I’m a bad editor. Loren Means turned in her report on Top Chef: Texas and I forgot to hit publish. Here’s her slice and dice take on Padma and her pals.
Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Restaurant Wars! In a real restaurant! Creative control and no lame gimmicks! Finally. Hugh Acheson and Padma are at the Palm Door with the eight remaining cheftestants. Hugh informs them that he wants to see a complete concept from name to design to menu. I love restaurant wars so I’m getting excited and the chefs are getting excited and… it’s boys versus girls. Ugh. Couldn’t they have just drawn knives? Top Chef, we’ve been together long enough for me to tell you this: you’re turning into a gimmick junkie and a sponsor slut. This isn’t a “it’s not you it’s me” kind of a thing. It’s you – you’re boring.
To add some suspense (I was on pins and needles, weren’t you?) Padma flips a coin to see which team will be cooking the first night. The other team will have the luxury of having an additional day of planning as well as dining at the competitions restaurant first. The coin is tossed and the boys lose. Ty, Paul, Ed and Chris J. will be cooking the first night and Sarah, Beverly, Grayson and Lindsay will cook the next night. Both teams must create a three-course menu with two options for each course. They will have 5 hours to decorate and cook before service begins at their restaurant. With 45 minutes to brain storm their concepts and $7500 to blow at Sur La Table and Garden Ridge the chefs are already feeling the pressure.
The boys decide to name their restaurant Canteen with a casual but elegant feel. They are madly decorating the space to create the appropriate atmosphere. I’m impressed with their skills. These are chefs, not interior designers. BOY chefs to boot. I’ve had naked curtain rods mounted on my walls for months because I can’t pick out curtains. So I say bravo gentlemen, bravo (Pun not intended at first. Then I realized how lame it was and left it. Trying to create a complete concept here folks).
The men have selected Ed to run the front of house while the other three man the kitchen. Since every chef must be responsible for at least one dish, Ed must rely on his buddies to properly deliver his dessert. Chris J. is suiting up in his chef’s coat and describes the situation as a kobayashi maru. I have no idea what that is although I’m pretty sure he’s trying to be funny. I don’t care enough to look it up so I shrug it off and keep watching. Almost as if he’s in my head he then explains it for those of us “who aren’t Trekkies.” Stop, hold the laugh track. This is hilarious. I once was blind but now I see. I will now add kobayashi maru to my list of things I’ve learned which, by the way, means something about testing captains in impossible situations. I bet his friends went all Kung Fu panda when he used that description.
Service at Canteen starts off nicely but takes a sharp turn downhill. The chefs are totally unorganized in the kitchen and no one really knows who’s in charge of what. That added to the highly incompetent wait staff is a recipe for disaster. The chefs aren’t plating properly and the staff is delivering food to incorrect tables. The judges, Tom, Padma, Hugh and Emeril arrive for dinner. The first course options are Ty’s Thai style crab and shrimp salad with caramel fish sauce & peanuts or Paul’s ham & pork pate with mushrooms, braised mustard seeds & duck fat crostini. The judges found Ty’s dish to bland as did my friend, Elizabeth, who was a guest diner at Canteen that night as well.
You probably caught a glimpse of her (pretty blond, pink shirt) shoving a bite of shrimp into her mouth. As a guest she was instructed to “act normal and not stare at the judges.” So, when she asked her date what he thought of his ham and pork and he said it wasn’t what he expected but it was working, was all real. Paul’s dish was working according to the real judges too.
For the second course the choices were poached salmon in warm tomato water, clams, salmon skin & tomatillo jam created by Paul and Ty or a crispy skin pork belly with green apple & sweet potato puree created solely by Paul. Again,the feeback is the same from the judges and my friend. Ty’s dish was bland, Paul’s was fine. Meanwhile, service at the kitchen window is a wreck which they’ve designed to be visible to the entire restaurant. The staff is confused, the chefs are confused, Ed is confused and everyone is frustrated.
The judges and the lady chefs are finally enjoying their desserts as the night is coming to an end. Ed has made an almond joy cake with chocolate mousse & banana coconut puree and Chris J. has created a homemade cracker jack with caramel, cherries & peanut butter ice cream. The judges like Ed’s dessert but the lack of coconut flavoring makes the confused about the description. Chris J.’s dessert was not asthetically pleasing to anyone. Hugh called it a “jumbled mess in a bowl” and Emeril said “the presentation of the dish was harrrrable.” Tom likes the flavors of the dish, looks aside. Elizabeth said Ed’s dessert combined with Chris’s peanut butter ice cream was a lovely combination. Two mediocre desserts made one tasty one.
