Posts Tagged bravo

Top Chef: Soul(ess) Cooking in New Orleans

As moderndomestic had mentioned in her last Top Chef recap I’ve been asked to step in to “save the day” and take the blogging reigns for a post.  I’m not quite sure why she would request Elpis and Justice, who is usually busy writing about public health issues, but I’ll enjoy my power trip.  

Top Chef has been miraculously transplanted to New Orleans!  The guest judge is Emeril Lagasse!  The chefs are back and looking well rested.  I think the producers required each of the contestants to get a new haircut to emphasize the how much time has passed.  Modern’s boyfriend Fabio is sporting an miniature mohawk.  I’ll have to ask her how she feels about the new look.

What a beautiful setting for a Quick Fire Challenge!

What a beautiful setting for a Quick Fire Challenge!

The Quick Fire Challenge will take place on the grounds of the lovely Houmas House, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens and, ahh, as Fabio so eloquently put, trees with “stuff hanging all over.”  As the camera pans to the quick fire area there is something missing… a fourth table!  What’s this??  Will there be teams?  Will there be a duel to the death?  Will Stefan be heckling from the sidelines??

No no, in a Project Runway style tactic, to honor the rebirth of New Orleans three old contestants will be brought back to compete to get back into the competition.  Jamie, Leah, and Jeff (wtf?) are competing in the Quick Fire Challenge.  I quickly write off Jeff, and assume this will be a battle between Team Rainbow and Team, ah, Slumpy.

Jamie is back- I’m so excited!  Her perfect opportunity to redeem herself.  I can see it now.  Jamie will win, she’ll be amazing, she’ll be in the top three, it will be a close race between her and Stefan… but, oh wait they have to cook first.

The chefs have one hour to create a dish that incorporates crawfish.  

Looks sort of like Leah, rather "meh"

Looks sort of like Leah, rather "meh"

Leah produces a nice crawfish soup with andouille and sausage.  She’s never made a gumbo before, but her product looks pretty nice.  I’d say it’s a bit heavy on the broth.  Personally I don’t like to drink a think soup in hot weather.

This just looked like a bowl of mush to me.  The judges thought otherwise.

This just looked like a bowl of mush to me. The judges thought otherwise.

I assume Jeff is going to make three things poorly.  However it seems like he realized something during his time at home- on Top Chef it’s best to do just one thing well, or if you’re Stefan- three amazing things and a mango lollipop.  He makes crawfish with grits with andouille and beer.   This sort of grossed me out.  There wasn’t much variation in texture and looked like a big mush meal to me.       

Will this dish be good enough to bring Jamie back?  I hope so!

Will this dish be good enough to bring Jamie back? I hope so!

Jamie gets down to business and makes corncake, greens, poached Egg with andouille and crawfish cream sauce.  This seems much more creative than Leah’s interpretation, so mentally crown Jamie the winner during yet another uncomfortably long commercial break.  

The judging begins.  Jamie should…. wait.  Apparently Emeril didn’t watch the tapes.  He should know that Jeff sucks.  I don’t know how he made it so far in the show.  He consistently made mediocre/bad food, messed up other people’s good food, and, and, and Emeril names him the winner!?  Wait!  That was Jamie’s spot!  Nooooooo!  Jeff triumphantly accepts his copy of chef Lagasse book Emeril at the Grill.  

The chefs are invited to Emeril’s DelMonico and will retire for the evening at Hotel Monteleone. 

What a great hotel to be totally stressed out in!

What a great hotel to be totally stressed out in!

Before the competition begins, the contestants run through why they’re here.  Fabio is looking to win the money and help his sick mother in Italy, Hosea just wants to win, Carla is motivated by her family’s love… and Stefan tells us that this isn’t a “butt (or back? speak clearly!!) rubbing contest- there will be a slaughtering.”  Okay.

Carla, I gotta give it to you Carla.  I’ve never believed in you.  I’m a convert.  You cook good food, you cook it with compassion, and you’re just sweet.  I don’t think Stefan would think twice about spitting in your Finnish fish if he felt like it would either make the food taste better or he had a vendetta.  I don’t trust you- Finn.

The challenge is unveiled.  The chefs will be cooking for a masquerade party hosted by the Krewe of Orpheus at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  The chefs must make two dishes (one inspired by traditional Creole cooking) and a cocktail.  Winner gets a car (I shall not say the name just to spite shameless product placement!)  Fabio hopes to win because his car “is a piece of poo.”  Jeff needs to win in order to stay in the competition (stipulation of the quick fire).  

The chefs dash off to Emeril’s kitchen and begin their work.  Hosea decides to make a gumbo as his traditional Creole food.  He’s acting like a true Top Chef by putting a lot of time and effort into making a proper roux.  Roux is a combination of oil and flour, that is slowly cooked.  A good gumbo has a well developed roux.    

Jeff has also embraces the Top Chef spirit by making his own sausage.  I’m too mad at Jeff to care. 

Padma looking beautiful as usual.

Padma looking beautiful as usual.

Fabio decides to add an Italian twist to his food.  He’s busy making pasta and bread from scratch.  Oh boy Fabio, this might not be such a good idea.  Creole cooking is already a fusion of so many cultures, fuse it any more and there will be fission- and physicists can’t even do that.

Carla has decided to make an oyster stew.  Although she shucked her first oyster last week, she’s decided to shuck 100 for one of the most important challenges.  Carla, you may have just shucked yourself out of the running, and no, the boys aren’t going to chip in for one second.

The producers have edited Stefan into a real jerk this episode.  He’s behaving much like the hare he’s stewing by playing with sausages, going out to smoke, and creatively dragging his feet.  I don’t know if you learn about Aesop’s Fables in Finland, Stefan, but screwing around in the final leg of the race is a real no no.  The other chefs are equally annoyed.

It’s time to set up for the party.  The chefs go to their respective stations.  Hosea managed to forget a whisk, Carla laments about no one offering to help with the shucking, Stefan is out smoking with his bar tender, and Jeff is wringing his hands.

The party begins and the judges are mysteriously wearing black masks.  They remove them to reveal that the judges are…. Padama, Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, and Emeril Lagasse… why were they wearing masks??  That wasn’t a surprise!  Fabio mentions that the masquerade theme reminds him of an old po–adult film.  Padma is looking quite foxy in her gown.  I have a feeling Wonk would agree.  

Hosea took the challenge seriously.  His risk of slow cooking the roux was a good move.

Hosea took the challenge seriously. His risk of slow cooking the roux was a good move.

Hosea made duck, andouille and chicken gumbo, pecan crusted catfish, and a hurricane with Grand Marnier.  The slow cooked roux seems to have paid off.  Emeril loves the gumbo, although Stefan disagrees.  The judges are also pleased the catfish isn’t dry.  Cooking it on the spot helped with that.

I don't care how good that mojito is Jeff- Jamie should be here.

I don't care how good that mojito is Jeff- Jamie should be here.

Jeff made fried oyster with sausage, crawfish with pot de creme, and a cucumber mojito.  Jeff surprised me again.  The judges felt he made “smart choices” with his crawfish, and were pleased with his homemade sausage.  The cucumber mojito was also a big hit and scored him some extra points.

I feel like the pasta in this dish made the menu much too heavy.

I feel like the pasta in this dish made the menu much too heavy.

Fabio’s table offered grits with sausage and rabbit, crawfish and crab stew with pasta, and a bell pepper martini.  The reviews here were mixed.  I think Padma has a little crush on Fabio.  While Emeril and Tom Colicchio picked his dishes apart, Padma defended his honor.  The pasta was nice, but needed heat and the flavors weren’t layered.  The martini smelled good, but tasted too sweet for the judges’ liking.  

