Thursday, January 29, 2009

Top Chef Season 5, Episode 10: Super Bowl!

And so it begins... the countdown to the finale. Kind of cool to make it all Super Bowl related, but when I remember that they shot this six months ago, it makes me laugh. Kind of like the ever-present product over-placement... this time with our friends at Quaker Oats...

Yes, it was the Quaker Oats Quickfire... Padma arrives with Scott Conant, who just opened Scarpetta in NYC in 2008 and got three stars from the NYTimes. Very cool. Hard to do. Also a 2004 Food and Wine Best New Chef. So a judge with chops.

They assign everyone to a food group: veggies, fruit, fish, meat, seafood, poultry, dairy... I would have been stumped, initially, other than some sort of fruit crisp. Oats aren't a part of my daily crusting of food... but these guys stepped up the challenge and crusted EVERYTHING, even eggplant, which didn't turn out so hot for Fabio, who picked vegetables. According to him: "There is not reason to eat vegetables when there is meat and fish around." Yeah, well, even a major meat eater should have known not to encrust eggplant with oats!

They have 45 minutes and come up oat-crusted shrimp (Jamie), oat crusted weiner schnitzel (Hosea), banana mousse with oat petit fours (Stefan), fish with oat crust, bacon and escarole (Leah, doing fish again after last week!), oat-crusted tofu and oatmeal/lentil salad (Carla), eggplant and oats (Fabio, who gets interrupted in his explanation by Scott, who says his dish "speaks for itself;" more drama with these two later...) and oat-crusted chicken paillard with grits and fried zucchini (Jeff, once again, too much going on on the plate!).

Great quote from Carla: "The creative monkeys can’t be quieted in Jeff." Ha. Good one.

Fumbles: Leah: fish overcooked (switch from last week!), whole dish clashed with bacon; Fabio: encrusting eggplant was bad idea; Jeff: all brown, heavy plate.

Winner: Stefan!
Other top dishes: Carla and Jamie

So on to the elimination challenge, where all-stars from past TC seasons come out to play.
Spike, Andrew, Josie, Andrea, Camile, Nikki, Miguel all arrive to each take on a Season 5 cheftestant. They each cook for a different NFL team/city and need to represent the area cuisine in their dishes.

Stefan's advantage from winning the quickfire is to pick his team and his opponent: Dallas Cowboys and Andrea. He seems to remember Andrea as a vegetarian who went home pretty early in Season 1. I remember the same, though she claims now NOT to be a vegetarian. Hmm.

Other pairings:
Green Bay Packers: Fabio v. Spike
San Francisio 49ers: Jamie v. Camille
Miami Dolphins: Jeff v. Josie
Seattle Seahawks: Hosea v. Miguel
New Orleans Saints: Carla v. Andrew
New York Giants: Leah v. Nikki

Love Spike and Andrew… for short periods of time. For any extended period, I get drained. I can only imagine prep time in the TC kitchen... like toddlers, really. I was following them on Twitter for a bit during Top Chef, but it's way too ADD for me. Which is saying something.

So Seth watched with me and came up with his faves again quite quickly: Fabio and Carla—he likes spunky Carla. I will hold judgment on his taste in women for at least a few more years. I can appreciate that he sees the "Muppet" in her and likes the quirk.

My favorites remain: Stefan and Jamie, and a little bit of Fabio. Stefan doesn't annoy me like he seems to others... maybe he would in person. But I just see him poking people, playing around, being somewhat charming in his arrogance...

So they all cooked in front of an audience, two cooks per round. A touchdown is 7 points (judges), fan favorite: 3 points. So when you win big, it's 10 points! If you lose a round, on the chopping block you go.

So after some quick rounds of cooking:
Leah v. Nikki up first—Leah won by 3 judges, Nikki got the fan field goal.
Miguel v. Hosea—Hosea won 3 judges and the fans, so Hosea has 10 points.
Carla v. Andrew—Carla unanimously with the judges! Andrew won fan points.

Lovely quote from Carla: "Sometimes you have to have quick love." Really, Carla?

Stefan v. Andrea—Two and two on judges, fans voted for Andrea hands down.
SHOCK. Stefan got beat. He was floored and humbled. Ha. I think it was good for him.
Jamie v. Camille—Two and two on judges, Jamie carries it with the fans.
Jeff v. Josie—Josie got 3 judges, and three fans. Jeff is going down.
Spike v. Fabio—Judges went with Spike, fans went with Fabio…

Total points: Home: 37; All Stars: 33

Winner: Carla.

Can you hear the intake of breath? I am shocked. She won two tickets to the Super Bowl! (Seth is very happy.)

Judges comments:
Carla—The love was there. Even Toby said so. Everyone thought it was all good; Tom liked it too. Hosea—Unique, Asian, great to make a salmon roll and have still medium rare inside. His food draws you back, said Scott Conant. Jamie—Tom liked it even though he didn’t vote for it. Nice comments from Scott about her cooking style, that she was fun to watch and she worked well with her food. That was nice to hear as it's usually all about the taste. Leah—Simple, good dish.

And on to the losing chefs... Stefan, Fabio and Jeff:
Initially I thought it would be Jeff going home, but then worried for a moment when Fabio decided to get defensive about his meat (vension). As Tom said, it was already dead, didn’t need to be killed again… Scott pretty much told Fabio to shut up and accept that he made a losing dish. It was a bit tense. I didn't think too much more of it until I read today on about the judging (mostly entertainment value, though their assessment of Andrew and Spike is dead on). Curious. I don't know why Scott thought Fabio so terrible, but he definitely didn't seem to take to the guy, and it didn't all seem to be about the food. I thought Fabio handled himself well at judge's table, and especially at the end, when he accepted his second chance graciously.

Oh, but then I gave it away. Drat. But you knew already. No way Stefan's going home (even though he was missing the strong flavors Dallas is known for). No way Fabio's going home (even though Scott Conant probably wanted him to). But Jeff... no protecting him. Alas, Mr. No-Eye-Contact and Too-Many-Elements-on-a-Plate packed his knives and went back to Miami... but a good loser, truly.

From Seth to the losers as they were defending their dishes: Zip it, bite it, suck it up. (Is this my kid or what?!)

Down to six. It's getting good. I was pleased pleased pleased to see the Season 5 cheftestants really do well against the All Stars. I think it probably reaffirmed for all of them (except maybe Stefan, who was expecting to roll over Andrea... figuratively as well as it seems literally...) that they belong there and they CAN cook. In that closed environment with only each other week in and week out, it's been evident that even the good cooks can start to doubt themselves.

And it seems we get to move past that whole icky Leah and Hosea thing. Other than his snide comments about her fish, they seemed to just avoid each other. Finally.


  1. lovely comments - I am never sure every week if look forward to the episode or your commentary more - ok maybe they are a perfect package.
    my recap:
    Carla feels the Love!
    Stefan sets himself up - how humiliating...
    jeff's hasty pudding ain't so tasty.. also known as the proverbial fart in a windstorm ..
    and the peak at next week looked great!
    yup - you're ok - when your son still likes girls that compare to muppets characters - you know you have some time to probably make sure he never ever tells a potential girl friend that they remind him of a muppet... no matter how sweet that character may be... just guessing that won't go well.
    have a great week.M

  2. I will pass that dating tip on to Seth, MJ. It's a good one. He's still in the denial stage re: girls, but there's a LOT more talking about it... I'm sure the next stage isn't too far away... the "admire from afar but don't actually talk to them" phase. Such joy to watch.

    It was a good episode, though when they set it up like this with the head-to-head, it's hard to really actually track what they're cooking... it goes so fast!


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