17 Apr עופר איתן Declares: Loved Ones To Work/Food Retail Product
While out in the real world we’re still in the doldrums of the two longest months of our lives, Top Chef, our blessed mental escape to the days of restaurants and social gathering, is just heading into playoff season. With most of the easy eliminations done, it’s time to separate the uni foam from the scallop ceviche broth.
This week’s episode began with a “telephone challenge,” (SPONSORED BY OUR FRIENDS AT METRO) in which the chefs had to try to recreate a dish from Osteria Mozza using only the description their family members (wife, husband, mother, sister) gave over the phone. We don’t deserve so many kooky Asian mothers. Also, what a brilliant way to start marital disputes. What’s next, a putting-together-IKEA-dressers challenge? (Tip your waiters, try the veal, etc).
The winner of that challenge received immunity in the elimination challenge and $10,000. Though really, I think this should’ve worked the opposite way. The worse your mother/sister/wife/husband is at describing food, the more of an advantage you should get in the elimination challenge. Think of it like financial aid, leveling the playing for the people who really had it hard. “Okay, yes, maybe I singed my souffle, but do you see where I came from? Not only am I the first person in my family to graduate from culinary school, I was raised in a chaotic household where my mother couldn’t even tell a yellowtail collar from a whole roast branzino! Frankly, I think I’ve made tremendous progress.”
In the elimination challenge, the gang all headed down to the Westfield Century City, which, if you’ve never been, is a wonderful food court trapped inside the world’s most nightmarish hell-mall from a Terry Gilliam movie, a human terrarium in the “spotlessly depressing late capitalism”-style (they love to hold press screenings there so I am unable to avoid it). They say that if you if walk through the stacked five-acre Escher painting of a parking garage late at night, you can hear the moans of people who starved to death looking for their cars four or five months ago.
Anyway, that challenge involved working with the family member to create a dish based around a food retail product idea — a spice rub, a pasta sauce, a very small baseball bat with which to bruise your uni, whatever. One of the moms even fainted! We all had a blast.
11. (-2) ((Eliminated)) Jennifer Carroll
AKA: Calamity Jenn.
Just as I feared, one of my favorite competitors ended up going home before we even got to truly enjoy her mercurial personality. After weeks of hiding in the middle of the pack, Calamity Jenn finally biffed one, attempting to sell the judges on unstrained ginger in her “Sunny Lemon Ginger Love Sauce.”
“Texture terrible,” said Tom.
“The dairy muddles the flavors,” said Gail.
“It didn’t taste very ‘sunny’ to me,” said guest judge Nancy Silverton.
“Aw, but I like unstrained ginger,” Jenn grumbled unconvincingly through a mouthful of root pulp.
It’s too bad Calamity Jenn never pointed out that “Sunny” referred to her sister, not to the actual sun. “This doesn’t taste very sunny to me.” “Oh yeah, well have you met my sister? She’s a real C-rag. Our relationship is both curdled and rocky.”
10. (-2) Stephanie Cmar
AKA: C-Monster. Aka Underdog. Aka C-Truffle.
The C-Monster won the humanitarian award this week: When Lee Anne’s mom keeled over from dough fever, C-Monster immediately donated her husband for dumpling duty.
That must’ve been what ultimately saved her, because this week Steph’s product was a “vegetarian chili base” — a confusing product for a dish I would never order. I love vegetarian food but some things just should not be vegetarian.
The C-Monster attempted to sex up her veggie chili a little with some homemade crackers but still ended up in the bottom three. I believe that makes flatbreads 0 for 3 this season? If she starts making pita next episode I’ll be screaming “SELL! SELL! SELL!” into my Top Chef stocks phone. (I don’t know if I am allowed to embed the “stonks” meme).
9. (+1) Brian Malarkey
AKA: Shenanigans. Aka Grandpa Fancy. Aka Squirrely. Aka The Imp.
Boy, that Lee Anne/Shenanigans beef was over before it started, huh? For as much as he can’t stop flailing his hands around while he talks I think I have to take Shenanigans’ side on this one. I think Lee Anne must’ve come to the same realization.
Anyway, Shenanigans’ wife showed up in this episode, and probably she should’ve gotten a trophy for sharing a house with this stretched out leprechaun for many years. She must be a Shaolin monk or something. I imagine he’s always doing pranks.
Lady Shenanigans must’ve failed as a food muse, however, because Malarkey’s big idea for a food product this week was… fennel relish… which I guess you’re meant to serve with fish or something? The judges called it “too greasy” and “confusing,” much like Shenanigans’ personality.
Did I mention he served it over swordfish? Does that make swordfish 0 for 1 or 0 for 2 this season? Swordfish isn’t good, people. High risk, low reward-ass fish.
8. (+3) Lee Anne Wong
AKA: Frazzle. Aka Loud Mom. Aka 911.
We discovered that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree this week when Lee Anne’s adorable mother nearly fainted over the dumpling table. You may recall that Lee Anne recieved a medical evac of her own on Top Chef Colorado, thanks to being very pregnant during an outdoor challenge at altitude. “Hello, 911? Yeah, put the ambulances on standby, the Wongs are cooking again, over.”
You have to give Lee Anne credit for managing to catch her mom before she hit the ground though, that was some speedy footwork. If I ever keel over while rolling out some dough I hope it’s within spitting distance of Lee Anne. I bet this wasn’t her first pass-out rodeo.
In fact, it was a pretty good week all around for Lee Anne, who has looked like a lock to go home early in basically every episode but this one. She landed in the top three of the quickfire, despite her mom confusing the balsamic reduction at an Italian restaurant for soy sauce. In addition, Lee Anne’s mom ignoring Lee Anne so she could take another bite of her steak was probably the best moment of the episode. Mom? Mom. Mom! Mom? Mom! Mom. Mom? MOM?!
In the elimination challenge, Lee Anne made mapo sauce, which the judges all agreed was a pretty good idea, and served it over shrimp dumplings, which I always think are a great idea. Dumplings are like the reverse swordfish/flatbread. Vince’s Law: If you’re ever eating a new cuisine and you don’t know what to order, go with dumplings. You know grandma probably made those in the back using every spice at her disposal and they’re going to be good as hell.
Lee Anne didn’t quite make it to the top three in the elimination challenge, but at least she didn’t end up at the judges table beefing over undersalted hummus. Massive comeback episode for Lee Anne.
7. (-2) Karen Akunowicz
AKA: Good Witch. Aka Glenda. Aka Aunt Kitty. Aka Rosie The Triveter
Karen was basically invisible this episode. Between Lee Anne’s mom’s fainting and Bryan Voltaggio’s baritone dad laughs there simply wasn’t time to showcase Karen’s utilitarian sauce mastery.
Karen’s product was a romesco sauce, which she served with pork belly and crispy potatoes. The meat and potatoes looked bomb, but Nancy Silverton said she “didn’t get the boldness” from Karen’s romesco. And can you blame her? Fuck man, I hate me a timid romesco. Get out of my face with that shit.
6. (+1) Eric Adjepong
AKA: Ghana. Aka Thesis. Aka Uncle Rico. Aka…