Top Chef 9.12 – Block Party

I don’t know if y’all are watching Last Chance Kitchen, but up until this week, it’s been awesome. This last one made me very sad. I’ll use invisio-text to explain, for those of you that want to remain unspoiled. (Click CTRL + A to read after the jump.)

Nyesha has beaten everyone she’s come against so far, and Nyesha is my girl. I love her. She went home too soon, everyone agrees. And Beverly beat her this week. And while I know Beverly makes beautiful food (she does) the twist in this competition made it completely unfair. It should be straight up food. Bad call, Tom.

Beverly went home last week, and you’d think she was some maniacal egomaniac the way the others are talking about her. Everyone but Grayson, that is. Grayson’s good people. A little simple in ways, but she’s good people. Charlize Theron pops back in to tell them thank you again, and they all fall that much more in love with her. And then they go home and sleep for 27 hours.

They come back to the culinary school for their next challenge and see the awesome Cat Cora standing there with Emeril and Padma. Quickfire challenge: 3 teams of 2 will have 40 minutes to make 1 pound of pasta, “shuck” a crate of corn, and peel, devein, and butterfly two pounds of shrimp. Whatever time is left over, that’s their time to make a dish with those three ingredients. (I say “shuck” because they wanted them to cut the corn off the cob. Shucking is just taking off the outsides. Ahem.)

The winning team will win $10,000. There is no immunity. They’ll call for the judges to check out their work to move on to the next phase, cooking. And…go!

Grayson and Chris are teamed up and seem to be having the most problems. Chris is slow as molasses and has the weirdest advice ever: “Fast is slow and slow is smooth.” No, fast is fast, slow is slow, and skill is smooth. There, fixed it for you. Grayson tries to get the pasta going, but it’s looking mighty rough. The judges eye her pasta as she’s rolling it out and just don’t think it’s going to work out. Grayson won’t stop, and pushes Chris to move his bloomin’ arse.

Lindsay and Sarah are rocking and rolling, and you know Sarah is all “I got this” with the pasta. Her middle name is pasta. Lindsay busts out the shrimp in record time, Sarah’s the first to finish her pasta (which is exactly as Mama Salvatore in Bari made is like-ah her mama, and her mama before.) They break their arms patting themselves on the back for how amazing they are, and how they would eat this particular dish “every day of my life.” I’m not a fan of either of these two. They’re confrontational, bossy to the point of being controlling, and so cock-sure it’s off-putting. (Sarah was so great in the beginning, too!)

Ed and Paul are the final team, which makes Paul nervous. Every time they’re paired up, he screws things up for Ed, somehow. (Evil genius? Or just unlucky?) They have a hard time finding a groove when working together, and it shows. They’re second on pasta, second on corn and last with shrimp. Oooooh, except the shrimp never made it to the plate. Oh, Paul!

RESULTS:

  • Grayson/Chris: Fettuccine with toasted corn, poached shrimp, chili and bacon (the toasted corn and shrimp were praised)
  • Sarah/Lindsay: Fettuccine with corn milk, shrimp chili, taragon and parsley (Cat Cora hates the tarragon)
  • Paul/Ed: Big old goose egg because of the lack of shrimp. Which is a shame, because the flavors were good.

Winner: Grayson and Chris! That is a huge shock, and Sarah immediately starts bitching that her pasta was better. Well, it wasn’t a pasta challenge, Sarah.

Now to move on to the Elimination Challenge. Healthy Choice is getting some sweet product placement (as they do every episode) by teaming up with a local food bank in San Antonio (which I love – also, check to see if there’s a Second Harvest in your region. That’s my favorite food bank, because they work with local farmers/growers to take extras off their hands, making sure people get FRESH produce. How great is that?)

Whomever was your teammate, they are now your competition. Each team will pick one dish and a side dish, do individual interpretations of said dish, and one person from each team will win, and one person from the losing team will pack their knives and go home. Also, it’s for 200 people. Oh, and they’ll only have 2.5 hours to prep. Aaaaand there will only be 45 minutes to set up and be ready to serve. No big, right? So what’s it gonna be, teams?

Grayson and Chris will make a chicken salad sandwich and watermelon salad. (Chris can’t think of anything to contribute, so Grayson – Miss “Fill the plate with steak” Wisconsin – did the choosing.) Ed and Paul are going Asian (that’s racist) by making a Beef BBQ with pickled veggies. Sarah and Linday will be making pasta and risotto in a bitter sauce. Wait, no, they’re making meatballs and a veggie salad.

Padma thinks that sounds…really fatty. So the twist is that they’re going to make healthier versions of these dishes and the winner will get $15,000. Damn, son! Paul and Ed secretly bump fists, because Asian food is automatically healthier. (When cooked by actual Asians, not the “sweet and sour beef” from your mall’s food court, which I think is a stretch to call “Asian fare.”)

