Los Angeles

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars – Lunch

This week on Top Chef, it’s the classic challenge: Restaurant Wars!  You know the drill.  The remaining 8 chefs are split into two teams by drawing knives for first pick & second.  The two teams need to execute pop-up restaurants and impress the judges!

Oh, but there’s a little twist this season.  Restaurant Wars is actually a two-part event, as each team is to execute both a lunch and dinner service.  No big deal, right?

Orange Team Captain Amar fills his team with Jeremy, Kwame, and Phillip– he picks Phillip for his front-of-the-house experience and interest, not knowing that two chefs would have to play front-of-the-house with this Restaurant Wars double-header.  They form District LA.

Gray Team Captain Karen chooses Marjorie, Carl, and Isaac.  With both my Boston chefs on one team, this is my favorite.  They open Palate.

Here’s what the chefs put forth for their lunch menus:

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Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and restaurateur Bill Chait dine at both restaurants.  They prefer District LA’s appetizers, but Palate’s entrees.  Kwame is at front-of-the-house for District LA and does a decent job– he makes sure there’s someone there to greet the judges, but does forget to provide them silverware.  Marjorie, the general manager for lunch at Palate, is sadly away from the hostess stand when the judges arrive, but does a great job contending with the tables who just don’t seem to want to get up… she bribes them with wine!

Lunch service ends pretty smoothly for Palate, but the same can’t be said for District LA.  The tickets are still pouring in by the time Palate’s service is through… but to be continued!  I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with for dinner, because with the judges opinions so far, it could go either way.  What do you think?!

Top Chef: 10 Years Later

Get ready for a lot of 10’s!  There are 10 chefs left on Top Chef in this week’s episode, and the challenges are appropriately themed.  It has also been 10 years since the very first season of Top Chef premiered.

So, for the Quickfire, the 10 chefs can only use the same 10 ingredients.  Each chef has 20 seconds to pick one, they don’t have to use all 10, but they can use nothing else.

  • Phillip grabs beef
  • Isaac gets chicken
  • Chad picks jalapeño
  • Jeremy adds salt
  • Marjorie selects vinegar
  • Karen grabs olive oil
  • Kwame picks garlic
  • Amar gets mushrooms
  • Carl selects tomato
  • Jason chooses celery

Top Chef Alumna Antonia Lofaso is here to judge the Quickfire with Padma.  She selects Isaac and Karen as having made her least favorite dishes, and Jeremy and Amar as having made her favorites.  Jeremy wins and receives immunity!

The elimination challenge is also 10 themed.  Padma can barely make it through her giggles to the list of things that were happening 10 years ago– that Myspace was the most popular website (oof) and Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes.  The chefs need to put themselves 10 years ago on a plate and serve it to a table of (surprise!) 10.

It’s really fun to hear the stories of where these chefs were (and who these chefs were!) 10 years ago, but for one, it’s not a happy memory.  Kwame can’t get out of his own head during this one.  Michael Voltaggio (heart-eyes emoji) comes around with Tom to taste, as he’s one of the four Top Chef Alumni attending the dinner (the others being Antonia, Blaise, and last year’s winner Mei Lin!).  Phillip makes a literal fool out of himself explaining how he can’t cook to the judges’ tastes.  Tom tries to explain the concept of simply cooking good food correctly, but it’s not sinking in.

Here’s what they make:

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Gail makes a comment to Tom while they enjoy that she sat down next to him 10 years ago and here they still are!  Too cute.  The two of them plus Padma, Blaise, and Michael Voltaggio sit at the judges table to give the good news– their favorite dishes belonged to Marjorie, Chad, and Carl.  Marjorie gets her second win!

Now for the bad news– Jeremy’s immunity saved him this week, but Kwame got in his own head and ended up on the bottom, as did Phillip and Jason.  Jason is eliminated, he’s seemed a bit off-beat for a while.  He packs his knives, but something tells me Phillip could be right behind him… enough excuses, just cook well!

Thoughts?!

Top Chef: Pop Up Problems

Oh hey, a two part Top Chef premiere is worth of two posts!  The 16 remaining chefs are tasked with opening 4 Pop Ups across Los Angeles… on the very day Padma tells them this.

They are split into four teams and go to four different places, each highlighting a different cuisine:

  • The Orange team consists of Frances, Grayson, Phillip, and Renee.  They are to make vegan food.
  • The Grey team is Amar, Angelina, Isaac, and Marjorie.  They’re making Persian food.
  • The Purple team is Carl, Giselle, Jason, and Karen.  They’re to make Korean food.
  • The Blue team consists of Chad, Jeremy, Kwame, and Wesley.  They’re making Mexican food.

Ludo Lefebvre appropriately guest judges– I’ll never forget LudoBites for the name alone!  Each team goes to a restaurant to reflect their cuisine and can pick the brain of the chef there to ensure success… some teams do this better than others.

