Memorial Day and Top Chef: A Delicious, Ridiculous Combo Meal

Ah Memorial Day. I always associate it with Weber grills, beers, friends, lawn chairs and veterans. It’s easy to forget that Memorial Day is a time to remember everyone that has passed in whatever circumstances. So today specifically, I remember my grandparents, my father and my aunt. Sadly, if I listed every single person that has lost someone that I know of we’d be here all day and very very depressed.

I am cooking out today, and there will be beers though so the day will be a good one I am sure.

Two Top Chefs for your money today, folks. I’m backlogged. Sadly, I heard through the grapevine about one chef that gets the boot though in which episode, I’m not sure. We’ll find out.

Top Chef, episode 9 (originally aired 5/14)

Stef observes the high stakes, she’s sad Nikki went down in flames (…um…yeah), Rich is wearing Crocs and is tired, Spike hates Dale, Dale is just like, “whatever man”, Andrew is still an idiot, Lisa is silent. But not for long, we’re sure.

Hottie Boom Bottie Sam Talbot (season 2) is the guest chef in today’s Quickfire, which is salad. Andrew looks like he’s still stuck on the first syllable of “salad”. Challenge Salad Sexy Back starts now!

Fruit salad, meat salad, too much banana salad, pear salad, spinach mushroom salad with bacon dressing (hi), vegetarian ceviche, poached chicken salad. Richard, Stef and Lisa were not loved. Spike, Antonia and Dale are the favorites. Spike wins with the sexy beef salad… oh so many possible innuendos… so little time.

Elimination Challenge: Cooking for the Chicago Police Academy (will Hightower be there?), something healthy choosing, grains, proteins, fruits and veg all served up in a tasty boxed lunch. Spike gets first dibs at the store because he won – once he picks an ingredient, no one else can use it (but not at the risk of his dish, of course).

Lisa wants to make stir fry (have they learned nothing from the steaming problems of previous challenges?), and I can’t believe no one has duct taped Andrew to a light pole in Pilsen yet. Antonia is doing curry beef with rice, Andrew is doing a sushi bowl, Dale is doing lettuce cups with bison in a Vietnamese tradition (the judges have to be getting sick of that), Lisa is doing veg and shrimp (fighting the idea that shrimp is unhealthy due to too much cholesterol – clearly she has never seen a Chicago Police Officer – they do a lot worse).

Lisa’s brown rice has been turned up to high and she thinks it’s sabotage. Antonia and Dale think it’s her own screw up.

Early verdicts: they like Stef’s soup, they don’t like Spike’s lame chicken sandwich, they like Dale’s lettuce wrap, they like Antonia’s filet, Andrew’s sushi is weird and gets an unpleasant look from Tom, Richard’s burrito is good, Lisa’s stir fry has undercooked rice.

I predict Andrew or Spike (though I think you know who I prefer…)

Andrew has just admitted in the Glad storeroom that he misunderstood the directions (which I’m guessing he’s been doing since birth) and did not use a whole grain in his dish – Lisa takes note. Prepare bus for driving over of Andrew as Lisa firmly chucks him beneath it.

Stef and Dale are the top two, Dale wins. He gets a magnum of 2002 Merlot for his win but gets to go to Napa as well. Dang!

Spike, Lisa and Andrew go to the chopping block.

Andrew goes first, and Tom gets that look on his face that he always gets when Andrew talks – part amusement, part irritation. They have a problem with how little and unfilling his food is, and he cusses with an f-bomb during his defense. Sigh, headshake. Spike’s ingredient and execution choices are called into question and he’s not backing down when Tom goes toe to toe with him. Lisa has no idea why she’s in the room, her food was raw and uncooked, she claims someone screwed with her rice again (but that’s only one element, which I’m sure they’ll point out…yep, they have). Padma asks what else they want to say, Lisa takes that opportunity to rat out Andrew’s non-use of grain. Cheap, Lisa. Cheap. Man, she’s a jerk. The judges already knew that he didn’t use the grains and I hope that they see Lisa for what she is (even though Tom really wants Andrew out of there, I think).

