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Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 9 – Teacher Teacher, Can You Teach Me?

That’s right, I’m quoting .38 Special. Sue me.

We have our Final Four – Doug calls this the hardest thing he has ever done. And from such an accomplished chef, it pretty much tells you how difficult this show is for these chefs. And at this point – we only have nitpicks separating them all.

Let’s get into it – why don’t we?

Final QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE – Making a great burger. Doug is confident with is Top 25 burger ranking in Food and Wine Magazine. Jen rightfully points out the important detail of meat vs. bun ratio. Burke also boasts about his best in NYC burger. He also thinks he got screwed in the ketchup challenge by Lemony Snicket. And that’s a really odd sentence. It sounded like Doug said he had a shrimp burger in McDonalds in the Far East, but that just cannot be correct. Bot is going old school – in his final attempt to EVER win a Quickfire. Doug’s shrimp burger ain’t working, it’s rubbery. Ah, maybe it was McDonalds!

Sang is the judge. And I wonder if anyone bailed at the last minute because, what would have happened if he didn’t lose last week? Unless it was just always going to be the fifth place finisher. The alternative is that they bumped someone to add in Sang because they liked his humor. If so, then expect to see Sang hosting Top Chef: Condiments any day soon. We flash back to TCM Season 1 and Sang joining Spike and others judging burgers. And here he is again.

Burke – it looks like a totem pole, says Sang. He normally doesn’t like seafood burgers, but this one is juicy and “not off-putting.”
Jen – She put in ketchup and he cringed. However, there was much flavor and her sriraccha ketchup won him over.
Bot – Sang felt the meat was very meatloafy.
Doug – He can’t really taste the shrimp

Quickfire Dishes:

Sang jokes that he didn’t actually have any delicious burgers. He puts Bot and Doug on the bottom, and Jen and Burke on the top. Jen gets another win – five grand for women and the season lead over Sang for total cash won.

The Sous Chefs had to cook a dish conceived for them by their Masters. Bot’s sous Graeme and his SpikeHawk win the challenge and earn Bot immunity and a spot in the Finals. However, he will go all out in the ELIMINATION CHALLENGE because they are paying tribute to four special LA Unified School District teachers.

Emily Crush – a special ed teacher who inspired one particular special needs student.
Carlos Lauchu- who teaches the AP test to middle schoolers and gets them to pass.
Stacey Joy – a lifelong teacher of fifth grade in South LA who always makes do with no resources.
And Jeffrey Austin- a history and government teacher who tries to teach kids to be strong citizens. They each get assigned a teacher and must cook a special dish for them. The pairings are Doug/Emily, Bot/Carlos, Jen/Stacey, Burke/Jeffrey. Jen is inspired because like Stacey, they each have known their passion since childhood. Burke is going for 60 souffles and Doug thinks that gives him titanium balls for taking on such a challenge upon a challenge. Bot feels inspired because like Carlos he tries to enlighten people with new ideas and flavor profiles.

Added bonus – the teachers had no idea they were the guests of honor. The challenge is judged by Dr. Sweater, Gail, Stone and Alan Richman from GQ. I still say Adam Richman would be much more fun. At least there would be a lot more food.

Doug gets Burke to help him plate and presents roses to Emily, and one to the kid, Camille. He made a super fancy dish for her. Lt. Sweater found it luxurious and felt like a celebration. Gail said it was beautiful, and Stone felt it was a bit rich on rich on rich.

Bot says Carlos inspired him because he teaches kids to change minds and do things differently. Richman felt the texture was so perfect, and Gail felt it was scary how Bot made this relatable.

Jen’s meat is rare. Bot and Doug both know it. She tried to take a simple dish and elevate it, like Stacey does with her classroom. Big Mama Sweater thought the granola on top was good, but the lamb was undercooked. Gail was ok with the undercooked meat, but not all of the imperfections. However, Stacey was overwhelmed. Her mom was a lamb chop aficionado, and she hasn’t touched a bite since losing her in 2010. Damn.

Jeffrey may have expected tacos and bacon as a dish representing him, Burke made soufflé because while Jeffrey mentors and inspires, so did Burke’s profs in culinary school and he still remembers the day he learned how to make this delicate dessert. Captain Sweater found little springiness. Stone admired the chance taken, and Jeffrey really appreciated the challenge and the risk taken on his behalf.

Elimination Dishes:

Clearly, Doug and Bot were the winners, and Jen and Burke fighting for survival. Bot wins his first challenge of the season – he overwhelmed them all. It came down to Jen’s undercooked meat and Burke’s risky but unfulfilling dessert. As always, dessert kills on Top Chef and Burke’s gruffness takes a fourth place finish. He had kind words for the chefs on the way out – tantamount to him saying, “kids today” – but still, he respects these guys and knows they are the future. He can now go back to romancing Colombian ex-strippers.

So it is Jen/Bot/Doug in the Finals. Bot becomes the second person in Top Chef history to make the Finals in two different seasons – the first to do so on two different versions of Top Chef. Blais won his second time around – will Bot do the same?

We get 15 minutes of sous challenge on TV this time – but since I decided early on not to include the goings on in these columns, not starting now. I’ll just say that Graeme’s dish won, and he gets 10K, while Paul loses and puts Doug in the hole for the Finals. One hour of non-sous cooking for Doug. Sang will be happy.

Quickfire Hits
• Stone calls out that it is 60 seconds to Burger Time and I flashed back to one of my most addictive video game that I used to play with my mom.
• Doug, upon seeing Sang judging his subpar burger – “He has a great palate…I have no chance. He’s an idiot, but for a number of different reasons.”
• Emily staged a friggin royal wedding to make that little girl happy. A staged wedding!!
• Can we talk about Punk Rock Jen? Which, incidentally, is the newest hot toy for girls this Christmas.
• Has anyone ever combined he words “elevated” and “porridge” before Jen in this episode?
• Listen Carlos, the woman who felt that something robust equals “you in a bowl” – she is not just your “friend.” Who are we fooling?
• Stone to the chefs after the emotional meal – “Go on, get back and clean the kitchen.” HA!
• Extra – High School Gail photos. Watch what happens.

Next Week The Finale – the sous prep a meal to be included in the final menu and the Final Three gets their own sous to pitch in for the win.

