Hey, Guys. Well, it’s been an exciting two weeks, hasn’t it? I got a sunburn, the mayor of New Jersey made his son the most unpopular kid at school for the bargain price of $2500, and Adrienne and Chris broke up. I’ll give you one guess as to which of those things upset me the most.
I was pulling for them Gasmii. Pulling for them hard.
Frankly, this episode did little to assuage my reality grief, not just due to the heartbreaking elimination. This show should be titled Top Chef Handicaps, I swear. Bravo has deemed the chefs “masters” and then just plops them into challenges that tie one hand behind their backs. Taste without smelling! Cook without water! Serve without servers!
Work with these earrings.
This episode’s spectacularly creative devices found in the splinters of the bottom of the barrel? Cook with microwaves and BunsEn burners (please excuse the Minicap Missspelling)! There’s some sort of science-y theme to this episode, but it’s about as relevant to the cooking as the Lexus product placements. Onward!
The remaining chefs pile in, and Curtis reiterates what they could win, while Mary Sue VOs that while she’s happy to be working with her friend Traci, she’s planning on giving chElf a run for her gold. I’m not sure why this was important for us to hear, but I can only assume it means that the pair is either in for a “dramatic” confrontation or a spot in the bottom. After the money and charity is spelled out, it’s time for the Quickfire!
This week, the chef’s have to prepare breakfast using a cooking implement they’re not too familiar with – a microwave. Ha! The chefs at my first serving job were plenty aware of it – if the pancakes got cold on the line at the Original Pancake House, ten seconds in the GE were all it took to warm those puppies up fresh and steaming! Of course, the Masters are all thumbs when it comes to those funky cook-machines that use unholy magic to make things hot, but it’s not like they have a choice.
Curtis warns them that the judges for this Quickfire are microwave aficionados given that they’re on the road all the time and have to put together meals on the fly. Uh… are they musicians?
No? Comedians? Frangela (s’up Ladies?!!!)? Oooh, I see now that comedians’ contract riders are far less accommodating than those of rock bands. The chefs dive into the fray and I have to say, I’m a little taken aback at how whiny they are about using radiation. Floyd says that he doesn’t have the first idea about how to cook eggs in a microwave and that had it been any other protein, he would have been fine. Sooo… bacon? Seriously, like, all of the other chefs use bacon. Use bacon, Floyd.
Naomi, of course, interviews over a picture of herself as a young girl using a homemade bow and arrow in a boar hunt
Or roasting a hot dog. Close enough.
that doesn’t OWN microwave, she doesn’t have one in her RESTRAURANT and was brought up in a MICROWAVE-FREE home, so she really doesn’t have the first clue about how to operate one. She muses that one must press buttons and the food heats up…? Yes, Sherlock. Jesus, I am not one ounce of impressed that Naomi hasn’t used a microwave in her life. I am sorry for her that she continues to miss out on Hot Pockets, Red Baron Pizza, Peaches and Cream Quaker Oatmeal, and Trader Joe’s mini-tacos. Not Easy-Mac, though. Fuck that non-dairy bullshit.
Hughnibrow’s making baked eggs with bacon, spinach and tomato. He bakes the eggs in one of these:
I totally own this and definitely bought it at the “As Seen On TV” store. No joke.
He mentions something about his egg exploding, but my mind was still reeling at the fact that his adorable daughter is named CLEMENTINE and she’s “adept” at using the microwave. I don’t know that this man could get more awesome.
Traci makes Eggs en Cocotte, and I immediately foreshadow Frangela’s mutual thought bubble – Trying Too Hard. Nothing with the word “cocotte” in it should ever see a microwave. I don’t care how good it tastes, the incongruity of it all would make me feel uncomfortable and gassy. She also doesn’t like egg whites, so she expels them, puts the eggs in water, gently heats them in the microwave kind of dutch-egg-oven poaching them.
Okay, it’s pretty cool.
