Coming up... Bigfoot Goulash
We start with last week: before the chefs have rehydrated from all that sweating in the Kitchen from Hell, Padma strolls in. I just noticed (actually, I noticed it on the 8pm repeat tonight) Padma’s wearing a tracheostomy tube. Or maybe it’s a rabbit’s foot on a dog collar, or six inches of penis. Or a Bigfoot penis. I don’t know what it is masquerading as jewelry around her neck. But its awful. I’m surprised I didn’t notice it last week. I think I was so traumatized by the yellow jeans in the Quickfire, I blocked out everything else she wore that night. Lindsay interviews she hopes they’re not going to have to cook more; she wants out of the 140 degree kitchen. Padma tells them to pack their bags, they’re going to Austin. Sarah loves Austin, it’s a city of music, food, and fun. Paul‘s happy since it’s his home town, he’s happy to represent.
ChrisC gets the product placement line (“We all hop in our blahdedy blah cars…”) and en route, we learn he’s been christened Malibu Chris because of the extraordinary care he takes to make his hair look good. There’s also a light-hearted mock interview asking Heather what kind of guy she’s looking for, and would she pick a night with John Tesh or $5000 and immunity. She takes the night with John Tesh (big mistake, Heather), which confuses me completely until I realize it’s John Besh they’re talking about. I’m still confused – I don’t get the attraction – but at least I understand where they picked him from. It’s still the wrong decision.
She interviews, “You know, I’m 40, and I sometimes wonder where would I be if I’d started a family ten years ago?” I wonder if that has something to do with her attitude towards Beverly. The plot thickens. Is Beverly is the first female TC contestant to have a child? A few of the guys – Blais, the Volts – had kids, but none of the women. (eta: thanks to Laura for correcting this – there have been several female contestants with children, most notably, Antonia who mentioned her daughter so many times, I’m embarrassed I forgot.)
We learn Paul was a weed dealer when he was younger – age 15 to 22, which is too wide a span to be the proverbial rough period in his life – and one day he came home to find his apartment trashed, and his dog crapped all over the place, so he moved to Austin and decided to be a cook. I’m not sure what the connection is between dog crap and Austin and cooking, but it’s very interesting backstory. So many impressive cooks started out as shady characters you wouldn’t want your daughter to date. Looking at you, Bourdain.
They meet up with Padma and Tom in the Le Cordon Bleu kitchen in Austin. I see, they’re going from Le Cordon Bleu to Le Cordon Bleu, wandering around Texas. But this is the last stop until they go to wherever the finale is being held.
Padma gives them a quick history of Twitter, how it was unveiled in 2007 at the SXSW conference. They’re going to take Twitter suggestions for Quickfire challenges. This sounds pretty half-assed to me, since this happened months ago so it isn’t like it’s interactive with viewers now. ChrisJ says the cooks at Moto twitter back and forth with their customers while they’re cooking their dinners, send them live pictures of their meals being prepared to get them interested in the very expensive food they’ve already ordered. I’d rather have them cooking my food than tweeting me about it. Maybe the food at Moto isn’t the point, and that’s why ChrisJ can’t seem to cook his way out of a paper bag. The QF winner will get $10,000 but no immunity. What happened to immunity this season? I understood it last week with the pairs, but it seems to be an infrequent thing.
The first tweet is all about bacon, so the assignment is to create a bacon dish in 45 minutes. Beverly starts braising pork belly in a pressure cooker; she’s never used a pressure cooker before, but she thinks she’ll try it. I’m not sure about all this “I never did this before” stuff, it reminds me of Anya never sewing silk, never making pants, whatever. I don’t think it’s anything to brag about for a professional chef. They should all sew silk by now. And know about pressure cookers. ChrisJ plans a scallop with bacon and corn, but leaves some leeway since he figures some changes are going to come in.
And he’s right. Second tweet: #hashtag challenge – make hash as one component of the bacon dish. Edward isn’t happy, he was doing a bacon paté, and now he has to stop and make hash. Grayson is going German; she was making potato pancakes so hash is fine with her, and as long as she doesn’t have to incorporate a cupcake, she’ll be fine. Heh. But I think cupcakes are past their prime. If it’s on Food Network, it’s probably passé.
