Thursday, August 16, 2007

Top Chef: Open Questions

No one gets any Unmotivated Closeup in the scenes from last time. Damn: CJ says Howie is done for them. I thought his “baby of the house” comment was a little out of line, but for the most part he was calling Sarah on being slow. Howie appears to becoming the house heavy, which would make him the first one that I generally like.

I’m giddy with anticipation. What are we selling today?

Padma: Before you are menus form Red Robin Burgers the nation’s premier gourmet burger restaurants. Yes, Red Robin, the home of the high-end foodie burger. And here we have Chef Daniel Boulud, creator of a four-star-worthy fine dining burger. Visit a Red Robin near you to enjoy a gourmet burger that is by inference in the same conversation as Boulud’s but for less than $125.


The winner doesn’t get immunity. That’s one artifact of narrowing down to eight chefs. Another is that everyone gets some face time during quickfire. No more unmotivated close-ups. I honestly have no idea who’s going to be top and bottom.

Everyone executed well. The problem was people “sliding toward more warm sandwich.” Sara and Tre are the bottom for that reason. CJ wins. I was happy to see Howie and __ mentioned since they actually cooked meat for God sake.

Elimination – Restaurant Wars. Plan and open a restaurant -- including concept, decor and cuisine -- in one day.

Everyone is talking about how excited they are about this. It’s always been my least favorite challenge. I’m not impressed with putting a restaurant together in a day. It seems like it’s more about making an impossible challenge and seeing whose failure is the least humiliating. Reminds me too much of the bar exam.

CJ gets to pick his team as a result of winning the quickfire. I suspect he will pick NotHowie. Here we go. CJ, Tre Brian and Casey against Dale, Hung, Sara and Howie. Just on first blush I’d say Howie’s streak of getting his team to the bottom is likely to be safe.

Sara as executive chef? She’s probably the least impressive chef remaining. I hope everyone is happy with jerk marinade.

Brian has a secret weapon -- a suit!

One of the previews last week had Ted saying “What chef in his right mind puts a scented candle on a table.” Brian talks Casey out of them, but Dale and Hung go for them. Prof. W. notes that the stores where they are shopping look entirely like Pier 1. But apparently Pier 1 hasn’t cut a product placement deal so it’s just “The store” throughout.

Oh, Tre does like him some diver scallops, don’t he? Colicchio walk through: Tom doesn’t like cutting the tenderloin into filets, he’d rather see them carve whole tenderloin’s tableside. (Of course the downside of that is that you can’t marinade the meat because you have so little time.) Aside from that, not much to report.

It's a little heartening to see a high quality chef like Tre forget the potatoes in the smoker because that happens to me all the time. Tonight my tomato/roasted pepper relish was mushy because I left the tomatoes in boiling water too long while I was grilling the peppers. Still, I wonder if he would have been better off with no starch on the plate, given the reaction to the bad spuds.

Service. Hard to figure out whose is the least worst restaurant. It does seem like Team April is a few over-smoked potatoes away from a win. Team Garage looks to have more problems, but Hung's tuna tartare is the one clear hit dish. One interesting fact – both teams execute a successful dessert. No watermelon and gorgonzola this season.

Judge’s Table.

Food blogger Andrea Strong attended the “openings” and wrote up comments. The judges have one of the top ten chefs in the world at the table, but they spend most of the time reading Strong’s comments. The effect is somewhat surreal, like the critique coming from some disembodied soul. Everyone needs to have their blog excess moment.

They start with April (CJ’s team). It's the usual Padma acting all serious and big-eyed, the team walks in, the judges are looking stern. Usually this is the time Padma brightens up and says "congratulations." But this time she says they "are not the winning team.” Heavy mindfuck. And then they proceed to kick them all over the room. The pototoes were too smoky. Brian was flustered. The potatoes were too smoky. The oyster was topped with a watermelon slurpee. Oh, and the potatoes were too smoky.

Then Garage whom they also beat up on. Howie I’m amazed that Dale has a weak sense of smell and is a chef. Of course, if he didn’t smoke, that might help. Ah, Padma is surprised too. Frankly I think Hung's successful tuna tartare

Is Howie really arguing with an Italian chef about how to make risotto? And he put cream in it? Cream proclaims "I don't know how to make risotto." As Tom says, the creaminess comes from the rice; you add broth into arborio stirring constantly and the outer layer of starch sluffs off, yielding a delightfully creamy texture with no actual cream added.

Tom says he knows "exactly" what they should do. Then a commercial break.

Then Padma comes in and asks to see Dale and Brian. Because they aren’t going to send anyone home. They are going to let both restaurants open a second day after fixing the problems, then send someone home. Given that Restaurant April’s big problem was the oversmoked potatoes, I’d pick them to win. But the previews say they end up with a “surprising decision.” To Be Continued.