TOP CHEF: 5.8 - The Other White Meat (SPOILERS)
|This is going to be a quickie. Sorry guys. Sometimes real life gets in the way of your entertainment. My sincere apologies!
Tonight's episode is all about pairs. Pairs that go together. Pairs that clash. Let's watch together as Top Chef heavy hands it to us who gets along and who doesn't. Speaking of which...
I've been trying to come up with a nickname for Eli. He reminds me of a cross between Seymour from Little Shop Of Horrors and Chunk from The Goonies. So bear with me as I try a few out.
Hey did you know that Eli "Mushink" lives with his parents? Because we're going to see a conversation of him talking on the phone to his Mom. It's perfectly ok for him to live with his parents and not pay rent at 25. Which... I personally wouldn't question, but why bring it up as a point that he has a relationship with his parents? Well that's because it'll come up later in the episode. The gun in Act One will be used in Act Three. This 'law' of writing, is also used in reality show editing.
Also, in case this is your first episode.... Everybody hates Robin. That would make a clever title for a sitcom, or some variation of that. Somebody should look into that. The fact that Robin is compelled to narrate her every thought it shown through a voice over and reaction shots of other chefmates.
Someone has set Padma-bot 9000 to Promote and she begins to talk about Alexia snack products. I kind of wish the snack chips seemed more fun like Emerald Nuts. I still crack up at the one where the Addicted To Love girls to try turn the guy who's napping in his back yard.
But I digress...
Guest judging today is chef Charlie Palmer. It just so happens that both Bryan and Brother Mike worked for Charlie. I kinda see this as an unfair moment in the show. The Brothers are both very talented chefs. Even tho they've had their missteps in the kitchen during the show, if they win it would be easy for someone to cry foul. It just sets up a possible awkward circumstance. If they win, someone could say it was unfair... If they lose, the brothers could say it was unfair to them, via reverse discrimination. It's no-win for them this episode, I fear.
ANYWAY... Padma-bot explains that they must create a dish that pairs well with one of the flavors of snack chips. How friggin' hard would that be? I don't care how gourmet a friggin' snack chip is, it is still a snack food. This entire challenge is making me peckish. I give serious consideration to make a dish to go with the 'gourmet' Tostitos corn chips in my pantry. I'm thinking of pairing them with guacamole... I mean avocado mousse. I'M A CHEF!!!
There is a lot of scrambling as usual and Jennifer is particularly stressed because if they don't taste her food first, she's done. I don't know how this is decided, but wouldn't you know who get to go first... Not Jennifer. So she's worried her pork chops will be overcooked.
The bottom three are Ash, Robin, and Jennifer. No surprise to herself.
The top three are Bryan, Eli "Truffle Shuffle", and Kevin. The winner is... Ke-... WHA-?! Truffle Shuffle wins!? Yup... Mama's Boy Eli wins the Alexia Snack Chip challenge. I'm surprised he isn't given a years supply of the chips or something. You know he'd think it's awesome to sit around in his parents basement, playing XBox, drinking Red Bull, eating Alexia Snack Chip. I'm kinda jealous my own self.
For the Elimination Challenge, we get to the real reason Chef Charlie Palmer is there. Pigs & Pinot! The cheftestants draw knives and are each assigned a part of the pig that they'll be cooking. Jennifer draws the Wild Knife which means she can pick whatever part she wants to use. She picks the belly, which should have enough fat to keep her pork from drying out. The chefs will each be making 150 tasting portions, of their selected pig part and pairing it with a wine.
The chefs are taking to the Mandalay Bay Casino where the Wine Angels are. If you've never seen it, it's kind of cool. A large tower of wine that holds thousands of bottles. Each bottle is retrieved by 'angels' who ride a harness and pulley system that lowers and raises them around the wine tower. It's pretty impressive. Once there, they chefs are treated to a wine tasting in order to select the type of wine they'll be using.
I have always wanted to go to a wine tasting. I'm fascinated by how some people can tell a lot about the various notes and flavors a wine might have. It's totally snobby and high falootin', but I'd love to give it a go.
Each chef selects a wine that they feel will go well with their dish. Now... this is hard! I know that some of these guys are probably excellent at it, but just take a moment to think about it. First you have to analyze the flavors you're getting from the wine. Then you have to decide what you're going to make and shop accordingly. Then you have to prepare your dish to match the wine. Shit... I'm going back to cooking food to go with potato chips. Fuck this noise.
Jennifer has seemed to get her groove back. And not in the biblical way. Tho I have no proof that... oh just forget it. The brothers seems verycompetitive. Even more so than normal. I'm guessing it's because their former boss is one of the judges. No pressure, right kids?
Once the shopping necessities have been gathered from Whole Foods we follow the chefs back to the Top Chef Barbie Dream House. As they are cooking dinner, we see Robin and Eli get into a heated passive aggressive bitch fest about what seemed to be washing a cutting board. Seriously...? Eli clearly doesn't like Robin and his way of expressing this is to basically ignore her and not listen to anything she asks. Robin's way of addressing Eli comes off as overbearing mother-in-law-ish and passive aggressive. Mikey actually has the right idea by talking to her as little as possible. If you don't like her, limit your interactions with her. Granted you're in a tiny Top Chef Barbie Dream House, but I can't imagine she can be in EVERY room at the same time.