Third tweet: each chef has to pick an ingredient for another chef. Malibu Chris gives Lindsay sriracha; she gives him maple syrup. She says the least he could’ve done was open the sriracha bottle for her; he asks if that’s what a Southern gentleman would do, and she says no, any gentleman would. Everyone’s really friendly with Malibu Chris, aren’t they. I wonder if any hanky panky goes on at these things. The cameras can’t be rolling allthe time. Edward gets sriracha and isn’t happy. Grayson has to add a tomatillo so she purees it and uses it as a sauce; she’s worried her plate is a jumbled mess. I’d have to say tomatillo sauce on German food could give that impression. Then again, it could work.
Tom and Padma taste:
Paul: crispy bacon, bacon fat, blackberries, asparagus, chorizo and mushroom hash, and clams. Padma says it’s very interesting in a way that sounds positive. Tom says it’s unusual, it shouldn’t work but it does, and you know when they say that sort of thing, that’s the ball game. Paul wins. He’s happy to get the first win in Austin. He’s won a total of $30,000.
Beverly: she pulls the pork belly out just before service, and puts a ginormous chunk of it in her mouth to taste. I would think it would be super hot, but she just chomps down on it. She serves crispy pork belly with corn, bell pepper and habanero hash. Tom says it’s a nice dish with subtle flavors; she’s in the top.
Sarah: burrata-stuffed squash blossom with zucchini hash. The hash is crispy, it’s a nicely fried fritter and the flavor is not over the top. She’s in the top. She wants to win, since she hasn’t won any money yet, but not this QF.
Ty-lör: maple glazed bacon with bacon and kale hash. It looks awful as Tom’s eating it, strings hanging down, but that’s what kale is.
Heather: bacon jam (I have to find out how to make that), smoked paprika quail (not the General Tso’s Quail Hugh’s blog jabs with, but I wish I’d thought of that line) and leek hash.
Malibu Chris, bacon-wrapped monkfish with maple syrup.
Grayson: shrimp puff with crispy bacon hash cake. Tom asks why is she calling it a puff? To put light and fluffy in the mind. Doesn’t work; he says the puff was like wet mousse, which is an incredibly gross description, and she just plopped a piece of bacon on top. She’s in the bottom.
Edward: potato and cocoa nib hash with braised bacon and mustard deglazed with sriracha. He figures Ty-lör gave him the sriracha because he assumed he was doing something Asian, and he had trouble fitting it in. It looks awful, like a lump of congealed Stove-Top Stuffing. Tom says the hash is burned and very bitter. He’s in the bottom. It’s the first time he’s been in the bottom on a QF, and he’s not pleased.
ChrisJ: corn puree with bacon, potato hash and seared scallop. Tom says the scallop is realy well cooked but the dish is much too salty. I thought Richie was the Moto boy with the salty palate, maybe it’s contagious. He’s in the bottom.
Tom tells them the drinks are on him in the hotel bar, but don’t go getting crazy. Uh oh, something’s up; we know it, but the chefs don’t seem to get it yet. They look like they’re really having fun together. Edward asks why the girls and guys are separated, so Heather and Grayson invite Malibu Chris to sit between them on this little loveseat and the three of them do a little playful flirting. A piano player starts in, then announces Patti LaBelle. The chefs all have this look on their faces, like, “Is this the real Patti LaBelle or is it an impersonator who’s going to make us cook with marmalade or something?” But it’s the genuine article, and she does a riff on Lady Marmalade, and Padma joins her on stage to announce the elimination challenge.
Tomorrow night they’ll cook a dinner that’s inspired by the person who first taught them to cook. Patti learned from her mother, father, and aunts; they all cooked with feeling, and all cooks have soul. Maybe all good cooks do. They’ll have two hours to cook. The challenge is to tell their story in a tribute dish. ChrisJ says his grandmother’s steak dinners were influential. Sarah talks about her grandparents, how they made everything from scratch, and cries because they aren’t dead yet. Wait, that doesn’t sound right: she knows they’re getting older so they won’t be around much longer. Her grandmother made stuffed cabbage and her grandfather still makes sausage, so that’s where she’s headed.
Heather learned to cook from her mom, who did a lot of one-pot meals, so she’ll do beef stroganoff. She’s using rib eye; is that what you use for stroganoff? I would think it would be more like chuck (and Tom’s blog confirms that, though he suggests shoulder, shanks and bellies). Grayson used to stand next to her dad when he was grilling, so she wants to grill a rib eye, but all the meat looks really lean and she’s worried. Wait, it’s Texas, you can’t get good rib eye in Texas? Again, Tom’s blog comes to the rescue – prime vs choice. That’s why steak in a restaurant tastes so good, it’s all prime, whereas the supermarkets sell choice. And then there’s debate in some circles about whether it was grass-fed, which could be the case. I don’t know anything about what that does to beef. I just remember Tom telling Elia he can’t use grass-fed beef because he runs a steak house, and I figured that was an important distinction, like grass-fed beef isn’t good for steaks.
