Saturday, April 29, 2006

Top Chef Episode Eight

Based on the teaser, we all know what happens. But let me say that that this is the most satisfying and frustrating episode I've yet to recap. Satisfying because of the ending but frustrating because of the totally bullshit challenge. So we open with the Stephen and Harold lovefest and Tiffani saying that as the competition gets further, everyone taking everything personally and throwing each other under the bus. Now this is an interesting point because Tiffani says she refuses to do that. This is a fine line that I can't decide which side I am on. On the one side this is totally what Tiffani does. She has ratted so many of her fellow competitors out to the judges. On the other hand, was anything she said unjustified or fabricated? And has she held back in a team challenge a la Wendy Pepper so she could have ammunition to bitch out another competitor? Nevertheless, we can all agree that others have been a lot more gracious in judging.

Billy Joel's Child Bride changes it up by telling them about the elimination challenge, which is to work together to cater a wedding reception. The quickfire challenge is to come up with a menu. At this point in the game there's almost not incentive to win a quickfire challenge because there's no immunity offered. We're quickly introduced to the Scotts, two whippet thin gay boys who could totally be guests at a Barefoot Contessa dinner. They are very nonthreatening gay. Stephen is excited because obviously the gays have more adventurous tastes. That is complete bullshit but then again, what in the stupid challenge isn't bullshit? The Scotts want a pan-Asian meal with fusion influences and they would like to taste a prawn canape for the reception. The dinner needs to have an amuse-bouche, three courses and a wedding cake. As someone who planned their own wedding, this challenge is a disaster waiting to happen. Caterers need MONTHS to make the cake alone. Harold agrees and thinks he's F%*^&ed. The team has to cook for 100 guests with a budget of $3000. While this is pretty much what we spent for the food costs of our wedding, our wonderful caterer at Cafe Asia got to get her food from wholesale markets. As we find out soon enough, the competitors aren't so lucky.

Stephen comes with a some tangerine and prawn ponzu thing that I totally can't figure out. His menu is very Japanese. He goes on and on about some minimono whatever. Billy Joel's Child Bride wonders whether he could stay in his budget. Tiffani's idea is an Evening in Shanghai with what she calls a Thai braised shrimp in what she calls a spring roll. As a Vietnamese, I call bullshit because of unfried rice paper making that dish not a SPRING roll but a SUMMER rolls. She decides to go crazy with making 100 little cakes. I would HATE to execute that menu. Harold apologizes for the lack of visual creativity in his presentation. I think he's deliberately trying not to win this challenge because his theme is Southeast Asia with a cabbage-wrapped prawn as his canape. It looks totally boring. Dave also apologizes for the lack of artistic flair in his presentation and talks about EVERY SINGLE INGREDIENT in his prawn bruschetta that has a fried won ton skin instead of bread. Harold and Stephen are utterly hateful with their smirking at Dave's presentation. Stuff it you two. You're acting like you're in junior high. Lee Ann delights the Scotts and every Asian in America by cheerfully pointing out that she is, in fact, Asian. Her presentation is complete with watercolor pictures. I totally love her concept because it is authentically Chinese complete with the shrimp toast canape. Her menu seems like a catering nightmare with a dish that requires two origami paper cranes. Dave is concerned about the fact that other people's presentation represented a complete lack of catering experience and what was doable under certain constraints. Because the Scotts know nothing about catering themselves, they choose Lee Ann and her two hundred cranes of torture menu.

Billy Joel's Child Bride then tells everyone the kicker - the reception with be the following afternoon. That is complete and utter bullshit. The producers are setting these people up for failure. Lee Ann looks like she's about to throw up. Before assignments are made Lee Ann wisely goes over the menu so that people can pitch in and help other competitors on their dishes. Dave takes the canapes, Stephen does the amuse bouche, Harold does the salmon first course, Tiffani does the lovers' nest with the origami cranes, Lee Ann does the Peking beef, everyone will be help out with dessert that consists of cake and petit fours. Harold suggests using boxed cake mix and everyone jumps onto that idea. Well ALMOST everyone, Stephen is noticeably silent. Of course Stephen doesn't step up and actually TELL people his concerns. And really, in a crunch, boxed cake mix rocks. Most from scratch cake has a shelf life of a milisecond. Stephen stupidly assumes that 16 hours will be plenty of time and this should be, well, a piece of cake.

