Top Chef
Food For The People

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TGI Top Chef

Chef Friday's explains that he wants the cheftestants to take childhood comfort food and put an adult spin on it. "My challenge to you is to take your childhood favorite, turn it into the next 'WOW' TGI Friday's entrées that our consumers will crave." And then they'll roll it in coconut, deep fry it, and serve it with a dipping sauce. The winning entrée -- note that it was supposed to be an entrée and not a dessert, Marisa -- will be featured on TGI Friday's menus at over five hundred locations. "Which means," Chef Friday's finishes, "One of you will get national recognition for your entrée." Dude, they're getting national recognition now. On TV. Betty's huge teeth tell us, "This is exactly what I do in my restaurant -- we are California comfort food!" Yeah, but Betty, I have a feeling you do it better than Friday's ever would.

The cheftestants will shop that afternoon, then prep, and finish their dishes at the South Pasadena Firehouse, where they will be serving their entrées to firemen. Josie tells us, "I have many firemen as friends. I think they're, you know, what we call the unsung heroes." Hon, they haven't been "unsung" since September 11th and Rescue Me. Padmadala announces that Michael used to work at TGI Friday's, and she assures everyone that Michael will not get preferential treatment, nor will he have his month-long stint at Friday's held against him. Well, if she's not going to hold it against him, I am.

The cheftestants shop at a Wild Oats, which is much, MUCH nicer than the Wild Oats I visited in San Diego. This one actually has aisles! Marcel is not feeling comfortable with the comfort food. I'm not comfortable with the image of you styling your hair with a vacuum attachment. Emily, also a cook in the four stars, high-class, fine dining arena, is likewise unhappy with this challenge. People, as much as I might agree with you, let it go. Comfort food can be high end if you just let your brain go there. Gorgonzola mashed potatoes with whipped butter and a wildflower honey-glazed pork chop? Forget that it's Friday's and get creative! Most of the places I like to eat are stuffed with comfort food. Zuni Café is renowned for serving the best roast chicken and Caesar salad in the city. They have other stuff on the menu, but everyone regularly comes back for those two items. In fact, the popularity of the chicken and the Caesar salad sort of annoys the kitchen as well as owner, Judy Rodgers, because they all feel they are making a lot of other great stuff that isn't being eaten. Another bit of comfort food on that menu? A bowl of polenta covered with mascarpone and/or Parmigiano-Reggiano. We usually go with the "and" on that order. Upscale comfort food is all over the place, and for chefs like Marcel or Emily to make it shouldn't be considered a lowering event.

Michael picks up some beer for himself. It looks like a four-pack of Boddington's. Niiiice. Next thing we see is Michael getting rung up and being over his budget by forty-eight cents. That's what the register screen says, even though Michael says, "One forty-eight?" No, Flounder, it's "one hundred and forty eight." Son of Sam comes up and asks what Michael decided to do. He says, "I took off two cheeses." Wait, why two? Given that you were only over by forty-eight cents, I think one would have been enough, dude. We see from the register screen that he took back a sharp cheddar and nothing else. Son of Sam questions Michael keeping his beer over the cheese and tells us he thinks Michael is out of his mind and isn't in the competition to win. Michael refuses to get rid of his beer and asks, "Is there cheese in the pantry?" "No," Son of Sam tells him. You'd think by the set-up that something was going to result from this later, but it doesn't.

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