Friday, April 14, 2006

Top Chef - Episode Six

We open to Andrea and Lee Ann discussing Miguel "throwing Andrea under a bus" in the previous episode. Andrea uses some Pysch 101 by saying that Miguel has a lot more riding on being the Top Chef than she does. In a confessional, Andrea fingers Miguel as the person likely to go because of his competitiveness. For his side of the story Miguel says that he didn't attack Andrea, he merely said that he couldn't rely on anyone else in the "game." Oh dear, dear, dear. You are such a reality tv cliche Miguel, blaming your bad behavior on the "game." It seems the Top Chef editors decide this is Miguel's week to suck because they include a shot of Dave finding the dishwasher (my kingdom for a dishwasher!) overflowing with suds. The entire house fingers Miguel as the culprit as he put regular dishwashing detergent in the dishwasher. Isn't Miguel a trained chef? That's pretty basic. But as we find out later in this episode, sometimes the basics elude Miguel. Miguel bitches that no one is is helping him clean up HIS mess. Then he goes all Survivor on us, talking about everyone else having their own agenda and the game is getting ugly. Dude, did you see Project Runway, the game doesn't need to be ugly if you bring it with the talent.

In the quickfire challenge Billy Joel's Child Bride introduces to Ted Allen, the food guy from Queer Eye (ah the halcyon days of Queer Eye) to the competitors. Girlfriend, aren't you a bit young to be hitting the Xanax? Her delivery is flat as a pancake. Tiffani acknowledges Ted Allen's awesomeness in a confessional. As well she should. He could score you tickets to the Project Runway Fashion Week show. Billy Joel's Child Bride says the theme of this round is pressure, which elicits a reaction from Dave of "hasn't that been the theme of the show?" In this challenge the competitors have a selection of ingredients which are priced by the ounce. They have to make an appetizer with the ingredients (and the contents of the Top Chef pantry) while spending no more than $3.00. It's an interesting set of ingredients with smoked fish, radishes, mushrooms, cheeses, and baby yams.

While Stephen smarms that he was keeping his cool while others were scurrying, Lee Ann who proves that she's awesome says, "Man oh man, the mood of the kitchen I couldn't tell, because I was too busy WORKING." Tiffani is enjoying the pressure while Miguel gets paranoid about people wanting to get him out. Stephen's clams over sea beans, Lee Ann's deep fried oysters, Harold's bacon wrapped trevisano, and Tiffani's oysters three way all get kudos from an amiable Ted. Ted is unimpressed by Miguel's antipasto plate, Andrea's carrot and pear slaw, and Dave's really boring chicken skewers. In the end, Ted chooses Stephen as the winner which brings out the bitchy in Harold and Dave. By the way, the forum posters over at Televisionwithoutpity's Top Chef boards are pointing out the Stephen's face is getting shinier and more fish like with each episode. Is he really gunning for the lead role in the remake of The Incredible Mr. Limpet?

The elimination challenge is for the competitors to put together a seven-course meal for a dinner party Ted Allen will be giving at Frisson. Ted tries to be all hard ass about it, saying that a bad meal will make him a cranky chef but we've seen how he's cooed over the straight guys the Queer Eyes make over. He's a softy. During menu planning, Lee Ann points out that none of them are pastry chefs so whoever got dessert would get the short end of the stick. In front of Chef Tom, Tiffani points out that Stephen has immunity and could take one for the team by choosing to do the dessert course. While some may view that and sneaky and bitchy, I think it's well played. What does Stephen have to lose? He'll have a solid excuse for not doing well on the challenge and would gain the goodwill of his fellow competitors. Stephen, quite sensibly, agrees, Miguel volunteers for the first course cold platter, Dave volunteers to do the second course which is a soup, Andrea volunteers to do a fish for the third course, Tiffani does the fourth course with duck gnocchi, Harold is dying to cook up some meat so he takes the fifth course, Lee Ann volunteers to do a pre-dessert which is a beet sorbet and cheese before Stephen's dessert.

