I think it's best to start off this recap with the last line of my Top Chef notes, which was:
Here is where I turn away from -- forever -- straight up recapping the show. I have to clamber up on a rickety soapbox and shout, "Shame on you, Top Chef Producers." Shame. Jamie Lee Curtis thinks Top Chef watchers are barbaric morons. When I read that, I was annoyed that she decided this after watching about 30 seconds of the show, on mute. And yet, after last night I think that although viewers aren't total idiots, the producers might think we are. How else to explain this turn of events?
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
My roommates are away, so luckily even though it is 400 degrees, I can at least kick back in my underwear and drink a beer while I watch the show. I do, in fact, have a mouse living in my apartment, but I'm going to hope it doesn't saucily trot across my teeny tiny living room whilst I blog, which it in fact did last night while I had a dinner party ... which was embarrassing. I tried to pretend that I was shocked -- shocked! -- but actually we've been living together for quite some time.
Today's episode of Top Chef not only opens with a bikini clad girl, it opens with a bikini glad girl bending over. You don't even see her face. I would say this sums up where this show is going. We flash to the waking-up shots, most notably of course, Mr. Sexy Man Tre With the Honey-Caramel Baritone Voice.
Dale is voice-overing that he was "The short fat gay kid who was teased in junior high." This provokes me to consider who I was in junior high. After remembering that I was in the Latin Club and the marching band, I decide to stop remembering.
The quick fire
The sponsor is Cold Stone Creamery! The quick fire is about creating a delicious topping to go with the vanilla ice-cream, which they will mix in, cold-stone style. I've never been to Cold Stone Creamery, but there's one right in the Atlantic Mall. Maybe I'll hoof it down there (or take the B63, let's be honest). This quick fire is definitely giving me flashbacks to my high school job, which was at TCBY.
Dale, as the fat kid from junior high, clearly knows his way around ice cream. He decides to make a peach cobbler type thing. He's "looking for texture, for flavor."
Howie, also no fool when it comes to dessert, "starts thinking about berries ... sweet cream and berries. If it ain't broke, don't fix it." I do agree with him.
Hung says, "Any monkey can make fruit and berries and make it taste good" or something. This monkey of Hung's! It sounds amazing! So far it makes cocktails, ice-cream creations and a host of other things. Does it know Shiatsu? Hung has decided to make some disgusting amalgam of 7 totally disparate flavors, including white chocolate, cauliflower foam, tempura flakes and some other ridiculous things. The ghost of Marcel hovers.
It comes down to Dale and Howie, and Dale wins.
The Elimination Challenge:
Surprise! Padma says the chefs are "off the hook for now" and will "get a chance to enjoy Miami nightlife." The chefs are all incredibly happy. Silly, silly chefs, can't you see this is a trap? Cut to the real world house, where they all get all dolled up. They are so giddy. I also read recently that they have no TV, Cell phone, internet, newspapers. That seems extreme. But it does explain why they are going so bonkers over the prospect of socializing with other people. I also read that they can't even fool around with each other because if they catch something, the TV show could be sued.
Dale and Sara N. are dancing around happily. They admit they have become great friends. Sara N. says, "he's my new gay boyfriend." I want one too. I do live in New York. Unfortunately these days I'm more Sister Carrie than Carrie Bradshaw, so I'm probably not going to attract any fabulous gay men. The chefs all hop into a stretch limo. Someone screams, "Yeah! It's ON!"
And then, it's off.
Or as CJ says, "All our dreams come to a crashing halt." Hung actually screams in horror when he sees Padma, with our guest judge, standing in front of the Miami club with 2 food prep trailers, and the familiar knife block for choosing teams. Padma says that each team will have 30 minutes to shop and a budget of 300 dollars. They have to "create something that will satisfy the late night partier."
Dale, as the winner of the quick fire, doesn't even have to cook. He gets the night off, and a four course dinner with the guest chef. Dale says, "I can just feel the anger in the entire group."
They draw knives, and the teams are:
Black Team: Hung, Sarah, Tre, Malarky
Orange Team: Howie, Sarah N., Casey and CJ.
CJ says that "Howie hasn't worked successfully with anyone."
Sarah says "I don't want Howie on my team, personally. I know he's not a team player and every team he's been on has been on the bottom."
The teams start strategizing. Malarkey takes a leadership role and they kind of decide what to do based on space: Malarkey decides to do a cold bar, since that will take him out of the mobile trailer entirely, freeing up some space.
Howie tries to take charge of his team, since he was born and raised in Miami -- which does nothing to explain his accent -- and knows the nightlife cuisine. Howie wants to go simple but upscale: sliders, crab cakes, etc. Sara N. is trying to make some suggestions but Howie steamrolls her, very dismissively. She wanted to make fries with different dipping sauces, which I think would have been a hit.
Howie, knowing that everyone hates him, says "there's very little about being liked that has to do with being a good leader." Yes, Machiavelli was right...if you're a corporate raider, an Italian Prince or a DICTATOR. However, Howie, you are on a TEAM.
After the supermarket, it's 12;12 and time to start cooking. Tom is here! In a baseball hat! He looks adorable. Adorable. Tom goes over to the black team and makes chit chat, clearly picking up on the positive vibe.
