Tag top chef overview

Singing for the Beatles, Top Chef Week 4

Week 4 had all of the chefs admitting that they were ready to cry or wet their pants. Victory seemed like a mirage in the desert, making it a nail-biting hour. From snails to Whole Foods debauchery, my eyes were peeled.

The episode started with the chefs walking into Daniel Boulud’s restaurant. He stands, looking unimpressed and quite frankly a little disgusted. He has a restaurant in the Wynn hotel and is one of the pioneers of making classic French food in a modern context. He announces that they will be working with snails in a High Stakes Quick Fire challenge, meaning the loser of the challenge will be going home. He tells them they must include tastes that are unique; something he has never experienced. That is one heck of a request out of a chef and restaurateur who has probably traveled the globe eating.

Jennifer sums up probably everyone’s thoughts on Escargot by saying, “Whoever thought snails looked good to eat must have been really ******* hungry”. Stated like a true chef, Jen!

They are given full reign over Boulud’s kitchen, and before they take off, Bravo makes sure to give us a quick shot of Daniel’s face looking utterly frightened about that. Mattin seems to be the only confident one since he has grown up and lived in France until 2002 when he moved to San Francisco. He has always dreamed of being a chef in the U.S. and of course chose our beautiful city as his jumping point.

The chefs bring out plates 3 or 4 at a time and Daniel refers to everything as “interesting”, which is just a tad better than Padmas usual “yummy”. His favorites come out to be Mike, Kevin (who did a bacon jam! There’s a taste you’ve never tried, Boulud!), and Jennifer. Kevin wins and gets immunity in the elimination challenge plus another bonus to be revealed later in the show. Daniel then announces that his least favorites were Jesse, Ashley, and Robin and that they will be preparing an amuse bouche in 20 minutes: “one bite to save your life”. Jesse is subsequently sent home. She says she hasn’t felt like herself the entire time and wants people to know she doesn’t suck that bad. It always felt like she was a little out of her element with the classically trained chefs, but her down home vibe had us all rooting for her. Farewell! Ashley makes a good point when she says that being in the competition and performing poorly is a huge risk. It puts your business and career on the line with every comment chefs make. Hats off chefs for putting yourselves out there!

For the elimination challenge, all of the chefs draw knives. Each knife has a classical French sauce or a classical French protein. Mike smiles happily, as he has no idea what is going on because he knows no French. Cheers! Tom announces that they will be working in pairs doing a 6 course meal and will be serving this meal to some of the best French chefs in the world. Kevin not only doesn’t have to cook, but gets to sit and enjoy the fruits of everyone else’s labor with these renowned French gods of the kitchen.

Michael and Jennifer are paired, doing rabbit with sauce chaussir. They can immediately be tagged as the power couple with their training and intensity behind a stove. Ashley and Mattin are to do a poussin (young chicken) with velouté (a fancified French version of gravy). Isn’t French a synonym for fancified? Robin and Ron are to do frog legs and sauce meunière. Ron is immediately taken aback by Robin’s frenzied nature and hopes for the best. Bryan and Mike are paired to do trout and sauce béarnaise, which is a sauce similar to hollandaise. Mike makes the executive decision to breakdown the béarnaise sauce, which is a huge risk when preparing for a table of classical French chefs. My first, and probably only, time I’ll give a thumbs up for a really smart bold move. Eli and Laurine are to do lobster with Sauce Americain. Finally, Hector and Ash do a chateaubriand with sauce au poivre. They have prep time and then an hour the next day to put together the meal of a lifetime. Oh, and did I mention that they will be working in Joel Robuchon’s kitchen AND serving to him?? Nix that wetting your pants idea chefs, his kitchen is probably made of gold.

(P.S. what is with the shameless Mazda marketing??) Mid commercial break, they show the chefs partying for Mattin’s birthday, and Mattin wandering around in small underwear. Happy Birthday?

The next day they feature stressed chefs and Kevin, a happy little boy at the dinner table. Eli is taken aback by being in Joel Robuchon’s kitchen because he was under the impression that he didn’t actually exist and is actually a unicorn. Well, along with the real, human Joel Robuchon, Daniel Roubud, Hubert Keller, Jean Joho, and Laurent Tourondel grace the screen with their presence and discerning French tastes.

All of the chefs seem a little nervous when out of the kitchen and encountering their idols sitting in front of them. The classical French chefs seem impressed with the young talent and are proud to have such promising up and comers to continue their art.

Bryan, Mike, Michael, and Jennifer are called to the Judge’s table and are announced to be the best of the evening. Bryan and Mike prepared a warm cured trout with deconstructed béarnaise. Joel says that he believes a good chef can take something simple and make it excellent, and this dish did exactly that. They used a unique process by using only the top half of the filet, then reconstructing the fish with two top pieces. Jennifer and Michael did a rabbit with chausseur, mustard noodle, and shiso. Joel says that rabbit is incredibly difficult to cook and it was done perfectly. Tom says the first nice thing in a few episodes and states that this was very mature work for young chefs. Michael tells the judges that he was nervous to work with Jennifer because she is so talented and he didn’t want her to outdo him. I think they should date. Bryan comes out with the win and chef Robuchon has invited him to basically moonlight in his restaurant at the MGM Grand for a week. Michael looks displeased because his brother’s win basically trumps all wins…ever.

