Stephanie wins Top Chef after lackluster finale {Top Chef Chicago}

June 12, 2008

Stephanie wins Top Chef Chicago and becomes the first female Top Chef, but aside from her victory, the rest of the show was BORING! I decided to post this in fancy “Vivaldi” style font because it suits the high brow foodie audience for which the finale was intended. I could not appreciate Stephanie’s daring pecan and olive ingredients that so impressed the judges. The producers keep forgetting that those of us at home can’t taste the food.. I could appreciate, however, that Lisa’s soup caused the renowned guest chefs to “slurp” and ask for seconds. Like I have said before, Lisa did her homework before arriving in Puerto Rico and performed better than she ever did in Chicago. She was uncharacteristically at ease during the finale due to the fact that there wasn’t anyone around to argue with her. If you have ever watched Hell’s Kitchen, you can easily imagine Chef Gordon Ramsey eating Lisa alive (and probably throw up afterwards). Richard’s tanks of exotic gasses didn’t set him apart from the others. As I watched him pour liquid nitrogen into his bacon flavored ice cream, I thought isn’t that the stuff doctor’s use to freeze warts off of people? (ick) I believe Richard’s downfall was that he thought he could pull it all together on the second day, but surprise—no sous chefs! They bring back the old format for the finale: 2 finalists cooking head to head with the help of former cast mates. Otherwise,Top Chef should move over to the FOOD network. I hope to see more of Stephanie! Maybe she will write a cookbook or get her own television show. She is a heck of a lot less annoying that Rachael Ray!

PJ

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Chef Lisa squeaks by with garnishes and dipping sauce {Top Chef}

June 6, 2008

Richard made it clear from the onset that he didn’t think Lisa had the talent to be in the final four, and later referred to her as “a gray cloud in the kitchen.” However, Lisa arrived in Puerto Rico with a new haircut and ready for the challenges. For the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs had to cook with plantains for celebrity guest judge, Wilo Benet. There were a couple of amusing moments: when the timer went off, the chefs raised their hands without Padma yelling, “Knifes down! Hands Up!” Richard managed to singe his eyebrows and sound like a woodpecker when chopping. Stephanie won the Quickfire, and as a reward she got to pair-up chefs with sous chefs (season cast-offs). Stephanie picked Dale because she “has known him for about 10 years.” Richard was paired with Spike (who sported a new hat), and Nicki was assigned to Antonia. The paring of Andrew and Lisa could have produced a lot of drama, but Andrew announced, “Never have I thrown somebody under the bus. I play with honor!” He kept his cool throughout the preparations, despite Lisa acting more than a little bossy. Richard brought along a roll of bright green painters tape to make labels and this “ingredient” helped to keep him organized the small kitchen. Dale had a brain fart and left the pork belly out on top of the stove overnight, but with Dale’s help, Stephanie managed to improvise and wind up in the top two with Richard. Her food sounded delicious (especially the Pork Satay on a Sugar Cane skewer with miso almond sauce and cilantro vinaigrette) and for a fraction of a second, I forgot that the chefs spent 7 hours dismembering pigs. I was surprised at the decline in Antonia’s performance during this this episode. She had said that on the hiatus, she had been “working 100 hours a week” at her restaurant, so that may explain why she was not in her usual top form. Lisa had practiced cooking Puerto Rican food at home, and came to Puerto Rico familiar with the local ingredients. Antonia ended up leaving for her “unsophisticated dishes” and “undercooked pigeon peas.” I made the mistake of wasting a few minutes trying to figure out the judges’ decision: didn’t Lisa have several less than successful dishes? Lisa did make great garnishes and dipping sauces, but personally I would have passed on her Roasted Pork-butt. Baring any more undercooked lentils, Stephanie is a the strongest contender for the final two. Lisa will be a big surprise if she lasts another week. Richard’s past performances have been uneven, but he won the elimination challenge this week—and a car!

PJ


Crazy Chef Andrew sent home on Top Chef Chicago

May 15, 2008

Season 2 runner up, Sam Talbot was the guest chef this week on Top Chef Chicago. Sam, a diabetic and son of a police officer, asked the chefs to create sexy salads and healthy and hearty boxed lunches. Dale and Stephanie came out on top and won praise from the judges who said that their dishes were satisfying, great tasting, and healthy. Despite being criticized by Antonia for only being able to cook Asian food, Dale won this week’s challenge with his marinated bison in cabbage cups. As a reward, he received a Rutherford Hill 2002 bottle of Merlot and two tickets to visit the Rutherford Hill’s winery in Napa Valley, CA.

