overnights

Around the World in 80 Plates Recap: David Rees on Dim Sum and Demon Chefs

You don't get the red apron until you've achieved a master rank.

You don't get the red apron until you've achieved a master rank.Photo: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

Usually, when I recap a show, I take copious notes on my laptop computer. But this week’s episode happened to coincide with me stuffing my face with multiple slices of extremely greasy pizza, so what follows is based entirely on my rickety memory. Any mistakes are due to my advanced age, not my lack of enthusiasm for AtWi80P. ALSO: Curtis Stone, my inner goddess is still in love with you.

Our gang of marauding culinamaniacs are in Hong Kong! First, they have to run up a bunch of steps to visit a famous statue of a sitting Buddha. Nookie, being overweight, slows down his partner John. John disparages Nookie, whereas Nookie has the decency not to comment on John’s hair, which has spent the entire series looking like an upended plate of oily black noodles.

Once they reach the Buddha statue, a man dressed like a monk (could he have been an actual monk? If so, he should be fired from whatever religion employs him) instructs the chefs to go to a famous market and mess with some weird crabs. They do so.

Nicole insists on tying up all the crabs for the girls’ team. She’s all thumbs, alas. Nookie makes short work of the crabs, so he and John jog to the next destination, which is ... I can’t remember.

Oh! But then everyone rendezvous at a harbor or a sidewalk or some area which affords amazing views of the Hong Kong skyline. And who’s waiting for them? None other than Curtis Stone and Cat Cora (not a Garfield-flavored cola sold in crystalline shards). Curtis and Cat tell the chefs that they’ll be dining at a famous Hong Kong restaurant owned by a fellow named Demon Chef.

Sure enough, that evening finds Nookie, John, Avery, Nicole, and Liz dressed up and ready to eat some experimental Chinese cuisine. The so-called "Demon Chef" is a futuristic-looking gentleman who combines all the charm of Adam Carolla and Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. He makes a big show of abusing his staff and flirts shamelessly (that is, witlessly) with Avery as he presents dish after dish of postmodern, postindustrial, and (presumably) post-edible food to the bewildered, awe-struck group.

One dish, called Sex on the Beach, is meant to resemble a used condom on a bed of sand. (Alas, friends, I know I’m remembering this correctly.) Everyone hoots and hollers as Avery swallows the "used condom" with maximum salaciousness. Avery is coming across as the type of chef who would insist on making out with another chick if someone with a bad tan and a video camera was within spitting distance.

(Wait — I just remembered — the destination I couldn’t recall above was a famous Dim Sum restaurant, where the challenge was to make dumplings. Nicole once again took over for the girls, which made Avery mad because she hadn’t done anything useful yet. John commented on Nookie’s fat fingers and their uselessness when it comes to the delicate art of stuffing dumplings.)

The chefs will compete as individuals this week, each responsible for one dish in a five-course meal to be served in Demon Chef’s restaurant, whose name I can’t recall. (It was either "Doctor Asshole’s House of Nightmares" or "Rich People Will Eat Anything.") Nookie and John won the exceptional ingredient, which is an hour with one of Demon Chef’s assistants.

Nookie makes the most of his time with the sous chef, inquiring as to Chinese spices that would go well with raw oysters. John, for his part, ignores the sous chef — you see, John has "messed around with molecular gastronomy" and wants to head out on his own. (I remember that quote because it’s the one thing I know I will never say.)

If the reference to molecular gastronomy didn’t clue you in, it turns out the chefs aren’t making traditional Chinese food; they’re making experimental Chinese food. This bums me out because I’ve been to China, and I had some amazing traditional food while I was there: Chong Qing hot pots (in Chong Qing, where I also had one of the best karaoke experiences of my life) and, on one amazing afternoon, the best salted pork I’ve ever tasted, in a tiny house on the Yangtse River. The kids in that village had never seen a six-foot-two white person before, and I drew some (frankly, fucking incredible) pictures of American motorcycles for them. I also sang my favorite Toby Keith song for thousands of locals in a town square, but that’s an essay for another day.

