Friday, June 29, 2007

Top Chef: Miami Recap, Episode 3: Comfort frauds!

OK, first of all, I just realized this season is called "Top Chef: Miami." I knew it took place in Miami but I didn't know they had renamed the show. Next we'll be subjected to Top Chef: Criminal Intent.

This episode was really weird. I just didn't think either the quickfire or elimination challenges were well explained. We start with the quickfire: the chefs go to the Miami Aquarium, where they use one of those vending machine claws to grab shellfish out of a tank while trying to avoid being eaten by sharks.

Actually they are just pulling shellfish out of a tank with a net. Why? It doesn't really add to the excitement or show any particular skill. Padma has told them they get thirty seconds to grab as much as they can but for some reason the chefs take that to mean they have to get all they can in one scoop. They aren't trying to get specific types of shellfish; they're just scooping up everything they can. So why not just give them a big bowl of shellfish to start with? The whole exercise seems pointless.

Hung goes nuts in the tank and drops something on the floor:

Lia: "Don't just leave it there, Hung."

Wow, what a drama queen! Everything always has to be all about Lia!

Lia: "What? I just thought Hung could pick it up."

Oh, my god! Lia is such a source of tension on this show! She always has to butt into everyone's business!

Lia: "I don't understand. What did I do?"

Geez, will you just stop talking for a second and let someone else get a word in?

Anyway, if I could get back to the recap without Lia constantly interrupting me! The chefs all end up with the same stupid shellfish and they are all making the same stupid recipe of shellfish in white wine:

Hung: "My monkey could do this."

CJ: "This is totally unfair! Hung is getting assistance from his monkey!"

Tom: "I didn't even know Hung had a monkey. Get that thing out of here!"

Hung: "This monkey was trained in Paris! He's a better chef than any of you will ever be! Can't you people stop being so closed-minded and let this monkey have a chance to fulfill his dream of creating gourmet food?"

Many of the chefs are working with conch. Micah can't get the meat out of the shell even though she's claimed to be an expert on cooking with conch. She tries running over it with her car. She tries shooting it out of a cannon. She tries singing a really, really high note to try to crack the shell. Finally she just makes a conchless conch salad. It doesn't go over well.

Brian makes conch toast. Yuck. He wins immunity in the elimination challenge.

Then Padma wheels out a bunch of revolting food:

Padma: "This is the entire menu from T.G.I. Friday's! Please try not to vomit in the new kitchen. Thank you. Your job will be to take one of these old-fashioned, unhealthy dishes and update it to something lower in cholesterol."

Tom: "We think the challenge is pretty straightforward."

Really? Because it isn't. The chefs don't seem to understand. Are they supposed to make a really healthy dish or just something healthi-er than what they are starting with; because that wouldn't take much. Is the dish supposed to be lower in calories and fat or just lower in cholesterol? Why is Casey avoiding olive oil? It's high in calories but it's not unhealthy. And again, is it supposed to be low in cholesterol, or just low-er? Are they supposed to completely reinvent the dish or are they supposed to update the dish simply by making it healthier? The chefs really don't seem to understand.

Tom: "Well, I thought it was straightforward."

The chefs go through and pick their dishes:

Dale: "I eat every one of these dishes every day. But I'm picking chicken and dumplings."

Micah: "I've never heard of 'meat loaf' but I'm going to give it a try."

Peter Brady: "I'm taking pork chops and apple sauce!"

Hung: "Comfort food to me is steamed fish."

Well, excuse me! Just because I grew up eating Hamburger Helper and Shake-n-Bake doesn't mean you're better than me! Waaaah!

At the grocery store Dale buys a rotisserie chicken and instant mashed potatoes:

CJ: "That is a personal assault to my senses!"

Oh, get over it!

Cheesy Sara has problems with the oven. She thought the oven was on when she put in her chicken but when she checks, it has been turned off. Hung says he didn't turn it off but then tells the camera that he did. What isn't clear is whether Sara's chicken was in the oven when Hung took his food out or if he turned the oven off before she put it in and she just assumed it was still on. Bravo obviously doesn't want us to know because this way we can think Hung is a villain. But I suspect Sara saw that the oven was heating up and then when she went to put her chicken in Hung had already taken his food out and didn't know anyone else needed the oven. He probably should have asked before he did that because they are sharing a kitchen and he also shouldn't have lied about it but Sara also should have checked to see if it was still on. I think they both made a mistake.

Hung: "So am I an asshole yet?"

You're getting there but you'll have to try a bit harder.

