Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bocuse D'Or, Top Chef Style

August 19th. Remember that night? 14 weeks ago? 104 days? That's how long it's taken to get to the final 4 chefs. 17 chefs whacked down to 4. A lot has happened in that time. Padma got....bangs. Tom probably scored some more product pimpage. Chefs added more tattoos to whatever body space they have left. So hold on my little Top Chef Crack Monkeys, we're almost to the finish line.When we last saw our chefs, Jennifer had just won the Quickfire and our chefs are sweating French bullets, waiting to hear what the Elimination Challenge held in store for them.A mini Bocuse D'Or, that's all. That's right, each chef will choose between lamb or salmon as their protein, use that protein, make 2 intricate garnishes, all perfect in technique and presentation, in four hours. A panel of 12 judges, some who are on the American Advisory Board of the Bocuse D'Or will be judging your food but the real cherry on top of this hot French Sundae? Thomas Keller, of the legendary French Laundry, will be serving as a guest judge. The only way it could get better is to roll the man in duck fat and cover him in bacon. So the stress is definitely on. Will someone blow a gasket and end up throwing SPAM petit fours on the mirror?Isn't that why we watch?

The chefs take one last shopping trip to Whole Foods where they stare at produce for inspiration.Back at the condo, further inspiration is drawn from watching the dvds of past Bocuse D'Ors.Apparently it's a party in the stands at Bocuse. That's the trip Bravo should give away to their Top Chef fans, a trip to France to cheer on the Americans at the next Bocuse D'Or.
Once the dvds are done, there's an interesting exchange between Bryan and Kevin with Kevin asking advice about sous viding his lamb. Now, this is still a competition, and Bryan didn't have to help Kevin out but he did. Does Bryan want to win? Absolutely but not at the cost of "being a prick" in his words. What I like about this attitude is that some of these chefs put the food before the competition. Of course Bryan may have helped Kevin out thinking there's no way he would win this particular challenge. It's not his strong suit. Still the whole exchange was a breath of fresh air.

The next day comes bright and early and the chefs work quietly in the kitchen. Chef Tom brings a guest by to remind the chefs just what is at stake.What's at stake for Michael is apparently the Trash Talking award.I think he's got that all wrapped up. Chef Tom stops by again, this time alone, so he can make funny faces at the chefs.But also to announce that the winner of the Elimination Challenge will get THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!! Who's making funny faces now?Suddenly it's time to start the Parade of Mirrors. Kevin is the first to get a gander at the rest of the judges who include Traci Des Jardin, Jerome Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, Alex Stratta and Tim Hollingsworth in addition to Tom, Padma, Gail and Thomas Keller. No point sweating about it now, your dish is done.

Poached Lamb Loin, Sherry-Glazed Beet & Asparagus in Sunchoke Cream

The judges seem to enjoy his food but Thomas thinks it's a little elementary for Bocuse.
Michael follows Kevin into the high stress arena.

Salmon with Cauliflower Chickpea Tart & Zucchini Tzatziki

While scoring points for being pretty, his flavors take a hit. Even worse, Alex Stratta finds a dreaded fish bone. In real world Bocuse D'Or, Michael would have failed right there. On top of that, his hollowed out cucumber impresses no one for technique or originality. Perhaps Michael should go watch with Kevin cook on his day off.

Back in the kitchen, Bryan finds himself in the weeds with time running out.But Bryan finds his earlier chef camaraderie rewarded by Jennifer who steps up to lend a hand, having won that extra 30 minutes in the Quickfire. Karma baby!

Crusted Lamb Loin, Lamb Shank Crepinette & Orzo Au Gratin
Again, the judges like the look of his platter and food but find the lamb undercooked and the rest of the dish needed just a bit more time.

Sausage Wrapped Lamb Loin, Carrot Puree & Tomato-Piquillo Canape
Eli decides to cut his lamb table side and immediately gets pinged for uneven slices and severely undercooked meat. So undercooked that no one wants to eat the meat. Not a good sign.

