Immediately following last week’s double elimination, we find our chefs where many spend the wee hours of a morning after a long night in the kitchen: a bar. I guess the 15 gallons of wine they drank in the sweatbox during judges table wasn’t enough. These are my kind of people.
We jump straight into the Quickfire with this week’s special guest, Top Chef Masters alum Tony Mantuano. In keeping with the holiday season, the chefs have to cook stuffing. Though I usually get annoyed at most things that come from her mouth, Tiffany-with-an-i’s observation that stuffing is not only regional, but mom specific is spot on. That is easily in the all-time top five of controversial dishes….the fiancée and I still have not agreed on what style of dressing/stuffing we will prepare in our house.
To make things even more interesting, the chefs can’t use kitchen utensils to make their stuffing. Soon, we see Blais using the lid of a can as a knife, Fabio grating cheese on a storage rack, Antonia using an ear of corn as a spoon, and Jaime stirring a sauté pan with a slab of bacon. Come to think of it, Jaime may be on to something there.
Here’s to hoping that the chefs broke out a sanitary wipe at some point for the floor mats that they used as a cutting board.
Casey’s Asian inspired “stuffing”, Carla’s “un-donte” quinoa, and Tiffani’s soy maple stuffing land them in the bottom group for the quickfire. Tre’s Southwestern stuffing and Marcel‘s brioche stuffed squab are left in the top to duke it out for Swanson’s broth immunity and the Swanson’s broth $20,000.
Tre comes up with the win. Don’t spend it on all of your ladies in one night.
This week’s elimination challenge has the cheftestants breaking in to two teams and facing off in individual head-to-head battles at the U.S. Open. If they win their head-to-head battle, they win a point for their team. The players on the winning team that won their battles will be in the top at judges table, and the losers from the losing team will be in the bottom and face elimination.
The chefs have to pick a Swanson’s broth tennis ball to determine if they are on the yellow or orange teams. Here is how it shakes out:
Team orange: Fabio, Antonia, Carla, Marcel, Mike, Dale, Richard
Team yellow: Tré, Angelo, Spike, Tiffani, Jamie, Casey, Tiffany
As soon as the teams break up for their menu planning, the editor’s sound bites of choice indicate a noticeable difference in strategies. Mike I. from team orange reminds everyone that the way they won last time was by treating it like a team challenge, while a disheveled Spike plans to send team yellow’s weakest dish up first in order to sacrifice it against team orange’s strongest dish.
The strategy seems sound, in theory. However, as Spike and Angelo explain to a very curious Tom, their strategy is based on two things: 1. That team orange will send out their strongest dish first and 2. That dish will belong to Richard Blais.
As Spike says, he “bets that they will be coming out Blais’in”. Seriously, Spike? Either you have yourself a man-crush, or someone took a cue from Bravo and made a sponsorship deal with The Professor.
Now, we finally get that blood that we kept seeing in the commercials.
I guess all of that hootie-hooing was too much of a distraction for Carla, as she proceeds to slice off half of her fingernail. But, she mans up, tells the Swanson’s broth medic that she don’t need no stinkin’ stitches, and gets right back to cooking. You go girl.
Queue the mocking of Jaime’s trip to the hospital. I don’t think anyone is going to get a paper cut on this season without someone using it as an excuse to make fun of Jaime. Then again, it is well deserved. Is it just me, or did she really turn into a complete wuss since her original season? Maybe I was too busy being annoyed at how she only cooked scallops to notice how much of a wimp she really is.
News flash Jaime: No matter how much you want it to, your whole “I have tattoos and I’m butch” thing isn’t really fooling anyone anymore. You’re not that tough.
While everyone is glaring at Jaime thinking about how much bigger Carla’s cojones are than hers, she is busy fretting over her undercooked chickpeas.
Team yellow is already having some major malfunctions. Angelo finds that he purchased a bunch of slimy sub-par mackerel, and that just won’t do. So, he starts hunting around his team for a replacement fish, starting with Tre’s salmon. Tre, despite having immunity, fears putting himself in the bottom by helping Angelo out and deflects him over to Tiffany, who doesn’t have time for “playing games” and helps him out.
Then, with only 10 minutes left to cook, Spike discovers that he has completely botched his shrimp and must re-cook them without enough time to infuse as much flavor as he would like.
Finally, time is up and the chefs grab their Swanson’s rolling coolers and head into Arthur Ashe stadium, where set up on opposite sides of the court. The chefs must present their dishes to judges Tom, Tony, Gayle, Padma, and tennis player, Taylor Dent. I guess Roddick was booked.
It is time for round one, and Jaime’s chickpeas are still nowhere close to ready. Therefore, the team strategy says that she is the sacrificial lamb at the altar of Blais.
