Thursday, 17. September 2009
Nothing gets after my heart more than a camping trip. How can you not have fun sleeping in a tent, sitting around a campfire drinking and playing horseshoes?
The elimination challenge started at 10 a.m., so the chefs retired early from their night of camping, which was kind of a bummer. Nothing brings out the crazy in people like camping.
(This is what happens when you pass out in your chair while camping. I dance on your face.)
Anyway, early on in the show, Michael V. makes a comment about not changing your cooking style for the judges or for the people that you are cooking for, but rather adjusting to the challenge. His point of view is that you always want to cook your food in your style, and, essentially you need to live and die by that.
I think this point of view is crucial for this competition. There has got to be an insane amount of pressure on the chefs when they arrive at Top Chef, and more often than not, you hear exit interviews from eliminated chefs in which they state that they got away from themselves. Or, the competition got the best of them. They tried to adapt too much to what they thought the judges would like, or, even worse, got wandering eyes and started noticing what the other chefs were doing and got completely off their game.
If you’re going to compete, you have to know your style, know your strengths, and above all, OWN IT. If you have been cooking a certain way for your entire career, you won’t win by trying to change in a 2-month (or however long they film) competition. There’s something to be said for those that get eliminated who went down cooking their way. Props.
Having said that, I can’t hate on Isabella this week. I also can’t imagine having to cook with cactus. Isabella stuck with what he knew (and he was one of few that had a clue what to do with cactus). From what I could tell through my TV screen, his plate looked really good. He knew what would work in terms of blanching or grilling to take out the goo, and opted to cure it like salmon. For this, I have to give him his props.
It seemed as though a handful of the chefs tried to hide the cactus in the form of a doughnut (Ashley), a sauce (Ron), a salsa (Laurine), grilled cheese (Ash). All of which were perfectly acceptable to me. I heart cheese. I heart doughnuts. I heart salsa. Not sure I need to taste the cactus.
When guest judge Tim Love asked Ron, “Did you have fun?”, I am pretty sure that was code for “this taste like balls.”
Love later called Ron’s crab rancid. So, maybe it was code for, “Your fish is nast.”
Anyway, the top 3 showcased some new talent in Mattin “I wasn’t even sure you could actually eat cactus” Noblia and Laurine “I wasn’t sure how to make cactus the star ingredient” Wickett along with Isabella. Of course, Isabella won. At this point, no one in the lower echelon has won a quick fire or an elimination challenge.
Speaking of Mattin, did I notice a red piercing in his chest/neck area? Perhaps he got tattoo envy and needed a quick fix.
On to the elimination challenge.
Let me start by saying, I am HUGE fan of camping. However, I’ve got to think it’s not super fun in the desert of Nevada – high winds, hot heat, dead bodies, etc. But, one of the BEST parts of camping is cooking and eating. I’ve never really tried a ceviche while camping, and now I know why.
The concept of the chef’s not knowing what they’ll be faced with is somewhat interesting, but I am not sure how it showcases the best from the worst. The chefs are told that their meals should be high end, so of course there will be expensive fish and savory meats. Very difficult to cook in these kinds of conditions, but thankfully, this is not a buffet-style challenge so they don’t need to keep an abundance of fish cool for an extended period of time.
I get that part of being a great chef is knowing how to adapt and put out a great meal no matter what. The desert challenge will show whether Michael V. can stay true to his word and not change his style, but rather adapt to the parameters of the challenge. And, can the other chefs put out THEIR food with nothing but a grill in a pit and a few cast iron utensils?
It was good to see Mike V. a little out of his element and sort of razzled. He never reached Jesse status, but at least he admitted that this wasn’t something he felt comfortable with.
Bryan is the one chef that has showed an ability to adapt to almost anything without becoming overwhelmed. It’s as if he steps back, assesses the situation, and adjusts accordingly. His poker face (ha, get it? Vegas, baby) is always on, but he FINALLY cracked a smile when talking about how he keeps beating his brother.
Awesome sibling rivalry, yet they clearly respect each other. At this point, I’m thinking there’s no way this season won’t come down to the two of them.
Even if they aren’t they best (Kevin has a case, as does Jen), it’s TV gold for Bravo. And fuck, they are both hot. I almost couldn’t handle it when BOTH of them rolled into judges table wearing their hats backwards. Am I the only one who is sold on this look?
There is a point before the challenge even begins where Mike V. says that he doesn’t think the conditions are good for cooking or good for the food. We later see that Tom is literally scared to try a seafood ceviche because it looks raw, and gives Tim Love the “honor” of trying it first leading Tim to later proclaim he is sick from trying said dish.
I realize the chefs should be able to cook food properly under any circumstances, but what exactly was the point of throwing them in the desert? It seemed as if the judges were sketch on trying half of the dishes. Why not help each showcase their best? The cream will still rise to the top, it just won’t curdle.
So, as usual, Bryan seemed to conceptualize his dish just as though he was in a 5-star kitchen. He said something about staring at the grill in the desert and figuring out what he was going to do. It seemed to work out well, as he won the elimination challenge…again.
On the other hand, there was Mattin’s catastrophe on a plate (different-sized chunks of fish, some cooked, some not) and Robin’s grilled Romaine salad. If I see one more salad at this stage in the game….I mean, seriously. COME ON.
Props to Ashley for pulling it together. Her performance was reminiscent of her gnocchi. Aside from her spastic and negative vibe in the kitchen during past challenges, she seemed at ease in this challenge and was able to put that comfort onto a plate.
Laurine was also in the top along with Ashley, Bryan and Michael. I am OK with this, but it seems as though she was in the top because she was the one person who really utilized the grill. However, she made a baked potato. That was me camping circa 2004.
But, fine. I guess it’s better than a tuna sandwich and radish salad. Or a Gyro.
I don’t think this episode showed much of a shift in power despite the fact that Laurine had a little bit more exposure. The top are still at the top and the bottom are still, well, still producing uncooked fish and making salad.
Mike V., Bryan V., Mike Isabella, Jen, Kevin
Laurine, Ron, Robin, Ash, Eli