Mary Sue also mentions (nervously and endearingly) that she doesn’t really ever use a microwave except to reheat her tea. Of course. So she’s a little nervous as she makes her bacon, goat cheese and avocado sandwich.
There’s more scrambling (pun INTENDED), but then time is called and it’s time for Judging a la Frangela! There’s a brief introduction during which the ladies joke about being microwave experts, and then it’s time for tasting. Naomi’s up first with her biscuit scramble sandwich thing. The ladies are sort of impressed – Francis dubs it a “classed-up” biscuit, which I can assume has something to do with the chanterelle mushrooms that were involved, but at the end of the day, the biscuits themselves weren’t very good – twist! Naomi rolls her eyes and customarily laughs at how these ladies can take so much pride in knowing how to use a microwave. I don’t know, how embarrassed can you be at not knowing how to use a machine that has buttons like, “Time,” “Power,” and “Popcorn”?
Reason 16: Is a snotty bitch.
Hughnibrow’s next with his baked egg, chanterelle mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes. Angela doesn’t like that the egg is a little over-cooked for her taste, but Francis likes it. Mary Sue’s goat cheese, avocado and bacon vinaigrette sandwich is good, but the microwave made her already chewy bread nearly impossible to eat easily. Yeah, been there.
Floyd made a chanterelle bacon spinach omelette with grilled tomatoes, which is a take on a dish he made for his family when he was young, so man, I hope the ladies like it. I also hope they like chanterelle mushrooms, because this isn’t the last we’ve seen of them. Curtis makes a crack about how it looks like airline food, which earns a few choice words from Floyd, and that’s what I like about Stonecoldfox. He totally knows what he’s doing. Despite the look of it, Frangela really like the dish and are extremely impressed that it was created in the microwave. Floyd’s still left pouting, though, and it’s really cute.
Shades of Suvir.
Finally, it’s chElf with her “Oeuf en Cocotte” and bananas, and as expected, while the ladies like the style of it, they find it unfilling and not great breakfast food. ChElf nods that she was perhaps to “overarching” in this challenge and should have just made a basic breakfast. Probably. Though, it didn’t even have to be basic, it just had to be… not an appetizer.
With that, it’s off to judging and bottom is pretty predictable. Mary Sue’s bread had the consistency of a football, Traci’s oeufs weren’t enough, and didn’t go very well with the lime bananas on the side.
But so pretty….
As for the favorites, Floyd’s omelette thing did well, as did, surprisingly, Hughnibrow’s egg. And, actually, despite the lack of initial fanfare, Hugh takes it for the win. Yay! That “Yay!” would have been a lot more “YAY!” if there were still immunity, but… alas. With that, the ladies exit, taking their naked cooking jokes with them, and it’s onto the Elimination Challenge.
Interestingly, it’s not as completely unrelated to the Quickfire as usual. Stonecoldfox natters on for a little bit about how cooking is related to science, what with the combining of elements to create new and exciting things. This sounds very much like an introduction I received when I started sophomore chemistry. This would be right before Mrs. Camp made fire turn different colors. It was all downhill from there…
When Curtis is done speaking, he welcomes five scientists of unknown origin to the table, and they stand in front of five different ingredients, each representing a scientific process. It’s probably just the English major in me, but I feel like science is full of vague, deceptively unimportant phrases like that. I used to annoy my college bio-major roommates by pointing out every scientific process I went through in a single evening. Walking to the bathroom – elasticity of musculature! Breathing – gas conversion! Papa John’s garlic sauce on pizza vs. their marinara – viscosity! I discovered that people don’t like it when you don’t take their subject seriously.
The five processes are elasticity (pizza dough), acidity (lemons), emulsion (oil and vinegar), the Maillard Reaction (beef) and finally, viscosity (… sauce). The chefs must choose a process, and create a dish that represents said process. Curtis is also careful to say that the dishes MUST taste good, as well, and the food will be served to a science class full of 17-year-olds. And remember, kids HATE food. Then he reveals that the chefs will also be cooking with scientific equipment like beakers, test tubes and Bunsen burners. Mary Sue interviews that it’s practically ludicrous, and I shake my head in agreement.
