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Top Chef: With Six, You Get Spring Roll

404.jpgWe're at week four now, and people are missing their significant others and family. Jennifer and Zoi, however, are lucky to be able to look at each other and hold hands. But Jennifer doesn't want to be unfair to the rest of the crew. She talks about trying to keep her distance and remembering this is a competition--again. Now if it were me, I'd be spending every moment with my lover, plotting ways to take down the house. Maybe a little poison in their amuse bouche...a little laxative in their gnocchi...but that's just me.

Spike has come around pretty nicely and says that he loves the two girls and thinks they compliment each other beautifully as a couple...but he is ready for one of them to go. He doesn't want to split them up per se, BUT he feels that there's a slight disadvantage for him and everyone else. And in this competition, a slight disadvantage is all it really takes. Wise words, my jazzy-hatted friend.

When the chefs arrive in the kitchen, they see Daniel Boulud. Padma tells anyone who is unfamiliar with him to leave. (Thousands of Americans possessed by Padma's hottness instantaneously walk out the door.) The guest judge is a French culinary genius, idolized by chefs around the world. And he's all about technique. So in today's challenge, the chefs are to use items from their baskets of fresh veggies and anything provided in the entire Top Chef pantry to create a vegetable dish. But they MUST use at least three techniques in the process. (This challenge should be a breeze for Dale and both have worked under him before.)

Lisa is instantly frustrated, because she does things her own way. Nikki is similarly worried that she falls short on technique. Zoi, however, despite not being classically trained, never frets. She hatches an idea and aims to impress Boulud. Spike trained in France, we learn. He also has a neat little scallion tool, which divides the vegetable into 8 sections. He then dips them in ice water, to shock and curl them. That's a pretty neat technique if you ask me. It makes me want to run out and become a chef right now...but I won't, because I have to write!

Daniel makes his rounds, complimenting Zoi for her impressive shearing (she shaved her vegetables nearly paper-thin) and Dale, while being displeased with Manuel and Nikki. He begins by naming his least favorite: Nikki, Lisa, and Manuel. Then, he names his top: Zoi, Dale, and Richard. And the winner this time is...Dale. He receives immunity.

The chefs then draw knives to see who is paired with whom. Then Dale is allowed to choose which pair he'll join to create the sole trio, so he joins Andrew and Richard...oooof course. Almost everyone here is paired up with someone they've worked with before. But the exciting challenge more than makes up for everything.

The chefs are to create a 6-course dinner (hence the teams), where each course is inspired by their favorite movie. And let me tell you, as a verifiable movie fanatic and Oscar database, this is perhaps the most titillating challenge they've had yet! As my mind runs off imagining the types of dishes I would do for my favorites (some would be REAL challenges, believe me), Boulud mentions the phenomenal Casablanca as his favorite and how he would incorporate Moroccan flavors into his meal. I almost wish he was cooking against everyone, too.

The first course is being done by the dream trio, Andrew, Dale, and Richard. Dale likes them because he feels their fellow aggressive, forward-thinking chefs. Andrew feels it's the weak choosing the strong. Marry me! (Visions of Maeby con their way into Hollywood jobs in my head. I miss you, Arrested Development.) Richard selects Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and the guys all concur. Meanwhile, the second course is being prepared by Manuel and Spike. Since Manuel is Mexican, he thinks of Like Water for Chocolate, but has nothing to offer for it. So Spike suggests they do Good Morning Vietnam, since he works with Vietnamese food.

Working on the third course are Jennifer and Nikki, the latter of whom suggests Il Postino. Nikki talks about how soulful and romantic the movie is. Jen agrees and coolly jokes "yeah, we'll hold hands". Nikki laughs. Jen is just awesome and these two work very well together and have good chemistry as a team. (If you'll recall, in the first episode, the judges were so impressed with both ladies, it was difficult to choose a winner.) The fourth course is being done by Mark and Ryan, and the two have nearly nothing in common. Ryan's favorite movie is Dumb and Dumber while Mark's is To Kill a Mockingbird and a hodgepodge of quirky down under titles. Ryan finally has a vision and it's to do A Christmas Story. Mark talks about it like he knows it, saying "oh, I-uh-I-uh...I believe it's a comedy". Make a Leg Lamp cake!

The fifth course is being prepared by Antonia and Zoi. The former is delighted, because she says the latter "cooks exactly like I do". Zoi suggests that they do Talk to Her, which is a Spanish film about two very creative, passionate women, and they believe this dish will be representative of them. And the sixth and final course finds Lisa paired up with Stephanie. The latter raves about the former's strong personality and judgment--and I don't blame her, as Lisa has been near the top in each and every challenge thus far. And they both abstain from doing a dessert, despite it being the final course, because in the past, it has failed. Lisa suggests the movie Top Secret!, which is one of her favorites. They focus on the scene with the cow, which Lisa refuses to spoil for us. And I thank her for that.