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The X Factor, Sept. 19 – Surprises

Tonight’s X Factor is filled with surprises. Contestants you think will be an automatic yes have to fight for it. Contestants who think they themselves are everything and a bag of chips need to do a little more self discovery. And contestants who come off very unassuming are packing a big wallop inside.

Auditioner: Andrew Scholz, 18, from Summerville,SC. He’s a pole vaulter and gymnast and knows people see an athlete when they look at him, but his dream is “to sing some songs, man, and just have a good time.” Kelly refers to him as a handsome corn-fed country boy.

Song: Too Close/A Little More You

Me: This guy truly has the X Factor, with the countrified good looks and a great vocal.
Kelly: She feels Andrew was a little glued to the microphone which made it a little karaoke.
Demi: She knows he appeals to a female audience but feels he needs more than that and didn’t feel he was comfortable onstage.
Paulina: She thinks he’s really cute but is surprised about the song he chose.
Simon: He disagrees with the female judges. He’s not saying it was perfct, but Andrew has charisma and is charming. Maybe it wasn’t the right song. He thinks they’d be crazy to let him go and pleads with Demi to give him a chance.
Demi: She has to disagree with Mr. Cowell and the audience.
Simon: He asks for another song, perhaps something more “old school,” and Andrew launches into A Little More You as the audience goes nuts.
Demi: That totally changed everything. The other female judges agree.
Simon: He definitely feels Andrew should go more in a country direction, especially with his All-American looks.

Auditioner: Blake Shankle, 19, Sucier, MS. Even though he’s not a performer yet, he says people are already looking for autographs, but it’s really him just offering it to people. People say he looks like Robin Thicke, Justin Bieber, David Beckham, and Adam Levine. He wants to be a household name. Kelly thinks he’s hot.

Song: Jar of Hearts

Me: He sounds too affected with too much vibrato. I’m not sure if there’s something there to work with or not.
Demi: He has a look that the girls love, but it was very theatrical.
Paulina: He posed a lot and studied every single movement so much that it was predictable.
Simon: He asks what kind of singer Blake wants to be and hears R&B, yet Simon heard theatrical.

Auditioner: Christina Harris, New Orleans. She refers to herself as “if Beyoncé and Rihanna had a baby.”

Song: Diamonds

Me: This cuts like diamonds, that’s for sure.
Demi: She doesn’t think Christina will want to hear herself.
Simon: It was painful.
Kelly: Keep workin’ at it Mama.

Auditioner: Brandy Chivers. She’s going to sing in Pig Latin.

Me: She doesn’t even sing the whole song in Pig Latin.
Simon: This is such a weird day.

Auditioner: Ellona Santiago, 16, San Lorenzo, CA. Only her sister is with her as her family couldn’t make it, and it’s really spontaneous.

Song: Wings

Me: She has a lot of energy for such a little thing, and it’s totally unexpected.
Kelly: She thinks it’s cute how she came out all shy, then really brought it when she sang. “Whoever that girl was, she came out and she meant business.”
Simon: He thinks they’ll remember the name, and she’s the girl he wants to work with the most. She asks if he remembers her from the first season, and he doesn’t. She was in Paula Abdul’s group, Intensity. Now he remembers.
Demi: Had she been there the first season, Ellona would have gotten through. She doesn’t think Simon will ever forget her again.

Auditioner: Stone Martin, 14, Hartsville, SC. He’ really nervous. The most people he’s sung in front of is six.

Song: Little Things

Me: He’s really quiet. It’s hard to hear him, but he has some good moments.
Kelly: She thinks he’s still getting to know his voice but has only scratched the surface.
Demi: He’s so cute and charming, and the little girls in the audience are dying.
Paulina: She thinks his life is about to change forever
Simon: There’s an incredible likability about him, and there’s also a star glow.

Auditioner: Ashly Williams, 24, Los Angeles, Sales Associate. Her dream is to sing and do what she was put on this earth to do. She was just 14 when her mom was murdered. Her birthday would have been the Sunday after Ashly’s audition.

Song: I Will Always Love You

Me: She is much better than expected, amazingly good. She gets a standing O from all four judges. She just needs a stylist now.
Kelly: She thanks Ashly for spilling her heart out in that vocal.
Paulina: She was captivated by her talent.
Demi: She’s speechless and had chills all over her arms and legs. She could feel her heart.
Simon: This is why they brought the show to America – to find someone like Ashly. He thinks they’ve just scratched the surface with her.

Andrew had to fight to be there. He seemed like he had it all, but those female judges just weren’t so easily sold. Blake, on the other hand, thought he had it all. The thing is, he was just going on his looks and didn’t really put much thought or effort into his vocal. Ellona came off very shy and quiet, then stormed the stage and took everyone by surprise. And Ashley, with her sweater with the bow on it topping off her outdated style, she surprised everyone with just being more incredible than seemingly possible. Simon thinks she’s just scratching the surface, and if that’s the case, it’s going to be an incredible season.

Interview with Cami Bradley of America’s Got Talent

imageSeason eight of America’s Got Talent has to be one of the better seasons for the show, if not the best season so far. This has to do with many factors including a judging team that gelled very well and of course some phenomenal talent. This talent was so supreme that it was hard to predict how it would turn out. I had a chance to talk about how the season went with finalist Cami Bradley who surprisingly went out in sixth place.

Cami couldn’t have guessed the final order of the six finalists either. After the performances Tuesday night, she was trying to go over in her head what the final lineup would be, but it was even hard for her and the other finalists to determine how it would all end up. She knew how she did personally and got to see the other performers as well, but she recognized all six acts as being really strong.

The singer could have been standing next to any of the other acts in the final six and been eliminated at any time and not been surprised. Noting that she received really good remarks from all the judges after her final performances, Cami may have been eliminated, “but I feel like I went out really strong,” and that was her ultimate intention.

Cami was the last female singer standing, and she chalks that up to her originality. She doesn’t feel it has anything to do with the caliber of talent, just her amount of originality. This is well-noted by all the judges as well. She continued to get high praises for her uniqueness and creativity in the way she took songs and changed them to suit her individual style. She’s not done either; she figures she has plenty more of that in her still. Cami is a songwriter and loves to arrange music as well, and she knows she’s not done yet.

