Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Top Chef - Episode 2

I love this episode. I LOOOOOOVE this episode. First they have the Hiro and Ando of the sushi world for the quickfire challenge and then they have the divine Ming Tsai at the elimination challenge judge. I wish Ming Tsai would take Tom Colicchio's job because he rocks at being a judge. Finally, the theme of the episode is Asian food, specifically Korean and Vietnamese for the elimination challenge. Do I have opinions? Is the Pope Catholic? BTW have you seen Lee Ann's blog on Bravo? She's totally awesome and is quite the looker. More fuel for my Lee Ann/Harold 'shipping.

So we open at the Not-Atlas apartments and people are sad that Suyai left. As noted by the Televisionwithoutpity recap, Sam is glowering. Everyone's justifying their existence on the show. Next thing you know, it's morning and Chef Tom is giving the contestants their 4:30 wake up call to go to the fish market for the best fish. This actually makes sense. A couple of sushi chefs I've talked to never go to the fish market after 6:00 am because the fish is already picked over. Particularly affected by the lack of sleep is Mia who is literally nauseous.

The chefs come to the fish market where they are greeted by a pigtailed SRTW. Mia is sick at the thought of raw fish. None of the chef's look happy. Mia walks away to retch in the gutter. Literally. Much scrambling at the fish market. Josie and Elia are happy as clams. Pun intended. Mia is still sick. I would totally not be eating her sushi if she's feeling sick.

Back at the KENMORE kitchen we have what I call Hiro and Ando, a hardcore sushi chef and his partner/translator. Chef Hiro does look like he could stop time. Wow Marcel's hair is totally immobile. Ok much F1. We get useless exposition from Frank about how great it would be to win immunity. It also looks like the sushi rice is pre-made. More F1. In judging we don't get to see all of the contestants' dishes. Of the dishes we are shown, Chef Hiro likes Frank's, Cliff's (who shows his profound respect for Chef Hiro), Otto's (who raising some controversy by referring to himself as a round eye), Elia's (who put olives in hers) and Ilan's and dislikes Mike's and Mia's. Cliff is the winner and that makes me happy because I am getting a Project Runway Michael vibe from him. Good casting people!

In the elimination challenge, the chefs are separated into two teams - one making Vietnamese tinged food, and one making Korean themed food. Team Vietnam (aka Team Team) consists of Josie, Mia, glowering Sam, the depressed Emily, Betty, Carlos, and Mike. Team Korea (aka Team Unteam) consist of Ilan, Marcel, Cliff, Frank, Elia, the evil Marisa, and the doomed Otto. They have to make a cold dish and a hot dish for a charity event for an organization that serves the Asians called Project to Project. They will need to make enough for 1000.

Team Team which can alternately be called Team Common Sense, work well together and just pound out an menu. There seems to be a healthy respect for Mia and Betty's experience as caterers and good dialogue about the menu. Betty points out that to make they only need to make 125 "spring" rolls to serve 250 people. Sam glowers that they should make 250 but Betty correctly points out that they would cut the rolls in half for better presentation. And people, I know you all are a bunch of non-Vietnamese, but all of this spring roll talk is working my last nerve. SPRING rolls are deep fried. SUMMER rolls (what they are making) are rice noodle and assorted veggies and meats wrapped in a sheet of rice paper. Emily pisses me off when she says she loves the Vietnamese use of bok choy and baby bok choy which is so off the mark it isn't even funny. My mom made dishes with bok choy once a year, if that. Josie makes up for Emily's complete ignorance by mentioning the profuse use of cilantro, lime, and mint. You know what the dynamic seems to be? The women are talking and the men are listening. A good team dynamic.

Team Unteam, on the other hand, come up with the great idea to get stark raving drunk when coming up with their menu. Or I should say the MEN on Team Unteam. Poor Elia is trying so hard to do menu planning as the drunkards are getting stupider. And she is kind of awesome because she was just like "can we FINISH the menu first and THEN get drunk?" Marisa makes the dessert which is a jasmine pannac cotta. That is so far from Korean flavors.

At the grocery store Team Team detailed and organized in their shopping. Team Unteam is a big hungover mess. On the other side of the Korean menu, I am surprised that they wouldn't go for a nice beef short rib as opposed to the braised pork. And definitely don't understand using red cabbage for kim chee since it wouldn't take the kim chee flavor the way cucumber or napa cabbage would.

Ah lycheegate. What do I feel about it? It was an honest mistake and I don't think there was any active cheating but I think there's blame all around. Otto is definitely in the wrong in not just asking to go back and return the box of lychees. Then again, NOONE, especially Miss Sexual Attraction, insisted either. It would of saved a lot of drama if Marisa just stopped the whole thing right then and there and just asked to return the box on the spot. I find her attitude to be just snotty and reprehensible.

Back at the kitchen there is much F1 and equal amounts of Marisa bitching to her team about lychee gate. Ilan makes me love his again by busting Marisa for just wanting to cover her ass. Marisa and Elia bitch some more about Otto as they F1. On Team Team, Josie is selected as team leader. Much harmony ensues. Unlike Team Unteam. Otto is completely in his own world.

