'Top Chef' guest judges Telly, Cookie Monster and Elmo
I am so glad it’s time for another edition of “Top Chef,” because I’ve had the “Beef Tongue” song on a loop in my head for the last seven days and I’m hoping this episode will force it out once and for all. As long as it isn’t replaced by Fabio repeating the word “hambooger” over and over again, I’ll be happy.
[Full recap of Wednesday's (Feb. 16) "Top Chef" after the break...]
Dale wants to make it clear: he isn’t like one of those New School parents who think losing’s okay. We’re not all winners! Yes! He’s so Tiger Mother and doesn’t even know it!
Padma starts rhyming and Dale thinks she’s speaking in tongues, but really, she’s just talking to the chefs like they’re children. Which isn’t a bad thing in this case, because they’re going to Sesame Street! Actually, a few inhabitants of Sesame Street are coming to the show. Cookie Monster, Elmo
and some purple thing called Telly will be judging the Quickfire Challenge. So, the chefs must make a cookie, because I’m guessing Cookie Monster no like foo-foo dining. He like cookie! The furry ones do have a few diva requests, though.
Elmo wants a cookie with zucchini and carrots. Elmo needs a good, hard smack. Cookie Monster wants chocolate chips. Cookie Monster rocks. The chefs are sent on their way and Padma actually starts chatting up the puppets. But they’re not interested in no nicey-nice chit chat. The puppets heckle Dale. Cookie Monster eats the table cloth. I think Cookie Monster and his pals should judge every Quickfire, because they’re so much more fun than the usual stiffs.
Antonia’s cookies look sooo good. Not beautiful, but they appear to be in the tastes really good category. But I think she the ooey gooeyness of them may have permanently stained some puppet mouth. Mike’s cookies look like something from a bake sale, which means not so great. Tiffany’s cookies look utterly dull. Shortbread is what you eat when you want lots of calories but not a lot of fun. I’m with cookie monster. Bring on the chocolate! And yet, Carla’s chocolate cookies look pretty uninspired. I know she makes cookies all the time for her catering business, but that’s no excuse to fall asleep at the wheel. Richard gets out the liquid nitrogen and makes cookie-shaped ice cream. Cookie Monster will not like!
And guess what? Cookie Monster pans Richard for not making an actual cookie, even though it has Elmo’s requested zucchini in it (ugh). Cookie Monster knows his cookies! He also declares Angelo’s cookie dry. But he liked Dale’s sweet-salty potato chip and chocolate cookie and Antonia’s chewy, gooey cookie. Though Elmo thought Antonia’s cookies looked like cow poo. I think it’s time to throw Elmo into the Cuisinart. The little creep doesn’t appreciate a good cookie (carrots? Zucchini? It’s not a friggin’ muffin, you weirdo), he’s got an attitude. The winner is… Dale.
No time for celebration, because it’s time for the Elimination Challenge. The prize is $25,000, but there’s a catch. They have to make a dish for 100 Target employees – and get all their ingredients and cooking implements at Target. And cook and serve said dish at Target. Oh, and they have to do this in the middle of the night. At Target. This is what I call product placement, boy howdy.
It’s always been my fantasy to go to Target when there aren’t twenty people in line ahead of me whom all have coupons, gift cards and want to argue with the cashier about whether or not their eggs are on sale. And yet, the chefs do not appear to be having fun. This must be what Target is like right before a natural disaster hits and everyone’s fighting over the last can of Campbell’s soup.
Mike and Angelo help each other collect cooking implements because they are besties. I swear, this is the season of bromance, isn’t it? Carla is an idiot, because she’s shopping for linens instead of food. Carla is clearly not getting it. Do not try to dress up the stupid Target, Carla, cook! Dale is going to iron some cheese sandwiches, because that’s what he did in college. I think Dale was a total stoner.
Carla gets everything set up. And then remembers she has to cook. Words cannot express how frustrated I am with Carla right now.
Angelo and Mike will be friends forever. Except Angelo didn’t get Mike a can opener. I see fissures in the bromance!
Antonia points out that everyone’s making friggin’ soup. Which she thinks is indescribably stupid. I’m with Antonia. As Richard points out, it takes a long time for the flavors in a soup to come together. And they have less than three hours. Richard and Antonia, by the way, are not making soup.
Thomas O’Brien, who designs things for Target, will be arranging flowers and making things pretty in a first apartment on a budget kind of way. So basically, Carla didn’t need to waste all her time shopping for linens.
3:00am! Time for soup! I mean, time for the Target employees to line up! For soup!
The judges arrive. Hey, Anthony Bourdain and Ming Tsai! Love him, even though the one time I tried something from his food line (available at Target!), it was pretty nasty. Oh, and Thomas O’Brien has put down the cut flowers for long enough to join the judges’ table.
Pork tenderloin with green chiles, apples, braised pork ribs and corn pancakes.
Anthony proclaims it butt-ugly but delicious.
Rib eye grilled cheese sandwich and spicy tomato soup
Everyone loves that Dale seared the sandwiches with an iron as a callback to his college days. Ming likes the crunch. Anthony thinks Dale needs a urine test because clearly the guy’s a stoner. Exactly! Ming thinks he wants to be an Iron Chef, hah! Oh Ming, you wacky guy!