Spike, Andrew, and Lisa ended up as the bottom 3 for their failure to deliver a healthy boxed lunch for the Chicago Police. These three also delivered the most vocal barbs to fellow chefs. Spike, who won the Sexy Salad Quickfire, had an advantage of selecting 4 items at the market that the other chefs couldn’t use. Strategically, he chose tomatoes, bread, lettuce, and chicken, in turn making everyone else invent a boxed lunch out-of-the-box so to speak. Lisa announced at the onset that everyone’s “personality sucks-a**” and later claimed that one of the chefs burned her rice. The judges, however, were put off by her raw shrimp more than the burnt rice. Andrew said he “woke up today with a f***ing fire inside my stomach, you know, like I’m going to stab somebody, or I’m going to make some amazing food.” Fortunately, he didn’t stab anyone, and unfortunately (for Andrew), the judges hated his dish and the police thought the meal was not satisfying. Andrew was furious that Lisa “threw him under the bus” by telling the judges that he didn’t use a whole grain. Andrew then admitted to the judges that he had lost his rule sheet, but in the end, he was sent home because the judges hated his dish.

Will Dale keep the Merlot for himself and retain his a**hole status with the other chefs?

Coming up is the next instalment of the popular Restaurant Wars.


Malissa loses cat fight {Groomer Has It}

May 11, 2008

I really want to like Malissa, but on Groomer Has It this week, she made it difficult for me to take her seriously. After telling us that she knows the difference between stuffed animals and real animals, she actually managed to get “bitten” by a stuffed German Sheppard. Later she said she had a “seventh sense,” realizing later that there are only 5 senses. The worst mistake was cutting off a cat’s whiskers after a judge told the groomers specifically “do not scissor the face or cut the whiskers.” That’s actually a mean thing to do because cats use their whiskers to judge distances. So Malissa went home. It was no contest between Malissa and Artist, who ended up at the bottom because he lost confidence when his cat “boo-booed three times; three times it put chocolate truffles on my table.” Mean Kathleen said that Malissa “is an insult to my gender,” but Kathleen is not impressive when it comes to her interpersonal skills (although she won “best in show” this week for cat grooming). Kathleen impressed the judges by knowing her role in the process: “I am her (the cat’s) servant, I am not her friend.” OK, but I wouldn’t claim cat worshiping as a credit to our gender, either.

What’s the difference between grooming a cat vs a dog? According to Jorge, dogs want to please you, but with a cat, “you have to please them…basically, they’re like a woman; you have to tell them what they want to hear, and they’ll work with you.” Jessica, the resident cat groomer, also had a difficult time with her cat. Earlier Jessica had begun to show claws in her personality, prompting Jorge to say, “I would like to put a muzzle on Jessica.”

Last week I wondered what CPR had to do with dog grooming, but this week I learned that a good groomer needs to know basic animal first aid in case of an emergency. The groomers had some pretty funny things to say before the Quick Sniff Challenge (performing 3 different types of first aid on three different dogs–2 stuffed animals and a CPR dog).

Jon: The CPR dog looked kind of like a stuffed-bear-sloth-creature. It needed a brushing.

Will: That CPR dog was crazy looking…I’m not putting my mouth on that thing, no way girlfriend.

Jorge: I had given a little Yorkie CPR and he had the worst breath.

Artist: You can’t be walking around with your scissors in your hand saying ‘I can give a Continental Cut like nobody’s business’…you’ve got to be solid.

