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Top Chef: Chicago, Episode 11 – Baby Vomit and Wood Chips… Yummy!


Meanwhile, on the team that is obviously going to win, Antonia is the Executive Chef and Steph is working the front. Foghorn calls the concept Modern American Gastro Pub food and they are all about “simple, clean and well executed flavors.” The menu:
1st course – Beet and goat cheese salad & linguine and clams.
2nd course – Trout with cauliflower & Lamb leg and loin (Lamb squared – clever).
3rd course – Gorgonzola cheesecake and banana “scallops” (which I think Foghorn did in a previous Quickfire that sounds delicious and looks… well, unfortunate).

Lisa describes their menu:
1st course – Shrimp laksa & Pork/picked plum pot stickers.
2nd course – Butterscotch miso scallops (WHAT?) & braised short ribs.
3rd course – Halo halo (Dale breaks this out again) & mango sticky rice.

Antonia says that the other team is trained in Asian cuisine and so it was no surprise that they opened a Chinese Restaurant. She adds that Dale only cooks Asian food.

Spike calls himself the General Manager. I think he is more the Assistant to the General Manager. He only has one dish on the menu and he is making the short rib because you don’t “have to baby-sit it” and you can just put it in for three hours and “let it go.”

Antonia and Steph are making fresh pasta and Antonia laments that they didn’t buy backup pasta in case it didn’t work out. She is having heart palpations. Somebody call Cirie!

In walks Anthony Bourdain. Awesome. I totally watched that sitcom based on him with the guy from Alias. Bourdain is the man. For this challenge, he is pinch hitting for Tom. Double awesome. He is “bringing my warmer, sunnier disposition.” HA! This is going to be fun. Spike has the utmost respect for him. However, more than any other chef Bourdain has traveled all over Asia and Dale probably s**t his pants when Bourdain walked in.

Bourdain approaches Team Warehouse and Steph announces that she will be front of the house because she has experience (notice how she doesn’t call herself the General Manager) and Bourdain asks if Foghorn has the smoke gun working. He doesn’t.

At Team Buddha, Dale announces that he is the “Captain of the Boat.” Bourdain informs them of his seemingly unhealthy love for laksa and Lisa is instantly nervous. “I take my laksa real seriously,” he snarls. Lisa THs, “Oh s**t, no pressure. It’s Anthony Bourdain, a man with an amazing palate and has eaten 100 different kinds of laksa.”

Pots bubble. Bourdain sums up. Team Warehouse is deliberately creating modest expectations which make it easier to exceed. Nobody is reaching too far with the menu. Team Buddha is either going to do really, really well or really badly. Asia is very big, how could you be all of those things. These are two very different teams, with two very different concepts.

Bourdain tells them that they are getting a helping hand and maybe you know these people from such shows as… this one. In walk Jen, Nikki, Andrew and Frodo. Antonia THs that she sees Jen and Nikki walk in and she thinks, “They can roll out my pasta!” Since Antonia got to pick the teams, Dale gets to pick one of the four. He picks Jen because she is a “great chef with a great attitude.” And she is helping them in honor of Zoi, I presume. Antonia immediately chooses Nikki and tells her, “We need you to make pasta!” She cutely giggles as she says this. Poor Nikki; like Chris Carter and touchdowns, pasta is all that she can do. Bye Frodo and Andrew, it was nice seeing you again!

Team Buddha tries to make the avocado puree and it is brown mush. Dale is trying to fix it but according to Lisa it starts to shatter his mood. The F-bombs start to drop.

Lisa yells that the rice is not ready and Dale tells her not to freak out. Man, Lisa has trouble with rice, not a good quality for someone with an Asian background. Lisa AGAIN yells that someone messed with her rice on the stove. Two weeks in a row. Is there a gremlin following her, or is Lisa just unable to accept blame? You make the call. Lisa makes some bizarre reference to playing baseball that I truly don’t understand.

Nikki earns her helper slot by pointing out the grit in the clams. Foghorn cleans them a bit more thoroughly. We have found Foghorn’s Achilles Heel: cleaning seafood. Antonia says that their team is collectively looking to succeed and be here tomorrow. Teamwork, you see.

Lisa asks Dale to taste the laksa. He doesn’t taste any “heat.” She is surprised. In a TH, Dale says that he told her time and time again that it tasted like smoke. She brings over Spike who thinks it is sour, and tastes like smoke. He says she should have asked for his recipe. He adds in his TH that he cannot be held accountable for the food. I would like to quote Tom Colicchio, “this is a cooking competition.” Spike has made one dish, sort of, and worked the front. He is saved later on by the sheer incompetence of his teammates, but he should have gotten more of a hit for this.

Waiters arrive. Steph says that they are there to have fun and have good food with tasty beer. Eating and drinking is meant to be fun and not stuffy with a suit and tie. Our Top Editors earn their salary with a hilarious cut to Spike in a suit and tie. I will give him this, Spike cleans up well.

Spike runs a tight ship as he instructs his wait staff to set up the tables exactly as he did, and he will be back in 20 minutes to check on them. Thirty lashes for failure.

With 45 minutes left Lisa is desperately trying to save the mango sticky rice. I think this patient is gone, not even House could save it. With 30 minutes left there is chaos. Foghorn calls it controlled chaos with the blenders going and everyone running. There are 50 reservations waiting for the doors to open. He adds, “That’s the restaurant business!”

The doors open as we go to commercial. May I add that Steph looks really pretty in her dress? She also cleans up really nice.

Commercials – You can vote for Fan Favorite for Top Chef. Somehow James from Survivor is going to manage to win it.

Steph greets the guests and Antonia says that RW is on, big time. Spike mistakenly brings a party of four to a table for two before catching his error. The judges enter. Bourdain, Padma, Ted and Jose Andres from PBS’ “Made in Spain.” Steph says he likes to operate outside the box. She yells in to her team that the order is for the judges.

The linguine – Bourdain says it is better than he expected. Jose loves the texture and Steph says that she made the pasta herself. Somewhere Nikki just shed a tear.

The salad – Ted thinks the goat cheese is really nice. Padma thinks it is delicious. A random person loved the linguine and clams despite not being a big fan of the dish normally.

The lamb – Ted likes the presentation. Bourdain agrees. He loves the dish and thinks the lamb is perfectly cooked and that all the elements work together. Hmmm, I wonder who’s going to win this challenge…

The fish – Ted asks if everyone else loves how they left the skin on the trout. Jose gushes in a Spanish accent. Padma exclaims that they don’t joke around on Top Chef, and I think that my girl may have had a couple of cocktails before the show. A random person thinks the trout “trumped” the lamb.

The cheesecake and the bananas – Bourdain is not a fan of the bananas’ presentation. Ted agrees because it is brown and reminds him of a New York City sidewalk. You see, it looks like a turd, and I want to know what parts of NYC Ted is going to with feces in the streets. Padma expected to hate the gorgonzola cheesecake but she loves it. Ted gives points for difficulty. Jose loves the chocolate (on the bananas, I presume) and thinks the use of cilantro was bold.

Wow, they kicked some serious ass with this challenge.


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