This calls into question judge Howie Mandel’s comments the last few weeks concerning the talent level of the final acts. He felt that the non-singing acts had a larger degree of difficulty in performing, since they were writing, creating, and inventing characters, while the singers were only singing each week. But for Cami, she was “honing my craft of writing and arranging,” as well as singing each week. It all takes a lot of training and work. She finds it to be just a “different type of honing your craft.”

Once again this year America’s Got Talent had a change at the judges’ table. Sharon Osbourne was out, and Heidi Klum and Mel B. were in. Every year there always seemed to be at least two judges who didn’t get along, or one who didn’t seem to be enjoying the time spent at the table. But this year there seemed to be a greater camaraderie between Howie, Heidi, Mel B., and Howard Stern. Cami saw that as well and noted that when watching some reality shows it seems like what you see between the judges is just an act, but this seemed genuine and real. “I thought the chemistry between the four of them was amazing.”

Speaking of those other shows, with so many to choose from when you’re displaying singing talent – American Idol, The Voice, The X Factor – I wondered why Cami chose to audition for this show, one that isn’t dedicated to just singing. It turns out she didn’t choose America’s Got Talent; it chose her. Some unknown person sent in a video of her singing, and the show asked her to audition. She needed to decide whether or not to grab the opportunity. Luckily for her fans, she did.

Now that Cami has the success of one talent show behind her, would she consider auditioning for one of those other shows? She doesn’t think so, but did note that she’s only two days out from the experience of America’s Got Talent. It was “a lot of work and a lot of time and an amazing experience for me,” and while she has no regrets, she isn’t looking to go through that again anytime soon.

Much of the reason Cami doesn’t regret her time on America’s Got Talent is because of what she has gained in terms of exposure and confidence and even relationships. She feels she has grown as well. “It’s been amazing for me as an artist and as a person.” She has learned a lot about herself. Before the show, she didn’t even know if she enjoyed performing. She found out she adored it and learned that “maybe I was made for this more than I thought I was.”

Believe it or not, this is Cami’s first serious attempt at a singing career. It was always just a hobby for her before. Just before appearing on the show, Cami recorded a self-funded and self-released album, and just decided to “give it a go,” never predicting it could turn into something this big. Despite doing so well on the show, throughout every single round, Cami admits that she was sure would be eliminated.

Cami’s plan is to keep riding this out to see where she can take it. The hope, of course, is to see if she can get signed to a recording contract. She’s going to look to see what is in her best interests and what is right for her. Before she can do any of that, though, she’ll be going on the America’s Got Talent Live Tour. You can catch the tour in a city near you throughout October and November. See below for a schedule.

If you’re looking to have the same success as Cami Bradley this season, don’t wait for an anonymous person to send in a video tape of you performing. You can audition live in one of seven cities across the US – Miami, Atlanta, New York, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles – or you can also audition online. Find out more information on the America’s Got Talent website.


Survivor 27: Blood vs. Water – Ep 1 – Don’t Let That Fool You!

Season 27 begins – a season with more twists than a Chubby Checker biopic. With more unexpected developments than an episode of Breaking Bad. And with the promise of some new unexpected dynamic between contestants – possibly the most in a long time. It is hard to predict what we see as the weeks go on, mainly because the contestants have so many new things to consider – they likely had all of their pre-show plans tossed out of the window.

Perhaps not all of them – upon reading some other blogs this morning, there seems to be the ongoing trend of returning Survivors building alliances before the cameras begin rolling. We saw allusions made to that in the Boston Rob/Lex classic rivalry the first time the show employed this dynamic. We essentially saw it last season with Cochran/Dawn. So, to some on this season, while the twists have made their plans more difficult, they may have been able to salvage some of it by keeping some of their pre-show plans alive. The question is – did their loved ones stick together as well?

Anyway, let’s just get the twists out of the way. This season, as previously stated, we have a returning Survivor and a loved one. They arrive in 10 pairs and spend their first night by themselves on a portion of beach with no supplies. How nice. And how utterly boring it turns out. The show agrees and edits this sequence into a quick montage. The pairs join Probst on the beach and instantly learn that they will not be paired up into five groups of loved ones for each tribe. Instead, we are basically getting Fans vs. Favorites III. The returning Survivors vs. the new Survivors. Next twist – each group is kicking someone out right now. Next twist – they are not actually departing, but heading to the Return of Redemption Island. Next twist – the loved one can switch with the first boots and take their place on RI, while their loved one takes their place on a tribe where they are in a clear minority. All of this in the first several minutes. Way to turn into Basil Exposition, Probst!

So, what came of this whirlwind of changes from the start? Well, the family tribe kicked out Rupert’s wife. Why? No real idea why – other than perhaps they wanted to throw Rupert off his game. Their mistake – Rupert has no game. Never did. And he proves it when Probst asks him about switching places. He moves forward before Probst can tell him the consequences – Laura is now going to be with a tribe of returning players with a gigantic, tie-dyed target on her back. But at this point, his ego can’t backtrack from the heroic gesture he has already made. By taking her place, he has likely doomed both of them. Now he has to not lose many duels to come back, and she has to quickly integrate herself into a tribe where she is a clear cut first vote. The likeliest scenario is that either he’s gone quickly, or they will wind up dueling each other before long. So, five minutes in and Rupert has already screwed up strategically. That was a friggin record.

The favorites voted Candice out of the tribe to start with and while I thought at the time that it was due to her incredibly untrustworthy first two forays into the game, it was likely something simpler and a lot dumber. Originally, RC and her dad were supposed to be on the show, but her dad failed a medical test at the last minute. That meant that Candice and John were flown in at the very last minute to play. They got no backstage interactions, and were just party crashers to this group. Interesting though that John was spared – likely due to him being a big guy. Also interesting – John had the where-with-all to NOT do anything stupid and switch places with her. So, he is actually in good standing on his tribe, while she will try to dig out of the hole she’s been placed in. Also, ALSO interesting – Candice and Rupert played together for many days in Heroes vs. Villains, and so it seems, Candice hates him. For a moment, my distaste for her is lifted just a teeny bit for that. Unfortunately for her, she is doing all of the RI chores while he finally smartens up and rests his bones for the duel.

