Our champions so far: Hubert “The Inevitable Winner” Keller, Suzanne “It’s Not a Coma, It’s a Momentary Fugue” Tracht and Rick “I Can Make ANYTHING Into a Taco, Just Dare Me” Bayless.
Tonight: Anita Lo (Annisa, New York City), Douglas Rodriguez (Alma de Cuba, Philly), John Besh (Restaurant August, New Orleans) and Mark Peel (Campanile, Los Angeles). There will be egg cookery. There will be Neil Patrick Harris. It’s a win-win!
LAST EP: Cheftestants had to cook offal and/or parts of animals most non-dog creatures don’t usually like to eat. Cindy Pawlcyn disappointed me. There was a dickwad named Ludo who tried to top Rick Bayless at Mexican food and was pretty asswipe-y to the judges, because he is both a dickwad and an idiot. He was not punished by the pansy judges, which was disappointing. We had several sightings of Kelly Choi actually eating food.
I really, really didn’t like Ludo.
10:00: Douglas Rodriguez owns 10 bajillion restaurants. He does “tortilla-free Latin cooking.” Kinda like the taqueria down the street is too “authentically Mexican” to serve guacamole, which I find “authentically a pain in my ass.” They annoy me, and so does Rodriguez. It’s Mexico. They eat tortillas. Deal with it.
However, Tom Colicchio trying to pronounce “nueva Latina” with any kind of vaguely Spanish accent = hilarious.
10:02: Holy crap, I am scared of Anita Lo. She could totally put the beat-down on you.
John Besh also owns 10 bajillion restaurants, and has a kick-ass accent. He does not annoy me and does not pull any “my style is crayfish-free Cajun” bullshit.
10:04: I really can’t get over the Saveur guy / Bob Balaban thing.
Mark Peel is playing for Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders, which gives me an opportunity to plug this amazingly awesome book in which I have no stake at all other than wanting to spread the good word.
10:05: QUICKFIRE: Cook an egg. With one hand behind your back. It’s a good thing Kelly Choi isn’t actually a cook competing here, because I don’t know that her back is actually wide enough to shelter her hand.
10:07: I enjoy that even when they’re just walking around the kitchen, they keep their hands behind their backs. Hardcore.
Anita Lo smashing eggs trying to use the egg-topper thingy = an exact replay of what happened in my kitchen when Brian gave me one for Christmas.
10:09: Wow, everyone’s plates look like ass. Besh is trying to kill the judges with raw egg. Peel has no time to wipe his plate down, and has sauce all over that shit. Lo has some kind of grainy-looking scrambled egg thing served in hollowed-out eggshells. Other guy either did something really great or so utterly heinous that they can’t even show it.
10:13: Okay, Rodriguez done good with his arepa.
Peel not only sent out a hot mess, he forgot an ingredient.
Lo’s going over well. Give a foodie truffle oil, and walk off with the prize.
Besh only has one (uncooked) dish for everyone to share.
10:15: Besh: Half a star. Unsurprising but still sad. Lo? Five stars. See? Truffle oil.
10:16: ELIMINATION: Cooking for NPH. And creepy magicians. I don’t trust magicians. I mean they are all essentially liars, are they not? Like weatherpeople, but with capes and fog machines.
Rodriguez: “We’re cooking for Doogie Howser!”
10:18: Max Maven, magician and mentalist, is doing something with a deck of blank cards that is both intensely complex and intensely boring.
It turns out they all end up with cards printed with one of the elements of magic – spectacle, illusion, mystery, some other crap. Cut off your rattail, Max; it’s not 1984 and you don’t drive an IROC-Z.
Or maybe you do, in which case, go with it. It’s really working for you.
10:19: Peel has “mystery” and is making something en papillote. Because what’s in the paper? It’s a mystery!
NO IT’S NOT. IT’S FISH. WE ALL KNOW IT. No one ever makes pork chops en papillote, or turkey leg en papillote. Now that would be a surprise.
Lo is trying to create the “illusion of a scallop.” Just don’t make it out of bananas, because I won’t be able to take it. I’m going to start using this for everything: “I know it looks like a grilled cheese sandwich, but I’m creating the illusion of fondue.”
10:21: Everyone sees her as the one to beat. Everyone is right. Peel is already thinking about resorting to sabotage, with might not be a bad idea. Like a ninja or a killer fart, she is silent but deadly.
10:26: Lo’s playing for a breast cancer charity, so I’d have to like her even if I weren’t afraid that she could kill me in my sleep with a shrimp deveiner. Besh is making tableside horseradish sorbet. If you don’t like horseradish sorbet, there’s something wrong with YOU. (So yes, I’m assuming there is something wrong with me.)
