Tag Archives: Food Network

Top Chef: Episode 10

I have a suggestion for the opening sequence.  Let’s add visual effects.  So that when we see the same boring morning shots we can capture Francois‘s toothpaste glowing like kryptonite or Dale folding socks in “bullet time” like Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.  Or just have the same stock sound effect of an alarm going off.  That’s good too.

The recap: essentially puts Connie through the meat grinder again-just like her much criticized sausage of last week.  Meaning, we want you to think she’s going home but probably not.

Quickfire

Lynn Crawford is our guest chef today.  She steps up to the plate as Thea announces that the challenge will be to make two meals for Porter Airlines.  A morning and evening snack.

A gaggle of cute stewardesses stop just short of forming a Porter Pyramid as they pose with the tiny cardboard boxes each chef must fit their mini-meal into.

Francois comments “cute girls” as his and Dale’s eyes seem to pop out.  They are like a men who have just served a life sentence seeing a woman in high heels for the first time.  What is this horrible place they call the GE kitchen?

Poor Lynn Crawford was obviously asked to shed some wisdom before the start of the challenge and maybe what she wanted to say was, “good luck squishing food into those boxes and don’t even bother trying to make it good, the airline will screw it up” but instead she had to say something generically bland , “be creative, do something different.”  Like her lipstick–very Gwen Stefani with a bit of craziness happening with the lip liner.

Dustin gets to work on a smoked trout crepe for his breakfast snack and he’s making a prosciutto sandwich for the afternoon.

Sandwich being the theme of the day.  Francois is working on egg salad (which ends up being a chopped omelette) and a tuna sandwich and Connie goes for chicken salad with pasta salad on the side.

Andrea dares to be different (oh oh, she’s following the generic advice) and says, “screw the sandwich” I’m going grilled salmon and couscous.

Judging:

Andrea and Dusty’s dishes come out on the bottom–or in airline hilarity–“didn’t fly”.  Dustin’s smoked trout crepe is too strong for a morning flight unless Porter is adding an East European route and Andrea’s salmon was dry and Chef Crawford didn’t like the chimichurri sauce.(though wouldn’t you be impressed to get chimichurri sauce on a flight to London, Ontario?)

The dishes that (wait for it) SOARED were Rob’s chicken club with a Grand Marnier chocolate fondant on the side.  Also a hit was Dales’ pepper-bacon sandwich with apples tossed in cream cheese.  But the big winner was Connie for overall “taste and visual appeal”.  Chef Crawford loved her homemade blueberry yogurt and called the granola alongside “fully loaded”.

She wins a trip for two to Chicago with the caveat that she had to make yogurt for the whole plane.

Elimination Challenge

Using the “terroir” philosophy the chefs must make three meals that represent a day in the life of the province they pull from the knife block.

Connie pulls “belle provence” and is pretty sure it’s in Quebec….

Rob lucks out and pulls Ontario (he’s from Toronto).

Dale get interior BC which is also great as he knows it well.

Andrea pulls the Praires.  Which I admit, kind of sucks.  Steak and Saskatoon Berry pie anyone?

Francois gets the Maritimes.  He is raring to go using seafood knowledge he learned in BC since he’s never been to the East Coast.

Dustin pulls Wild Rose Country.  I admit, I didn’t know that was Alberta.  I thought he would be cooking with Avon’s latest perfume.

The chefs have 5 minutes to put together a menu, 20 minutes ot shop on a $100 budget and three hours of cooking time.

Francois helps Connie by giving her the ol’ “When in Quebec eat Tortiere” schtick.

Dale is telling Andrea to go “comfort food” for the Praires. (As in, Oh God I live in the Praires. Give me some cheese cake NOW)

Cut to the “shopping” portion of our programme.

Cut to out “coming up clip” where people (Andrea) freaks out that Connie is using store-bought pastry. “I would feel like a douche bag doing that” says Andrea.

Cut back to the kitchen where the chefs run around setting up smokers and opening fridges.

Dale is pretty chill as always, ” We have three hours for three dishes–the point is to make it be difficult”

Andrea, slightly panicky,, “Three hours is not enough time to make Top Chef food.”

She then mocks Dale for being Mr. Food.  What a loser for being a chef and being on the show Top Chef and knowing a lot about food!    Dale then predicts the final four will be all the guys, “the girls are running out of ideas”.  See, I find that more annoying than the vast food knowledge part of his personality Andrea.

The kitchen is exceptionally hot.  Shockingly we don’t see anyone wiping sweat of their brow with Sponge Towels which seem to be featured at every commercial break.  Due to the heat Connie and Andrea forgo making ice cream and Andrea gives up on pie crust.  This is where Connie goes for it and just uses store bought (also acknowledging the time pressure).

Judges

Other than the usual judges and Chef Crawford  guest judge Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall is seated in the dining room.

First up is Dustin (Alberta) who’s dishes are beautiful to look at. And they start off well with his “steak and eggs” take on breakfast called, “well executed” and “perfectly cooked.  Lunch goes a bit down hill when his stew is not “viscous” enough and the stuffing of his chicken is too salty.  Plus the stuffed chicken leg makes Chef Gushue feel like he’s in a “banquet hall”.

Francois is next with his Maritime line-up.  His first dish is totally doused in Hollandaise sauce and looks messy.  It’s downhill from the start, “confused flavours” “soggy beat foam doesn’t let the mussels sing” “too many products” and “it’s like he’s never been to the East Coast”.  Well, yah….

Andrea is plating and comments “I’m pretty happy with everything” meaning the editors have just bestowed her with the kiss of death.  Sure enough her Bison Barley soup  (you can get bison at Loblaws?) has a film of fat on it–the comment summary is “no skill” “no Praires” and “no flavour”.  Even the crumble she made instead of the pastry is not well done.  The bulgur wheat is not broken down.  (But then you can taste the Praires- right?)

