Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

TC All-Stars take on Restaurant Wars,Worst Cooks take on TV dinners and American Idol auditions are back in town

Quite the elaborate Quickfire was set up this week on Top Chef All-Stars,as Anthony Bourdain himself took charge and brought the contenders to Le Bernardin,his former culinary stomping grounds. There,the chefs were introduced to Justo Thomas,the lightning fast fish chef who Bourdain devoted a chapter to in his latest book Medium Raw.

After a demo of Justo's fish prep skills(it takes him eight minutes to portion several fish),the chefs had ten minutes to slice up two fish correctly. When time was up,the four best contenders were given forty five minutes to make a tasty dish from the discarded parts(head,tail,etc).

Mikey I,Richard,Marcel and Dale were chosen and the one who won immunity for the Elimination was Dale,who whipped up two different plates. He first made a bacon dashi with a roasted cod collar and then a fluke back fin sashimi with cucumber and liver sauce. Not my kind of food but Bourdain loved it.

Then everyone went back to Padma,who announced that Restaurant Wars was on. The chefs were tasked with creating "pop-up restaurants",sort of a for one night only kind of deal. As part of his reward,Dale was made captain of one team and allowed to choose who would be in charge of the other.

Marcel was his pick,mainly because he didn't want to work with him. This could have been a good opportunity for Marcel to put aside his off-putting egotism and actually win the challenge for himself as well as his fellow chefs,but noooo.....

Before we get to the bad,let's savor the good. Dale's team named their place Bodega and the food was a high end interpretation of what you might find there. One of the most enjoyed entrees was Tre's pork shoulder with cheddar cheese grits and a Corona lime sauce.

Fabio had front of the house duties,which he handled like a pro even after a small flare-up with Dale over the way the servers were being spoken to.

His dessert offering was an amaretto cake with cappuccino mousse that Bourdain adored along with everyone else in the place(some did enjoy Carla's blueberry pie with dry milk ice cream as well).

The diners voted Bodega as the best restaurant but the judges chose the overall winner and that honor went to Richard,along with ten grand.

Not only did he make a couple of odd but delicious dishes,such as a fried chicken skin with tuna belly served in a can,but his other team mates pointed out that he was very helpful in the kitchen to everyone. Nice going,Richard!

The other team's restaurant was named Etch,for some strange reason. It was hard to get them to agree on anything,let alone the name. Tiffany was made front of the house,not by her choice.

She did say that she was more of an in the kitchen type and it showed. The staff was unorganized and Tiffany mostly went around to make small talk with the guests. Her food wasn't up to par either. The shaved asparagus salad with egg and chorizo that she created was watery and flavorless.

Even Antonia,who has doing well on team challenges,came up short here. The ricotta gnudi with braised oxtail ragout she put out was deemed too salty to be eaten.

There was a lot of tension at judges' table,with no one wanting to throw anyone under the bus at first. However,when Marcel started to point fingers after Tiffany reluctantly admitted to some backstage fighting affecting her performance,it became all out war.

Marcel basically was annoyed that his team wasn't willing to blindly follow his lead and got very peevish with them. That lead to constant fighting on the line and poor plate prep.

Granted,Mikey I was already ticked off at him for an earlier dispute during the QF(regarding where cooking equipment was located)but Marcel made things worse by taking a Know It All tone with everyone else's food. His own dishes weren't much better. The roasted monkfish with olives and parsley that he served up was as mushy as baby food.

Worst of all was his dessert;Marcel dove into his usual bag of molecular gastronomy and made his practically patented foam as part of a peach duo. One peach was unripened and the other had coconut powder and foam(why anyone thinks that flavored powder is so great,beyond a Fun Dip packet,is odd to me). Bourdain said that this dessert was like a thumb in the eye to the customer,ouch!

Marcel was sent off to pack his knives and despite my hopes for him this season,this was the right decision. Unlike Tiffani from Season One,Marcel has not learned any life lessons from his past experience and matured in his people skills one bit.

It's a shame but he's not a bad guy at heart(even Mikey I testified to that)and maybe someday Marcel will be less of a wiseacre and more of a serious chef. Time will tell on that,folks.

Moving onward,next week has more heat in the kitchen where it belongs. From risotto to pasta that needs to cook at the last minute,the focus seems to be back on the food.

The recruits on Worst Cooks In America had a real workout this week,starting off with being taught three different sauces to make and replicate. Then,they were shown how to make fish plates that required one of the sauces on it and had to do it on their own.

The Main Dish challenge was yet to come however-as part of a flavor lesson,each team was taught to make an improved version of classic TV dinner fare. Chef Anne's team had a dry rubbed steak with baby carrots(based on salisbury steak)and Robert's bunch had a turkey with creamed peas and cranberries.

It does appear that a few of the recruits are making progress even if ,like Ty,their end results aren't picture perfect yet. Some like Matt and Priscilla are just not getting it still,which is why it was best for them to leave:

The musical madness that is American Idol returned last night and how did our new judges do on their debut outing? Well,Steven Tyler brings his own brand of loopiness(and leering)to the table and JLo is torn between supportive and straight talk but so far,so good.

It does help that there is now a majority of the judges' panel with actual musical performance experience who can give useful advice to the true potentials during the audition rounds. The real appeal of this portion of AI,however,are the hopelessly untalented yet entertaining folk who love to crash this party. With that in mind,I give you Yoji Pop:


THE FASHION SHOW: The second season finale is next week and believe it or not,contentious Calvin Tran is one of the Final Three. Say what you will about this persistently annoying man,he is quite the show stopper when it comes to bad attitudes and the most compelling reason for viewers to tune in this time around. I don't know if he'll win but forgetting his face will not be easy,that's for sure:

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