Express’ Karmah Elmusa separates the chefs from the tattle tales on “Top Chef Chicago.”
BEFORE I COMMENCE this week’s tasty recap, I have to let my faithful readers (hi, Mom and Dad!) know that I recently took the advice of our New Zealander chef Mark and watched “Bad Boy Bubby.” During the movie challenge, Mark mentioned this flick at least 45 different times, and expressed utter shock that his teammate had not seen it. Well, Mark, I would just like to say, you are a sick, sick man. Major themes in the film include incest, death by plastic wrap, decomposing cats, homophobia and mental illness. I’m still recovering.
Moving on! This week on “Top Chef Chicago,” it was all about keeping things healthy. Oh, and about screwing your competitors over. The cheftestants tried to steer Chicago’s cops away from the burgers and Moco-choco-fatty-latas, all while attempting to sabotage each other (or make wild accusations of sabotage). Impressive! Read on for nutritional tips from Andrew and to find out why Lisa is reminiscent of a fourth grader (other than her haircut).
Tonight, the guest-judge is a blast from a “Top Chef” past. All of you who like boys will know who I’m talking about: it’s Sam! That tall, dark, cool drink of water from the second season with a mild manner and slamming knife skills. He announces to our chefs that he’s diabetic, and always has trouble finding tasty, nutritional food. Poor li’l Sam. He challenges our seven remaining chefs (Richard, Antonia, Stephanie, Andrew, Lisa, Spike and Dale), to “bring sexy back to the salad.” They have 45 minutes to make what Padma calls “the Caesar or Waldorf of the new millennium.” Their time starts … now!
Andrew notes that he’s feeling good while the rest of the cast is still struggling from fatigue post-Wedding Wars. “Everybody’s beat down except for me,” Andrew says. “I’m still crazy. I woke up with a fire in my stomach, like I’m either going to stab somebody or I’m going to make some amazing food.” He starts off with decent food — a thai fruit salad that is neither loved nor hated — and no stabbing.
Sam has positive things to say about Antonia’s poached egg creation and Dale’s poached chicken salad, but hands Spike the win for a pineapple-and-steak salad. Sam’s least favorites are Stephanie, Dale and Lisa, who stacked her “salad” high with lobster and other pricey seafood and still ended up on the bottom. What talent.
The producers decide to keep things healthy for the whole episode (What do we want? Pig fat! When do we want it? Now!), so they cover a table with a typical lunch order from the Chicago police department. There’s the pig fat! And fried … everything. The challenge: make a hearty lunch to replace this buffet of cholesterol, using one grain, one vegetable, one fruit and one lean protein. Finally, box it up and give it to the officers to microwave and eat.
Although no one can score immunity, as the winner of the quickfire, Spike gets 10 extra minutes to shop and the ability to block his competitors from using any ingredients he uses. So he does the mature thing and chooses lettuce, tomatoes, chicken and bread. Not because he has any brilliant ideas for any of this, but just so everyone else can’t have them! Antonia puts it best: “The fact that he’s trying to screw us up instead of focusing on his own dish says a lot about him.” Wow, Spike, that’s mature. Like your hats.
In reality, this probably forces the other chefs to be a little more creative, which, for many of them, pays off. Here are the slimming dishes they conceptualized:
» Spike: An open-faced chicken salad sandwich with grapes and olives, served with sliced lettuce and tomato.
» Andrew: Salmon sushi rolls, with finely diced parsnips and pine nuts instead of rice.
» Dale: Lemongrass lettuce bison wraps.
» Stephanie: Mushroom leek soup with a vegetable puree and meatballs.
» Lisa: Shrimp stir-fry with a spicy pineapple sauce.
» Antonia: Curried fillet mignon with cauliflower and swiss chard, and fruit with concord grape syrup.
» Richard: A tuna, bok choy, lentil and quinoa burrito.
During the cooking, the only event worth mentioning is Lisa’s tantrum. She checks on her brown rice and finds that someone — some miscreant, sabotaging little creep — has turned the flame up to high! They know Lisa is a force to be reckoned with, and the only way to stop her is by putting salt in her sugar bowl, turning up her brown rice, dulling her knives … wait, what? Come off it, Lisa. You probably turned up your own damn rice. You’re a threat to no one and the whining has got to stop.
Other than that, things go as expected. Stephanie’s soup is declared “hearty,” Andrew’s sushi perplexes and Richard greets every cop that walks by with: “Hey there! Do you like … BURITTOS?” The man can cook, but he’s got to tone down on that cheese factor.
First to be called back are Dale and Stephanie — surprise, they are the favorites. Stephanie’s soup was hearty and well-seasoned, and Dale’s choice of bison was brilliant in that it provided the same satisfaction as red meat with half the fat.
Dale is declared the challenge winner and given a bottle of Merlot and a trip for two to Rutherford vineyards in Napa Valley. And then — in a never-before-seen move — the corners of his lips begin to curl and he smiles. So the grumpiness is only when he doesn’t get his way? Oh, I see.
On to the less pleasant, more interesting least-favorites. Lisa, Spike and Andrew are all on the chopping block, and all defend their miserable choices, Lisa even going so far as to bring up the phantom rice ruiner. It’s not until Padma asks the ominous “Does anyone have anything else to say?” that things get pretty ugly.
Lisa picks Andrew up by his coattails and tosses him under the bus by making sure the judges know, just in case they missed it, that Andrew had neglected to use a grain in his dish and thereby did not follow the challenge rules. The moment reeks so severely of an elementary school ratting out that even Tom‘s nose crinkles.
If it were up to me, Lisa would have been asked to leave on grounds of bad sportsmanship, and because she’ the worst ever, but in the end young Andrew is sent packing. And to that I say: Oh Andrew, who will I quote in your absence?
Spike’s “Think I’m Hot and Spicy” Quote of the Week:
“I’m going to make a salad that screams, let’s have sex after we eat this salad.”
Spike’s “I Don’t Like Dale” Quote of the Week:
“Dale is a little bitch.”
Spike’s “I Like Andrew” Quote of the Week:
“Andrew and I are going to be boys forever. I’m 100 percent sure of that.”
Andrew’s Gross Miscalculation of the Week:
“I think I’m going to do some s–t and people are going to be like wow … wow that’s awesome.”
Snarkiest Exchange of the Week:
Padma: Why do you think you’re here?
Lisa: I think you guys like to have me here. You tell me.
Tom: Your shrimp wasn’t cooked.
Andrew’s Explanation of Why Lisa is Whack:
“I didn’t say, ‘Oh, Lisa’s f—ing long beans sucked.'”
The Meanest Thing Ted Allen Has Ever Said:
“I don’t need to factor in the fact that Lisa was sabotaged. There were a number of other mistakes.”
Padma’s “May or May Not Know Anything About Food” Quote of the Week:
“It tastes … strange.”