Top Chef

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Chinatown Breakdown
kes him down! He takes him down to Chinatown!" Just a little slice-of-life in my household. Anyway, Marcel does one of his "trying to be funny but not really funny" interviews when he claims that going to Chinatown is just like going to China, because everyone is Chinese and speaks Chinese and you can get great massages. Is China really known for massage? I thought that was more of a Thai thing. Anyway. Shut up, Marcel. The challenge is to work as a team to make an assortment of dim sum options to serve at lunch rush in a popular restaurant, and they have to serve continuously. Tom emphasizes that they will have to cook a lot of food, and quickly. Padma explains that dim sum is served on carts, and their job will be to keep those carts filled with a variety of options. Then there's a commercial for the Prius that Mike won.

After returning to their apartment, the cheftestants gather to discuss their dishes, to ensure there's no duplication. Blais has two dishes in mind, and he interviews that he knows dim sum is all about making small, appetizer-like dishes, and doing it quickly. Jamie says that she wants to make scallops, and laughs because everyone remembers her reputation as making only scallop dishes on her season, which inspired Fabio's memorable line, "This is Top Chef, not Top Scallop." This flashback also serves to remind me how much better I liked Fabio's hair short. Mike agrees to be the expediter, since he has immunity. They need two people to be on the floor, pushing carts. Why this is, I don't know, because the restaurant has servers. And Tiffani thinks the servers will need to push the food on the people. Because apparently she thinks the diners will not want food? I don't know. Anyway, Carla and Casey agree to do it, knowing that it means that their food will be in someone else's hands in the kitchen. They also talk about how some people will need to do two dishes so that they have enough food. Angelo and Dale agree to cooperate on a second dish, and Jamie is also doing a second dish. Marcel is shocked that Jamie thinks she can do two dishes since she has shown trouble finishing even one most of the time.

Then the cheftestants gather in the kitchen/dining area for some wine and cards. Well, the men are cooking food while the women sit around drinking wine and playing cards. Except for Dale, who goes off into a corner and looks at a card he got with some photos, which he places in his knife set. The women are clearly way into the wine and talking about their bras, including Tiffani, who says that she has to wear a bra or people would get hurt. My sister in solidarity. I am jealous of those petite ladies who can go braless in public. Anyway, Antonia gets jalapeno in her eye and as she goes to wash it out, Tiffani asks if she needs a towel and uses her bra to wipe Antonia's eye. The women fall on the floor laughing while the men scatter, terrified of boobs, I guess. It's awesome. Girl power! Boob power!

Shopping time! They're shopping at a Chinese grocery store. Tre says that it's not like Whole Foods, so he went up to the meat counter and asked, "What's dead?" Good idea. Various cheftestants wander around trying to find ingredients and trying to find an employee who speaks English. Fabio finds a tank of live turtles, and he explains that he has a turtle for a pet, and bought a leash for it, and takes it for walks. He is horrified that the Chinese employees are cutting up turtles for turtle soup. Hey, there's someone out there with a pet potato who feels the same way about all the gnocchi, right?

Jamie and Antonia are teaming up on a Chinese long bean dish. Antonia admits that she's nervous about working with Jamie, but the dish as described sounds good, so she's trying to be a team player. Casey has decided to cook chicken feet, which is a traditional Chinese ingredient, but it seems difficult to cook well. Anyway, Casey is sure she can make this dish amazing. Good luck with that.

The cheftestants arrive at the restaurant with three and a half hours to prep. Should be plenty of time, since they are making tons of small dishes, right? Crank 'em out. Jamie (and probably others, but Jamie is interviewed) are a little perplexed by the Chinese kitchen, since it has plenty of woks and steamers and not a lot of other equipment that they're used to. Dale has the advantage of having grown up with this food, so he knows it's his challenge to lose. Fabio is making short ribs and quickly discovers that the oven doesn't go above 300 degrees, and he wants to cook at 350. Really? Why would an oven only go to 300 degrees? That's weird. There's also no grill, so he's mystified about making his dish, but he's changing plans on the fly to fit conditions, as the show dictates.

Marcel explains that they have to make 180 portions, which is a lot of food in a short period of time. Jamie discovers that her dumplings aren't working out well, so she's spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to get the flavors she wants. As a result, the dish she and Antonia are doing together is getting short shrift. Casey explains that chicken feet come with nails on them, and she has to trim them all off. She's doing it super slowly, when she should just be whacking them off. She interviews that she's really into butchering. Slow butchering, maybe. Carla is making a summer roll, and it's taking a lot of time to put together. She's starting to wonder about the wisdom of making something so "fiddly." Tre is also having trouble, because he's making a cold dessert and the kitchen is getting hotter and hotter, making it difficult to keep his dish together.

Angelo talks about cooking with his dad, and how he had to sort through all the rice and pick out the bad ones, and his dad would punish him if he missed a bad one. Wow, what a good dad. Also, when Angelo made the finals last season, it was the first time he ever saw his father proud of him. That explains so much about the way Angelo chooses to be, doesn't it? He's got bad dad syndrome. If he were a lady, he probably would have been a stripper. Or Jen. Maybe Angelo's dad and Jen's dad should get together and compare notes about raising children to become reality show chefs who have emotional breakdowns.

The diners start to arrive, and there are a lot of them, and they are all Chinese, as promised. People are running around. Casey has to make sure that her food is ready to go, since she will be out on the floor, and Antonia is supposed to be plating her food. Casey explains how she wants it done. Fabio is experiencing "the first Top Chef miracle" because his ribs turned out perfectly. Mike heads upstairs to see what's what. I should mention that the kitchen is downstairs and the dining room is upstairs, so they have to load up carts and put them in a dumbwaiter to go upstairs for service. Mike calls for the first carts to come up and Carla and Casey head out onto the floor to serve the judges.

Hey, look who the guest judge is! Susur Lee, who you may remember from Top Chef: Masters. I kind of hated him for a while, then turned around a little bit by the end. He joins Gail, Padma, and Tom. Carla explains the first round of dishes being served:

Tiffani made a cabbage, cilantro, and sesame salad with crispy curry chicken. It kind of looks like a mess of shredded vegetables in a puddle of orange-brown sauce. Not appetizing, and also kind of a huge portion. And salad for dim sum? Is that normal?

Fabio made soy honey glazed spicy pork rib, which looks amazing. It truly is a miracle. It's not gnocchi! Or Italian! And yet, it looks good! Carla serves a summer roll with vegetables and lemongrass dipping sauce. It looks like, you know, a summer roll. Translucent wrapper, vegetables inside.

Angelo made a shrimp and pork spring roll. Here's the difference between his roll and Carla's (besides the meat): Angelo cut his in half on a diagonal, which just makes it look so much better, while Carla's looks like a giant lump on the plate. Point, Angelo. Marcel made boneless chicken wings with scallion mayonnaise, which seriously looks like a dish you'd find at Ruby Tuesdays.

The judges dig into the first round of dishes, as Mike urges the chefs to keep pumping out the food. Tiffany wants to load up another cart downstairs, but she has no food to put on it. Meanwhile, the cheftestants are slowly and perfectly placing food on each plate, as they would in fine dining.

Gail and Susur praise Angelo's spring roll, and Susur also likes Fabio's ribs. Then they start talking about Blais's food, and I have no idea what he served, because the servers didn't mention it and there's no on-screen prompt telling me what it is. Some sort of roll, it looks like? With pork in it? Anyway, the judges aren't crazy about it, so he's not going to win, so I guess it's not important. Just a weird editing mishap. They think Marcel's chicken is a good idea with poor

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