Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Top Chef: New York, Episode 12

The Last Supper

After last week's shocking elimination of Jamie, this week's Top Chef set us up for a pretty interesting ride. With Stefan as the obvious favorite to make it to the finals, it seems to me that the other four (with the possible exception of Carla) are pretty evenly matched. They each have talent, but they also all have their faults. I thought Carla would likely be booted this week, with Leah and Fabio being next on my list of possible boot-ees.

As soon as I saw Wylie Dufresne, I figured the challenge would be all about molecular gastronomy. He's been on the show before, and is apparently quite the big-wig in the field. However, when they talked about the challenge, those words were never mentioned. Wiley simply spoke of his love of eggs, and the chefs were then instructed to come up with an egg dish that would "surprise and delight" Wiley.

The chefs went about this in very different ways. Stefan did something that looked incredibly cool, making a panna cotta with a mango puree inside that looked exactly like a soft-boiled egg when you cut it open. That blew my hair back a little bit, I must admit. Hosea did a sushi roll, but instead of wrapping it in seaweed, he wrapped it in a thin sheet of egg white. It looked cool, but it didn't sound particularly tasty. Leah made a fancy quail egg thing that involved bacon hollandaise (I'll take it), but didn't seem particularly inventive. Fabio did an over-wrought three component dish that was very dessert-like, but didn't impress like Stefan's dish.

And then there was Carla. She admitted up front that she didn't know jack about molecular gastronomy, so she was going to go completely the other way and just try to do something clever. What she came up with was green eggs (eggs with spinach) and ham with a salsa verde. I thought that idea was a little hackneyed, but I guess it must have been quite tasty, because she was named the winner. No, seriously, she was. I thought for sure that Stefan had it in the bag, but I guess Wiley was hypnotized by Carla's crazy eyes or something.

And then it was time to talk Elimination Challenge. Padma had the chefs draw knives, and they were each paired with a famous chef. They were then told that they would be cooking these chefs their "last meal" and that they had all selected their favorite dish. The match-ups were as follows:

  • Carla: Jacques Pepin, roast squab and fresh peas (I actually have never tried squab, and I know this is totally ugly American of me, but pigeon? Ew.)
  • Fabio: Lidia Bastianich, roast chicken with potatoes and a leafy salad (Seriously? Salad for your last meal?)
  • Stefan: Marcus Samuelsson, roasted salmon with spinach (How very Nordic of him to pick Salmon)
  • Hosea: Susan Ungaro, shrimp scampi and tomato provencale (My favorite pick. Yum.)
  • Leah: Wiley Dufresne, eggs Benedict (Pretty darn good choice too.)

Okay, I have to admit, Carla is growing on me. She was so cute and excited that she's be cooking for Jacques Pepin. I believe she referred to them as "two peas in a pod" because they both like pees. Then she cracked herself up. Adorable, even if she looks like a cross between Sideshow Bob and Beaker from the muppets (in a good way). Once again, I assumed erroneously that Carla would have trouble with her dish. She knocked it out of the park again, and although her squab was a little over-cooked to some (not at all to others) everyone agreed that her peas were the best dish of the night. Seriously, how good must these peas have been to get that kind of praise?

Hosea went out on a limb a bit by not doing a traditional shrimp scampi and tomato provencale. I think this was actually smart of him, because it didn't allow the judges to compare it to "the way they would have made it". They could only compare it to whether or not he executed what he was trying to do.

Leah seemed kind of scattered in the kitchen (as usual), and the judges were fairly unimpressed with her dish. The main complaint was that the egg was pretty watery (gross) and that the hollandaise was too runny. Dufresne was also offended that she added a salad to his meal. Now that's a man after my own heart.

Stefan scared me this week in the kitchen by proclaiming that he could "make this dish in his sleep." Uh oh. When chefs start bragging like that, it's never a good sign. He also mentions that since he didn't know how Chef Samuelsson would like his spinach, he would serve the salmon both with cream and without. Huh? When it was served to the judges, the feedback was not good at all. The salmon was apparently over-cooked, and the spinach was pretty boring. Yikes. I am sweating a little now after what happened to Jamie last week.

Fabio had a major mishap in the kitchen, breaking his finger (ow!) while preparing his meal. He had to finish with his hand all taped up awkwardly, and you just felt terrible for the guy. Of course, he handled it with his usual good humor - I heart this guy. And I was so excited when his dish was served and he got such high praise for his chicken and potatoes, even though the judges pretty much hated his salad. Since that was such a small component, I figured he's still be okay.

Not only was Fabio okay this week, he was named the winner - I believe for the first time. Yay! Carla was pretty much declared "second place" and they both left the judges room jumping up and down and getting super-excited.

I honestly thought for awhile that Stefan would go home (there was basically nothing about the dish that people liked, other than the "flavors" that Tom Colicchio kept mentioning), but fortunately, Leah's dish must have sucked just enough for them to justify sending her home instead. Thank goodness. A finale without Stefan would have seemed cheap. I was glad Leah was sent home. She has definitely worn out her welcome with me, in case you hadn't figured that out already :)

So the final four headed to New Orleans for the finale are: Hosea, Carla, Fabio and Stefan. Clearly, I think Stefan is the favorite, but what do you all think? Does anyone else even stand a chance?


Anonymous said...

Stephan's dish sounds like a variation on Dufresne's own carrot-coconut sunny side up.

Smarry said...

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