Thursday, July 15, 2010

Top Chef DC Episode 5 Recap

This week, we find that there are some fast friendships forming in the Top Chef house. Inigo has placed himself in the role of mentor to young Tamesha. He's pumping her up with all sorts of Tony Robbins/Norman Vincent Peale/Wayne Dyer bullshitisms. He says it's because he sees himself in her. Err...nudge nudge wink wink?

Tamesha - run. Run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.

Ed and Tiffany are also cozied up as besties. She trusts him. He thinks she's funny. Awww. Gag.

After the lovefest, the cheftestants put on their whites and head to the Top Chef Sans-Sponsorship Kitchen where they find a tableaux of writhing and snapping creatures. No, the eliminated cheftestants aren't back - the creatures are blue crabs. In walks Padma with Patrick O'Connell, chef and owner of the acclaimed Inn at Little Washington.

I've always thought there was something creepy about Patrick O'Connell. It might be his slow and deliberate way of speaking. Or it may be that he looks like the love child of the Joker and Dick Van Dyke.

For today's Quickfire, the cheftestants have one hour to create a dish using the crabby beasties that are currently trying to crawl off the set and back to the Bay, where they belong.

Inigo shares a TMI moment with the audience.

Really? Did we need to know that? Does Tamesha know that?

It's funny to see chefs who are not from this region playing with blue crabs for the first time. Everyone can handle lobsters because most of their meat is in one chunk, but crabs have lots of little hiding places under their shells. The chefs are hammering and chopping at them blindly like total morons. One chef even sprinkles his with Old Bay and shoves them into the oven, alive. Andrea complains that blue crabs don't have as much meat as the stone crabs with which she's most familiar. Yeah, but unlike stone crabs, blues actually have flavor.

Meanwhile, Tim is a Marylander and he is calmly steaming and picking a huge pile of crustaceans. He thinks he has an advantage because he knows how to handle blue crabs. In fact, he plans on making a really simple dish that emphasizes the sweet flavor.

Ed and Inigo, on the other hand, plan to use Asian flavors to complement the crab. And Alpha is creating a dish with three components that he thinks will really wow the judges.

Time's up! Patrick and Padma taste all of the dishes and come up with a verdict.

Patrick chooses Andrea, Amanda, and Kevin as his least favorite dishes. I love that he says that Kevin's crab chowder "illustrates confusion." Amanda's pungency is indeed a bad thing. And Andrea used potatoes which overwhelmed the delicate meat.

On top, no surprise here, are the usual suspects Inigo and Alpha, and Ed. Ed's dish of jumbo lump with Thai basil and mango is the favorite dish, which wins him immunity in the next challenge.

Poor Tim, who wanted to shock and awe the judges, was left standing in the middle, mouth gaping like a fish. At least he didn't end up on the bottom again.

Padma then announces the Elimination Challenge. They are heading to Ayrshire Farm, the first totally organic and humane farm in Virginia, to cook a six-dish family style meal for forty diners. Each chef must be responsible for at least one thing on the table. They will not know what ingredients are available to them until the next day when they get to the farm to cook, and there will also be a pantry of various ingredients from the TC Kitchen available in the back of one of the Sponsormobiles. Oh, and they will act as one big team.

The cheftestants troop back to their house to argue over how they will handle the task at hand. Inigo, while no doubt a fine chef, is taking his own Zig Ziglarizing to heart and thinks he is also the best man to lead this gang of chefs. He immediately begins pounding his chest and tells the group how things will be done. At the same time, Alpha is doing the same thing, but in a much calmer manner.

I wanted to see it come down to this. Really, isn't penis size always what it's all about?

Of course there has to be the eternal argument over a dessert course - most don't want to bother with it because it is still the traditional kiss of death. Stephen wants to do some sort of fruit platter with fruits that represent all of the cheftestants. That would just mean most of them would fight over who gets to be the durian.

Finally, Kenny suggests that the chefs work in the same partnerships from the last challenge. Tiffany does not want to work with Tim again, and Ed is not happy to have to deal with Alex the pervert, but everyone else seems mostly content at this decision.

The next day, the chefs pile into their Toyota Siennas and head to the farm, where they find heaps of raw meat and produce on tables, plus grills on which to cook. The chefs must choose their dishes and prepare them in a three hour period, after which time the hungry and judgmental diners will arrive.

I got the general sense that the mobile pantry wasn't all that fantastic, but then Tim says it was "off the hook." I thought that was a positive phrase? No? I guess I'm just not young enough or urban enough to know all of the lingo you kids use today.

Inigo, who I think I might have to rename Big Ego, takes the time to share with us yet another TMI moment, this one suggesting a touch of bestiality: he says he "made love" to his duck. Amanda is making a vegetable soup, which she is calling a minestrone. There is no mention of love making, even though carrots are involved.

Andrea is wrestling with pork loins that may or may not fit on the grill and may or may not cook in time. Plus she's from Miami, and it's cold, so she's sneezing. Meanwhile, Alex the Pervert is loving cooking beef tenderloin in the great outdoors.

Kevin is making cauliflower cous cous and has a problem when Tamesha "accidentally" knocks his pan of cauliflower bits onto the ground. He then decides he has to use broccoli instead, which kind of scares me. Overcooked broccoli = disgusting. But then a boneheaded mistake like that seems to be Kevin's forte, which is why he always ends up on the bottom. Why should this time be different?

