Thursday, October 8, 2009

Adventurous Nutty Americans: The Top Chef Vegas recap

Oh hey, Top Chef. Nice of you to join us this week. Hope it wasn't too much of an inconvenience for you. . .

So the word of today is hyperbole.
Let’s define it.

Hyperbole: –noun Rhetoric.
1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”

Look, we’ve all used hyperbole from time to time. Sometimes I look back at old movie reviews of mine and cringe at the “performance of a lifetime” or “film for the ages” that I’ve dropped. (On second thought, Made of Honor really wasn't all that good.)

But Ash took hyperbole to a whole new level in praising Goofus. I mean, what WAS that? Cleaning Picasso’s brushes? Why not add, scrubbing Gandhi’s toilet? Or sharpening Einstein’s pencils? (I just realized that my analogies were no more outrageous than Ash’s. And that’s because it’s IMPOSSIBLE to come up with an analogy that is more outrageous than Ash’s.)

So I repeat: What was that?

Is Ash just totally over the competition and wants out? Is he majorly crushing on Goofus? Does he really believe that Goofus is a culinary genius and that he, Ash, is a mere foot servant? I have no idea.

But the question: Would Ash’s act of self-sacrifice be his undoing? (This cliff hanger would work a lot better if 99 percent of you hadn’t already watched the episode.)

The episode started out harmlessly enough. The Cheftestants were forced to crank a slot machine and play a kind of culinary Mad-Libs—making dishes inspired by random word pairings like “nutty, tangy Latin American” and “blue cheesy Middle Eastern.”

One of the words that many of the Cheftestants got was “umami,” which basically is a kind of savory, earthy flavor, mostly associated with mushrooms.

At this point, Eli seems perfectly content to let his asshole flag fly and hogged most of the mushrooms.

The guest judge was Tyler Florence and he was so supportive of the food he liked (“good job!” and “I love your flavor combinations!”) that it was doubly awkward when he just chewed and stared.

Jen was sick and forced to be an “Adventurous Nutty American”—which is pretty funny, when you think about it.

Anyway, the bottom 3 were Eli, Jen, and Robin.

The Top 3 were Kevin, Goofus, and Michael I.

And Kevin wins! Just like Robin in the first episode, Kevin was offered the high stakes option: immunity or $15,000. He took the 15 grand, which was the right move. Look, on the first day of the competition, before you know the lay of the land and the pecking order, you take the immunity. But at this point, if you don’t think you can win, what are you still doing there? (Yes Ash, I’m talkin’ to you.)

So Padma tells the chefs there’s going to be a dinner party and, because they apparently forgot to TiVo seasons 1 through 5, they are totally fooled.

“It’ll be nice to have a night off,” they all agree.

But surprise, surprise! They’re not attending the dinner party, they’re making the dinner party! Who could’ve possibly seen that coming?

And this is not just any dinner party. This is a party for the prestigious, highly coveted, internationally renowned. . . Macy’s Culinary Council? (Macy’s and Culinary and Council seem like another one of the random word pairings that came off the Quickfire slot machine.)

So the chefs are paired up to make food for the members of this august body, who include the likes of Tom Douglas and Nancy Silverton.

Eli and Ashley are making prawns and gnocchi and beets.

Michael I. and Robin are making seared tuna and pickled Asian pear.

Ash and Goofus are making a deconstructed ravioli carbonera and halibut.

Jennifer and Kevin are making barbecue kobe beef in a cardamom broth.

Gallant and Laurine are making . . . wait, what the hell are they making? (Top Chef chose to completely ignore this no-drama duo during the cooking portion of the telecast.) Turns out they were making pan roasted halibut, for what it’s worth.

So Michael I reverted to his douchey ways and kept patronizing Robin and trying to fix her food and ignoring her insight into Asian flavors. Whatevs.

Goofus had a meltdown when he lost power on his wok and had to recook his halibut. Ash cleaned Goofus’s utensils.

At one point, Eli just randomly announced “beets and prawns. It makes sense. It just fucking makes sense.” And Ashley walked away, disgusted.

Before judging, Goofus and Gallant have their first tender moment since the time when Gallant got a bike for Christmas and Goofus got a lousy ski jacket (cause he ripped his old ski jacket in recess) and Gallant said, “You can have my old bike, buddy. And we’ll fix it up together and make it super fast!” and the whole Voltaggio family hugged and laughed.

Turns out, Goofus is not feeling too good about his twice-cooked halibut. And when he’s vulnerable, he loses that cocky edge and goes crying to Gallant, who is always there for him, as a proper big brother should be.

The Top 2 teams were Jennifer and Kevin and Gallant and Laurine. Both dishes were super yummy, but Jennifer’s cardamom broth was heaven and she wins a $10,000 Macy’s gift card.

“Kevin will get a suit out of this,” she says, putting the Macy’s husky department on alert (I kid, I kid).

The bottom 2 were Ash and Goofus and Ashley and Eli.

Back in the waiting room, Kevin rather innocently began speculating about what Goofus had put in his dish and Gallant would have none of it.
“I’m tired of dissecting other people’s dishes!” he said tersely. When Gallant is mad, we all suffer.

Cut to Ash’s show of Biblical devotion to Goofus and Goofus not sure whether to be pleased, embarrassed or freaked out.

Meanwhile, Ashley and Eli had undercooked their prawns and overcooked their gnocchi—and besides, who the hell thinks prawns and gnocchi go together anyway?—and Ashley is OUT.

Can I just say something? I understand that Top Chef has a policy of booting a person from the team that made the worst dish. And I understand that the prawns and gnocchi were worse than the dry halibut. But Ash should’ve gone. He’s mediocre and, worse than that, he knows it. Ashley, on the other hand, was actually showing some promise.

Oh well. Next week, a smackdown between Goofus and Gallant! That is, if Top Chef can take time out of its busy schedule to be on next week. . .


Jennifer said...

Umami--who knew? I had never heard that term until last night!

cjcat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cjcat said...

I've been having issues with blogger and having trouble getting logged in so I haven't commented here but I've been following your recaps for both Top Chef and PR for awhile. I really love them and I always look forward to reading them.

I agree about Ash and I think he would have been gone if those prawns had been done better. Tom also seemed against her dish's entire concept and Toby was on board with that as well with his comment of how heavy that was for an outdoor summer meal. Ashley just seemed tired and not on her game. I bet she caught Jen's cold. So everything conspired against her.

(Sorry about the deleted comment. I made a big old typo, too embarrassing to leave alone.)

Cliff O'Neill said...

Oh dear. I felt so bad for Ash. Mostly because I would normally be the person saying something so horribly embarrassing that will be forever enshrined in people's memories of me.