As the posters at the Televisionwithoutpity Top Chef boards point out, it's an hour to the Berkeley Bowl where they have to get the ingredients. So that's two hours used up right there. Harold and Dave point out how totally crappy it is to get provisions from a supermarket. $3000 can go mighty fast if you are paying RETAIL. Then comes THE INCIDENT. Harold tries to buy a few whole salmon. Unfortunately, the fish lady won't sell it to him because she wants to use it for sashimi. Harold takes no prisoners and insists. Tiffani buys 8 boxes of cake mix and Dave buys shrimp.

Back in the kitchen everyone is hauling ass. Chef Tom comes in and holds a product placed box of Betty Crocker cake mix. He disapproves and asks Tiffani about the box as Stephen smirks. Tiffani points out that there's a reliability factor with boxed cake mix and with the time crunch, they don't have the ability to ensure that the quality of a from scratch cake. Of course the undercurrent is that the evil producers totally put them up to it and got gobs of money from Betty Crocker. So Chef Tom, take it up with the producers. Both Harold and Lee Ann point out Stephen takes a crazy long time to prep his dish. Dave rocks as he makes his dish along with working on the dessert course.

The Scotts arrive at the hotel and I am totally irritated with them. There's just an air of privilege and entitlement about them. They joke about the short time frame that the chefs have to make their six course meal. Yeah it's a effing joke to you because you two don't have to slave away in the kitchen. And in the kitchen, the chefs pulled an all-nighter and are totally exhausted.

After commerical, Billy Joel's Child Bride wastes the Chef's valuable time by introducing the judges who are all decked out for the wedding. Gail looks like a total whore with about twelve pounds of eyeliner. And speaking of whores, Billy Joel's Child Bride introduces Marcy Bloom, wedding planner to the stars who, by the way, planned the Child Bride's wedding to Billy Joel. This makes complete sense because Marcy looks like the tackiest thing you've ever seen. If anyone from What Not to Wear is watching this, I am sure they are throwing up at the sight of Marcy's garish make-up, clown wig colored hair, and what looks to be a POUF skirt.

Guests come in and everyone scrambles. Lee Ann kind of rocks the wedding cake decoration with a cascade of orchids. The Scotts have their ceremony complete with a female officiant. It would be kind of sweet if they didn't have an air of smugness about the whole thing. And seriously, the guest list is even whiter than the Oakland Junior league. Stephen finds out that the canape pass is supposed to last for AN HOUR AN A HALF. What kind of crazy ass bullshit is THAT? And why didn't the chefs get a minute by minute schedule. I mean if you are going to do a catering challenge, at least give them SOME of the tools, like a timeline. This is so stupid. Once again Dave kind of rocks and makes another appetizer with crab, pineapple and mirin served on pita chips. The guests enjoy the canapes. All except for Gail and Marcy who both brought their bitchface on.

Despite the presence of a catering manager, Stephen decides to school the waitstaff in serving a wine dinner. While Stephen is busy doing someone else's job, Lee Ann and Dave discover that the Chinese soup spoons for Stephen's amuse bouche have not been taken out of their wrappers and need to be washed and have the stickers peeled off of them. Everyone is severely pissed as Stephen.

The chefs scramble to serve without Stephen who is STILL talking to the waitstaff. Everyone is wondering what happened to Stephen but there will be no dinner with Tim Gunn at Red Lobster for Stephen. The first course is sent out an one of the Scotts explains the concept of an amuse bouche. Harold tries to tell Stephen to help in the kitchen but his advice is totally falling on deaf ears. Sadly, Harold's salmon with green papaya is a huge miss with the guests, particularly the two Scotts. Two guests in matching striped shirts tell the camera that the salmon was useless. While I know some dude was probably behind the camera asking them to rip on the dish, it's pretty atrocious behavior.

Halfway through service the chefs are exhausted. The lover's nest comes with the requisite origami cranes and the guests appear to have their manners and are appreciative. Much to the chagrin of Harold, Stephen waltzes in to the kitchen and tells them that there will be a toast in between courses and the perfectly hot beef dishes will be left to go lukewarm. The REAL catering manager comes to tell the crew that they're finally ready. One of the Scotts totally queens it up by saying that the beef was solid but not stellar. Lee Ann is sad about the disaster that is the wedding meal and Dave is, as usual, crying in the corner.

