Top Chef

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The fancy dining table that's materialized in the Top Chef kitchen hints at the meal to come, as the three hour cookdown begins. Stephanie's concentrating on the vinaigrette for the asparagus dish, as Jen reminds us that "the struggle to get to the top is quite fierce." Turns out Spike and Andrew will be making a vanilla squash soup for the first course of the meal -- Spike ("so happy") finally gets to make his butternut squash soup, and the whole "improv at the counter" seems contrived. Twenty bucks says he knew exactly what they were going to make before he walked into the store, and put on a show for Andrew's benefit. They goof around their station, trying to figure out how to incorporate vanilla into the soup (Andrew might "split it and then put it under my armpits"), and Spike offers a few more words of cooking wisdom: "If you can make a perfect soup, that's what impresses a chef. That is the fucking truth."

Lisa and Antonia watch the Spike and Andrew show. "If he frickin' wins for that," says Antonia, "I'm gonna, like, vomit in my mouth."

Dale and Richard crank on their green curry with grilled tofu -- Dale's got a pile of greens, and is focused on the curry, while Richard works on rendering the beef fat for the tofu marinade. He grills the strips of fat to bring out the flavor (and to impart a bit of yummy grillness), and to play on the psychological association of grills and meat. Basically, he wants "to get this piece of tofu to really taste like meat." See, I too can be a master of the obvious. Dale heads to the storage area for a large pot, only to discover a sad, empty metal rack where all of the electrical equipment should be. This leads to a lengthy (by Top Chef standards) exchange between Dale, Richard, and Andrew about the probable need to puree the soup and the fact that Andrew will be forced to work with "no Vita Prep, no Robot Coupe, no equipment." Whatever a Robot Coupe (pronounced "roboku") is, its absence seems to mean that the soupmakers are fucked. It seems like they're the only ones, though. I wonder if the producers waited to decide what to take until after they knew what everyone was cooking.

While Jen expresses sympathy for Andrew and Spike's plight, Lisa and Antonia watch the dramedy unfold with unabashed glee. No matter, says Andrew. "They've been making soup since fucking I don't even know when, so I don't need a Vita Prep to make a soup, a bangin' perfect soup." What he does need is a ricer -- I'm not entirely sure what Spike is doing, but Andrew gets saddled with the duty of pureeing the squash by hand, which he thinks will work in their favor, since love is their emotion and the hard labor will make him "feel that much more emotionally connected." Well spun.

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Top Chef

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