Top Chef – Family Favorites

Thirteen chefs remain. We’re whittling it down to a reasonable amount of chefs! We are starting to see what (just about) all of the chefs are doing now and it starts to get harder to hide in the middle.

We see a little note that Sandee wrote before leaving. Everyone misses her because they didn’t have time to get mad at her. Lia explains that everyone is starting to feel tense now because the newness is wearing off and people who they’ve gotten to know are being eliminated. It sure didn’t take them long to make a mess of their apartment! Bras hanging on doors, clutter everywhere, and random laundry cart hanging out in the apartment… Joey and Howie explain that they’ve moved on from their little tiff. This shouldn’t last too long…We see Micah working out (in her jeans) and explaining that she’s inconsistent. You can say that again. Wait, now the apartment looks clean while they’re walking out… Maybe just their bedrooms and the kitchen is messy. Weird.

Quickfire Challenge. Chef Alfred Portale is guest judge. He looks like a South Park character. He’s well known for his plating techniques. The chefs are looking at a giant aquarium full of seafood. Hung is, as usual, excited and expects to win. Everyone explains that they’re good at seafood. Ho hum. That’s all they cook on this show anymore, with occasional turf thrown in with the surf. hungrun.jpg The chefs have 30 seconds each to “catch” the shellfish with a flimsy goldfish net. They pick the chefs in some sort of arbitrary order. Hung literally runs to the aquarium and “aggressively” fishes for his shellfish. Sara N half-jokingly says, “Jesus, Hung. Save some for the rest of us.” Padma seems a little afraid of Hung and it’s kind of funny. I have read that plenty of people don’t really care for Padma, but I’ll say it again: I like her. She cracks me up. Anyway, somehow Hung managed to kill a crawfish, which ends up belly up on the floor, and he says, “I don’t need it,” and walks back to his spot. Lia tells him not to leave it on the floor. I am liking Lia! Way to speak up! Hung replies, “What do you want me to do?” My guess would be clean up after yourself, you damn slob. Oh, yep. That’s exactly what she says. Conduct yourself like a professional. That boy has too much testosterone. Everyone else gets their shellfish without too much trouble. Tre’s got flimsy net problems and only gets 18 pieces of product. I guess that’s not a lot… The chefs have 30 minutes to prepare their dishes. This is a tough challenge because the chefs have to shuck it, clean it, devein it, and cook it. That does seem like a pretty short amount of time. Dale comments that he doesn’t really have time to “dick around with a conch.” Are they really allowed to say that without bleepage? liaknife.jpgMaybe it seemed worse because I misheard “conch” listening the first time through. Micah starts beating her shellfish with a pot and scissors, in an earnest attempt to break the shell. Meanwhile, Lia shows us how not to chop carrots. She’s lucky she didn’t lose a finger! Howie has beads of sweat dripping from his nose while he bends over to prepare his dish. Gross. But Howie’s got a plan: ceviche. Brian says the less you do with seafood the better because the seafood is already phenomenal. I like Brian too. Hung thinks his monkey could do a simple dish and everyone but him is doing simple. Boy has a monkey.

The judge has generally good things to say about the food. He says to Micah that “sky juice” is an acquired taste. Camille likes to flavor with tea. The judge doesn’t like that and kind of shakes his head. The judge doesn’t like the proportion of bread on Hung’s plate. Hung can’t handle the truth: “Chef Alfred Portale, master chef of the world, thinks that the croutons are too big. Obviously he didn’t understand the concept.” The bottom three are Micah (poor execution), Camille (tea!?), and Tre (proportions of shellfish in the dish were out of whack). Favorites are Howie (intelligent and well presented), Brian (simple flavors – I’m looking at you, Hung), CJ (well integrated flavors) and the winner is Brian, who needed to save face and win, since he works at a seafood restaurant.