When it's time to do the dessert, Stephen is nowhere to be seen. In a confessional Stephen expresses his disgust wit the cake mix wedding cake that he refuses to give ANY input in or help out with. The cake looks gorgeous. Sadly a guest finds a bit of an eggshell in his cake. After the meal, the judges asks the Scotts about the meal. They try and be gracious and say that everyone had a good time but are stumped to come up with a dish they loved.

Ah judging. This will be a bloodbath. Chef Tom spews out venom to the point where he says that he's had better food from a take out place n New York. Tiffani tries to cover he ass by saying it was good for wedding food. I try and love Tiffani but what comes out of her mouth in judging just makes her a big target. Evil Marcy counters that HER clients expect better. I'd like to point out that she would NEVER take on a job with such atrocious parameters. Professional caterers like the Food Whore would have politely turned a job like this down. Chef Tom then attacks Lee Ann on not being enough of a leader and take more control of the quality. He then turns on Harold to criticize the salmon with papaya. Billy Joel's Child Bride chimes in with her disgust at the whole idea of cake mix. And seriously, when you make CHRISTIE BRINKLEY look like a woman of substance, you've hit rock bottom. Shut it Billy Joel's Child Bride. Harold gets brownie points by taking responsibility for the cake mix fiasco.

Here's comes the juicy part. Chef Tom asks the team who should go. Lee Ann, being the totally classy person she is, sidesteps the question and announces that Dave, with his catering experience should NOT go. Dave gets ask who he would want to go. Dave rocks my world by pointing the finger at Stephen. Dave talks about how Stephen was not pulling his weight in the kitchen, pointing out the Chinese soup spoon fiasco. Tiffani piles on that Stephen only focused on his dish and didn't help with the dessert at all. Stephen lies through his teeth by saying that the catering manager ask him to show the waitstaff how to serve the food. From the shots of the catering manager looking annoyed at Stephen, there's no way that assertion is true. Stephen then says he was only gone for five minutes from the kitchen and that everyone else should have handled the food. My god Stephen's nose IS getting longer as he says that he let everyone know where he was going when he left the kitchen. Everyone else shakes their head at that one. Evil Marcy gives kudos to Stephen for the elegant service. Stephen then tries to save his ass by finger Lee Ann and her overambitious menu. Like the one he put together was going to be doable under those conditions. Stephen, pot, kettle, black. Lee Ann take responsibility for the disatrous menu. Blah blah blah, judges hate the meal. Blah blah blah Evil Clown wedding Planner likes the service. She wouldn't know good taste if it bit her.

At judging, each of the chefs get taken apart but in the end it's Stephen who likes to play Top Sommelier and who refuses to take any responsibility for his bad food. THANK GOD ALMIGHTY!


john patrick said...

I love your recaps. Love them. Yes. I am so glad I can enjoy this show without having to look at Stephen.

I also love constantly being reminded about Wendy Pepper

ScottE. said...

Thank GOD! I'm so happy he's gone. I think the cake mix was smart of them for such a short notice of planning this dinner. I do have major problems with the judges not acknowledging the short time frame and what they ultimately did....shame on them.

dcrebecca said...

THANK YOU. I was so angry when I finished watching that episode. Stephen's demise should have made me positively gleeful, but I was so mad at the show's creators for putting together such a BS challenge I couldn't even enjoy it properly.

I was also upset that they didn't use Duncan Hines - best cake mix ever.

Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

I agree. This episode was doomed from the beginning. Who in their right minds came up with this challenge!

And ding, dong, the witch is dead.....good bye Stephen!

Did anyone catch the scene of him leaving the kitchen with something stuck to the seat of his pants! I howled with laughter. hehehehe

JW said...

Great job on the recap but for such a horrible challenge. 16 hours (OVER NIGHT) to cater a wedding and they weren't told until AFTER they pitched their menus.. thats not a reallity show it's a horror movie. No it was just wrong. And the judges acted like this would occur every day for a Top Chef... No it would NOT.
Thanks God .. our Davey came through. What a doll.. OK I'm bias. I wouldn't mind porkin those chops!!

Stef said...

I haven't seen this one yet -- but I am so excited to hear what happens! Could it be true??? Is evil shiny-faced fishmouth Stephen gone????