Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Top Chef Catchup

A Few Notes About the Show I Missed.

Product placements were amped yet again. They had a bare bones kitchen for the aisle challenge, with staples like Bombay Sapphire gin. Then back at the apartment, Sarah is seen changing a trash can liner – Glad of course.

It was a little odd to hear Colicchio beat up on people who chose to do multiple dishes. In last season’s catering challenge the losing team didn’t make enough different dishes. They had other problems as well, but the limited selection was a key problem.

It was also after last season’s catering challenge that Mia took herself out (send my ass home) rather than see Elia go home. This year Howie tried to do the same thing (for utterly unfathomable reasons) but the judge’s said it was there decision. Then they sent his ass home.

I must admit to being quite snarky when Casey was cutting the meat for her carpaccio. Raw dishes like carpacchio, tartar and sashimi are all about knife skills and her knife skills during the mise en place relay were wanting. But she killed her team in that relay by chopping onions so daintily. In fact, she diced onions like she was cutting carpaccio. When the subject is carpaccio, her knife skills were enough to give her the win.

Previous winners must have looked at that MacBook she got and wondered WTF. A bunch of them got, well, books. She gets a $1500 computer.

Top Chef Week 11: Flying Fish


No tea leaves to read. Casey won and Howie packed. We knew that.

The show starts with pastoral music playing in the background as the camera pans over sleeping chefs. Padma bursts into the apartment at 6 a.m. Dale (the gay guy) notes that the other male


Brought to you by Breville blenders. The cutting element spins in a recess I’ve been waiting for the Breville product placement as they have been advertising And damn I wish I was in the market for a blender as those Brevilles are nice.

The quickfire is make a breakfast using a campstove and a Breville blender. Hung as usual is letting food fall over the place. Casey is looking awkward with the knife as usual. Sarah says the Padma loves alcohol which makes Hung look strong as he has a smoothie spiked with Grand Marnier.

Padma likes Hung and Sarah. Padma picks Hung because he used the blender to make something that hit all parts of her palette. True to the sponsor is she. Hung’s prize is

I’ve got to give the producers props for creativity this season. I liked this quickfire which deviated sharply from the standard format. Creativity in the past has meant cooking out of vending machines or some such. This was a cool challenge without being silly.

Elimination Challenge.

Padma announces that the show is hitting the road. We have a commercial break cliffhanger (a chance to review the qualities of the Breville blender) then we find out they are heading to New York.

We have a few shots of the group packing for New York. The producers want to assure you all that Casey looks quite nice in a tank top and a pair of sleep boxers.

CJ said all he wanted was a piece of pizza in NYC. When Padma stops them in Newark airport and tells the chefs they have to get through the first challenge before they will get to New York, I fear for the tall guy.

The elimination challenge is to make a meal worthy of First Class airline service. The chefs all get a tour of Continental’s kitchen facility and all must wear hairnets. I’d love to know how long Padma’s hair stylist spent perching the hairnet so that just enough of her luxurious locks remain visible.

The dishes have to fit in a foil box which will then be uniformly heated for ten minutes. Hung gets to pick his protein first and goes with sea bass (no environmentalist he.) We learn that CJ chooses halibut, Dale chooses filet and Brian is doing surf and turf with Lobster and New York strip.

The chefs can’t find stuff in the kitchen and comedy ensues.

Colicchio’s walk through. He tells Hung he would never order fish on a plane. Hung says no problem.

We find out that Casey is doing veal and Sarah has salmon. Colicchio always seems to take sadistic glee about the chefs “starting to crack.” I figured they would have to serve the dishes in a plane, but some of them seem surprised. And the “travel experts” are a bunch of Continental flight attendants and crew. Again, surprising only to people who haven’t seen the show before.

Brian is out first. A huge strip steak and a lobster and potato hash that Colicchio and Bourdain do not like. The lobster is completely overcooked, Tom says.

Dale next, filet and poached shrimp. He doesn’t have enough dinners.

Sarah with Salmon. Salmon looked like a risk since the chefy choice is to cook salmon medium rare. In any event, some of the pieces end up overcooked. And Bourdain gets one of them.

CJ is in big trouble. Bourdain and Colicchio have a little bitchfest going and they bitch about his broccolini more than anything. Broccolini is a specialty food that tastes bitter under the best of circumstances and is pretty unforgiving.

Judge’s Table.

They have a guest judge, plus the swing spot is not Gail, not Ted, not Dana Corwin, but slam master Anthony Bourdain.

Padma calls back Hung, Casey and Dale. Casey and Hung had to be hating life – they were with the guy who made one plate too few.

Bourdain effuses over Casey’s dish. Probably the nicest he’s been about any dish ever

Casey wins for the second time in a row and gets . . . A New Car!! No, but almost as good – Continental Business class tickets to anywhere in the world the carrier flies. I suppose as the game wears on the prizes get bigger, but it seems like a sudden, huge jump. On the other hand, if I were a chef, hanging out and cooking with some of judges is probably a better deal.

The other three then on the carpet for being the worst. Now Bourdain can really shine. Sarah’s salmon was catfood. CJ’s broccolini was “horrifying,” something you couldn’t serve in prison. The lobster in the hash had the texture of “doll head.”

Brian – the lobster hash was “disgusting.” Sarah – some salmon pieces were overcooked and the couscous tasted like an afterthought.

After conference Tom runs through the shortcomings of each dish again. CJ’s broccolini has been demoted from Worst Dish of Top Chef Season 3 to Worst Dish in Top Chef History.

CJ is out. Padma honestly looks on the verge of tears as she tells him to go pack. CJ was the quipmaster. No doubt the editor will miss having his interviews to cut into the action.