Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Top Chef: Howie's Last Stand

I was sitting at my desk the other day, idly chewing on a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich and musing over something highly important like my incipient crow's feet or the merits of fish-oil pills, when a co-worker jolted me out of my reverie.

"What are you going to do? Tonight? About Tre?"

"Huh?" I blinked stupidly.

"He's gone. Remember?"

Readers, I felt the pain of parting all over again. A montage flashed through my head: one with much milk pouring, smiling, lifting of grocery bags and getting physical on the balcony. SIGH! But the show must go on. Tonight we even have a totally new episode. My TV says it's called "Chef Overboard," and I must admit that the chance of it being Howie lifts my spirits mightily.

Hung, in a rare moment of reflection, is musing about how he was sad to see Tre go. "It's shocking to me that he's gone...I'd rather lose to him than anybody else if I had to lose." Aw! I think we know Hung well enough to know that he silently adds "not that I'm going to lose
to this bunch of clowns."

Malarkey is talking about missing his wife. And dog. And restaurant! My god! His hats are so dumb but his life is so full. Sob! Bridget Jones, Singleton Blogger, tippity-types away, awfully jealous. Anyway, Malarkey says it's time to "focus up."


Padma is in basically a marching band jacket with the sleeves cut off. I have a horrible flashback to my own marching band outfit from High School. It had braiding, piping and a tall hat with a gigantic plume.

Our guest judges is Michael Schwartz. Michael's take on food is: "It's gotta be fabulous! It's gotta look great and it's gotta taste great!" Fine with me.

Our Quickfire is 10 minutes to shop in an aisle of the supermarket each chef draws randomly, and 20 minutes to cook (with limited use of the food pantry). This seems a bit unfair since some of the chefs draw much better aisles to shop in. Howie is in the canned fruit/processed juice aisle, for example.

Malarkey is in the canned seafood aisle, which he's happy about, until a little Tom Colicchio appears on his shoulder and whispers something about how Malarkey only ever cooks with seafood - so Malarkey goes for SPAM!

Howie, or as I call him, Mr. Bitchy Pants, is saying "I don't like this challenge!"

What kind of nut would?

Hung would. Hung is in cereal land and since he's 11 this fills him with excitement. The cereal aisle only filled me with despondence because sugary cereals were off limits. Hung actually says he wants to make something like from when he was a kid. "This challenge is definitely the most fun I've had. Because I'm playing with food. Like a child." Or something. "I love eating! This is what I do!" Back at the kitchen, he's grinding up scary cereals into a strange blue powder, which he is creating a sort of road with.

"Dude, are you building a smurf village?" says someone. Dale?

Howie's sauce falls apart...SO HE DECIDES TO PRESENT NOTHING!!!! Who does he think he is?! Says Howie: "Unfortunately I have no dish to present. ...it was just a mess. I'd rather not push myself to put out something I'm not proud of." It's like he think he deserves points for
having high standards! He did this in the very first episode! Howie, you're a chef, and the first duty of a chef is to MAKE FOOD!

Even my roommate is disgusted. "Oof!" says Jill, after Howie's speech. My roommate Jill is pretty dry and the fact that she's so turned off by this can't be good for Howie. Fine by me! I tell her I will quote her on today's write-up and that she should read it. I do not tell her
it will just be "oof." I will do anything to Add A Reader!

Ultimately Malarkey and his Spam of Wonder win the challenge. Hung's deeply strange meal gets a "what the fuck is that!" from the guest judge. Hung admits, "Well, it's a little different." Padma and Michael are deeply disappointed in Howie. Padma looks particularly annoyed.
I've been watching Padma enough to decipher this, I think. I'm pretty sure she blinks.

It's group work, of course - 1 group though, not teams. The chefs will be catering an ultra exclusive party, thrown by a nightclub I refuse to name, for a designer or something who I actually forget the name of. Continuing our budget theme, the challenge is that the budget will
be only 350 dollars to prepare snackies for sixty people.