I was very surprised to see the Faves elect to go in this direction and take her out rather than instantly toss Colton onto the trash heap. It’s as if they didn’t watch One World. Actually, they probably didn’t. Not many did. At least Kat and Monica should have kicked him to the curb. Instead, arguably the most horrid player in the show’s history gets to stay. And if you recall, while he was a cancer to the tribe, he was also fairly useless in challenges and at camp. That does not seem to have changed – based solely on his paddling problems and his method of sawing bamboo…with the saw aimed directly for his crotch. I was hoping we would have very little Colton, and was bracing myself to having to endure another season of The Rupert Show. At least, so it seems, that will be reversed.

The X Factor, Sept. 18 – Second Chances

Everyone deserves a second chance. Well, almost. I like to think everyone gets a second chance, and tonight’s X Factor has a few auditioners looking for that second chance. Many wanted that first chance and will probably be looking for that second chance next year or in a different venue, but there are also a few auditioners who just want that second chance to prove themselves.

Auditioner: Sister Shirley and Cynthia Olivero, 24 and 16, from L.A.

Song: I Want You Back

Me: They think they’re really good, but neither can hold a tune.
Simon: He does’t want them back. He found it to be a competition on who could sing the worst, and they both won. They are one of the worst groups they’ve had on the show. He officially breaks up their act.
Kelly: Cynthia started off right, then heard her sister sing, and it was all downhill from there. She should come back later, but not bring her sister with her.

Auditioner: Josh Levi, 14, from L.A., but originally from Houston. He’s going to tell the nerves to go away, to show the world who he is.

Song: Come and Get It

Me: He has something they could work with.
Demi: It was amazing, and she wasn’t prepared for it when he started to sing to her. It showed he was an artist.
Kelly: He’s a star and so cute. She loves his style and doesn’t think there’s anyone like him.
Simon: He chose a song he shouldn’t sing, but turned it into a great version that suited him, and he thinks they could be looking at a future star.

Auditioner: Drama Drama – 20 – 24. Jordan is on the web version of All My Children. I recognized her immediately. Asked the reason for the group name, they explain they’re teenage girls … but they’re in their 20s.

Song: Party in the USA

Me: This is why Jordan is on All My Children, because her group isn’t that good.
Simon: Everything about them screams old-fashioned.

Auditioner: Forever Young.

Me: Absolutely no harmony.
Simon: It’s like they were locked in a room from fifteen years ago.
Kelly: It’s going to have to be no.
Demi: Its also a no from her.

Auditioner: Aknu – three brothers from Los Angeles, an after-school program leader, car sales, and home-care business.

Song: Valerie

Me: They’re definitely not old-fashioned, but perhaps a throwback. They sound great and have moves as well.
Kelly: These guys are so refreshing and will make everybody want to dance. Music is a gift, and they just spread it throughout the room.
Demi: There is something special about this group, and she has the chills.
Simon: He thinks it’s like watching Motown all over again, and normally that’s the part he hates, but he thinks they could be on to something. He could watch it all over again.

Auditioner: Brandie Love, 21, from Rocky Mount, NC, an orthodontic assistant. Her boyfriend is a helicopter pilot in the Army. This is so different than what she’s used to.

Song: Up to the Mountain

Me: She has obvious talent but is fighting a few nerves. She’s phenomenal when she hits her stride, though.
Paulina: Brandie brought the X Factor.
Simon: She took it to church. He loves that song, and he predicts great things for Brandie. She has sincerity.
Kelly: It was beautiful to see her get lost in the song, along with the fact she allowed the music to set her free.
Demi: Her favorite thing is when someone takes country music and brings soul to it. Brandie just took Demi home.

Auditioner: Milly Thrasher, 14, from Birmingham.

Song: Wide Awake

Me: She’s good and just needs a little vocal coaching.
Simon: He really likes her and sees huge potential with her.

Auditioner: Timmy Thames, 13, from Malibu. His dream is to become a famous singer known all over the world.

Song: Lego House

Me: The girls are going to love him.
Paulina: She thinks he’s fantastic.
Simon: He always knows when he’s in front of someone who might be a star, and he has a feeling about Timmy.

Auditioner: Yellow House Canyon, best friends, 16 and 17, from Lubbock, TX. The worst thing one of them has done is to get a speeding ticket, and the worst thing the other has done is to be with her when she got her speeding ticket.

Song: Redneck Woman

Me: They’re a lot of fun.
Demi: She had a blast watching Yellow House Canyon
Simon: He likes them and feels they have a lot of spirit. “Keep it country.”

Auditioner: Vinny Crisotomo, 29, from Selden, NY, a bagel store worker. He believes he is already a celebrity and even has a bodyguard. He looks up to Biggie Smalls and Tupac.

Song: How Do I Live Without You.

Me: While you would think he would be trying to hip-hop up the song, he’s not. He sings it straight – and not well.
Kelly: She asks if he rehearsed the song and if anyone listened to him. Simon guesses they left the room.
Simon: After doing this a long time, this is the worst he has ever heard.
Demi: She’s concerned with the people he’s surrounding himself with who thought this was good. Simon agrees that he needs new friends.

Auditioner: Carlos Guevara, 16, from Lexington, SC. He has Tourette’s Syndrome and OCD. It’s been a hassle for him, but he can’t let things hold him back. He had to leave school a few months ago, despite starting out as the Vice President of the student body and being a football player. Music is the only thing that helps him.

Song: Gravity

Me: He is so good and brings everyone to tears when he says “This is amazing” in the middle of his singing. He gets a standing O from the female judges.
Paulina: She doesn’t know him, but feels very proud of him. He has an amazing voice and great energy.
Kelly: He has a beautiful voice and soul and is so talented.
Kelly: It was so magical, and she’s just so grateful to be there to witness this and witness him.
Simon: What Simon likes is that he’s not a victim. He hasn’t let this issue stop him. But forgetting about that, he actually has a great voice. He doesn’t have four yeses, but 3,348 yeses.

Auditioner: Chloe J and CJ. They met each other in hair school. They are not boyfriend/girlfriend, because “he don’t want it,” according to her. He explains he’s on “the other side.”

Song: River Deep Mountain High

Me: They are much more fun when they’re talking than when they’re singing.
Simon: They are both absolutely awful, and he doesn’t know which one is worse with not a note in tune.
Kelly: She really likes them and their personality but has to say no.
Paulina: She really enjoyed seeing them but has to say no..
Demi: She has to say no but wants them to smile.
Simon: Chloe J comes to the table and makes out with Simon. He says yes.

