Saturday, November 11, 2006

Top Chef -Episode 4

In the apartments, Mia is feeling insecure while Betty is feeling good. Mike is feeling pissy and wants another pair of his wife's panties. And that sends me to places I don't want to go. At the Kemore Kitchen, we meet Suzanne Goin who was one of Ted Allen's guests in last season's Ted Allen challenge. I will say her no-nonsense, direct manner is at least five kinds of awesome. The quickfire challenge is to create an amuse bouche, which SRTW uselessly explains that it means something that amuses the mouth. Well DUH. Chef Suzanne gives a better explanation by saying that an amuse bouche is a little tease of what's to come. SRTW says they will shop for ingredients and have limited access to pantry items. This is inspiring vision of gelee sugarplums in Marcel's head. The dreams are crushed when the contestants see that the store they will be shopping in are three vending machines. The chefs get a roll of quarters to buy two ingredients at each machine. Cliff thinks that Mike will win the challenge with his love of junk food. But Carlos has also loves junk food, choosing Squirt, carrots, sunflower seeds, and hard boiled eggs. Marcel decides to use lemon pies and cracklings. Mike decides to blow off the challenge and use Snickers, Cheetos, and Cornuts. Much F1 ensues. I see a lot of hard boiled eggs being used. Mike decides to puree the Corn Nuts and Snickers and mush them in a ball at the end of a Cheeto. So what did folks make?

Frank: A ham and swiss cheese quiche with a pesto dressing and mint infused tea. Chef Suzanne says it reminds her of being on the porch.

Betty: A an omelete chiffonade with a pear fig basil crream sauce. No huge reaction from Suzanne.

Sam: potato salad and pickle with fennel powder on a tortilla chip.

Elia: A mini chicken salad tostada. She likes the accent.

Mike: Mike so acts like he doesn't care. It's his stupid candy puree with Cheeto. Suzanne is being really nice about it saying the candy turd is an ode to the ingredients.

And in quick sucession are Josie and her deconstructed chicken salad, Cliff and his curried banana pudding, Marisa and her trpoical salad.

Then we get Carlos and his mini vegetarian loaf with sunflower seeds and a hint of Squirt. Chef Suzanne likey.

Mia does a twinkie on yogurt. Which gets a ding from Suzanne for being a DESSERT and not an amuse bouche. Throughout the entire judging, Suzanne is totally direct and nice at the same time. No raking anyone over the coals and no axes to grind, even when they are so called for... MIKE. Marcel makes a duo of cracklings which also gets a too-sweet comment. Ilan makes a deviled egg. The bottom two are Mia and Miike (who she totally busts for not caring). On top are Frank, Carlos and Ilan with the winner being Carlos. What I am loving about this season is that the competitors seems REALLY happy for each other.

In the elimination challenge, the competitors break up into four teams - black, white, red, and orange. All you really need to know is that Marcel is on the same team as his arch nemesis Betty. The teams break down is:

Orange team: Cliff, Carlos, and Sam

White team: Ilan, Elia, and Josie.

Black team: Marcel, Betty, and Frank

Red Team: Marisa, Mike, and Mia

The challenge is to make a whole meal that cannot exceed 500 calories. Ilan makes me love him all over again saying he doesn't count calories and cooking should be about adjusting flavors and feel. They will be serving their meal at the badly named Camp Glucose, a fat camp for kids. Sam talks about his confidence in the challenge because he is diabetic and needs to think about what he eats and makes. There's no arrogance in that statement just stating the facts. Me likey. This goodwill on my part will totally be eradicated by the end of the episode. Marcel suggests asparagus wrapped in proscuitto but Betty wisely pushes for pizza. Marcel to his credit, lets go of his ego and climbs on the pizza bandwagon.

Back at the Kemore kitchen. The chefs F1 while nutritionists hover over htem and calculate calories. We find out that a cup of olive oil is 1900 calories. Josie is affably goofy as she calculates calories. Mia tries to defend Mike saying there's nothing more dangerous than a cornered animal. Much weighing, calculating and F1ing. Frank and Team Black is rocking the pizza. Betty and her pavlovas? Not so much. Marisa finally says something intelligible by pointing out you can't substitute Splenda for sugar and expect to have the same consistency in your egg white meringues.

The Red Team is making BBQ chicken skewers, raisin coleslaw, grilled vegetables, and a fudge cake with fresh strawberries adding up to 480 calories for the meal. Team Black's meal of sausage pizza, fruit skewers, and the "meringues" end up being 440 calories. The White Team goes with chicken parmignana (with bran breadcrumbs), veggie lasagna (with no pasta) and berry cheesecake pie that is 398 calories. Tom asks about the menu and Elia playfully responds that she's a big kid and she likes pie. Because it's Elia who is totally chill, this statement comes off as endearing as opposed to stupid. Finally the Orange Team goes with spiced turkey meatballs, roasted corn on the cob and a summer fruit smoothie. Chef Tom asks about the smoothie as dessert compared to the more decadent desserts. The team responds by saying they want the kids to learn a lifestyle. Well, if the other menus are under 500 calories you can learn the lifestyle with a chocolate fudge cake or a berry cheesecake. Their menu is 454 calories. By the end of the day everyone seems to be doing well except for Betty who doesn't know a damn thing about meringues and the fact they have to sit in the oven overnight.