Elimination challenge. Padma and the guest judge roll out plates of food that looks deeeeelish! I love comfort food and I want some of those delicious tots! Meanwhile, all the judges are cringing at the food. They don’t know good food when they see it. The challenge is to take traditional American family favorite foods and update them and make them lower in cholesterol. The chefs each get to pick a plate in the reverse order which they fished in the quickfire. The challenge resonates with Howie because there is heart disease in his family and his father passed away from a heart attack when he was young. micahugh.jpgHung’s traditional family food is steamed fish, rice, and a lot of vegetables and all the dishes on display look disgusting to him. Micah is from South Africa and isn’t familiar with the six dishes which are left when she goes to pick. She chooses meatloaf and continues to poopoo American food. Grr. Sarah M tries to figure out what’s in chicken a la king and decides to choose it. Hung gets stuck with fried chicken. Heh. They find out they are serving the food to two generations of members of the Miami Elk Club Lodge. Sounds like blue hairs! Padma agrees and says they’ll need to work some magic to convince them that healthy food can be tasty too. We non-foodies are the unwashed masses you know. Well, and I guess that is true… I prefer the tasty goodness of unhealthy food. I make a face similar to Micah’s when I eat “upscale” food, so I guess we’re even.

hungrun1.jpgShopping. Everyone piles out of the Rav4’s and walks into the Fresh Market like civilized human beings. Everyone except for Hung, who runs around everyone. That boy runs all day long like he’s hopped up on pep pills. CJ gets judgmental about other people’s ingredients and their fat content. “I hope the judges see that.” Brian, who has won immunity, decides to update stuffed cabbage by stuffing it with lobster, which is high in cholesterol. Sara M wastes half her time trying to explain which chicken she wants: “Right beside it. Right – no,no. Right beside the one you just – no. The one you just touched? The farthest one? Underneath that. Right beside that. Right. Thank you.” Lia is using store-bought sausages and flavoring them with Guinness. We can tell by a disapproving look that CJ thinks this is a problem. Dale is making pierogies (which I LOVE!) as an update to chicken and dumplings, so he buys some rotisserie chicken for filling and instant mashed potatoes. fuzzbuds.jpgHe feels like he would be under a big time crunch if he prepared these from scratch. Yeah. Pierogies are super time consuming to prepare, or so I’ve heard from my Polish friends. CJ is seething now. He thinks it’s bull***t that Dale bought these prepared ingredients. It’s obviously not against the rules because Dale is being very upfront about it. We get a nice taste of what happens when a contestant buys a product which is not made by a sponsor. I giggled when I saw the name fuzzed out. I looked and looked to see if I could find what brand that is, but no joy. Lia says she’s frustrated by being in the middle since she hasn’t been called out for the top or bottom yet. Just wait a little bit, Lia.

Day of elimination. At the Elks Lodge, the Elks are playing horseshoes and not swimming in the beautiful pool. Blue hairs. Chef Tom walks around the kitchen to check on the chefs. tomglare.jpgWhen Dale explains that he used the instant mashed potatoes, Tom gives him a look. Should we worry!? Tom is surprised that everyone is taking a very literal approach to the challenge rather than reinventing or reinterpreting them.

During a tease for a commercial, we hear Padma echoing Tom, quite literally. Tom: “They’re undercooked.” Padma: “They’re undercooked.” Tom:”This is terrible.” Padma:”It’s terrible.” Hee! Sara M skewered her chicken a la king. Wha? I suppose that’s chicken, but not so much a la king. To make matters worse, the oven was turned down to cool down. Hung says in his interview that when his chicken was done, they were done, and he turned it off, but he feels like Sara should have checked the oven to make sure it was still on. When she asks him directly, Hung says he didn’t turn down anything. Hrm. Sara starts to get nervous because her chicken is not thoroughly cooked.