Auditioner: Malie Delgado, 18, from Anchorage, AK. She left Alaska because it was her time and her chance.

Song: Because of You

Me: She has a few timing issues, but that just needs a little coaching.
Paulina: It was clear to her that Malie has something special
Kelly: She thinks Malie really wants to break out.

Auditioner: Colton Pack, 18, Danese, WV. He brought his whole small town with him on a bus, but with a population of 270, it’s not quite the whole town. It’s added pressure on him.

Song: Hicktown

Me: He’s making that whole small town proud.
Paulina: She likes him and loves his presence. She adds a roar.
Demi: It was pitchy at times, but there were moments that were interesting, and he has a natural stage presence.
Kelly: She digs him and his natural voice.
Simon: He really, really likes him and did from the minute he came out. He believes there’s a market for someone like him and thinks they can help him get better.

Auditioner: Danie Geimer, 15, Northridge, CA. Her mom is a manicurist and her dad is a beauty supplier. She spends her time reading, but no one else around her does. Someone compliments her on her glasses, and she says, “Thanks. I read books.”

Song: The House of the Rising Sun

Me: Her singing voice is just as different as she is.
Kelly: She loves that she came up so quiet, then belted it out.
Demi: She will tell the absent Simon that he missed it. She thinks she’s gorgeous.
Paulina: She finds her and her powerful voice special.

Auditioner: Jeffrey Gutt, 37, a musician and single dad, Detroit. He was on the last season, getting as far as boot camp, and has now come back. He’s been doing as many gigs as he can. Jeff admits to stressing out too much last time. This time he made a deal with himself that if he doesn’t make it, he’ll walk away.

Song: Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing/Creep

Me: He seems too affected, as Demi is telling the other judges it’s not the right song for him. Simon stops him and says he’s trying to imitate Steven Tyler. He can’t put him through and is really disappointed. Jeff restarts with Creep and it’s like night and day.
Demi: Wow wow. The great thing about rock and roll is you don’t need the looks to sell it. Timing is everything, and he wasn’t meant to be there last year. It’s supposed to happen for him this year.
Paulina: Just the fact that he came back and loves his son, she’s the only one on the panel that understands. She admires him.
Simon: He’s picked up bad habits in his many gigs, but it’s the only part he didn’t like. The high part was sensational. He’s honored to have him back on the show.
Kelly: She’s happy he came back, as his is what he’s supposed to be doing.

Jeff kind of got a second chance within a second chance. He didn’t make it last year, then came back for his second chance. However, he tried a little too hard and was being something he wasn’t. He’s not a ballad singer. He got a second chance within the second chance and made it. He might be running out of chances. Carlos is getting a second chance at life. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t fit in well at school with his disability. He fits in here, and that’s all that matters.

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 8 – The First Episode With A Song About Jicama

Sorry for the incredible delay this week. Events are out of my control these days. I can guarantee you nothing in the way of promptness or coherence. Heck, I’m lucky I watched the darn thing this week. You were close to getting a column of me guessing the dishes, the elimination and what the heck a cooking had to do with bizarre Mexican wrestling. Seriously, I feel like Sandra Bullock in that awesome looking astronaut preview just hurtling out into space with only George Clooney’s voice as a lifeline to reality. Well, ok, lots of things just happened. I just freaked myself out just a bit. First, too much information. Second, never before and never again have I compared myself to Sandra Bullock. And last, I should be so lucky as to have George Clooney’s voice inside my head. That’s the coolest psychosis in history.

So, this episode was strange. We had the weird guy who wrote the Lemony Snicket books making fun of Stone and all of the chefs. We had wacky wrestling mixed with burlesque. And we had the kick off of the ketchup wars. And the sad breaking up of the Sang/Doug love affair.

Anyway, the QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE doesn’t exist. Stone brought nothing to the table except the soothing accordion sounds of the dude that wrote those kids books that led to that horrible Jim Carrey movie. The winner of the sous challenge – where they had to relive their worst kitchen nightmares – would get to choose the Quickfire. Doug’s ne guy won and in the ten minutes allotted he decided to base the challenge on what would piss off Sang the most. It seems Sang does not allow ketchup in his restaurant. So, the challenge is to feature ketchup in the dish.

Sang only wants to beat Doug at the challenge. I can see that. He is going with sweet and tart Japanese fried chicken. Meanwhile, Doug is focused on Sang’s ass. Yeah. Burke digs ketchup, and Jen looks really tired to me. Doug is making a ketchup-based miso while Bot is making some wings with blue cheese snow.

Doug get the bird from Sang and Snicket claims that “blood turnip” was his high school nickname. Snicket tells Sang he could taste the anger in his dish. For Jen, we have a song – “It looks like a potato, tastes like a bean, it’s the funniest vegetable I have ever seen. Jicama!” Bot’s blue cheese snow doesn’t appear naturally in wintertime, and Burke is just annoyed by Snicket’s antics.

On the bottom – Burke’s dish, which Snicket found had complicated tastes mingling and it led to a downward spiral to existential regression. And Doug, whose dish was fueled by violence to the other chefs. On the top – Bot’s joyful snow, Jen’s wondrous dish and Sang’s overcoming of hate. Jen gets the win and another five grand for women’s work options.

Quickfire Dishes:

Doug’s sous win also earned him immunity, while Sang and Jen fell to the bottom and face obstacles. For the ELIMINATION CHALLENGE, we have Lucha Vavoom – Mexican wrestlers, comedy and burlesque all mixed into one wacky show. The chefs need to make two Mexican dishes for the ring side show for 300 people. They get three hours the first day, and one on location. However, they also get their sous chefs.

As they prep, we learn that Sang’s pork goes for hours and hours. Yikes! No, actually, the pork requires hours and hours of cooking. Instead, they are using a pressure cooker. Doug is making a cocktail and a fritter. So, in other words, Doug is tired and taking advantage of his immunity. Bot is making a tongue taco. Which is my favorite Mexican porn film. Also, he’s making beeeeeeef tongue.

