Everybody is crying on Top Chef.
Every week we start the episode with someone sobbing in the stew room. And they’re not even the ones who got sent home!
|I'm in a glass case of emotion.|
However, this week I’m crying too. As soon as I saw Bravo’s title for this week’s episode my eyes started to well up. Because what in the world does Lea Michele have anything to do with food OR New Orleans??
I digress. For now.
Alright. The producers/editors are basically following a set structure now and it’s boring and predictable. It goes like this: Stew room (tears) to morning preparation to someone calling home. This morning it’s disgraced Captain Vietnam Travis Masar.
Travis is very close with his mom and she knows that he’s gay. Travis then tells us that he doesn’t talk to his dad much about his personal life and his dad does not know he’s gay. Oh Travis, he knows. I think he got the hint when you kept bring those Asian boys around the house.
|Yeah. This episode has no heart either.|
You know who else is crying this week? The Top Chef production assistants. Because the chefs walk in to Top Chef kitchen next day to discover that everything is covered in aluminum foil. EVERYTHING.
Last season they wrapped all the ingredients up in foil and the chefs had to pick ingredients blind. This year for the sake of variety (wouldn’t want to do the exact same challenge twice right?) they also wrapped pots, pans, and all cooking utensils in aluminum foil. Oh and they brought Padma and Gail’s moms into it.
It’s not Mother’s Day so the “connection” is that apparently “real moms across America are using Reynold’s Wrap every day in the kitchen to develop tips and tricks to make cooking faster and better.”
Hm. Does that mean moms who don’t use Reynold’s products are fake moms? Sigh, product tie-ins.
It’s actually kinda adorable to see Gail and Padma’s moms. Wait a minute. Is Padma adopted? While Gail looks almost exactly like her mom, Padma is about a foot taller and has bares very little resemblance to hers. No offense to Mama Lakshmi, who is a very pretty and lovely lady in her own right, but yeah - looks nothing like Padma.
The chefs are divided up into two teams. The two moms have 5 minutes to gather up as many utensils and ingredients are possible. The two teams then have 30 minutes to prepare 3 dishes and they must use everything in the cart. Winning team gets to spilt 10 thousand dollars. That’s the prize you get for the show selling out.
Actually, it was fun to watch the moms scramble around to gather mystery ingredients. Moms are adorable when they’re not handing out guilt trips about not being a grandmother yet.
|Cook? We couldn't afford to cook.|
So basically this is one of my favorite things to do. I call it, “Cooking with Watcha Got.” It’s a invaluable skill for those times when your pantry is left with misc scraps. Carlos reminisces about back in the day when they were poor and his mom had to “cook with watcha got.” Notice how no one ever tells the story about how rich they were and had a hard time deciding between lobster or caviar?
There were some odd ingredient combinations but nothing too outlandish. The most “far out” was probably Nina getting stuck with canned beans and cherries. Hey, when in doubt, make soup!
On the other side, Carrie is trying to make sabayon without a whisk. #FirstWorldProblems
Here are the dishes:
|Papillote. It's like a highbrow hobo pouch.|
Sara & Stephanie - Lamb & Fonduta with Sharp Cheddar & Roasted Mushrooms.
Justin & Michael - Red Snapper Papillote with Rice Pilaf.
Carrie, Louis & Shirley - Compressed Burrata with Pickled Apples & Balsamic Sabayon.
Carlos & Travis - Clams Poached in Fish Sauce with Coconut Cream.
Nick & Patty - Snapper & Branzino Papillote with Mustard Vinaigrette.
Bene, Brian & Nina - Soups with Beans, Carrots, Chiles & Okra with Cherry Chutney.
Seems like the Team Lashmi’s strategy was to give Nina (clearly one of the most talented chefs here) all the crappy ingredients and see what she can do with it. And it paid off. Despite the weird soup, all of their other dishes was harmonious and flavorful. They get to split the 10 thousand dollars between the six of them. Don’t spend it all at one place kids!
Gail and the moms leave. And here comes the pain. By pain I mean singer, actress, and star of the show Glee, Lea Michele.
|I clinch when I say CHEESE. That's the kind of person I am|
Let me start off by saying that I have seen the show Glee before. It’s not my favorite thing but sometimes you make sacrifices for the people you love. And the only thing I know about Lea Michelle is that she’s a talented singer. That is all.