Dale fares much much better. In fact he pulls it off.  The judge are drooling over his dishes and his knowledge of inner BC. He started with breakfast of poached eggs with morel mushrooms and hollandaise, then roasted B.C. salmon and peas cooked three ways, and dinner was venison loin with bannock ( a Native style flat bread).

Connie, who knew nothing about Quebec cuisine, sure could’ve fooled the judges. She presented  a smoked trout and potato salad, a venison and veal tourtière and wild blueberry pie. The tourtière got knocked for authenticity but the flavours were great and the judges loved her pie crust (thanks Tenderflake!)

Rob’s Ontario menu, inspired by his grandmother’s cooking left him sitting in the middle. It wasn’t the flop that Francois’s meal was but it was “uninspired”.  Sorry Gram.

Judges Table

Dale and Connie (who’s run out of ideas-right Dale?) get the top two spots.  And despite Connie admitting to buying her pastry the judges seem impressed at her ability to “make a situation work” for her.  Kind of surprising but OK.  (Maybe she should have heated up a PC Tortiere too?)

Ultimately Connie takes the top spot. She’s back (to back) winning both the Quickfire and the Elimination.  YES!!!

Not surprisingly Francois and Andrea are crowned worst of the day.  The judges go hard on Andrea who gets defensive and blames the short amount of time she had and the hot kitchen– she gets a jab in again at Connie’s use of the premade pie crust.  Chef Crawford tells her that is was not the circumstance but her execution that failed her.

Francois gets beat up a bit but the judges seem almost amused at his fumbling. “He’s like a mad scientist.”

It’s clear who’s on the cutting block–So long Andrea.   You were feisty.  I liked it.

My favourite outgoing line so far, “Today I regret not ever being to the Praires.”  Andrea tackles Connie in an “I hate you-I love you” kind of hug and departs.  One woman left.

NEXT WEEK:  Food carts!  The mystery is what sponsor will we showcase?

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Top Chef: Episode 9

Bunkies Connie and Andrea are getting ready to hit the GE kitchen and Connie reveals she’s never roomed with anyone before she met her husband.  Maybe that’s what is preventing her from freaking out–ballerinas only cry alone?  She says, “I’m feeling the pressure, I want to prove I can cook great food, I’m here to represent.”  She looks shaky. Maybe she’s been having nightmares of “I’m in it to win it” Andrea smothering her with a pillow.

Quick Fire

Guest Chef is Roger Mooking owner of Nyood and Kultura and host of TFN’s “Everyday Exotic”  The challenge “cook by numbers”.  How well can each chef put together a dish using a specific number of ingredients?

They draw knives and it goes down like so:  Dale 12, Dustin 8, Francois 14, Connie 10, Darryl 4, Rob 16, Andrea 6.   Salt, pepper and oil are freebies.

Darryl is slightly panicking–he may cook simply but 4 ingredients is basic.  Once he grabs a protein, starch and veg he’s only got one item left.   Does sweat count as an ingredient?

Dale of course is not fussed, “I don’t know why everyone is stressing out.”

Connie gets intense and decides to make her own pasta in 45 minutes.  Andrea goes the other route– “hard to screw up” as she says.  Hello butternut squash soup.  (seriously?)

But you know what–her plating looks gorgeous, the roasted butternut squash soup is contained a bright blue Le Creseut pot with maple, foie gras and hazelnut oil, garnished with garlic and squash chips.

Dustin’s squab also looks great as does Francois’s grilled sardines and grilled peach, though I think most of his 14 ingredients are lamely hidden in a bunch of “different” salad greens.

Chef Mooking thinks that Dale’s mussel broth might be a bit too saffrony. “Not too saffrony” Dale shoots back.  (are too! am not!)

He also is surprised that Connie would make pasta that needs resting time with only 45 minutes.  She one-ups him, “yep, especially since I used semolina.”  Translated: I can pirouette on your ass.

Rob used about 12 kinds of radish (red, black, green, mauve….) to make up his salad for his 16 ingredient dish.

FINAL JUDGEMENT:  It comes down to Connie and Andrea as stand-outs.  But Andrea takes the Quickfire with her “bold flavours and great balance–you’ve hit it out of the ball-park.”    Losing apparently causes Connie to lose all motivation in the Elimination round.  Or inspires a great need for comfort food.

Elimination

The elimination challenge this week is summed up by Thea as, “taking your personal cooking style and translating it into a recipe that any home cook can understand.”  Translation: we’ll be cooking with products supplied by our sponsor, Loblaws.

Chef Mooking tries to make it all feel more exciting by describing the challenge as “satisfying the home cook–and chef–in all of us.”  I sum it up as the home cook in me saying, “just defrost something for God’s sake” and the home chef in me  saying, “let’s order hand-rolled sushi for pick-up”.  (If you’re Chef-At-Home though you conveniently find some hand-rolled sushi in your pantry and make a stew with it.)

Each chef picks a bunch of PC products (and let me say right now that I love the PC line–my darling sparkling fruit juice) and shops at Loblaws for the rest of the ingredients.  They each have $50 to prepare samples for 35 people.  Andrea, winning the Quickfire has an unlimited budget and buys a whack of black cod (they swim in whacks actually….).

Insert a bunch of shots of the chefs talking…all very boring and repetitive and space-filler style stuff…

Connie has a wicked gleam in her eye.  “I saw puff pastry and was inspired!”  But wait for it, she’s essentially going to make pigs in a blanket–the twist being that she’s making the sausage.  One: you’ve already made sausage, Con.  Two: No one is going to make sausage at home, even the Italians only do it once a year recruiting their entire families and getting through it by drinking a tonne of home-made wine.

