‘Top Chef’ Episode 12: High steaksMay 29, 2008
This is it! This episode will determine who the final four will be! This is the big showdown! This is where it all happens! This is — yawn — so boring…
Perhaps it’s the lack of drunken head shaving (nice tip, Ilan), or the fact that all the contestants are real-live chefs and not the pathological attention seekers/nudists usually seen on reality TV. Whatever the reason, this episode was, well, just kind of ho-hum television.
This despite the fact that the show started off with all the contenders wielding large knives and donning protection from flying meat particles. Yes, the two-part Quick Fire began with the final five (shout-out to fellow Battlestar Gallactica geeks!) in a butchering contest to create “Tomahawk Steaks.” Spike, practically hatless throughout the episode, channeled his forebears (who were of course butchers) and carved him some meat. And then he cooked it real good — winning the Quick Fire.
His prize? He got first crack at the pantry/walk-in when the chefs took over the restaurant Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood — a noted Chicago eatery — for dinner service. The fearsome fivesome had to prepare an appetizer and entree from whatever was in the restaurant’s apparently well-stocked stores. Indeed, only Spike seemed to get himself in trouble, choosing frozen (gasp! shock! horror!) scallops from the refrigerator’s plentiful wares.
But, since these are actual chefs, not the learning-challenged nose-pickers on “Hell’s Kitchen,” all five managed to cope with the challenge with few hiccups. In fact, Tom Colicchio decided to bask in their reflected glory, serving as the expediter during service — and not once launching into a Gordon Ramsey-like rant. (Which would have been hilarious. Hello, producers? Didn’t think to throw a monkey wrench in there somewhere? Hmmm??)
Perhaps the episode’s only twist was the fact that it took three men to replace Ted Allen. (Snicker.) Yes, it was the conquering heroes who returned to serve as judges: Harold from season one, Ilan from season two, and Hung from season three. All bellied up to get their critique on… but, either because they are very empathetic or because the food was very good, they were fairly mild in their criticism.
To make a long story short (too late), all the food was good but — predictably — Stephanie, Antonia and Richard floated to the top. Stephanie was declared the winner for all around good offerings, Richard’s playful appetizer was deemed tops, and Antonia’s steak was praised highest. That left Lisa (with her puzzling and nauseating sounding peanut-butter mashed potatoes) and Spike (with his frozen scallops) on the bottom. Producers, here’s a twist for you. Eliminate both of them.
But, alas, only one would go home tonight.
And it was Spike. Frozen scallops were too much of an offense (plus, he threw down on the Tramanto for having them in the freezer. Not a good move.).
So, what will happen in Puerto Rico? More good cooking and collegial back-patting? Or will those chefs sharpen their knives for combat? We’re eager to find out!
And now questions and answers… with Husband and Wife!
If you were Rich Tramonto, would you turn your restaurant over to these people?
Husband: Hmm, I’ve got to balance marketing and costumer safety. So I guess I’m going to let them have it, but only on Sunday or Monday night. This way I can get the free air time that will ensure that my business grows like, say Glad, but then I’ve got a minimal likelihood of losing the same restaurant because someone eats a bizarre peanut butter potato, sort of like drinking a poisoned bottle of Evian.
Wife: Sure. I think these crazy Top Chef kids have got a future in this business.
Since odd mashed potatoes are the story of the night, what would you do with them?
H: The first thing that popped into mind was the scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfuss begins to sculpt a mountain from mashed potatoes. Tableside potato sculpting would be fascinating, or perhaps the next step in avant-garde cuisine v. molecular gastronomy. Mashed potatoes made not of potatoes, but two chemicals that give you a potato-like gel. This gel would taste like potatoes, but simultaneously have no resemblance to them at all. Then we would mold them to look like the head of Che Guevara and complete a statement begging the people to decide whether we are hip or simply culinary fascists pretending to be of the people. It would be true post-modern cuisine that would put Lisa’s peanut butter mashers to shame.
W: How can I possibly top that answer? Truth is: I’m a mashed potato purist. The only acceptable ingredients are potatoes, cream, butter, salt and pepper. Peanut butter mashed potatoes sound like crazy on a plate. (Though not nearly as crazy as what my husband proposes above.)
Were you kind of bored?
H: Given that I had time to decide whether or not to shape Che’s head from pseudo-mashed potatoes, I answer with a resounding, “Yes.” I mean, the best line of the night went to Ilan who told people not to shave their heads. He’s not even a contestant! There was about as much drama as watching a middle school production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The end was shocking, too. One of the two worst contestants, who have been nearly kicked off a total of a dozen times between them, are on the block… shocking! The only thing I was sort of surprised about is the lack of a porkpie hat on Spike. Did his lack of hat make him visible to the judges? Or perhaps when Dale was kicked of last week, he absconded with them.
W: Yes, it was not an exciting episode. But despite all my snarky comments, I actually enjoy the fact that reality-show drama is largely missing from this reality TV show. Contestants with integrity? Merit based competition? This is highly innovative stuff to be seen on a network like Bravo. So I say, “Bravo, Bravo.” Get it? (It’s late.)
Next off? Favorite to win?
H: Lisa is out of here. I’m feeling the Stephanie vibe right now. Though Richard might bring his bag of tricks to Puerto Rico.
W: Lisa, obviously. You can just tell she’s waiting for the hammer to fall at judge’s table. She doesn’t even look as pissed about it as she usually does. And Richard’s armor definitely seems to have some chinks in it… where is his self confidence? I like Antonia as a dark horse… but now I think that Stephanie’s the one to beat.
Who’s your favorite to win? Next off? And does anyone else think that someone lost a limb by the way they were teasing next week’s episode? (Part of us is hoping for the excitement to spice it up imagine: “Look, Mom, I won Top Chef, but I’ve got nothing below my left wrist!)