Monthly Archives: May 2008

Good Finally Triumphed Over Evil

As dawn breaks on Casa de Chef this week, we are privy to hear that Steph again is excited that there are so many women left in the competition at this point. There have never been three women in the Final Four, and she would love to see it happen this year. Antonia is a little less hopeful, simply saying she wants to get it over with so they can get rid of one more person and have the Final Four decided already. As the chefs head out on a field trip, Blaise discusses how he recognizes Allen Brothers meat as a nationally recognized butchery company that’s well-known for its quality meat. They’re greeted by a staff member of the company, and told they have to change into the proper safety uniform since they’ll be cutting meat today. Without mentioning the word Quickfire, this woman tells the chefs that they’ll have 20 minutes to cut dry aged, long bone ribeye. Antonia mentions that this is enough time for an extremely skilled butcher to cut properly, but none of them are skilled butchers. Spike then brings up the fact that both of his grandfathers were butchers, so he must have a strain of butchery in him. I wrote down that two words have never described a man better. It felt funnier at the time, I swear.

In a shock to end shocks, Spike does a phenomenal job with the task, realizing quickly that the best strategy is to cut the dry age off of the meat before cutting the individual chops. He easily beats the rest of them at this part of the challenge. Once they get back to the Top Chef kitchen, Padma introduces them to the guest judge for this round – Rick Tramonto of Tru (another Tru owner!) and Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood. He is one of the most well-known and well-loved chefs of Chicago’s culinary scene. The chefs are given 20 minutes to cook the perfect steak, and Rick mentions that he prefers his steaks cooked to medium rare. Blaise starts bitching about how this challenge blows, and he’s basically right. This isn’t really testing anything but how well you can butcher a steak and cook to medium rare. The latter is a fundamental and essential tenet of a good chef’s skill set; the former, however, is not. I sincerely doubt that most great chefs are spectacular butchers, especially because they don’t need to be – the meat comes to them already cut.

The chefs finish their steaks and Rick goes around to inspect the results. Without even tasting the steaks, he begins to judge their skills with a knife and a stove. Rick and Rich simply don’t like each other, and the bad news noise comes down on Steph, too. Lisa seems like she did a mediocre job, Spike is arrogant as always, and it’s apparent Antonia did a great job. Finally, Padma makes him pick the bad and the good. Steph did the worst job, since she cut hers poorly and undercooked the final tomahawk. Blaise also placed in the bottom since his cutting was inconsistent and also undercooked his steak. Antonia cooked her steak “perfectly,” Lisa did a great job, and Spike did an incredible job with his butchery and grilled his steak well. Spike ultimately wins the challenge, and by doing so, garners himself an advantage in the upcoming challenge. Since he fucked up his advantage last time, I’m not too worried about his chances. Smart thinking on my part…

The Elimination Challenge is now presented by Padma and Rick – the five chefs will create their own menu and cook for Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood. Each will be responsible for an appetizer and an entrée. They can only use what they can find in the kitchen and pantry of Rick’s restaurant that night. Since Spike was the winner of the challenge, he’s allowed to choose his proteins for his app and his entrée first. He then starts to philosophize on how he wants the Final Four to turn into a Battle of the Sexes, with two women pitted against two men. He fully admits that Steph is the best of the women chefs, but he wants Antonia to go home. This is total bullshit, since Antonia has performed far, far better in challenges than Lisa and doesn’t have a black hole of a personality. In twelve Quickfires and twelve Elimination Challenges, Lisa won one challenge. She won an Elimination Challenge for making bacon. Despite Jordan Baker’s obsession with bacon, I think it’s fair to note that Lisa is not a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen.

So once the chefs arrive at Tramonto’s, Spike decides to use tomahawks for his entrée and scallops for his appetizer. All of the chefs immediately notice that the scallops that he chose are frozen, and this will have dire consequences for his chances. However, it will bring me absolute glee for the next thirty minutes, and perhaps for the rest of my life. Steph and Blaise are both working with sweetbreads, which are basically the thymus gland of veal, pork, beef, or lamb. They sound disgusting but actually taste phenomenal when prepared properly. Lisa goes on a whining marathon, and I desperately want her gone, as does the rest of the chefs. Antonia has another classic line after Lisa won’t shut the fuck up about the fire from the oven getting too hot. Antonia adjusts the door so Lisa won’t be as hot, and says, “Just make sure [my food doesn’t] die.” When Lisa, in the typical self-absorption we’ve become used to, asks, “But what if I die?” Antonia doesn’t miss a beat when she taunts, “Then I guess you won’t be going to Puerto Rico!” Set and match.

Meanwhile, Spike is trying to act like the frozen scallops don’t bother him, but he’s clearly screwed for the entire challenge. At this point, I start to wonder why he doesn’t just change his fucking appetizer, but I think he’s a tad stubborn in that respect, so he just sticks to the shitty seafood. Smooth move, Ex-lax. Colicchio is going to expo the food tonight, so he’ll be making sure everything is ready for the tables and sending out the dishes. When he calls Blaise out on his straight-forward food, Blaise takes offense. The editors are working overtime in this episode with Blaise mentioning several times that he simply can’t stomach failure at this point and he refuses to lose before he hits the Final Four. I started to freak out about him going home in this episode, but I think the story arc being constructed is either him coming from behind to win the finale, or ultimately ending up second to Steph, both ideas that suit me quite well.