She then adds, “we need to cater to housewives and other people who shop at Loblaws”  (yes, us housewives always on the search for a new devilled egg or pastry-wrapped sausage recipe).   She says this as she purees foie gras and starts rolling sausage in saran wrap. Connie–are you cracking?!  Hang in their girl!!

Rob sums it up, “I don’t know why anyone would make sausage at home when they can just buy a hot dog.”

And then there is the stunned look on the shoppers faces as Connie explains that “making foie gras truffled sausage is easy–maybe an hour and half of work!”

Dale is kicking ass with his BBQ pulled pork with coleslaw on a bun.  A square of salty watermelon on the side.  He knows what he’s doing this time–this is no Milestones challenge, “BBQ has a power over people.” And he’s right.  He is also Dustin’s BFF!  Cut to Dale happily folding Dustin’s colourful socks.

Dustin, ‘I like a little flare in my socks’ and Dale, “I like standard undergarments. Black and grey.”

Are there cameras in the bathrooms too?  Is this material we’ll see next week when there’s one less chef to use up screen time?

I do enjoy the juxtaposition of this exchange back to back:  Rob (with a slight repulsion) , “Wow, people love free food.”

Darryll, “My girlfriend and I love to sample, we have a strategy so we can double up on the hand-outs.”

But to the judges:

They are in love with Dale’s BBQ sandwich.  Devour it actually.  Even a housewife could make it they conclude.

Andrea’s marinated black cod dish– the flavour is there but needs seasoning.  Underwhelmed.

Francois makes a yummy looking chicken confit in phyllo and is having a great time demo-ing how to fold the phyllo pastry to curious customers.  The judges conclude that though you can buy this type of dish frozen, Francois has elevated it by making it from scratch.

Unlike, Connie’s pigs-in-a blanket.  Judges with raised eyebrow, “just a simple foie-gras truffle sausage? uh-huh.”  And sadly it doesn’t taste any better than the frozen version.  I am getting flustered, what is happening to Connie?

Dustin redeems himself from his gnocchi flop last week with gnudi in brown butter.  Chef McEwan finally admits that Dustin’s “cute-factor” is getting to him.  In a warm, fuzzy way.

Rob kills it with his dessert, its also redemption time for him after the poo-log he served up last week.  He creates a maple-syrup custard with caramelized banana on top.  Everyone from the housewives to the judges are literally, eating it up.  Chef Mooking freaks out at its deliciousness. “Everything about this is right.”

And then there’s Darryl, where everything about his manicotti is just…wrong.  It’s simple that’s for sure but it is also amateur say the judges.  It did not elevate the food to…well..anywhere but the plastic plate it is served on.  I think the real epiphany should have been when a 20 year old college kid says, “hey, I could totally make this!”

Judges Table

Top Three:

Francois, Dale and Rob.  But it is obviously between Dale and Rob.  (I must say though, look at Francois–kind of staying middle of the pack and then slowly rising to the top over all these episodes. Things that make you go hmmmmm.)

All the judges drool over Rob’s dessert but Dale wins the prize.   And indeed there is a prize. Five thousand dollars worth of President’s Choice money (this show is better than Monopoly) which Dale says he will partly use for his son’s school.

Bottom two:

Obvious, yet kind of shocking.  Connie and Darryl.  Chef Mooking sums up Darryl’s issues with, “this show is called Top Chef, not Good Cook.”

And then everyone is a total over-the-top jerk to Connie “are you tapped out?”  “did you choke?” until she actually starts to cry.  And then cries harder for being seen crying on TV and not being a strong female role model (Then I  start to cry.)  Someone wrap her in a puff pastry blanket and give her a hug!  Andrea does.

As expected Darryl is sent to pack his knives.  “He’s still a young, young chef”  is the judges’ conclusion.   I hope next time he’s at Costco they have really super samples waiting for him!  Bye Darryl.

Next week:  the chefs prepare 3 meals, “a day in the life of Canadian Food”.  Huh?  (I think Gordon Pinsent might play the voice of the back bacon sandwich.)

Til next week.

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Top Chef Canada: Episode 8

Birds chirp. Morning sun peeks through a window.  Darryl disses Andrea. “The consensus in the group is that Andrea is not a team player.  Even the servers at Milestones were  “like, what’s wrong with that girl?””

Well, first of all, the servers at Milestones are probably ditching their Psyche 101 class to make a shitload of tips on a drunken 5:30 business crowd so they probably have no idea what a chef does.  Secondly, if they’re going to be “like” p.o’d at Andrea, maybe they address her properly as in, “why is that chef such a bitch?”

Secondly, Andrea has been saying she’s “in it to win it” from Day 1, so no big surprise, though I guess we need a new outsider now that Chris and Jamie have been zapped.

Anyway, Andrea is now the bad-ass though she could care less, “I came here for myself, so whatever.”  See! Balls the size of watermelons.

Quickfire Challenge

Mark McEwan is back and I think he got highlights.  Looking very Summer 2011.  He tells the teams that from now on working together is “vital” and indeed, teamwork is the theme of this episode.  There will be no more immunity granted.

(See how the producers are setting this up? Teamwork good.  Andrea bad.  Tension building. Watch and learn reality show hopefuls.)

For todays’ challenge the chefs are divided into two groups.  Francois and Rob pull the knives that decree them team captain. Flashback to elementary school, the captains get to pick their team.  (its OK, I’m fine about not being any good at volleyball or basketball and always picked last, even for hurdles).

Francois’s first choice is Dale.  Rob’s first choice is Dustin.   (Hey–if you take Dale–and turn that frown upside down–you get Dustin!)

Francois then chooses Connie.  Rob looks pissed but settles for Todd.  Francois takes Darryl and Andrea is stuck onto Rob’s team.