Tre is behind the grill in a white undershirt, saying to Tom, "Once they see these guns, they're gonna wanna get back here." And then cackles hysterically with a kind of yee-haw at the end. Tom laughs really hard. They kiss. Just kidding.
Tom wanders over to Doom & Gloom Inc, where CJ tries to explain the menu. Tom says that they have a good menu, but "Sara N. had her head down." It is here that I know she is doomed. Howie and Sarah get into an argument over the milk shakes: Sara N. wants to cut them with crushed ice. I'm going to side with Howie here, who is appalled by this idea. As a former marching-band member and Latin Club pioneer, I also know my way around an ice-cream container.
CJ remarks, staring off into the horizon, "We're going to be flooded by a bunch of drunk morons." This is actually giving me horrible flashbacks to another high school job, when I ran the snack bar at a Yacht Club on the North Shore of Long Island. There was a summer sailing program for kids from 9-12 in the morning, and as I set up the grill, fry-o-later, etc, I could see them sailing around. Then, my coworker Mary and I would stare off to sea as 1000 little children docked their little sailboats and ran up to shore, screaming like Vikings, preparing to raid the snack bar. Thinking about it still stresses me, after at least a decade. So anyway, I really know how CJ feels as the drunk crowd gets out of the nightclub and swarms the two trailers.
The orange team is having some problems. Sara N. can't find the top of the blender to make milkshakes, and they just aren't as organized. CJ says, "Howie's a bulldog and Sara N. just keeps drifting off." Tom is there waiting to be served, and waiting...and waiting. CJ stands uncomfortably.
Meanwhile, the guest judge is at the Black team's area, enjoying Tre's bacon wrapped shrimp with cheese grits. Hung is also making onion rings and chicken in the fry station.
After an eternity, Tom gets a slider which he likes. Padma is eating everything and loving it; I love her. Ted Allen shows up and gets a slider. Tom says of Sara N.; "Sara N. just in general seemed to be just a little out of it." Hmm.
The black team is clearly the winner. Tom feels they put together a well-flavored menu that was also accessible. Ted loves the grits, and says "Note to chefs, if you want to make people happy give them bacon." Duly noted! At my dinner party on Tuesday, since it was so hot, I served BLT's with my farm share tomatoes, and it was a hit with boys and girls alike.
Tre's grits win! Malarkey looks very happy for him.
Doom and Gloom Inc. enters to be judged:
Sara N. talks about how she was demoralized by wearing her going out outfit to cook in. She was "out of her element." The judges think this is lame, although Padma is more sympathetic. I would like to see Tom and Ted to cook in high, high heels, basically shirtless, as grease spatters their bare chests. My goodness. What I mean is, I can see Sarah's point.
The judges are not impressed by Howie's Cuban sandwich at all, which is especially bad because he's from Miami, so if he's going to make a Cuban sandwich it should be good.
The judges also comment on how the team dynamic didn't seem right. Howie takes the opportunity to say that they weren't getting a "full load pull by Sara N.." He says there was "no food coming out." Ah, Howie, my trash-talking chef from Hell.
Sara N. says that no one told her that during the challenge. She says, "I don't think Howie's and myself personalities worked well together in the kitchen." Which I would say is a very restrained way of her to say that Howie is unbearable.
Tom says, "Why didn't you assert yourself?"
Sara N. says, "There are certain chefs I've worked with who I know just won't bend."
I agree -- if you're on a time limit, there is only so much time one can argue with say, a Howie or Joey type. I think the judges always deliberately ignore this.
Howie continues on his rampage of vitriol: "She's the baby of the team! The baby of the house! Everything needs to be done for you!"
CJ interrupts to defender her -- "that's a little extreme."
Sarah N. says, "That's enough."
Howie: "What's enough?"
Sara N.: "You."
They walk back to the holding pen and Sara N. starts to cry. The other chefs look horrified.
CJ says it was "an asshole thing to say."
Howie says, "If that's how it came across ... that's not what I'm saying."
CJ says something about how Howie tries to cop this integrity role ... and Howie interrupts that he "doesn't need anyone signing off on anything I say ... I'm not trying to be an asshole."
Sara N.: "You're more of an asshole everyday. More and more and more."
The judges call the chefs back in and say it's basically between Howie and Sara N. I'm thinking, of course it will be Howie. What did he contribute to this team? The Cuban sandwiches, which nobody was impressed by. The sliders made by Sara played to much better reviews. And, of course, he's Howie, who the judges have admitted gets along with no one.
Tom says, "one of you is more suited to this competition." This is where I really think Howie is going home.
Sara N., please pack your knives and go.
She says, "I'm a little bit angry. That I didn't get to show exactly what I can do in the kitchen ... " She doesn't hug or say goodbye to Howie. He sits alone. She continues "I think I'm too nice for a competition. There's a fine line between being competitive and being an asshole. "
I'm seriously annoyed too. Please. My theory? I think that Howie realizes that he needs to be the villian to keep going on this show. Either that, or he really is just that contentious. I think that the producers tried to make Hung the new Marcel, but realized that they needed more overt conflict, and that's why they've kept Howie here.