The next morning Beverly puts her “You have won” sign up on the mirror again. It’s a little tattered at this point. She’s been showing pictures of her 4-month old. She says there’s a lot of bullying going around, and she misses her family, she’s never been away from them this long, but she has to keep strong. Malibu Chris notices ChrisJ‘s pants are sagging, exposing an inch of plumber’s crack (now there’s an image I can’t get out of my head, thanks, Bravo), and warns him, “Crack kills.” Ty-lör’s inspiration is the chicken tenders his Japanese nanny used to make for him. Edward‘s grandmother was poor and made a lot of vegetarian foods; she kept him from being a delinquent by making him get haircuts. He’s eating dry cereal off a plate, piece by piece. I do that a lot. But I use a bowl. He and Ty-lör are talking about his making a vegetarian plate; Ty-lör tells him that takes balls, and Edward assures him he has balls and he’s going to show ’em. Please don’t. I’m sure they’re delightful, but I’d rather ponder the mystery. Or not. After all, I’ve still got the crack in my head. Where’d I put the brain bleach?
Paul remembers his grandmother making adobo, a Filipino dish. It was the first thing she ever taught him to cook; he’s going to add some Texas flavor and make it with quail. Grayson’s asking Malibu Chris about his dish; she thinks he says he’s Amish but no, he said “homage.” He’s from Ohio and his uncle used to take him fishing, he had all these techniques for cooking fish which is a good thing since his mom wasn’t much of a cook.Beverly‘s mom is the reason she loves cooking. Seeing her in the kitchen inspired her to be a housewife. There she goes again, being interesting. I don’t know if Beverly really is as interesting as she sounds or if she’s just lined up all these things to pull out as needed to get air time. She’s going to make galbi jjim, braised short ribs. Korean, of course. Take that, Heather. But it’s kind of required to make a family-inspired dish for this challenge. She wants to use a pressure cooker since it worked well in the Quickfire.
Emeril is the judge, and two friends of Patti LaBelle join the table. Emeril says his dish would be his mom’s Portuguese kale soup with chorizo. You know, I thought this was going to be about professional mentors, like Sarah and Tony, Beverly and Edward, but it’s about family. This is why I’m not a cook: I don’t have any warm and fuzzy family meal memories. The first meal I ever remember was my aunt making buttered egg noodles after my mother died. My aunt Ebba made a Swedish coffee bread called Vetebrod which I still make sometimes this time of year (not this year). That’s about it. The rest was Alpha-Bits and ordinary xenophobic suburban food. I wouldn’t eat Chinese food or pizza until I was in my 20s.
ChrisJ is up first, with a miniature steak dinner. He credits his grandmother (Mommy Too, or II, or 2, I’m not sure) with Friday night steak and potatoes, so he made lemon pepper New York strip steak with baked potato and veggies and an A1 demiglace. Wait… A1? A chef is using A1? That didn’t sound like a product placement either (or I wouldn’t have named the brand). Emeril likes the steak, but he might not have used the A1, (definitely not product placement) which makes Tom smile. Patti says he veggies are excellent, and it was a nice presentation.
Heather talks about her mom, queen of the one-pot, and her beef stroganoff, herbed spaetzel, roasted mushrooms and citrus crema. Emeril doesn’t know what cut of meat it is. Patti says, “Big Foot” for the best line of the night. The look on her face is priceless; like “WTF are you people making me eat?” It does look like some kind of jungle slime with hay on top. Emeril says it’s like a banquet at one of those hotels Tom drags him to; Tom looks innocent, “Who, me?” and Padma doesn’t want to know.
Sarah is worried in the kitchen because her plate doesn’t look that pretty whereas Paul, who she’s serving with, has a gorgeous plate. She tells the table about her granny and gramps and presents cabbage stuffed with sausage and brown butter and balsamic. Hey, didn’t she make sausage last time? Maybe she wanted to get it just right. Tom says it’s great, with clean flavors, and not heavy like stuffed cabbage can be sometimes. Patti likes the brown butter, a little sweet but good.
