Hello I am Zin and it is time for Magic!
I am sorry to say that means David Copperfield! He is superfluous so he goes away quickly.
Here is something I noticed: Marcel acts like he has never been to Las Vegas! He lived there! They cook for part of the episode in Joël Robuchon, where he was a Master Cook (even before his Top Chef days), and you would not know it from this episode! Is it a secret?
Something else I noticed: He is auditioning for something. I do not know what – I do not believe they are going to let him be an Iron Chef – but he is doing all the fluff stuff and cooperating with the nonsense in a way that tells me he has plans to stay on television! It is somehow disappointing, like when Nadia G breaks her Bitchin’ Kitchen character and becomes just another boring ordinary blonde!
The word of the day is Transcendence! I would like to quiz everyone on set and ask them to define that word. It literally means “going beyond” in the same way “ascendance” means “rising above.” The prefix “trans” means “across, beyond, over, across” type words, and is from the same ancient root as the word “through.” So I suppose in cooking it is something that is better than what has been done before, maybe that takes the item to a new level of wonderful. I think they should stop trying to use such concepts in this show because it is something a of a travesty. Amanda is halfway there when she says the words “transcendence” and “buffet” should not appear in the same sentence. But it is easy to transcend a buffet, yes, because the bar is so low?
That is what they must do: in two teams, create a transcendent Las Vegas buffet featuring… bacon! Two cold and three hot dishes per team!
Since Amanda won last week she gets the advantage of picking her partner, and she picks the person who has the same mentality about food: Nate! Just what mentality about food does she think Alex has, I wonder? Not picking Marcel, I understand. He is clearly the Other, the vehicle through which Food Network chefs display their superiority.
That means Alex is stuck with Marcel. She interviews, “I’m excited about this” fairly deadpan then turns to the side with a disgusted look like she can not believe she is mouthing such crap. That is pretty cheeky for someone who was not good enough for Amanda to pick!
The losing team will head to the Showdown where the pair will stop being a team and will become competitors! Amanda is not happy because she did not know that when she picked Nate! I would love for her to finish that thought and say who she would have picked, who she thought she could beat!
The Fashion Director of some low-budget fashion magazine is on the judging panel. Who is this guy? This is crazy, there have been no guest judges all season, why now? And for the love of all that is holy, why him? He seems to be the visual consultant, which is pretty silly. They are throwing all these publicity hounds into the mix this late in the game! But I do not think his opinion matters much.
Amanda and Nate:
They decide to make everything petite! Instead of an all-you-can-eat buffet it is a buffet of teeny-tiny things! Amanda is upset with Marcel because the 25 lb. canister of sugar is at his station and he will not get it down from the shelf for her because he is cooking! I suppose this is to show us what a bad person he is. She is making an homage to Elvis, a play on his favorite peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Amanda makes a salad and Nate makes country-fried bacon for it by flouring and deep-frying it! He learned this from Good Eats! Poor Alton, I wonder if he had to stop making Good Eats because he now a born-again eater! Nate also makes crepes to redeem himself from the teppanyaki challenge, and he makes bacon peanut brittle which sounds amazing. He does not know from decorating buffet tables, but he knows it must look better than the other team so he pulls some drapes over boxes for height which is a good idea.
BLT Salad with country-fried bacon, romaine, avocado and tomato and bacon-jalapeno-lime vinaigrette: Zakarian loves it as a starter! Simon thinks the dressing is absent.
Lobster and Canadian Bacon crepe: Zakarian thinks it is delightful!
Potatoes and Asparagus roasted in Bacon Fat with maitake mushrooms, asparagus, Canadian bacon and sherry vinegar: Donatella loves it, the magazine guy calls it “pure buffet food, perfectly done.” Is that good or bad?
Honey-Mustard Pork Belly with bacon-and-cheddar biscuit: Donatella thinks the mustard is a little “forward.” Zakarian agrees the mustard is strong but he likes the kick!
Brule banana with peanut butter pudding and bacon peanut brittle with a cherry on top:
The magazine guy says they need a lesson in draping, it should fold under. Donatella says they did not fight the buffet, they embraced it and – guess what – took it to another level! I think they should ban that phrase from all cooking shows!
They are the Winners so they will both be in the Finale!
Marcel and Alex:
Alex says she and Marcel share a French sensibility so that is where they are headed. Alex roasts chickens wrapped in bacon (I saw that on that Ultimate show Tyler Florence had for ten minutes when he went somewhere to watch great food being made by experts, until his budget got cut and he ended up just making stuff and calling it the Ultimate). Marcel says “Pretty birds in a row all golden brown is one of the sexiest things I have ever seen” which makes me wonder if Ilan was right in TC2 when he said Marcel had never had sex. Marcel makes chocolate bacon mousse which Alex worries about because the texture is not right. She is making streusel topping with toasted pecans, butter, bacon fat and sugar to make crispy little nuggets of flavor! He pressure-cooks pork belly then wraps it in bacon so he can call it “bacon-wrapped bacon” but it is really pork belly. Alton seems to question leaving the fat on, but I think the point of pork belly is the fat! I do not get it, it seems disgusting to me, but that is what chefs seem to do! Then again Alton has been on a diet for several years so he has probably not seen any fat lately! Alex blanches leeks and makes a sherry and bacon fat vinaigrette, plus hard-boiled eggs chopped with parsley to mix with them! Alton tells her leeks and bacon are best friends! Yes, Alton, I bet that is why she thought of it! She is a chef you know! Marcel sends Alex out to decorate the buffet table with vases of fruit, and for some reason she goes, but she is not enthusiastic. When they set up at the end, he rearranges the table because he wants it “cleaner” which is pretty obnoxious.
