Thursday, February 12, 2009

There Won't Be Blood: The Top Chef recap

Admit it, when Stefan overcooked his salmon and it came down to him and Leah in the elimination challenge, you got a little nervous . . . for Stefan. I’ve said it before, Stefan needs the finale and the finale needs Stefan. In its own way, the finale will be all about Stefan. Can Hosea prove his manhood after Stefan said that he “didn’t have the balls to be a Top Chef”? Can Fabio emerge from his BFF’s shadow? Can Carla prove that it’s not outsized ego, sexism, and Euro-chauvism, but in fact love that conquers all?
Only time will tell.

Anyway, whoops. Ruined the ending. Leah goes home. Quelle damage.

So this week’s Quickfire Challenge should’ve been renamed the MidlengthFire Challenge, although I admit that’s not quite as catchy. One hour to make an egg dish? Hell, I can whip up a mean mushroom and cheese omelet in 7 minutes flat.

Since the judge was molecular gastronomy wunderkind Wylie Dufresne, all the contestants felt compelled to go all Richard-from-Season-4 on us, making panna cottas that looked like eggs and eggs that looked like panna cottas. Only Carla decided to eschew the gastro-biology gimmick and make good old fashioned green eggs and ham. Naturally, she won. (Anyone else surprised to hear that Carla used to model? Actually, Carla looks surprised to hear that Carla used to model. . .I kid, I kid.)

I absolutely loved the Elimination Challenge. Each cheftestant was given the task of creating a perfect last meal for one of 5 acclaimed foodies.

Fabio, ever the literal minded one, said, “I wouldn’t want my last meal prepared by a contestant on Top Chef.” (Hey, Fabio, this is a metaphorical last meal, not an actual . . .oh, never mind.)

Carla got chef Jacques Pepin, who wanted squab and peas.

Fabio got Italian chef Lydia Bastianich, who wanted roasted chicken.

Stefan got chef Marcus Samuelsson who wanted salmon and dill.

Hosea got food doyenne Susan Ungaro, who wanted shrimp scampi.

And Leah got our Quickfire judge Wylie Dufresne, who wanted eggs benedict.

Of course, at this precise moment we are all trying to come up with our own perfect last meal, a task I find nearly impossible. I am a food generalist, a jack of all palates you could say—on any given day I’m just as likely to want Thai Drunken Noodles as I am to want a bagel with lox and cream cheese or a spaghetti Bolognese. How will I know what mood I’ll be in on my last day? (Oh wait, duh. . .lousy. In that case, mac and cheese and a half pint of Ben and Jerry’s New York Superfudge Chunk—always works when I’m PMSing.)

At Whole Foods, Stefan is positively giddy with confidence, Leah looks completely lost (it’s week 10 and she still doesn’t know where the eggs and butter are?), and Carla is making adorkably corny puns (“Chef Pepin and I are two peas in a pod.”)

Back in the kitchen, there’s a crashing sound and the next thing you know, Fabio is cradling his finger in pain, being treated by a Top Chef staff medic. (I wonder if Make Me Supermodel also has a medic on standby? Insert bulemia joke here.). Okay, I don’t know about you, but I am totally expecting Fabio's finger to be lying somewhere on the kitchen floor, David Lynch-style. Kitchen injuries usually involve gushing blood and sliced appendages. Color me relieved to see all of his limbs attached.

Despite his handicap, Fabio soldiers on. (“This is Top Chef,” he later explains. “Not Top Pussy.” Hosea seems surprised.)

The last thing Tom Colicchio says to the Cheftestants before dinner is “don’t embarrass me,” which I actually find kind of touching. He really does sort of see the chefs as his kids—kids who can potentially get busted with a bong at a party and have their face plastered all over the national media. (Sorry. . . I digress.)

Leah goes first and her Eggs Benedict are good but the Hollandaise is too thin (in a last minute panic, she thinned it) and her eggs are too runny.
“I like runny eggs,” says Toby Young. Remember, he’s British.

Next up: Stefan. Everyone agrees that his salmon is overcooked and his spinach “cooked two ways” appears to be cooked “one way” as Padma notes, as the cream sauce from the salmon runs onto the plain spinach.

Then we have Carla, who keeps it blissfully simple, with beautifully prepared squab and a bowl of peas. There’s some debate as to whether or not the squab is overcooked (Carla, for one, thinks it is) but Chef Pepin is in heaven. He calls the peas “scrumptious.”

Next there’s Hosea, with his shrimp scampi and tomato Provencal. Toby Young is uninspired, and all agree that Hosea's tomato preparation was too fussy, but for the most part, the judges like it.

Finally, Fabio. Turns out he can cook roast chicken with one hand tied behind his back because the judges go nuts. Chef Pepin declares he’s in heaven. Tom Colicchio says that the roast chicken can be Fabio’s signature dish. I’m not going to lie, it looks incredible. I’m basically salivating at this point. (About the chicken, people. Not about Fabio. Get your minds out of the gutter!)

In the end, Fabio wins, despite making airplane salad.
Leah gets her long overdue boot.

Next stop, New Orleans and guest judge Emeril Lagasse. Brace yourself for a chorus of BAMs!

No comments: