Monday, January 30, 2012

Rachel vs Guy Celebrity Cook-Off Episode 5 and Finale Recap

I'm imagining a conversation something like this went down at the Food Network last week.

Susie Fogelson: Hey, Tushie, do you think it's a good idea to run the finale of the        Celebrity Cook-Off opposite the Super Bowl?
Bob Tushman: Super Bowl? What's that?
Susie Fogelson: You know, that game where large men in tight shiny pants chase        each other around a big field?
Bob Tushman: Is that the game with penetration in the backfield? Oh yeah! I like        the Super Bowl! Hmmm...guess it's a bad idea to try to compete with men in        shiny pants, huh?

Thus, in the infinite wisdom of the Food Network brass, both the fifth and sixth episodes of Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off had to be aired back-to-back this weekend. Ack! That's two hours of note-taking and trying not to fall asleep in front of the television for me. It was difficult, but I managed to struggle through with the aid of a big bowl of ice cream and a couple of cookies. The three shots of Bailey's were a bit counter-productive, however.

So. Despite going through 60 minutes of hell for you, the reader, I'm going to spare you a long, drawn-out recap. Rather than being twice as long as usual, I'm making it only half-again as long as usual. Because I'm nice that way.

Anyhoo...there are four celebrities left, two on Guy's Team (Coolio and FatOne) and two on Rachael's Team (LDP and Taylor). For the first challenge of the evening, the team-mates are competing against each other because only one person from each team can compete in the finale "next week." The task at hand: to make a three item menu for a dinner party for ten people, comprising "dear friends" of Rachael and Guy. In other words, people whom they've begged to come in off the street. Each celebrity must create a meaty main course, a starchy dish, and a vegetable, all in two hours.

Guy's team goes first and each of his team members meet with him to do menu planning. FatOne wants guidance but Coolio comes up with his own menu of ghetto-fabulous dishes.

During the cooking, it looks like FatOne has really bitten off more than he can chew, since he's not all that familiar with any of the three dishes he's making. He's really sweating it.

Coolio is his usual hyper self, for some reason shouting "Shaka Zulu!" every ten minutes. It gets quite annoying after the first time a while.

When time is up, the guests arrive to dine. Besides his mother, Penny Ferry, Guy has arranged for three random guys to partake in the meal. Coolio serves first: "Fork steak;" arugula salad; and "Gitalian" bread. The "g" is for "ghetto," natch. Then FatOne serves his dinner: cauliflower puree with roasted veg; roasted chicken; and linguini with clam sauce. The diners all seem to enjoy the meals, praising both veg and starch courses. Coolio's steak was tender but otherwise not impressive, and FatOne's chicken was dry in spots.

Then it's Team Rach's turn to cook. She tells her team to do family-style Italian, so LDP takes on lasagna with ground lamb rather than his usual turkey, chicken saltimbocca, and roasted kale. Like FatOne's menu, this one sounds a bit too ambitious for the time period. Taylor is doing polenta with a sausage ragu, veal marsala, and broccoli rabe, none of which she's ever cooked before. Ut-oh!

Cooking ensues and for a minute there it looks like LDP is going to lose it over a bottle of wine that doesn't meet his flavor expectations, but he gets it together and finishes all of his dishes in time.

Rach's special guests include Grub Street writer Josh Ozersky and a handful of her sycophants. Taylor serves her meal first; while the polenta is good, her veal is salty and tough. She couldn't make the broccoli rabe work, so she threw together a caprese salad at the last minute; Ozersky seemed to think it was a fine idea. LDP then serves the meal of his life, with everything praised, except for slightly salty kale. Ozersky likes the lasagna so much he wants to eat it out of a trough.

The verdict: while nobody "ran away with it," LDP and Coolio are declared the winners. Taylor and FatOne don't get to go home though...they have one more battle to see who can take home $5,000 for his or her charity. This Blind Tasting challenge will be super-sized at 20 minutes, with the celebs able to cook anything they want. FatOne figures he can cook rice in 20 minutes so does a fried rice, while Taylor goes to her Jewish roots and makes matzo ball soup. While both are delicious, FatOne's is more creative and he gets the cash for the FatOne Family charity.