Andrea, “I don’t care, I’ll play the underdog, but I’m sure they know I’m a force to be reckoned with.”  (unspoken: bunch of pussies.)

Each team has 40 minutes to make a dish.  All the chefs will be blindfolded.  One chef starts the dish and after 10 minutes the next chef steps in until all four have had a turn.  Like those games where one person starts drawing the feet and the next person draws the torso….hey, is this Top Chef: Summer Camp?

GOES DOWN LIKE SO:

First 10 min: Andrea and Darryl start for their teams:   Andrea grabs scallops and starts a white asparagus puree.  Daryll grabs snapper and begins to clean it.

Second 10 min:  Rob sees scallops. He sees the puree.  Goes for bacon.  Dale sees that Darryl started a reduction for butter sauce so works on that and braises some radishes and fennel.

Third 10 min: Connie says the “plate needs some colour”  so she makes a “green oil.”  YUM, green oil.  Todd, “I can’t figure out what’s happening”  just makes a (traditional Newfoundland I presume) potato cake.

Last 10 minutes: Dustin tastes everything to see where stuff is at, as does Francois.  They plate everything and Francois’s hands are shaking as he adds the final touches.

Red Team (Rob Captain) creates a pancetta-wrapped scallop plate with potato rosti, white asparagus sauce and braised leek.

Blue Team (Francois Captain) creates a pan-seared snapper with butter sauce,  braised radish and fennel and sea asparagus salad.

Chef McEwan makes a joke! “Does anyone know what this is?” he asks.  He is getting lighthearted– perhaps seeing the end in sight.

Both teams have done well– but Rob (Red Team) is finally vindicated winning his first Quickfire, or as he says so eloquently, “I finally won a quickfire for fucks’s sake”

The winning team gets to choose their serving area in the Restaurant War Challenge.

Elimination

The restaurant  war takes place at McEwan’s own Bymark.  One team will serve in the dining room and one on the patio.  Rob’s Red Team, now known as “To New” (a bad play on the Toronto Nfld connection) is allowed to pick since they won elimination.  They choose patio.

Francois’ team, now called By Bleu (another bad play on words: Bymark+ blue aprons) gets the dining room.

The first challenge is figuring out who the sucker’s going to be that runs front of house.  Typical of anyone in the kitchen everyone seems to agree with Francois that, “front of house can seriously screw back of house.”  And the chef’s still have to create a dish even if they are not in the kitchen.

Finally Andrea agrees to take one for the Red team. “I’m always in the dining room at my restaurant….” Unspoken: reaming out my staff.

On the blue team Darryl also steps down and out of his whites.  Dale, who has fully taken charge, graciously comments that, “Darryl is going to fuck up, he doesn’t know fine dining.”  My favourite excuse for not doing front-of-house is Francois, “I won’t understand the English people’s jokes so I can’t do it”.  But of course.

Team Rob’s concept: contemporary Canadian fine-dining with a casual feel.

Team Francois:  Dale asks and then answers his own questions.  ‘What’s our concept?” beat. “Modern European?  Fine fine dining. Settled.”

Connie is not happy, she is not on board with the “fine-fine” dining not having done it in years.  This somehow causes her to forget her baby potatoes during prep and she has to run off in a van to find them.  Call me crazy but did they clear all food out of the Bymark kitchen?  Surely, there is a potato or two rolling around in there?  (ohh, wait, maybe they were already pickled.)

Service:

Team To New:

The judging team arrives with Chef David Adjey in tow as Chef Judge (The Opener).  Thea Andrews looks amazing in her silver dress. There is some painfully awkward small talk between Chef McEwan and Andrea  before service.

The judges sit down on the patio first to partake in the meal from To New (Rob, Dustin, Todd and Andrea). Generally things go from Ok to worse. A couple of the dishes are deemed to have “hotel-itis” by McEwan (like Andrea’s asparagus salad and the main lamb course) meaning, “looks great, tastes like nothing.”

Todd’s terrine is a bit of a disaster–it’s falling apart and the chutney is way too spicy.  The judges like Dustin’s Halibut but his gnocchi is deemed more akin to mashed potatoes. Dessert crescendo in banal badness.  Rob’s mousse really does look like poop on a plate and Todd’s custard looked like a slap-dash affair.  Winning dish of the service was Andrea’s Octopus.

Team By Bleu:

Darryl looks quite adorable and also like a duck out of water all spiffed up.  He manages to get his hands on Chef McEwan’s crotch when he decides to put all the napkins on the judges laps, something “he’d seen done in fine dining”.  All the judges try hard not crack up.

By Bleu (Francois, Connie, Darryl and Dale) does much better with their dinner despite a near fist-fight (no helmets) between Dale and Darryl when Dale tries to “un-simplify” Darryl’s duck dish and later when Daryll doesn’t get Dale’s strawberry souffles off the pass and out to the guests before they start to deflate.

Yet the food that gets out the judges table is turning out well.  Darryl’s duck is called, “perfect, just the right subtle smoke and degree of doneness” by Chef McEwan. Francois’s lamb and eggplant is “spectacular”. Connie is flumoxed that her tuna dish is being described as “canned tuna” by the diners but in the end her semi-freddo dessert plate and Dale’s souffle are tagged as “big league desserts”.  In fact, Chef McEwan says he couldn’t have made a better souffle himself.

Judges Table

Team By Bleu is called in a declared the clear winners with Dale’s souffle taking top prize.

Which leaves Team To New as the losers.  Andre is safe as her Octopus dish came out on top despite her being chosen last for the team. Which leaves Dustin, Rob and Todd.  Cut to commercial.