However, we’re in freaking New Orleans. Why on God’s green earth do we have Lea Michelle anywhere near the Top Chef kitchen/set? There are umpteenth number of cooks, writers, musicians to choose from in this awesome city and you go with Lea Michelle??? #FacePalm
Tomorrow Lea is having a costume party and the chefs are the caterers. They have to pair up and create two dishes featuring a spooky theme. After all, this is a Halloween episode.
They’ve got five minutes to chat up Lea and find out her likes and dislikes. I’m warning you right now, the pain continues.
|L is for Lea. Because it's ALL about her.|
If you’ve ever watched an episode of Glee, you know what Lea’s character Rachel Berry is like. A insufferable high maintenance prima donna who wants what she wants.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you - Lea Michele.
“I really love a vegan lifestyle. When I want to give myself a little bit of a break I go to vegetarian, which I allow cheese.”
Yup. This is the person judging you today. Someone who loves to deprive themselves of things that are delicious and only gives herself a “break” by allowing cheese. Did I mention she also doesn’t like sweets? This is clearly someone who enjoys and celebrates everything there is to love about food. This is also why there’s a need for a sarcasm font.
She says that she loves ALL vegetables, but when Nick ask her if she like beets, she says no. So Lea, you don’t really love all vegetables do you? She’s Italian, so she likes pasta, pizza, and things that are fried. “Party in your mouth.” I’m going to leave that one alone.
|Vegan?! You're kidding me right?|
Well, there you go. Go cook some cheesy vegetables and pasta and make sure you make it spooky. As if cooking like this isn’t scary enough.
There were some interesting ideas. Shirley’s making a worm-like pasta dish, Carrie’s going with an all black scheme, and everybody is making arancini, a fried rice ball that usually has a savory, sometimes cheesy filling.
Can’t blame them I guess. If you plug in the words “Italian,” “cheesy,” and “fried,” into your personal Goggle machine, chances are arancini is going to pop up as one of the more popular options. So now this becomes an arancini contest.
Bene and Brian decide to go the completely opposite direction and make 2 separate salad dishes, a trio of tomato salad and a quinoa feta salad. I dozed off just typing that sentence.
|Dumb and Dumber|
Brian says that a chef, he believes one can indulge with lighter cuisine like spa food and salads. That’s like saying I believe I can get drunk by drinking O’Doul’s.
Their slogan is “Come massage your palate with our spooky spa cuisine.” Um yeah. I’d say don’t quit your day job but I think that’s in jeopardy as well.
Nina and Michael are not getting along. This is no surprise to anyone who saw last week’s episode, when she compared him to Pamela Anderson’s boobs. It’s also hard to work with someone who constantly calls you “boo-boo,’ “baby cakes,” and “sweetie.” So yeah, he is pretty much a boob.
|I can hear myself yawn!|
Here comes the judges in their costumes. Hugh Acheson is some sort of prince. With his shaggy hair and sleepy eyes, he’s more of a Prince Valium than Prince Charming. Padma has on an elaborate feathered head gear, perhaps a Voodoo Princess?
Tom is wearing a dandy straw hat, round glasses, a bow-tie with a summer suit. He says he’s channeling the Great Gatsby, but he looks more like someone who you’ll see Sunday Mornings on Fox News Channel.
Lea Michele has on a black dress and cat ears. Thanks for the effort Lea.
|Um. There's some dirt on your plate.|
Black Team - Carrie & Stephanie:
Doomed Shrooms: Mushrooms with Black Garlic & Radicchio.
Freakly Leeky: Ash Coated Vegetables with Fontina Fonduta.
Tom and Lea really like this combo. The presentation was nice, it kinda looked like a graveyard. Mushrooms were cooked correctly, and the fonduta packed a good punch for the vegetables. Good start.
Yellow Team - Nicholas & Patty.
Nicholas - Fall Theme: Butternut Squash Cannoli with Ricotta Salata.
Patty - Fall Theme: Lemon Arancini with Smoked Mozzarella.
|Um. There's some spit on your plate.|
When Hugh asked how is this dish “Halloweeny” Patty had no answer. The fact is that wasn’t spooky or Halloweeny. It’s just kinda...orange. Hey, as long as things tastes good I think you’re gonna be ok.
Green Team - Brian & Bene.
