Thursday, December 11, 2008

Carla Hears a Hoo! The Top Chef recap

Ariane really needs to gain some confidence. As the show begins, she’s sweeping the Top Chef apartment, like some sort of middle-aged Cinderella.
"I'm a lot older than the other contestants," she explains.

Ariane, I hasten to point out to you that skeevy, stalker-ish Stefan is 37. You are 41. You are not his mother, nor anyone else’s for that matter. Stop cleaning!
(But maybe she just finds sweeping to be therapeutic?)

Anyway, no need to feel sorry for Ariane, because she is the OPG (Original Protein Gangster). But more on her triumph later.

First, Stefan is hitting on Jamie, in a variety of unsavory ways. He makes some towel pants for her stuffed animal. (Some sort of Finnish mating ritual?)
Later, he climbs into her bed and begs for a kiss. Yuck! Seriously, when Jamie signed up for Top Chef I’m pretty sure she didn’t have to check a box that said, “Will happily submit to sexual harassment by Eurotrash chef.” Also, as she put it rather succinctly, “Does the word lesbian mean nothing to him?”

The Quickfire Challenge is your favorite and mine, the palate tester. They do it in a really fun fashion, Name that Tune. . .broth style. (“I can name 4 ingredients in this broth” “I can name 5” “Name that broth.”) I am, however, concerned about all the double-dipping.

Right away, I can see that the best strategy is picking salt and pepper, even if it is kind of lame. (Sort of like those contestants on The Price is Right who go one dollar over the last bid—crude but effective.) You definitely feel like a chump if you go out on a failed guess of “turmeric” when you didn’t even mention "salt."

And so it goes that the final two contestants standing are Kojak and Yul Brenner, uh, Hosea and Stefan. I’ve never rooted so hard for Hosea in my life. When Stefan incorrectly guesses that the mole sauce has chili powder, Hosea wins. To which I say, Hosea! (It’s a name and a joyful exclamation!)

Onto the main challenge: Prepare the meal for Gail Simmons’ bridal shower. Awww. As Padma says (in a moment of extreme cognitive dissonance for me), “Mozel tov, Gail!”

The chefs split into teams: New, Old, Borrowed, and Blue.
“Me being married, I know the phrase something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” says Ariane sagely. (For her next trick, Ariane will explain to all of us unmarried grunts what the ring is for.)

Poor Carla gets New and is saddled with Team Loser: Danny and Gene. Ouch.
The other teams are:
Fabio, Melissa, and Jill (Blue)
Radhika, Jamie, and Ariane (Borrowed)
Hosea, Jeff, and Stefan (Old)

Off to Whole Foods they go, where Carla loses her teammates and starts randomly yelling out “Hootie! “Hootie!” Turns out, she and her husband have this nauseating/cute routine where, when separated, she yells “Hootie!” and her husband yells “Hoo!” I guess Carla was hoping that this practice was somehow sweeping the nation.

Stefan is being Mr. Bossy Pants with his group and I have to give Jeff and Hosea mad credit for sticking to their guns and not just caving. Jeff is going to make his savory sorbet and Hosea is going to make his gazpacho, God dammit. And no pushy Fin will stop them.

Team Borrowed decides to “borrow” some flavors from Radhika’s Indian culture and make what looks to be the most delish piece of lamb with carrot puree and kale.
Of course, the OPG is in charge of the lamb and, after a brief panic where the meat is too rare, she pulls it out and it looks positively sublime.

Team New is making some sort of deconstructed, build-your-own, surf-and-turf cooked sushi (what, no foam?). The whole thing is so high concept, it makes your eyes bleed. Then, to make matters worse, Danny decides to “help” Carla by adding marinated mushrooms to her salad, thus ruining the apparently one edible dish on their menu.

Team Old is making a trio of heirloom tomatoes. Stefan doesn’t want Jeff to make his tomato sorbet, but Jeff says, “Bite me, Dieter” (well, not in so many words) and the sorbet is a big hit. Score!

Finally, Team Blue, flummoxed by the fact that there is no blue food (“blueberries are purple,” Colicchio reports) decide to do something deep sea related. They also decide, brilliantly, to put Fabio front and center in a room full of smartly dressed power foodies.

“All of you women look absolutely beautiful,” Fabio says.
“We have Chilean sea bass from the deep blue seas.”
“And we have green kale and yellow corn. Combine them on the color palate, and you have blue.”
Ooohs and aaahs, and possibly even squeals of approval.
Basically, they were eating out of his hands.

(An aside about the magical power of Italian men. Imagine if Danny had come out and said, “Youse ladies look byootiful tonite.” They would have booed him off the stage. Fabio says it, and they think he’s Don Juan in an apron.)

In the end, the bottom two were Team New (no explanation needed) and Team Blue (because Chilean sea bass ain’t exactly rocket science).

But first our winner: Ariane! Yes, the OPG is on a roll. Give that woman a turkey or a lamb, and she’s unstoppable. I can’t wait to see what she does with duck!
Jamie, however, could not bring herself to be happy for her teammate. “None of us expected anyone but me to win,” she said, proving that her carrot puree is better than her sentence structure. (It’s true that Ariane seemed surprised, even guilty, about her big win. But then again, she always seems surprised when she does well. It’s part of her charm. )

Ultimately, the last team on the chopping block is Team New. Carla got sabotaged by the Mushroom Burglar, so she is safe. Gene realized he screwed up, plus people like to rub his head for good luck, so he is safe. Danny stubbornly stood by his craptastic food to the bitter end, so he is OUT.

Next week: Martha Freaking Stewart, people.


Jennifer said...

I know when Don makes towel pants for my stuffed animals it always gets me "in the mood."

Jennifer said...

Max--while I'm here--what do you think of Grey Gardens? It's become my fave movie!

maxthegirl said...

Grey Gardens is the bomb.

David Dust said...

Max -

OPG is genius! Great recap.

CLICK HERE for David Dust's Top Chef recap.