Dinner ends, the judges aren’t impressed, the girls feel like they need to bring their A game and the boy band feels deflated. They know it wasn’t good and now they are just hoping the girls sink themselves by acting like catty girls.
The next day Half Bushel opens for business. The girls are in the kitchen prepping and already jumping all over each other. Sarah and Grayson each have two dishes, Lindsay has one dish and is serving as front of the house and Beverly has only one dish. Sarah starts riding Bev and I immediately have flashbacks to the shrimp fiasco. “All she had to do was the shrimp! It took 2 days to peel shrimp!” Not only am I over ripping on Beverly, but I’m also over these bullies walking all over her. I want to shout “back the F off.” I wish Beverly would. It isn’t just her dish she’s responsible for though, Beverly will also be cooking Lindsay’s halibut. Lindsay is giving specific instructions on how she wants it cooked and although Bev says that wouldn’t be her way of cooking the fish she will do as Lindsay says.
The judges and Team boys arrive separately but both are not greeted at the door. Lindsay is nowhere to be seen. She is in the kitchen because a patron recently informed her that his halibut was over-cooked. Her southern accent went into high gear as she thanked him for his feedback then she took his plate and high-tailed it to the kitchen. As she is storming to the back I’m thinking “run, Bev, run!” The kitchen is a nightmare and these four girls are living up to the catty girl stereotypes. It’s like a bad episode of Jerry Springer and it makes me wish I was a guy. An Italian guy. You know I have an affinity for all things Italian.
The rest of the evening a rocky road and service is horrible. The saving grace is that the food is great. The first course options were Grayson’s peach salad with pickled shallots, bacon vinegrette & candied pistachios or Sarah’s mozzarella filled arancino, sweet & sour eggplant & celery salad. Both were a hit. Bev prepared braised short ribs with Thai basil potato puree apple slaw & kimichi and Lindsay created the grilled halibut with Spanish chorizo, fennel, & sherry salad. Beverly’s was widely praised while Lindsay’s dish got a little less praise for being slightly overcooked. For the third and final course Grayson prepared a schaum torte with vanilla meringue & champagne berries and Sarah made hazelnut cream Italian doughnuts with banana sugar glaze. The judges had very few critiques. At the boys table Chris says “This is the nicest dinner I’ve had since I got here.” Ouch.
Back in the stew room all the cheftestants are actually on pins and needles. Paul feels embarrassed, “we are four badass chefs and we choked.” Lindsay calls out Beverly and says “you f**ked up my dish.” Grayson (she’s got character) has already defended Beverly in this regard and told Lindsay the error was probably in the cooking procedure. Ty is blaming disorganization and everyone is pointing fingers. I can’t take any more yelling. This is why I don’t watch daytime television. Well that, and I have job. Padma enters and we hear silence.
The girls are brought in first to see the judges. After a very brief critique and a hula hoop contest, they get their second win of the episode (no hula hoops were harmed or actually used in the filming of this television show). The girls do a group hug and squeal, you know how girls do, and all is forgiven. Girl power.
The boys walk sadly into the judges room. Their mistakes are obvious. All of Ty’s food is under-seasoned, Paul took on too much and didn’t make sure Ty seasoned their salmon and the flavors on his other dish didn’t blend, Chris’ dessert was a mess and Ed didn’t do the best job of running the show. After much deliberation, Ty is asked to pack his knives. Bye, Bye Ty.
LCK – Nyesha vs. Ty
Each chef has 30 minutes to make a dessert. They get to choose a sous chef from previously eliminated chefs. Nyesha has a personal vendetta against Ty since he was rude to her earlier in the season. In an effort to shut him down she chooses Heather since she and Ty have worked together before. Ty is bummed Heather is taken and chooses Chris C. Both teams work well together. Nyesha presents a coconut lime tart with coconut crème fraiche mousse. Ty serves a Black forest salted puff pastry with dark chocolate mousse and cherries. Tom says both desserts are restaurant ready but if he had to eat one again he would choose Nyesha. She takes her 4th LCK win and only has to beat three more chefs to be back in the competition.