leave your inhibitions at the door
Last week was a complete trainwreck of an episode in terms of food. There was little imagination and the execution was just simply not there. And I didn’t see many dishes in other episodes to indicated imagination, artistry, and complexity. There were some glimpses from Time Bomb and occasionally others, but that’s about it. This week’s episode, especially the Elimination Challenge, brought it.
But there was one Top Chef staple that was missing last night – the random calling out of how much time is left. Every other challenge I’ve seen has had the chefs yelling out “44 MINUTES LEFT!!!” or something like that. Even if it was only a 45 minute challenge. I always thought it was ridiculous and wondered if they had to do rock, paper, scissors to see who got all the fun of yelling it out. Or if producers would stop someone mid-slice, and say, “You’re doing really well. Can we get a ’27 minutes’ out of you?”
Strangely, I missed it last night.
Quickfire Challenge – Make a sweet and savory holiday dish based on your family heritage.
This sounded promising enough in that it gave them a chance to inject some personality into their dishes. Unfortunately, there were some flaws. Not really earth-shattering flaws, just really annoying.
56 minutes left in the episode!!
First flaw – The Quickfire judges are usually local chefs or someone from Food & ine or something like that. For this challenge, they got Marilyn Haggerty, a columnist for the Grand Forks Herald. Which is only slightly more prestigious than www.foodandwinehedonist.com. Her claim to fame is that she was the one who wrote a glowing review about a new Italian eatery that opened up in her town. She was heaping lavish praise on the ambience, menu, and execution of….The Olive Garden. But I guess, it’s no worse than having Pee Wee Herman last year.
Second flaw – The dish had to use Truvia Baking blend with Sugar. It’s a mix of Stevia-based sweetener and sugar that is 75% less calories than just sugar. Aaaanddd we get another ridiculous product placement of the year. I was ok with last year’s contestants schlepping around Texas in Toyota Siennas or products as prizes. But this was directly in the dishes.
Third flaw – The chefs had to draw knives and Lizzie (who I keep forgetting even exists) was the only one to draw a blank knife. The significance? Absolutely nothing for her. All the chefs had to share that one knife that Lizzie pulled. It’s a silly little gimmick because they were all using other knifelike things in the kitchen – pizza cutter, spatula, etc. Couldn’t they just tear the food apart with their hands and call it “rustic?”
– Yukon – Johnnycake with bacon, cheddar, chili compound butter & sous vide egg. Really, why the hell would he sous vide and egg? Isn’t same as poaching?
– Danyele – Bread Pudding with ham, raisins, & pecans.
– Lizzie – Bobotie with ground lamb, egg custard & roasted apricots
– Sheldon – Banana Lumpia with peanut butter mousse, coconut & pineapple. Lumpia? That’s a Filipino dish. Is he one of mine?
– Neville Jr – pineapple & pork tamale with charred tomato and tomatillo salsa
– Overgrown Van Damme – Waffles with celery three ways, apple puree, chicken and prosciutto
– Brooke – apple crostata with cheddar cheese, candied pine nuts, and apple salad
– Stefan – Smoked salmon tartare, potato latkes, sour cream and chives. Where did sugar go?
– Josie – Tamale with habanero masa, mangos & papaya. She’s part Filipino? Still something about her…
– Time Bomb – Bondino of parmesan-reggiano, figs and apricots in port wine and truvia caramel
– Eliza – Hush puppies 2 ways – shrimp and sweet potato, sausage and corn
Least Favorites – van Damme because there were too many things in it, Neville JR for his “dry taco” – even though it was a tamale.
Tops – Yukon, Stefan, Brooke
Winner – Brooke. I know I’m going to sound elitist and I’m piling on an nice, old lady, but I know everyone’s thinking the same thing – OF COURSE SHE’S GOING TO PICK APPLE PIE. This is a woman that thought of Olive Garden the same as foodies would regard French Laundry. Overgrown van Damme’s dish sounded pretty interesting. Shame.
Each contestant cooked a dish for a homecoming party for actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt. I’ve seen Anna Faris in a few movies, but she’s not exactly A-list. Somewhat hot so, of course, I’m going to include a picture of her to get more page views.
I was scratching my head on Chris Pratt. I guess he’s on Parks and Rec. That’s one of those shows I’ve never seen that I’m supposed to find funny and will automatically make me cool and hip. Eh, that’s a tall order for any show.
The winner get s a new Prius. Joining Tom, Gail, and Padma at the Judges’ table is Rick Moonen, one of the 1000 people that Time Bomb used to work for.
– OVD – Loin of elk with cherry beer sauce & mushroom couscous
– Brooke – Lamb-stuffed squid on black rice with coconut milk
– Sheldon – Braised Okinawan pork belly with seared scallop and rice congee
– Stefan – German Gulasch with marjoram, bread dumplings & sour cream
– Kristen – Delice de Bourgogne tortelloni. What’s the foam?
– Neville – Braised pork ribs with celery root puree, grilled apples and celery leaf salad
– Lizzie – Crusted king salmon with radish & beet salad. Yawn
– Eliza – Elk ribeye with elk sausage polenta, spiced carrots, and huckleberry port sauce. Yawn pt 2. Plus looked like shit.
– Danyele – pan roasted wild boar, hoppin’ John, & tomato-bacon marmalade
– Yukon – Roasted pork shoulder & grilled corn puree with succotash & fennel apple salad
– Josie – Malbec braised short ribs, pork belly, polenta with cippolini onions & figs. Meh
– Time Bomb – Seafood chowder with cockles, manila clams, crab, mussels $ sockeye salmon
Top Dishes – Time Bomb, Kristen, Brooke, Sheldon – TOTALLY agree with these. The dishes showed complexity, personal connection, presentation and sounded delicious.
Winner – Brooke. I can totally see that. She said she’s been holding back, so if this is an indication of what she can do, I’m encouraged. Same with Sheldon’s and Time Bomb’s – all of them had layers of complexity that served Kundun well last year.
Bottom Dishes – Eliza’s was unevenly cooked and carrots not cooked through, Danyele’s relish was good but the boar uneven, Josh’s was unbalanced with too much pork and not enough seasoning, and Neville Jr’s was out of balance.
Gone – Eliza. I’m sure she’s a fine chef execution-wise, but I didn’t see much imagination all season. In the first episode, she’s the one that noted that Wolfgang Puck likes meat. So she slapped a steak on top of her omelet. Weak.
– Yeah, Stefan and Kristen are totally banging each other.
– Count of remaining contestants that were selected by Wolfgang Puck = 0. At first I thought that it was an indictment on his judgment. But I looked back and there was only one chef NOT selected by him. So maybe they gave him the B-team?
– What no Chef Josie headband? No wait, it’s there. All’s right in the world.
– And is it really worth it to use Truvia? Just like I said about Almond Milk – it’s natural, but is it really “natural?” Aren’t you just better off using sugar? There are 45 calories in tablespoon of sugar, which means Truvia saves you around 38 calories. It’s a big difference, but overall I just burned more than that walking around the house looking for my car keys. I suppose it adds up, but are you eating that much sugar in a day? Hmmm, fat ass?
– Yukon mentioned that he’s become chummy with Stefan. It surprised him because when he saw Stefan on TV, he thought he was douchey and an asshole. Hey Yukon, you weren’t looking at the TV. That was the bathroom mirror.
– Wait, they had two actors on but they weren’t promoting some movie?
– Eliza didn’t shake hands because she was fighting cold… But she prepped food for Anna Faris?