So, Nookie makes raw oysters with Chinese sauces; John makes a bunch of molecules; Nicole makes a duck dish inspired by Derrida’s "Of Grammatology"; Liz makes an Irish pot pie(?!); and Avery makes a mango-blob dessert. Is that experimental enough? The only missing ingredient is Schroedinger’s cat.

I’ll admit: Avery rewon my heart when she testified that molecular gastronomy saved her soul after her father died — this imbues her with a scientific sophistication that (almost) erases the memory of her Chefs Gone Wild act with Demon Chef.

It’s dinner time! Curtis, Cat, and Demon Chef join scores of "locals" for the meal. I put "locals" in quotes because these people aren’t local — they’re all incredibly beautiful expats. Their clothes look more delicious than the food, and I can feel them judging me as I grind more pizza into my snark-hole while wearing my second-cleanest pair of pleated khaki shorts.

John works the front of the house, trying to undo the damage suffered by the staff under Demon Chef, a.k.a. the Harvester of Sorrow (still Metallica’s best song, IMHO). Demon Chef criticizes John for not positioning the plates so they all face the same direction. Are you serious, Demon Chef?

(The reason I can’t take Demon Chef seriously is that the entrance to Demon Chef’s restaurant features a gigantic photo of Demon Chef, which suggests Demon Chef is the Donald Trump of haute Chinese cuisine — and also I can’t abide people who yell at underlings for kicks.)

Needless to say, backstage in the kitchen, all is chaos: John’s vision of molecular-gastronomic "snow" covering his dish has fizzled, while Liz’s pot pie is flirting with the nihilism of all post-structuralist textual interrogation.

But our heroes soldier on, and overall the diners seems to enjoy the Americans’ fumbling attempts at 74th-century sophistication. Sure, I can’t remember all the details, but I do remember thinking, Should I feel ashamed that my favorite foods are nachos, salad bars, and steamed kale? and Do I need to buy a particle accelerator for my kitchen?

The chefs stand in judgment before Curtis and Cat. (One thing I forgot to mention: My friend, whose TV I commandeered to watch this week’s episode, said Curtis Stone’s manic hair "looks like straw," which led to a brief fantasia of Curtis Stone–shaped scarecrows dotting America’s heartland. The first person to send me a Curtis Stone scarecrow/cuddle pillow gets an artisanally sharpened pencil.)

Our hosts announce that this week’s most valuable chef is Avery. Apparently her dessert was the diners’ favorite dish. Nookie is perplexed — he thought his oysters were the best thing to come out of this Hong Kong interlude. His goatee fairly eats itself in frustration. (Did I already use that line in a previous recap? I can’t remember. At this point, I can’t even remember my own name. AM I DEMON CHEF?)

Now it’s up to Nookie, John, Nicole, and Liz to argue amongst themselves as to who should be sent home. They retire to a balcony and commence a-bickering.

John, who is obviously drunk, rails on Nicole for her lack of passion. Nicole offers a feeble defense of her talents. Liz assumes her usual position of Platonic fraughtfulness while the missiles scream overhead.

In the end, Nookie, John, and Liz all vote for Nicole to leave. So she does. I mean, Curtis Stone announces that her journey has come to end; what else can she do?

We’re down to our final four contestants: Nookie, John, Liz, and Avery. (My prediction: Avery will win the whole shebang.)

The next stop on our friends’ itinerary? I can’t remember. I hope it’s Sheboygan, Wisconsin, but I doubt it.

Anyway, that’s what I remember from this week’s episode. If I forgot anything important, please remind me in the comments.

See you next week!

(Confidential to Demon Chef: Get a human haircut. We haven’t been enslaved by cyborgs yet.)

David Rees is an artisanal pencil sharpener.

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