If I may present a question: isn’t part of being a chef knowing yourself, your food and your methods of cooking? How can these guys think that their place in front of the judges is completely without merit? And how can they question the opinions of professionals that have been doing what they do for longer and more successfully than themselves? I think more chefs that get up there and are humble stand a better chance of sticking around than these arrogant kids that get all defensive about food that frankly, sucks… ok anyway…

“Botched Lunch”… nice one, Tom. Pack your Ritalin and go, Andrew. He says something about “bowing out” of the competition – um, you didn’t bow out, buddy. You got canned. Next!

Top Chef Episode 10 (aired 5/21)

Tom creeps into the Cheftestant home at quarter of 6 am to take them to work the egg station for brunch at Lou Mitchell’s. Owner Helene is the quickfire judge, basing her decision on who she’d hire when it’s all over.

None of them are doing well, this is not the cushy environment they are used to and it really, really shows. Line cooks are an amazing breed, if you didn’t know that already. They can do this stuff in their sleep. Helene thinks they did well, which is suspicious based on her expression the whole time. She’d hire Antonia but mentioned Dale too. She gets an advantage for the elimination challenge.

The cheftestants are given an address (Stef the native doesn’t recognize it, and neither do I). GPS to the rescue. Unmarked building, huge space, Padma. Challenge: Restaurant Wars!

Two teams, one shared kitchen. 35 covers (diners), $1500 budget for food, $500 budget for decor from Pier 1… oh great, rattan and bamboo anyone?

Antonia picks Stef and Richard (great call), Dale picks – or gets – Lisa and Spike.

Antonia’s team will be an American gastro pub. Stef is FOH, Richard is sous chef. Some seafood, some light meat (lamb), a light dessert.

Lisa and Dale both want to be head chef but it’s an Asian restaurant they’re making, so he feels like he should be the head. Spike thinks he can weigh in too, and I think we can see how this is going to shape up.

Their menu items: pot stickers, scallops, ribs, Halo Halo flavored ice (which we’ve seen before).

Bourdain! Bourdain! Bourdain! I love him and would be terrified and honored to cook for him.

Dale should be scared, if there’s on thing Bourdain knows it’s Asian food. He might be going down for this one.

Each team is given one extra pair of hands via the former cheftestants. Dale picks Jen, Antonia picks Nikki for her pasta abilities.

Dale screwed up his avocado puree. Lisa’s rice was taken off the burner by a nervous (head chef) Dale. Their team is built for disaster just by personalities alone. They’re already picking and choosing what dishes they want to take credit for and what they’d rather run from.

Antonia’s team is good, however the attention to detail is making me nervous. Their clams are gritty but they don’t want to divide successes and failures based on individual dishes between each other. Altruism will still get you the boot, loves.

Jose Andres is the other guest judge. Everyone loves the gastro pub so far, though I detect a lot of edited-out “but…”s in the comments. The judges leave the pub happily and ready for an Asian experience.

Not much love so far for Dale’s Asian experience, and he is really freaking out in the kitchen. Jen is staying quiet and mellow, Lisa is butting heads with him, Spike is staying out of the fray via FOH. They love Halo Halo, but think everything else is crap.

First up to the judges: Antonia’s team, they win. Stephanie in particular, is the winner winner.

Dale’s team is in front of the judges, getting reamed. They thought the decor was bad. They did not love the butterscotch scallops (gross), they laksa was too smoky, exec chef Dale was missing from taste buds of the kitchen – these folks aren’t standing behind anything they made and are lighting each other on fire over everything. Eek awkward. They peg Lisa’s inability to handle criticism, Dale’s bad judgment in the food, and Spike’s wisdom in staying out of the fire.

Dale gets the heave ho. I’m not sure how I feel about this… Lisa is worse to have around in the long run, bad vibes and all, but Dale as head chef did put himself in the spotlight and performed poorly. I guess I agree with this decision, but he did have a lot of good happening early on, food-wise. Tough call but probably the right one. He’s very broken up about it, and frankly I wish he’d showed this side of himself previously.

Happy Memorial Day, folks. Get yourself a beer brat or something – or at least a beer. Cheers.

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