Before we talk about the latest episode, the one that took place in The Ballpark That Must Not Be Names, one thing that I need to bring up first. I do this every once in a while in these pages because I feel the need to point out the obvious from time to time. The people on these shows are real people performing tasks in high-pressure situations while dealing with fatigue. They are greatly edited for full entertainment purposes. Bloggers like me get to be snarky and have fun with recaps of these shows because we truly love the programs. I treat these columns the way I would treat hanging out with friends, having a few drinks and joking around with each other. Harmless fun occasionally punctuated with inappropriate or rude humor.
It’s one of the things I love about Twitter when it comes to these columns – especially on Top Chef. The chefs get into this and really pay attention to all of these little articles. This week, I had a few responses and retweets for my previous two Boston columns. I especially got attention from Ron, formerly known as BFG. I say formerly because he called me out for poking fun at his weight. Very fair point. I only did so because it seemed as if he and the other chefs were doing the same thing, and the BFGs (Steve and Dave, Amazing Race 4) was one of my favorite teams. A subtle reference, I grant you, but no harm meant. Ron requested a new nickname (Kats jokingly mentioned Ron’s Twitter handle – angry chef – but honestly, he doesn’t seem like an angry dude to me).
I want to say for the record – I love, love, love, love that Ron and I had this exchange on social media. I would love it if more chefs, or Survivors, were that interested. I think he knows now that I wasn’t going for insults, and I promised to give him another nickname going forward.
And then the guy goes and gets his butt kicked off the show! I mean, c’mon, what are doing to me? I spent the last couple of days trying to come up with new ones – There’s all of the oyster-related humor (his last name is Eyester). There’s former MLB second baseman Ron Oester. There’s the giant map of the Philippines he has on his forehead by his eye. There’s the fact that he has this Rorschach test above his eye and his name is Eyester. I was thinking about doing deep sci-fi humor and bringing up the Trill from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and their facial marks. I was thinking that he was the “before” picture to former Top Chef Finalist Kevin (he lost to Voltaggio).
And then he loses and I am stuck with a one-episode nickname! Do I have the time for all of this? Actually, I do, but that’s not the point. So, for the sake of time management and the fact that I am already 511 words into this blog, we will go with a good “Watchman” reference and call him Rorschach. Considering both met similar fates in their pop culture milieus. Death and packing knives being similar in this analogy.
Anyway, moving right along. Also throwing me a curveball this week was the almost elimination of the guy I said could be the biggest Top Chef Villain ever. Aa-hole got a lot of attention early – including some psychoanalysis on why he acts like such an a-hole. He is the product of a broken home. Of course, tons of people are products of broken homes and don’t act like a-holes. My former roommate James (not really, see Ep 1 recap for explanation) is also from a similar self-taught, broken home background. He’s not an a-hole – at least not yet. The only weird thing about him is the Patrick Swayze tattoo. However, it does permit me to dig out this video clip.
Anyway, Aa-hole also has a chip on his shoulder about the size of Rorschach’s Elimination Challenge entrée. The chip is so huge it can be seen from space. It’s bigger than Kim Kardashian’s, er, empire. (That’s what you thought I’d say, right?) It’s bigger than the plot holes in “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’m telling you, folks, dude’s got a chip. He didn’t go to culinary school and wants us all to know about it. Great. Got it, buddy. He says that if his mom had the money for a CIA education, he’d be Bobby Flay. The worst part is, he just outed Bobby Flay as a CIA agent.
So, with that chip we see Aa-hole and the others enter into another Sudden Death Quickfire. This time, Ming Tsai has arrived with a whole lot of tea. In case you haven’t heard, there was a tea party in Boston once. Now we have a TEA Party everywhere and we are worse off for it. But this Tea Party was a good one. The challenge? Make a dish with some random flavor of tea. The winner gets immunity, the loser faces elimination.
All in all, it was a fairly cool challenge. The chefs had no idea what tea they would get so they had to react on the fly to the sometimes-bizarre flavors. Gregory wanted fruity and floral – which would have been a horrible name for a gay florist in a 1970s comedy. Speaking of Gregory, he also requested a nickname and suggested an existing one for him – Gumby Gourmet. Fine by me, but I’ll just shorten it to Gumby. Dammit.
We have gunpowder spearmint. We have monkfish cheek. We have some NY/Boston ribbing. We have Rebecca and about 14 different flavors of tea. We have Melissa speaking. Wait, was she on this show the whole time? We have James making a dish from 1982. We have Rorschach spraying his mole sauce all over James – it is unclear if it in response to 32 year old dishes. Rorschach also lets us know that it is always good to have two breasts. I would add that four is a Penthouse Forum letter.
Melissa – Seared duck breast with toasted nut oolong tea-infused jasmine rice – Ming likes the rice a lot, and it tastes the way it smells, which in this case is a good thing.
Kats – Toasted brown rice tea broth with brown rice crusted tuna – Ming likes the strong flavor.
Katie – Golden honey black tea panna cotta, Asian pear with brown butter tea crumble – Ming mumbles something about the flavor, and says he makes something similar, but as a soufflé. He assures her that a soufflé in 45 minutes would not have been a good idea.
Gumby – Tuna Crudo With Strawberry White Tea and Coconut Ming is not a big fan of fish and fruit, but this worked.
Rorschach – Chocolate and salt herbal tea-crusted duck breast with polenta and balsamic-glazed mushrooms Padma hates this tea flavor, but loves the essence of it in a dish she didn’t hate. I think I got that right, either way it is such a backhand complement that it might have backspin on it.
Aa-hole – Seared monkfish cheeks, Asian pear and mint salad with gunpowder and spearmint tea gastrique That fish is dead. It’s an ex-fish.
Adam – Pineapple and burnt citrus “iced tea-viche” and toasted pine nut gremolata – He made “tea-viche” and deserves to advance just for the pun. Regardless, the exotic qualities came through.
James – Crispy skin trout with quinoa in buerre blanc and Asian pear tea salad – Ming comments that he hasn’t had this dish in years. In fact, it reminded him of seeing ET in the theaters for the first time.
Rebecca – Lemongrass and pomegranate rooibos tea-infused cake with strawberries and apples – Ming says that the tea was used very subtly. So subtly, that it was barely there.
That’s all we get to see. Let’s presume the others made dishes with Asian pears.
The successes? Melissa (who?), Gumby and Rorschach. And earning immunity? Gumby. Remember that near-miss later when Rorschach serves a soup the size of Rhode Island.
The failures? James, Rebecca and Aa-hole. I thought Rebecca could be in trouble here because she had gotten more screen time in these ten minutes than she had in the first two episodes combined, but it is Aa-hole who is up for elimination. Uh oh – Top Chef’s finest villain could be gone before he started his crime spree!
Remember when Aa-hole bragged to Blondie that he could cook her under the table? Well, now is his chance. Instead, to the surprise of everyone, his anti-culinary school hang-up trumped his anti-Blondie hang-up. He chooses Katie to battle with his show life on the line. They have 30 minutes to cook something where the only heat they have is boiling water. Good challenge. They both go for it – he makes a spring roll with a shrimp wrap and she goes for fresh pasta and a sauce made in a plastic bag. Both dishes appear to be creative and well executed. Ming dings her on lack of salt and him on raw peanuts, but the degree of difficulty of his dish saves him.
Aa-Hole – Cucumber, Carrot, Mint and Raw Peanuts Wrapped in Pureed Shrimp Noodle
Katie – Saffron Hand-Cut Pappardelle Pasta, Smoked Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil