'Top Chef' Season 5, Episode 4: Accents Are Good for TV
I am not a Top Chef addict. Barely even a fan. Before tonight, I hadn't seen any episodes from this season. But over the last three weeks, I've watched Ed move from a similar position (blasé) to borderline obsession. Though he'd say the show and follow-up report would compromise his early bedtime, the man is clearly getting into it. "I'll be on AIM later so we can discuss the episode, Erin." And sure enough, there was nyeats popping up on my buddy list.
nyeats: letter from Richard was bogus
During the first minute of the show, we hear contestants reading a sappy letter sent from last week's dismissed Richard. That leaves just Jamie in "Team Rainbow," the trio of gay contestants established on the first episode. Moving on from the personal life tidbits, Padma welcomed Rocco DiSpirito as tonight's guest judge.
My roommate's reaction: "Wait, why is he famous again?" I couldn't really remember either. And Rocco really didn't prove why he should be. The guest judge should be someone who the contestants respect, hopefully to the point of speechlessness and awe. As Fabio pointed out, "He's not really even Italian."
Quickfire Challenge: Breakfast Amuse Bouche
nyeats: talk about a mixed metaphor
Yes, Ed. One-bite breakfasts don't make sense to me either. The oatmeal-loving, eggs-craving woman in me especially cringed when Jamie reacted to the theme: "I'm not a breakfast person. I don't eat it. Never have. Even when I was a kid, I'd get up and have cans of Chef Boyardee and chicken noodle soup." (I judge anyone who doesn't like breakfast.)
[Warning, spoilers ahead.]
Leah, on the other hand, I could get behind her "perfect bite" philosophy. She made a sandwich with bacon, quail eggs, cheese, and fried sage—the stuff McMuffin dreams are made of. Ed and I agreed, she rightfully took the win here (even if it was her second Quickfire win in a row). We also agreed that Jeff's sneaky multi-tasking was not fair. Twice baked potato and yogurt sorbet?! Two dishes? Suck up!
nyeats: yo, Jeff, that was two dishes
Challenge: You Good Enough for the Today Show?
The reality show got even more real when contestants had to perform a 2 1/2 minute live cooking segment—and the top three would excel to the Today show. As Ed explained in a ping, live cooking demos are usually set up in "swaps." You bring a raw version of the dish, a semi-cooked one, and a final product to serve the hosts. Swappage happens in between. Weirdly, the show didn't go over this, and only Stefan seemed to swap his dishes.
From the beginning, we had faith in Stefan, Fabio, Leah, and Jamie. Since Ed is such a softie, he also gave sentimental points to Eugene ("he's got soul and a great story"). Daniel, on the other hand, we agreed, needed to get over himself. "I'd love to act and make a freaking movie. I'm very charismatic. I light up in front of the stage." (Ehh..)
Stage presence aside, the biggest mistake was Alex thinking he could make crème brûlée fast and well. What he later justified as a noble "challenge," was really just plain dumb—a tactical error in both judgment and execution.
Another dish oops? Not cooking your eggs all the way through. Jamie blew it with her wet, runny eggs. They were basically still quacking on the farm.
Back to the stage skills. Let's just say Leah is better at making breakfast sandwiches with quail eggs than performing on screen. She wasn't the biggest charmer, so her immunity was a very good thing. Daniel, as predicted, also failed, but for different reasons. He was over the top. A bit of a mess. While Fabio, by far, was the megawatt charmer.
"I am fresh out of the boat." Oops, a little preposition confusion, but the judges were all over it! As was I! And Ed!
nyeats: fabio is so impossibly cute, you're right, accents rule
As the judges agreed later, "he's a dream guest on a talk show." Making fun of your accent puts everyone at ease. It didn't hurt that his tuna with roasted carrots and asparagus salad also looked tasty. Note to future contestants: Misuse prepositions! Feign an accent and Gail Simmons will swoon!
Another example of a pronunciation glitch worked to Jeff's advantage. He made a malfouf roll with shrimp with muhummara sauce. A whodoso whatsit? Mal-what? Foo? The Foo Fighters guest appearance last week? He giggled, played it confident, kept cooking, and all was well with the world.
Ariane was the the third stand-out performance. Now, she's a bit of a phoenix in her ability to sometimes suck but sometimes resurrect and surprise us, but again, the accent could have played a role. She has that Jersey twang, and coupled with her pride for Jersey beefsteak tomatoes in her salad, the judges were very pleased.
nyeats: I may have to stop predicting ariane's demise. she may have some staying power. she does have an accent, a jersey accent. there you go, another accent. accents do rule
While everyone was snoozing that night after the competition, Tom woke up Ariane, Fabio, and Jeff (the top three). They were about to perform on two television shows at once! Top Chef and the Today show. "You gotta be shittin' me." Sleepy head Jeff wasn't so happy. He must have been in the middle of a really good dream. You'd think he'd be excited to have that kind of national press, but when he heard it was for the Today show, he was pissed to be cooking for "a bunch of ladies with unsophisticated palates at 6:37 a.m."
They all watched from the green room, where Fabio seemed disillusioned: "I have no idea what's going on. I can't understand what's going on." But they didn't spit his dish out, so apparently things were cool. Jeff's dish on the other hand inspired gag reflexes from Kathie Lee Gifford (not a pretty sound).
Moving on to Ariane's dish. Meredith Vieira didn't eat the watermelon slices (apparently she hates watermelons), but somehow Ariane was not screwed. She won! Girl power! Could it be that someone was a former host on the View? And that earlier in the episode, Ariane said: "Move over, here comes the old lady"? Hmm.
The loser's circle included: Jamie, Melissa, and Alex. Though Jamie's dish was raw, and she recoiled in anger during her performance (eeek), Tom stood up for her.
Instead, it was knife-packing time for Alex.
He blamed it on his risk-taking. But I think risks are only bad when they involve crème brûlée in two-and-a-half minutes.
Next week: cooking for Gail Simmons's bridal shower.