CJ’s having problems with his tuna casserole. It’s super green and pretty watery but he can’t add fat to fix it. The judges don’t like it. It’s mushy, tastes like health food. Sara M serves up her salmonella a la king with couscous. It doesn’t remind the judges of chicken a la king at all. Lia serves up chicken sausage and lentils as her updated version of franks and beans. Padma busts her for not having made the sausage herself. She didn’t have a whole lot of food to prepare, like Dale did. Tom thinks Lia did this to play it safe, not to win. CJ tries Lia’s dish in the kitchen and tells her that her lentils are underdone and the judges agree with that and wonder what Lia did with her time. Dale serves up his pierogi and everyone loves it. Hung serves up his version of fried chicken with mac and cheese: skinless chicken marinated in yogurt with a chip of skin and spices with pasta and vegetables. Sounds gross – especially the skin chip. Ew. Tom just kind of looks at the dish and blinks at him. Heh. tomblink.jpgPeople seem to feel okay about the taste. Sara N’s version of fish and chips is a hit. Micah gets the bumbling music while she makes a meatloaf that looks like… I won’t say. She put mustard in there! Do people eat mustard on meatloaf? It looks like she made meatloaf, stuck mashed potatoes on top and used a cookie cutter to make it cylindrical. Tom looks frightened by the meat pillar. It’s crunchy and terrible. Brian serves up his cholesterol stuffed cabbage. The judges look ticked because he basically blew off one of the requirements of the challenge. Camille made tacos. Not really updated. They’re spicy. Casey made rib eye sloppy joes with apricot compote. I keep hearing compote and had to look up what that is because it reminds me of compost. Yuck if it was that, but it’s not. It actually sounds pretty good: “Common preparation of a compote is a cooked dish of fresh or dried fruits, simmered whole or in pieces in a sugar syrup.” People like it. Joey made a vegetable lasagna. His dish gets a nod from Ted Allen. Tre made chicken cordon bleu. Padma sounds disappointed but says it’s “not bad” which is actually bad. Howie’s updated pork chops and applesauce gets good reviews all around.

Judges’ table. Overall, the judges were underwhelmed. The judges call only Dale and Howie to the table as the favorites in this challenge. They shake each other’s hands. I like when people get along! Padma teases Howie a bit and tells him he can smile… It’s kind of sweet. He smiles and mentions that it’s sweeter to be there after having been in the bottom the previous two weeks. The judges ask Dale about the boxed mashed potatoes and he explains that he did and he stands by that decision. Tom says no one even picked up on it. Too bad we don’t know what brand is so tasty… Ultimately, the judges decide that Howie’s dish was the best. Howie wants to keep the positive momentum going. For the least favorite dishes, the judges ask for Micah, CJ, Lia (be careful what you wish for!), Sarah M, and Brian (who has immunity). Tom lectures Brian about his choice to ignore the low cholesterol aspect of the challenge. He understands that Brian has a background in seafood and works in a seafood restaurant, but says that at some point he’s going to have to make a meat dish. Tom dismisses him, but what I don’t get is, why did Ilan get away with making a Spanish dish every damn week? On to the other four. Micah scored the lowest with the Elks. There’s really nothing good to say about it, even by Micah. Sara likes what she did, but the judges don’t like that it bore no resemblance to chicken a la king. CJ’s dish had a lot of flavor, but it was all pea and the color was so green that it was frightening. Tom thought the flavors were muddy, but he liked the flax seed crispy thing on top. Lia explains that her sausage and lentil dish was something that she wanted people to be able to come home from work and make. Tom thinks she didn’t do enough in the alloted time. Lia says she didn’t really understand how complex frank and beans really are. Seriously? They all laugh with (at?) her. Tom thinks she was coasting, not trying to win with this dish.

At this point, I was scared that they were going to send Sara M or Lia home, but the judges explain that there was nothing wrong per se with Lia’s dish, they just want to see more effort. CJ’s dish was a miss, but he understood the concept and took a risk, so he would be safe. So then I just worried about Sara M. Ted Allen to the rescue. While they all pile on Sara M, Ted reminds them that Micah’s dish was nasty. The judges made the right decision to send Micah home because her dish was unimaginative and the flavors were off.

Micah says she’s relieved and glad to go, but gets weepy in her interview. She gets to go home to see her daughter… or does she? Don’t contestants have to hang around anyway? Micah thinks things will get really cutthroat and she’s glad to go before things get ugly. Next week the chefs will be in teams… here’s the part where it gets ugly.

Celine Dion says: Don’t start fighting! If I have to stop this car, you’re in big trouble!


Rav4: 7, GE Monogram:1, Fresh Market:3, Guinness:3, Evian:5


1 Response to “Top Chef – Family Favorites”

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