But wait….team orange sends Fabio up first with his (shocker) gnocchi! This has team yellow’s heads spinning. While they try to figure out who goes first, Jaime sidesteps the “weakest dish first” strategy by saying that she needs more time to get her chickpeas soft and flat out refuses to go first. Finally, Casey decides to sack up and go up against Fabio.
Match 1: Casey’s pork tenderloin and faro salad vs. Fabio’s whole-wheat gnocchi
Winner – Fabio
At this point, any strategy that team yellow planned on goes out the window. Way to stick to your guns guys.
Match 2: Dale T.’s dumplings vs. Tiffani’s black bass
Winner – Tiffani
Match 3: Angelo’s smoked tuna on a plastic spoon vs. Marcel’s cauliflower couscous and tuna
Winner – Angelo
Just when we thought team yellow abandoned all strategy, we get some insight into Jaime’s plan: avoid serving her dish at all. If she goes last, one of the teams will probably clench it before she has to present her crappy chickpeas.
Match 4: Antonia’s scallop and lentil puree vs. Tiffany’s spiced tuna and lentil salad
Winner – Antonia
Finally, Spike and team yellow get what they can’t seem to stop talking about – “bad boy Blais” is up to the plate. Except, instead of sending Jaime off to slaughter, they can’t afford the loss anymore, so Spike has to face off with his man-crush. And he is “pissing his pants”. His words, not mine.
Shifty Angelo jumps all over Spike’s dish during plating, dropping a dollop of his own yuzu gelee into Spike’s broth.
At what point are these morons going to figure out that Angelo is either insanely arrogant and thinks that he knows how to “fix” everyone’s dish, or that he is completely full of crap and is trying to stab them in the back? Either way, why in the hell do people keep letting him mess with their food?!?
Match 5: Spike’s tomato tamarind and shrimp soup vs. Blais’ “Thai-bouleh”
Both proteins got a big thumbs down, but Spike’s shrimp was so bad that Blais still ekes out a win.
Now that the game is on the line, there is no way that team yellow is going to rely on Jaime’s crappy chickpeas save them. So, it is up to Tre to keep them from the loser’s table.
That sounds great, in theory, until Tre decides that Angelo should be trusted to cook his fish. Perhaps Tre didn’t remember shafting him out of his extra salmon earlier, but I’m pretty sure that Angelo did. Creepy Mc-graphic tees proceeds to over baste the crap out of Tre’s salmon.
Tre has immunity, so even if he loses he is still in the game. And Angelo won his round, so if his team loses, he also won’t face elimination. Casey figured out the Tre part of that equation, but no one seemed to notice that as soon as Angelo won his round, he started changing everyone else’s food.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Never trust a dude that has a mail-order bride. Something ain’t right there.
Match 6, match point: Tre’s molested salmon vs. Carla’s African groundnut soup
Team orange wins!!!
The winners from team orange, Fabio, Carla, Richard, and Antonia are the first to face the judges, where they learn that tonight’s winner gets a trip to Italy. Surprisingly, Swanson’s isn’t the sponsor paying for it.
HOOTIE HOOOOOO!!! Carla takes the win for her vegetarian soup. During her original season, Carla’s kookiness drove me crazy, but she has kind of grown on me.
As the losers, Spike, Casey, Tre, and Tiffany head in to see the judges, we get a glimpse of a snippy little exchange between Richard and everyone’s new least favorite chef, Jaime. He quasi calls her out, saying that she has an “interesting story going on” and she over reacts. Whatever…she dodged a bullet and knows it, and gets defensive.
The loser’s judges table was a good one. Tre comes to find out that he would be the one going home if it wasn’t for immunity, and Casey goes to bat for her hearty grain and pork combo. Spike makes the rookie mistake of admitting that he let other chef’s make changes to his dish.
Has that excuse EVER worked on this show? NO! It makes you look weak. Top Chef’s stick to their guns. Too bad that, for all of his complaining about how Angelo’s meddling screwed up his dish, ultimately it was his bland shrimp that landed him on death row.
And I love that Tiffany, when asked if she thought that Angelo was sabotaging other people’s dishes – like his Season 7 cast mates accused him of – she plays the “we cook our own food” card. Well played, Tiff. You know damn well that Angelo screws with other people’s food, but you wanted to kick Spike while he was down.
Well, good job Tiffany, because Spike is packing his knives and going home to cry into on his Richard Blais pillowcase.
Antonia: “I never played sports in high school. I smoked a lot of pot and did nothing else”
Angelo’s WTF quote of the week: “The U.S open is gorgeous. Just to think of all of the amazing athletes that played in here…I feel like I’m in a fighter jet.”
Tiffani: “My mother is like, ‘get the hell out of the house’, and we come back and it’s like Jedi F’ing stuffing”
Up Next Week: A trip to Chinatown and why white people can’t cook dim sum.
- Jon Watson, Food & More blog
- Jon Watson writes about Popular Eats for the AJC Dining Team. He also publishes his own blog, Live To Feast