Monday, January 3, 2011

Match Play

It's all a bit hazy but when we last saw our chefs, they were getting ready for Team Tennis Dish Match Play. They tried very, very hard to shoehorn in a connection to the US Open by pretending that the dishes the chefs made would be something tennis players would be comfortable eating before a big match. The real reason for a challenge at the US Open?

Padma gets to wear shorts. Actually I liked the competition part of this challenge. Two teams trying to match up head to head with each other.

Team Orange includes Carla, Mike, Richard, Dale, Fabio, Antonia, and Marcel.

Team Yellow counts Tiffani, Tiffany, Angelo, Asshat, Jamie, Casey, and Tre. The teams seem well matched, both have strengths and weaknesses. However Asshat doesn't like the team he's on.

(And by allies what he really means is the seafood family of proteins.)

He should worry because if you win your head to head match up, you're not up for elimination even if your team loses. I like this a lot because it's about making the best tasting food, not about someone else on your team screwing up a sauce or overcooking something. You cook the best dish you can then you should be safe. Neither team seems to get this, instead focusing on the tennis aspect of the challenge. Carla is asked what's she doing and it sounds like she's got a strong soup dish, very much in her style of cooking. Dale sort of poo poos her soup, discounting the dish as not being upscale enough for the US Open crowd. Carla, still sporting bad advice burn scars, puts on her best "Politely Listen but Ignore" face and makes what she wants anyway. On the other team, they think they have a strategy of putting their weakest dish against the strongest dish, making the assumption that 1) Richard will have the strongest dish and 2) he will go first. Their Plan B?

They don't really have a Plan B. Doesn't stop them from shopping and cooking though and revealing way too much about themselves.

No, Antonia, that does not count. What does count in most people's minds is a second helping of gnocchi from Fabio. This doesn't bug me so much, he's making a whole wheat gnocchi which is a challenge, he's going head to head and if anything, he's going to redeem the reputation of the poor gnocchi on Top Chef. If I remember correctly Howie of Season 3 rode that pork pony quite a ways before he was auffed. Now during the three hour prep, we see Angelo get smacked with a slimy fish curve ball. Seems he didn't ask to check all the mackerel Whole Foods gave him. If he had he would have seen the fish was slimy and a bit off.

He makes a wise decision and chooses not to use them but he still has to come up with some protein. He tries sweet talking a piece of salmon out of Tre (who has immunity) but Tre's not having any of it and suggests Angelo try Tiffany and her tuna. Tiffany, who had a whole season of Angelo, wisely shares some of her protein and Angelo is off and running with a new dish. Not off and running with the dishes they planned are Asshat and Jamie. Jamie, in another episode of What I Forgot From Cooking School, fails chickpea cooking 101. Asshat does no better with his shrimp. This isn't Bocuse d'Or cooking folks, this is shrimp and chickpeas. Too late, time to hit the courts.

Both teams prepare for the first match up. Team Yellow is expecting Blaise and putting their worst dish up which at this point is Jamie and her hard luck chick peas. But surprise, it's Fabio first for the Orange Team. This completely throws the Yellow Team for a loop. They try and stick to their original strategy of sending the weakest but Jamie refuses. Yeah, it only works if everyone agrees. Instead Casey steps up to the plate (or in this case, net) and chooses to go head to head with Fabio. Head to head, with Fabio making gnocchi a second time, I would have picked Casey to win this match up. However I would have been wrong. A tennis player I've never heard of before loved the gnocchi, Padma thought Casey's dish was too heavy and Tom, never having had a good whole wheat gnocchi, is amazed that a good one can be made. The other two judges don't even get to vote since it's already 3 for Fabio, who of course is ecstatic with Italian gnocchi joy. But the joy is short lived. The Orange Team had planned to send Marcel second and he's even halfway into plating when Dale insists he go second to save his dying dumplings. For the Yellow Team, Big Red jumps into the second slot.

Two strong fish dishes but Tiff takes the point with her black bass (too bad her dish isn't in the recipe section of Bravo's website because I want to go there) and shows some excitement of her own.

Back to even. Finally Marcel gets to compete but now he's competing against Angelo, a much stronger opponent than say Tiffany or Asshat. Angelo puts up a very simple bite of sashimi tuna with a yuzu gelée and a camphor froth (what, we don't call it foam anymore??) while Marcel brings it strong with couscous, pomegranate and yellow fin tuna but finishes it with cream and butter. It's the cream that sinks Marcel's dish and gives the win to Angelo. Two points in a row, the Yellow Team looks like they have momentum. The next match-up features Tiffany vs. Antonia which is should be a very evenly matched round. Tiffany has more tuna and Antonia puts up scallop. The judging is so close, two for each chef leaving Chef Tom with the deciding vote which goes to....

