Spines and Vines
Screened 10 December 2015
We open in the kitchen immediately following last week’s judging and everyone is impressed that Sister Wife won making a pudding. “Top Chef: Dessert!” she shouts triumphantly as though she just invented a new show. Uh, it’s Top Chef: Just Desserts, lady, and it very much already existed. Sister Wife says she prefers to push the envelope, even if it’s risky. “Average in my book is worse than being bad at something.” That’s one of those things that sounds profound but is actually really stupid. For example, would you rather be operated on by an “average” brain surgeon or a “bad” brain surgeon? I rest my case.
Padma saunters in and announces a road trip. “This year we’re dreaming big. First stop, Santa Barbara.” When someone says “big” Santa Barbara isn’t what leaps to mind. When someone says “soap opera” on the other hand…
On the road to their destination we learn that the Kwame sold candy on train to start a catering company. Why is one ever selling candy on the trains I ride? All I get is carriages full of drunks and people who’ve never heard of deodorant. Kwame is becoming increasingly adorable week by week. He’s no hot hipster bear Chad, of course. Hey Chad! I see you sitting there with your epic beard and your hot hipster bearishness. Call me!
Their destination is Sanford Winery and hooray, there’s Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of Food and Wine Magazine! Dana seems like a really nice person, almost as nice as her employee Gail Simmons. I bet that magazine is a great place to work. Dana and Padma are both wearing shawls the size of tents. It’s a beautiful day on location but perhaps it’s chilly there? Or maybe it’s to keep the sun off?
Eeee, it’s a “Sudden Death” Quickfire – pair uni (AKA those black spiky sea urchins people are always standing on in Survivor) with a local wine. A couple of the chefs have problems with the wine pairing porition. Frances worked in the Middle East for seven years where they don’t drink alcohol and hot hipster bear Chad quit drinking a year ago so he can’t taste the wine, though that doesn’t stop him doing well enough to be safe.
On top this challenge is Grayson (a nice turnaround for her), Wesley and Carl but it’s Grayson’s crab salad that nets her the win and immunity from elimination. I’m no fan of crab but I gotta say, her dish looked delicious. “It’s bold to do so little,” says Dana, proving that sometimes on this show simple is best.
Angelina, Pink Hair and Giselle land on the bottom and Giselle is the loser. She had spent half the cooking time running around looking for eggs then undercooked her potato. Dana says “The uni was puzzling”. Puzzling is something your food should never be.
A Sudden Death Quickfire allows you choose another chef to cook against and Giselle picks Angelina who staunchly warns her that she’s no easy mark – “You better kick ass”. Giselle said she picked Angelina because she was also in the bottom but it’s obvious that the other chefs all regard her as one of the weaker members of the pack. Giselle has to win to stay in the competition and they’re presented with ostrich eggs. Neither of them do particularly well. Giselle’s plating is critiqued however to my eye Angelina’s dish is the messier of the two – it looked like she plated it, dropped that on the floor then scooped it up and replated.
The winner is – ooh, I love the what Padma’s wearing! She’s slipped that huge shawl down to her shoulders so you can now see the pretty purple and white dress she has on. Of course, Padma could wear a rag and look glamorous but truly, whoever chose to put her in that little number did a great job.
Oh, Giselle won, so she stays.
The main challenge this week sees teams of two creating surf and turf dishes. Of course, Giselle and Angelina end up stuck together and Angelina is NOT happy about it. “Hopefully she isn’t on any high horse because she just…won” she mumbles broodily. Why is she suddenly talking like she’s one of the students from Dangerous Minds? I’m half expecting Michelle Pfeiffer to appear from around the corner while Gangster’s Paradise blares on the soundtrack.
There’s a race for ingredients which results in some odd team combinations, like Chad and Kwame’s lamb and crab. Frances and Jason have a different problem – melding her Asian style with his Italian. Jason says he doesn’t cook Thai. Last week Isaac was complaining he’d never cooked Middle Eastern food. The chefs this season seem to be rather unadventurous and really unknowledegable about different cuisines, different foods. I won’t be surprised if next week someone says they’ve never boiled an egg.
They all shop based on creating harmonious pairings but as they enter the kitchen Tom changes the rules. The teams will now compete head to head, meaning they have to divide the ingredients they bought. While it can be fun to watch the chefs stretch themselves it feels like an unncessary hoop for them to jump through and in this case the twist doesn’t result in any good drama, or inventive thinking. For the most part everybody shrugs and gets on with cooking and even though Tom mentions later that some seemed to struggle after his announcement we’re not really shown anybody stressing out.
Oh no, one of the judges is Top Chef: All Stars winner Richard Blais . He’s got on these glasses with brightly colored frames that kind of make him look like Sally Jessy Raphael, if Sally Jessy Raphael was a douchebag who had won Top Chef: All Stars. Of all the past cheftestants Richard is literally the last one I would have had join the show. I’d even take Stefan or Marcel over him. Yes, I find him THAT tiresome.
After the head to heads the top three are Jeremy, Kwame and Pink Hair. Pink Hair didn’t plate all her portions of fish, which is usually a reason for an instant disqualification, so when she was awarded the win in her surf vs turf battle it was a surprise, but I’m even more surprised to see her up for the win. Padma then tells Pink Hair that because she didn’t finish plating she can’t actually win. So why put her in the top three at all?
Of the top two it’s former train candy salesman Kwame’s Rock Crab Salad that is judged the winning dish. I thought it looked like something I’d feed our cats, or something they’d throw up, but I can’t feel bad for Kwame who, after having saved his team with an excellent dish last week, is becoming one to watch.
The bottom three are Frances, Angelina and Wesley who is getting more and more difficult to watch. On the first episode he licked a spoon then used it to serve the judges. This time he spat out his own cooking. I can’t imagine showing himself to be rather piggy on television will be good for his restaurant post-Top Chef. He had been shown clowning around during cooking so it comes as no surprise that he ran out of time and turned out a very sad looking dish. He did have time, however, to use a stencil to make shapes with some asparagas puree. As Tom rightly points out “it just looks like a bunch of splatter on a plate”.
Fortunately for him Dangerous Minds (AKA Angelina) and Frances also tanked. Dangerous Minds served marinated mussels with some white froth on top. Was she going for a “sea foam” effect? It looked a lot like soap bubbles. Frances had problems cooking her black cod, taking to it with a blowtorch at one point, and she put far too many ingredients into her dish.
In the end it’s Frances’ “hodgepodge” meal that sends her home.
Best Line of the Week: “I have a dish that sort of looks like 1960s nursery food” – Dana Cowin to Sister Wife. I don’t even know what Dana means by that but it’s hilarious nonetheless.
Worst Line of the Week: “This is a classic Top Chef scenario over here” and “In the world of Top Chef two hours is a lifetime”. Yes, Richard Blais, we get it, you have been on Top Chef twice. Honorable mention “You got knocked to the turf and buried by the surf”. Tom, whoever wrote that “clever quip” for you should be fired.
Last Chance Kitchen
Garret vs Frances
Today’s challenge is to prepare one vegetable in three ways – one of the which must use sponsor Hidden Valley’s dressings. Last week Garret avoided using beets but this time that’s what he goes for. Frances picks the broccoli. Tom had told the chefs that part of the judging will be based on how little waste they create. In the end it’s frugality, and creativity, that gives Garret the win since he even fried his beet peelings. Unfortunately that knocks out Frances from the competition. She had quickly established herself as one of the more interesting personalities this season so it’s a shame to see her gone.