Friday, May 02, 2008

Top Chef: Chicago, episode eight: I believe the children need a suture!

So, last week Jen finally went to a better place; she's with Zoi now in Top Chef heaven and we can all get on with our lives.

The guest judge for the quickfire challenge is Art Smith, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for feeding Oprah.

The chefs have ninety seconds to microwave a bag of rice.

OK, actually they have fifteen minutes to make a dish using Uncle Ben's microwavable rice:

Padma: "In a restaurant we all have to work together and if someone is too slow blah blah blah so you should make microwave rice and you'll save so much time and blah blah blah Uncle Ben's is a miracle of modern science blah blah blah."

This challenge is really embarrassing but we get some interesting results. Stephanie's rice pancake is "very clever" (but not good); Spike just stuffs the rice into peppers, which really took no effort or creativity but apparently the sauce he used was delicious (I still don't think it's an entree); Andrew's rice-crusted fish is, again, "clever" and it looks really good but, unfortunately, the crust is too crunchy.

Dale and Richard are in the top three but Antonia wins immunity with her "rice and salad":

Antonia: "I was almost committed to an insane asylum for that combination but it's really good!"

Other Eric wants to go on record as saying he knew it would be good. Congratulations, Eric! Oh, I mean Antonia!

For the elimination challenge they are creating dishes for Common Threads, an organization with a mission to "educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being, and to foster an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking." I had to look that up because I did not get that from Padma's explanation. Padma made it sound like it was an organization to get families to eat dinner together, which seems to be only part of their mission. Maybe Padma is thinking of

And I don't see what's so hard about getting the family together for dinner. Just turn the television on and have everyone sit down to watch American Idol. See how easy that was?

So, the chefs have to make a healthy and nutritious dinner for a family of four that is simple to prepare and they have a budget of $10. Well, my first suggestion is to not waste money on stupid microwavable rice. My second suggestion is a can of tuna, a box of Tuna Helper, and you're done. What? That's what I ate growing up and look how I turned out.

Andrew says shopping with $10 is impossible. That's the spirit, Andrew. Dale get sausage because everyone seems to be doing chicken. Stephanie is just randomly throwing things into her basket. Mark is making a vegetarian curry because that's what he makes for his lady when he's strapped for cash. Never mind that the challenge isn't about cooking for your lady when you're strapped for cash; it's about cooking for a family on a regular basis.

The chefs have to pull leaves off their vegetables to cut a few cents off their purchases.

Back at home, Mark is playing his didgeridoo. Even he can't seem to remember that he isn't Australian. I give up.

The kids from Common Threads come in to help the chefs. Antonia is crying:

Antonia: "I just hate children so much!"

Spike's helper cuts himself.

Tom comes in and says he's going to be in the kitchen the entire time even though they are already half done when he gets there. Well, I still appreciate that he's going to be looking at the involvement of the children, which is part of the challenge.

One thing I don't understand is that they seem to be preparing more than four dishes. I thought they had to make dinner for four. But the chefs seem to be plating for eight. That's a lot of food for $10. I think they were given extra food.

Bravo: "What's the hardest part of this challenge? a) a fifteen minute time limit, b) a $10 budget, or c) comparing two things that were not part of the same challenge.

Richard and Abigail made roasted chicken with black beans and an apple, avocado and beet salad. The judges like it. It looks like something that is healthy and nutritious but wouldn't scare children too much.

Lisa and her sous chef Andrew made roasted chicken with edamame and black beans and a dessert of peanut butter and apple on white bread. Because nothing says healthy eating quite like white bread. The judges don't like the chicken dish but they think the dessert tastes good.

Dale and Emmanuel made turkey bratwurst with potatoes, onions, red cabbage and apples. Bravo shows us a shot of a girl saying it's good but I agree with the judges that it is not something most children would eat.

Spike and Alex made pasta alla puttanesca (children love the pasta of Italian whores), carrot soup and not-really-baked apples. The judges love the pasta and, as Tom points out, he really got a lot for his money. Now, I love carrot soup and it's pretty simple to prepare but it seems strange to pair it with that pasta dish and I'm sure kids would just ignore it if it were sitting there next to a plate of spaghetti. I'm also worried some parents would want more protein in their children's dinner.

Nikki and Amaris made roasted chicken and vegetables with a tomato and cucumber salad. The judges love it. It's a very simple dish to prepare so it was a good choice for this challenge. The only thing I question is the tomato and cucumber salad. Kids probably won't eat it and it doesn't really add much nutrition to the meal so it seems unnecessary. She could have gotten some fruit for dessert, instead. But not apples. There are already way too many apples in this episode.