The judges are sat and the chefs begin to prepare tasting portions of their appetizers. For this challenge, the judges are Padma, Gail, Tramonto, and the winners from the first three seasons – Harold, Ilan, and Hung. That’s a whole lot of douche at one table. If Spike sat down with them, the world might cease to exist. Since Colicchio is expediting, I’m wondering how he’ll be able to judge for the challenge. My question is answered at the end of the challenge when he makes a throwaway comment to the chefs to make him a tasting portion of all of their dishes. The appetizers from all of the chefs are as follows –

Lisa presents grilled and chilled prawns with lemon zest and tomato salad over crostini. The judges like the lemon and the subtlety of the chilled flavors, but Gail says that it would have been far better if she had served the prawns warm. I secretly judge her for calling the prawns shrimp.
Blaise makes himachi with crispy sweetbreads, radish, avocado, and yuzu. The entire table literally swoons over this dish, and Tramonto mentions that he would add the dish to his menu in a heartbeat.
Spike uses his fucking frozen scallops to make a seared scallops dish with hearts of palm and oyster mushrooms. The judges, especially the former winners, dismiss it as bland and uninteresting, with Ilan adding that the scallops taste dehydrated.
Steph creates sweetbreads with golden raisins, pine nuts, fennel, and bacon. Everyone loves the flavor and texture diversity and Gail notes that it has everything that Spike’s dish didn’t have.
Antonia finishes up with a mushroom and artichoke salad with poached egg and bacon vinaigrette. The overall impression is that the dish is mediocre at best.

The entrées are presented next –

Blaise has a beef filet with potato puree, turnips, red wine, and pickled brussels sprouts. Ilan hates it for some reason, but everyone else seems to enjoy it enough.
Lisa turns out a New York strip steak with apple caramel sauce and peanut butter mashed potatoes. Tramonto wants to hate the potatoes, but he enjoys the nuttiness and the texture. Ilan says the beef is underseasoned and Gail points out that the dish is unbalanced overall.
Spike has a tomahawk chop with sweet potato puree, brussels sprouts, and cipollinis. No one likes it, and they consider it to be mediocre and amateurish.
Steph has a beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms and apple sauce. The entire table loves the dish.
Antonia has a bone-in ribeye with fennel and cipollinis, and a shallot and potato gratin. Ilan says that it’s pretty rich and heavy, but Tramonto says it’s his favorite dish so far.

Instead of splitting the five up for the Judges Table, Padma wants to see all of them. They love Blaise’s food, but they mention that his entrée was inconsistent in terms of meat temperature for the table. They adore Steph’s food and practically fawn over her. Gail tells Lisa that she was okay and that her entrée was surprisingly good. The poached egg from Antonia’s salad was cooked perfectly, her steak was great, and her gratin also got a perfect rating from Tramonto. Spike did an alright job, but there are no real compliments. They all hated the scallops, and Tom told him he shouldn’t have used them. Spike takes a shot at Rick for even having them in his kitchen to begin with, but Rick counters with a huge fuck you by saying it’s still Spike’s fault for using them. Should Rick have had shitty seafood in his kitchen? Of course not. But was Spike forced to use them? No, it was the total opposite – he had his pick of anything he wanted. Being the total piece of shit that he is, after attacking Tramonto, he shakes his head and says, “It was an honor” on his way out.

Steph is designated as the best overall menu during deliberation, and Blaise’s appetizer is bestowed the appellation of Best Overall Dish. Antonia had the best steak dish, and everyone loved her gratin. On the other hand, Spike’s courses had issues and he simply didn’t deliver in the most important challenge yet. Lisa has an apathy to her cooking, and Padma tries to sound intelligent by mentioning that she focuses more on flavor and less on technique. Tom declares that good technique is how you make flavor. At this point, I’m calling Steph as the winner and Spike getting sent home. Not only is it what I want, I just see the story arc headed that way. Before we hear the decision, the viewer’s poll asks, “Who was chopped too soon?” Dale wins with 53 percent of the vote, with Jenn slash Optimus Lez getting second and Andrew coming in third. I think it’s blatantly obvious that Dale should still be in the competition, but it is what it is.

Steph wins and makes it into the Final Four. She gets a copy of Tramonto’s newest book and a suite of kitchen appliances – we’re talking stoves, grills, ovens, fridges. Blaise has the best appetizer, so he moves on to the finals, and Antonia has the best steak dish, so she moves on as well. If the final three placings are the same as the order the finalists were advanced in this episode, I would be ecstatic. Steph has four Elimination wins and one Quickfire, whereas Blaise has three each. They seem pretty evenly matched to me. To be honest, as long as Lisa goes out fourth, I couldn’t really care less who wins. I love all three of these kids, and nothing could disappoint me as much as last year, where Casey totally bombed and Dale was robbed by that little shit, Hung.

Tom gets to the bottom two by highlighting the fact that Lisa has been in the bottom five times and Spike was in the bottom seven. BURN! They tell Lisa that the passion is obviously in her but not in her food. She isn’t ferocious with her food, and they hated her shrimp dish (it was prawns, Gail, PRAWNS!). Spike made a huge mistake with using the scallops and he needs to be able to make decisions on the fly and adjust in the kitchen when things go wrong. In addition to that, he has to put everything on his plate for a reason, in order to construct a better dish, not just make things look nice. In the end, Spike goes home. I am literally screaming with joy on my couch at this point, because it’s fairly obvious to anyone who reads this that I fucking hate Spike with every fiber of my being. When the top three find out Spike is going home, they couldn’t really care less since they hate him, too. He interviews that “No one puts me down,” and that’s exactly his problem – he never takes any fucking criticism because he’s so defensive and arrogant.

The final is going to take place in Puerto Rico, and it leads one to believe that someone gets their hand cut off. I sincerely doubt this is actually going to happen, but I’m pretty certain someone’s going to get injured. And the way the story arc and editing have been shaping up and the promo for the finale is framed, I think it’s going to be Blaise.