Chef Tom does his sniff and sneer to Team Team and points out that if Team Team loses, Josie will take the fall. Whatev, they are so not losing. Then he goes over to Team Unteam where Elia and Marisa bust Otto for the purloined lychee. Chef Tom grills Otto about it and Otto tries to do some ass covering. Otto has to go return the lychee and the Unteam is dejected at Otto absence.

At the fundraiser Team Team has a lot of love when there is much consternation at Otto. But all of that is goes out of my mind when I see Ming Tsai who is twelve kinds of awesome. He reminds me of my brother's volleyball buddies at Berkeley. More Team Team love. More Team Unteam tension. A minor break in the Team Team is Mike's inept cutting of the SUMMER rolls. Josie charitably wonders whether the knife is dull but Sam glowers that it's Mike. Josie has to tell Mike to go do something else which causes him to be all pissy. He voice overs that she's talking to him as if he were ten years old. Actually Mike she's talking to you as if you CUT like you're ten years old. There's a difference you big baby.

I am totally busting up over every attempt to pronounce "pho". Sorry Ming, you didn't get it right either. The closest that Western lips can get to the pronunciation is Fuh. But there are all of these tones squished into those three letters so really it should be pronounced FUUuuuuUUUUh. And what Team Vietnam made? That is so not pho. Shreds of carrot are not a substitute for rice noodle. Each is fine in it's own right but neither is going to replace the other. And that dish was nowhere near pho. Pho needs to be drowning in broth. I barely saw any broth in that bowl. Not that anyone cares but here's what I would have made for this challenge. For the hot dish I would have made one of several menus:

A. A cold Bun Thit Nuong (REAL vermicelli rice noodles with grilled caramel pork and tons of fresh veggies) and a hot banh tom (a deep fried shrimp and sweet potato cake with nuoc cham dipping sauce).

B. A hot thit kho (braised caramel pork) with sticky rice and cold gai xe phai (a Vietnamese chicken salad) on a shrimp cracker.

If did a dessert, I would have done a Vietnamese coffee panna cotta.

During the fundraiser Betty is working the crowd and Team Team gets props from Ming Tsai for the summer rolls and the refresher. BTW Padma is wearing some awful monstrosity of a dress that looks like it crawled out of the 80s. Chef Tom and Ming love the pork but hate Marisa's leadened panna cotta. Everyone's happy to have it over.

At judging, Team Team gets called first. The judges play around with Team Team acting as if they were on the chopping block. Many stern looks are exchanged and they tell Team Team that the pho was dry and the pork was blah. Marcel delusionally thinks that Team Unteam is the winner. SRTW tells Team Team they are the winners much to the dismay of Team Unteam who can hear the celebrating. Betty gets major props for her refresher and customer service. From Ming Tsai she gets a rare sashimi knife for winning. Betty wins me over by giving mondo props to her entire team. Aaaaaw.

Now here comes the bloodbath. Ilan digs his hole deeper by trashing Team Team's pho. While I agree, that isn't going to get you any points. Gail acknowledges that Team Unteam's pork is better but says there are other factors. Frank gets ripped on for his nasty rice. Marisa gets ripped for her hard as a rock panna cotta and she tries to spin it as being a little firm. It's a little firm in the way I'm a little snarky. When the judges ask Elia what she thinks, she states that she's "not big in gelatin" to which J responds "but she's big in Peoria." Marisa turns on Elia for not telling her she didn't like the panna cotta. Then it's Otto's turn to be ripped apart by his teammates. Both Marcel and Elia pile on. Otto tries to spin it but you know what, it was a huge mistake. Marisa calls him out as a liar. Frank is pissed because there's no team spirit. Frank then gives the team the "there's no I in team " speech.

The judges say that if Otto doesn't take responsibility for lycheegate, he should go, but if he owns up, then Marisa and rubbery panna cotta should go. The judges read Otto the riot act to which he responds that he is throwing himself under the bus. SRTW tells Otto to pack his knives and go home. Everyone on Team Team is sad to see Otto go. This makes sense though because if I were Otto, I wouldn't want to spend another millisecond with Marisa.


Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

Love the recap. I think they made too big a deal over the lychees. But I guess it caused more drama than anything else they could have shown.

I too was suprised that Ming mispronounced pho.

And Miss pastry chef, in my opinion, ain't. On the first episode her strawberry non-flambe was awful and now she screws up the panna cotta. Geez....I think she's next to go.

LH said...

As a Korean American, I cringed during this entire episode. Red cabbage? You got to be kidding me. Another blog that I read, Kimchi Mamas' took a dig at the Korean food that non-team made. Check it out.

Stef said...

Great recap! And I love your Heroes references.... that Ming could be my Hero any day. What a hottie! :-)

I hate Marisa, and I agree that the whole lycheegate thing was just made up drama. Reminds me of drama queen Montana on the Boston season of the real world. "I'll have a hissy fit, that way I'm sure to get more airtime!"

Other than Marisa and Wolverine, I'm still liking most of the cast. Sam may glower, but that just makes him hotter to me....!