Thursday, September 10, 2009

French Kiss-Off: The Top Chef Vegas recap

Before I start this recap, I must recount a chilling phone conversation I recently had with my mother, also an avid foodie and Top Chef fan.
“You do know what restaurant Michael I is from, right?” she asked.
“Luigi’s Emporium of Douchiness?” I responded.
“No, Zaytinya.”
It was impossible.
You see, I have eaten at Zaytinya, a Greek and Mediterranean tapas restaurant in D.C. But it’s more than that: I have worshipped Zaytinya, I have silently bowed to the food gods who preside over Zaytinya. I have celebrated major life passages at Zaytinya. For Zaytinya, you see, is awesome. And therefore, Michael I, on some level, must also be awesome.
I am so confused.

Anyway, as I work out my conflicting emotions over Bizarro Affleck, let’s move onto the show, which started with guest judge Daniel Boulud dropping a major twist: Not only would the winner of the Quickfire Elimination Challenge, which was to make an intriguing dish using snails, get immunity, but the loser would be immediately asked to pack up his or her knives and go home!

Cut to 14 chefs escargo-ing in their pants.

The general consensus is this: Snails are ugly, they’re not that tasty, and no one knows how to cook them. Good times. To make matters worse, Daniel Boulud proved to be the most inscrutable of guest judges. “Interesting,” he kept saying, as the he nibbled on snail fricassee, snail soup, and snail sandwich.

Somehow Kevin managed to win the challenge by cooking snails in bacon jam. Ewww, right?

The bottom three were Ashley, Jesse, and Robin, who have a certain something in common—but I can't quite place what is. Hmmmm, what can it be . . .what can it be. . .? Oh, who am I trying to kid? They’re all freakin’ FEMALES. Good lord, women, pull yourselves together. This is getting embarrassing.

Anyway, the 3 luckless ladies have an amuse-bouche-off to determine the loser. Poor put-upon Jesse makes some sort of under-seasoned tuna tartare and loses.

“The thing I want people to know is that I don’t suck this bad,” says Jesse on her way out. And let’s just leave it at that.

The Elimination Challenge is this: Pair up to make French food for a veritable Mt. Rushmore (arc de triomphe?) of French chefs: Boulud, Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, Jean Joho, and Christ-in-an-apron himself, Joel Robuchon.

“I’m nervous to eat in front of this man, let alone cook for him,” says Tom Colicchio, just in case the cheftestants weren’t sufficiently freaked out enough.

Kevin got immunity, which meant that he would not have to cook, but would instead be dining with the masters. (His awkward little suit and gulping, golly-gee-whiz enthusiasm at the dinner table was pretty much the cutest thing ever.)

So Mattin was all in his element, because he’s French you know—even though I have secretly suspected that he is just faking it. I mean, if I were some kid from Ohio pretending to be French, I’d slap on a red neckerchief and say things like, “Isn’t French cooking ze best?” But I digress. . .

With Kevin out of the game, it comes down to the pairings of Goofus and Jennifer and Gallant and Michael I.

(Oh, by the way, Michael I did not have a Douchetastic moment of the Week ™ this week. And that’s not just because I love him and want to marry him now that I know he’s the head chef at Zaytinya. He was just happier this week. Maybe it was Gallant’s always courteous and helpful influence.)

Ashley was paired with Mattin (he’s French, ya know) and she kept trying to suggest things like an asparagus veloute sauce, and he kept shooting her down. He wanted to make the sauce with bacon. (You can’t go wrong with Colicchio and bacon, can you? Or can you? Dun-dun-dunnnn.)

At the judging table, it was revealed that Joel Robuchon doesn’t speak English, which didn’t stop Gail from nodding knowingly at every word he said.

At first Chef Boulud was a little snarky about Gallant and Michael’s clever little deconstructed bĂ©arnaise and trout.
“If you mix the ingredients, you’ll have a bĂ©arnaise” he said, and haters of high-concept cuisine across the globe wept with gratitude. But in the end, he had to admit that it was pretty tasty.

They also loved Jennifer and Goofus’s rabbit and mustard sauce. The rabbit, said Robuchon, was cooked to perfection.
(That’s “le perfection” in French.)

Hector and Ash didn’t fare quite as well with their chateaubriand au poivre. According to Gail, the steak looked like it had been “hacked with a knife.” Never good.

They also didn’t dig Mattin and Ashley’s poisson with veloute sauce because the sauce tasted too much of. . . wait for it. . .bacon. Foiled by bacon! Oh, the humanity.

Afterwards, Chef Robuchon said that “any of the young candidates can come work for me” And while he didn’t bother to add, “But not you, Hector and Robin,” it was implied.

So the top 4 were Team Goofus and Team Gallant (do I smell an actual Top 4 of the show? Only Kevin can break up this little gang of four). Gallant wins and Goofus is bummed and Michael I sort of makes up for both losing and winning last week and Jennifer remains unstoppable.

Bottom four: Ashley and Mattin and Hector and Ash.

Mattin lies about Ashley’s asparagus veloute suggestion and brilliantly points out it was their “first shot” at working together so it isn't fair to judge. Oh, Frenchie, you have a lot to learn.

Hector admits that hacking up his chateau was a big mis-steak. (Heh.)

And ladies and gentleman, someone with a beard and an adam’s apple is actually going home! Good bye, Hector! Someone had to be the first dude to go, and it was you.


TROLL Y2K said...

Great review. I think they wanted to set Mike from Joisey up as the "villian" in editing. And he's not really that bad a guy and not a bad cook at all.

Brian said...

Knowing the Voltaggio brothers, having eaten at Zatinya, and at Le Bernardin (where Jennifer was sous chef), I'd picked the four of them from the beginning as the ones to beat. Mike I isn't showing off his best stuff yet.

I do think that the two from Atlanta, Kevin and Eli, might be spoilers, though.

Stephanie said...

Im curious if you thought Robuchon's reaction to Mattin's French indicates that he might not be the born-speaker he claims to be.

maxthegirl said...

I'm only kidding about Mattin not really being French. . .but Robuchon's reaction WAS curious. (It reminded me of that scene in the bar in Inglorious Basterds with the British secret agent. "Your German is strange. . .") If Mattin starts wearing a beret, I'll know we're in trouble.

Cliff O'Neill said...

What a curious theory about Mattin! We're eating in his restaurant (and watching the show there) in a couple of weeks. I think I'll try to trip him up by asking him to name his favorite Jerry Lewis flick.

Great recap, doll!