It must be Todd.  It has to be Todd I am thinking.  And yes, Todd is declared out of his league and asked to pack his bags.  He leaves us with his usual Todd-isms that have endeared him all this way, “I ran out of bullets.  I tried something outside my comfort zone and it didn’t work.  Going back home to my wife, daughter, buddies and back deck.  It’s going to be great.”   Big sigh.

Next week the Chefs create food for President’s Choice.  Bigger sigh.

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Top Chef: Episode 7

Andrea is ready for battle in Eps 7, “I’m better than the shit I’m putting out.”  You’re no chopped horse tartar Andrea–and don’t let any Facebook Page tell you different.

Quickfire Challenge

Welcome Chef Michael Smith–at first glance I think “wow-he’s insanely tall” and as usual I’m irritated by his hairstyle.  I’m sorry fans but Chef Smith grates on my nerves. No, we’ve never met–I’ve constructed this conflict through my personal Food Network viewing. I just find him a bit “know it all goody two-shoes guy-always cookin’ up a stew”.  Also, no one’s friggin’ pantry has that many clean glass jars you Chef at Home (the show should be called Chef On Set).  But I digress.

There is a not-so-funny trick pulled during the Quickfire where each chef picks a closed pot with a secret ingredient inside.  Except all the pots contain All Bran.  We watch all the chefs unveil this same ingredient  over and over and still the joke never really becomes funny. (Flogging a dead Product Placement it’s known as in the biz.)

Each Chef is to be unique and innovative with their All Bran.  They have 30 minutes.

Todd wants to stay true to Newfoundland (I love Todd but honestly–branch out to PEI or somethin’) and pulls out some salt cod from the sleeve where he has hidden a season’s worth of  East Coast fish and seafood.

Darryl as always is keeping it simple (which would actually be just adding milk, but he goes for panko/bran encrusted shrimp) and Francois has a crazy idea to make All Bran gnocchi which turn out, in his own words, “tough and chewy” but an excellent source of fibre.

Rob burns his Southern Fried Chicken and Patrick says he has so many ideas he can’ stop them.  Does he know we’re cooking with All Bran?

For the first time that I can recall, the guest Chef stops and comments on every dish instead of the usual neutral swallow and “Thank you Chef”.   Chef M.S wags his finger and tsk tsks his ways through everyone’s plate.  (I warned you I had issues…)  For the first time I see Dustin drop his smile when Chef-It -All says, “and these drips on the plate–are they also All Bran?”

He lectures Rob about his burnt wings, “this is Top Chef Canada Rob!”.  Unfortunately Chef-It-All forgot his metre stick and dunce caps in the pantry back home.

Finally, in a show of East Coast solidarity, Todd’s salt cod brandade wins the day, “it’s beautiful–crunchy, sweet and soft”.   Todd says he is humbled.  (I love Todd- I want to be invited to dinner at his house.  I want Todd and Connie to open a restaurant.  I want All Bran!  Wait– where did that come from?)

Elimination

Sadly, Chef-It-All is not eliminated.  He is still with us.  And so is Milestones.  The Chefs will each be asked to create a course in a three-course romantic anniversary meal for a full house of couples at Milestones. The winning dishes will be featured on the Milestone’s “Top Chef” menu. All must comply with the Milestone’s agenda of “familiar food with a twist”.   Like pizza-in the shape of a heart?   Anything with pesto in the shape of a heart?  Wait–molten chocolate cake…in the shape of a heart??  (I could totally win this.)

The chefs  have $225 and twenty minutes to shop.  Most of the chefs are running around like crazy, Connie’s crazy is showcased when talking to the camera almost deadpan admitting ,”it’s really not much time” while she laconically orders her meat at the butcher counter.

We don’t see Connie a lot on camera.  I think its because she doesn’t say a lot of dumb-ass things. Like when Dale informs us that A. he will not lower himself to cooking for a chain restaurant and B. his Pavlova will “not only be a sensual dessert–but maybe even sexual.”  (Ummm, OK.  He does include a cherry on the plate…I’ll leave that to your Pavlovic interpretation.)

Connie is worried she is going too rustic–she’s making pork croquettes and a spicy aïoli–her grandmother’s recipe.  For Milestones, she seems pretty savvy with the deep-fried idea.

So competing against each other are:

Appetizers: Connie, Andrea and Todd.

Main:Francois, Patrick and Rob

Dessert: Dale, Dustin and Daryll

The Milestone’s couples and judges are digging (and digging into) Connie’s croquettes. Andrea’s ravioli somehow gets served cold and the goat cheese is discoloured by the black garlic which no one can taste.

For mains, Francois comes out a winner with his roasted sablefish with seaweed gnocchi in a mushroom and tamarind jus.   As pumped as Jeff the Milestone’s guy is about its “taste profile” I really cannot believe that the Milestones crowd is going to be keen on “seaweed gnocchi”.  (If they are –well, I’ll eat my All Bran Gnocchi paper weights!)

Patrick makes a disastrous explosion of his pork tenderloin dish where the pork is way undercooked and he’s thrown in every spice he can think of.  For him it’s an explosion of love but for judge Shereen Arazm his whole style “is like fusion confusion.”

Desserts all succeed with the crowd but Dustin’s Strawberry shortcake with a lemon curd twist and flower petals has an leg up.  Adorably, it’s his girlfriend’s recipe (who is also his pastry chef).

In an interesting preview of next week’s “Restaurant Wars” theme we see the chefs (even Connie) freaking out during service when chits are moved, ingredients go missing and customers walk in late after all the mise-en-place has been packed up.  Andrea yells the most though.  She explains that yelling shows that she has balls, not that she’s a bitch.  I’m going to try that excuse at the park on my next play date.

Judges’s Table

The top three:

Connie for apps, Francois for Mains and Dustin for Dessert.

In the end Dustin’s Strawberry shortcake fits Milestone’s menu like a glove.  And I might actually head to Milestone’s for my anniversary–it looks pretty damn good.

