Food Network Star 2011, Episode 10: Iron Chef

Hello, I am Iron Chef Zin!

Hello, I am Zin! It is almost over – tonight, the Final Four! Susie is becoming a better person! I am not sure how a reality competition as stupid as this one can make one a better person, but she says she is! Jeff has wished for this a very long time! I do not think “very long time” means the same to him as it does to me. Mary Beth has the burden because a great chef was sent home! I do not know what that means. Vic is no longer Vegas, he is Vic Moea which sounds a little French to me for an Italian mamma’s boy but that is what it is. He deserves to be here! He says so! Ok. He is going to Bring It! I think he has got the hang of these inane inserts.

No Camera Challenge tonight because it is Iron Chef night! They all see their portraits in black-and-white Iron Chef style hanging on the walls of a makeshift Kitchen Stadium. Alton Brown is back! I know people hate him since he lost weight, and he is kind of obnoxious on this show, but I still love him!

There will be two battles, two contestants will face off in each, and two will commentate (I hate this word, but much to my dismay, it is legitimate). Each one will judge the food his or her opponent makes. Each side has an hour. And the four most recently eliminated contestants are brought back as sous chefs – Chris, Penny, Whitney, and Jyll.

Since Jeff won last week, he gets to pick his opponent – Susie! And he says he picked her because she was smiling at him but damn now he realizes he paired himself up with the best cook in the competition! I think he says this because he does not want to seem like he was dissing her as the weakest! I wonder if that is really what he was thinking, or if he was thinking, “She is a ditz.” She is, but the judges have loved her food! No matter, they have loved most of his food, too. And if I am being truly paranoid, I will say, because I still think Susie will be the ultimate winner, they did not want to leave viewers with the impression that anyone thinks she is a weak cook so they made him say that in interview. Jeff also gets to pick his sous chef, and he picks Whitney. No-Brainer!

When Mary Beth sees Penny, she says, “It’s like so many horror movie villains you think are gone.” Yes! And of course as we have known since last week, Mary Beth draws Penny as sous chef. I think they would have had her pick and pick and pick until she drew Penny. I think someone did a magic trick that made sure Penny was the only name in the jar! Susie gets Chris, which makes them the ditziest team on the planet. That leaves Vic with Jyll.

First round, Vic and Mary Beth: The secret ingredient is… Rack of Lamb! Alton Brown does a pretty poor imitation of the Chairman. Mary Beth interviews, “This is where the challenge lies, you can do anything with a rack of lamb.” So she immediately decides to do… three lamb chop dishes. Vic, on the other hand, plans a carpaccio, lamb burgers, and chops.

Mary Beth sees pears and sweet potatoes. Pears are fall, sweet potatoes are winter, so she will do three seasons of lamb, fall, winter, and late winter-early spring. Wait! Lamb is a Spring dish, yes? Spring lamb? Easter lamb? Anyway, she will at least treat her identical cuts of lamb differently, she will grill, roast, and pan sear. Mary Beth is really being stupid in this challenge. I wonder if they have guaranteed her a travel-around-eating show if she throws the game, makes it easy to eliminate her; it takes smarts to screw up a challenge without seeming to screw it up, because she does a great job of that! For one of her dishes, she wants a lot of Umami, “one of the five primary tastes,” so she uses parmesan and walnuts. Hey! Wait! I remember Alton Brown saying he does not believe in Umami! Maybe he has converted! Penny is shown cutting an onion and a sweet potato in slow motion, except it is not slow motion, she really is moving “at the speed of dirt” as Michael Symon says. Giada complains to Alton. Alton calls Penny on her slow pace and she smirks. After all, she wants to be famous as an incredible bitch and all-around horrible person with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It does not matter. Mary Beth is going home no matter what she does.

Vic experiments with his carpaccio, and when he pounds it, it falls apart. He changes to seared extra-rare loin, sliced, which is pretty flexible of him, I am actually impressed. Vic decides to make a lamb burger, because it is all about being the chef you are and knowing it. Ok. He makes grilled frenched chops with mint grand marnier sauce; Michael Symon thinks it sounds awfully sweet because he is using mint jelly, not mint leaves. He makes french fries by frying them three times; “At the same temperature?” asks Alton, with concern. Alton thinks they are burned. Vic tastes one for Susie and her mike, it does sound more like a pretzel than a french fry.

Jeff, who is commentating, says he is calling one dish the Umami Explosion, the name of his high school rock band. Alton asks him how he would include Umami, and Jeff names parmesan and fish sauce but says he can not give away all his secrets since it is a competition! And Alton Brown is charmed, the panel is amused! Jeff is the Hero of Commentating! He also gets a prize for using Umami and Trifecta in the same sentence, though I do not know why that is such a big deal. He is pretty good, I have to say. He does a throw to commercial very smoothly.