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Writing the New Chapter

Yesterday, at 9 in the morning, I registered for classes.  For the first time in years, I got up early, turned on my computer, downloaded some bullshit program, and signed myself up for courses on the way to achieving a degree.  And it felt amazing.

Ten weeks from yesterday, I move into my building in Nashville and start the two year journey that will be obtaining my Masters in Education.  I’ll be working with college students, with other people in my cohort, and with some professors who are national leaders in their field.  I’ll eat, sleep, breathe, and live collegiate education and every random aspect of it, from Res Life to Student Activities to mental health issues.  My new Bible is already Binge, a book by Barrett Seaman about every possible facet of the modern college experience, from drugs to sex to athletes to the drama of a coeducational living experience.  I read it a few years ago and it’s still one of the best books I’ve ever read.  As an English and History double major, that’s saying a lot.  I will be up to my ears in admissions, Greek Life, affirmative action, and LGBT issues.  In short, I’ll be learning everything I’ll need to shape the next few decades of American higher education.

I can’t wait.

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Top Chef’s Bullshit Elimination

Unlike usual episodes that start with footage of the chefs waking up in Casa de Chef, this one shows Tom Colicchio waking them up at the ass crack of dawn – quarter to six, to be precise. Turns out that he’s going to be involved with the Quickfire Challenge this week, and tells them they’ll be on the line at a breakfast hot spot in Chicago. Antonia and Steph both interview that they’ve made it this far, and they want to make it to the Final Four. Steph adds that she wants to ultimately win the competition, but that Final Four is her fundamental goal.

Once the chefs get to Lou Mitchell’s, a classic Chicago breakfast spot, Tom introduces them to Helene. She’s the owner of the restaurant and will be the guest judge for this Quickfire; she seems like a total ball breaker. Staying true to her form, she has a permanent look of disgust and disbelief as she watches all six contenders try their turns at the egg station of her rather busy restaurant. Despite her permafrown throughout the entire competition, she claims that she was thoroughly impressed with everyone’s skills. This is, of course, after Lisa burned through a styrofoam to-go container. Helene had it down to Antonia and Dale, and ended up deciding on Antonia as the winner. At this point, the editors made it seem as if this decision would determine the fate of Dale in the game. Turns out, it actually did. Shortly afterward, Tom told the crowd that he would have to attend a charity event and wouldn’t be involved in the Elimination Challenge. He then gave them an address to meet Padma and they performed their required product placement as they used their GPS phones to track down the place.

A massive place full of hardwood floors and exposed brick walls follows with Padma standing in the middle. As we soon find out, she was just fucking with us when she said there would be no Restaurant Wars this season. Since Antonia won the Quickfire Challenge, she gets to pick her team, and immediately chooses Steph and Blaise. Team Faves takes on Team fucks, or Lisa, Spike, and Dale, in what essentially comes down to a rematch of Wedding Wars minus Nikki and Andrew…for now. Each team will cook for 35 diners a piece and have $1500 for food and $5000 for decor at Pier 1, which is disgusting.

Each team gets to planning and Spike decided to take Front of the House for Team Fucks so he can avoid making any food and coast through until the next round. Steph takes Front for Team Faves and still manages to make several dishes because she’s perfect. Her team decided to call their restaurant Warehouse Kitchen with a “gastro pub” feel; basically, they’re cooking haute cuisine in a laid-back and casual atmosphere. Antonia will be executive chef, Blaise will be chef de cuisine, and Steph will, redundantly, be front of the house. On Team Fucks, which will naturally be reiterating an Asian menu, will have Dale as executive chef, Lisa as chef de cuisine, and Spike as front of the house. Antonia interview at this point that Dale uses Asian for every single dish he creates, which is a valid criticism, much like Nikki used Italian for every single dish she ever used. Yet again, Antonia is saying what I’m typing, and I love her more with every episode.

At this point, Anthony Bourdain walks in. Yes, the complete asshat who takes himself far too seriously and most likely considers himself to be Jesus in a kitchen is Tom’s replacement for the episode.  The man who got rid of CJ last season after calling his broccolini “inedible” since he was forced to cook with an airplane’s oven is back.  He begins to make his rounds through the kitchen as Tom would, and another douchetastic moment emerges from Spike.  In his usual manner of sucking up as much as possible until he can no longer gleam any kind of merit from the person, Spike announces that he has the outmost respect for Bourdain.  Not utmost, mind you, but outmost.  Thanks for proving to the entire world that you’re a fucking moron, Spike.  Duly noted.  Bourdain tells Team Faves that he likes what they’re doing, but reminds Team Fucks that he knows Asian cuisine well, especially laksa, so they better get everything right.  Most.  Obvious.  Foreshadowing.  Ever.

He then tells the chefs that with three hours left to prepare their restaurants and menus, they will have an extra set of hands around to help out.  He brings out Andrew, Nikki, Mark, and Queen Elezabeth for the teams’ selections.  Team Fucks choose Optimus Lez, which she totally didn’t deserve, and Team Faves picked Nikki so that they can have her make their pasta for their first course.

Over on Team Fucks, Dale is in a pissy mood because his avocado mousse had a rotten avocado, so the color has turned an odd brown hue, and it doesn’t help that Lisa is screaming at everyone about her rice getting fucked up.  She then actually says that Dale’s poor attitude is bringing her down and making her negative, which is obviously bullshit.  I’m sorry, but it’s the eleventh episode at this point, and she’s still so oblivious as to think that it’s Dale’s fault that she’s a fucking pill to be around.  Grow up, loser.  On the other side of the spectrum, Antonia interviews that they need to work together to make sure every dish is working well, since they’ll be judged together.  Funny how team work can work so harmoniously on one side and so disastrously on another.