At the Mayan Theater, which Sang calls a Mexican acid trip, we learn the obstacle – Sang and Jen have to switch sous chefs. The question – will the sous throw the challenge? Because their fate is still tied to their actual Master. Sang’s pork does not get enough cooking in the pressure cooker, so, that’s bad.

The critics – Stone, Lesley, Gail and Jane Goldman.

Burke – they are upset that his quesadilla is really a flauta. Lesley feels the kick, but likes the cinnamon in his second dish. Goldman got too many olives in hers.

Bot – Lesley likes his shrimp and, basically, grits. She also loves tongue. Gail teased her a bit for that. Goldman admired the adorable dumpling. And it is unclear if she too likes tongue.

Jen – Stone loved the ceviche, and Goldman was impressed it didn’t overpower the fish. Stone thought the chile was good, and Lesley wants it tomorrow night after doing tequila shots.

Sang – Goldman only tasted fish sauce in the shrimp cocktail, and didn’t taste the Mexican. That’s from lack of tongue, if you ask me. Gail didn’t feel the dishes were executed properly, and had a lot of salt. However, Stone said the dishes were authentic Mexican.

Doug – Stone seemed pissed that Doug only made a cocktail with his first dish. However, the others all liked his fritter.

On the top – Jen and Bot. Stone liked her well-balanced, richly flavored choices. Gail was amazed by the amount of flavor is such little time. Goldman felt the tropical flavors felt like vacation. As for Bot, Stone felt the tongue was brave. Gail said the dish was the stuff of dreams and the dumplings playful. Lesley said the tongue tasted like it was stewing in the back of a taco truck for 24 hours.

I expected the first Bot win, but instead, Jen gets her third straight. With Doug’s immunity, it is Sang vs. Burke. Stone liked Sang’s choices, and Lesley liked the fusion attempt. But none liked the dishes. Sang was rather surprised. Burke got hit for the flauta thing and having too much wrapper. But really, that’s it. It was clear that Sang was going home, and he did. He had a nice run early on and earned 30 grand for orphans.

Elimination Dishes:
Doug 1
Doug 2
Burke 1
Burke 2
Jen 1
Jen 2
Bot 1
Bot 2
Sang 1
Sang 2

Quickfire Hits
• Stone had on a purplish sweater this week. That counts, well, sort of as the extension of the saga of the purple shirt.
• Can you picture a drunk Stone in Tasmania? Because that would be fun.
• I thought Bot might have some trouble with the elimination since he was asking customers in the Mexican grocery for their thoughts on making a Mexican dish.
• How awesome would a Burke spinoff would be? He mumbles. He seems surly. He jumps out of airplanes. He gets Crying Gamed by the legendary Karise. He has a Colombian ex…a Colombian stripper ex. And he did varsity wrestling in 1976. I’d watch the show.
• Demanding Bot – Grant! Sauce! Can you picture Bot cracking the whip in the kitchen? Or as El Pollo Loco as his wrestling alter ego?
• Rita the wrestling show’s co-founder was really not wearing much…but she had a huge hat.
• Extra scene – Bot and Doug wrestling. Um, interesting.

Next week – Ketchup revenge for Sang at the Quickfire and cooking to honor teachers.

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The X Factor, Sept. 12 – Simon and His Harem

Wednesday night’s season premiere of The X Factor was definitely a success. As narcissistic as it might seem, Simon Cowell’s decision to now go with three females at the judging table with him was a good move, at least these particular three. Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, and Paulina Rubio all got along really well together and also related well to Simon. They all seemed comfortable. Britney Spears just never seemed comfortable in that role last year, and the L.A. Reid/Simon arguments were never fun. Tonight should tell us whether or not it was a fluke or whether this will be a successful group of judges

Auditioner: Yosselin Marquez, 21, is very excited to see Paulina after following her career. But she believes she will be better than her. At least she knows her name. She asks Simon what his name is, surprising everyone, especially him.

Song: Only Girl

Me: She pulls out her cell phone to read the lyrics and sing along, and even worse, she sings bad.
Simon: He calls her nutty as a fruitcake.
Demi: Yosselin has the X factor.

Auditioner: Thomas Weiderspon, 19, from Greeley, CO, a ranch hand.

Song: Your Man

Simon: He asks if Thomas has ever gotten a shirt back from the laundry with too much starch, as that’s how he sang – stiff.
Paulina: “No.”

Auditioner: Carrigan Bradley, 15, from Fort Gibson, OK. She’s spent time on the beauty pageant circuit.

Kelly: She wants to see more of an edge.
Simon: It’s like trying to chop down a tree with a banana, meaning it’s just not going to work.

Auditioner: Amber Ferrari, 41, from Shirley, WY, an accountant.

Simon: Her singing is like a goldfish trying to be a shark.

Auditioner: K +B, a duo, 22 and 23, from Puerto Rico, best friends

Song: La Vida Loca

Simon: He believes they sound like two 3-year-olds who have the flu trying to sing.

Auditioner: Sean Harris, 28, from Denver, a temp worker.

Song: Amazing Grace

Me: It’s neither amazing or graceful.
Demi: With Simon’s accent, she compares Sean to an elephant trying to skydive with a tiny parachute indoors.
Simon: He believes these are the worst auditions, and that Demi’s accent is getting better.

Auditioner: Rylie Brown, 15, Lee’s Summit, MO. She’s been practicing one song so much, because she knows it’s rare to find this opportunity, as there are people here who have been singing as long as she has been alive.

Song: Clarity

Me: It sounds like autotune at first, and then she forgets the lyrics. She is much more comfortable afterwards and hits her stride.
Simon: While she did mess up, he asks who cares when you have a voice like that. He doesn’t think they’ve heard a voice like that on a 15-year-old.
Demi: She notes Simon never says that and doesn’t think she sounds 15.
Paulina: She believes Rylie’s life is about to change forever.
Kelly: Hearing an uncertainty, she believes they can help her with that.

Auditioner: Jeffrey Brinkman, 36, from Longmont, CO, a doggy day care owner. He wouldn’t be here except his daughter was born six weeks early, which he thinks is like her giving him thumbs up.

Song: You Are So Beautiful

Me: It’s a perfect song for a new dad, and he fills it with emotion. The audience gives him a standing O.
Kelly: She loves his sincerity and how he means every word.
Paulina: The raspy voice is one she loves, and she finds it fresh and original.
Demi: Jeffrey has a beautiful recording voice that’s going to sell records.
Simon: It was a brilliant, brilliant vocal from a naturally great voice.