Brian - Spooky Spa: Crispy Quinoa Salad & Mushroom Espuma.
Bene - Spooky Spa: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Wilted Kale.
Not scary, not season, not looking good. The only doom and gloom here is the food and the concept of serving spa food at a Halloween party. I’d make more puns about how scary their food is, but you get the point.
Orange Team - Nina & Michael.
Nina - Candy Corn: Ricotta Gnocchetti with Kale Pesto.
Bloody Eye - Yellow Arancini with Saffron & Tomato Jam.
Nina’s gnocchi is perfectly cooked. Clearly the odds on favorite, she just brings it at every challenge. Michael’s rice ball on the other hand didn’t fare so well. The sauce tastes too sweet, almost like store bought. One thing you don’t want to do is to serve Tom Colicchio a terrible gravy.
Red Team: Travis & Carlos.
Travis - Dia De Los Muertos: Vegetable Ceviche.
Carlos - DIa De Los Muertos: Goat Cheese Fondue with Fried Zucchini.
Hey look. It’s Bravo Andy dressed as...Dandy Bravo Andy! I didn’t think he could possibly be dandier than he already is.
Blue Team: Louis & Shirley.
Louis - Severed Thumb: Braised Quinoa & Onions with Potato Puree.
Shirley -Worm Salad: Hand Cut Noodles & Fresh Daikon Radish.
|Sense a trend?|
Lea likes the acidity on the veggies for the noodles and hey who doesn’t like a severed thumb!
Wait. Did Lea Michele just dropped the term “acid” in front of Tom Colicchio? Sigh. Watch a few episodes of Top Chef and everyone’s a critic.
Gray Team - Justin & Sara.
Justin - Blood Pasta: Beet Pasta with Green Tomatoes.
Sara - Evil Eye: Arancini with Moroccan Tomato Chutney.
Little Miss High Maintenance was quick to point out that she didn’t like beets. To which Justin was kinda like, whatever. Good for him. And right about now I feel the same way Tom does, “Another risotto ball.” Yawn.
|I'm the worst person in the world.|
Party’s over. Let’s head to stew room for the flatscreen of doom and see who’s probably on the top and who’s on the chopping block.
Out of the multiple arancino, Patty’s came out on top. She can’t believe it. Frankly, neither can I. Sure seems like she was on her way out 3 episodes ago and here she is in with the top group. Nick’s dish also scored high. See, you don’t necessarily have to play the stupid theme game. As long as things are delicious, you’re gonna be ok.
The Red Team’s spicy dishes also won Lea over. The heat on Carlos’ crispy zucchini and Travis crunchy veggie ceviche were also among the judges’ favorites.
|Now I understand why they did that.|
On the less fortunate end, we’ve got the uneven combo of Nina and Michael. All along it seems like Michael was just riding Nina’s coattails and now those tails are turning around to bite them both in the ass. While the judges liked Nina’s dish, Michael rice ball was just meh.
And lastly we have the pathetic “spooky spa food” brothers. The sauce on the quinoa salad was too heavy and what can you say about a tomato salad? Snooze fest.
In the end, Lea picked Carlos and Travis for the win because they made the “two dishes that best satisfied (her) cravings and followed the extensive rules that (she) gave.”
Ok now I know why she as invited for this Halloween episode. Imagine dating this woman? She might be the scariest thing ever. *shudder*
The Green team gets blasted for making spa food when Princess Lea specifically asked for indulgence. The Red team gets blasted because Michael is a boob and can’t make a fried rice ball. Padma really went after Nina, scolding her for not policing Michael’s dish.
|No more nonsense celebs and product tie-ins!|
At this point I would have put money down that the spooky bland spa food goes home. But the judges decide that the biggest boob, Michael, deserves the cut for his dried balls and too sweet tomato sauce. It’s a damn shame because I really like Galatoire’s. Hard to imagine that he’s the same chef that managed to serve us great food time and time again.
No one in the stew room is surprised or shedding any tears over his exit. He was grating on people’s nerves since day one. I’m going to miss him as much I I’ll miss Lea Michele.
Alas, to Last Chance Kitchen you go. Good luck battling the Australian Sensation, Janine, who reigned supreme on last week’s 5 chefs Last Chance Kitchen Battle Royale.
Next week. John Besh, an actual New Orleans legend to the rescue.
Thanks for stopping by and we’ll see you next week!
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