At this point, Team Fucks basically goes to shit and fights for the rest of the episode.  Lisa starts another fight about the mango sticky rice and how it’s not turning out right, but I’m pretty sure that there’s footage earlier in the episode of them grabbing rice pudding since they couldn’t find sticky rice at Whole Foods.  Maybe that’s just my own exhaustion, but I’m pretty sure that would fuck up your entire consistency and flavor.

The guest judge for this round is José Andrés, who is largely to blame for bringing tapas to DC with his restaurant Jaleo.  Thanks for that, you worthless piece of shit.  Team Faves’ menu is as follows –

Team Faves (“Warehouse Kitchen”):

First Course
Dish #1 – beet salad with goat cheese and ras el hanout spices
Dish #2 – linguine & clams with sausage and horseradish crème fraîche

Second Course
Dish #1 – trout with cauliflower puree and caramelized cauliflower
Dish #2 – lamb loin and braised lamb shank

Third Course
Dish #1 – gorgonzola cheesecake with sweet potato puree and Concord grape sauce
Dish #2 – banana scallops with banana guacamole and chocolate ice cream

As if anyone would ever doubt, the judges are blown away with pretty much every dish.  In even more predictability, they hate the menu that Team Fucks prepared, which is as follows.

Team Fucks (“Mai Buddha”):

First Course
Dish #1 – spicy coconut shrimp laksa
Dish #2 – pork and pickled plum potstickers

Second Course
Dish #1 – braised short ribs with pickled red cabbage and apple basil salad
DIsh #2 – butterscotch miso scallops, spicy eggplant, and pickled long beans

Third Course
Dish #1 – halo-halo with cantaloupe, coconut, kiwi, avocado, and candied nuts
Dish #2 – mango sticky rice with toasted coconut

Not only do the judges hate pretty much every single dish, but Bourdain and Ted immediately start to rip apart the decor as soon as they’re sat down, right in front of Spike.  Priceless, mother fuckers, priceless.  Bourdain hates all of it, but especially the mango sticky rice, which he calls “baby vomit with wood chips.”

In the most obvious conclusion ever, Team Faves won, and Steph gets the technical win with an incredible trip of four days and nights to Barcelona.  Team Fucks loses and a gong is smashed with Asian-centric music played as they walk to the Judges Table.  Well played, editors.  Spike lies to the judges about who picked the decor, all three of them throw each other under the bus, and it’s basically down to Lisa and Dale for who would be eliminated.  Here’s where the bullshit comes in.  Despite Lisa constantly being in the bottom of the chefs and getting so close to elimination so many times, the judges choose Dale.  The guy who saved their asses in Wedding Wars and made some decent slash mediocre food this time is sent packing when the girl who is a walking Debbie Downer and didn’t create a single edible dish in the challenge is spared.  I know I go back and forth on whether or not I like Dale as a person, but it’s complete and utter bullshit that she wasn’t sent home in this situation.  You can’t fault a leader for not leading when your team is hell-bent on fucking everything up and then selling you out at the end.  Lisa sucks so much, in fact, that Blaise and Steph are visibly shocked when they found out that he was asked to pack his knives.  Even the good chefs in the season know that he’s better than Spike and Lisa.  I hate for Dale to leave on a challenge like this, but at least he never has to work with those fucktards again.

My redeeming quality of next week?  Looks like everyone fucking hates Lisa and she implodes during the Elimination Challenge.

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I Live on the Edge!

My sheer joy and ecstasy at seeing that raging freak Andrew pack his knives and go this week was completely tampered by the fact that now I know Spike will make it to the end. Since Jordan Baker decided to gift me with spoilers and tell me that the girl with curly hair and boy with a beard make it far in the game, she convinced me that it would be Steph and Andrew at the end. Since Andrew went home last night, that means I have to stomach another five or so episodes of that douche Spike. To be honest, “douche” isn’t a strong enough word, and cunt has a misogynistic tone to it. What can I use to easily convey how much I hate every fiber of Spike? Even “fucktard” doesn’t truly get across how much I can’t stand to see him or hear his voice. I guess we’ll have to work on that.

As always, Casa de Chef opens the episode, and this time we have five chefs commenting on life and the game. Guess we’ll know who to expect at the Judges Table. Steph is talking about Nikki going home and the competition getting harder and Blaise basically reiterates the same notion. Spike immediately whines about Dale being a bitch, when, in reality, it is Spike who owns that crown whole-heartedly. Not to steal from Jordan, but there are only so many ways to say “Pot, meet kettle. Guess what color you share?” Dale then interviews about how everyone is bitching about him and he couldn’t care less. Finally, Andrew is his usual attention whore self and discusses the freaking out of all of the chefs. He then gifts us with the wonderful information of the fact that he’ll either stab someone or make some food. Great to know! Glad to know those are your only options, bud.

Quickfire Challenge has Sam from Season 2 as the guest judge. Did they run out of talent? Seriously, the point of this show is creating competition between talenting chefs and spreading haute cuisine to America, especially by introducing different judges from several culinary backgrounds. So you had to mine the depths of your own show to get a judge? Half-assed. I’m calling you out on your bullshit, Top Chef. Make it better next week. And I know a lot of girls get wet when Sam walks on screen, but he’s really not that attractive. His face is busted, and he’s pretty much a douche, he’s just not as obvious about as Spike, Andrew, Marcel, Ilan, et cetera. Moving on from my rampant bitterness, the Quickfire in this episode is to bring the sexy back to salad. Padma, while the chefs spend forty five minutes making a salad, I want you to spend that time desperately searching for more up to date catch phrases and cultural references.

What Sam sees when he looks in the mirror. Right next to what we see, douchey hair and all.

The only thing of note from the challenge is that Lisa whines in an interview about how there are certain people left in the competition who don’t deserve to be there and have personalities that suck. Seriously. Is it possible for one person to be that oblivious?  You are easily one of the least likable contestants in the history of the show, which you’ll prove later in the episode, and you’ve been in the bottom heap several times this season. Get back to your disgusting salad of bananas and lobsters and leave the real commenting to the professionals.

The final dishes that everyone produces as their version of a sexy salad are as follows –

Andrew – A fruit salad of strawberries, raspberries, mangoes and Sriracha. Sounds nauseating.
Spike – Calling it a “Sensual Beef Salad,” Spike douchily mixes skirt steak with cucumbers, radishes, and pineapple.
Lisa – Just because you call it sexy doesn’t mean it’s not disgusting. Grilled squid, bananas, lobster, and a yuzu vinaigrette made me want to vomit from my couch without so much as smelling the dish.
Steph – Fall Duet of artichokes and poached pears with a pear vinaigrette, but couldn’t get her artichoke chips on the plate in time.
Antonia – Poached eggs with wild mushrooms over squash blossoms and a bacon vinaigrette. That actually sounds really good, to be honest.
Blaise – Makes an Outkast shout out with his Fresh and Clean seviche of fruits and vegetables.
Dale – Sticking to his Asian roots as always, Dale goes with a Poached Chicken salad with sake, nori paste, mirin, and a rice wine vinaigrette. Wouldn’t one think that using a rice wine vinaigrette with sake be a tad redundant?

Sam, for some ungodly reason, gets to pick the winners and losers. Being the salad expert that he is, he chooses Blaise, Steph, and Lisa for the bottom three, and Dale, Antonia, and Spike for the top three. Because Jesus hates me, Spike is declared the winner for the first time, and since he doesn’t get immunity, Padma informs him he’ll get an advantage in the Elimination Challenge. He gloats like the douchebucket he is and Sam loses all credibility to the world of haute cuisine.

Padma explains that the Challenge will be to make a box lunch for the cadets at the Chicago Police Academy and that the dishes have to be nutritious for the cops. Every dish has to have a whole grain, a lean protein, a fruit, and a vegetable. Spike’s advantage gives him 10 extra minutes to shop before everyone else. In addition, the four ingredients he chooses from the list will be barred from everyone else’s dishes. Because Spike is Spike and sucks at life, he chooses this as an opportunity not to help himself, but to fuck everyone else over. The other chefs expect this and react accordingly – choosing better ingredients and commenting on how low brow Spike and his ingredients are. Seriously, if you think people can’t make lunch without chicken, lettuce, tomato, or bread, then you’re fucking retarded. Next time you head to Whole Foods, try to buy some imagination or creativity. Or at least a new personality.

The chefs get back to the kitchen and have two hours to cook, pack, and move out to the academy. Turns out that their dish will be microwaved by the fuzz. So there’s that. Cooking ensues, and Antonia calls Dale out on going Asian for 57th time. Yet again, she wins major points; she’s sharp and hilarious, and I feel a crush developing. Lisa complains that her shrimp are high in cholesterol so she might technically be breaking the rules. I don’t think it’s the rules she needs to worry about – her food really sucks. At this point, Lisa goes apeshit and screams “THIS IS SABOTAGE!!!” The burner on the stove where her rice was cooking has been turned to high, so some of her rice is burned and some of it is undercooked. Steph notes that it was probably just a simple mistake and Dale agrees that Lisa is most likely just covering her own ass.

Moving to the academy, the editors want to highlight how hardcore the Popo are by showing push ups and playing hardcore music. Antonia cracks another joke about not being intimidated because they’re normal people and she has no outstanding parking tickets, thus solidifying herself in third place of my favorites and giving Blaise some tough competition for the number two spot. The chefs start to take out their boxes, and while Blaise markets his meal, Spike whines about how he thinks Rich sucks. Odd how Spike can whine about someone doing something and make it into a defect, but when he does the same thing, it’s genius. He then goes on to only put two plates on his table to make his dish seem more popular than it really was, but doesn’t really go to any effort to hide the dozens he has behind him.

Final dishes for the Thin the Bacon Challenge

Steph made a mushroom and meatball soup with barley, vegetable puree, and yogurt. The meat is a mystery, but the soup is wildly popular and the judges comment on how well seasoned it is.
Spike makes a chicken salad with grapes and olives, and on the side is a pita and raw vegetables. Ted and Tom whine about how bland and lacking the dish is, and Sam points out that he “used,” and I utilize that word loosely, the ingredients just to block the other chefs. Padma calls the food “pedestrian,” which I will now be exploiting to insult and harass those I deem unworthy.
Dale makes a lemongrass bison lettuce wrap with brown rice and herb salad. The judges love it and say the texture and flavor are great. They think it could use some heat, and I don’t know if that means it could use another minute in the microwave, or that they would prefer a spicier bison. Either way, I would love this dish, and can’t get over how much I enjoy bison.
Antonia turns filet mignon into a curry beef with jasmine rice and a side of berries and figs with grape syrup. The judges love the beef.
Andrew makes a salmon sushi roll with parsnip slash pine nut “rice” and pickled ginger wasabi. Ted is clearly uncomfortable at Andrew’s table and obviously can’t stand talking to him. I love Ted more as a result of this. Nameless cop says “This is good, just messy.” The judges find it strange.
Blaise created a grilled tuna burrito with lentils and quinoa in a rice paper burrito. Apparently it tastes better than it looks.
Finally, that scaly sea hag Lisa offers up a shrimp stir-fry with brown rice, berries, and Greek yogurt. She’s nervous about the rice, and sure enough, Padma brings her to Front Street with the shitty rice. The judges say it’s spicy, but okay. Per my notes, there is no mention of badly cooked shrimp.