Tim originally wants to use turnips and beets in his dish, but when he is accused by Kelly of stealing all of the vegetables, he surrenders the beets to her. He then decides to make a mousseline of turnip, but changes his mind and leaves the veg in tiny cubes. Note to Tim: Really? Cubes of turnip are all you have to show for three hours of work? You steamed and picked a dozen crabs in less than an hour and that got you stranded in the middle. Think: what is 3 hours of cubed turnips going to do to you?

Finally, the cooking is over and the diners arrive, wearing jackets and scarves because Andrea isn't the only person who is cold.

For the most part, it seems that the judges aren't really impressed with any of the dishes. Amanda's minestrone is "shocking" in its rusticity. Ed's salad is a big mess in a bowl. Tim's turnip dish doesn't even register with the diners. Tiffany's collards were undercooked. But there were highlights in Alpha's eggplant, Andrea's pork loin, and Kelly's beets and strawberry rhubarb crisp.

Back inside out of the cold, in the Not-Particularly-Glad Stew Room, Padma morosely calls out Kevin, Alpha, Kelly, and Andrea. The judges rave about Andrea's pork loin and the balance in her sauce, Kelly's beets and the brave decision to make dessert. A good dessert at that. Kevin's broccoli cous cous was shockingly perfection, but most perfect of all was Alpha's sweet and sour eggplant curry, which even Padma enjoyed.

Congratulations, Alpha, for proving that you are indeed the alpha male of this pack. At least in this episode.

Next we find the bottom three chefs are the ones pretty much expected to be on the bottom: Amanda, Stephen, and Tim. Amanda is called out for not having pasta in her minestrone, and for not cutting her vegetables in uniform pieces. Patrick O'Connell said it was "grandmotherly, as if grandma cut the veg with an axe."

Stephen's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad suffered from overthinking, over-dressing, and being served in a bowl. (Hmm...I need to remember that serving salad in a bowl is a punishable offense.)

Worst of all was Tim, whose turnips were bland and unimaginative and didn't even register to Eric. Although as much as Eric complained about them during the meal and at Judges' Table, saying they were "invisible," me thinks he noticed them quite a bit. Otherwise why all the bitching and moaning?

In the end, the turnips were Tim's downfall. When Padma announced that he was to pack his knives, I thought I detected a note of glee in her voice, like she had been waiting for this moment for the past several weeks.

Thank God for the Voltaggios, who helped elevate the status of Maryland chefs last season. Otherwise, we only have examples like Tim, who are kinda embarrassing.

Next week: a jury of their peers!


the dogs' mother said...

Interesting that they went from chopping up live crabs on camera to a humane farm. It's just so much semantics anymore.

Thank you for subbing for David. He can cool down his stalking plans.

Anonymous said...

Man this group is gross. I have a feeling Angelo's not the only one there crawling with std's.

Libby said...

Tiffany's voice makes me cringe!

Bibbi said...

Nobody made love to the crabs. (If a duck deserves it, why not the crabs?)I squirmed at the live crabs going into the oven.... did the "chef" think that maybe the sprinkled herbs would put them out of their misery? A quick chop or a dunking into hot water would have been easier.
Love the chimp chest beating!!! Two roosters scratching in the dirt is what came to my mind.
Thanks, Minx, for another terrific blog! Love the captions. ;-)

Anonymous said...

In one of your paragraphs (about the Judge's thoughts) you switched amanda and andrea. Andrea had the pork loin and amanda's dish had the rusticity problem.

theminx said...

Thanks - I do that constantly! The names are too similar to my synesthesiac brain: green yellow green. Plus they're pretty similar anyway.

Deb said...

I found an uncanny (and unsettling) resemblance between Patrick O'Connell and Gael Greene, former NYT food critic and frequent guest judge on TC, as though they are fraternal twins separated at birth. But then again, we've never seen them together, so perhaps it's not just a coinky-dink?!

Almost as disturbing as Angelo's "crabs" comment during the prelude to the Quickfire Challenge. TMI!

Kristine said...

"Chim chim, cher-ee!" I just blew water out of my nose.

Anonymous said...

I just refer to Amanda as Leah 2.0, personally.

Miss Ginger Grant said...

Miss Ginger likes her salad in a bowl! On a plate it sort of slides all over and slips around too much! I think baking live crabs is some form of animal cruelty... "it's gettin' hot in hur...!"

And your DVD/Joker love-child analogy was priceless!!

Kelly said...

Excellent recap! When I was watching, I came up with love child of Bing Crosby and Mr. Rogers.

David Dust said...

Darling -

I know this is a little late (I was waiting to see the episode before I read your recap) - but thank you for pinch-hitting over at my place. Excellent and laugh-out-loud recap, as always.

And I second the motion to have Kenny and Angelo use the traditional method to see who "measures up" as the true Alpha Male (my guess - Kenny wins by a HUGE margin). In fact, I'll bring the tape measure...


Cliff O'Neill said...

Again, we're sharing a brain! That guest judge guy was just too creepy for words.

I think I was getting visions of the Child Catcher in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang. ... But maybe it was the whole Dick Van Dyke connection.

Cliff O'Neill said...

Once more for the followups. Feel free to delete.

Anonymous said...

YES!!! Amanda IS Leah!!! I've thought that since I first saw her and she opened her mouth.

Jeni said...

The guest judge reminded me of an older Professor off Gilligan's Island. But your "love baby" of Dick Van Dyke and the Joker works as well.