Top Chef Week Five: Fancy animal parts, more leftovers, and two heads rollNovember 16, 2006
The theme for this week’s show was leftovers. But not the leftovers sitting in your fridge or ours. (In our fridge: Leftover chili, raw doughnut dough and misshapen slices of Papa John’s pizza. Let’s see them make a six course tasting menu for 60 with that.) But first, there was the QuickFire challenge. The chefs were presented with the leftovers of your typical four-star restaurant’s walk-in meat refrigerator: ox tails, sweetbreads, chicken feet, pig’s blood, veal tongues. You know, animal parts.
The contestants put on another impressive display; offerings ranged from sweetbread schnitzel (by Marcel — who also used blood in their somewhere. Eew.) to sweetbread with Chinese spices and doughnut-style side (Sam), to fish heads and beef cheeks with fettuccini (Betty). The top finishers were the same folks who keep rising to the top each week: Sam, Cliff and Ilan. Sam won for his creative “flavor profile,” as the like to say. Go hot diabetic, go.
The Elimination Challenge clicked the star power up a notch, as the chefs were tasked to cook a six-course tasting menu for Jennifer Coolidge (known to you and Michael as “Stifler’s mom”) and 60 of her closest friends. The chefs had to divide up into pairs, and rather than have them draw knives (death match style), the contestants just paired off awkwardly like middle schoolers at a high school dance. (Marcel, being a few short years out of middle school, made exactly that reference, evidently having been burned before.)
The “leftovers” the chefs had to cope with didn’t seem to be leftover from anything at all. Instead they seemed to be the contents of your typical, upscale Whole Foods. Rather than coordinating a coherent tasting menu, everyone just did their own thing… with typical results. The good chefs cooked good food and the bad chefs, well, you know.
The top two courses were easy to call as were the chefs who made them: Sam and Cliff for their fois gras and scallops, and Ilan and — hold it! — Michael, for their seafood paella. Yes, Michael was on the winning team, despite their evidently heavy-handed use of saffron. But Ilan “won.” (Can you blame guest judge Michelle Bernstein for picking him over Michael?)
The best part of the episode: Two heads rolled on the chopping block. Marisa and Josie‘s three random and untouched by flame “intermezzo” or “awakening something” course was a miss with the judges, who remarked that their juice looked like pepto bismol, and presumably tasted as bad without the heart-burn allaying benefits.
How does Michael stick around?
Husband: I have no idea. I promise this week I won’t pick him to lose… I think my wife was right last week about there being some rip in the space-time continuum that causes him to advance when I predict his demise.
Wife: Obviously he’s onto something with that hat. It’s his thinking cap. And he thought to himself: “I should definitely partner with Ilan.” And his thinking cap was right. (For those of you who didn’t see it, it looked like an awkwardly rendered doo-rag.)
Most awkward couple? Most likely to marry?
H: Josie and Marisa were the most awkward. I can’t think of two women who could be more opposite from each other and still be in the same profession. Sam and Cliff seem most likely to marry. It was a love fest between the two of them.
W: Ilan and Michael were the most awkward. It looked like Chef Boyardee (Michael) and, I dunno, some guy with glasses. I concur that sparks flew between Cliff and Sam. And they’d have such good-looking little sous chefs.
P.S. Did you guys know that Padma Lakshmi (the hot pants hostess) is married to Salman Rushdie? Talk about awkward couples.
Jennifer Coolidge’s appearance raises the question: Will you go see For Your Consideration or Casino Royale this weekend?
H: I’m a man.
W: I’ll interpret: We’re going to see Casino Royale. Blonde Bond? Yes, please.
Winners and losers….
H: I’m not going to pick Michael to lose. Take that, universe. Instead, I’m going to pick Mia. I think she is consistently on the lower side, and is on the verge of slipping up and losing. I’ll go with Cliff to win. He consistently shows up in the top group: QuickFire, Elimination, doesn’t matter. He seems a winner.
W: Now that my nemesis Marisa is off, I’m going for Elia. Why am I rooting against women? I dunno. Don’t read too much into it. To win, I’m returning to my initial first pick: Ilan. It’s the glasses, maybe.
Your thoughts? Who’s the next off? Who’s the winner? Has Betty’s charm worn off? Are you going to the movies this weekend? And do you think she’s with him because of the fatwa or because he’s “a really good writer”?