The bottom three:

Andrea (cold ravioli with grey filling), “good idea but bad execution.  Not a sharing dish.”

Dale (deconstructed sexual Pavlova) basically gets his wrist slapped for ignoring the challenge.  He’s told he has to learn to work within the confines of the exercise.  If the world wants Jello-on-a-Cloud Dale…

Patrick gets reamed out for the mess he made of his presentation. He defends himself by saying, “my hands are too big so my dish was messy.”   Poor bear.

Not surprisingly, Patrick is sent packing.  The rest of the group is saddened and they toast “the bear”.  Andrea looks like she might cry, though let’s face it, it’s probably tears of relief. His raw pork saved her grainy ravioli ass.

All the obvious eliminations have happened.  Even Francois has stepped up his game.  So maybe the real competition will start next week…..see you for Restaurant Wars.

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Top Chef Canada: Episode 6

Horse Meat.  Andrea cooked with horse meat and people freaked out and started a Facebook page to protest.  Where’s the protest page against cute little lamb slaughter, and tiny helpless frogs and HELLO! Foie Gras people!  You have work to do. The geese need you.  Sorry Facebook activists you can’t feel sick inside about your friend Flicka being a main course, but have no problem eating a juicy cow steak.  It’s just not French-which in Episode 6–is the whole point.  Perhaps a side of frites would help.  Or were you just subconsciously outraged at the lack of toast with the tartar?  Cracker-hmph.

The Quickfire Challenge:

Chuck Hughes from “Chuck’s Day Off” is the Quickfire judge.  He’s injured his leg which makes him even more “friggin’ cute” for Andrea and Francois thinks the cane with a skull is “pretty cool.”

Francois becomes the “star” character (or caricature) of Episode 6.  He is the “goofy Frenchman” and whenever we see him from now on he will have some  french bistro music (cue the accordian) playing in the background or a “somethings’ up!” theme worthy of the Pink Panther.

For once Francois is confident with the challenge: make your own version of poutine.  He clearly understands the point of the dish–  being stumbling drunk at 2am, the poutine settles the stomach and you wake up “perfect”.  Exactly!

Dale looks insulted to be associated with such plebian fare.  Apparently he sips a creme de menthe before bed and tucks himself under the afghan by 9pm. “I’m not worried, it’s a fucking poutine,” he declares.

And that is how it goes down–the “let’s refine poutine until its unrecognizable” group–Dale makes foie gras poutine with white onion puree (puree when you’re already on the edge of puking–not helpful Dale) or Rob adds Perigod sauce, pecorino with duck and black truffle (see above reference to puree and substitute with rare duck) plus Chris who constructs a kind of “log cabin” with his thick cut fries and serves it alongside a cheese dipping sauce that has curds at the bottom–(FYI Chris, I can’t find my house keys when I’ve had too many gin and tonics–please don’t humiliate me by making me search for the curd in my poutine.)

Francois wins it–with a kind of potato pancake sandwich with melted cheese (see–now that is ingenious–a poutine that does not require a fork.)

Winning immunity and smiling (kind of sweet actually)  he says “my momma will be proud.”

(My pick would have been Todd’s poutine topped with a moose stew.  I want to drink in Newfoundland.)

Elimination

We’re “back to the basics” of French cooking with uber-chef Daniel Boulud.  Andrea refers to him as “a super star” (but not super cute..sorry Daniel).  Chef Boulud is Dale’s mentor and Dale is ready to sculpt his likeness out of horse meat if he has to.

The challenge: a 10-course tasting menu using French proteins which each chef pulls from the knife block. This is where Andrea pulls the horse meat (she does look as if candid camera is going to pop out any second). Francois pulls “hazelnut” but by winning elimination he is allowed to switch with anyone.  He takes “frog’s legs” from a relieved looking Todd.

Dale sulks for the rest of the show after pulling “oysters”.  “My margin of freedom is nothing” he says.  Make Daniel love you Dale–oysters are an aphrodisiac after all.

Francois has the privilege of putting the menu in its serving order.  It goes from the top: Oysters-Dale, Horse-Andrea, Foie Gras-Chris, Lobster-Connie, Skate-Daryll, Frog Legs-Francois, Sweet Breads-Rob, Rabbit-Patrick, Lamb-Dustin and Hazelnuts-Todd.

Essentially all the chefs are relying on their French Basics training–possibly back from cooking school–and hoping to impress one of the best chefs in the world.

Darryl decides to stay basic and Rob stays catty, “Salt’s too fancy for Darryl” he quips.

Chris has no idea what to do with foie gras so logically decides to make a foie torchon in one day when it actually requires  three.

Dale works out his frustration by folding his linens –snapping them into crisp squares.  He’s never been happier all episode.  Maybe he should make a napkin swan and float his oysters to the table.

Francois is tres confidant because, “I have studied in French, worked two years in France and oh yah..also I have immunity.”

I anticipate more Inspector Clousot music when we discover that Francois has never made frog’s legs in his life.  That crazy Quebecer!

Ultimately Francois pulls off the frogs legs, the judges are impressed.  The visual slightly reminds me of a Kermit the Frog massacre but it is bright and fresh looking. Judges love it.  Cue love theme from Amelie.

Rob modestly admits “he rocks” before he goes out to serve. And so he does.  DB pays the ultimate compliment, “a very well executed dish”  (Sweet breads, garlic puree, chanterelles, brussel sprouts and smoked bacon.)

Guest judge Laura Calder (French Chef at Home) questions whether Todd’s Tarte Tatin puff pastry is homemade (good call–homemade by Presidents’s Choice. Laura).

Judges Table

First let me say that Mark McEwan is showing up for briefer and briefer periods in these episodes–(does he have a food empire to run or something?)