In some of the worst product placement since The Restaurant's use of American Express credit cards, the gang decides to have a BBQ with not so artful shots of Kingsford briquettes and LIGHTER FLUID, KC Masterpiece, and Hidden Valley Ranch. In another obvious and awkward product placement Stephen logs on to AOL to find dessert recipes.

When they go to buy ingredients, everyone is getting along except for Miguel who is relying on himself and only himself. We'll see how that works out for him. The crew comes to Frisson to ooh and aah over the decor when Chef Tom comes in with THE TWIST. Much to everyone's dismay, the chefs have to pull knives to cook each other's dishes. Andrea is nonplussed but everyone else is dismayed. The way it falls out is that Miguel gets Lee Ann's cheese platter; Dave gets Andrea's fish; Andrea gets Miguel's caviar smoked scallop latke; Tiffani gets Harold's meat; Harold gets the dreaded dessert; Lee Ann gets the gnocchi; and Stephen gets the soup. Harold is PISSED as he's been looking forward to the meat hates Stephen esoteric use of black tea and saffron in his dessert recipe. Harold and Stephen wisely decide to work together to make their dishes, particularly because Stephen doesn't want Harold to get screwed on the dessert. Everyone is explaining their recipes to everyone else. Miguel continues to freak and Dave just seems to deflate. Like the rest of the world, I think Dave is acting like a big cry baby. Suck it up Dave. Tiffani seems chill about cooking the meat but says it should be done perfectly.

Then comes THE INCIDENT. Miguel kvetches in an almost cartoon-like voice "duuuuuuhh, I did a REAAAAL doozy." As it turns out he put salt instead of sugar in the beet sorbet. The next five minutes are of Miguel going on and on that "he's done." Miguel's reaction to royally messing up is to butt in on Andrea making his recipe. When Chef Tom comes to check up, Miguel is totally losing it to the point where he forgets what cheese is in the cheese course. OOOOh foreshadowing. Andrea decides just to let Miguel focus on the dish that SHE's supposed to be making.

Guests come. Big luminaries in the food world. Stephen serves as sommelier and opens champagne with a sword. Andrea and Miguel serve the latkes. Guests note that the latkes are cold. That's not a good sign. Harold and Stephen serve up Stephen's chanterelle soup beautifully presented with a little shot glass of soup and a spoon of caramelized mushrooms. The crowd loves it. In a display of classiness, a shiny faced Stephen says that he and Harold collaborated on their dishes. Dave serves the John Dory and says to the guests how stressed out the twist made him. They offer him a glass of wine. The guests hate the vegetables of the dish saying the carrots were bland and the skin was on the peppers.

On the other hand, the guests go gaga over Lee Ann's gnocchi. Tiffani scores a solid triple with her rendition of Harold's meat. The only down side was that the meat was over-rested. In presenting the dish, Tiffani is relaxed and self-deprecating, a far cry from the tight ass she was with the kids. Now comes the reconstituted version of Lee Ann's cheese plate. It ends up being a beet and bleu cheese salad with a cheese cracker, I'd like to point out that Mr. I Rely Only On Myself got a LOT of direction from Lee Ann. In presenting the dish, Miguel completely forgets the name of the cheese. The guests loved the cheese cracker. Finally Harold serves the dessert, a trio of milk chocolate soup, a white chocolate semifreddo, and warm flourless cake. The guests comment on how totally rich and overpowering the desserts were. Overall Ted is happy with the meal and gushes over the chefs. My theory of Ted being a softy is born out.