It’s hard enough that the chefs have to understand then represent ideas that aren’t in their field of expertise. It becomes ridiculous when you make them put on clown suits, as well.
Everyone chooses the process and splits off to work with their science partners on their dishes. Man, this really is bringing back memories of all the science I was forced to take before I finished my school’s massive and unholy core curriculum. I remember trying to convince my advisor that I felt perfectly fine and the school should to about only taking the lecture portion of Gen Bio and not the lab. Didn’t go well.
As everyone gets to it, Floyd embraces a few hundred stereotypes by revealing that not only does he lovelovelove science, he also has a masters in biochemistry. That’s impressive, but I’m not sure how it’s going to help him beyond some ready knowledge of how to use beakers and induction burners. He chose the Maillard Reaction which is all about sugars and proteins turning beef brown when it comes into contact with certain temperatures. Soooo… he’s got to brown some meat.
How hilarious would it have been if Suvir had still been around to get handed the Maillard process?
Naomi has elasticity, and her partner tells her that the chefs are not required to use the ingredients that were used in the demonstration, but Naomi wants to. She thinks she can do a lot with… pizza pockets. And to think! This woman DOES NOT own a microwave. She’s going to do them with three different pizza doughs to represent the different elasticities that gluten allows for and… yeah, still pizza pockets.
Mary Sue got viscosity, and she reasons that since she’s cooking for kids, she’d better do something sweet. I almost point out in my head that 17-year-olds like Mexican food just as much as they like dessert, but then she decides on churros with different kinds of sauce, and it’s the best of both worlds!
Hughnibrow, for all of his nerdly appearance, is a hipster at heart. He basically interviews that he skipped school to drink a lot of coffee and “hanging out,” so when his lab partner, Augustine, starts explaining emulsification without the use of laymen’s terms, you can actually see Hugh’s eyes glaze over.
I think I’m going to name my next daughter Tangelo.
But that’s not better than his hunky Corey Haim days:
Uh, whoa. New fox in town, eh?
Hugh decides to do an oil and vinegar/mayo based-dressing… just like what Augustine demonstrated initially, but Hugh couldn’t care less.
It’s at Whole Foods where things really get interesting. Everybody gets stuff, but Floyd can’t afford all of his stuff, so at the very end, Mary Sue offers to buy him some beef. But wait! There’s only six minutes left! And the beef is upstairs! Floyd dashes off to the meat counter and screams for the quickest cut of steak ever, while Hugh and Mary Sue debate whether or not one has to be checked out by time’s up or in line by time’s up. It’s decided that it’s “in line,” and showing, true, TRUE healthy competition, with nine seconds to go, Hugh orders Floyd to toss him the steak from the second floor, then runs for the touchdown to Mary Sue in line with three seconds to spare.
And the crowd goes wild!
The chefs head back to the kitchen and Naomi immediately puts her lab partner, Carlin, to work as a pseudo-sous chef. Shoot, make lemonade, I always say. If you’re going to have to use weird equipment, might as well take the free hand the show gave you and put it to good use.
Mary Sue’s dish appears to come together in a stupid delicious way. She’s making dulce de leche chocolate mousse, dulce de leche infused churros and then three different sauces for said churros. She explains that viscosity will be represented by the different rates at which the sauces run down the churros, and I’ll bet that same principle could be explored by running the sauces down Stonecoldfox’s stone cold chest, but that’s a different show, I suppose. The dish looks a little ugly, but I still want to eat it.
Floyd, in between running around chanting “Explode explode explode!” at some malfunctioning Bunsen burners, explains that he’s doing beef two ways. He’s going to cook some shabu-shabu style at under 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which will, in turn, make the meat turn gray. Then he’s going to cook the rest at a temperature over 212 degrees Fahrenheit, which will invoke the Maillard reaction with the sugars and the proteins and make the meat turn brown. See, this is why I’m not a scientist. I don’t give a shit why meat turns one color one way and one color another way. I just want to eat it.
Hugh uses the same strategy with Augustine as Naomi did with Carlin, but mostly just to shut the guy up. Apparently Augustine looked at this experiment as some sort of teaching opportunity and keeps asking Hugh things like, “Do you know why the fat does that?”, while Hugh answers, “Stop asking me fucking questions and just tell me.” In short time, Augustine is the poutiest herb-picker there ever was, agog that Hugh is not making use of his talents.
As for Traci, she’s playing it safe with acidity – she’s making ceviche, which is a) easy and b) lacking in necessity of Bunsen burner! I think the only real challenge she’ll face is getting teenagers to eat ceviche, but these are LA kids who probably cut their teeth on pho, so I’ll bet she’ll be fine.
As the prep time comes to a close, Naomi’s “calzones” are exploding in her oil, and they look like dough rocks. Not a bad way to head into a commercial.
The chefs return the next morning with 90 minutes until their Science Food Fair. It’s much the same as the night before, with everyone cooking away and running into complications due to the equipment. I get a little worried about Mary Sue when it doesn’t appear that the oil she’s going to use for her churros is getting hot enough. And if she can’t make her churros…
This is sort of it…
As for Hugh, he’s sassier than ever as Augustine, who is NOT COMPETING FOR ANY MONEY, keeps trying to plate the dish differently. There’s some sort of argument about the mayonnaise actually getting dotted on the plate to complete the demonstration more visually when Hugh affirms that that’s not necessary considering the mayo is already in the dressing. Then Augustine accuses Hugh (the CHEF) of not being curious enough to be a scientist, and Hugh’s all, “Say WHAT?”, but the Augustine pusses out and backs down. The stereotypes abound today, hmm?
Then it’s time for the kiiids! And Padma. Pfft. The kids love Mary Sue’s churros, and she’s solved her frying problem by putting the churros in a clear beaker which gets hotter and allows the kids to see the delicious desserts getting made before their very eyes.
Hugh’s hamming it up as usual taking any opportunity to point out scientific things, like a utensil that looks like metal but is actually plastic. He taunts Augustine by shouting, “Explain that!” to which Augustine awesomely deadpans, “Electroplating.”
Scientist: 1 Unibrow: 0.
The judges, including Curtis, Padma, the ever-absent Ruth Reichl and Schmoseland, head to Mary Sue first. Padma fingers some sauces, then she and Curtis munch on the churros. It seems positive, but there aren’t any comments.
Hugh’s next, visited by Ruth and Schmoseland. They like his salad and fried okra with emulsified dressing, but then Schmoseland decides it’s time to argue about whether or not the dressing does represent emulsification because his mayonnaise has separated. Hugh’s so frustrated with the nerdy bullshit of it all that he just pawns the explanation of why his dressing IS an emulsification and NOT separated onto Augustine, who sets Schmoseland straight.
Well, as much as can be expected.
Traci’s ceviche is awesome, but again, no comments from the judges, and Naomi endures the same lack of opinion, though Ruth and Lames make awkward faces at her long-winded weird explanation of the 80 she has on her table that represent elasticity. Seriously, she has about four different kinds of pizza dough, gelee and a mushroom.
Then the show takes sort of a weird turn into Public Television as each chef is filmed explaining their processes. Like, a lot. After a little bit of that, we head to Floyd, who rocks out his beef two-ways like a champ. He looks, by far, like the only person who is any way comfortable in his surroundings. Oh, by the way…
Everything is served in a petri dishes! So cute!
I guess the show wanted to spend more time being educational and less time being judgeucational, because there’s no customary discussion of each dish as the judges are eating them. We just head straight to Critic’s Table, so it’s anybody’s guess as to who’s on top and who’s on the bottom.