Auditioner: Jocelyn Hinton, 34, from Pittsburgh, unemployed. She has no formal training yet considers herself a diva.

Song: Firework

Me: She forgets the words and is flat, but has power.
Simon: The best part was when she forgot the words. She sings something else and won’t stop. She keeps singing different songs until Simon walks her offstage himself.

Auditioner: Rachel Potter, 29, from Nashville, a bartender. She’s afraid of going after her dreams of being a country singer but doesn’t want to live with regret.

Song: Somebody to Love

Me: Not a single mistake to be found. The female judges give Rachel a standing O.
Paulina: She sees an amazing powerful future for her.
Kelly: “Just a beast.”
Simon: It seemed like a performance she’s been wanting to give for a long time to prove a point … and she did.
Demi: Rachel has the look and the best voice she’s heard. It’s the easiest yes she’s given in both seasons.

Auditioner: Jorge Pena, 22, from Long Island, but originally from Colombia, drives an ice cream truck but is lactose intolerant. He feels he has yeses from the lady judges already believing he just needs to smile and wink.

Song: Amami

Me: His personality is really icky and he sings nasally.
Demi: After he calls her “Woman,” she admonishes him for doing it, telling him what’s really cute and sexy is humility.
Kelly: Not understanding the Spanish songs, she knows he could be telling her she looks like a donkey, and after he started getting slick with her girl, he was acting like a donkey.
Simon: When Jorge tries to defend himself and make it work, Simon tells him to zip it for the next two minutes. He also orders a raspberry ripple.
Paulina: She tells him in Spanish to change his attitude.

Auditioner: Simone Torres, 19, from Long Island. She’s always been kind of quirky, and speed rapping is one of her favorite things to do onstage.

Song: Mustang Sally

Me: No rapping is found here, just some great bluesy rock.
Paulina: Simone was so fresh when she was walking, then started singing.
Demi: She loved watching the light in her eyes sparkle and knows everyone just wants to hug her
Kelly: It’s one of the best auditions they’ve had all day.
Simon: It’s not a question of him thinking it’s the best audition; he knows this was the best audition.
Simone’s dad: He knows he did something right in order to call himself her dad.

Auditioner: Russ Poulliot, 56, from Littleton, CO, owns an investment business. He’s a crooner who wants to bring back the love songs and thinks he has a butt-load of natural talent.

Song: Can’t Help Falling in Love

Me: I wanted to like him, but there is far too much vibrato.
Kelly: She asks if he had fun, saying that’s all that matters.
Paulina: He did a lot of “ah ah ah ah,” and less is more with that.
Simon: It sounded like he was drowning, but he’s a nice guy.
Demi: She feels like if he had a British accent he would sound like Simon singing. Kelly brings the mic to Simon, and what do you know, he has vibrato just like Russ.

Auditioner: Roxxy Montana, a group with three sisters – T.R., Tanisha, and Temperance Moten, 20, 21, and 22, from Detroit Michigan, in culinary, art, and real estate.

Song: One Night Only

Me: Great harmony
Simon: Temperance’s voice is much better than the other two. He asks to hear something else, and they sing a church song a cappella.
Demi: Wow.
Kelly: It’s been a long time since they’ve heard a girl group singing their faces off.
Paulina: Roxxy Montana is blowing them away.
Simon: They’re really good together, and have a secret weapon in Temperance. They need work on their vocal harmonies, but that’s something the show can help them with. He sees them as potentially the best group they’ve ever had on The X Factor.

Auditioner: Al Calderon, 19, from Long Island, a restaurant host who is their designated Happy Birthday singer.

Song: Sara Smile

Me: It’s one of my favorite songs, but might be too big for him, yet he affects people. Training would do him well.
Kelly: If she were a teen, she’d want to go on a date with him. Simon notes the lack of a time machine, and Demi notes time machines don’t even travel far enough back in time for him.
Demi: She has a feeling he won’t be working at the restaurant anymore.
Paulina: “Bravissimo.”
Simon: There were tuning issues, but he chalks that up to inexperience and nerves. He has potential with his looks and charisma.

Auditioner: Denise Weeks, 41, from New York City, a subway singer. Her children’s father died when they were young, and this is how she made money to provide for her children. Now that they’re grown, it’s time for her to live out her dream.

Song: The Greatest Love of All

Me: At first she isn’t nearly as good as I expected.
Simon: He tells her she’s rushing it and singing with no emotion and asks her to sing without the trac behind her. After, he asks why no one ever came up to her and told her she should be doing something bigger, and she figures it’s because she was waiting for The X Factor.
Demi: She has a feeling Denise will be singing for lots of people someday.
Paulina: Denise is the one they’ve been waiting for tonight.
Kelly: They have been waiting for Denise period.

This looks so far like it’s going to be a really good season. All the talent put through I have agreed with, and there isn’t any acts left behind that I think should have gone through either. Hopefully it will stay like that all season. And hopefully the judges will continue to get along this well.


X Factor, Sept. 11 – Easiest Yes Simon Has Ever Given

It’s season three of X Factor, and the only judge that remains the same throughout all seasons is Simon Cowell. He kept gal pal Demi Lovato from last season, but ditched L.A. Reid and Britney Spears, bringing in Kelly Rowland and Paulina Rubio, making him the only man on the panel, which I’m sure he enjoys. Simon definitely knows talent, and I think that extends to the judging panel as well as the stage.

Auditioner: Carlito Olivero, 23, from L.A., but originally from Chicago, a barista. He fashions himself as the Latino Chris Brown.

Song: Stay

Me: Carlito showed great emotion, but needs to sing from his gut and not his head.
Simon: He doesn’t believe there is anyone around like him and believes he looks like a real star.
Demi: She feels he is like a combination of Frankie J and Trey Songz.
Kelly: It was like she was witnessing a star.
Paulina: She tells Carlito, “I adore you.”

Auditioner: Sally Hessnice, 55, Graham, North Carolina, a registered nurse. He People tell her she make them incredibly happy when she sings.