Here is what they make:

Persian and Korean go well, Mexican is saved by Kwame (who was the least confident about Mexican cuisine) and vegan… well, they’re the losing team.

The winning team is Persian!  Only one chef can win and it’s Marjorie for her killer dessert which the Taste of Tehran’s chef decides to add to her menu.

From the losing team, Renee is eliminated.

My two Bostonians were safely on the Korean team.  I’m looking forward to seeing what else they make!  Who do you have your eye on?

Top Chef California

Top Chef is back on my tv (finally!) and back where it all began– California!

It’s season 13, and 17 chefs (mostly executive, some James Beard nominees) gather to compete for the title of Top Chef.  There are not one, but TWO Boston chefs representin’ this season!  They’ll have to impress Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons, and Emeril Lagasse.

The seventeen gather for Tom & Padma for their first ever Quickfire, and it’s a classic– the mise en place race!  It’s not a relay, but a competition to be one of the first nine to complete their mise.  Those nine move onto part 2 of the Quickfire, where immunity is up for grabs.

Five different ~California~ ingredients feature in the race; they could: break down chicken, supreme oranges, separate eggs, turn artichokes, or prep asparagus.  The choice was theirs, but the tasks were on a first come, first served basis.

The chicken people seemed to finish fastest, some egg folks… I don’t think a single orange-supremer made it in.  The top 9 split themselves into 3 teams:

  • The Blue Team: Renee, Frances, and Amar
  • The Green Team: Isaac, Grayson, and Carl
  • The Red Team: Jason, Jeremy, and Wesley

The relay part comes in here for part 2.  They have to make a dish featuring one of these California ingredients, but only one can cook at a time.  In fact, each chef only gets 10 minutes to cook before handing it off to their teammate.  Their teammates wait blindfolded and they cannot communicate with them.

Mostly, this goes well (with the exception of the team who pretty much never found their chicken cooking) and the Blue Team– all three members– win immunity!

For the elimination challenge, the chefs can make anything they want, as long as its enough for 200 LA foodies.

Here’s what they do:

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The food bloggers and critics actually voted for the top and bottom dishes, and the judges decided from there.  Amar, Carl, (yeah Cambridge!) and Jeremy took the top spots, with Jeremy taking the first win!

This left Angelina, Grayson, and Garrett on the bottom.  Grayson gets a little sassy but Emeril is having none of it.  Because Garrett made the real technical mistake, he unfortunately is sent home first.  But there’s always Last Chance Kitchen!

Guys, I promised you a double recap, as this was a two-night, two-episode premiere!  Come back tomorrow for Pop Up Pandemonium!

Are you all as excited as I am to have Top Chef back on?!

Project Runway: Red Carpet

Last week’s Project Runway was the last challenge before the finale.  Four extremely talented designers were left– Kelly, my Boston girl, who has grown immensely throughout the season, wowed the judges, and stands as my favorite; Edmond, a front-runner from the beginning creating polished and stunning pieces; Candice, who I’ve always liked and definitely has direction; and Ashley, who I liked right away but has sort of lost her shine throughout the season.

These four are flown to Los Angeles, California for the Best Western challenge.  The winner gets 100 free nights in any Best Western (!!) and obviously, goes on to fashion week along with two of their fellow designers.  They have a budget of $400.  I have a lot to say about each of the looks, so let’s just fast-forward the two days back to New York for the runway!

Zac, Heidi, and Nina are joined by guest judge Christian Siriano for the runway show.  Here’s what the designers present:

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  • Candice’s look is lovely.  The top of that dress is beautiful.  Is it safe, as Nina says?  Yes.  Will it get her sent home?  Absolutely not.  It fits the challenge as red carpet wear.  I’ve liked Candice throughout. Apparently I’d never noticed until now that she has a full leg tattoo (like a sleeve, but on your leg.  a pant?).  I’ve enjoyed her work and her aesthetic.
  • Kelly does it again!  I was worried about the risk of presenting a jumpsuit, but this gorgeous layered textile she created honestly works so well in this format.  I can’t even picture this as a dress.  This is absolutely polished enough for the red carpet and it’ll definitely get photographers’ attention.  I’m still so proud of Kelly.  I’m laughing about the moment she calls it “her deli” from back home and then laughs at herself saying, “I don’t own a deli; I make sandwiches!”  She’s grown so much and there’s not one second I doubted her space in the finale throughout this episode.
  • This fabric didn’t speak to me the way it spoke to Edmond in mood.  Sure, I like it, but I would never choose it.  I can’t picture this ever swinging elegant.  I do like the silhouette he ended up with, even though Christian says he could do it in 10 minutes.  It’s especially lovely from the back.  Never for a second did I doubt Edmond’s spot in the finale either.
  • Ashley’s ready-to-wear pieces are so good.  Ashley’s lavender hair and perfectly coordinated lip color are both so good.  Lately, though, Ashley’s doubts have gotten the better of her.  This dress didn’t do it for me.  I liked the textile and I liked Aube’s cleavage.  Nina noticed fit issues and so did I all the way from TV land.  She struggled in this challenge and in my opinion, she was the least deserving of the four to go to fashion week.

