Saturday, May 31, 2008

Top Chef 4: Raise the Steaks!

by Xani

**UPDATED with EP's Take!**

Hey, remember back in the day when we used to do Top Chef posts on this blog?? Oh, how times have changed. But this week we're back on the wagon talking about the 12th episode of the season, in which they choose the four contestants who will reach the finals in Puerto Rico.

Heading into the episode we were pretty confident that Antonia, Richard and Stephanie would make it through. But who would join them, Spike or Lisa?? If you don't know by now, you probably live under a rock, but still, we won't spoil it yet. Onto the episode!

The Quickfire Challenge was a two-parter. First, the chefs head to a meat purveyor to show their prowess at butchering giant racks of long-bone USDA Prime aged beef into individual, frenched "Tomahawk" steaks. Now, as soon as I saw them get to work, I was thinking "I can totally do this!" I've cut some steaks in my day. Granted, not steaks as giant as these, and not under such pressure, but still! Anyhow, this phase of the quickfire was a challenge for Stephanie, who had trouble maneuvering the large piece of meat, while Spike "channeled" his butcher grandfather and showed considerable skill in cutting, trimming and frenching the steaks into the perfect lollipop shape.

Next, it was back to the Top Chef kitchen for the next part of the quickfire: cooking those massive steaks! Rick Tramonto is the guest judge, who challenges the chefs to cook a perfect medium-rare (the only way to eat a steak, as we always say). Tramonto evaluates each steak by look and feel, not taste. Stephanie's poor butchering skills and Richard's under-cooked steak land them in the bottom. Spike wins the quickfire, giving him an advantage in the elimination challenge...OR WILL IT???

Moving onto the Elimination Challenge, where Tramonto hands over control of his steakhouse to the chefs for the night. Each must prepare an appetizer and an entree, and Spike's advantage is that he gets to pick the protein for each of his dishes first. He selects the Tomahawk steaks, which did him well in the Quickfire, and some crappy frozen scallops for his appetizer, leaving the other chefs and viewers alike completely baffled.

We finally get to watch the chefs work in a restaurant, solo, producing complete dishes. Tom Collichio is in the kitchen as expediter, making the chefs sweat and stutter, as usual. Finally it is revealed that the special guests at the meal will be Harold, Ilan, and Hung-- the previous three winners, and a tough crowd (I wouldn't want to cook for them!).

All of the food ends up being pretty good (finally!), with only minor complaints from the judges. Lisa's chilled shrimp dish should have been served warm; the frozen scallops don't really deliver (shocker), and Antonia's mushroom salad has a perfectly poached egg (if you recall, she won the diner egg station quickfire, after all!), but is otherwise nothing special. Richard and Stephanie, who both use sweetbreads in their appetizers, get the highest praises from the judges. The entrees are also very successful, Antonia, Stephanie and Lisa all get high praise for their well cooked meat and decadent sides (peanut-butter mashed potatoes?!). Richard gets points off for having his dish be "too deconstructed" and Spike's meat is good but overall his dish doesn't measure up to the ladies. And it's off to Judges' Table...

Unsurprisingly, Stephanie wins again! She's headed to Puerto Rico, as is Richard, whose appetizer was another winner. Then Antonia gets the good news-- the judges loved her entree best and she's in the top four! Onto the elimination, will it be Spike or Lisa...?? Spike gets the boot for his weak scallops and sub-par steak. Also, I'm sure his insult to Chef Tramanto ("well, the scallops were in your walk-in") didn't help things. And we've got our final four! Onto Puerto Rico!


Your hats couldn't save you this time, bro.

Xani's Take:

This week I got a respectable 10 points. My team was Spike, Stephanie and Richard:

I'm currently in fourth place in the BCD Fafarazzi group... just one more week to catch up!!

I was glad to see the chefs step up and cook really yummy looking food this week. And, being a steak lover, I was drooling over all that great looking steak! As for the winners/losers-- I was sortof neutral about whether Spike or Lisa made it into the top four-- they were both obnoxious! I think Spike was more funny-obnoxious, whereas Lisa is just cranky, so I was a little sad to see him go. Definitely looking forward to seeing if this will be the year a female contestant wins it all-- your odds aren't looking too good Richard!

Dish I wish I were eating: With all my drooling over steak, I thought that Richard's hamachi and sweetbreads appetizer looked AWESOME. Can someone make me a big plate of that right now??

Favorite chef at the moment: I'm torn-- all I can say is that I hope its Richard and Stephanie as the top two!

EP's Take:

Hey ya'll! See, only 2 days down South and I'm already talking (typing?) like them. Anyway, like Xani, I really liked this episode. I thought the challenges were interesting and different, and they required the chefs to show us yet another set of skills (skillz?).

Once again, I am an idiot and forgot to change my team, so I had Stephanie, Richard, and long-gone Dale on my team! I still managed to get 9 points though for Stef's win and cursing from her and Richard, leaving me in second place in the BCD group!

My favorite part of the episode was seeing all the chefs working in a real restaurant, with Chef Tom expediting. First, it showed that these people really do know how to be a chef, and so does Chef Tom! I always think that when a chef turns into an entrepreneur/TV host/author (I'm looking at you Anthony, Mario, Daniel, Rocco), they never get into the kitchen and cook like back in the day. But here, we see that Chef Tom's still got the knack. I also audibly gasped when the three former Top Chef winner judges came on screen (though you probably know I'm a bit dramatic at times) - I was so excited! And I heart Ilan even though he's kind of an ass...

Dish I wished I were eating: Stephanie's first course, the sweetbreads with sweet and sour sauce of golden raisins and pine nuts.

Favorite chef at the moment: Richard and Stephanie, of course! Though I am pulling for Antonia - she seems like a tough broad for sure.

Let's all "watch what happens" in the finale! I'm expecting some very exciting curve balls from the judges...can't wait!

X & E

1 comment:

  1. Stephanie and Richard are da'bomb!! Antonia is growing on everyone since she revealed she's a single mom...remember the $10 challenge? Coincidence that she's been doing well since that show? I think not.

    Lisa (dumb) and Spike (the witless wonder AKA Dumber AKA Hat Freak AKA stupid hat-prop jagoff) were in front of the judges...sigh...again, and deservedly so. I'm not going to talk about their food except for one thing: which is worse.....peanut butter mashed potatoes or using frozen scallops that WERE IN TRAMANTO'S FREAKING FREEZER?? Look, if this "special judge" is so effing great, why the hell does he have frozen scallops in there in the first place? Is Spike to blame or is Tramanto for being a pompous ass of a judge who serves frozen food?

    Send them both home. Lisa doesn't deserve to go to Puerto Rico anymore than any of the other ass-clowns who got eliminated...especially Dale who should be going.

    Sorry, that was a pent-up rant!!


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