Hello I am Zin and I am all about Simplicity!
Our chefs meet at a Farmers Market! Alton looks pretty spiffy but maybe in time warp, he is wearing a windowpane jacket, white shoes and a straw boater!
We have a Special Guest, Todd Selby, journalist, illustrator, and photographer! He is probably hoping someone will realize his book Edible Selby is just right for the foodie on your Christmas list (it is quite beautiful, his website has an extensive sneak peak) but he does not mention it and I respect that so much I will mention it for him! It is quite a cute book! The photo above is part of the Table of Contents!
He is there to take pictures of all the chefs at the Farmers Market to capture their personalities! Alex is not in a mood for fooling around, she wants to know how this relates to the challenge! But Alton just says “All will be revealed” and herds them inside.
Marcel tries to figure out which is his good side. Todd gets a pretty cool pic of him stirring caramel in a huge cauldron with a wooden paddle, because as Todd says, he is a Mad Scientist! That is true but how did Todd know that? I think he must have had a briefing!
Eric is a grilled cheese master so he is photographed holding an armful of cheeses that say “I am juicy and delicious!” I am not sure what juicy has to do with cheese, but I stick with pretty basic cheeses myself.
Mehta adores spices so of course he is in a spice shop! Amanda is happy doing what she does so she is smiling, it looks like she is behind a deli counter handing over a package of sliced ham to someone which is a pretty pathetic idea!
Falkner and Spike get to make pizza, and Spike does a very good job of tossing it!
Appleton butchers a huge slab of beef! And Alex is stuffing sausage into casing! I wonder if there is a hidden message in that! Alex tells Nate he looks homicidal in his photograph! She is right! And Falkner notices all the women are smiling! They are! And none of the men are! That is really interesting! Is it because women are expected to look pretty and men are allowed to look threatening? Or is it just that these women are smilers?
The pictures of the men are also much better than those of the women! The men look like interesting portraits and the women look like snapshots! I wonder if that is the women, or the photographer!
Now Alton tells them the challenge: in a previous season, they had to prepare one bite that showed their personality. This time, they have to create a bite that reflects the personality of another chef! Nate says: “I don’t know what Chef Guarnaschelli tastes like. I don’t know what Marcel tastes like. I know what carrots taste like.”
By the way, I would like to point out that while this is a pretty interesting challenge, it has nothing to do with simplicity, which is the theme of the week! Caviar, sea urchin, foams, soufflé, anchovies, this is not simplicity! Do not pretend it is!
Because Mehta won last week he gets to pair everyone up, and each pair will compete against each other with one chef from each pair going to the Showdown!
Falkner is fierce so Mehta pairs her with Amanda. I think he has insulted someone!
Amanda thinks of Falkner as misunderstood because everyone thinks of her as a pastry chef but in her photograph she is in an Italian trattoria! So she wants to use the most misunderstood of ingredients, anchovies! She makes spaghetti with Sicilian anchovy sauce! Falkner likes that idea! And the judges love her dish! Zakarian loves her story! They are all crazy about it! Hey, it is a great concept, but the dish, it is spaghetti, let us not get carried away! But she is the Winner of the pair and the Winner of the challenge!
Falkner makes sea urchin with avocado cucumber puree and caviar because she has seen the twinkle in her eye and she is sexy like the sea urchin! Ok… This is hilarious! Donatella did not get all that from the photo – so, wait, she is saying Amanda is not sexy? Zakarian likes the plate, but Simon thinks it is flat which is definitely not Amanda. Falkner is bummed. She missed the theme again! She is in the Showdown.
Alex and Marcel end up together because “they both have opposite spectrums of work.” I am not sure what that means, but it sounds like someone is being insulted and I would bet it is Marcel!
Alex goes high-tech to capture Marcel! She makes souffléd goat cheese on toast with honey and shattered lemon: the toast is like the paddle he is stirring the caramel with in the photo, the honey is the caramel, and the liquid nitrogen shattered lemon and soufflé is a nod to his fondness for high techery! Zakarian loves it! Donatella loves the lemon but Simon does not get lemon and scolds Alex for inconsistency! I think he is just being contrary! She is Safe!
Marcel thinks Alex has that motherlike quality (really?) so he wants to include eggs, and he includes butter because that is the name of her first restaurant, and in the picture she is making sausage so he throws in some chorizo butter, plus some truffles because she spares no expense. Alex is ok with being characterized as scrambled egg! This is breakfast, yes? Truffled egg with sausage and croutons and a foam? Oh Marcel, you just had to do the foam! Zak thinks it is playful and technique driven but there is not much there there, it needs more substance! Donatella also thinks it is like eating a lot of air! Simon does not disagree but appreciates the homage. He is in the Showdown!
Nate and Eric will play opposite each other. Eric says “Nate is the last guy I want to tangle with” while Nate says “This is a softball, he is easy.” I wonder if that means he is easy to capture in a plate of food or if he is easy to beat!
Nate butts heads with Marcel over truffles (it is ridiculously complicated: Nate pushed Marcel at the refrigerator so Marcel will not share, they are like four year olds!) so now they are Enemies! “That will come back to bite you!” He sees Eric as a happy man and what makes people happy is big, bold flavors so he goes for a brazen bold shameless surf and turf, prawns, tri-tip, béarnaise, caviar, truffles! Simon warns him about using luxury ingredients to impress judges but he admits the dish worked in balance. Donatella calls it indulgent and great. Eric is happy: “I am luxury personified!” Nate is Safe!