Malarkey, winner of the Quickfire, gets to choose who the team leader will be. He decides to take it for himself. Smart move? I'm not sure. This will put him on the chopping block. The chefs go over some menu items. Malarkey is letting people "express themselves." I would say
he's letting people hang themselves...some chefs are making one thing alone and one thing together, but Howie, to redeem himself for the quickfire, is making 2 dishes alone. Go big or go home! Feel free to choose home!

Nothing too interesting happens at the supermarket except that Dale gives up the goat cheese that he was going to use for gougeres (hmm!) and instead decides to do yogurt/cream cheese mixture. (aghh!)

At the site of the challenge, the chefs find out this will take place on a party boat. Of course! Padma says, "You'll be working in tight quarters." My ears would perk up if Tre were still here...who KNOWS what happens when people are stuck at sea for long periods...?!

Sarah is making a savory tomato bread pudding. CJ is making a sewafood sausage (Malarkey's turf!) and Hung is making a salmon and cucumber dish: a "classic dish that people with an average palate would appreciate." I think he's forgetting about Tom's palate here. Tom
comes in and looks around. He leaves and remarks that it all seempretty simple and safe, pretty ordinary. Tom seems pretty subdued. Clearly he is missing Tre.

Howie, who I think is considering his legacy, muses about how he knows he been "tagged as not a team player" (to put it mildly!) so he's going out of his way not to be "pushy or aggressive." He says he's "obviously not some shitheel." Obviously. Hung looks over at Howie's
mushroom duxelle and says it looks like "dog diarrhea." Leave it to Hung to take it all the way to Diarrhea. Couldn't just be dog poop.

CJ thinks Malarkey isn't being decisive enough about every one's dishes, but Malarkey just voice-overs "I'm making sure everyone has the opportunity to succeed....OR FAIL!" Malarkey! Your hats always made you seem so guileless!

People are liking Casey's beef carpaccio over a shitake broth and also CJ's sausage and Sarah's tomato bread pudding. Howie's asparagus, prosciutto and Parmesan cheese cigar is not going over so well, and neither are his duxelle tarts. No major disasters though, except for a
dessert by Sarah and Casey that doesn't even go out, since the chocolate won't set.


Howie is in the holding area with the chefs, defiantly saying, 'I thought every dish was good and I don't give a fuck what they say." Which seems a little silly since he signed up for a cooking show competition with judges.

The judges, meanwhile, are saying that everything was just a little flat. No standouts except for Casey, CJ and Sarah. There is some thinking that Malarkey should have edited the menu better. The chefs come in for judging and Tom gets into it with Hung over Hung's salmon

Tom: "Your food was right out of the 80's."

Hung bristles and delivers a lecture on food history.

Tom baits him; "Do you have another canape that was better?"

Hung falls right into the trap! "Of course I do!" He spits.

Howie, apropos of nothing says (paraphrased); "Can I address the panel? I'd rather send myself home than see Brian go home. So I'm going to withdraw myself from the competition."

I don't think Brian Malarkey was getting that much criticism?

This is the oldest trick in the book!!!!

I hate this. I think that Howie knew he was going to be sent home so he tried to make it look like it was his choice - which is insulting to Brian. Anyway. Padma coldly says, "It's the judge's decision. Not yours." Snap!

"Then make it," says Howie.

They leave while the judges confer and Howie says to the other Chefs "I gotta lot of pride in me. I'll be in control of my own destiny. Fuck them!" Which seems to support my theory that he knows he was going to be sent home anyway.

The winner? Casey and the beef Carpaccio. Her gift? A mac laptop! Ooh! Someone gave me an Apple Laptop and it really was the greatest gift ever. Life changing!

Howie please pack your knives and go.


"I haven't necessarily been too proud with the way that I've been with some people here. I..made everybody my enemy...but the reality of being a chef is that cooking is a team sport. I don't have any regrets. I stand by my decision. I am a good chef. And all that anybody has to do to know that, is to come taste my food."

The last sentence is kind of touching but the rest seems contradictory.

Well. It's the end of an Era. Howie's gone. Who on earth will I write about now? Who will I insult? Your blogger is 50% leer and 48% insult (1% tears and 1% alcohol) so this is going to be tough. I basically like all the chefs left.

I might have to become a nicer person for my next recap. Damn you, Howie. Damn you!

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