Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Top Chef - 5/28/08

Top Chef starts with Stephanie talking about how cool it is to have more women in the end than ever before. The chefs starts out going to a huge meat plant, and as their Quickfire Challenge, they have to butcher up some dry aged long boned rib eye into frenched ribeye chops/steaks. Spike is really confident, because he comes from a butcher-filled family. They have 20 minutes to cut seven chops. Many have a really hard time with the dry aged meat, which is thick and hard to deal with. Spike takes off with real skill, and I am impressed. Though the quality might not be the best for everyone, they all get their steaks cut. After the butchering, they pack up their meat and head back to the Top Chef kitchen, for the next leg of the quickfire challenge. Rick Tramanto is a guest judge, and they have 30 minutes to cook a Tomohawk steak for Rick, to medium rare. The taste really doesn't matter here, it's all about cooking it to the right doneness and making it look good more or less.

All the chefs have a wide array of techniques for cooking their steaks. Spike grills it with rosemary on each side for the same amount of time, and then pops it in the oven. Richard bemoans the lack of souve (I know I have spelled that wrong). Stephanie grills hers in oil and lets it rest. Antonia sears hers, then pan fries it in butter, and bastes it continuously. Lisa cooked hers in the pan.

Stephanie's butchery is not up to par, and the steak is not cooked enough. Richard also is uneven in his butchery, and the steak was underdone. Lisa gets props for both doneness and butchery, as does Spike, and Antonia got compliments for her perfect seared crust on the steak. Spike wins the challenge, which I pretty much expected.

The Elimination Challenge involves taking over Rick's steak restaurant the next night. Each chef is responsible for an appetizer and an entree, using items in Rick's kitchen. Spike has first choice for protein for each because he won. Let's see if he is as much of an ass about it as he was last time.

Back in the Top Chef apartment, filled with Glad branded products merrily displayed, Spike talks about butchery being in his blood, and how he likes the potential battle of the sexes.

The Elimination Challenge brings them to a gorgeous restaurant with a fantastic kitchen. Spike picked the Tomohawk steak and frozen scallops. Others question his choice of frozen scallops.

Stephanie is making a sweet bread appetizer. Hmmm. Lisa is making peanut butter mashed potatoes, which sound really gross, but I will give her the benefit of the doubt. While they are cooking, Lisa again accuses (though jokingly) Stephanie of sabotaging her by having the sash to the fire open and burning her back. Yipes. Paranoid much?

When Spike's scallops thaw, he sees that they are pretty damaged, and therefore soaked, so he tries to dry them by blotting them on paper towels. Wonder how that will work out.

Tom shows up to chat with the chefs, and thinks that Richard's menu is not ambitious enough, and Lisa is doing a steak with an apple caramel sauce (yuck), and the peanut butter mashed potatoes. Sounds dreadful overall. Tom is disappointed that Spike says that he doesn't mind using frozen scallops. So am I.

Spike gets a bunch of cans of something out - they look like shrimp maybe. Hmm.

The VIP guests are the former Top Chef winners, Hung, Harold, and Elan. Nice.

Lisa's Appetizer is Grilled & Chilled Prawns, lemon zest & tomato salad, and crostini. The lemon gets good reviews, but they question why she chilled it.

Richard's appetizer is Hamachi with Crispy sweetbreads, radish, avocado & yuzu. It gets wonderful reviews.

Spike's is scallops and roasted hearts of palm, and oyster mushroom. The hearts of palm were what came from the cans. The judges think it's kind of bland and boring

Stephanie's appetizer is sweetbreads with golden raisins and pine nuts. It is really pretty. The former top chefs like it a lot. It goes over very well.

Antonia's appetizer is Mushroom & artichoke salad with poached egg and mushroom vinagrette. It gets mixed reviews. The egg is cooked well, but "the rest of the dish fell apart."

Richard's entree is beef fillet, potato puree, turnips, red wine, and pickled brussel sprouts. It goes well together, but the plating is questioned, because he didn't put everything together.

Lisa's entree is up - it's the aforementioned NY Strip steak with apple caramel sauce and peanut butter mashed potatoes, and green beans. Or haricot vert if you prefer. The restaurant owner liked it a lot, but the others were mixed in reviews.

Spikes entree is tomahawk chop, sweet potato puree, brussel sprouts, and cipollinis. The sweet potato puree is too sweet for them, and it gets "it's ok." Not glowing.

Stephanie's entree is beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms and apple sauce. It is very nicely plated, and everyone loved it.

Antonia's entree is bone-in rib ete with fennel and cipollinis, and a shallot potato gratin. This is a very rich dish, but gets a lot of wonderful reviews.

The rest of the diners get food with no Hell's Kitchen-esque drama, and everyone seem to like it.

It's time for the last judge's table before the final four. Lisa enjoys a probably product placement beer, because she was sure that the label showed. Everyone else has drinks in red plastic cups. Probably Glad.

Everyone heads in to judge's table. Richard is up first. His appetizer goes over amazingly, but his entree is so so. Stephanie gets really good reviews. Lisa gets mixed reviews. The butter in the shrimp appetizer is called "congealed" which is never good. Her entree gets pretty good reviews. Antonia's entree was her strong suit. Spike gets blasted for using the frozen scallops. He defends his choice by saying that the frozen scallops were in the restaurant kitchen, so it wasn't his fault. Well, it was his fault for using them.

Back in the holding room, Spike can't believe that he talked down to Rick. Neither can I.

Stephanie gets the best overall notes from the judges during their deliberation, while Richard's appetizer gets wonderful reviews, though his entree is so-so. Antonia is called "insightful," and Spike is disappointing. Tom says it best when he said that Lisa just seems apathetic about everything.

Stephanie wins the challenge for being overall the strongest. She gets a copy of Rick's latest book, and GE monogram kitchen appliances, which is awesome. Richard is through to the top, with the favorite appetizer. Antonia is through with the favorite entree. I am pleased, because they are my favorite three.

It's down to Lisa or Spike to go home. Can we send both of them home? Lisa has been in the bottom five times, and Spike has been there seven times. Wow. That's ridiculous. Lisa looks pissed. What else is new? Everything about Lisa's body language makes me dislike her, but she is staying to go to Puerto Rico. Spike is gone, and I can't say I will miss him.

Lisa claims that she will "bring it" in Puerto Rico, and I will believe it when I see it. Spike leaves by saying no one can put him down. Nobody puts Spikey in the corner. Right? Um...

Onward, to the finals!

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