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Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 5 – Textural Violations and Other Stories

Sorry for the delay this week – family vacation to South Carolina takes precedent over watching famous chefs cook for Playboy playmates and their friends. And the 15-year-old me just punched me in the stomach for saying that.

This week’s episode featured many different kinds of women – from the E! reality show variety, to the Lilith Fair variety. From jiggle and fake boobs to earnestness and flannel. We had Holly Madison and her blonde buxom body which at one point in time regularly allowed Hugh Hefner’s withered old hands to have full access. And we had the Indigo Girls who would have broken those hands with their guitars if they got anywhere near them.

Continuing the bizarre trend of random celebrities judging elite chefs, the Indigo Girls joined Stone to pass judgment on the Quickfire. A quick one about the Indigo Girls. I have only recently been able to listen to “Closer To Fine” without shivering. My college roommate – and one of my best friends in the known universe – learned how to play guitar in college, and used that song as his first real conquest on the six-string. Needless to say, I heard that song a lot. I have never bitched about it because it was karmic payback for all of the songs I overplayed to death during my college days. Nevertheless, the song still held those memories for me – but we are cool now, the Girls and me. Even if they never knew, or cared, about this. And by the way, he’s a great guitar player now.

The Quickfire Challenge is to make a meat and veggie version of the same dish. They have 45 minutes to do so. The Hat whistles while he works , while CC wants to treat his meat. Whatever. Takashi shows an old photo of himself wearing an awesome checkered jacket. The big development is that Yeo fails to plate her dish properly as she runs out of time before putting the broth on the noodles.

Art – Chicken Pot Pie and Cheddar Biscuit Crust and Mushroom and Wilted Arugula Pot Pie with a Parmesan Savory Crust. Mmmmm. Love me some pot pie. Emily, the Meat Eating Indigo Girl, thinks it was beautifully balanced, while Amy, the Veggiego Girl, loved the crust.

Yeo – Faux Pho Noodles with Rib Eye and Faux Pho Noodles with Mushrooms – Doh! No broth! Amy rubs it in by pointing that out to Yeo, as she watches from the kitchen.

CC – Beef Bordelaise with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach and Portobello Bordelaise with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach – Amy found the inside to be tender, and Emily thought it was nice and rich.

Kerry – Chicken with Olives and Herb Flan with Olives – Emily found it to be moist and subtle, and Amy felt it was done well.

The Hat – Poulet Basquaise and Fricassee of Vegetable Basquaise – Stone thought it was the same dish, and Amy Simon Cowelled that it was like something from a wedding banquet.

Takashi – Agedashi Tofu and Eggplant with A Veggie Somen Noodle Roll and Agedashi Tofu and Eggplant with Pork, Ginger and Japanese Mushrooms – Stone gives it a wow. Amy said the eggplant was perfect. Emily said it was fabulous, with amazing spicy ginger and she would order it again and again if she could.

Lorena – Arepa Dumpling Soup with Queso Fresco and Chicken Salad Arepa with Avocado and Queso Fresco – Stone makes yummy eyes upon taking a bite. Emily says “whoa,” and wants to scrape it all off the plate. Amy thinks it was one of the most creative veggie dishes she ever had.
Back in the kitchen, Yeo is able to give them her broth now, and they twist the knife a bit by implying that she would have won with it. The Top Three are Art and his soul-warming food, Takashi and the beautiful textures and the plate-scraping goodness from Lorena. Takashi gets the win, five grand and immunity.

The Elimination Challenge is to make brunch for former Playboy playmate, ex-wife of Hugh Hefner, Holly Madison and her friends at a pool party. It will be canapé sized – so tiny bites. 150 people. She says she does not like garlic and onions. So whatever you do…don’t cook with those. Hey, Art…what are you doing? The Hat laments that garlic and onions is the basis of French food. I thought that was aggressive indifference. Oh, that’s the basis of French service.

During prep, CC says he is trying to mimic bacon with tuna. I think any excuse to bring bacon into the equation is a good one. At the pool party, there are lots and lots of pretty people in attendance. Lots. Bert, Katniss (welcome back), Lam and Stone come in and Bert gets all handsy with some of the half-naked men.

The Hat – Croque Madame with Bechamel Sauce and Tomato Vodka Shooter – Stone doesn’t think it looks like the proper dish, and Holly wonders/is-prompted-to-say that it should have an egg on it. Bert says the toast was burnt, Holly likes the fruit, Katniss wonders about the gravy, Lam thinks it was too gooey and rich but was a good idea to try and provide an entire brunch on one plate.