Right before we head to Judges Table, Andrew realizes that he broke the rules by not using a grain. Shock of shocks, guess who ends up in the bottom? Dale and Steph are top two, and Dale wins for his bison lettuce wrap, which I would most likely inhale if given the chance. The bottom three are Dale, Lisa, and Spike, which makes my heart explode with euphoria. My dreams have come true and the three worst contestants are in the bottom. Can’t go wrong with these choices. Andrew’s sushi dish wasn’t hearty enough for a Donut Whore’s lunch. They verbally bitchsmack him over the fact that his food just wasn’t filling. Spike gets slammed for taking the sabotage route with his advantage ingredients and Spike douchily whines that his food is meant for the common people and can’t be appreciated by the more educated palates of the judges. So….basically you just called yourself out on consistently making shitty food that only an ignorant and untrained person would find to be adequate. Great play, Shakespeare. Tom tells him it sucks, Spike responds with the ever classy, “In your opinion,” and Tom obliterates him with “Unfortunately for you, my opinion’s what matters.” Best. Top. Chef. Moment. Ever.

Lisa is pissy before they even start to grill her and refuses to offer a reason why she would be in the bottom three. She pulls the sabotage card out about the rice, and Tom sympathizes, but points out that her shrimp still sucked, which they never commented on at the tasting. Not that I mind, though, because she could stand to be knocked down a few pegs. At this point, just before the bottom three leave for deliberation, the poo hits the fan. Lisa throws Andrew under the bus and notes that he didn’t even follow the rules about the Core Four since he didn’t use a whole grain. Understandably, Andrew doesn’t respond too well to this.

Sam discusses some more about how he hates Spike, which redeems him a tad in my mind. The judges talk about how they hated Lisa’s food, but Andrew did technically break the rules. This entire time, the editors have interspersed an argument in the pantry between Andrew and Lisa. I hate to admit it, but Andrew is right – own up to your own dish and leave everyone else out of it. Don’t throw other people under the bus and don’t make excuses for mediocre food. A real chef would take responsibility for their mistakes.

Andrew is finally told to pack his knives and go, which should have happened weeks ago, and I actually yelled out of glee. Andrew interviews that he represented himself well on the show and that he won’t talk to anyone ever again…”except for Spike, Spike’s mad cool.” At this point, I wrote “Do the world a favor and kill yourself before you get a chance to breed. You are the definition of a tool, and if I ever met you in person, I’d punch you in the face.”

Next week – THE HOLE! Nameless and ethnically ambiguous woman tells the chefs they’re in the hole, which is presumably a restaurant’s line. Line cook = horrendous job. Then Padma tells them that Restaurant Wars are back on, which is technically cheating. Screaming ensues, and I’m guessing from the preview that it’s Dale/Spike/Lisa versus Antonia/Steph/Blaise. Basically, crap versus perfection.


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Because I’m Better

I’ve seen far too many mediocre movies in my life. I’m not exactly complaining, especially since I have been known to actively seek out what I like to call “awesomely bad” films. However, after the recent string of movies I’ve gone to see, including but not limited to Baby Mama, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Forbidden Kingdom, Smart People, and Made of Honor, I can’t help but feel like something is missing in the landscape of Hollywood. You can be a douchebag if you want and judge me for it, but I paid money to see those movies, and I barely enjoyed most of them. All five of them were forgettable, most had major flaws, but entertained me, for the most part, for the 90 minutes I sat in the theater. So I got to thinking. As a person who’s easily read a thousand books and seen two thousand movies, why shouldn’t I give it a shot? Lord knows I can construct a story and appreciate the in’s and out’s of building a plot. My film repertoire and my academic prowess of the novel should assure me a modicum of ability to one-up so many of these forgettable films Hollywood churns out year after year.

So I bought a book today on screenplays. I’m going to write a screenplay this summer. I’ve been throwing the idea around in my head for the past two years, and I’d love to try it out. I’m not dead set on finishing it this summer, but since I have no real commitments in life short of surviving until August so that I can start grad school, I can’t think of a better time. I’ll write when I can, and it might take a toll on my blog, but we’ll see what happens when it happens. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the fact that the sun is finally back in the District.


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“Why Are You Still Here?” = Top Chef Gold

In one of the best episodes I’ve ever seen of anything from reality TV, Top Chef totally delivered a classic episode last night with the glory that was Wedding Wars. Instead of repeating the disaster of Restaurant Wars again, they pulled a page from Season One’s play book and opted for Wedding Wars. And thank God they did. I’ve never seen better character development, fights, bullshit drama, or enjoyed the one-liners as much. Here’s our weekly recap of the shenanigans in Chicago (Chi-nanigans?).

Like it always does, Casa de Chef began the episode, and we had to deal with the Top Chef formula of putting four people in front of you. If you actually pay attention every week, one of the four they present ends up going home. This week, Andrew and Spike started douching out over the fact that Mark had left, and Antonia noted the fact that there are eight people left, and for the first time ever, four of them are women. Unfortunately, Lisa and Nikki are the shitty female contestants, and sure enough, Nikki interviews next about how you have to be a fighter to stay in the game. Ironic, considering later events. This was the first part of the show where I was convinced that she was going home.

