Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Deconstruction Derby

With Eli's diaper finally changed and the Quickfire complete, we move onto the Elimination Challenge. Because we're in Vegas and because they already played with the Cirque de Soliel performers in Season One and they didn't want to do a whole blue foods challenge for the Blue Man Group, Penn and Teller are tapped to show us how to deconstruct a magic trick. A really old magic trick. A trick called Cups and Balls.This is a Bosch painting from the 1500s. What has this got to do with cooking? Not much really except that it allows Teller to perform their version of this trick.......while Penn attempts to pick the pocket of the what have to be the tightest pair of jeans Padma's had on in a while. Once all the balls have been revealed, we finally get to the Elimination Challenge.
These sort of challenges have confuzzled chefs in the past so the judging is always ripe with disgust. It's really very simple. Break down a classic dish into it's separate components, rework them so that when the diner combines them, they taste like the original classic. For example.

The classic Bloody Mary cocktail.

Ludo Lefebvre's Amuse Bouche of a Deconstructed Bloody Mary.
Tomato Sorbet, Vodka Gelée and Celery Mousse.

Can our chefs pull off chopping up classic dishes, putting back together again and make the judges happy?This is one judge you do not want spitting out your food. The better question is are there really rules to this challenge?
Shopping at Whole Foods I begin to wonder. Battling Brother Bryan has drawn the classic Reuben Sandwich. Corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing on grilled rye. So he decides to turn tuna into corned beef. Wha? I'm sure it will taste good and be pretty but will it really be a deconstructed Reuben? My girl Jennifer seems flustered by the whole challenge and her assignment of meat lasagna. Or perhaps it's the Shopping Cart Cam that's got her off balance?Back in the kitchen, we have another reason why some people should not be allowed to use power tools. Eli taping up his digital pressure cooker with blue gaffer's tape and expecting it to work is the best way to get sued by the maker of said pressure cooker. You know why?Because having the deeply dented pressure cooker pop it's top and rain hot chicken down on you and other contestants is really not what the makers of the pressure cooker want to showcase. (Mocking the cancer victim, inability to use tools correctly or safely...only one more strike to go Diaper Boy). Meanwhile Finger Dipper Cam strikes again.Oh Ron, not only did they catch you again but what the hell is that bright green sauce for your paella? He makes my head hurt.Still feeling her own pain and struggling to come up with a plan is Jennifer. SNAP OUT OF IT, WOMAN, WE'VE GOT INCOMING!!I did NOT miss Tom's little walk abouts in the kitchen. Hell I didn't even realize he hadn't been doing them until he showed up here. I've never been a big fan of this feature because I get the feeling that Tom makes up his mind about chefs and dishes that's hard to overcome once he's poked his nose into what's going on. I don't think I'm the only one who thinks that way because Jennifer immediately starts giving Chef Tom the finger.Good Gravy I LOVE this woman. With prep finished for the day, the chefs land back at the condo just in time to power up for the Bitch and Moan Hour. They also try to explain traditional paella to Ron who supposedly has done many paellas.It's not going too well and it's at this point that I start mentally packing Ron's knives for him even though Mike I. is just as clueless to his Eggs Florentine.Back at the kitchen the chefs ramp up their dishes for judging. Of course right off the bat, I'm confused. They ping Mike I. for revamping his dish, not deconstructing it. Mike V. gets a lot of love for a Caesar Salad that would find much comfort in Marcel's kitchen. Bryan presents his Tuna Reuben and as expected, the judges think it tastes good and is presented beautifully. How this dish evokes a big thick, juicy, dripping with sauerkraut Reuben is beyond me and bless Penn Jillette for actually saying that he disagreed with Tom and Michelle, that the dish in no way reminded him of a classic Reuben. Did he eat it all? Sure, but Penn's a man who likes rules....if only so he can break them. Laurine has the unfortunate luck of the draw to pull fish and chips when Toby's back as a judge. Although it looks like Michelle is about as impressed with Toby as many of the viewers have been.Jennifer and Ash are up next and Jennifer, despite all her stressing, hits it out of the park. When you make Padma smile more than she did in her Hardee's commercial, you know you're doing good.Ash's Shepherd Pie is a complete disaster. But then again part of the problem is that he gets raked over the coals because he used something other than potatoes in the dish much like....Bryan using tuna for his Reuben. Ron and Eli bring on their dishes. Ron's is pretty much the melt down we all expected. Eli's dish prompts some interesting table chatter.What the Bear Nation has been waiting to hear for six seasons finally arrives. Eli is saved by Tom's love. Ashley and Kevin make all the judges and Penn and Teller very happy with their dishes, Ashley with pot roast and Kevin with Chicken Mole. Kevin had an amazing amount of work going on with his plate which is surprising because we saw so little of him during this episode. He seems to be a very efficient and smart chef.Robin, who has immunity, rounds out the night with New England clam chowder that impresses no one.
The top contenders for the win are Ashley, Michael V., Kevin and much to her and Mike I's surprise, Jennifer. Kevin takes the win and a set of Calphalon cookware that retails for about $600. Back out in the stew room, Ash hoists himself up on the Beat Up on Robin bandwagon, upset that he didn't think of making a salad and a crisp to win immunity. I must point out that he's about as far away from sniffing immunity as I am from having a private baconization lesson from the lovely Michelle Bernstein. He, Laurine and Ron take their rightful place in facing the judges where there's lots of whining and excuses. Feh.
The really fun stuff happens they send the chefs back to the stew room. Seems that the Tobster takes his English arrogance and rubs it into the wrong Latina face on the correct pronunciation of paella.I don't know if Chef Bernstein travels with her cutlery but had they been within easy reach I would imagine it would not have been the small size of bull's testicles Padma would have been talking about this episode but the wee Tobsters instead. Still, even without her knives, the correct pronunciation of paella goes to my next stalking victim, Chef Bernstein. Ultimately Ron is sent to the Condo of Shame and Toby is more than happy to see Michelle out the door.

Next Up: Go to your Room and don't come out until you know how to Behave!


Aunty Belle said...

okay,, thar's so so much heah--but lemme cut to one point:

Tuna does not a Rueben make.

Really, as this show become all freakout hype an not so much real cookin'???

Dani said...

Tuna?? What was he thinking?

Buzz Kill said...

I haven't seen this complete episode yet but I did see the part where Padma comments that Eli's dish looks like Bull's testicles and that she's actually had them before. Penn says, "I'll bet you have." I love that guy.
And Teller with his whole "mime" judging thing was really creeping me out. I know it's his schtick but come on, we know you can talk. Tell us how the food is already.
Ron really screwed up so it was time for him to go. Actually it was time for him to go during the campout episode.

moi said...

You gotta love a comedy/magic duo who on a recent episode of their hit, Bullshit, actually came right out and said Americans have the right to bear arms in case one day we need to, you know, overthrow the bastids in Gooberment. Or, at least I gotta love 'em.

This episode? Not so much (I personally think deconstruction is kinda silly). Except for when Miz Michelle got all cranky with Toby for mispronouncing paella. That was classic.

Big Shamu said...

I think the purpose of these sort of episodes are two fold. One, it weeds out the totally clueless and frankly either Ash or Ron could have gone for me. In fact I wanted them both gone. Second, while the judges say that they don't judge on the entirety of a contestant's season (I don't believe that for a second)testing the better chefs when they are out of their element is something that sticks out in their mind. We all expected Mike V. to be in the top because deconstruction is his strong suit. Ashley and Jennifer scored major points for doing good dishes when so out of their element. Tom in particular will remember this when it comes to judging down the road.
Michelle Bernstein has supplanted my beloved Bourdain (if he ever comes back to TC, we'll talk) as my favorite Guest Judge. That she put the smackdown on Pasty Man was more delicious than I could have imagined. Certainly on my Top Ten Top Chef Moments.

Yeah, Tuna. Thank you Penn for your honesty.

Jenny said...

it was a reuben I could eat and even I thought it was stupid. Jennifer won me over by avoiding Tom and who has a judge that won't SPEAK????

Not being a cook I liked the deconstruction because it made me realize food combinations are even more complicated than I ever imagined.