Next week: Chow-Chow Challenge


Amber is first groomer voted off the island {Groomer Has It}

May 4, 2008

Fans of Project Runway and Survivor felt right at home in the doghouse this week on Groomer Has It. Amber was sent home by two of her teammates because she did a superior job during the Challenge. Will, the winner of last week’s show, got to pick his own team of three for the Quick Sniff Challenge: designing a collection of three outfits for a Poodle from each breed class: standard (big), miniature (small), and teacup (tiny). Will also received the added advantage of putting the rest of the teams of 3 together. He should have picked judges’ favorites– show front runners Jonathan and Kathleen, but instead, chose Amber (for her creative ideas) and Jessica (who said dressing up dogs is “stupid”). The most entertaining team was Jorge, Jasper, and Artist; they had the least designing experience, yet won with their line of red and white satin poodle sportswear. They were picked by two “top designers in dog-dressing fashion.” (Stop. You mean to tell me that there exists such a hierarchy?) Jorge was impressed with Jasper’s cloth-cutting skills saying Jasper cut like “he’s been playing with dolls all his life.” Jasper, a man built like a tank, and who admitted his wife dresses him at home, “got in touch with his inner metro-sexual,” according to Jorge. Watching Jorge, Jasper, and Artist select their “models” grew funnier by the minute. Jasper picked Kenny, a black standard poodle “because he was easygoing and he let me play with his paws.” Artist picked the miniature poodle who had the most “testosterone.” Artist’s technique comprised of sniffing each poodle butt (this is a unique talent of Artist’s; detecting dog hormones was his method for identifying breeds while blindfolded in the first challenge). Ironically, this dog ended up wearing a cheerleading outfit. Jorge grabbed teacup poodle, Patches: “When I saw Patches, I said, ‘that’s the spirit I need today.'” (At the time, Patches was humping another teacup poodle). The contestants also had to create their own copy for the catwalk and Artist had the most original with his hip-hop inspired description: “We have here the tough traina. He does not like no complainas. He works hard, he has flair, his bling-bling is hot to wear. He gives us a sweatshirt with a team logo with matching colors–Oh no no!” Their ability to work together and have fun with a tough challenge won over the judges. Jasper, the MIP, (Most Improved Playa), was the overall individual winner.

Now for the bad news: Malissa was singled out by the judges as the worst groomer this week for a single act of shaving a poodle’s “top knot” too far back. You learn something new every week, and I learned that poodles are supposed to have bangs. Sweet Malissa responded by saying that “the eyes are the most beautiful part of a dog.” But she is safe for now because, as Artist had pointed out earlier, “grooming is 20% of this challenge.” Amber was sad to leave the show, but happy to return home to “build her business and her family.” As if to remind the viewers to keep life in perspective, she shared with us her happy news that she is pregnant.

What’s next? The groomers will be tested on their EMT skills. Can they perform CPR on a dog? There is more to the dog grooming profession than grooming!

PJ


Small dog groomers had a leg up in challenge {Groomer Has It}

April 28, 2008

On Animal Planet’s Groomer Has It, dogs are people too. Puppy size mattered when volunteers handed over their puppies to Reality TV groomers for the third challenge. Will was awarded the “top dog” prize because he showered his Pomeranian puppy with hugs and kisses. The judges were sympathetic to Will’s transformation; last week, they poo-pooed Will for using the wrong brush on a Bearded Collie. This week Will was determined to show how much “he loves dogs.” Sadly Jon was told to “leave the doghouse” after “failing to meet the grooming standards of the puppy grooming challenge.” Never mind that Jon’s puppy was a Great Pyrenese and with the exception of the Leonberger, was the size of a full grown Labrador Retriever! Contestants who were given small dogs definitely had the advantage with the 90 minute time frame. But they had to please the owners of small dogs who are very picky about their dog’s appearance. Groomers of small dogs make house calls and call themselves “dog stylists” instead of “dog groomers.” Kathleen, the”Quick Sniff” contest winner, was the only groomer allowed to choose her puppy, a white Pomeranian named Princess who arrived wearing a little red skirt. The rest were given their puppies at random, and it took poor Jon a full hour just to dry fur of the giant Pyrenese pup. This left him little time for the actual “grooming/styling” phase. Jon chose to focus on styling the fur on the puppy’s head because did not have time take care of the other end. The judges offered him no sympathy and bolted from their chairs and headed right for the tail. It wasn’t fair that the judges didn’t scrutinize the other groomers, and I wish Jon could have summoned Tyra Banks to give his dog “a Brazillian Booty Facial.” The moral of the story? Who cares if there’s a Writier’s Strike when you have shows like Grommer Has It? Next week the contestants have to design doggy outfits–another contest where size matters. What does designing clothes have to do with dog grooming? It doesn’t really matter becuase until Project Runway begins, I’m watching Groomer Has It.

See ya’

PJ


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