The judges could taste the love in Carla's dishes.

The judges could taste the love in Carla's dishes.

Although Carla’s table didn’t have booze (Carla doesn’t drink) her guests seemed to be having the best time.  The judges were thrilled with her food.  She made and oyster stew, shrimp and andouille beignet, and a non-alcoholic cranberry spritzer.  The food was “smokin’ hot,” the oysters were perfect, and the judges appreciated the care she put into it.  I was glad Carla’s philosophy of cooking with compassion was given another chance.  In a previous episode when she sent out runny ice cream “with love” the judges ripped her apart.

In the judges' eyes the taste wasn't as big as Stefan's ego.

In the judges' eyes the taste wasn't as big as Stefan's ego.

Stefan served the guests and the judges with a smirk on his face. Duck and rabbit gumbo with grits, an apple beignet, and a black cherry rum cocktail were on his menu.  The judges were not impressed.  The gumbo wasn’t bad… but they concluded his food wasn’t worth a return trip- not even for the dessert.  Tom was even less impressed by Stefan’s cockiness both in the kitchen and at the party.  In short, Stefan’s food lacked soul.  

The elimination meeting is tense.  If Jeff wins, then two of the finalists go home.  If Jeff loses, one of the chefs must pack their knives.  I liked the new attitude Emeril brought to the judging table.   He is a chef that not only cooks, but is also playing a role in the recovery of New Orleans. I felt like he was less about gimmicky remarks and took a holistic view of both the food and the chef.

The chefs are brought out for elimination.  Jeff is praised for his good effort, but is still sent home.  Stefan and Fabio are in the bottom two.  Stefan produced not only mediocre food, but also brought a bad attitude.  Fabio just missed the mark with his menu.  In the end it is Fabio who is sent home.

But who wins?  Carla!  Carla is just thrilled.  Not only is she closer to winning, but she also gets to take home a new car- nice!  Emeril’s words to describe her food were “balance, flavor, simplicity, temperature, yet creative.”  I think Carla really does represent what it means to be a Top Chef.  She has the foundation of a loving family, has excellent technique, the maturity to fuse food traditions properly, and sincerely loves cooking for others.  For now Team Europe has gone the way of Team Rainbow.  Good thing Bravo didn’t spring on the tee-shirts for that one!  

Next week, moderndomestic will be back to recap.  Who will be Top Chef!  Who??

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Top Chef: The Thanksgiving of Six Product Placements

ep-3-top-chefs

Oh My God! So Many Product Placements!

Last time on Top Chef: it’s the Thanksgiving Challenge! I always like this challenge because Thanksgiving is such an odd meal with a huge mish-mash of flavors. It flies in the face of the highly sophisticated “taste experience” that most restaurant chefs strive for, which makes it an interesting challenge.

However, banish your hopes of a discussion of American culinary traditions or the historic origins of the great meal. In TV Producer-land, “Thanksgiving” means “product placements.” Lots and lots of product placements.

We start off with shots the Top Chefs blearily going through their morning routines and discussing the last episode. Fabio wants to win a Quickfire challenge so he’ll be tied with Stefan, while Ariane bitterly recounts how her too-sweet meringue almost got her kicked off We also get our weekly dose of Richard’s sass; among other things, he refers to Leah as the chef with “a nice rack.” They’re really trying to cast him as Top Chef’s Christian Siriano in the sass department.

Then we’re off to the Quickfire challenge. At the Top Chef kitchen, Padma (sporting a floaty purple printed blouse that, to use Richard’s vocabulary, does some nice things for her “rack”) introduces the guest judge, Grant Achatz, a leading chef and Molecular Gastronomist (a style of cooking that, apparently, is going out of style in the recession). There’s some requisite fawning over Grant, although I think having a molecular gastronomist judge the Thanksgiving challenge is kind of odd. It’s like having Daniel Day Lewis judge “America’s Got Talent” or something.