Mattin, Ashley, Hector, and Ash are then called to the Judge’s Table for being the two worst dishes. Mattin and Ashley did a seared poussin in ravioli with velouté. The poussin was dried out and the ravioli was much too thick. The velouté also had a disturbing amount of bacon in it, resulting in Tom describing it as a bacon cream sauce. Yikes. There goes Mattin’s legitimacy as a French chef. There seems to be a complete disconnect between Mattin and Ashley: Ashley is too overwhelmed to answer questions with a yes or a no, and Mattin is too nervous to make sentences. Hector and Ash created chateaubriand with sauce au poivre. All of the cuts of meat were different, the slicing was more like hacking, and the sauce barely made it onto the plate. In the end, Hector goes home with regrets that he didn’t represent his background better. He felt that the time restrictions and the specific tastes that the judges had made the competition incredibly difficult.

This was a tough episode for me because I have seen Ashley in the bottom every single week, and even when she seems unphased by being in the bottom at Judge’s Table, and answers “sure, I guess” to one of the questions the judges posed, she still stays around. I almost feel like her consistently low performance should have come up with the judges. However, it is completely clear who is on top, and who is staying on top (Michael, Bryan, Kevin, Jennifer, and Mike). Next week, they will be cooking in the desert and Padma continues her uppity attitude as Tom spits out food. Until next time, au revoir from your favorite Top Chef blogger.

Contributed by Leigh Hermansen

p.s. gourmetbebe – at least Padma spoke about one sentence this entire episode, eh?

Craps, Flash Freezing, and Guacamole Macaroons: Top Chef Week Two

In the second week of Top Chef, Las Vegas extremes are strung through the story line, Mike remains a jerk, and Jennifer continues to shoot laser beams out of her eyes and make magic with her hands.

The contestants walk into the kitchen to find Padma, a craps table, and Todd English. Todd English is a high profile hunky chef with 7 restaurants, a few television shows, and an Iron Chef title under his belt. The chefs are informed that their quick fire challenge will be a roll of the dice. Whatever number comes up on the dice will be the amount of ingredients they are to use (salt, oil, and pepper are freebies) in a dish they have a half an hour to make.

Right before Kevin rolls the dice, he comments that he is not scared of having a low number because he believes in simplicity. Well Kev, I’m glad you didn’t waste your time being scared because you got a ten. He gets a tad worried that it will interfere with his minimalist style. Laurine has the opposite problem and rolls a 3, worried about not being able to work that simply.

As the 30 minutes begin, Michael V. seems to be playing with a fire extinguisher in a corner, but no worries folks, he is just flash freezing with nitrogen!

As a side note, it is absolutely incredible to watch how quickly chefs can work with minimal stress breakdowns (Jesse and Eve’s low self confidence aside).

Todd English split the final verdict into his least favorite and most favorite dishes. His least favorites were: Jesse, whose scallops needed a sear, and less “mush on mush, too much mushy”, Eve, whose blue cheese was too overpowering and had poor presentation, and Bryan, whose dish had good flavors but too strong of a liqueur flavor.

His favorites were: Michael V, who had a classic dish (gazpacho) with good flavors, Jennifer who had many flavors but kept it light, and Kevin, whose flavors worked well together and can cook an egg well. Michael’s gazpacho comes out with the win, power to the fire extinguisher! Michael wins $15,000 dollars and brother Bryan turns green with envy and the brotherly war is on.

The elimination challenge turns out to be catering for a bachelor and bachelorette party. The crew is split into boys vs. girls, the boys catering for the bachelorette party, and the girls catering for the bachelor party. Jennifer doesn’t believe in a difference between boys and girls (probably because she’s beaten them all into a one-sex pulp in her own kitchen) and Ashley feels awkward about the challenge because she cannot even participate in the institution of marriage legally. I completely understand the sentiment, but I feel that Ashley took it a bit too personally.

The bachelor and bachelorette announce part 2 of the challenge, they would like dishes to go well with three shots that they have chosen: Moscow Mule, Tequila, and Golden Delicious.

Although each team has their minor setbacks (Ashley decides to make two dishes and Hector runs behind with his mole), everyone gets their dishes finished on time.

At the end of the challenge, the boys team jumps in the pool with the guests still around and this seemed tacky, but maybe it was just because I don’t want to see any of those men in less than chefs coats.

Bryan, Hector, Eli, and Michael are called in first to find that the boys’ team is the winning team, and they had the favorite dishes on that team. Bryan’s fresh take on chips and guacamole (a sweet and sour macaroon filled with guacamole with corn nuts and corn puree) gave him the win, and the final laugh in the war of the brothers.

The least favorite dishes from the losing team (the girls team) were Eve, Jesse, Preeti, and Ashley. This group of girls seemed to be plagued with a lack of an attainable vision and improper execution. Eve was sent home for her seemingly continuous dreamy ideas proceeded by disappointing follow through. The judges even go as far as saying she doesn’t understand how to put things together. She waddled off the show with her usual deer-in-the-headlights look, but a positive outlook, saying that she is going to keep doing what she’s doing.

The show is definitely getting more intense by the second, revealing flaws and strengths of every cheftestant. Jennifer seems to have a strong hold on every challenge, Mike should probably stop mispronouncing his fellow contestants names and labeling his teammates “The Pickle Brothers”, and Jesse needs some self confidence! She has great vision and a down home vibe that could really work for her. I love how the brothers Bryan and Michael continuously drive each other to be better, as well as Mattin’s extreme concentration on his art. Big thumbs up to Top Chef for having Todd English as a guest judge. He had great input and was definitely easy on the eyes. Here’s to anxiously awaiting a cage match between Jennifer and Mike!

Contributed by Leigh Hermansen