Thursday, September 09, 2010

Top Chef: Holy Asian Extravaganza


I wasn't sure I was going to watch top Chef, much less write about it, after Tiffany left, because I hooked my wagon to her star early on and I was sad, hell, I was pissed off, when she got Knifed.
I will never forgive Padma for uttering those words.
Plus, I had no idea who I would root for now. Ed and Kevin don't really excite me, and Kelly is a little bland. As for Angelo, he is, as I like when Ed says it, a douchebag.
But, old habits are hard to break and at 10 PM the TV automatically clicked over to Bravo.
The cheftestants have arrived in Singapore, and we are again reminded that this is the first time Top Chef has gone international. EVER!!!
Okay. And Kelly does show some excitement to be in Singapore, and Ed reminds us that he has decided that he can do this, after 187 weeks of competition--or something like that. Kevin arrives dressed like an extra from Jumanji, and, of course, Angelo tells us that it';s his destiny to win since the finale will be in Singapore, and he'll be that mush closer to his FedEx bride.
I mean, it's a hop, skip and a yak from Singapore to Russia, right?
The cheftestants gather in a food market, pretending they're happy to see Angelo, and then Tom shows up with Seetoh, the food expert of Singapore. Seetoh is charged with leading the pack through the market and showing him how Singaporeans eat and cook in tiny little rooms with giant woks. There are noodle dishes and chile crabs and what Seetoh calls the hamburger of Singapore, a poached chicken served with rice.
Huh, I'm apparently Singaporean. And I say that because I love saying Singaporean.
The chefs love wandering through the market tasting the foods, until they enter an open area and find another hot dish, Padma, waiting.
Yup, it's still a competition.
QUICKFIRE
Padma tells them that they must create their own version of Singaporean street food using only a wok and a mound of ingredients labeled in Chinese. Kevin, who doesn't wok, is afraid. And he's even more nervous when Padma tells them that, for the first time this late in the game, the Quickfire winner will have immunity and head straight to the Final Three!
Final Three! Final Three! Singaporean!
While Padma and Seetoh sit and have a beer--I so want Padma's job--the chefs are at a loss as they scramble through the available foods, because the labels are indecipherable, unless you're Singaporean. They have to taste everything in order to find what they need. Even Angelo, who is destined to win, struggles. He tries for Chile Crab, but settles on Chile Frog. Legs.
Kelly tries to recreate a noodle dish, using lobster and cockles and bean sprouts. Again, if this is Singapore cuisine, I am Singaporean. Kevin does a take on Seafood Stew, and gets called out for not knowing how to wok. Padma asks if he knew he was coming to Singapore, and before he answers, she says, Oh yeah, you did, because I told you.
Snap!
Seriously, Kevin, if you knew you were headed to Asian, wouldn't you take a minute--or a month--to study Asian foods and cooking techniques? Huh?
Ed, meanwhile, has done some wok-ing, though not any walking because he sweats and has the belly to prove it. He also goes noodle with lobster and gai lan.
After sampling the chef's dishes, Seetoh offers praise to all of them and then tells them that Angelo is the winner, because it's his destiny. Except hat didn't happen. Ed gets the win, and the immunity, and Angelo gets the scowl and the pout.
I am in heaven.
ELIMINATION CHALLENGE
Dana Cowin, head foodie and mistress of all things culinarian, is hosting a little party for eighty, and the chefs must come up with Singapore-inspired dishes for them. And to make matters worse, or better, depending on how you roll, all the meals must be cooked to order.
And, it's a team challenge, and, as weve seen this season, the chef's don't always work well as a team if Angelo is on their team.
The chefs head back to their Hilton Hotel penthouse and crack a few bottles of champagne and discuss what they want to cook. Each chef wants to do one dish and Kelly questions that idea. But ImmuneEd says one dish is plenty.
Really?
That works well until, as they cook in the kitchen the next day, Tom stops by and tells them that one dish per chef really isn't enough, and he wants two dishes each. Suddenly, ImmuneEd says he planned two along.
Well, then, let's rip.......

ED
He'll do Sweet and Sour Pork with Crispy Rice & Potato Cakes, and Gai Lan. His second dish is Banana Fritter Skewers with Red Chile Paste.
ImmuneEd loves playing weith Angelo, knowing that every joke or punch of sarcasm, Angelo takes seriously. When Angelo asks if he can borrow a spoon, ImmuneEd lends him on,e but then says it was a gift from his mother.
It was? Angelo asks.
ImmuneEd grins.
But he does take the lead in the kitchen, giving instructions to the staff about the food, and how to expedite it correctly, so Ed will get props for that. i mean, think if Angelo had immunity. Would he have helped or just worked for himself?
I know!
Ed even finishes early--hot dogs don't take long--and offers to lend a hand to Kevin, who has cockle issues--which isn't nearly as racy as it sounds.
His pork is a big hit with the judges, calling it "refined"--shot. Seetoh says it totally reeks of street market, and I think that's good. Dana would eat it until she dies. But it's his fritters that cause judging orgasms. Gail moans like she's never moaned, and Dana wants an entire basket of them.
Who knew that what women wanted was banana fritters in chile paste?