Antonia. Again, back to even. Finally it's Richard's turn at the net and Team Yellow decides to put up Asshat. I'm not sure why they didn't put up Tre but there it is. Now it's at this point that Angelo and Tiffani probably taste Asshat's dish and realize that yes, that shrimp is not going to win against Blaise. Adding any possible flavor is his only hope and that hope might lie in yuzu gelée. Asshat says nothing in the moment, things are moving too quickly and suddenly he's before the judges with his shrimp and tamarind soup against Richard with his lamb and yogurt dish. The judges don't seem to find the proteins in either dish too appealing, the guest judge calling the shrimp too bland and the lamb too gamey. In the end, Richard's tabbouleh saves him and Asshat's shrimp dooms him. Team Orange is ahead and Team Yellow has to go with Tre because there's no way Jamie's undercooked chickpeas are going to beat anybody. But in a bizarre turn of events, Tre has Angelo cook his fish. Why he doesn't cook his own damn fish is a mystery. On Team Orange's side, Mike is reverting back to his piggish self, so sure Carla is going to lose that he starts talking about firing up his dish. Of course Karma is going to kick Mike in his big fat mouth. In another close match, Carla takes the final point with her spicy groundnut soup.

With her good luck orange bandage no less. Everyone on the Orange Team is safe from elimination and in a wonderful Karmic turn...

Carla wins a five day/four night trip to Italy and a big-assed bottle of wine for having the best dish. Let's just hope it's not this...

(Not photoshopped, a real wine, I'm not drinking it, you drink it)

Team Yellow is left to gripe about lost opportunities. Asshat bemoans Angelo's involvement in his dish never seeing the forest of badly cooked shrimp for the trees. Not just one round of shrimp, two. He thinks Angelo tried to sabotage him but again, you had Tiffani and Angelo, two chefs with very strong palates, each that won their round, trying to save his dish. Seeing that strategy fail, he moved to Jamie. Again I must point out that Jamie is under no obligation to throw herself under the bus, especially for Asshat. If he had just cooked his shrimp right, he'd still be in the game. Turns out that his dish wasn't even the judges least favorite, that unhappy development belonged to Tre. Asshat's luck with timely Immunity left his lucky fingers and all that's left is to walk out those double doors again.


MakingSpace said...

1. This post is epic.
3. Where did you get that wine?

Big Shamu said...

Oh geez, Bravo puts that wine out. Do you really want some?

the dogs' mother said...

The eliminations feel so different with this All Star edition. Usually the first 6 or 7 you get a feeling for who is staying around and who will be going but - this group. Regardless we are enjoying this version of Top Chef and hope it is a keeper.

MakingSpace said...

I do NOT want that wine! Wine gives me a terrific headache and ruins my voice for 48 hours. Nasty stuff.

Agree with froggy.

Big Shamu said...

I know Froggy, it's a total toss up. Add to that they are all familiar. You don't have to learn anyone's name before they get tossed.

No Wine for MS.

Buzz Kill said...

I liked the challenge but did not like the scoring. Every chef should have been judged. As a result, Jamie skates by elimination again. Two weeks in a row she didn't present a dish, yet there she is. Luck, strategy, fate - who knows? As Tom says - It's a cooking show, she should cook.

I didn't like the guest judge - whoever he was. Other than being a tennis player, I don't know what kind of food credibility he has.

I liked that Carla went with her own instincts and was rewarded for it. I think she's the dark horse in this race and Tre, Tiffani, Angelo and Blais better check their six.

And what was up with asshat's hair. It looked like some deranged homeless guy that slept in a gutter. I guess that's why he wears the hats.

Big Shamu said...

Buzz,I liked the scoring because it created drama and friction. Jamie did cook, she just didn't cook well. I think Asshat is pissed he didn't think of it Mike I. did.
Carla has always been on my favorites list but then again, so was Jen and Dale L. Like Froggy pointed out, you just don't know who is staying and who is going. Who I was not impressed with for this last challenge? Tre and Richard.

Buzz Kill said...

This was the first eleimination challenge I can remember where a cheftestant didn't get judged. Same with Mike I. With this level of talent, I just found it odd.

Another intersting thing that I saw (and meant comment on before) was Angelo's fish. Bravo made no attempt to play down the slimey fish that Angelo got from one of their sponsors. If you want poor quality seafood - go to Whole Foods. I'll bet someone got fired for that one.

Big Shamu said...

Buzz, hmmm. I think you are correct that this is the first time that chefs, while still in the competition, have cooked a dish that was not judged. We have had chefs still in the game that did were safe from elimination and did not cook, Dale and the Roach Coach challenge in Season 3 and Kevin and the French dinner in Season 6. I'll have to think on that if that's true.

I thought it was great that they were honest about Whole Foods and their product not being up to snuff. I bet somebody got a raise for getting rid of a lot of mackerel they just would have ended up on some special "seafood chowder" the next day anyway.