Paul explains about his grandmother and her chicken and pork adobo, then serves his quail adobo with ginger rice, coconut vinegar and tomatoes and green mango salsa. Tom says it’s great; Patti says she’s not really a quail girl but she never got to the rice because the quail knocked her out.
The judges come up for air, and Patti invites all the judges to her house for dinner. She’s serving pretty much every food there is: fried chicken, cabbage, macaroni with eight cheese, lobster, and shrimp. I’ve never understood the attraction of three cheeses, four cheeses, seven cheeses, now eight. Can you really taste the difference between six cheeses and eight?
Malibu Chris is worried in the kitchen because he sees the albumin leaking out of the salmon (sounds gross, but I know what he means, it isn’t that bad really). He scrapes it off and hopes they won’t notice. Yeah, sure, Chris, you wish. He says it happens from cooking it at high temps. So that’s what it is. But how do you sear salmon if you don’t use high temps? And Minx thinks it’s from prior freezing, which makes more sense to me. He talks about his uncle and serves the sockeye with confit fingerling potatoes, asparagus and brown sugar carrot puree with curry. Patti likes the veg, but the fish was fish. Tom wasn’t a fan, he and Padma both noticed the albumin, as those of us playing along at home knew they would. Tom doesn’t like carrots that don’t taste like carrots.
Beverly is happy with her ribs, they’re delicious if she does say so herself. They have Korean flavor but they’re not straight-up Korean. I wonder if she’s worried about doing too much Asian, and if that stems from Heather. She talks about her mom and serves her galbi jjim (Korean braised short rib) with edamame-scallion puree and hon shimeji mushrooms. One of the guests loves it; Patti says it’s very good, and Tom likes it a lot.
Edward credits his grandmother with bibimbap and serves his vegetarian rice patty with an egg and veggies with lemon chili sauce and nori. One of the guests says she’s allergic to eggs but loved Edward’s dish (wait… how can you risk that, if you’re allergic to eggs, eating who knows what being put in front of you?).
Lindsay credits two grandmothers, one Greek, one Southern. So she serves trout spanikopita with crispy leeks and trout roe. Patti loves the roe, and tells how Emeril served her first caviar. Emeril loves the crispiness of the trout and roe, but there’s too much butter, it shuts down the dish. You know, Emeril is kind of impressive, it’s too bad he spent so much time acting like an idiot on The Food Network.
Grayson is another one worried about her serving partner; Ty-lör has tiny little things nicely arranged, and she has this Flintstonian steak. I’m wondering how it is she had the money to buy so much rib eye. She talks about her Wisconsin parents being meat-and-potatoes, and yes, it’s gigantic but that’s what it is, rib eye with German potato salad and veg. Patti wonders if this steak is for a family of 20. A guest thinks it’s stringy and the other one found gristle. Not a very good sign, just what kind of cut-rate beef are they selling in Austin?
Ty-lör explains he had a Japanese nanny (who he names) who made panko crusted chicken tenders so that’s what he serves, duck-fat fried chicken tender on a bed of pickled peaches. He’s the only one who isn’t inspired by a family member. Frankly, I think some of these stories are poppycock; they made them up to coincide with what they wanted to cook. Patti thinks it’s delicious. Tom thinks the nanny story is sweet, and she’d be proud.
Padma loves hearing these personal stories. I think they’re pretty much all the same, except for the fishing uncle and the Japanese nanny. Maybe this is why I never considered becoming a chef. I don’t have any warm and fuzzy cooking memories. Tom says some of them got stuck in Grandma’s kitchen; Emeril finishes the thought, that the ones who stuck out modernized their memories and brought the dishes to life.
Ty-lör is passionately trying to convince someone that Patti LaBelle’s toenails were painted the exact same powder blue shade as Padma’s blouse. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed anyone’s toenails. Maybe I would if they were powder blue. Padma calls back Grayson, Heather, and Malibu Chris. Since we’ve heard the feedback, we know these must be the bottom three, but Ty-lör says they always send out the top three first. No, they don’t, actually, though I think they have so far this season. These folks should watch the show. Or at least talk to a few dedicated bloggers before showing up for filming. We can help you, really, we can.
And yes, they are the least favorite. Tom asks if they’re surprised. Grayson says her flavors were there, and she purposely gave them a huge serving. Emeril says it wasn’t trimmed, and they expected more from her. She says she did trim the outside, and she felt confident. Padma talks about the meat being sinewy and spongy, and asks why didn’t she update the dish. Grayson took it literally, which she realizes now was the wrong approach.