ANGELO
His destiny tells him to prepare Lamb Tartare with Rambutan--a Singaporean fruit akin to the Lychee--Ceviche with Curry Oil. His second attempt is a Spicy Prawn Broth with Ginger-Prawn Dumplings.
Angelo tries to play off immunity as a bad thing because you don't cook at 100%, unless, of course, he has the immunity. I wonder if Angelo shouldn't be serving sour grapes.
He says he's going to ignore ImmuneEd, but as they cook, he is constantly sniping and bitching at Ed; and Ed is loving it. And so am I.
Angelo keeps reminding us that since Ed has immunity, he could put up a hot dog and still sail through to the finals, but Angelo is still woried, because, is Ed putting up a hot dog?
All the stress and strain of perhaps not fulfilling his destiny has Angelo on edge; he snaps at Ed, and basically doesn't play well with others. As the waitstaff--the Asian waitstaff--works with the language barrier, he becomes the typical rude-to-servers-chef. Trouble is, as he barks at them, he doesn't realize they don't truly understand him. And he doesn't understand the tickets.......written in Chinese!
Still, his lamb is a hit with the judges, as well as his soup. Dana Cowin announces that, even though she's a foodie, she doesn't like tartare, she does like Angelo's tartare because it's so "refined". And that's the key word this tasting: "refined." Whenever you hear "refined" you know the judges are liking what they are eating. And I decide to take a shot of tequila at the mention of refined.
Within thirty seconds, I'm drunk.
Refined is a nice word, but it's no Singaporean.
Shot, anyone?


KEVIN
After spending the night having wok nightmares, Kevin decides to do Southeast Asian Chowder with Cockles, and a 63° Farm Egg in Pearl Tapioca with Radish Condiments--sort of a take on rice porridge.
Kevin is still worried about his lack of wok, but knows that since he won't have to rely on one, he should be okay. He's going along at a nice clip, getting the almost invisible edit, until....

Cockles.
He's having Cockle Troubles, because they won't open. He calls across the kitchen, Can anyone help me with my cockles? They won't open!
I have always thought that Angelo had a thing for cockles, but he says nothing; Kelly only knows from her husband's cockles, so she says No. ImmuneEd is, allegedly, an expert cockle opener, and the day is saved.
Until the wait staff begins speaking and writing and Kevin realizes that, while he can't wok, he also has a hard time understanding people who can; he doesn't read Chinese, doesn't cook Chinese.
It's all Japanese to him.
His chowder is a success, with both Tom and Dana loving it, and Gail calling it "refined"--shot. His 63° Farm Egg is also a hit. Tom calls it a big risk because so many things could have gone wrong, but it was, yes, "refined"--shot.

KELLY

Not known for her ability to create Asian dishes, Kelly goes for Prawnhead Red Curry and a cold Cucumber-Yogurt Soup with a Bitter Melon Salad.
The high point of Kelly's trip to Singapore, was the slash edit. Apparently a finger was cut, and there was blood on the floor. Kelly put on a glove, and then the glove filled with blood.
We learn that Kelly is a bit of a bleeder.
But she's also a team player, more so than anyone else on the team. She offers help, and ingredients, to other chefs, and does so with little to no snark.
I might be Team Kelly.
Might.
Kelly, again, true to being a team player, is the most relaxed in the kitchen, and the most polite to the wait staff. Firm, but polite.
Her chilled soup is a hug hit, and all the judges--Padma, Tom, Gail, Dana Cowin, and Seetoh--love her use of Asian ingredients. The guava-apple salad is amazing, and Seetoh admits more than once to wanting to steal it for his own. Her curry also gets props from Gail, who is, apparently, Singaporean like me.

JUDGES TABLE
as they wait in the Stew Room, Kelly says she's leaving, and then Angelo says he's leaving. Kevin says nothing, and ImmuneEd just smiles.
Padma requests the presence of all chefs at judges table and asks how they liked cooking again as a team. Kelly, the team player, says it all worked out well, and then Angelo says they worked so well together that he forgot it was a competition and that he felt like he was working with his team back home.,
Yeah, if you believe that I have a wok to sell you.
Tom says the judges loved all the dishes, and that the winner and loser will come down to minute issues of refinement--that counts...shot. He tells Angelo that his lamb was perfection, and, just as Angelo pats himself on the back because he's never done lamb tartare before, Tom says his both was more of a sauce. And to add insult, Padma plays the 'S' card....too much Salt.
Kelly's soup gets points, though the fish was roughly cut and lacked texture. As for the Prawns, Gail wanted more heat. Seetoh again wants to steal the guava-apple side dish.
When it comes to Ed, Gail moans some more, Holy Asian extravaganza! Seeetoh loved the pork, but might have deep-fried the rice cake for added texture. Tom thought the fritters were the perfect Lower East Side stoner food--and he meant that as a compliment--while Gail continued to moan. The only problem she saw was that she wanted more.
Gail called Kevin's chowder elegant and, you guess it, "refined"--shot--while Seetoh hoped for more heat. His Tapioca was good, but lacked the texture of, say, peanuts.
VERDICT
Even with the immunity bonus, Ed wins the challenge for creating a good meal when he could have rested on his hot dog.
Now it comes down to Angelo, Kevin, and Kelly, and I begin chanting Angelo...Angelo...Angelo.
But it's Kelly. And true to her nature she is gracious and thanks the judges, telling them that their critiques have made her a better chef. Kevin is still in the invisible edit, but Angelo is weeping.
Frog Leg Tears.
I guess now I'll have to switch teams again........but whose team?

3 comments:

froggy said...

"I mean, it's a hop, skip and a yak from Singapore to Russia, right?"

snorkle!

We're thinking Team Ed. Kevin scares us, Angelo confuses us.

wunnerful recap, as always.

Bob said...

I always think, as I'm writing the recaps, which line which garner a Froggy chortle or guffaw, and this time, as I wrote that line, I thought, "This is it!"

robertga99 said...

Team ED