Top Chef New York Goes Bridal

17 Dec

This episode starts with a quickfire challenge that almost redeems the show from the circus that was the TV demo challenge. The cheftestants are asked to taste a soup and then identify the ingredients, the one whose palate can correctly detect the most wins. Each pair of cheftestants tastes the lobster and shrimp bouillabaisse and the better palate moves onto Mexican mole sauce. Carla screws it up big time by guessing peanut butter as an ingredient in the mole. She either badly mispoke or had no inkling what the sauce was. In the end, it is Stefan versus Hosea on Thai green curry. Hosea squeezes out a win with guessing seven ingredients. I am just glad to see someone put Stefan in his place.

Next up, the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” bridal shower elimination challenge. The cheftestants are divided into teams by drawing knives to cook a course for Gail’s bridal shower (lucky attendees! The only food at bridal showers I attend are overly sweet cupcakes and unnaturally pink punch!) The Old Team, consisting of Stefan, Hosea, and Jeff, is responsible for the first course. They decide to go with an “old world” cuisine theme with Stefan’s heirloom tomato terrine, Jeff’s tomato carpaccio with tomato sorbet. I thought it was a good idea for them to do three separate items on the same plate since both Jeff and Hosea expressed how difficult it was to work in a team environment with Stefan, plus Hosea had immunity. This way, each cheftestant is responsible for the outcome of his specific dish. Right away Stefan seizes his inner control freak trying to grocery shop for all his teammates at Whole Foods. Then he lovingly calls Hosea “douchebag.” Yay for team spirit. Later, Stefan goes on a rant about how Jeff’s sorbet idea is bound to fail (Stefan has years of experience in catering), which I thought was foreshadowing something terrible to come. Thank goodness in the end, the tomato sorbet turns out to be everyone’s favorite feature on the dish. So take that, Stefan!

The New Team, consisting of Eugene, Carla, and Danny, does not fare as well. Their initial idea is already trite, a cooked surf and turf sushi roll (which doesn’t seem “new” at all). Then Eugene goes crazy with this “assemble it yourself” concept that goes completely awry. The team really shoots themselves in the foot when Eugene fails to mention how to assemble the deconstructed cooked sushi when they presented the plate to the bridal shower attendees. A failure all around, with Carla’s salad being the only bright spot on the plate, but ruined by Danny’s strange placement of mushrooms on the bottom (which he did at the last minute before plating so Carla had no time to protest!)

The Borrowed Team, consisting of Radhika, Jamie, and Ariane, cops out with their theme of “we borrowed Radhika’s culture.” Nonetheless, they turn out a divine plate of marinated lamb with Vadouvan carrot puree and kale.

The Blue Team, consisting of Leah, Fabio, and Melissa, takes their theme too literally. There are no naturally blue foods but they were determined to make some. Their plate of politically controversial blue corn crusted chilean sea bass with roasted corn and swiss chard, however, had the judges yawning.

With no surprise to anyone, Team Old and Team Borrowed are selected as the top two teams. Ariane takes home the win for Team Borrowed for cooking the lamb perfectly (which almost did not come out that way as she had to take advantage of every second left to cook the lamb and utilize all the cheftestants, not just those on her team, for plating. It was nice to see the teamwork, though. Notice Stefan was missing from the assembly line). Jamie is, well, pissed. She conceptualized the dish, was the leader of the group, and should have taken home the win. But I think the judges just wanted to make some drama. Ariane has won twice now on the technique of cooking meat properly (turkey and lamb).

Team New is at the bottom this week. I thought for sure Eugene was going home since he conceptualized the dish. But Danny’s attitude of “I think the dish is awesome, even after the judges told me they hated it” sends him packing his knives. It’s just as well, he should have gone home for mixing undercooked potatoes into his mashed potatoes at the Thanksgiving challenge too weeks ago (poor Richard).

I still think Ariane, even with her two elimination challenge wins (properly cooked turkey and lamb), is one of the weaker contestants. So she has decent techniques with meat (with help from her teammates), but hasn’t shown anything thing else to convince me she could be a Top Chef.

Did anyone catch what Melissa did this episode? These team challenges are really buying her time, which just might be up soon.

I really dislike Stefan’s arrogance. It’s worse than Hung from Season 3. At least Hung had this sense of “I’ve worked so hard and I really want to win this.” Where as Stefan gives off this air of “he is so much better than all the other cheftestants that he’s just sitting through weeks of boredom until they crown him His Highness the European Top Chef.”

Still loving Jamie, Leah, Jeff, and Fabio. Feeling a little more iffy about Eugene after this episode. Hosea impressed this episode with that precise palate (or was it just prior experience cooking Thai curry?) I think Carla is great with the classics (a good apple pie, a solid salad) but nothing she has done has come out of left field and blown anyone away. Still can’t quite put solid enthusiam behind Radhika. She keeps saying she wants to bring her Indian cuisine roots to the game in a new way, but we’re still waiting.

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