Susie admits commentating is going to be difficult for her; she stammers around a little explaining the carpaccio change. She tries to explain the spices, and Alton says, “Would you call it Mediterranean?” She sounds like she’s saying, he’s using basil and sticking to his Italian roots. Alton points out that Italy is pretty much surrounded by the Mediterranean. I think he is being overly fussy. Susie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can understand there can be a difference between “Mediterranean” and “Italian.” She sees white asparagus and Alton asks what the difference is – she says green is more bitter and more “fiber-y-er” and Alton again pokes fun at her. I am no fan of stupid people on TV but I think Alton should stop. He has misspelled words on Good Eats, you know? And he has researchers and writers and rehearsal before he gets on camera.

Round One Tasting:

Vic serves rare seared lamb over arugula with vinaigrette. Mary Beth likes it, but thinks the arugula is not very sharp and the dish is all lush, could use something to cut through it. Everyone else – including Bobby Flay and Michael Simon – thinks it is very good lamb salad. Bobby likes the pistachios and bleu cheese, and Michael thinks it is very balanced with good texture, nice finesse. Bye, Mary Beth!
His Lamb Burger with garlic mayo, balsamic carmelized onion is great. Fogs says this is the best dish she has had from him. Giada loves it. Bobby complains about the fries.
His last dish is lamb chop with mint and grand marnier sauce. They discuss mint jelly. Bobby says mint jelly has no room in the Iron Chef kitchen. Vic interviews, “Well, it was in the kitchen!” and I immediately think of Spike telling Chicago Rick “You had frozen scallops in your cooler” except Vic is smart enough to not say this to the judges. It was a trick ingredient! The third Rail of Kitchen Stadium! Michael Symon says he has never had mint jelly and never will again. Both have just insulted legions of home cooks who proudly serve lamb with mint jelly every Easter Sunday.

Mary Beth presents her winter dish of Israeli couscous, and grilled lamb chop, because she loves to grill outside in winter. I think this is something she made up. Vic says it could have had more seasoning but overall it is a good dish. Michael says it could have used a bright vinaigrette. I think he is getting back at her for the comment she made about Vic’s dish.
The fall pan seared lamb chops with pears, Vic says, is overcooked but overall a good dish. Bob says the elements are beautifully conceived, it is fall on a plate, but the lamb is grey and overcooked.
For late winter-early spring she talks about making a roast when it is still cool, so she served roast lamb chops with sun-dried tomato. Lamb chops are not a roast! And sun-dried tomatoes are not spring! Vic says the lamb is overcooked but overall it is a good dish (he is stuck on repeat). Giada points out that for a lamb challenge, it is not good when the lamb is the worst thing on the plate, but she loves the stories. Mary Beth is the Kelsey of this season, they will keep her around and use her for writing and whip her into shape for a show at some point, but she will not be a cook.

Second Round: Jeff and Susie. The secret ingredient is… Lobster. Jeff is worried, because Lobster is difficult for sandwiches, it gets rubbery if overcooked. I do not think that is unique to sandwiches!

Susie wants to make a ceviche. She gives sous chef Chris instructions on cutting up the lobsters, and he says, “Do you want to cook them first?” Oh, yeah, do that, too. She wants to make a potato cake and use cumin like her grandmother and her mother taught her. Wow, that is only once this episode she has worked that in! She makes enchilladas and uses chard to wrap them.

Jeff makes a lobster roll with tail meat, walnuts, and red onions. It is a good thing Scott Conant is not there! He gets very upset about raw red onion. Michael Symon is skeptical about the walnuts. Jeff will also make a BLAT which is a terrible name for a sandwich – bacon, lobster, avocado and tomato, where the avocado replaces the mayo. Except… oh no… there are no avocados in Mock Kitchen Stadium! So he uses mayo and makes a LBT or LTB which makes me think it is a gay sandwich, without the gay. No, it is a BLAT without the A and BLT is already taken! This is very strange, eventually he just calls it a lobster club, which is what it is after all, thank you! His third dish is baja style lobster taco with radicchio fennel slaw. It dawns on him – without the avocado he is making three sandwiches with store-bought mayo!

Mary Beth is doing ok commentating except Alton keeps asking her very detailed questions. What is the difference between a bisque and a… he never really says “soup” maybe he meant “stew” or “chowder” but we will assume he was going to say soup. She says it is thick and creamy and a nice bed to dive into and sleep for a week, which is a cop-out. I always thought bisque had almost-pureed stuff in it and tiny pieces not quite pureed, but from looking around I see the definition is pretty loose, cream, fish stock, pureed fish, whatever. It is a thick soup! When she says something about sea salt he asks her what type of salt is not sea salt, and she goes bonkers, he reminds her of the Socratic Method in law school, and she holds up kosher salt. He tells her in an aside (and us) that all salt is sea salt, even in salt mines, there is no salt where there was not once a sea. He did this on his “Eat This Rock” show. Which he had researchers and writers for, and time to prepare! They are really letting Mary Beth have it!

