We can’t help but think that Runway’s challenges are more interesting than Top Chef’s have been this season, which is to say, not very much at all. High-end catering, low-end catering, high-end catering, low-end catering…has it been this way every season? We have a very short memory for this kind of thing.
But before we move on to the tailgate challenge at Soldier Field, there’s the little matter of Koren Grieveson’s AWESOMENESS to attend to. The head chef of Avec looked fierce on that particular morning; our notes say “koren is a f[*]cking monster. love her tshirt,” and we stand by that. The consummate working chef, she presided wearily over a beer pairing competition; who can best bring out the subtle flavors of Michelob Ultra! That would be Richard, who makes a tuna sandwich to go with it. Stephanie does a mussels and Hoegaarden thing, and we agree with Mike Nagrant that she totally cribbed from Hopleaf. But in a much less execrable way than Cindy McCain cribbing from the Food Network, right? And Jen won for her shrimp beignets in honor of Zoi’s departure last week/last night.
Our main criticism with the beer pairing thing was not that they used crappy, commercial beers (although this bothered other bloggers), but that the judging didn’t at all touch on whether the dishes were properly paired with the given beers! Maybe this was an editing choice, or maybe because, as Spike said, all the beers did taste the same, but it seemed like they just completely elided over the intellectual justification for the Quickfire. Maybe we’re asking too much…
The challenge to make tailgating grub for a Bears game is so close to the block party thing from a few weeks ago that we’re mildly offended. But, you know, it’s good for branding. Highlights from preparation phase include:
• Ryan’s claim that he does not look like a sports fan, and instead is a “metrosexual”
• Jen’s dedication of her Greek quinoa tabouleh dish to Zoi; the only way that could have been more Sapphic is if she’d served it in squash blossoms
• Mark’s faux-upsetness at not being able to throw some “shrimp on the barbie”
• Lisa, when talking about her skirt steak and corn cakes, saying, “I’m just there with a rolling pin, beating my meat.” COME ON!
• Tom’s charming-to-the-point-of-boring patness with the chefs during the mid-episode interviews. Also, he’s looking a little chub these days (this is not a problem for Top Chef viewers, half of whom would rather touch him during a football game than Padma or themselves. Padma is the most likely of the three to sue.)
After the prepping, they went back home. The best part of the episode was probably the hot tub scene, where Spike decides that because Mark has curly hair, he’s friend-for-life material. To each fetish, his own.
Finally, game day. They seemed pumped, and early on, everyone liked everything. We appreciate that each cheftestant is getting face time, except for Lisa and Jennifer who will obviously not play a role in the judging phase. Extra attention is lavished on bottom three: Nikki, who ran out of food, Ryan the showboater, and Mark the slob. Can we tell you how excited we were to see Paul Kahan of Blackbird, and then how disappointed we were that he was barely on camera? No justice.
We were convinced during the judging that Nikki was going to go; not because she ran out of peppers and onions for Tom and Padma and Paul, but because she bought sausage at a store and had non-integrated shrimp on the side and didn’t see anything wrong with any of that. Maybe girl spent too much time on her interstitial updo to bother to make a homemade shrimp sausage sandwich or whatever. And her initial justification for why she appended shrimp onto her dish was “in case people don’t eat [pork] sausage.” Who is this subset of people, exactly?
But no, it was Ryan’s turn for petulantly making a fey four-course supper instead of tailgate food, and doing a crappy job at it to boot. During his goodbye speech, he copped to learning that he’s not “the sh*t,” but also repeatedly said his full name in order to be properly remembered by the viewing public.
Stephanie was in the top three again, but Dale won the challenge with his fancy ribs and got a football jersey and the grill he cooked with as a parting gift. We wonder if he’s still “bitter” about Lisa’s prize last week; is he “clinging” to that trip to Italy? HA!
Next week might actually be funny, because Second City and pastries are involved. Pastries are funny.
[Photo: so right about Koren’s t-shirt, BravoTV]