Recap: 'Top Chef' - 'Block Party'
Before we begin our new episode, we see Charlize Theron go back into the stew room to thank the chefs. I don't know that we've seen that before, have we? As Grayson notes, she was a fan before, but now she's even more of a fan. And who can blame her? Very gracious, that Charlize! But we don't have much time to moon over Oscar winners and their good manners, because it's time for our Quickfire Challenge. Our six remaining chefs, who must all be exhausted beyond repair, trudge into the kitchen to see Padma, Emeril and Cat Cora waiting for them. Cat's tough, but hey, she's an Iron Chef, so it's not like she's not justified in being picky.
Padma declares that the chefs will be split up into three teams of two, and Grayson and Chris, Paul and Edward, and Lindsay and Sarah are the teams. But this challenge isn't about teamwork as much as it is about speed and precision. Paul is nervous. He feels like he's bad luck for Ed. Paul, don't worry so much. It's just a Quickfire. If you get him eliminated at some point, then feel guilty.
This will not be an easy Quickfire, to say the least. The chefs have 40 minutes to peel, devein and butterfly two pounds of shrimp, shuck a crate of corn and make a pound of fettuccinni. The judges will check their work, and only then they can begin cooking with whatever time they have left. There's no immunity, but $10,000 is at stake.
And they're off! Lindsay is done with her shrimp first. Grayson is sick of how slow Chris is going. But his corn gets the okay, while Paul has to redo his for sloppiness. Sarah's pasta is given a green light. Ed gets a green light in his pasta. I wouldn't say these guys are neck and neck (and neck), as Sarah and Lindsay are pretty clearly powering ahead. The first team ready to cook is Sarah and Lindsay. Paul and Ed are next to cook, and just have ten minutes. Finally, Grayson's pasta gets an okay. But they have under 9 minutes to cook. Man, I hope their water's already boiling.
Time's up! Lindsay and Sarah are in love with their dish. I do say, they are absolutely gloating in the corner, which makes me hate them just that little bit more than I already did. But egads, Paul and Ed didn't get their shrimp on the plate. They're automatically eliminated. Is there any way Chris and Grayson could beat the mean girls when they only had a few minutes to cook?
Grayson & Chris - Fettuccine, toasted corn, poached shrimp, chili, bacon & rosemary
Chris admits to dumping the bacon in the deep fat fryer. Emeril seems okay with this. I wonder if Grayson was right about it being too salty, though.
Sarah & Lindsay - Fettuccine with corn milk, shrimp, tarragon & parsley
Cat says she can definitely taste the tarragon, but says it in such a way I wonder if there's too much of it.
Paul & Ed - it doesn't matter, because there's no shrimp.
Padma tastes it and says it's a shame Paul spaced out, because the flavor was really nice. Argh. I bet they could have won this, too. Maybe Paul really is bad luck for Ed.
Emeril enjoyed watching the contest, but who won? Cat thought the idea of the corn milk was fantastic in Sarah and Lindsay's dish, but she thought the tarragon was overpowering, as I suspected. Emeril thinks Grayson and Chris pulled it off. Still, Cat would have done something differently with the bacon. So who won? Come on! Grayson and Chris… won! Yes! Really, just anything so that Sarah and Lindsay don't win something. Sarah is sure her pasta was better than Grayson's. Shut UP, Sarah! Seriously, has this show ever had someone as ungracious in defeat as Sarah? I think she needs to take etiquette lessons from Charlize Theron.
Now we move on to the Elimination Challenge, in which each chef competes against the chef he or she was just paired with. Oh, and they have to make a version of the same dish, and make it for 200 people at a block party. No one seems happy about this, but Sarah is crushed. She looooves Lindsay! How can she compete against her BFF? Shut UP, Sarah!
Grayson vs. Chris - Chicken salad sandwich and watermelon salad
Ed vs. Paul - Asian beef barbecue with pickled veg
Sarah vs. Lindsay - meatballs and a vegetable salad
Padma thinks that all sounds too heavy, and she points out Healthy Choice is sponsoring this challenge. So, they have to make healthy versions of their dishes. The chefs seem crushed by this, though I don't know why. Paul and Ed have an advantage, or so they think. Really, I think any of the dishes could be made lighter pretty easily, especially the chicken salad.
After running frantically around a super market and making the staffers crazy, the chefs are ready for their challenges. A few people are making the beef for turkey swap, which could be a good idea or suicide. Remember, chefs, the people selecting the winner of each team are NOT the judges, but those 200 people lining up for food. They want something that tastes good -- they don't care about the healthy part.