Art – Mabel’s Angel Biscuit – Turkey Burger with Garlic Chutney Stone likes the strong flavor, Bert says it is vibrant and Holly exclaims loudly when she discovered there was garlic.

Kerry – Chilled Red Pepper Coulis with Crab and Corn Fritter – Stone thinks it is a play on soup, and Lam is happy you can taste the crab. Katniss likes the punch of sauce but wishes for more seasoning.

Lorena – Bunuelos with Fresh Berry Compote, Chile Chocolate and Condensed Vanilla Sauce – She “put all of the sexy I have in it.” Lam gives a woo! Bert loved the warm center and the just right amount of crispiness. Holly seems to like having a fork.

Yeo – Pulled Pork on Toast – Lam points out to Holly the “lipstick problem,” a clever way of identifying the messy nature of the dish. Bert thinks the sauce was boring, Holly said it was bland and Stone says the bun was toasted too soon.

CC – Watermelon and Tuna Bacon with Golden Tomatoes and Pistachios – Bert instantly can see CC in the dish, and Holly loved the presentation. Katniss liked the bacon and the refreshing burst of melon, but Holly thought the pepper overpowered the dish. Stone said it was most complex and cleverest, but sometimes that can be too much.

Takashi – Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Panna Cotta with Citrus Gelee, Fresh Berry Compote and Almonds – Holly raves about the sweetness of the panna cotta and the tartness of the fruit. I am laying off the inherent humor in that sentence. Feel free to run with that one yourselves, folks.

The Top Four – Lorena, Art, Takashi and Kerry. Lam says the turkey burger is a Tragedy of American Cuisine. I may see that off-Broadway someday, starring Liev Schreiber and the Paula Deen in her acting debut. Lam said Art brought it back and redeemed the concept of the t-burger. And Holly didn’t mind the garlic. Stone thinks Kerry gave perfect brunch food. Bert thinks Takashi’s was stunning, not perfect, but delicious. Katniss uses the term “crispity crunchity” and made me laugh out loud as she praises Lorena’s dish. Lam could feel sexy just eating that. For making Lam feel sexy, Lorena earns the win.

CC, Yeo and The Hat file in for judgment. The Hat was missing the sunny side egg and the dish congealed without it. Lam makes a comment about the amount of awesome “buns” at the pool party, but Yeo’s dish didn’t have one of them. Ouch. And eww. Bert said she didn’t pull the meat (stop that) properly, it wasn’t thin enough. CC’s dish was too complicated for the moron models and the melon wasn’t enough to overcome the spices.

Basically, The Hat “went for it” but the bread was dried out and the sauce was incorrect. Yeo’s pork was made incorrectly – the “anti-pulled pork” – and was too bland. CC’s flavors were good, but the dish was overthought and, as Katniss said, had “textural violations.” That’s going to be the title of my book of poetry someday.

The Hat is gone. Seems like a nice guy, but I won’t miss not understanding a word he said.

Quickfire Hits
• Lorena claiming to remember her friends dancing and singing to the Indigo Girls makes me have to call BS on that. I can’t imagine too much frolicking to the Girls’ music among young Venezuelan women in the late 80s.
• Wouldn’t you want to grow up in a neighborhood like Takashi with the Tofu Guy going around selling things? I can only imagine the Mister Softee van driving around, but instead of ice cream cones, we get tofu salad.
• Love the shot of the beets on the ground. Beets on the Ground, Beets on the Ground.
• Art knows everything about a biscuit, except to not poor chicken broth on a veggie biscuit.
• Could it be more forced to listen to Art and Takashi opine about Holly’s beauty? I mean, she’s a Playboy model, so I get it, but boy, it felt like those two were reading off of cue cards.
• CC sprints through Whole Foods more than any other chef I can remember.
• Kerry talks about how his crab fritter is perfect hangover food, because of it being fried. I get that, but if I recall all of my many hangovers over the years, not once did I say, “Boy, I could go for some fish right about now.”
• Art is going with the Southern Angel Biscuit. Now THAT sounds like it should be one of the Playmates at Holly’s party.
• I am tired of the CC and Art battles. It may actually be the lamest Top Chef rivalry ever.
• Fun scene with the crew at the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill after prep. We learn about The Hat having a knife accident, about CC’s first gig as a dishwasher at IHOP, Kerry’s as a busboy at Bonanza and Art’s at KFC. I have no jokes here – that’s a lot of fun stuff on its own
• Extra scene – Art swimming in a tiny green Speedo. So that happened.

Next week – Dita Von Deese. And a CC/Art argu…wait, that’s Lorena and Yeo going at it. CC and Art are fighting through surrogates now!

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