The cheftestants walk into the Top Chef kitchen and immediately notice that there isn’t a guest judge for Quickfire Challenge. Tom is with Padma, and the latter quickly tells the chefs that they’ve reached the halfway point, so winning the Quickfire doesn’t grant immunity to the contestant. The eight are split into two teams (Spoon and Fork) and they consist of Blaise/Steph/Antonia/Andrew versus Dale/Spike/Lisa/Nikki. From now on, they’ll be referred to as Team Awesome and Team Douche, respectively. To be honest, I’d switch out Andrew for Dale and have a team of my favorites of the season versus the people I’ve hated the most. Regardless, Padma explains that the Quickfire will be a relay race involving mostly knife skills, as the teams make their way through oranges, artichokes, monkfish, and making mayonnaise from scratch. Nikki freaks out about making mayonnaise since she hasn’t done it by hand since culinary school, and Dale is already pissed. I love Dale more and more with every episode, but he sealed the deal this time. When Nikki whines about the mayo, he asked the camera, “Why are you still here?” We were all wondering the same thing, bud. Team Douche has an early lead but Spike loses it entirely on the artichokes, and by the end, Team Awesome is declared the winner. They get an advantage in the Elimination Challenge, which turns out to be not that big of a bonus (I thought they’d get extra money at the store or something). Dale throws a mini-temper tantrum, as he screams “FUCK!” and punches a dent into a locker. The rest of the chefs judge him for his outburst, but to be perfectly honest, I can’t imagine holding in my anger if I had Spike, Lisa, and Nikki as my teammates.

Padma and Tom explain the Challenge once two people join them in the kitchen. Corey and JP walk in, and it’s revealed that they’re getting married the next day. Rather than do Restaurant Wars this season, the judges slash producers decided that they should do Wedding Wars instead. The chefs freak out, especially since a lot of them have no real catering experience to speak of and they have less than a day to prepare. Padma announces that each team will have $5,000 to create dishes for 125 people each, as one team will create a spread for the bride and the other for the groom. Since Team Awesome won the Quickfire, they get to choose which they would like, and Blaise picks the bride. Strangely enough, he doesn’t really seem to consult with his team, but he gets praised for the decision later on. Andrew decides to seriously disturb the viewers by declaring he has a culinary boner and can’t wait to cook for fourteen hours straight. Steph redeems Team Awesome by saying that no one likes to do wedding cakes since they’re a “big ol’ pain in the ass.” I’m not sure if the show noted or I noted that everyone on Awesome has won an Elimination Challenge at least once, but it’s definitely something worth acknowledging. To solidify my love of Awesome and the classic one-liners of this episode, Antonia rips on Andrew, who suggests a chicken nugget for their menu. She knows that you can’t use a crunchy chicken in a catering job since it never comes out perfect, but blows him off for the most part.

The teams shop at Restaurant Depot and Whole Foods and split into pairs for each task. The only two things of merit that come out of this are that Nikki’s team, which she will be “leading,” knows she gets flustered and can’t handle collaborative thought. On Blaise’s team, however, he says, “I watch a little Martha Stewart, I wear pink shoes, I can pick out our flowers.” Perfect.

So they show up to the Top Chef kitchen with 14 hours to cook for 125 people. Team Awesome is working excellently together and communicating well. Team Douche is falling apart because Nikki is refusing to lead, and Dale is taking on far too many tasks because his team is slacking off. Lisa is watching Dale and waiting for him to fuck something up because she’s obnoxious and bitter. This team is actually pretty difficult to watch because it brings the term “dysfunctional” to a whole new level. Spike decides to steal the sea bass from Dale so he can claim a dish at the end of the day, and Nikki prefers to talk shit about her teammates and whine instead of actually controlling the team.

Near the end, Colicchio visits the judges, and the best part of it is that he calls Lisa cake out on being hideous. To be honest, when I saw it, I instantly thought of Mussolini’s Typewriter. Does anyone else remember that and slash or think of it as soon as they see that monstrosity of a groom’s cake? Every time they showed her cake, I wanted to weep for the couple that was about to eat the food Team Douche had prepared.

At the commercial break, this week’s text message poll is introduced, and it asks the audience which chef is most annoying – Lisa, Dale, or Spike? I would say Spike should win hands down, with Lisa, Nikki, and Andrew rounding out the top four. Dale shouldn’t even be a contender. Unfortunately, he wins FORTY SIX percent of the vote and Spike only lands fifteen. Fifteen fucking points. Who did all the voting, Spike?!

Meanwhile, the show is back and they’re up to the wedding. My notes say, “JP’s mom looks like a drag queen. How embarrassing for her.” The judges for this round are introduced – Tom, Padma, Gail Simmons from Food + Wine, and Gale Gand, the owner of Tru in Chicago and most likely the best pastry chef in the entire city. She seems quite nice, and lacks the brutal honesty and disdain that a lot of guest judges usually hold in excessive quantities. More shots of the wedding, and now my notes say, “In other news, clapping at weddings is tacky. Discuss.”

Both teams send out their appetizers first, and Team Awesome has short ribs in bleu (I was raised the French way and refuse to write blue) cheese and almonds that are wrapped in phyllo bread, pulled pork sandwich with a handmade pickle, and pizza with prosciutto, goat cheese, herbs, and parmesan. They go over quite well. Team Douche serves sausage pizza with flatbread and bruschetta. The guests and judges hate the crostinis Douche used because they’re too crunchy.

Everyone heads into the full reception for the dinner food, and the bride has changed into a new dress. What bride has two wedding gowns? Seriously, woman, what the fuck were you thinking? I could understand a different dress that allowed for more movement on the dance floor and was less formal, but not a second gown. Corey and JP are really starting to bother me.

Antonia tells us that “Andrew is not allowed to talk to the guests. Seriously!” Team Awesome is not only talented and hilarious, but they’re smart. Good call on keeping the culinary boner in the back of the house. On the other team, Dale is in the kitchen and cooking everything for his team, which basically puts him in the weeds for the entire wedding.

Team Awesome is serving the following dishes for the Bride’s Spread:
– creamed spinach with star anise
– filet mignon with horseradish sauce and red wine syrup. Sounds incredible.
– braised beef brisket.
– potato gratin.
– almond and basil crusted chicken breast.

