Thursday, September 24, 2009

For He’s a Jolly Good Paella: The Top Chef recap

This episode starts with the most poignant image ever: Mattin’s abandoned red scarf, lying forlornly on his unused pillow.

Sadly, this tender image does not reflect the overall mood of today’s show.

You see, it may be a competition, but everyone in the house can agree on one thing—that Robin is subpar. She’s not up to snuff. She doesn’t have it what it takes. She’s not in-it-to-win-it. Whatever phrase you can come up with to say that they all think she sucks.

And such is the way that I watch reality TV: I am now Robin’s number one fan. (The only thing I hate more than a bully? A pack of bullies. This is how I once found myself rooting for quite possibly the most unsavory contestant in the history of Top Chef, Marcel.)

The Cheftestants are so united in their belief that Robin deserves to be manning the grill at a Denny’s, that just for a brief, barely perceptible second, they consider not letting her into their super-cool red scarf Mattin tribute club. They relent and give her the scarf, which she ties around her arm, gangster style.

Chef Michelle Bernstein is the guest judge and the Quickfire is to make a dish that represents the angel and the devil inside you. This is a very clever concept executed with varying degrees of literal-mindedness by the chefs. (Gallant, for example, makes white and dark chocolate, which actually lands him in the—gasp!—Bottom 3.)

The good news? Robin wins with her salad and apple crisp—the salad representing the healthy way she was supposed to eat when she got diagnosed with lymphoma; the crisp representing the sweet goodness she wanted to eat. And yes, bitches—she gets immunity. Huzzah!

Then something truly unexpected occurs: Eli reveals himself to be an ass. (Did anyone else see Eli’s assitude coming? Me neither. He just seemed like your garden variety hipster nerd to me.)

“That’s a pretty easy way to win a Quickfire: Ohhhh, when I had cancer I could eat this. . .” Eli says mockingly. Yes, boys and girls, he’s mocking the lady with cancer.
Something tells me Fan Favorite is no longer in the offing for him.

So Penn and Teller show up and do some tricks with wadded up balls of tin foil and limes and juggling then they explain the trick is misdirection, but I still have no idea how they did it, mostly because I’m preoccupied by the fact that these two never age. Have you noticed that? The greatest misdirection of all: Eternal middle age.

The Elimination Challenge is to make a dish using illusion—oh no, wait, that challenge was taken up by the Doogie Howser episode of Top Chef: Masters. Instead, it’s to deconstruct classic dishes, like pot roast and caesar salad.

In a shocking twist, Jennifer is disgruntled with her dish: meat lasagna. Is that girl ever gruntled?

More bad news: Toby Young is back as a guest judge. Oh joy.

Michael I gets Eggs Florentine and he doesn’t know what that is. He calls them “Eggs Foreign to Me”—which is crazy. Two weeks ago they’re making veloute sauces without batting an eyelash and this week Michael doesn’t know about an inescapable brunch staple? (I mean, I half expect McDonald’s to come up with a McEggs Florentine in the next few weeks.)

So Goofus is all in his element, making a caesar salad with homemade brioche croutons. This gets Gallant’s goat: “Michael’s baking his own bread,” he says, clearly wishing he’d thought of it first. “Show off.”

Proof that karma is, indeed, a bitch, Eli’s pressure cooker explodes.

Ron is supposed to make paella, which is good, because he makes it all the time, but bad, because he has no idea how to deconstruct it.

Kevin, who has chicken mole negro, promises to redeem himself for a previous mole sauce fiasco.

Jennifer keeps fretting over her lasagna.

And it’s time to serve.

There’s some naughtiness involving Padma and bull’s testicles and Penn doesn’t like Gallant’s tuna reuben and Tom calls Ron’s paella a “sad plate of food” (if Ron had tied Mattin’s scarf around that plate, it would’ve truly been a tear-jerker.)

Teller, of course, doesn’t speak, which is hard, but I did observe one small advantage to being a mime: It’s a license to make faces at Toby Young.

(Inside, we are all making faces at Toby Young.)

So the Top 3 are Ashley (pot roast), Goofus (that Caesar), Kevin (chicken mole) and, yes, Jennifer, who has lost a bit of her mojo, but can still cook.

Ash is still griping over Robin’s Quickfire win.
“I guess I’ll just make salads and crisps next time,” he says. “Apparently, that’s how you win.”

And somewhere, Eli’s mother is sighing with relief that her son isn’t the only insensitive ass on TV this week.

So Kevin wins. And the bottom 3 are Ash, Ron, and Laurine.

Everyone piles on Ron’s paella.

“My problem with the dish,” starts Padma, “leaving aside the mushy rice and overcooked seafood. . .” (Does she really even need to finish that sentence?)

And Toby pronounces paella with two hard “l”s, which is such an Anglo-centric thing to do. And apparently, Michelle Bernstein is a Latino, which means she’s either a Sephardic Jew, married to a Jew, or the world’s first non-Jewish Bernstein. Discuss among yourselves.

I almost thought Ash was going to go home for his non-shepherdy Shepherd’s Pie. But, alas, it is Ron.

God, I hope Robin kicks just a tiny bit more ass next week.


Linda said...

Deliciousity as usual . . . I always seem to end up watching the latest TC at 2 am (you know how it replays in an endless loop on wednesday night), so Max, your recap is a deliriously delightful way to assure myself that what I thought I hallucinated really happened. Bull's testicles indeed . . . did Penn really say that to Padma???

Cliff O'Neill said...

Wonderful recap, as usual!

I find it funny that (perhaps owing to the viewing circumstances where I saw this episode) I totally missed the fact that everyone was doing scallops! Odd!

Beth Rang said...

You're absolutely right. They never age. Eternal middle age truly is the ultimate misdirection.

Gee, I thought I was the only one who was wondering how a Bernstein was Latino. I went with the Sephardic Jew option before I read your post, but now I'm wondering about the other options you came up with.