Eric takes his cue from the photo of Nate: the look in his eyes says “devil” so he does deviled quail eggs on sea urchin with pancetta! The sea urchin because Nate is prickly and dangerous on the outside but elegant inside! Typing this is a giggle fest! Zakarian is looking for more devil in the egg, but Simon thinks it is just the right amount of heat, and he too sees the devil in the eyes! Simon is dismayed that he has to choose between them but he must so Eric is in the Showdown!
Mehta takes Spike for the same reason Alex put him on her team last week! Everyone seems to think Spike is the clown of the group! I will not argue with that! But Spike says not to let the “hairy face and messy hair” fool you, he is here to win! His hair is the least of his problems!
Spike thinks Mehta is slippery and you have to keep your eye on him so he makes bacon-wrapped shrimp over apricot chutney! In the picture he has creepy eyes so he is like the shrimp, with a hard exterior but inside is pure bliss and sweetness! Zakarian loves the apricot chutney and the shrimp is cooked perfectly! Donatella does not think bacon makes sense with Mehta, and Mehta says his third world background did not teach him about bacon, oopsie! Still he is Safe!
Mehta knows Spike is Greek and he was making pizza in the photo so he makes pizza dolmas with chorizo and eggplant! Simon likes the idea but the execution was flawed and the heat is too pronounced. Donatella agrees and it is also a bit soggy. Zakarian disagrees, he loves the “delightful marriage” of cheese and chorizo, he felt he was eating Spike! Spike is not sure he tastes like soggy dolmas! I think Food Network should really stop trying to be cool with the double entendres because they are not good at them! Poor Mehta, he thought he was going to trounce Spike but Spike is safe and he is in the Showdown!
Secret Ingredient Showdown:
And the Secret Ingredient is… Cereal! Specifically, Rice Krispies and Raisin Bran! Oh no, I so want Rice Krispies now, they are almost a craving! I rarely buy them because I go through the box in a really scary short time, I love cereal but it is such a waste of calories I only buy the ones I do not like that much! Rice Krispies are perfect for when I am feeling very tired or in any kind of pain (they are easy to eat, you do not even need to chew them). But back to the chefs! They must use both cereals in one dish! Everyone is confused, what can you make with cereal? Oh come on, have you guys never seen Chopped? Eric is upset because he is up against “three pastry chefs” which made me mad at first, because that is usually an insult, but I think what he means is that cereal lends itself more easily to dessert dishes and everyone else has done more of that than he has!
Falkner makes a variation on tartufo bianco which literally means “white truffle” but just as truffles can be mushrooms or chocolate, so can white truffles be mushrooms or ice cream coated with marshmallow! She makes what she calls a giant marshmallow, apparently skipping the ice cream part, and folds in the Rice Krispies for a lighter kind of Treat, adds the raisins from the Raisin Bran to the chocolate ganache which sounds really good! I do not know what she does with the bran part of the bran. Then she has to set the ganache, and they only have such a short time so she uses liquid nitrogen! See, everyone is playing with the toys that only a few years ago were dismissed! Simon tells her he is going to send her to the Showdown round every week because it is there she does her best cooking! Zakarian calls it simplicity itself, which finally works in the Simplicity theme, though I think it is a stretch to call this simple! Donatella is happy she reinvented the Rice Krispy Treat (funny how all the chefs know all about such a mundane item) and Falkner wins the Showdown! Yay!
Marcel has Spike cheering him on, which makes sense since they are kind of the outsiders –
Top Chef interlopers – in this group! He does a take on cereal with milk, because that is what cereal is for! He makes coconut ice cream and a variation on rice crispy treats (which I hate by the way, go figure) and you knew someone was going to do that! He serves it in a coconut shell which is probably going to get him in trouble, but if he were on Iron Chef they would love it, that is how these things are! He is very confident! And that is ok, because they like it! Zakarian calls it yummy and he used smart technique in perfect balance! Donatella loves the ice cream and says Falkner better watch out for him! You know she is in no danger from Marcel but it is nice that they say that, I do not know why there is this ice cream mystique on this show, I think maybe the viewers like it when people make ice cream so they encourage contestants to do so by praising it so they will do it more often! Simon likes the dish but calls the coconut shell “juvenile” and says it looks like there was an accident in a tiki bar! He is an old poopy face! The shell has lots of coconut so it makes sense to me, you can dig some out as you eat your ice cream! But shell or not Marcel is safe!
Mehta makes crab cakes and a kind of chevda which is an Indian snack resembling Chex Party Mix! Simon likes it, he remembers it from his childhood! Donatella likes the crunch of the crab cake but says it is greasy, though Simon disagrees (of course he does) but Zakarian also disagrees, he thinks it is the best dish Mehta has done. Mehta is very restrained during his interviews and he says “One of us has to go home but it will not be me” in a way that reminds me of Hannibal Lecter! Maybe that is why he appeals to me, for a murderer and cannibal Lecter was a great character! As it turns out he is right, it comes down to Mehta and Eric and it was pretty obvious but Mehta is safe!
Eric has Nate on his side because of course the enemy of my enemy is my friend! But no one understands why he picks tuna, the meatiness does not go with cereal! But he poaches the tuna in olive oil and crusts it with the cereal. Zakarian does not think it works but not because of the meatiness, it is because tuna is a lightweight protein and the dish lacks fat! Simon disagrees (of course he does!) but thinks the sunchoke puree clashes badly! Bad news, and Eric is out!
Eric is angry to be out! Alton tells him he was outcooked and he make him repeat that, then stomps away (and it looks like there was something missing in there, maybe he argued more or he asked “Is this where I am supposed to act really angry?” or something) and in his interview insists he was not outcooked and they were wrong!
This season is working out pretty well, the challenges are interesting (I really liked the photo challenge) and the food has a lot of variety and I am seeing new things, like Indian Chex Mix!
Next week: Canned food! We all know much chefs love to work with cans!