The next day they're at the Culinary Institute of America, where they must prep in just two and a half hours. Chris reveals that he is making a tofu emulsion to stand in for mayo, to which I say Chris is going home. Yes, healthy (maybe) but, again, you need to wow the people, not the judges. The judges will be selecting who gets sent home -- but if you're not in the bottom three, they can't touch you. Why can't these chefs think strategically? Chris is too excited about making something wacky, of course, which almost never ends well for him.
During service, not everything goes particularly well. Ed has to patrol his bread tray so that small, bratty kids don't run off with half of it. Grayson is soon in the weeds, because she's doing everything to order. Chris thinks she's nuts, but I think that's the only way to do chicken salad. Otherwise, the bread will get gooey or dry or both.
Chris freaks out about the bees that descend on his table. He doesn't like bees. And is apparently allergic to them. Seriously, no one can help him with this?
Ryan Scott of "Top Chef" season four is the Healthy Choice flavor ambassador. I wonder if that means he goes to public outings and sprinkles people with Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Oh, Dana Cowan of Food & Wine is also judging.
Paul - Turkey kale, eggplant with white peach kimchi
Emeril thinks the turkey is brilliant. Dana thinks he did all the right things to build flavor instead of fat.
Ed - Open face kale, kimchi chipotle puree, pickled cucumber and daikon
Cat was disappointed. Padma's was hard and dry. Emeril gives him credit for making his own bread.
Grayson - Chicken salad sandwich with arugula, pickled red onion, feta watermelon salad with pumpkin seeds
Emeril likes the fact she did her sandwiches to order. Cat wanted some lime or mint on the watermelon. Dana didn't think it had a lot of flavor.
Chris J. - Chicken salad sandwich with tofu "mayo," red lettuce, watermelon fruit salad with pineapple ice
Tom thinks he had great ideas, but the bread was starting to dry out. He wishes he'd built the sandwiches to order. Jeez, Chris, haven't you paid any attention to how other people got eliminated in these kinds of challenges? Dana and Padma liked the pineapple ice.
Sarah - Calabrese style turkey meatball & vegetable salad
Emeril thinks it's not too dry, even though it's turkey. Tom loves the salad. Dana disagrees.
Lindsay - Mediterranean meatball, lemon yogurt, black-eyed peas & quinoa Greek salad
Cat loved the crunch of the pita bread. Tom loves the meatball and thought it had tones of flavor. Dana thought it was both great and original.
Grayson, Paul and Lindsay are called back. They are the winners of their head-to-head battles. Whoot!
Emeril thought Paul's dish was perfect. Tom thought he should bottle his hot sauce. Cat gives Grayson points for making her food to order. Tom tells her chicken salad is boring. Well, la-di-da. Grayson stands up for her chicken salad, pointing out it's not inherently less interesting than a meatball (good one!) and Tom accepts it. Emeril thought Lindsay's meatball was perfectly seasoned. Cat thought the yogurt was phenomenal.
The winner of $15,000 is… Paul. Wow. I thought Lindsay had it given the last minute gushing by the judges, but good for him! He's raking it in this season, isn't he? I think he's now up to $50,000, though don't quote me on that.
Grayson feels terrible, as if she was in the bottom three. Oh, Grayson. The point is, you were smart -- yours might not have been as healthy as Chris', but the people making the final decision liked it better. You paid attention to previous challenges and made everything to order. And you're safe! Enjoy it!
Cat thought Ed's short rib wasn't strong. Tom thought he was dumb to cut the fat out of his food, as the fat is what makes short rib worth eating. Tom thought Chris' food was healthier than Grayson's, but making it ahead of time was a huge mistake. Emeril had ice in his salad. Sarah points out that she used turkey, but Cora thinks she could have lost the salad. Tom thought her salad was inconsistent. I think either Ed or Chris is going home. They seemed to generally liked Sarah's, but just liked Lindsay's more.
Unsurprisingly, Chris gets the boot. I have to say, this has been a long time coming. He has great ideas, but his execution has sucked almost since the beginning. He knows he deserves to go home for not making his food to order and not blending his fruits properly, and I just don't understand why he didn't get this message a lot earlier in the competition.
Grayson is crushed. She thinks Chris being sent home is her fault, because she suggested chicken salad. No, Chris is going home because he screwed up, Grayson. Even he acknowledges that. But he's proud of being the crazy, creative chef on the show. No, Chris, the crazy, creative chefs on the show were the Voltaggio brothers. You were the wannabe who made a hacked up mess of almost every interesting idea you had. We will not really be missing you and your stupid topknot. Now, go get a haircut and try to think before you cook.
Chris will go up against Beverly on Last Chance Kitchen. (I swear I'll try to blog about it a bit next week, promise). I think I can predict that winner, honestly.
Next week, PeeWee Herman!
Were you surprised to see Chris go? Are you watching "Last Chance Kitchen"? And were you impressed that Charlize said thanks?