Andrew says that "these people will culinarily crap in their pants" when they see what's in store for them. Only Andrew is allowed to make up words, folks, so don't even try. Of course, I do wonder if he means it is Willy Wonka, after all. Speaking of which, he desires to present the dish to the patrons as oompa-loompas. As I clearly imagine this wonderful spectacle, he wastes no time in getting down on his knees and mimicking it before our very eyes. Too bad his team is full of squares. How lame.

The chefs shop, prepare, and then arrive at some place called Gallery 37, where Aisha Tyler's PR rep gets her some high profile attention by arranging this random impromptu dinner. Also involved in this feast is Richard Roeper, Chicago's own incompetent film critic with suspect taste. But I'll digress before this turns into a rant, because there are more important matters at Richard's smoker running out before all of the salmon are smoked. Oh, no! Fortunately, some quick thinking is utilized and the dream trio serve their dish (involving wasabi and white chocolate) to a surprisingly delighted crowd.

After that, it's a bumpy road. The judges are immensely disappointed with the Vietnamese spring roll from Manuel and Spike and are mixed on Jen and Zoi's pasta dish (Tom not impressed; Richard loves it). Things seem to pick up a bit when Mark's and Ryan's quail dish manages to delight, despite all of the pre-serving difficulties. (The dish is inspired by the scene where the dog takes the turkey, so they all go out and have duck. But the store had neither, so they settled on quail.) Ted Allen says it's his new favorite dish. The reviews are not so positive for Antonia's and Zoi's lamb shanks, because the story did not match the dish.

And last but not least, Lisa and Stephanie prepared a NY strip steak with caramel apple sauce. My palate just orgasmed on its own...and clearly, the entire table's did as well. Aisha even said "the dish goes above and beyond". I like her. And thus, the supper ends on a very positive note.

Back at Judges' Table, the teams of Willy Wonka (Andrew, Dale, and Richard) and Top Secret! (Lisa and Stephanie) are called first...and are the judges two favorites. I must say, I'm slightly surprised not to see Mark and Ryan, but I guess, it wasn't perfect. Either way, we learn the caramel sauce was Lisa's brilliant idea (Stephanie is sweet and gives credit where it's due) and that the sauce from the "Chocolate Factory" was Richard's and the "faux caviar" was made by Andrew. They were actually tapioca pearls...mmmmm. Willy Wonka wins by a hair and the individual winner of the night is Richard. I would've been happier with Lisa, but at least she's standing out a bit more now...I think she's a true dark horse, actually. But at least he finally obtained a victory of his own.

They return to the waiting room, where some very irritated chefs are complaining about Richard and about how they don't find his food to be particularly awe-inspiring. The judges ask to see Talk to Her (Antonia and Zoi) and Good Morning, Vietnam (Manuel and Spike). When the girls are questioned about their story, they reveal some details they should've stated earlier. Tom wondered why the lamb was cut so thin and Antonia and Zoi explain that it was to have enough for everyone and to reprsent the two of them as strong, independent women in this business. He says that if they had explained that earlier, they might not even be here, because the food did taste pretty good. So the two can be at ease, because they are safe.

However, the news for the two gentlemen was not so relieving. They found the dish to be very uninspired and the whole concept to be based solely off of Vietnam itself and not by the movie at all. Spike was at fault for being the driving force behind this dish and Manuel is accused of being a follower. Tom inquires of the two who should go home, and Spike refuses to answer that, saying he "doesn't play that way". My respect for him just rose immensely, because that was very classy of him. Manuel says backstage that he feels it's going to be him that's eliminated...and he was correct. Spike hugs him and he parts with hugs and goodbye speeches. And so, another episode down, plenty more to come. So tune in and check back next week, because based on these intense previews...things will really be heating up!

Posted by on April 3, 2008 4:38 PM
Permalink |

i'm a little annoyed because i think they should've sent antonia and zoi back and called jennifer and nikki in. i just think it's unfair to have them listed as LOW on wikipedia. that's my two cents, anyways.

-- Posted by: Kev at April 5, 2008 12:16 PM

Aisha Tyler was there because, if I had to guess, they probably shot this during one of the weeks she was guest hosting in place of Roger Ebert.

Zoi=see you next Tuesday.

-- Posted by: will at April 6, 2008 4:42 PM

so informative, thanks to tell us.

-- Posted by: DedoVioheds at September 25, 2010 11:14 PM

so informative, thanks to tell us.

-- Posted by: DedoVioheds at September 29, 2010 6:04 PM

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