Top 4:

Francois (frogs’ legs, salsify purée and parsley jus), Connie (lobster bisque, scallop dumpling, brandy chantilly cream), Rob (sweet breads) and Dustin (rack of lamb with baby vegetables and parsnip purée).

Rob steals the win with the classiest of the classic dishes.

Bottom 4:

Andrea: the horse meat tartar made more of an impact on Facebook.  Judges find it bland and are melodramatic about the fact that she served it with a cracker and not toast.  Poor Andrea –she really looks like she’s taking it hard.

Darryl- his skate dish is as lemony as lemon pie-not in a good way.

Todd- admits his first instinct was a souffle rather than the Tarte Tatin.  Everyone seems to think, “waaaaay better idea”.  Chef Boulud gently suggests that Todd practice making puff pastry 2 hrs a week as penance.

Chris- basically a disaster of raw liver that is also under seasoned.  Chris looks defiant and essentially tells the judges that, “though I know nothing about foie gras, I stand by my raw, mushy torchon of disappointment.”

Not surprisingly–Chris is sent packing.  Onwards…and downwards?  Milestones coming up next!

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Top Chef Canada: Episode 5

To my chagrin and pissed-off-ness (actually the definition of chagrin) my Roger’s cable showed a black screen for the first few minutes of Episode 5.  In trying to determine what I missed I checked the Top Chef Canada website and saw that Francois had won immunity.   I was flabbergasted.  Could I not make fun of him anymore?  Was he a master at something?  Nope, turns our he just pulled a horseshoe from his ass and a knife from the knife block that read “hog wild” granting him instant immunity.

Everyone else was divided into two teams–black and white.  Each team was gifted with an entire heritage pig to butcher courtesy of guest judge Stephen Alexander, owner of Cumbrae’s (and Toronto’s local Meat Celebrity).

Anyone who didn’t pull “hog wild” on their knife pulled a cut of meat (picnic shoulder, leg, shoulder butt, belly or loin) and each team member had to properly butcher their pork portion (from the whole pig) under Stephen’s watchful eye and pained expression.  The Quickfire Round was more about hacking than elegant knife skills.

The most heartening thing about the butchery was the enthusiasm.  The chefs actually looked like they were having fun.  Knife, corpse and tearing flesh turned out to be a good time.

Connie and Chris’s skill gave the black team an advantage, until Darryl stepped in and impressed Stephen, helping the white team catch up. It was down to the wire between Andrea and Dustin.  Dustin cuts his finger. Pit stop for band-aid and rubber glove. Andrea saws away at the pig while Jamie looks on-perhaps a little too enthused.  Dustin finishes just before her.

Stephen concludes that there were “flashes” (blink and you’d miss ’em) of pretty good butchery.  I will never sell you any of my farm-raised pigs or even a breakfast sausage–your faces are seared in my mind was the look in his eyes.

Black team wins each chef an extra $100 for shopping in the Elimination Round.

Elimination Round

Each chef must prepare two types of appetizers for a fund raising function benefitting The Food Bank of Canada.  One appetizer must include the cut of meat they butchered earlier.

The chefs discover they will be cooking in a secret location.

Francois, “Shit, I’m cooking in a new kitchen…just when I had taped my cheat sheet of the French Mother Sauces to the fridge in the GE kitchen

Chris, “I just need flames, pots and water…and a melon-baller but I’m trying to sound hard-core right now.”

Jamie, “I want to win for many reasons. Money is one. My mom is my main restaurant investor and she’s almost broke…..she’s eating at the Food Bank right now so I can have a restaurant.  I hope the fund raising goes well for her sake.”

Rob–I can’t remember what he said but OMG–I realize he is Clark Kent in chef form.

The chefs and the reception end up at George Brown College. Guest Chef is John Higgins, director of the GB Chef School and Andrea’s mentor.

The big surprise is that the chefs themselves will be mentoring a George Brown student who will act as their sous-chef.  The students are forced to wear tall, paper chef hats in a cruel, televised hazing ritual.

Rob makes jokes about his sous-chef because he’s “geriatric and older than his dad”.  He forgets to add the classic insult “old geezer”.  Later, after successfully bossing him around Rob is more forgiving, “Dwayne’s a nice guy. He was a Major in the military so he takes orders really well.”

Andrea’s sous chef is truly adorable and Andrea nicknames her Minnie.

Dale says he will be a “father figure” to his apprentice, cleverly segueing into name-dropping “Boulud” and “Ramsay” as his father figures.

Overall, the chefs are finally looking comfortable-like they’re forgetting this is a contest and just doing what they love–cooking (hopefully) impressive food.

Still loving Connie.  So professional but relaxed and sweet with her sous-chef.  Contrast with a shot of Chris lording over his table like Sauron about to wage war against the elves in LOTR.

The Final Judgment

Top Four:  Andrea “best tasting dish of the day” (Dry Spice Rubbed Pork Loin with Sweet Ontario Corn Polenta), Dale impresses with both dishes (a Thai consommé with poached black cod and sous-vide pork with sauerkraut), Rob’s “perfect dishes”  (confit pork and rillette and a crab and scallop croquette)  and Dustin “who’s come a long way up from the bottom–go dude!” (Pork Loin & Bacon and an Apple Terrine with Calvados Vanilla Creme Fraiche).

Dale walks away with a well-earned victory.

Bottom FourPatrick, Todd, Jamie and Darryl.

Todd apparently “took homey food to a lower level”.  Darryl’s flavours were “milky and muddy” and Patrick, basically, no one could remember ever being impressed with Patrick.

Best line of the show, Chef McEwan to Jamie about his salmon mousse, “if you’re a salmon and this is how you end your life, on this plate–that’s sad.”