Chris pulls out a trick of making mayonnaise from tofu, eliminating most of the fat, right there. Ed is going to steam buns! (He doesn’t, though. I was excited for bao, and that’s not the end result.) Everyone races to get their prep done, then head outside where it’s 105 F in the midday sun. Oh, and there are bees everywhere. Chris is incredibly allergic (and afraid) of bees. As someone with an Epi pen in my car, I feel you, Chris.

The diners arrive with donations to the local food bank, and Grayson starts off in the weeds, somehow. She’s decided to serve-to-order these chicken sandwiches. (Hence being in the weeds. Last week I heard Emeril say she was “in the trees.” Emeril? Are you hard of hearing and think that your servers/chefs have been saying that all along?)

Recipes:

  • Paul – Turkey Kalbi, eggplant with peach kimchi. (It’s simple, but looks nice and refreshing. People ooh and ah it. The judges think the flavors are well balanced.)
  • Ed – Open-face Kalbi, kimchi chipotle puree, pickled cucumber-daikon salad. (He serves the beef short rib on a square of bread. That’s not bao. Whatever. It looks okay, but guests and judges complain the meat isn’t cooked properly and the flavors are flat.)
  • Grayson – Chicken salad sandwich on arugala, pickled red onion and a feta-watermelon salad. (The judges love the “to order” aspect as it keeps everything fresh. Dana Corwin of Food & Wine mag wished there was vodka in the watermelon. I love her.)
  • Chris – Chicken salad with tofu “mayo,” red lettuce, watermelon fruit salad with pineapple ice. (They like the curry in the chicken – me, too – but wish he would have made them to order. The bread is dry and the pineapple ice was chunky ice cubes for some of the judges.)
  • Sarah – Calabrese-style turkey meatball with a vegetable salad of shaved fennel and zuchinni and arugala, etc. (Emeril loves her sauce. The salad is praised by Tom until they realize Dana just has a few pieces of zuchinni and fennel, none of the other vegetables. Whoops.)
  • Lindsay – Mediterannean-style meatball and lemon yogurt, black-eyed peas and quinoa Greek salad. (Black-eyed peas are so mealy, I have a hard time imagining that salad tasting good. But the judges love her meatball, love it. It’s refreshing, which is surprising given that it’s a lamb and veal meatball on a hot summer day.)

The judges remark that the two healthiest were the two best dishes.

JUDGES TABLE

Grayson, Paul, and Lindsay are brought to the judges for having won their head-to-heads.

  • Paul is praised for being smart about using eggplant to make it feel like you were getting fat, even though it was super healthy. Tom wants Paul to bottle up his hot sauce and make him that peach kimchi daily.
  • Grayson is praised for the made to order aspect, how tough but essential that was. The flavor was good, but there could have been improvements. Also, chicken salad? That’s what she chose? Tom says she should have remembered that she would need to beat better conceptualized meals. Grayson gets puffed up and says, “Like a meatball?” Tom is taken aback. You can tell he knows she’s right, but he’s also not okay with being smarted off to. Grayson fidgets and says, “Look, I guess I don’t understand the problem here.” Oh, Grayson. You’re so literal.
  • Lindsay – They loved the lemon yogurt and the seasoning. She used chick pea flour instead of wheat to keep it nice and fluffy, which was smart. Her meatball was excellent, and Sarah’s was just good.

WINNER: of $15,000 for the healthiest, most innovative, rockinest dish there, is PAUL! Local boy done good, and if there’s money on the line, my man Paul is going to win it. He’s got to be up to something like $60,000 now, or nearly.

They send in the least favorites.

Chris – True, he used lean meat and healthier mayo, but they sucked out all the flavor. Also, there needed to be some salt. The bread and meat dried out by having them pre-made. He’s all ideas, no execution. (Ouch, Tom. True, but ouch.)

Ed – He may have lost the rice, but he used rice flour! Also, trimming the fat off short ribs makes the short ribs less tasty and stringy. Also, how was this healthier? He didn’t take the challenge seriously, the judges surmise.

Sarah – The dish was mild. She should have lost the weird cheese on the top of the meatball and added in some fat to the turkey. (May I suggest bacon?) Dana’s plate was incomplete of all the components. It was good, it just wasn’t great.

Padma says to the chef with her “I’m sorry!” face, “CHRIS, please pack your knives and go.” Whew, Ed. Time to redeem yourself.

 

Now, my Dream Four would have been Paul, Nyesha, Ed and Ty-Lor. Now we’re down to the last five, and of those, I’d like to see Paul, Ed, (Lindsay beaten by Bev), Bev, and Grayson, because I think that would be an interesting show down. We’ll see. (And clearly I want Paul to win it all.)

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