Curry apple soup with tomato ginger jam and cucumber apple slaw
Ming misses the protein. Padma thinks it’s a sauce, not a soup. Anthony says something is conspicuous in its absence. But Carla has plenty of linens! Maybe you need to eat the linens! Or pour the soup through the linens! That will give it flavor! And possibly protein, depending on the linens!
Parmesan eggs on garlic crostini with almond, tomato and apple salad
Thomas thinks the sweetness is a nice breakfast surprise. Anthony thinks it was ballsy to make 100 eggs. At least it looks good.
Spicy coconut soup with mushrooms, scallions and lime
Padma calls Mike out for calling his coconut milk fresh. Um, dude, just because you opened the can an hour ago doesn’t make it fresh. Padma thinks one spoonful is enough. Ming thinks it’s sharp. Mike’s in trouble. But Tom thinks there’s a good amount of flavor. So, maybe not a lot of trouble.
Jambalaya with chicken, sausage & shrimp with a summer salad
Anthony thinks the chicken is soggy and rubbery. Tom says it’s just okay. Thomas thinks there’s something not special about it. Tiffany’s on the bubble.
Baked potato soup with bacon, sour cream, potato skins, scallions and cheddar cheese
Anthony declares it too heavy and way too salty. Ming thinks you’d die if you ate a whole bowl of it. Oh, oh my.
Let’s rewind here. Yes, it was the middle of the night. The chefs were sleep deprived in the middle of Target, and God knows those fluorescent lights are enough to make anyone crazy. But when Angelo asked Mike if the soup needed more salt – HE WAS STILL GOING TO BE COOKING IT FOR ANOTHER HOUR. Soup reduces. Soup gets stronger in flavor as you go. And here’s another thing – Angelo realized the soup was too salty prior to service. That’s when you throw in a potato, the cure for salty soup (you cook the potato in the soup then fish it out, and he must have had an extra potato lying around). This isn’t something you have to learn in culinary school. I mean, if I know that, anyone who can burn toast knows that. Anyway, it seems like he made two mistakes here which he could have easily corrected (first, don’t listen to Mike and second, don’t listen to Mike). Mike didn’t seem to be sabotaging Angelo, but he certainly wasn’t thinking much about what he was saying or he wouldn’t have declared the soup in need of flavor. I know, it’s got to be sleep deprivation, but come on.
The judges eat and the chefs wait to be judged. Antonia hugs a toy Target dog. How tired are the chefs? At 4am, the girls start playing with the toy Target dogs. And making up voices for the toy Target dogs. The girls need naps.
Back in the boiler room, the chefs are so tired they don’t care if they win or lose anymore. “Top Chef” is becoming a bit like “Top Chef: Guantanamo Bay Edition” Padma calls in Dale, Antonia and Richard, who stagger before the judges. Though they do pep up to discover they’re the top three.
Ming praises Richard for actually cooking a protein two different ways. Hell, I’d praise Richard for not making soup. And finding fresh pork at Target. Anthony was thrilled Antonia made eggs. Tom tells Dale his soup was delicious and Anthony tells him he got that surreal mix of goofy and devious. Oh yeah, Dale’s winning. Anthony has a thing for stoner food.
The winner of $25,000 is… Dale. Great. Now everyone is going to be making sandwiches with irons.
Time for the losers. Carla, Tiffany and Angelo slump to the block. Carla helpfully tells the judges everything that’s wrong with her dish and they agree. Anthony points out she could have used chicken to deal with the lack of protein, and she admits she never even thought of it. BECAUSE SHE WAS SHOPPING FOR LINENS. Ming thinks her soup would have been a nice sauce.
Angelo tries to follow Carla’s helpful lead and says his soup wasn’t balanced. Buzzz, wrong answer. Anthony explains, um, actually it was like a deer salt lick. Padma thought it was too rich. And Anthony adds that the scallions literally left a bad taste in his mouth. Angelo, pack your knives. And we’ll all look the other way if you take some of the stuff you got at Target, too. It’s not like a crock pot full of baked potato soup scum is returnable anyway.
The judges ask how Tiffany seasoned her gross jambalaya. She admits she used a prepared spice mix. Buzzz, wrong answer. Anthony says that was a big part of the problem. Tom thinks she should have used straight cayenne instead.
The judges ask for last words, as if there’s going to be a live execution (I would not be surprised at this point). Tiffany starts crying. She starts talking about being from a small town and feeling honored to work with everyone. Oh my GOD let these people nap or something!
The judges chat, but I think Angelo has to go home. Too salty is such a screw up, no matter how sleep deprived and miserable you are.
And the chef going home is… Angelo. Tiffany seems stunned it isn’t her. Don’t worry, Tiffany, your number is bound to come up sooner or later. You can repeat that tearful speech when you actually get sent home.
Angelo admits he’s just fried and that accounts for his screw-up. He goes into the boiler room and Mike cannot believe his buddy is going home. Mike does not admit, “Because I made you oversalt your food,” but I have to believe he’s thinking it. I somehow doubt they’re going to be BFFs after this, unless Angelo is extremely kind after he watches the show. Still, it was Angelo’s fault, fully and completely – because he should have trusted himself and he could have so easily fixed it once he realized it was messed up. With so few chefs still in the game, you just can’t make such a dumb mistake, sleep deprived or not.
Next week, Paula Deen! And the eliminated chefs! But I’m going to miss Cookie Monster.