For a few moments you think this is the end for Patrick, but WHAM, Jamie is asked to pack his bags.  It could be the fact that he tried to blame the judges for “never giving him any positive feedback” and then blaming his student sous-chef for distracting his focus.  I’m sure he’s going to go home, find the bank where his poor mom is defaulting on her loan  and blame her too.

He left us with this memorable…..veiled threat… “Canada only saw the tip of what I’m capable of.”  Looking forward to seeing Jamie on Canada’s Top Psycho.


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Top Chef Canada: Episode 4

We see a few shots of the male chefs waking up in their Camp Chef bunks and getting ready for a new dawn.

We learn that Dale is shocked to be on the bottom even though he is in a top bunk.

Derek is caught on film filling out what appears to be a job application,  though he says he’s now got the “fighting spirit” (it’s under his cap.)

We’re back in the GE Kitchen but Mark McEwan is missing in action.

From behind a rack of cookware emerges none-other-than Susur Lee. The chefs look shocked, except for Dustin who is smiling extra-wide.  We learn that he trained under Susur.   Susur and Dustin flirt a little with their eyes.  Dustin more.  Susur less.

The Quickfire Challenge

Inspired by Chef Lee’s 19-ingredient Singaporian Style Slaw, each Chef must create their own signature salad.

Dustin understandably feels the need to prove himself but also to “be his own chef”.  Darryl decides to base his salad on a roast corn salad his girlfriend makes.  “Simple and good” is still his mantra.  Actually, Darryl seems to break out his shell and radiate some warmth when he talks about his girlfriend.  It’s nice.  (awwwww….)

Francois is STILL HERE!   How is it possible?  Does he eventually rip off the Francois mask and underneath is Joel Robuchon who wins all of Top Chef?   Today he decides to make a french-style coleslaw as his tribute to the Singapore style salad.

Rob is afraid is salad has no focal point.  Radish rosette, maybe?

Chris is ever modest, “Susur is an Asian Guru but I am an Asian master” is the gist of his story.  Also, adding to his credentials, he mentions the job he didn’t get at Lee because he was “too experienced in Asian Food.”  I guess Susur shouldn’t have all those Asian restaurants then.  He’s just too damn experienced.

Ultimately Dustin proves himself as a good apprentice.  He wins the Quickfire with a dish that Susur deems “perfectly balanced” A beet carpaccio with wasabi mustard, pickled onions and shaved apples .

The Elimination Challenge

Chef McEwan is back with a new do!  (He was just out getting a haircut earlier.) 

The chefs each pull a  knife from a block upon whose blade is engraved a country.  Guess what! It’s the mosaic of ethnic food that makes up Canada. They are teamed up in pairs.  One prepares a cold dish, one hot.  They have 2 hrs to prep and 15 minutes to shop.  One chef at Loblaws and one in an “ethnic” food store.

Andrea and Rob pull Japan and look super confident.

Francois and Patrick pull Jamaica I imagine Francois wondering if Jamaicans would like a Pommes Dauphine roti.

Dustin and Derek pull Mexico (Luckily for them Derek has worked at a Mexican restaurant in Dublin.  Phew!).

Jamie and Dale pull Portugal and Jamie admits he’s hoping to ride on Dale’s coat tails.  Chris (asian master) and Darryl are on Korea.

Todd and Connie pull Ethiopia and everyone including Chef McEwan and the camera crew feel sorry for them.

Teams to worry about: Chris and Darryl when the “asian master” can’t find chili paste at a Korean store.  Guess Darryl will have to pick that up at Loblaws.

Teams to admire: Connie and Todd.  But really, Connie.  She’s awesome as usual.  She admits she’s freaked out about the Ethiopian cooking but in her 15 minutes of shopping she is calmly asking the Ethiopian store owner what would work best to soothe the heat of a spicy curry–yogurt or ricotta?

Chef to worry about: Derek, who explains he is self-taught (from reading cook books) and tries to compress time and braise 4-hr short ribs in 2 hrs.  (Maybe those were sci-fi books?)

Final Judgement

The good: Chris makes a Bibimbap with Daikon, Shitake, Marinated King Crab & Kimchi Marinated Pork that Susur really likes. Maybe now Chris can get a job at Lee!

The bad:  Rob and Andrea stumble big time.  Rob presents warm hamachi sashimi that still has the blood line in it (maybe he’s a True Blood fan?) and Andrea brings overcooked Soba Noodles, Daikon, Turnip & Carrots in a Light Miso Broth with seared Kobe.

The Ugly: Derek’s Mexican (Irish?) dish of undercooked braised ribs.

The verdict:

Top 2 teams:

Dale wins kudos for what McEwan calls an “extremely complicated and perfectly executed” dish of Hake with Salt Cod Mousse & Smoked Paprika Portuguese Sausage & Potato ConfitJamie is told his dish was a pale copy of Dales and  “too timid”.  Sometimes imitation is a form of lameness.

It’s Connie and Todd who win the day. Connie serves traditional Ethiopian ground beef with curry spices and traditional lamb katwa (stew) and Todd brings red and green lentil salad, tomato salad with onion & cucumber and Injera. Susur says, ‘I can tell you wanted to understand the culture.” And everyone is impressed at Todd’s homemade Ethiopian bread.  Todd looks modestly shocked at his achievement.

Let’s just cut to the chase:

Even though Rob’s sashimi is called “Richness on top of blandness on top of the wrong temperature–a sashimi train wreck” Derek gets sent home for his dry and goopy ribs.  He is told he fails to understand basic procedures.  Message from the judges, “Go to cooking school”.

Later Derek, I’ll miss that cap. You were kind of sweet. Otherwise, see you for Episode 5: Butchering.

(Is this when Connie breaks down a pig’s head in 4 min? oh please!)




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