Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Live Blogging - Top Chef Season 5: Episode 11

Wow, I was certainly wrong with that one, and Jamie gets sent packing. I think this is the first elimination this season that I really disagree with, mainly because I don't want to put up with both Hosea and Leah for another week. The preview reveals hardly anything except for an injury to Fabio and a bizarrely lit judges' table. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Well, my prediction for the top/bottom divide was correct, but there looked to be a clear distinction between the best and the worst tonight. The judges are full of complements for Stefan, Fabio, and Carla, including Toby Young. As sad as I am for the season to be over, I can't wait to see his departure. Stefan takes his thousandth win of the season, and with it he gets not only Eric Ripert's new cookbook but also a week-long stint shadowing the star chef and a trip with him to South Beach for the Food and Wine Festival. For once, the elimination isn't so obvious, and I'm not at all certain who will get the boot. If I had to pick one out of the sea of atrociousness, I would eliminate Leah, whose attitude has gotten progressively worse and who didn't seem to have a clue how to put together certain elements of her dish.

Almost as amusing as watching the chefs struggling to decipher these recipes is seeing Ripert keeping such a close eye on them. It's almost as if he's saying, "Don't screw up my kitchen TOO much, you amateurs," but only with his eyes. He is way more hands-on than any other guest judge so far, and it's great to watch him conference with each chef individually in the kitchen. Except for Jamie, that is, because she was so short on time that she couldn't get a plate ready for him. Uh oh, I smell disaster...So the judges taste both the original and the chef's versions back to back, with Fabio up first. His sourdough encrusted red snapper receives generally positive feedback, although the same can't be said for Leah's overcooked fish and tasteless broth. Stefan's lobster comes out next, and it seems to be almost an exact replica of Ripert's dish. Carla struggles for time, and her peers give her a helping hand getting everything plated. She owes them one, because the judges seem generally pleased with her effort. Hosea's monkfish is clearly one of the weaker offerings, almost certainly landing him in the bottom three with Leah and Jamie, whose bass and blanched celery also fail to impress.

With news of the elimination challenge still conspicuously absent, the six remaining chefs head to Eric Ripert's restaurant, Le Bernardin, for lunch. The food looks delicious, but we're so close to the end, so put them to work! I think that Leah should contain her affections for Eric, though, as we all saw what happened last time she got carried away with a crush, and they've finally stopped talking about that encounter, thank God. When Tom announces that there's one course left on the menu and the music starts up, the challenge must be on its way. The chefs must recreate the six entrees that Ripert served, all of which require a high degree of technical skill. Stefan gets to pick his dish, the baked lobster, but the rest of the chefs pick knives. I'm sure that there will be some disasters, but I can't wait to see who falls apart.

We're really getting down to the end here, with the finale just three weeks away, and I wouldn't say that there's an outright frontrunner this year, like previous years. Stefan probably has the best track record, but he's had his missteps, so tonight's elimination is definitely up in the air. The quickfire is a fish fillet tournament, and the presence of sardines sends Carla into a British accent for some unspecified reason. I mean sardines are disgusting, so this is kind of hard for me to watch, and Eric Ripert looks similarly disgusted in his evaluations. Jamie and Carla go out first, but Leah soon joins them with a pathetic performance in the next round. Fabio also gets the ax because of some faulty technique. Seriously, this is the longest quickfire ever, and this isn't even a supersized episode! The final round, eel peeling, is at least semi-intriguing, but Stefan dominates Hosea for yet another win.

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