The judges love the brisket and the filet, but hate Andrew’s chicken. They call him out on using the same dish in the Kids Can Cook challenge, and he made it better then. They also complain about how crispy chicken can’t be catered because you can’t keep it crispy. Sounds familiar.

Team Douche is serving the following dishes for the Groom’s Spread:
– mixed vegetables with cheeses.
– butternut squash tortellini with brown butter and sage.
– Chilean sea bass with artichokes, capers, olives, and tomatoes.
– pork and beef ragù with orecchiette. I am immediately impressed that Padma actually pronounced it right, which just goes to show how low I set her bar.
– filet mignon with horseradish cream and herb roasted fingerling potatoes.

The judges hate Nikki’s tortellini but love the ragù that Dale made for his orecchiette. The mixed vegetables are a nadir for the table and the spread itself is dismissed as uninspired and unoriginal. As for the cakes, Steph made the Bridal Cake as five layers of dark chocolate and lemon with white fondant and fresh flowers. Lisa, of course, made a German chocolate cake with hazelnut. Or transformed Mussolini’s Typewriter into an edible, poop-colored edifice. My notes still think Nikki is going home.

The Bride’s Team is called to the Judges Table and they are almost universally praised. The only problem the judges had were the spinach and Andrew’s chicken. Blaise is given the win, but he wants to give it to Steph for her amazing job on the cake. They decide to split the $2,000 prize at Crate and Barrel. For a second, I wanted to write Cracker Barrel, which would basically assure them free breakfast for life on any road trip. Mmmm….spiced apples….

Gale Gand does her best “possessed Ina Garter” impression.

I can’t tell at this point if I’m happier that Team Awesome won or Team Douche lost. Nikki starts off great by throwing the team under the bus and saying she was never the leader. She just happened to know the most about Italian cuisine, so she gave advice, but she definitely did not lead. Which, to be honest, I can attest to – she was a total trainwreck and had no right whatsoever to claim she led much of anything. Tom calls Lisa out on having such an ugly cake, but admits it tasted pretty good in the end. Dale has a meltdown over doing so much work for such shitty people, and Spike goes into new douche territory by calling him a bitch in front of the judges. Nikki is chastised for not stepping up when she was the expert in this food genre, Spike is criticized for not executing his dishes well, and Dale is yelled at for doing so many things and spreading himself so thin that he couldn’t create great dishes. However, it’s quite apparent that the judges realize Dale was being shit on by his teammates and just tried to make it through the challenge.

FINALLY, after weeks of agonizing clichés, whining, and that obnoxious nasal voice, Nikki gets sent packing. I am ecstatic at this news, and simply can’t wait for Lisa and Spike to follow suit.

In next week’s episode, we get to look forward to Antonia ripping Spike apart, Lisa being an insanely bitter and cynical bitch who goes apeshit once she convinces herself that someone “sabotaged” her. Spike screams at Colicchio about how his opinion doesn’t really matter, and Andrew generally creeps everyone out.

So, basically, it’s just like every other episode up to this point.


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Best. Birthday. Ever.

So my birthday is today.  I always get a little uncomfortable on my birthday because I feel like it’s supposed to be a huge day, but every year it pretty much turns into a reenactment of Sixteen Candles.  For some reason, I’ll get the occasional text or Facebook wall post, but no one really wants to go out or do anything.  It didn’t help that my birthday fell in the middle of finals every year in college, so no one could really make it out to bars to celebrate.  Try having your 21st when everyone is pulling all nighters and writing papers.  I’ve never had a birthday party or been surprised by much of anything.  That is, except for last year.

Not to dwell or anything, but I was randomly visiting school.  It was some sort of super weekend, with my birthday on Saturday, the last day of classes on Friday, and an internationally renowned figure in the area.  Basically, the stars had aligned for massive amounts of drinking to occur.  Naturally, I was hanging out with my best friend and my brothers for three or four days.  To be honest, it was one of the best weekends ever.  The Saturday after classes ended was most likely the best time ever to hold Cinco de Mayo, as it was usually during finals, and the entire campus was celebrating.

A group of us went out to a Mexican restaurant (cliché, I know), and I had a few 32 ounce margaritas.  My little brother and his girlfriend brought me to the grocery store to grab a few cases for that night.  I was used to doing beer runs after taking care of this kid for a few years, so it wasn’t any big deal to me.  He and I bought a few cases for that night’s festivities and took the beer out to the car, but she was lagging behind a bit.  I asked him what was up, and he said she just needed to pick up some food for her apartment off campus.  I didn’t think anything of it and took it as an excuse to drink another beer while we waited for her.

We got back to the house and I was milling about, making the rounds through several brothers and friends who were out drinking on the perfect Saturday.  It was a pretty full house and we were all coasting into intoxicated territory, so spirits were pretty high.  Eventually, I made it up to my little brother’s room, and was drinking with friends out in the hall.  He threw on some Amy Winehouse, since I was the one who introduced her to the frat, and I ran inside to show my excitement.  My little bro being awesome, he knew that playing the song would get me into his room, and he and his girlfriend had a cake waiting for me.  “Happy 38th Birthday! We Love You!” was scrawled across the top in dark green frosting.* It was literally the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me on my birthday.  They had even amassed my favorite brothers in the room to surprise me.  I had never really felt so appreciated until that moment.

Call me lame, but I often look back on that moment with fondness.  I only hope that today can come close to that moment.  Here’s to another great year, and a year of huge change.  I can’t wait to get started.**

*There’s a long running joke that I’m the oldest person in our fraternity because of the extreme difference in age between myself and my little brother (three years), and it continues to this day, with a Facebook post this morning congratulating me on reaching 47 years safely.
**Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

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