The chefs serve the food to the members of the Miami Elks Club in one of the ugliest dining rooms I've ever seen. I imagine it's what the dining hall in a prison would look like. I hope Bravo turns it into a design project for the next highly unanticipated season of Top Design (Top Design: Miami, anyone? Or maybe Top Design: Special Victim's Unit?)

We take a break so the chefs can tell us that if you've ruined a dish you can fix it by adding butter or getting really, really drunk.

OK, did everyone get that advertisement for California? Was it helpful? Was there a lack of awareness of the state of California? Is there someone in Colorado saying, "Oh, yeah; I totally forgot that California existed; I'm glad I saw that advertisement"? I mean, it's not like we're West Virginia. No offense intended.

130 per cent of viewers think Howie is more talented than Joey.

One last thing: the first seventeen thousand times I saw that Hey Paula promo I found it totally annoying but this last one magically made me want to watch the show.

So, the judges hate most of the food. It looks really revolting. CJ's looks like cat food. Lia tries to get texture by serving uncooked lentils. The best response Padma could muster for Tre's dish was, "Well, it didn't make me want to take my own life." And those were some of the better ones!

Howie and Dale are the top two. Howie's seared pork was cooked perfectly and his apple slaw was fresh and delicious, while still managing to evoke the original dish of pork chops and apple sauce. Dale's version of chicken and dumplings was also a big hit. Howie wins some books and the vague opportunity to do something at the Gotham Bar & Grill in New York. Congratulations, Howie!

Padma: "Could you send in the bottom chefs?"

Howie: "Which ones?"

Padma: "All of them."

OK, actually it was just Micah, Cheesy Sara, Brian, CJ, and Lia.

Brian was safe but the judges wanted to point out that he was a dick for serving lobster as a lower cholesterol version of stuffed cabbage.

Micah's meatloaf dish seemed conceptually fine but everyone hated it; apparently it was inedible.

Sara's didn't evoke the emotional response that chicken a la king was supposed to. This was a little unfair since she had no idea was it was. She tried to use similar ingredients but apparently she didn't know what aspect of the dish was the one that would evoke the right memories:

Tom: "You were supposed to update the dish without actually changing it. And it should have had peas."

Whatever. Actually, I did a quick search for chicken a la king recipes and none of the ones I found had peas in them.

Lia just didn't do anything. She just boiled some sausages.

Padma: "What's wrong with that."

Tom: "Do I have to remind you again that this is a cooking show?"

Padma: "Oh, yeah."

Anyway, they get rid of Micah. I think they should have sent Lia home but obviously the producers wouldn't let them. Lia brings so much drama to the show, while Micah is so stable and quiet the producers had to get rid of her.

Lia: "I don't understand what I did to offend you."

Oh, please! Don't play all innocent. You are always starting fights with everyone and arguing with the judges. You're just trying to skate by on your outrageous behavior instead of real talent.

Lia: "I don't know what you're talking about."

Well, I just hope the Bravo producers stop keeping people around just for their drama value. That's all I'm saying.*

*Eric Three Thousand is being sarcastic.


Cliff O'Neill said...

As always, riotously funny!

And who has time to dick around with a conch anyways?

Tyler said...

That was completely hilarious.

BigAssBelle said...

haha!!! perfect!!! this was hysterical . . . thanks eric.

trixie said...

I have resisted this show for two seasons but you've broken me down Eric.

Thank you for the "Peter Brady: Pork chops and apple sauce."

I cannot say this without slipping into the James Cagney accent. Can you? It is too ingrained.

They had to get rid of Micah. Meatloaf and mashed potatoes isn't just basic American comfort food. She disrespected the classic diner blue plate special.

eric3000 said...

No, it is not possible to say "pork chops and apple sauce" without doing a James Cagney imitation! I've tried and I can't do it!

Ms. Place said...

Pretty funny and more accurate than the show itself. Frankly, this might have been a perfect opportunity for Bravo to let two chefs go: I still can't remember who they all are.

mumblesalot (Laura A) said...

Top Design: Special Victims Unit .... I love the title.

Marius said...

Another awesome recap. Peter Brady! Hung's monkey! Top Chef: Criminal Intent! LOL.

And, yeah, I agree that the whole pulling shellfish out of a tank was totally pointless.

wildflower38 said...

As always, your recaps are funnier than the show....

Eric said...

I really hate to be an ass but it's not James's Humphrey Bogart. Isn't it?

eric3000 said...

Really? Oops. I always thougt it was Cagney but online consensus seems to be Bogart. Well, you know what we meant!

Tom & Lorenzo said...

"Hung: "So am I an asshole yet?"

Priceless, Eric!