Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Top Chef Quickie - Episode 4 - It's a Dry Heat

The last thing I wanted to do was get behind on Top Chef posts, but the universe conspired against me.... And continues to do so, because this Thursday I'll be going on a writing retreat and won't have access to a television! So my posts for episodes 4, 5, and 6 are all destined to be Top Chef "quickies," I'm afraid, which essentially means a lot of stream-of-consciousness thoughts as I watch.

For this episode, the chefs traveled to Palm Springs. I loved the Quickfire challenge, which was to create a dish on a solar-powered oven or stove. Whether you got the oven or stove depended on your knife draw. I love the alien look of wind farms and we chose an electric company that is 100% wind and solar power, so how could I not like this?

I felt sorry for Giselle when her oven exploded. As someone who once killed a hot Pyrex dish with cold water, I can sympathize. I was happy for Wesley's win. I'm a sucker for any chef who expresses a little humility and seems genuine in saying they simply want to do their best, as opposed to slipping through because someone else has done badly.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs became two teams, blue and orange, based on whether they'd gotten stoves or ovens in the Quickfire. Their task was to create a four-course progression to be served from refreshment carts on one of Palm Springs' many golf courses. There was only one bit of drama, when Giselle and Angelina, both on the orange team, indicated they didn't want to work together on a dish. The others were slow to concede, but they finally let them pair up with other chefs. In my mind, that was the right call, because if you know going in that one of your pairs won't work well together, you're asking for a dish to tank. On the other hand, maybe it's deviously smart to put two weaker (based on record so far), sniping chefs together, because if they do tank their dish, you'll probably be safe from elimination even if your team loses because one of them will probably go home. Me, I much prefer the "let's be the best team we can be" approach as opposed to the "how to play it safe" mode.

And ironically, it turned out that Angelina's new pairing tanked. With guess who .... Grayson.

Although Grayson generally hasn't made a very good impression on me, and failed to do so again tonight, I will say one thing -- I thought that as she went up to shake the judges' hands and say goodbye, Tom really didn't need to get one last dig in. They judges had already told the pair that the decision about who was home would come down to one ingredient. In other words, Grayson's corn or Angelina's shrimp. So when Grayson was sent home, she knew it was because of the corn. Tom did not need to say it again. I imagine he felt compelled because she's shown that she doesn't listen well, but that wasn't the time.

That said, I'm not going to miss Grayson. She tries to pretend, but she has not learned how to accept criticism in a graceful, mature manner. This is something I have some experience with; several years ago, I went to Clarion West, a six-week science fiction and fantasy writing workshop in which we did nothing for six weeks but criticize each other's work. You don't argue with the critiques and insist you're right, even if you think so privately. And you should probably realize that usually there is something valid in the criticism, especially if the critiquers (or in this case judges) agree with each other -- it's not just a fluke in that case!

I was happy for Karen and Jeremy, who nailed their ceviche dish. It was unfortunate for Kwame and Chad that the first course was a head-to-head "battle of the ceviches," because theirs didn't look bad, but suffered by comparison and lack of ice. To be honest, I'm surprised they didn't think of the "ice solution" too -- it's not rocket science. Jeremy took home the big win. The judges said it was for his perfect fish, but I think it was just as much the ice. More power to him.

Favorite quote of the episode: when Padme said of Phillip's oysters, "It was like snot on a rock." I don't like to see people made the target of snark, but Phillip (whom I can't help thinking of as Marcel) really made a bad decision there. I wasn't even thinking of how unappetizing the oysters might be under those circumstances; I was worried his dish would be full of grit from the rocks!

Biggest annoyance of the episode: why weren't the chefs given hats during the Quickfire? That was incredibly irresponsible of the show, and they could have used it to their advantage -- put Top Chef caps on all of them, and you've got free merchandise branding and promotion.

Dish I most wanted to taste: Isaac's grapefruit sabayon. I love citrus.

All in all, this was a decent episode.

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