorizo and Clams, and Ed’s Slow Baked Turbot, Eggplant Caviar, and Black Olive Jus. The turbot is a big hit. Unfortunately, every single person who says the word "turbot" mispronounces it.

It's not "turbo," with that fricken French silent T bullshit,  it's "turbit." Say it with me people, "TURBIT." "TURBIT." "TURBIT."

Ok. Coffee is kicking in!

The third course is Alex’s Pan Seared Lamb Chop, English Pea Puree, Smoked Bacon and Parmesan Foam. He's obviously nervous and first introduces the dish as a pork chop but changes it after Tom calls him on it. He also hopes that nobody notices he used PEA PUREE again, this time from Ed's bowl which he left in the fridge back at the Top Chef Kitchen two weeks ago. The other meat course is Inigo and Ed’s Seared Rib Eye Steak, Crushed Walnut Potatoes, and Balsamic Fig Reduction.

"Crushed walnut potatoes" sounds painful. Like it took this to make them. (Yeah, I watch too much Web Soup.)

Nobody notes that EVOO wisely decided not to make dessert, so I'm going to do that right now.

The judges then wander over to 2121 to eat some more.

There the first course consists of Kelly’s Chilled Sweet Corn Soup with Maryland Blue Crab Salad and Alpha’s Beet Salad with Warm Chorizo-Citrus Vinaigrette. Tom says that Alpha should have taken Coco Chanel's accessorizing advice to heart. He should have looked at the plate and removed one element before serving it. Actually, Tom didn't know whom to attribute that bit of common sense, so the girls at the table let him know.

The second course is Amanda’s Oak Grilled Strip Steak, Roasted Sunchoke and Maitake Mushrooms, and Kevin’s Pan Roasted Halibut, Fennel Marmalade and Tomato Fennel Reduction. Frank thinks the halibut is a pretty dish and that Kevin should take up painting. Aww!

Unlike EVOO, 2121 is serving dessert, a "cheese course" that initially turned Padma on as she was reading the menu: Alpha’s Crispy Aged Goat Cheese and Strawberry Rhubarb Relish; and a bonafide sweet dessert: Kelly’s Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart and Blackberry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream. The tart was good but the ice cream was flavorless. Alpha's cheese, however, was "a horror show," and a "monstrosity."

I'm starting to smell a loser.

Back at the Hilton, Padma drags herself into the stew room to call out Tiffany, Alex, Inigo, and Ed. They are the winners of this challenge. Ed's turbot (TURBIT!) dish was the judges' favorite dish overall and gets him the win. He also gets a big bottle of wine from the Terlatos, and a trip to their vineyard.

Woo fricken' hoo.

This means that Team Blue is the losing team, a fact that flabbergasts Alpha. After he is told that both of his dishes sucked, he tries to deflect blame by throwing someone under the bus: Alex. He didn't make his own lamb-chop-not-pork-chop dish, so basically he did nothing. Kevin, ever the good BFF, jumped in on this and agreed that Alex had done nothing.

He then calls for the townspeople to get their torches and and storm the castle.

I think all of this silly reaction is because these guys don't want to accept the inevitable truth.

The ever-sensible Gail puts them in their place.

The Blue team goes back to the stew while the judges deliberate on which one of the bozos to throw out. Back there, Kevin goes ballistic on Alex, who calmly sits and sips a beer. He knows he's safe.

The judges make a decision, one that Andy Cohen deemed "shocking" in a Tweet yesterday's time for Alpha to go.

Next week: the cheftestants visit the CIA. No, not the cooking school....