Mark and Jesucita made a vegetable curry with cinnamon rice and cucumber salad. The judges think it is way too sweet and doesn't have enough protein. He should have at least added tofu if he was going to do a vegetarian curry. But it really wasn't a family-friendly dish at all.

Antonia and Jeffry made chicken and vegetable stir-fry with whole wheat noodles. The judges love it.

Andrew and Miguel made chicken paillard with a fennel, apple and orange salad. It looks delicious. I would want some type of starch to go with this dish, though. The judges love it.

Stephanie and Arlynn made couscous with a peanut butter tomato sauce that makes the judges puke.

The chefs all had a good time with the children. It was very sweet. It made Richard want to go home and have sex:

Richard: "Well, that just sounds wrong. What I actually said was I want to go home and make babies."

Isn't that how you make babies? I admit I don't actually know much about the process.

Padma calls in Andrew, Nikki, and Antonia. She's very serious, as usual. Padma, everyone knows they are the top three. It's the exact same thing every week. You can cut the act.

Congratulations to Nikki for being in the top three! I've been predicting her elimination for the past four weeks so good for her for finally bringing it this time. Oh, and I predict she'll be eliminated next week.

But Antonia wins the challenge this week! Congratulations Antonia!

Antonia: "If I hadn't won that challenge, I would have vomited in my mouth."

Hey, didn't she win anything?

Antonia: "Yeah, what's up with that?"

Lisa, Stephanie, and Mark are the bottom three.

Padma asks Mark why he thinks he's there:

Mark: "The only reason I can think of is that the obvious sexual tension between Tom and me makes him uncomfortable."

Tom: "That's ridiculous! I don't know what he's talking about!"

The judges tell Lisa her dish is bland:

Lisa: "God! They act like they've never had bad food before!"

Stephanie is the only one who accepts the criticism:

Stephanie: "I agree that my dish could have been a little less shitty."

Stephanie probably should have been out because her dish was inedible. But I guess the judges' reasoning (other than the fact that they wanted to keep Stephanie) was that Mark's dish not only didn't taste very good but was also a really bad choice for this challenge. Mark is out.

Tom: "Just for the record, Mark, I agree with Spike that your curly hair and accent are absolutely adorable and I'd love to take a bubble bath with you. Did I just say that out loud?"


Cliff O'Neill said...

OK, now I have title envy!

Oh, and were you aware that Antonia is a single mom?

I swear I heard that somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious as usual Eric. Just one thing I must point out - dessert, not desert. Love you! Your recaps are better than the show.

eric3000 said...

Thanks! I always mess that up!

Anonymous said...

you never quite express a favorite on this or project runway, at least that i can remember, but i paced the living room for most of the hour worried about stephanie.

the taste of the final result aside, it was odd that tom was so put-off by the idea of peanut butter and tomato, which is not an uncommon combination for mole...


mumblesalot (Laura A) said...

"Spike and Alex made pasta alla puttanesca (children love the pasta of Italian whores)"
Love it.

I do agree they got extra food. One of the contestants came back with about 20 apples plus whatever was his main dish ingredients. 20 apples at Wholefoods would probably be equal to the downpayment for a small house.

Anonymous said...

Very funny, as usual :)

I think you're a bit off on Stephanie, though - the guest judge in his blog said that her dish was actually really tasty. And if you watch the episode, no one says that her dish tastes bad - Tom just keeps saying that it's a weird combination, but a quick google search reveals a number of common recipes.

It reminds me of last season when Tom was all "Why would you ever use truffles in Italian cooking" and Rocco Dispirito was all "I love that you used truffles in your Italian cooking." Tom needs a fact-checker, apparently.

eric3000 said...

peacester said: "you never quite express a favorite"

No, I love all my children equally.

laura, yeah, I guess they bought the food for $10 and then they got some more. That's fine but it was so obvious that I wish it had been mentioned on the show so that we would know what was going on.

anonymous, that's very interesting that the guest judge said Stephanie's dish was tasty because that is not what the judges said on the show. Padma said it was disgusting and she "detested" it and Tom said the flavors were really off. To me that sounds like they didn't like the taste (although, theoretically, Padma could have detested it for other reasons). But I agree that Tom was wrong to decide the flavors didn't work before he even tried it.

Thanks for your comments, everyone!

nanis said...

There have been a number of times that Tom has made errors like that. You'd think the editors would fix that, but maybe they don't even notice, cause, well, they're not cooks.
He said chicken picatta was supposed to be in egg and flour and "puffed up". Nope.
He said that pineapple upside down cake should be a ganache. Huh?

Anyway, I love your blog. It made me laugh out loud. Thank you.

a-nony-mouse said...

"So, last week Jen finally went to a better place; she's with Zoi now in Top Chef heaven and we can all get on with our lives."

Amen, brother, amen!