Salmon & Caviar, Shrimp Flan & Truffle, Celery Root & Shiitake

Jennifer finishes the group of five with her salmon. Her flavors seem to be well received but the direction of the dish lacked foresight. There's also some salmon servings that were perfect and others that were almost undercooked. Same with her shrimp flan.

The meal ends with accolades for all the chefs for their 12 hour Mini Bocuse D'Ors efforts. Still there's one more surprise. In addition to the money for winning the Elimination, the winner will also snag a spot to compete on the 2011 Bocuse D'Ors team. I don't think you'll be seeing that happen on any of the Food Network Competitive Cooking shows any time soon.
You have to think they are all just numb by the time they reach Judge's Table. Which is a good thing because the first round of comments are all about picking at each of the chef's weaknesses. No one goes unscathed but Tom winds it up by saying how much he respects the chefs and their food by getting to this stage in the competition and completing this challenge. The second round of comments seem to suggest that no one had the perfect dish. The only one coming closest is Kevin and his simplicity seems to be the biggest weakness.However, not enough of a weakness to stop the Juggernaut from taking home another $30,000 and the coveted spot to compete in Lyons.
Now for the Elimination. Frankly the four remaining chefs all looked like they were about to Stress Hurl.It doesn't take long for Padma to call out Eli's name.Can't say I was surprised but I am glad it finally happened. There's not one dish I think of when I think of Eli but I will remember him as someone who saw fit to mock a cancer survivor and I know if it were me that would not be something I'd be proud of.

Time to look ahead to the finale so pack your bags, we're going to Napa.


Making Space said...

Gracious! I don't even watch the show and your recap was a nail-biter!

And you put in a SPAM MUSUBI photo!!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!! Food of the gods, my friend. Food of the gods.

Great recap, made me feel like I was actually there. And even better, I got to see the dude with the asshat. ROFL.

Aunty Belle said...

I akshully saw this episode. Cain't figger out why ever'body undercooked the lamb.

I'se wif ya Shamu--they all looked green at the gills--the stress is too much.

Sigh. SOMEday I would like to visit French Laundry .

Great blow-by blow recount.

Buzz Kill said...

They did indeed look like they were ready to stress hurl. Bwahahaha
I really liked this challenge, This required more skill and timing than the usual catering challenges. And for what they were asked to do, all of the cheftestants did well. I'm looking forward to tonight if, for no other reason, to see how pregnant Padma is. Nice recap Shamu - keep 'em coming.

LaDivaCucina said...

My only comment is about Padma's hair. Not her best photo but usually sporting 'bangs' makes a woman look younger. On Padma, it makes her look....weird.

Is tonight the finale? I'll be out...huge art week in Miami and parties every night. Thank goodness for my recorder!

Boxer said...

Great recap and I gotta agreeon Padma's bangs.... not good.

as for Kevin... yay!!!!

(I used to love Spam and I'm pretty sure I could even eat it now as a vegetarian.)

Big Shamu said...

SWEET! I'll put that on the menu for the next Blog Summit.

Anonymous said...

Spamspamspamspam, Spamspamspamspam, Spamspaaaaaaaam, wonderful Spaaaaaam!!!!!
MakingSpace from a furren computer. Wave...

Big Shamu said...

Waving back, Spamgirrl.

Dani said...

I'm thinking spam might be something to add to the hurricane supplies. Seems pretty versatile.

Big Shamu said...

The Hawaiians love it.

moi said...

Napa spelled backwards is A Pan. That is all. Except: Padma's bangs are hid. E. Ous. And: I'm Mikey, but Spam? Nyet.

Big Shamu said...

I make a great pine nut encrusted spam steak...

K9 said...

great telling of the story. the wind blew my satellite dish of its lofty perch of a board and a stack of cement blocks. no top chef finale for me. gah! but THIS was good. i love the cap you gave mikey. grherhahaha

LaDivaCucina said...

Pine nut encrusted spam steak?!!! Eeek! I think Spam might be like vegemite, you have to grow up with it to like it.