Saturday, January 31, 2009
Personal Fowl: The Top Chef recap
So here’s something new I learned on this week’s episode of Top Chef: You can say “shatted” on national TV (as in when Leah said, “I got doubly shatted on at judging panel.”) Do you think the producers of Top Chef don’t realize that “shat” is the past tense of “shit”? By this logic, the cheftestants can all go around saying, “We’ve all been fucked.”
But I digress.
Canoodle-gate seems to be over, thank God, and everyone is getting back to normal for today’s Super Bowl themed Quickfire challenge.
The judge is famed New York restaurateur Scott Conant—and let’s just get this out of the way now: The man is a major tool. Anyone who can make Toby Young seem like a softie is no good in my book. (More on my emotional breakthrough with Toby later.)
Of course, when you think Super Bowl food, you think oats, so it was a natural that Quaker would sponsor this challenge.
Everyone had to pair oats with a different food group—vegetables, fruit, meat, etc.
Aloft on her little bliss bubble, Carla didn’t seem to notice that everyone else had oats, too, so she was dizzily excited to be pairing tofu with oats, seeing as how she’s an “oat girl.”
Jeff, in a completely out of character move, got overly ambitious and tried putting oats on three different kinds of chicken, plus two rock cornish hens, a wild turkey, and possibly a whole pig. At one point, I think I saw him trying to coat Leah in oats. (As Carla put it, “Jeff can’t quiet the creative monkey.”)
Fabio created oat turds made out of eggplant.
Stefan, who has been on a very irritating roll, made some sort of mousse and petit four and won. When Scott Conant told him he won, he actually said “Oopsie!” like it had all been some sort of charming accident.
In keeping with the Super Bowl theme, for the Elimination Challenge, we have the first ever Top Chef Bowl, which, as far as I can tell, is mostly just an excuse to have Padma sporting a sexy referee shirt.
The competition? Top Chef “All Stars.” I put “All Stars” in quotes, because never has the term been used more loosely. When a girl who got eliminated in Season One on the second show is among the All Stars, you know it ain’t exactly Kobe and Lebron.
But Andrew and Spike are back! And Spike and Fabio immediately commence roughhousing, threatening the sanctity of not one, but two bromances. (Stefan and Andrew look on helplessly).
So the Season 5 contestants and the All Stars go head to head, creating regional cuisine from 7 NFL cities. (What? No Ravens? No crabcake? I object!).
Here’s how it went down:
Leah went up against Season 4’s Nikki, who seems to have straightened out her errant hair issues, for the New York Giants. Leah got 7 points (touchdown), because the judges favored her New York Strip Steak to Nikki’s chicken livers. But Nikki got 3 points (field goal) because the audience somehow managed to prefer her chicken livers. (Didn’t see that coming.)
Hosea went up against Season 1’s Miguel for the Seattle Seahawks. Hosea got 7 points because the judges liked his crispy salmon rolls over Miguel’s cedar planked salmon and then he got 3 more points when the audience dug his rolls, too.
In some sort of harmonic convergence of hyperness, Carla went up against her fan-favorite, Andrew, for New Orleans Saints. Carla’s gumbo earned her 7 points from the judges. But Andrew’s crawfish crudo got the field goal.
So far, Season 5 is kicking butt.
Then the greatest thing to ever happen in the history of Top Chef took place.
In the Dallas Cowboys bracket, Stefan’s pork and steak salad lost to Andrea’s chili. Yeah, that’s right, Andrea, the Season One also ran. Who made lowly chili. And no, he didn’t lose 7 to 3. He got shutout! Goose-egged! Blanked! Blitzed! Urkeled! Plus, he had specifically opted to go against Andrea because he was so sure he could crush her. Ahhhh, let the awesomeness of that wash over you.
While I was happy with Stefan’s big flame out, I definitely was rooting for Season 5. So I was happy when Jamie got things back on track when her crab cioppino smoked Camille’s crab and sweet potato mash in the San Francisco 49er challenge. 10 more points for Season 5.
But Jeff pulled a very Jeff-like move when he and Season 2’s Josie went head to head with dueling ceviche for the Miami Dolphins challenge. “I would’ve been embarrassed to serve that hot nacho ceviche,” he said snidely. Hey Breck girl, that hot nacho ceviche just beat yer ass, 10 to 0.
So it all comes down to Spike and Fabio, who have managed to stop playing completely non-sexual games of tackle football long enough to cook their Green Bay Packers venison. Spike’s five-spice venison wins the heart of the judges, but Fabio’s venison with mustard sauce wins over the audience. 7 to 3 Spike.
The final tally?
Season 5 wins by the skin of its salmon: 37 to 33.
And surprise, surprise, Jeff, Fabio, and Stefan are the Bottom 3.
But first, the winner. It comes down to Carla, Jamie, Leah, and Hosea. For some reason, they have all decided to rock headbands, except for Hosea, who seems to recognize that a bald man can not wear a headband unless he is Charles Barkley.
Leah has some sort of “Summer of Love” meets the Karate Kid bandanna on. And Carla is wearing her usual headband and Jamie is sporting a surprising gold headband apparently swiped from the cast of Xanadu on Ice.
And here was the moment that made me sorta kinda warm up to Toby Young: He told Carla that he felt the love in her cooking. You have to figure that this bit of new age affirmation was tough to dole out for such a cynical wag as Young. So props to him. Oh, and Carla won, too!
Now it’s down to Fabio, Jeff, and Stefan. I knew that Stefan wasn’t going anywhere, and justifiably so. Stefan needs the finale and the finale needs Stefan and we all know it.
So it’s Fabio vs. Jeff. Things got really testy between Fabio and Scott Conant, who seems to be the only living creature immune to Fabio’s charms. Could Fabio really be going home? Frankly, I think Jeff is a better chef than Fabio if only he could quiet those creative monkeys. But it's not meant to be: Jeff is told to pack his knives and leave. (Later, in exit interviews Jeff groused that he was constantly photographed without his shirt and used as a sex symbol. Uh, have you ever watched Bravo before, Jeff?)
Oh, and don’t forget to vote for Ariane as your Diet Dr. Pepper fan favorite! (Yes, the fan favorite vote is sponsored. Was there ever any doubt?)