Vic is worried about his commentating skills. Vic mentions harissa paste, and Alton asks him what that is. Vic fakes it, peppers, then holds up the tube (which looks exactly like a toothpaste tube) and says, “It is a spicy paste in this tube, it is toothpaste from the devil!” which is a pretty cute dodge (Bobby really cracks up) but Alton tells him to say he does not know and go find out.

Round Two Tasting:

Jeff presents his lobster roll with mayo, onions, walnuts on a potato roll. Susie says the lobster is cooked well and the other stuff is good. Michael Symon likes the walnuts after all, it is a successful dish. Fogs says the elements came together. Bob loves that Jeff saw the lobster roll through his Sandwich King lens. Wait, a lobster roll is a sandwich, how else would you see it???? I think Bob is fishing for something to say because he has been quiet and he needs some screen time.
His baja style taco in tempura batter does not do so well. Bobby says the batter is way to thick. Fogs likes that he reinterpreted a taco.
The lobster club on challah with lobster bisque and caviar: Bobby says the lobster is cooked perfectly. Michael calls him on the mayo, why not make and aoli or at least add acid to the mayo. Giada says if you put lemon in your mayo it will change your life. I think Giada is exaggerating. A lot. I mean, I was stunned when I first used freshly grated black pepper, it was a surprise and I started using it often, but it did not change my life, and I do not think lemon in mayo will do that either.

Susie presents her lobster ceviche with citrus. Jeff likes the texture and crunch. Michael says it was successful. Bob, still looking for something to say, says her verbal presentation is perfect. I think that is what he says. I am not sure. It seems rather strange. Maybe he had outpatient brain surgery earlier today?
Her second dish is the chard enchillada stuffed with lobster sautéed with cumin like her grandmother and mother showed her, zucchini and jalapeno puree. Giada says it is creative. Michael says it is well cooked.
Third is her lobster stew with potato cake. Bob loves the stew, something about sizzling sunshine. I think Bob needs a vacation! Giada loved the smell, knew it was Susie. There is Susie now, I can smell her coming!

As they all wait in their little room, Mary Beth interviews they all have something to bring to the table and it is a hard decision. Not hard at all, Mary Beth.

The Inquisisiton:

Mary Beth: Bobby notes she was handicapped with Penny, but that is life in Kitchen Stadium, you have to overcome adversity (as opposed to life everywhere else, where adversity is unheard of). He admits Alton is tough. Bob says she brings food to life and makes him fall in love with food. That is sad, Bob and a pizza in the wee hours, cooing sweet nothings. Giada says Mary Beth was the best judge, she took it seriously. I thought she screwed up on the lamb salad! Bobby loves the idea of her food but the execution was only 75%. Giada gives her points for eloquence but not execution. None of this is new.

Vic: For the third time they mention his new name. I still say it is French. Bobby says the salad was a good start, the lamb burger was terrific, those two dishes were best in battle, but the lamb chop with mint jelly sauce was the worst. Bob says he has grown more than anyone else in this competition (and if he grows more, he will have to hold his arms straight out). But he struggled with commentating and did not show a base of knowledge. Bob says he did become proactive halfway through and started volunteering info. Bobby thinks he was not an honest judge, every dish was “overall good.” Fogs does not know what “not bad” means. Then the killer: “We are looking for a star, not a student.”

Jeff: Bobby says he was a serious contender since day one. Not so! They thought he was a clown! They harass him over the mayo again. Bob says he charmed Alton brown, and did not know that was possible. He has a quality that can not be taught, and has stuck to his POV from day one. Bobby says his judging was right on. Jeff says he looks like a sandwich. I have no idea what that means.

Susie: Giada remembers begging her to go back to her roots, and see how far she has come! Do not break your arm patting yourself on the back taking credit for Susie, Giada! Everyone told her to go back to her roots! Giada says she approached the challenge as an Iron Chef and mastered the ingredients. Her judging was on point. Her commentating was not that good, she was uncertain, and her authority went out the window. Fogs tells her to say she does not know and will find out instead of making stuff up. Does anyone not think it is strange that she has to be told this?

In the Jeff vs Susie Lobster battle, Susie wins!
In the Vic vs Mary Beth Rack of Lamb battle, Vic wins. They say it was close. I do not believe them.

Mary Beth is out, big surprise! She was doomed several weeks ago, when someone said she had not made any dish that really was a wow, even though her meat loaf wowed Paula Deen. It is like Adam Gertler, once Bobby said he did not have the food knowledge, he was doomed. But he is a Star anyway, and I think Mary Beth will be as well!

Next week, the Finale – Reunion Special at 8pm! Oh, that will be good! In the Finale, one of them goes home after the Camera Challenge, and then Guy Fieri directs the Pilots. I guess Guy Fieri always wanted to direct. The Focus Group will include former contestants. Penny will go after Susie. Penny does not like women. Fortunately for Susie, I do not think it matters any more.

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