After a few snipes back and forth, Eli walks out of the kitchen with his dinner and shouts, "You're not my mother!" To which Robin replies, "I know I'm not. If I was I would've raised you better." BANG!! The Act Three gun has gone off. Ouch! Harsh! That's not really only a slap to Eli, but also to Mama Chunk. Leave her out of it.
I'm also fascinated by the way the guys are eating. Truly Frat Boy / Caveman style. Eli has taken the pan of food and silverware to a living room area and the remaining guys are hovering over it like it's a slaughtered mastodon. Picking the pan clean. Seriously... there is little need for plates when a pan and a fork will do.
The next day the chefs start prepping for their Pigs & Pinot challenge. The brothers have a few harsh words for each other. Ash feels like he is really cooking "his food" finally. Yet as he's prepping decides to switch gears completely, changing up his dish. Jennifer is feeling much better about the food she's putting out. Laurine is feeling really good that she's made a winning dish. Tho she is substituting pork for rabbit in a rillettes dish she's made before.
Once at the venue the chefs set up, and before you know it... there is a HUGE line of hungry people waiting to be served. They are truly stampeding over the hill towards the chefs. It's a bit frightening and I'm not even cooking.
Brother Mike has prepared root beer-braised pork cheek with a truffle bun and vanilla/cherry sauce.
Ash chilled pork tenderloin with cherry and corn salad.
Eli Truffle Shuffle present a braised pork belly with carrot puree and raw celery and fennel as a play on mirepoix.
Kevin has given us pork leg paté with mushroom salad and pickled cherries and a pork fat-based mayonnaise.
Brother Mike has made pork shoulder stuffed with prosciutto, dates and pine nuts and served over orange blossom yogurt.
Bryan has a braised pork spare rib served over parsnip puree with mostarda.
Jennifer cooked a pork belly braised in soy sauce with a salad made of tomatoes, black olives, apples, celery and truffles.
Laurine made pork butt rillettes on an arugula salad with a golden raisin and pearl onion chutney on top.
Robin has prepared a brined center-cut pork chop stuffed with sweet potato-apple roulade and a sour cherry-coffee demiglace.
The fact that so many chefs used fruit with the pork really says something to me. The Brady Bunch had it right. Pork chops and applesauce. There is a reason it's a classic. Pork and apples pair well. All of this reminds me of another writing 'law' I heard. There are no new stories. It's been said that the plots of most all books and movies can be boiled down 7 basic ideas for stories. It's just the rehashing and retelling of these stories that can make them familiar and enjoyable. The same can be said for food, I believe. Pork and fruit is a classic combination. But depending on how you put it together and the new spin you give to the dish... THAT's what excites the palate and the diner.
So who made the best pairing of food and wine? In the top are Bryan, Brother Mike, Jennifer and Kevin. Chef Charlie has high praise for each of the brothers. While, Toby Young compares Jennifer's dish to an exciting hairy arm pit as compared to a boring clean shaven arm pit. This cracks Chef Tom up! He turns red and busts out laughing, putting his head down on the table. I think Toby has clearly had more than a tasting portion of wine tonight. He finally explains how this is a compliment to Jennifer's dish, but really... Someone take Toby to the Promises or Betty Ford or something! Cut him off!
The winner is... KEVIN! They love Kevin's wine pairing. They can't stop talking about his dish as they're eating it. Can we just name Ginger Bear the winner, already? He wins a spot as guest chef in Charlie Palmer's event next year. Woot??
In the bottom are Robin, Laurine, and Ash. None of whom seem to really be too surprised they are there. Well, maybe Robin, because I don't know that she has a clear grasp on what she's cooking. To be fair... Ash seems a bit shocked too, but it's because when he changed his dish mid-stream he thought it was for the better. Clearly, not. Laurine is called out on what she calls a rillette, being nothing close to a rillette. Actually, one of the guest tasters who was not an official judge tonight, called her dish "cat food." Which, again, is harsh! Other than having your food spit out, that's about as bad as it gets.
As I'm sitting here watching it and conferring with Mark, we both agree that while we don't want it to be, that Ash is going home... and sure enough. Padma-bot has just enough energy reserves to chirp out his name and tell him to GTFO. Even though the other chefs would prefer it be Robin going home, they are stuck with her for a little bit longer.
Goodbye, Ash! You'll be missed. Watching him makes me think that's how I'd be if I was on the show. He was humble in his ability and high in his praise of others. He knew when something could be a big hit in someone else's food, but couldn't stop from second guessing himself with his own. He was amusing, self efficacing, and well liked be all. Jennifer is the first to give him a big ol' hug as he announces he's going home. OhMyGod did he just plant a kiss on Mikey's cheek? I thought it was Brother Mike he had the man crush on? Hrm... Oh well. Not my type. So maybe he's not how I would've been like on the show at all.
Next week... RESTAURANT WARS!!! This is always a big deal each season. The chefs all know it's coming eventually. It's kind of what they all want to at least make it to in the show. It's the equivalent to "The Tribal Merge" on Survivor... Which I am missing so that I can write this snippet of entertainment for you. So I hope you enjoy it! Tell a friend! Drop me a note! Leave a comment!!
I posted this @ 10/15/2009 07:32:00 PM.............Need a link?..........