In judging, all the judges were commenting on how effectively everyone worked together. They were impressed by the overall menu. While waiting for judgment, Miguel is sitting apart and pissy with everyone. Of course the top three are Lee Ann, Tiffani, and Stephen. After the appropriate amount of gushing over all the top three's dishes, Lee Ann gets her long-awaited victory. Lee Ann wins a place in my heart by giving Tiffani the credit for creating a good dish. But then judges decide to sow some discord by asking the top three about how well things were in the kitchen. Lee Ann talks about Miguel's big mistake. Chef Tom furthers the shit starting by asking the three whether Miguel should be out. Lee Ann tries to be diplomatic and says it's a tough call but Tiffani calls it like it is and says Miguel should go. She goes on to talk about Miguel's downward spiral in the kitchen. Stephen says he's ashamed to see it because Miguel isn't at the bottom of the ladder and points out that Dave and Andrea are weaker.

Harold is left out of the bottom three much to his relief. The judges slam Dave on his vegetables. Ted kindly points out that Dave was so focused on Andrea's vision he didn't put enough of himself in the dish which causes Dave to beat up on himself even more. Ok Dave pull it together and stop crying. Miguel has to account for his freak out and especially the fact he forgot the name of the cheese. In a moment of pure evil, Chef Tom points out that Lee Ann and Tiffani thought he was a mess in the kitchen. Miguel tries to justify it by saying that he pulled himself together at the end. Andrea gets slammed for only making the latkes and not putting anything of herself in the dish. You can tell Andrea wants to leaves.

While everyone is waiting to hear who's out, Miguel gets in Tiffani's face about ratting him out. Hey Miguel, Tiffani can't fire a shot if you didn't give her the ammunition. Tiffani tries to backtrack and says she never said she wanted him to go home but that's a bi ol' lie. Come on Tiffani, you're tough, stand by your words. Dave is bawling in the background. Miguel tries to corner Tiffani about whether she's threatened by him which is totally laughable considering her cooking skills versus his. Then Miguel calls Tiffani and snake, making hissing noises. Way to have a Sue Hawk moment, Miguel.

In judging, Ted Allen endears me even more to him by calling Dave out on his emotional outbursts. At some point we don't care. Ted seems to be "gunning" to be the Top Chef Tim Gunn when he says about Dave and the recipe, "He should have throw that idea out the window and sauteed the damn thing in a stick of butter, BA DA BING!" Which is seriously so awesome I can't even begin. In the end it's Andrea who really didn't seem to want to be there after her first elimination.

Next week: Jeffrey Chodorow! BOOO!!!!!!


Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

I agree with you about Dave. Suck it up dude or you're gonna be outta there real soon. Turn off the tears and focus. And watching Miquel self destruct isn't a pretty site. It seems now that the pressure is really starting to mount, these two are beginning to crack. Of the two I"d rather see Dave buck up and get back into the game.

I've been leaning towards LeeAnn and Tiffani in the finals for these last two episodes and noticed they seem to be getting along a little better than before although Tiffany could still stand to chill out just a bit.

Can't wait to see what happens next!

ScottE. said...

I loved the twist with this episode! And it certainly brought out the best (clear throat) in each contestant.

Who is next week's judge and why's he get a booo!

DC Food Blog said...

Jeffrey Chowdorow is a business guy who invests in restaurants. He's most famous for locking heads with Rocco Dispirito in The Restaurant. While Rocco wasn't coming off like a rose in the series, Jeffrey Chodorow wasn't exactly a good samaritan either. His restaurants are places like Rocco's on 22nd and China Grill, which attract toursits and people looking for buzz and not necessarily good food.

Anonymous said...

Why do you bother writting about the show if you hate the judges so much?

DC Food Blog said...

Entertainment value. Same reason I read recaps of trashy shows at televisionwithoutpity.

Stef said...

I love your recaps! I agree that Lee Ann and Tiffani are really shining through. Miguel sucks, and your Sue Hawk shout out cracked me up.

You know what I was picturing when you were talking about the scene where Miguel's making hissing noises, and Tiffani's fighting, and Dave's off crying in the corner? Muppet Babies. This is like a grown up version of Muppet Babies crossed with Survivor. So many of the chefs just have the emotional stability of nursery schoolers!