Candice is announced as “in” first and is off to fashion week!  I’m a bit surprised that they’d announce her first, but that’s because they were saving Kelly’s spot to announce that she had won the challenge!  Kelly wins 100 free nights at Best Westerns, a ticket to fashion week, and literally like a new life?  I’m so proud of her.  It comes down to Edmond and Ashley, and I’m shocked that the judges do not invite Edmond to fashion week.  I was sure that Tim was going to suddenly whip out that Tim Gunn save and send him there anyway.  Maybe with some time at home, Ashley will have a fresh perspective on her designs and wow us at fashion week.  …but I really wanted to see Edmond’s collection.

Thoughts?!

Hell’s Kitchen Recap: Winner Chosen

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The final two, Scott and Jason, take a moment to celebrate at the Four Seasons before getting to work on their menus.  The next day at breakfast, they are joined by their families!    After they say their goodbyes, Chef Ramsay gifts them white jackets and promises them a night on the town.  Oh, you know this is a trick.

They end up at supper club and a boxing match of sorts until the announcer calls out “From Chicago, Illinois…”  Jason and Scott enter the ring for their final challenge.  No, it’s not a fight; there are kitchens back there!

Five judges come out to score their five dishes.

  • MICHAEL VOLTAGGIO IS THE FIRST JUDGE.  I’m dying.  I love him!  Top Chef meets Hell’s Kitch!  Michael prefers Scott’s cold appetizer to Jason’s– Scott gets 9/10 and Jason 8/10.
  • Ben Ford is the second judge for the hot appetizers.  Jason earns 8/10 and Scott does too.
  • The chicken entrée is judged by Neal Fraser.  Both chefs earn 9/10.
  • Quinn Hatfield judges the seafood entrée.  He gives Scott 8/10 and Jason 9/10. They’re now tied.
  • The beef entrée is judged by David Myers.  Scott earns 9/10 and Jason only get 8/10 making Scott the winner!

Scott gets first pick as they alternate through the Hell’s Kitchen contestants picking their teams then and there.  Scott gets: Chris, Ralph, Rochelle, Kashia, and Jessica.  They become the Blue Team.  Jason takes: Anton, Melanie, Gabriel, Bev, and Sandra.  This is the Red Team.

JP opens the doors to Hell’s Kitchen one last time of the coronation of a new champion.  There are lots of VIPs in the house, including “Shameless” actress Shanola Hampton!  Jason’s Red Team starts out slow thanks to Sandra.  Scott’s quality control gets Chris through the first appetizers.  In the dining room, his daughter Gigi remains unimpressed.  What a cutie!

Jason has Sandra problems and Scott has Jessica problems.  While Jason threatens to kick Sandra out of the kitchen, Scott actually ends up doing so to Jessica!  Rochelle takes over garnish for her.  Both teams end the night on a positive note.

And now it’s Gordon Ramsay’s turn to make a big decision.  As is tradition, Scott and Jason stand in front of the two glass doors– whoever’s door opens is the winner.  Chef Ramsay instructs them to place their hand on the doorknob, and turn on the count of three…  (more…)

Hillbillies Wednesday

Ah, another great theme song!  And closer, too!

The Beverly Hillbillies ran for 9 seasons, and according to Wikipedia, “paved the way for later culture-conflict programs” like The Nanny and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.  The premise is all spelled out in its theme song: Jed Clampett, a poor mounaineer, discovers oil on his land while hunting for dinner.  He becomes an oil millionaire and moves his family into a mansion in Beverly Hills.  Instead of living a lavish lifestyle, the Clampetts– Jed, his daughter Ellie May, nephew Jethro, and mother-in-law “Granny”– continue to live their hillbilly lifestyle.  They make their own soap, grow their own food, and comedically, don’t understand modern convenience.  Mr. Drysdale, Jed’s greedy banker, and his secretary Jane Hathaway do their best to accommodate the Clampetts.  “Miss Jane” was always my favorite; she called her boss “chief,” but really was the brains of the operation.

My favorite gag in this show was the pool in the mansion’s backyard.  The Clampetts called this the “cement pond.”  Because they pronounced it “see-ment,” it took me a while to get this joke.  Hey, I was like, 10!

I’m also remembering a specific episode in which Jed tries to be a rock star.  I have a mental image of Buddy Epsen repeating “yeah baby, well baby” in a metallic-looking outfit.  This show was definitely in black and white, so really, how much could you tell?

The Beverly Hillbillies ran from 1962 to 1971– that’s a long run!  Though I’m sure outdated, I’m willing to bet the backwards antics of the out-of-place Clampett family would still pull some laughs today!

y’all come back now, ya hear?