Next: Can You Count The Product Placements?

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Top Design Episode Four: Can Eddie Get the Ladies To Drop Their Panties Through The Sheer Power of Decoupage?

This week on Top Design: grab your febreeze and your heavy-duty laundry detergent, the Top Designers are designing for bachelors!

So this week’s episode, “Bachelor Pads,” had a whole lot more drama than last week, due single-handedly to Shazia’s whining (astronauts could hear her whining from space). Sensing that the sharks were circling in the water (she was in the bottom two on the last few episodes) Shazia tried to have the design “reflect” more of her style this week. Unfortunately, this meant complaining a lot and bugging the hell out of her teammates, Preston and Nathan, and choosing to do projects for no other reason than that she suggested it. Excuse me, but when cornice boards are supposed to be your “design statement,” I think there’s a problem.

Of course, I felt a little bad for Shaz, I really did. Because she was in the bottom, it was obvious that no one wanted to work with her, and no one wanted to listen to her ideas for fear that she may pull a Wisit. I’ve been in that situation and it really, really sucks. Unfortunately, once you’ve lost your credibility with a group of people you can’t really restore it in the course of one 48 hour project. And whining, swearing, and stamping your foot a lot won’t help.

The project split the designers up into teams of three, each of which had to design a room for a bachelor. Natalie, Eddie and Ondine designed for a 23-year-old law student who looked like he had just left the womb of a frat house; Andrea, Teresa and Wisit designed for a very cute producer who looked like, with minimal effort, he could land his own Bravo dating show; and Preston, Nathan and Shazia designed for a cool-as-a-cucumber investment banker.

The funniest thing about the whole episode was that even though all the bachelors were pretty different, their apartments were in the same state of disaray. At best, they maybe owned couple of chairs, a sectional, and a huge flat-screen TV. My favorite part was the investment banker, who had a huge shoe rack dominating his living room. I’m sure the smell was just lovely.

Even though the designers had two days, $10,000, a team of painters, wallpaperers, seamstresses and carpenters for this challenge, a lot of the rooms still looked “meh” to me. Perhaps this was because we didn’t really get to see the rooms that much? I think the camera crew needs to watch a whole bunch of HGTV to really get a sense of how the “reveal” works. All they’d need is to do is watch, oh, like 12 hours of the channel, and they would have seen all the “reveals” they’d ever need. Hell, I feel like I could film a “reveal” after watching a couple episodes of Designed to Sell, and I’ve never picked up a camera.

Andrea, Wisit and Ondine’s design for the producer bachelor won the episode, but I didn’t think it was so much better than the other team’s rooms to merit all the praise it received. I will say that their design felt the most pulled-together of the three teams. I like the use of the LeCorbusier chairs and the dark table in the living room; the piece’s dark colors complemented the warm brown tones in the couch and the walls. But it also felt like a hotel room. In fact, all of the rooms on this episode felt like hotel rooms.

More winning and losing designs.

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Top Design, Episode Three: Everybody Go “Meh.”

I had high hopes for the “Window Display” episode of Top Design this week—after all, it had all the elements of what makes Bravo such fulfilling trashy TV: design, fashion, and Project Runway. The challenge was to design window displays for the “boutiques” of former Project Runway contestants. Given the personalities involved (Santino! Andrae! The Other Daniel Who Isn’t Daniel Vosovic!) I thought it was going to be completely awesome.

But not even Santino couldn’t breathe life into this episode. In the end, many of the designs looked like teenage bedrooms (broken mirrors! Fuschia and black!), rather than fashionable window displays. And many of the designers—Eddie and Teresa, Kerry and Wisit, Nathan and Shazia—just didn’t realize that the whole point of a window display is to display clothes—rather than just make overly-neon design statements.

