Thursday, September 09, 2010

Top Chef DC Episode 13 Recap

Singapore!

The show has mercifully dispensed with scenes of the four remaining cheftestants getting out of planes, trains, and automobiles and simply shows them wandering through and eventually meeting up at the Telok Ayer Market.

As they schmooze about the relatively short time they had off between the final taping in DC and this episode (they started taping the season in April; this finale part 1 was taped on 7/18), Tom approaches with K.F. Seetoh, an authority on Singaporean street food.

Tom splits after making the introduction and the cheftestants head off to explore the market with Seetoh. He tells them that there are hundreds of merchants in the market, some working in stalls smaller than "solitary jail cells." One old dude has been performing a seemingly Sisyphean task.

They're probably done by now, no?

Inigo is really into the whole experience, and is showing off a bit.

I think what he meant to say was, "I've been inside an Asian."

Seetoh has the cheftestants taste a bunch of dishes - chilli crab, fried noodles, chicken rice. Kelly starts noting the different ethnic influences within each dish. Kevin is thinking, "bah! Chinese food." Inigo is feeling passionate and contemplates making love to some durian, and perhaps a couple of the street vendors themselves. Ed is feeling douchey.

As night falls, the now-greasy group heads toward what they think is one last dish in their orgy of eating when Padma pops up, all scary and sweaty.

She tells them that it's time for their Quickfire Challenge, one in which they will have to prepare their version of Singapore street food for her and Seetoh, using only a wok and local ingredients. The winner of this challenge will receive immunity from elimination and therefore is automatically in the finale.

Right off the bat we see that Kevin might have some problems with this challenge. First there's the whole "I cook American food" thing, and then there's this:

But does he woll?

We see 30 minutes of scurrying about, in which time Inigo creates a riff on chilli crab using frog's legs, Kelly does a noodle dish with seafood, Kevin does a seafood stew, and Ed does a noodle and lobster stir fry.

When it's time to taste, Padma and Seetoh are fairly critical, especially with Kevin who is called out for never having used a wok before--not even practicing with one when he learned he would be competing in Singapore. (Hello! theminx was making tempura and stir-fries in a wok when she was about 12!)

Overall, Ed's dish was deemed the best and he was given the win AND immunity.

Inigo isn't so happy about it.

Padma then tells the cheftestants that their Elimination Challenge will be a team challenge. After the collective groan, she goes on to tell them that they must create a menu for 80 guests at an event hosted by Food & Wine's Dana Cowin. The menu must represent Singapore's multi-cultural quality, and the food must be cooked a la minute.

Back at the Hilton, the cheftestants find big reference books listing local ingredients that they pore through in order to develop a menu. They each decide to make only one dish. Ed is adamant about this, but then he has immunity and could serve dog crap and be safe. They all agree that one dish each, cooked a la minute, for 80 people, was going to be enough work.

The next day, with $200 to spend, the cheftestants go shopping at local spice markets.

Ed's giving himself a douchebag edit.

I don't think it's the sarcasm. I think it's the douchebaggery.

Speaking of douchebags....

Ed's going to have to work harder to take the title from Kevin. Hey Kevin - Pot? Kettle?

In some kitchen somewhere, the four start their one measly hour of prep. Inigo is taking a risk making a dish he's never done before - lamb tartare - and praying the Demons of Oxidation stay far far away.

Tom comes in and whines about the fact that they're only making four dishes. Ed pipes up and says he's making two, and he's planned to all along. Everyone else is incredulous and pissed off, but now they all have to scurry to make an additional dish.

Fakeout scene: after a hard day of shopping and prepping, the cheftestants go prawn fishing. Kevin catches one but is too much of a pussy to take it off the hook, so Kelly does it for him.

/fakeout

The next day, the chefs head to Tanjong Beach Club where they get 1 1/2 hours to work on their food before service starts. Their wait staff comes in and Ed gives them direction, appointing an expediter. Shortly thereafter, guests and judges arrive to eat.

The judges peruse the menu and are excited about what they see. Tom, big man that he is, insists on ordering for the table: 5 of each. Whew, that was hard!

Once the food arrives, there is nothing but praise for all of the dishes. Inigo's dish is "refined." Ed's dish is "refined." etc.

Everyone then heads to a place called Gardenasia (sounds like a bacterial infection of the ladyparts) which serves as stew room and Judges' Table venue. Padma requests that all four chefs appear in front of the judges.

Kelly says she thinks they worked well together. Inigo says he forgot that he was competing and felt like he was working in his own restaurant with his own staff. Tom says this was the best food all season, which isn't really saying much. But then come the complaints. Inigo's soup was too thick and too intense. The fish in Kelly's soup was unnecessary and too "rough." They wanted more texture in Kevin's congee. However, Ed's food received nothing but praise; the judges claimed mouthgasms over his banana fritters.

Guess we know who wins this challenge, huh?

That would be Ed.

Meanwhile, Inigo tears up.

While the chefs go back to the stew and await their fate, there are even more complaints going back and forth between judges. Suddenly everything is too salty or not intense enough. Still, there were no really harsh criticisms.

Eventually the judges make their decision and send Kelly home because her transgressions, however small, were the biggest of the evening.

Next week: the Finale, featuring former Top Chef champions Ilan Hall, Michael Voltaggio, and Hung Huynh!