The next morning Betty is distributing kisses liberally to her rommates, even Marcel. Mike wants to win. Oh really? The chef's F1 at the Kenmore kitchen but Betty adjusts her recipe to make a better texture. Josie comments that the teams needed to follow the menus and recipes they presented to the nutritionists and her team is ready to do that. Cliff and Sam are suspicious of the other teams following the rules as Sam notices squeeze bottles of olive oil on the line. Carlos notes that Betty had to change her meringue cookie recipe. Betty cops to that with the understanding that her meal would still be under 500 calories because she is using fewer egg whites and only two tablespoons more sugar. This seems to be a legitimate misunderstanding on Betty's part but she should know after lycheegate to be completely anal about such things.

The Teams go to Camp Glucose and set up. In contrast to the previous challenge the judges are dressed sensibly in jeans and t-shirts. Even Gail has toned down her makeup and looks like she should be at the camp instead of the Roxbury. The Teams have to send out a representative to present the menus. Elia is excited about cooking for with kids, unlike a certain ousted contestant who name rhymes with Schlemily. Frank presents Team Black's menu which excites the kids. One kid adorably asks whether they have to choose between the pizza or the lemonade. Ok this camp is evil if they make kids make that choice. Frank is delighted to say they get the whole meal. Josie is typical Josie in her presentation of Team White's menu. But noone's happy about the veggie lasagna. Carlos pimps out Sam in his presentation. Later on one of the campers states whe would like to marry Sam. Mike on the other hand, goes over like a dried out turkey meatball (oooh foreshadowing). He acts like a damn fool and the kids aren't buying it one bit. I kind of want to adopt the entire camp for that.

Most the campers go for the pizza. And the rest of the camp is evenly split between the other teams. I do think the kids are blinded by the pizza because the cheesecake looks mighty fine. The judges and campers love the pizza. The campers like most of the meals but don't like the veggie lasagna, the coleslaw and the sour, thin smoothie. After the meal the chefs and campers play soccer. Marcel kicks the ball to Ilan's face. Heee!

At the judges table ding the turkey meatballs (a rock on a stick), the chicken skewers (underseasoned) and the blah coleslaw. They love the pizza. Suzanne gives props to the cheesecake. The judges call in Team Black and announce they are the challenge winners. Frnak owns up to the challenge-winning pizza and to their credit, Marcel and Betty look delighted. Frank gets a prize of Suzanne Goin's cookbook and an offer to collaborate on a menu with her. Team Orange and Red are called in and now comes the good part. Get prepared for some flattened bodies because people are being thrown in front of the bus. When asked, Mia says she was confident in her team's menu. In a bit of reality show functionality, the entire team takes the blame for the awful coleslaw. Mia even defends Mike's committment to being there. Wow. Team Red is given a lot of crap for their rock hard meatballs and the sour smoothie. When asked by Gail about whether they knew it was smoothie was too sour, Sam responds that they couldn't deviate from the original menu. And then he lets loose on the other teams. He points out the squeeze bottles of evil olive oil. This is where Sam moves into dick territory. Gail asks who was using the olive oil and Sam refuses to name names. Chef Suzanne points out that liberally using olive oil is serious business in this challenge. He then alludes to some things not working the previous day and then working that day. Gail tries to find out specific and Sam still won't names names. But Mia will go there and fingers Betty. SRTW bugs her eyes out but is silent. The judges are PIIIIIISSSSSSED. I totally agree with Chef Tom's annoyance about Sam bringing the squeeze bottle issue up after the fact. I love the fact that Gail is also pissed that there's no proof they can actually work with to judge hte severity of the situation. It would be like Kayne in Project Runway getting the boot and THEN pointing out in vague ways that Keith had pattern books.

Chef Tom goes all Principal Vernon on the contestants and asks who knew what about the cheating. Betty cops to changing her recipe and says her understanding of the rules was to stay below 500 calories. Most of the other chefs say they understood the rules as given. In the end noone is going home but if Principal Vernon sees any tomfoolery, he will be cracking skulls. Because if you mess with bull you get horn.

Elia makes me love her all the more by pointing out that Betty's forthrightness in admiting her recipe change showed she legitimately misunderstood the rules. Josie says she knows that her team played by the rules but she's disappointed in the backstabbing. The finger pointers are twelve kinds of defensive with Cliff drinking Pepto Bismol and Mia saying noone knows what really went on in the judging room. Care to illuminate Mia? Marisa wins me over by saying she's shock that Mia won't stand by selling Betty out. Ilan ends the conversation by saying rules were not followed and misunderstood but the bottom line is that they all are still in the competition. Well said.


Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

The heck with throwing people under the bus, Sam and Mia were driving the dam bus!

I thought Mia was a better person that that but not anymore.

This season is really turning out to be interesting.

Anonymous said...

"I love the fact that Gail is also pissed that there's no proof they can actually work with to judge the severity of the situation." Yeah, it's not like the cooking was being recorded or anything...

Also, I thought Cliff chugging the Pepto was hilarious. Is that wrong?