Malibu Chris hears about the albumin from Padma, and Emeril complains about massive pieces of dill overpowering the dish; Chris agrees there were too many herbs. Patti loved the potatoes, but didn’t care for the salmon.
Heather is flayed for her beef stroganoff gone awry and can’t blame it on an Asian with no work ethic. Padma tells her the dumplings were dry and chewy, overcooked. Patti tells her it was Big Foot on a plate, and so gristly she couldn’t cut it. Heather says she braised the meat, and thought about using a pressure cooker but since her duck legs were stringy when she used a pressure cooker in the last challenge (hey, I thought Beverly seared duck breast, what duck legs, what pressure cooker?) she braised instead. Tom says something about a competitor using a pressure cooker “and she isn’t here” in the bottom three. Did he really say that? Wow, Top Chef takes a stand against bullying by snarking the bullies to death.You won’t go home for it, but when what goes around comes around, they’ll be sure to point it out.
Beverly, Sarah, and Edward are sent out as top three.
Tom praises them all for using their ideas as a starting point. Patti says there was heart and soul on the plates. Edward had a beautiful presentation. Padma tells him it’s his second time on top, he’s on a roll. Tom says his presentation was beautiful. Beverly‘s dish was great, everything on the plate had a purpose, her mama would be proud. Emeril tells Sarah she showed a lot of technique. Patti announces the winner: Sarah. She’s happy her grandparents have bragging rights.
The judges debate. Heather’s terrible meat, bad spaetzel, and two sauces that didn’t work; she knew she messed up. Malibu Chris, who just threw stuff on a plate and had too many ingredients. And Grayson, who suffered from a lack of imagination. I had hopes for Grayson, who got into the competition by the skin of her teeth, but she’s not doing so well. Tom feels bad sending someone home on this personal challenge, but that’s the way it is, so Heather‘s out. I’m almost disappointed; the arc was awfully short. I have to reluctantly give Heather credit. She didn’t make excuses, she didn’t try to talk her way out of it, she didn’t sulk or get huffy. It was a surprisingly graceful exit. Her TV Guide interview follows in the same vein, though she tries to finesse the Beverly situation and seems to rewrite history a little, saying the judges asked about the shrimp the week before (maybe she honestly thinks they did, by now). I hate to tell you, Heather, but if you have to tell people you’re not a bully, you probably are.
Back in the kitchen, Beverly doesn’t move a muscle when Heather announces her knifing. She interviews about karma, and how she feels some personal satisfaction. Oh, damn, Beverly, I realize the temptation, but did you have to say that? If you’d just kept your mouth shut, you would’ve been golden. Now you’ve got some karma coming back to you.
You know what? At the beginning of this season, it looked like there were so many strong women cooks, and the men went home lickety split, but it’s turning out that the strong women aren’t so strong. Grayson, while she’s appealing, hasn’t made anything good in a while. Lindsay hovers in the middle most of the time. Beverly can cook up a storm, but I do worry she’s too constricted, as the sauce challenge showed. Sarah has her moments, but she falls apart, too. Nyesha, who was my brightest hope, is gone already; I hope she can hang on in the LCK. And Heather turned out to be all talk. In spite of the girl power at the beginning, this season is turning into Ty-lör vs Paul.
Padma gets her licks in with a voiceover about Last Chance Kitchen: “Heather, Queen of Mean, looks to redeem herself.” I think they’re enjoying this a little bit too much. Honestly, it’s making me a little uncomfortable. It’s like killing people to show killing people is wrong.
Nyesha is pretty snarky about Heather, and exacts her own revenge. The challenge is to use three techniques: frying, injecting, and foaming. Foaming? They laughed at Marcel for his foams, and now they want to require it as a technique right along with frying and injecting? Heather makes head-on fried shrimp with porcini powder foam and injects the heads with paprika. Heather makes beignets (she calls them churros at first but changes her mind) injected with caramel and brown butter foam. During the cooking period, Heather mumbles something about “you better check it” and Nyesha can’t tell what she’s talking about; apparently some of the shrimp injection stuff squirted in the vicinity of Nyesha’s dessert. Interesting. Pretty quiet when you’re warning someone about potentially damaging their dish and not bossing them around, aren’t you, Heather? But it’s ok and Nyesha prevails, mostly because Heather overcooked her shrimp. Though Tom did enjoy sucking on that head.
Next week: Barbecue. Fire. Ambulance. And again with the salt.