Thankfully, Mary Sue and Floyd come out on top, and after some goofy and forced discussion over how we all learned so MUCH today, Mary Sue trounces Floyd once again. This time with fried dough. Floyd’s spent the entire episode whining about how he hasn’t won a Quickfire and how every time he’s in the top, he comes in second to Mary Sue. Except that episode he won, but whatevs. The point is, this is sticking in his craw a little bit. It especially sucks this week because his charity is all about getting young people funded in scientific research. I don’t know what to tell you, Floyd. There are two things that are very hard to beat in the culinary world and they are churro and dulce de leche. Mary Sue put the dulce de leche INSIDE the churro, so I’m surprised she didn’t take the whole competition right there.
And now for the part we’ve all been dreading – the bottom three. First of all, let me just start by saying that Traci should not have been there. Her ceviche was fine – might not have been stellar, but it was fine – it certainly didn’t compare to Naomi’s pizza rocks or Hugh’s sass, so why was she even in there? When there are five chefs, you can still have a top two and a bottom two. Here’s hoping the show doesn’t attempt a math challenge anytime soon.
Anywho, all the hatred that wasn’t filmed during tasting gets its due. Naomi’s explanation was confusing and weird, and the fact that she put the gelee in the calzone made it soggy. Uh, what? We all know what a gelee is, right? And if you don’t know, you saw the brown Jello in her demonstration, right? That was IN something that people were eating. GROSS.
As for Hugh, the only things keeping Schmoseland behind the table are his suspenders when he AGAIN tries to shove in Hugh’s face that the dressing WAS separated. Seriously, he’s like a gay with a bone, and no matter how hard Hugh tries to explain (again) that an emulsification can be on the loose side, Schmoseland will not hear. For her part, Ruth thinks mayonnaise was an obvious choice when it came to demonstrating the process and Padma thinks the okra was icky. So that’s that.
Another victim of the obvious crime? Traci. When thinking of acidity all the judges are like, “Lemons come to mind…” “Lemons for you, too?” “Oh, yes, definitely lemons. And ceviche.” Traci looks like her eyes rolled out of her head about four episodes back, and just takes silent pride in the fact that she got teenagers to eat ceviche and taught them about science at the same time.
Is anyone else wondering why the chefs are getting knocked for being too obvious? They’re chefs, not scientists – Floyd used the ingredient that was demonstrated in exactly the way it was demonstrated, but he’s a damn genius. It seemed like every chef was simply glad to have grasped a simple scientific principle and to have demonstrated it in a tasty way, and more power to them. This whole challenge was effing ridiculous. We didn’t get to see any interesting food because the chefs were on “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and not a cooking show. The most interesting thing on the table was fried okra and it was in the bottom. Whoa, why am I standing and why on a box of soap…?
Here’s a photo of the Editor of Saveur’s wardrobe choices in an effort to remind us all not to take things so seriously.
The judges hem and haw kind of viciously after the contestants leave. The cornmeal batter on Hugh’s fried okra was like sand, when one bit into Naomi’s calzone and got a squirt of gelee for their trouble, and Traci’s ceviche was… I don’t know, lame? That seems to be the consensus. Schmoseland also says that the ceviche just didn’t represent how acid effects protein, and I don’t know what in holy hell he’s talking about. That IS ceviche – the acid in citrus “cooks” the fish by reacting with the protein. Then the fish becomes ceviche. WTF?
Now, if I were a judge, and I bit into a calzone and got a brown Jello forced into my mouth, I would punch the offending chef square in the tit. No joke, that’s like putting sausage gravy on ice cream and feeding it to a blind person. But who goes home? Hugh. Hugh, who is more entertaining. Hugh, who is more creative and skilled. Hugh… who argues.
So, it’s a dark day in Season Three. Hughnibrow has fallen for the second time, and Naomi still stands. I’ll admit I don’t loathe her quite as much as I did from the beginning, but Hugh’s hilarious quips and personal cooking show-worthy personality were worth several hundred of Naomi and her naked, ANNOYING ambition. *le sigh*