Thursday, November 19, 2009

Living Sous Vida Loca: The Top Chef recap

The curse of Hootie has been lifted.

I am referring, of course, to Season 5’s Carla, she of the perfect peas and the “hootie hoos” and the food so endearing that even Toby Young “tasted the love.” If you recall, she was given the uniquely horrible advice by Casey (grrrr) to prepare her steak sous vide. Carla had never made sous vide before, and predictably, it didn’t end well.

And so it was when Kevin asked Gallant how to cook sous vide (and Gallant, gallantly, told him), I began yelling at the TV screen, “Remember Hootie! Remember Hootie!”

I had heard a rumor that there would be a shocking elimination this week (lies!) and this whole Bocuse d’Or thing seemed set up to make Kevin fail.

You see, Kevin is neither fussy, nor fancy, nor ironical—all the things that apparently make the Bocuse d’Or fly. (It actually reminds me of those crazy Vegas hair shows where some stylist turns a woman’s hair into a bird’s nest).

Of course, I’m not the first to point out that this whole season has been about technique vs. instinct; finesse vs. flavor. Even the recently departed Robin (didya vote for Fan Favorite yet? didya?) fell clearly into the latter category. She made simple, homey food, prepared reasonably well—and was the object of much scorn because of it.

But when it comes to homey food—or, as Goofus snidely said: “The kind of food I make on my day off”—Kevin is the king. The problem with Goofus—and to a lesser extent Gallant and Jennifer—is that he doesn’t get it. In the end, it’s all about flavors. Food is supposed to be delicious, not just show off the cleverness and technique of its preparer.

So the show starts with a Quickfire challenge judged by Bocuse d’Or wunderkind Gavin Kaysen: Make a protein in a protein in a protein, also known as a ballotine. Because they didn’t specifically say ballotine, Goofus got cute and made a terrine and lost.

“I’m confident my ballotine would’ve been as good as the one Gavin made in the Bocuse d’Or,” Goofus sniffed. (Is there any way he can bottle his confidence and sell it in the condiment aisle? Because every once in a while, I’d like to sprinkle a little Goofus on my toast.)

The cutest thing happened when Padma tasted Jennifer’s calamari ballotine. She sneakily said to Jennifer, “Welcome back.” And as if that girl bonding moment wasn’t winning enough, Kevin, having overheard the exchange, winked at Jennifer. Love. Him.

So, yay, Jennifer wins! I’m happy to see her get a bit of her mojo back. And she gets an extra 30 minutes on the Bocuse d’Or challenge, which seems like a damn good time to win such a thing.

So a few more thoughts before we get to the part where the chef’s cook food on platters stolen from the set of
Real Housewives of New Jersey.

•Goofus sleeps in his chef’s coat, which is a lot like a 10-year-old boy sleeping with his catcher’s mitt, and is actually sort of cute.

•Gallant still has faith in his kid brother. After teaching Kevin how to make sous vide, he noted, “My brother might’ve done the same thing. I’m not sure.”

•Did I miss the show where they told us that Eli and Richard Blais had a bromance? Doesn’t make me like Eli any more, but it is a surprising detail.

So at the challenge Goofus’s Mediterrean flavors seemed arbitrary (and Daniel Boulud found a bone in his fish!
sacre bleu!), both Eli’s lamb sausage and Gallant’s crusted loin of lamb were undercooked, Jennifer’s salmon was inconsistently cooked, and Kevin’s preparations were too safe. But all in all, the gang did well. And I don’t know about you, but I got a little misty eyed when the judges gave them a round of applause.

In the end, Kevin prevailed. And if he can win this challenge, which is pretty much contrary to everything he stands for as a chef, I truly believe he's unstoppable at this point. I’d like to think that Goofus learned a valuable lesson from all this—something about the virtues of modesty and simplicity and cooking from the heart—but who am trying to kid? He probably thought he was robbed.

And good news, kids! Eli goes home. It’s the Final Four we all predicted 12 episodes ago.

Next week, the finale and—everyone has funny hair!


Jennifer said...

Yeah--I thnk Kevin will take it!

Looking forward to next week--both the cooking and the Extreme Makeovers!

Cliff O'Neill said...

Re: Eli & Richard. Yeah, they're buds. Which makes me like Richard a bit less. It seems Eli was Richard's sous chef on Iron Chef America or some such.

Also, understand that I didn't know the following without having spent an INSANE amount of time trying to figure out the spelling, but it's actually "ballotine." "Galantine" is something else foodie with which I am equally unfamiliar.

Lastly, you are SO right about the hair show comparison! Perfect analogy!


maxthegirl said...

Fixed! Thanks, Cliff.

fablady said...

gee what will all the Michael hate,I like Kevin too,but come on,when they told him is food wasn't that good in the first row,he said he begged to differ,hey they all are trying to win!