10:27: Peel: Not As Funny As He Thinks He Is. “The clock is ticking and the laser is creeping up the table toward your crotch.”
10:29: Sterno-rubbed coconuts, set on fire. Do they have the insurance to handle this? Will they be handing out eyebrow-guards to the judges?
I’m not going to lie: I think the magic castle is both creepy and ridiculous and inane and annoying. Maybe its ability to simultaneously exhibit all those qualities is the magic part?
10:31: The look Lo just shot Besh’s nitrogen tank was so withering, it was a thing of beauty. Besh is lucky he didn’t turn around, because there would have been a hole right through the middle of his head. Because SHE is the laser that’s creeping up the table.
I’m going to need to practice for YEARS to achieve a withering glance of such power and strength, and until now I’d really thought I was doing well in the withering glance department.
10:32: Hey y’all in the comments – I’m sorry I can’t be there to keep up with you!
What is it with Kelly Choi and the giant side-of-the-head flower? I still say ballast.
Possibly creepier than her flower: Max Maven’s widow’s peak. You could spear a marlin on that thing.
10:33: The list of things wrong with Peel’s dish: (1) He told everyone what was in it, so there goes your surprise and (2) Did the editors just spell “Thai” wrong? For reals?
10:35: I missed most of what Besh served, but the snippets I heard sounded good. One day I’ll learn to use this TiVo.
10:36: Okay, the “illusion of the scallop” thing is awesome. When they cut the daikon (?) open and the beef tartare spilled out: wonderfully gory. Almost too gory, like guts spilling out of a teeny-tiny intestinal cavity. And more of a mystery or spectacle than anyone else’s dish. She’s taken on everyone’s challenge simultaneously. Also, she can kill with her mind.
Who is Doogie’s foodie poseur actor “friend”? Fail.
10:37: So the flaming coconut is both dangerous and a failure. But that empanada with the foie and figs I would house in a second.
Despite the whole magic theme bullshit, I once again found Gael Greene’s hat more of a spectacle than anything else I witnessed other than the illusion scallop.
10:40: Everyone go home now, because Lo has pounded you but good.
I’m a little disappointed at the quantity of NPH. I was led to believe there would be more. That was clearly an inadequate amount of gay.
I’d thought it would be fun to be NPH’s friend, but if these are the people he hangs out with I’m not so sure.
10:43: Interlude magician pulls bunny out…from under his hair. Belief that magicians are creepy motherfuckers is reinforced. Go go gadget backfiring!
Where are Penn and Teller when we need them? I’d even take David Blaine, and I loathe David Blaine. Maybe the challenge could be to make a tasty puree to feed him through a tube while he lowers himself into the magma layer of the earth’s crust in a leaden box filled with scorpions.
10:46: JUDGE’S TABLE: Simmons – it’s a blini, not a bellini. You’re a food writer. Get on the train.
10:47: Simmons, on Lo’s faux scallop: “It was gruesome, but in a good way.” Again I say: you’re a food writer. You can come up with something better than that. Pull a Bourdain if you have to, and stock up on one-liners in advance. I can get away with that shit, I’m a crappy blogger. You? Get paid to do this.
10:48: Sadder than the kinda-flaming coconut is that he’s set a coconut on fire before.
Wait, Gael actually wondered what was in the paper wrapping? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PEOPLE: FISH. FISH EN PAPILLOTE. ETA: However, her quote was unintenionally priceless - I direct you to Kimbaa’s comment re: dog shit.
10:51: John Besh is so, so losing. And deservedly so, but it makes me sad. John Besh, you are adorable, and I still want to visit every one of your restaurants.
Everyone is depressed by the failed flaming coconut. Failed Flaming Coconut: The new rock opera from my acid jazz-noisecore band.
10:52: Is Gael’s hat collapsible, like those space-saving colanders?
10:55: “Your blini gave me brain freeze.” Okay, so Saveur guy looks like Bob Balaban but lacks the humor factor.
And Besh, predictably, is out first.
Oh dear god, when Kelly leans her head over to look at Gael down the table it really does look like she’s going to topple from the sheer skull size-to-neck diameter ratio.
And Rodriguez is out. It’s Lo vs. Peel. I wonder who will win? The suspense is killing me.
10:58: I lied, it wasn’t killing me. Or was it, and the fact that I’m still alive is MAGIC? No, it wasn’t. Lo takes it by a mile. I might put some money on her against Keller.
Peel: “I’ve learned from this how good other chefs really are.” THAT’S what you learned? Go back to LA and give Ludo a call.
NEXT WEEK: Michael Chiarello brings the Napa style. My ire is already aroused!