Ok, now let's pretend it's "next week." The Finale episode opens up with sexay scenes of Coolio and LDP getting ready for their big day.

After a few more minutes of drinking coffee and doing situps, the two get dressed and head out to the venue at 583 Park Avenue. Rachael and Guy are there to give them their final challenge, which is, essentially, Restaurant Wars! That's right, Food Network is once again ripping off Top Chef! The two celebs have to prepare three courses with two choices each for 40 diners, and decorate a dining room. They do get help in the form of former teammates Taylor Dayne and Joey FatOne, who will be in charge of the front of the house for them. Additionally, they get three professional chefs in the kitchen, plus a wait staff.

Their restaurants will be judged by the diners who will write Zagat-style reviews, and the winner will be announced by none other than the Zagats themselves.

First the celebs name their restaurants and plan menus with their team leader. LDP has chosen to call his place "Blessings," (gag) and he's doing fine dining food. Coolio's joint will be called "Chez Cooly's" featuring his usual ghetto-inflected comfort food. They then have to select decorative items for their restaurants from a limited selection of tablecloths, napkins, and tchotchkes. Coolio has a brown and beige color scheme in mind, but Taylor grabs the items with those colors before he does. Coolio pouts, declares that he's quitting, then stomps out. I'm thinking, yay! the episode ends right here and LDP wins by default! But no, Coolio comes back, settles for an all-orange theme, and the celebs get to work.

Taylor takes her job seriously. It's almost as if she's run a restaurant before. FatOne seems a bit befuddled, especially with the orange tablecloths and stuff.

In the kitchen, LDP is all professional; Coolio gets distracted and stares into space a lot. While yelling "Shaka Zulu" every five minutes.

Soon the very brief 4 hours of prep and cooking time is up and guests start to arrive. Coolio and LDP act all intimidated by the fact that the Zagats are around. They're just two fat-asses who like to eat. That's like being intimidated

The judges eat at Chez Cooly's first, where they hate the decor. Coolio's menu includes the "east El Segundo oyster" (oyster po' boy bruschetta), "King Cool-ocado" (fried avocado stuffed with crab), cherry bbq short ribs with asparagus and polenta, "finger-lickin' chicken" in creamy sauce with potatoes, lemon pudding cake, and a sweet potato cheesecake. Service is a bit slow because the short ribs are undercooked and require some time in the deep fryer to achieve tenderness. The guests don't seem to mind that much because: 1) they're eating for free; 2) FatOne is keeping them happy with lots and lots of wine. Overall, the food is pretty good, and the judges like both apps and entrees, but aren't entirely thrilled with the cheesecake.

Then they head to Blessings, where they love absolutely everything. LDP's menu includes an "off-white" salad with butter-and-prosecco-poached pears, "Two Crabby" (crab claw bloody Mary and a crab-filled arancino), Cio-Filipino with prosciutto-wrapped cod, and "LDP's Asian Surf and Turf" (skirt steak with lobster mash). Desserts are a version of his lemon-curd-filled puff pastries, only using cream puffs this time, and "German Wedding," an amalgamation of German Chocolate Cake and Black Forest Cake.

A bit later, after service, the Zagats read Zagat Guide-style reviews for the two restaurants. The celeb with the highest Zagat rating gets the $50,000 for his charity. If LDP wins, the money goes to Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry, and if Coolio wins, the money goes to Music Saves Lives.

And the winner is....

LDP, with a Zagat rating of 28 out of 30! Coolio ends up with 23 out of 30, which is still pretty good, but second place. Luckily the Food Network is generous and awards his charity $10,000 just for putting up with him.

Next week: The Super Bowl! Patriots vs Giants! Who cares?! Shaka Zulu!

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