Top Chef Week Three: Ice cream, TGI Fridays, and salt does Emily inNovember 2, 2006
The show opened with a QuickFire challenge up any ice-cream lover’s alley: Design a flavor and serve it up. Of course, when the hostess in the hot pants says that you’re going to be serving your ice cream to Average Joes on the boardwalk — most of whom are 12 and under — you might want to rethink the Avocado/Bacon ice cream you had in mind. Marcel did not. Cliff won, with a crowd pleasing cookies and crumble ice cream. Ah, duh.
The Elimination Challenge was fairly wide open: In between repeated commercials for TGI Fridays, come up with an entree that reminds you of your childhood, serve it to firemen, and just maybe it might end up on — you guessed it — a TGI Fridays menu. This segment was largely eaten up by schoolyard-style name-calling between Betty and Marcel, with Marcel growing increasingly irritating to other contestants and viewers alike. After showing this exchange for about 20 minutes, the producers rammed through about 10 dishes displayed in 30 seconds. In the end, Betty won the challenge with her roasted red pepper soup and grilled portabello cheese sandwich. Marcel looked like a chump, but he didn’t get kicked off. Emily exited for her over-salted “Slammin’ Surf and Turf,” which was, apparently, inedible.
The show’s lowest moment?
Husband: Breaking the golden reality-show rule and No. 1 hospitality industry rule, Emily attacked innocent ice-cream tasters (her customers) — including snarky commentary about the body type and dental hygiene of someone who thought her ice cream wasn’t sweet enough. She was kicked off. Naturally.
Wife: I’m quite fond of Betty and was rooting for her to best Marcel in their battle of “nanny-nanny-boo-boo.” But eventually I grew tired of the over-dramatized and drawn-out exchanges, culminating with Marcel’s attempts “to stare her down” as she was grilling her sandwiches. So lame. Hey, knock it off you two. Don’t make me pull this car over! On an unrelated note — and despite the alienating “Jack Daniels” Friday’s commercials — what was with half of the contestants acting like Friday’s was some foreign and bizarre low-brow eatery? Isn’t there one in every town? Don’t your parents go there after church? “This isn’t the food I cook”? Puh-leeze.
The show’s best moment?
H: Betty’s general demeanor lifts the show. She has a winning personality and gets the idea that food needs to taste good. But she also understands that people need to feel they bought more than the food. Her scream at the end when she won was great.
W: I liked watching the hostess’ many changing outfits. The hot pants. Then the blue jean get-up, which my husband noticed was set off by her special fireman’s badge at the taste testing. This is a fairly stupid comment… but then again this show didn’t have the highs and lows of last week’s lychee-filled drama.
Whose cuisine will reign supreme: The comfort food crew, or the high-class offerings?
H: While I think they’re trying to do the everyman appeal, the end will likely require some high-end skills. So my favorites are Sam, Ilan, or possibly Cliff.
W: I don’t disagree, but your list doesn’t include Betty, and she’s been kicking some tail. She lumped herself in with the comfort food crew, and I have to admit that I’m a fan of the stuff. I think she may take it all, so I’ll throw my lot in with comfort food. It tastes good.
Who’s the next off?
H: Michael. I’ve stayed with this pick two weeks in a row and I’m not about to leave after he seemed to lose it. Also, I think he revealed himself as not a real competitor when he spent $8 on beer for himself rather than on ingredients for the dish. It actually makes me wonder whether he might have some issues with alcohol.
W: Michael, he’s headed for a melt down.
H: It seems like every time the contestants are not in the kitchen, there are shots of them drinking. I suspect a good portion of the production costs of the show were spent on the bar tab. Whoever decides to go cold turkey may improve their chances of winning.
Also Marcel — who not only has ridiculous hair on his head, but also needs to shave that hair under his bottom lip — seems to go on about being a molecular gastronomist. Yet, I wonder how much he really understands his craft. For the non-foodie, molecular gastronomy is built on the idea of focusing on science in the preparation of food. The leading chefs in this area are two Spaniards — Ferran Andria of El Bulli in Cala Montjoi, Spain, and José Andres of Minibar in Washington, DC. (We ate at Minibar for my birthday this year and it was amazing. Also, if you go to these restaurants, they will categorically deny they are doing molecular gastronomy, yet the rest of the world seems to cite them for it.)
Therefor, I question Marcel’s credentials. When dealing with the deep fat fryer that wasn’t hot enough, he left his onion rings in the oil hoping they would be OK. This is a rookie mistake. A fry cook who hates his job at a fast food joint knows that this will give you greasy fries; and if Marcel knew an ounce of food science, then he’d know that if the oil isn’t hot enough to cause the water in the onion rings to push back against the oil it will make them greasy by allowing the oil to seep in. This is simple food science that Alton Brown on Good Eats covers at least once a season. In Marcel’s defense, he had the good sense not to serve his rings.
W: I finally know most of the contestants’ names, but I’m also growing tired of them. As much as I like the reality show drama, they don’t actually show a lot of food on the show. They zipped through the dishes tonight; I’d be hard-pressed to say exactly what fruits were in Sam’s much-praised entree, or what kind of dressing was on them. That kind of stinks. And those are my final thoughts. Live long and prosper.
Your thoughts? Who’s the next off? Who’s the winner? And do we need to take a collection so we can get Marcel more hair product?