Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Top Chef: New York, Episode 11

Le Bernardin
I was so excited about this episode, because I absolutely love Eric Ripert. Every time I've ever seen him on TV or read any of his interviews, he always comes off as super-humble and nice. I also was lucky enough to have the opportunity to eat at one of his restaurants, Blue, when I was in Grand Cayman last year, and let me tell you, it was one of the most memorable meals of my life. Seafood heaven.

So, after a lame quickfire last week, we got a doozy this week. Since Ripert is a seafood chef, the challenge was a fish filleting tournament. Yikes. Hosea is both nervous and excited, since - as he has mentioned about 1,000 times this season - he is a seafood chef. The first fish is a sardine. Yikes. So tiny, so many bones. Carla knows she is screwed from the get-go, and won't even show Ripert her fish. He is obviously amused, which was pretty cute. Jamie also got the boot in this first round. Leah pouts and talks about what a horrible job she did (like she does on every QuickFire) but then is named as the best in round one. Hosea, Stefan, and Fabio also advance to round 2.

The fish in round 2 is an arctic char. Pretty different from the sardines, as they are pretty ginormous. Hosea takes this round, and is pretty proud of himself. Leah pouts again about how she's doing such an awful job, only this time she just freakin' quits in the middle of the challenge and refuses to do her second fillet. She is officially my least favorite contestant this season. What a chump. Stefan also advances and Fabio is eliminated. Darn. Anytime we can get Fabio screen time, I am happy.

In the third round, they upped the 'ick' factor significantly an gave the contestants "recently killed" eels to fillet. Apparently nobody told the eels they were dead, because they were squirming and squiggling around all over the place. GROSS. Apparently Stefan is an eel master, and it is clear that he has this round in the bag from the beginning when he grabs the eels and nails its head to the cutting board. No I am not kidding. he then peels it like a banana and fillets it in what seems like about 30 seconds. Hosea, on the other hand, basically just has to watch Stefan and copy what he does. To his credit, it looks like he did a pretty decent job for his first time working with eel. To Stefan's credit, he totally kicked Hosea's ass and won the QuickFire, once again earning "a significant advantage in the elimination challenge".

The next day, the chefs are invited by Chef Ripert to have a six-course lunch. Hmmmm, interesting, six courses...six contestants...I wonder if there's a connection there. Anyway, the food looks rockin' and deceptively simple. Jamie says something totally obnoxious about how she isn't inspired by this kind of food, and even though I usually like her, this sounds so bratty that I pretty much want to slap her. At that point, I start to get worried about her, because they seem to be focusing on her a lot in this episode.

After lunch, Padma tells the contestants that they will be recreating the six dishes that they sampled at lunch. Stefan gets to choose his dish, as a reward for winning the QuickFire. He chooses the Baked Lobster with Asparagus and Hollandaise Sauce, which does appear to be the easiest dish (and also looks so good that I want to eat my TV - but that might just be because I'm 8 months pregnant).

The other chefs draw knives, and their fates are revealed to be:
  • Carla: Oil Poached Escolar with Potato Chips in a Bearnaise Sauce
  • Hosea: Spiced Monk Fish with Black Garlic
  • Jamie: Sauteed Black Bass and Braised Celery with Serrano Ham Peppercorn Sauce
  • Fabio: Sourdough Encrusted Red Snapper with Tomato Basil Consomme
  • Leah: Baked Mahi-Mahi with Miso and Matsutake Mushroom Sauce

Once the chefs get in the kitchen, it became pretty clear that this was not an easy challenge. Other than Stefan, who basically sailed through preparing his dish (the only issue was that the hollandaise was a little thick), and Carla, who apparently is a classically trained French chef (huh?), the contestants really struggled. The good news for the chefs was that before they prepared their final dish to serve to the judges, they would have a chance to do a trial run for Chef Ripert who would give them a short critique.

Hosea was totally unfamiliar with the spice used in his dish, and apparently used way too much of it, according to Chef Ripert. Fabio had too much crust on his fish, but the flavors were spot on and the fish itself was well-cooked. Leah's dish was a mess, apparently. She couldn't figure out how the sauce was made, so apparently she mixed the miso with butter, which Chef Ripert said was all wrong. Poor Jamie was so in the weeds that she didn't even have time to get a dish together for Chef Ripert to taste. Apparently she hates celery, and had never braised it before, and was really struggling with the concept. Doesn't seem like it would be that difficult, but she was hating it.

At the judges table, Stefan, Carla (two weeks in a row!), and Fabio were the top three. I thought Carla should have won (never thought I would be saying those words), since her dish seemed to be much harder, and she pretty much nailed it, but they named Stefan the winner instead. His price was pretty bad ass - not only did he win Chef Ripert's new book, he also got a chance to work with him in his kitchen and accompany him to a food and wine festival. Not too shabby.

The bottom three were Hosea, Leah and Jamie. Hosea's monkfish didn't have time to rest, so the texture was off. His spicing was also still too strong. He quickly admitted he knew the fish needed to rest but just didn't have time, and it was pretty clear that he wasn't really in trouble. Leah, on the other hand, did not impress the judges at all with her half-hearted explanations and total lack of understanding of the dish. I am so ready to see her go already, but I guess it wasn't in the cards this week, although Colicchio did give her a talking to about quitting during the QuickFire.

Unfortunately, Jamie was the chef to get the boot this week. I guess she totally over-salted the celery in her dish to the point of it being almost inedible. What a shame, because I think she was definitely one of the most talented contestants on the show this year. I would have sent Leah home over her in a heartbeat, as at least Jamie seemed to understand what she did wrong, but alas, I am not the one making these decisions.


HeatherBakes said...

Eric Ripert seems like the nicest guy! He was so sweet and gracious to all of the contestants.

It was very sad to see Jamie go. She wasn't my favorite but is head and shoulders above Leah in terms of culinary skill.

Anonymous said...

I agree Leah should have gone home. She GAVE UP during a quickfire!

I also hate to say it, but I'm slowly changing my opinion on Carla. Her eyes still scare me, but she's really been doing a good job and seems to be pretty genuinely nice.


Smarry said...

Very nice article thanks for the sharing..........

The only Satellite Television Delivers the Best Value in Entertainment