Leeks and hard-boiled eggs with bacon vinaigrette: Zakarian says the leeks are undercooked which is a major flaw. Simon agrees. Yay, they agree on something!
Lobster with bacon beurre monté with roasted fingerling potatoes: Zak thinks everything tastes pretty similar.
Bacon-wrapped chicken: Simon says it is very juicy. Donatella thinks it transcended something! The magazine guy does not like that the chickens were piled in a chafing dish “like golden bowling balls,” it was unappealing. Wait – they were kept warm there, then taken out for carving, yes? It is not like the guests had to fish one out?
Bacon-wrapped pork belly with Brussels sprouts: Donatella calls it stellar.
Bacon Chocolate Mousse with Streusel Topping: nobody likes it, it is grainy and the streusel overwhelms it. Donatella thinks it is the worst dish of the day.
They are the losers and go to the Secret Ingredient Showdown to see who goes to the final challenge!
Secret Ingredient Showdown:
It is no surprise that Alex and Marcel are sent to the Showdown! Even the dishes that did well were not lavished with praise like even the worst dishes of the other team were! No one has ever accused the Food Network of being subtle!
It is the first time Alex has ever been in a Showdown! How did that happen? It is the third time for Marcel. There are a lot of conspiracy theorists over on TWoP who think the fix was in for Alex from the start since she acts as sous chef for Zakarian on ICA, but I did not realize she was never in a Showdown before! Maybe they are right! I would like to see a woman back on Iron Chef (and more color) but I am not enthusiastic for either Amanda or Alex like I was for Falkner!
The Secret Ingredient is: Chocolate Candy! All kinds of Candy from one Candy Company! White chocolate, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut butter and chocolate candy. They must make a savory holiday dish using two different types of candy in 30 minutes!
There is a problem with these Holiday theme shows, including Chopped and Top Chef: for all the screaming about using local and fresh ingredients, they are filming these in the summer so any holiday produce they bring in is either imported (and not as fresh) or forced. Then they end up making summer produce which just seems silly! But that is TV cooking!
Alex makes duck breast and a salad from her childhood of fennel and dried cherries with white chocolate shaved on top as “snow” and pink peppercorns as Christmas balls! She also has a duck heart that is dipped in egg wash, breaded in panko, and fried, then dusted in dark chocolate, and red wine onions in red wine balsamic and bay leaf covered with grated chocolate. Donatella loves the heat (what heat?) and the touch of sweet so it is a success! But the duck heart was underseasoned! Simon thought using duck with chocolate was smart! She made a lot of things – duck, duck heart, salad, onions – but I am not sure grating chocolate over everything is all that creative! But the duck heart and all those components get her points! It is one of those things that no one would ever bother to cook. Or eat. I would not eat it for Christmas dinner. If someone served me a little breaded duck heart on my plate I would think they hated me!
Marcel uses lamb as a traditional holiday protein (I thought lamb was Easter, spring?) so he sears and roasts a whole rack, but it is not cooked so he has to cut it apart and finish off the chops! If he watched Chopped he would know the rack would not cook in 30 minutes! It never does! He makes a caponata which he describes as a mix of “summer vegetables” – see? Summer veggies are not Christmas! But what they have is eggplant so he does the caponata with dark chocolate and milk chocolate on top. And he makes a risotto, which makes everyone groan because risotto = fail! Then he burns it! Then he starts over – which is pretty amazing since time is ticking away – with sushi rice to speed up the process, and adds white chocolate and curry spices. After they finish cooking, he goes over to Alex and says “Good battle, Chef” and she seems taken by surprise! I do not think they consider him one of them, he is an Interloper! At judging, Simon says he shuddered at the thought of white chocolate curry risotto, but it is the best thing on the plate! His lamb is undercooked – “If it had been any more undercooked it would have been following Bo Peep around” – and is a little tough. Zakarian likes his lamb, it is perfect, and the risotto is delicious! Donatella likes the eggplant, which acted like a sponge for the chocolate!
And the winner is… Alex! SoMarcel is out! But I have a feeling he will be back in some capacity on Food Network! He did too much oohing and aaahing over David Copperfield!
Finale! I do not know how that works, do they throw someone off then have the Kitchen Stadium thing? I thought they had that in a separate episode! But maybe I am misremembering!