Oh sure, there were a couple of choice moments. When the Other Daniel dreamily recited a poem about his window display (it involved branches, golden sand, and floating), which would have been creepy were he not a reality show celebrity. When Eddie wouldn’t stop talking to Santino in their initial meeting, all but begging with puppy dog eyes to be named team leader. When Wisit mentioned kept on talking about “Rococo” this and “Rococo” that, even though his client (Jeffrey) had specifically told him that he didn’t like the Rococo idea at all.

Still, these moments couldn’t make up for the “meh” designs. I understand that the show’s producers want the designers to work under tight time constraints to rev up the drama factor, but I think that the time limits are ultimately hurting the design and the show. The end products the contestants come up with are entirely underwhelming. And who wants to tune in for “meh” design?

rate_203_daniel

I loved the contrasting yellow and gray here.

Even though they didn’t win, I liked Preston and Andrea’s design the best. Granted, their client (Daniel) spoon-fed them the concept, and they had the best dress to work with, but still—the lemon-yellow dress contrasted against the gray background was fabulously dreamy.
Next: The Losing Design, and Why Eddie Should Stick With Preppy Rooms

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Top Design, Episode Two: Fallout Shelters? So Does China Really Has A Secret Transformer Arsenal?

Wednesday was episode two (‘Artsy Bunker’) of Top Design, where the designers worked in teams to design fallout shelters. The concept made for a decent challenge, but I wonder why exactly they thought fallout shelters were a timely concept. I mean, maybe in the 1950s, but nuclear fallout isn’t exactly high on the list of national priorities right now. Or is it? Do the Bravo staff know something we don’t? Is this a secret government message about Iran’s nuclear ambitions? Is there something to Kimberly’s theory that nuclear fallout would happen because “the Chinese were to build the transformers because they were pissed about the Hiroshima?” (Did you just hear that? It’s my generation, shuddering with embarrassment.)

The designers got to pick their own teams, which actually cut back on the drama factor (bummer), since most of the teams got along well. In fact, Nathan and Wisit got along so well that they did away with the second bed in their space and decided that, if they had to live in the fallout shelter, they might as well get married and share a bed. I actually thought the judges were going to criticize them for this (like, seriously guys—if you’re stuck alone in a bunker for decades you may want to sleep apart for a night or two), but everyone just laughed and thought it was cute.

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Note the one bed. I think it needs more stuff on the walls, but I like the tenting on the ceiling.

The Winning and Losing Rooms

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Top Design Season Premier – Now With More Drama!

This is heresy to the Bravo-watching set, but I was actually more excited about the premier of Top Design’s Second Season than I was about the new season of Project Runway. Perhaps it’s because I know that there will never be another Christian Siriano, so, really, what’s the point of watching Project Runway anymore? And design shows like Top Design inspire all of us aesthetically-minded domestic types to overhaul our homes, and they’ve have had a huge impact on how people view their interior spaces.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I missed about 15 minutes of the episode, since wonktheplank wanted to be a responsible citizen and watch Sarah Palin’s speech on Wednesday night. So, while I learned a whole lot about Alaska moose hunting and how that qualifies one for the Vice Presidency, I only saw the first half hour of the show. I caught the last 15 minutes yesterday.

For those of you who watched the show during the first season, there were some improvements in the first episode that definitely upped the drama factor (yes! yes!!). Instead of having the designers work in little rectangular boxes that were the equivalent of stage stets, they had to design loft apartments. This means designers had to contend with issues that real people have to deal with in real spaces—awkward layouts, natural light, and ugly things that need to be hidden. And instead of having each designer work separately, everyone worked in small teams (i.e., everyone got on each others’ nerves). Finally, they instituted a “pop design” quiz, where each week the designers will have to perform an individual task in a very short period of time, à la quickfire challenges on Top Chef.

I felt like there was no way this episode could really produce any great design results—each team had two days and $2000 to decorate an entire loft apartment, and with time and budget constraints like that there’s not a lot you can do in a space. As a consequence, most of the rooms looked extremely severe. Still, there were some elements that I really liked.
Like this room

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