Song: Greatest Love of All

Me: She’s definitely not good, but she loves it so much.
Kelly: She wasn’t crazy about the vocal.
Demi: It just wasn’t the X Factor for her
Simon: After laughing through the audition, he explains eight-thousand dogs were trying to get into the venue.

Auditioner: Valeria Colombo, 41, from Boca Raton, FL, a karaoke DJ. People scream for her when she sings.

Song: Without You

Me: Tone deaf; ‘nuf said.
Simon: He doesn’t believe people were screaming for her in a good way.

Auditioner: K-nected, a group containing a mom and her two daughters.

Song: Waterfalls

Me: All three of them sing monotone, yet still can find a harmony
Simon: He asks if they live by an airport.
Kelly: She believes if this is something they want to do, they should keep doing it.

#Auditioner: John Tanner Davis, 18, from Dallas. He just graduated high school.

Song: My Heart Will Go On

Me: He’s another who is completely tone deaf.
Simon: He thought John did a better job than the iceberg.

Auditioner: Lillie McCloud, 54, from Orlando, but originally from Rochester. She has three kids and seven grandkids and has waited for her ids to be grown up to take this type of of opportunity

Song: Alabaster Box

Me: It’s classic R&B, and she sounds very trained.
Paulina: She calls it unbelievable.
Kelly: She asks where Lillie’s been and says she touched every part of the room with her voice.
Simon: He believes she has an incredible voice and that she absolutely nailed it.
Demi: It ripped her heart out of her chest. She felt like she was listening to to Whitney. She suggests maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen for Lillie until now.

Auditioner: Due Alex and Sierra – Alex Kensey, 21, Daytona Beach, and Sierra Deaton, 22, Orlando.They believe their chemistry is something special that you don’t see a lot.

Song: Toxic

Me: They have great harmony, ad she cries when they’re done performing.
Demi: She has chills because of how talented and down to earth they are.
Kelly: She alls it really beautiful what they ignited onstage.
Paulina: She believes in them and believes in their love
Simon: He thought it would be corny at first, but they’re both quirky and san an incredible version of the song.

Auditioner: Rion Paige, 13, Jacksonville. She has a disease that has curved her right hands so that they aren’t very usable and has made her almost completely blind in her right eye.

Song: Blown Away

Me: She is older than her years in both her looks and sound.
Demi: She is just so impressed and can’t believe the struggles Rion has had, believing everyone ca learn something from her.
Paulina: Music heals everything, and she’s honored to live through this with Rion.
Kelly: She just witnessed passion
Simon: He thinks she’s literally extraordinary, and he feels the same way about her that he felt about Carrie Underwood. In every single way she’s a beautiful person. It’s the easiest yes he’s ever given.

It was a great night for the season premiere. For Simon to say he feels the same way about someone that he felt about Carrie Underwood is incredible. Back then he promised she’d sell more records than any other Idol. Her success speaks for itself. To not say the same thing about this 13-year-old girl is incredible. Her faith in her isn’t unfounded.

What’s Hot on TV Tonight – Happy 4th of July

It's the 4th of July, meaning parades, celebrations, fireworks, and not a whole lot on TV. But there are a few things. There are some fireworks celebrations – in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. – and a couple of movies that are notable. Enjoy the day.

1. Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular. Nick Cannon of America's Got Talent hosts this fireworks extravaganza from New York City. His wife, Mariah Carey, and Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw will perform. Will Mariah do it live this time or will she be caught lip synching again? It's probably a great time to lip synch it out, but everyone is going to be watching to see if she is. She'd be better off just singing live. 7:00 PM CT NBC

2. A Capitol Fourth. Tom Bregeron hosts this celebration form the Dapitol. Performers will include Barry Manilow, Candice Glover, Scotty McCreery, Darren Criss, Jackie Evancho, and Megan Hilty. 7:00 PM CT PBS

3. Philly 4th of July Jam. Yet another 4th of July celebration, this one coming out of Philadelphia. The performers will include The Roots, John Mayer, Jill Scott, Demi Lovato, Ne-Yo, Grace Potter, and J. Cole. I don't know. 4th of July and Philly, I would have hoped to hear Elton John do Philadelphia Freedom. 7:00 PM CT VH1

4. The Music Man. What's your favorite Music Man song? 76 Trombones? Shipoopi? Gary, Indiana? Sing along with all of them tonight. I's the original movie starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Pert Kelton, and Ronny Howard. Yes, Ronny Howard, not Ron. 7:00 PM CT TCM

5. The Watch. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, and Rosemarie DeWitt star. A neighborhood watch group finds out their town is being taken over by aliens masquerading as regular suburban folk. Maybe it would be better if they'd masquerade as George Zimmerman. 8:00 PM CT HBO 2

What’s Hot on TV Tonight – SYTYCD Top 20

Apparently Tuesday is no longer Prince Spaghetti Day and is now Reality TV Day. Most major programming on tonight is reality TV, whether it's competition based or just providing you with a ringside seat to every minute of someone's life. The top 20 perform on So You Think You Can Dance, America's Got Talent continues its auditions, and Big Brother continues to lay out how this new three-nomination system is going to work.

1. Extreme Weight Loss. For the first time in the show's history, Chris helps a married couple. Sure, he's inadvertently helped a spouse before, but this time both a husband and wife are looking for his help in losing weight. Married couple Jason and Rachel are former high school sweethearts from Michigan 7:00 PM CT ABC

2. So You Think You Can Dance. The top 20 will peform tonight, t hen find out who peformed unnecessarily because they're heading home. Your votes won't save them tonight, but your votes for the remaining dancers could save them for next week. 7:00 PM CT Fox

3. Big Brother. It's time to see how this whole MVP thing will work and who the first MVP is. Along with that, we'll also have the first of the season power of veto competition and most likely the PoV meeting as well. McCrae does't seem like a very strong HoH. He seems like he'll bow to the opinions of others very easily. 8:00 PM CT CBS

4. America's Got Talent. Okay. It's time to wrap up these auditions. They've been going on since May, I believe. Then again, it's only episode five. It just seems like it's been really drawn out this season, like maybe Sharon Osbourne was the one keeping them moving along before. 9:00 PM CT NBC

5. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The guests tonight include Bradley Cooper, The Dream and Kelly Rowland, and an extra dose of Heidi Klum on America's Got Talent night. 10:35 PM CT NBC