Cast Blog: #80PLATES

The Dog's Bollocks

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Avery Pursell: "I Felt That I Did Not Perform Well"

Final Destination

The Suspense is Killing Me

Homeward Bound

Food Reigns

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Meat Sweats

Atta Girl!

The Final Four

Axis of Evil

Big Trouble in Little China

The Future is Hong Kong

Rocket Science

The Third Opium War

Cheating In Chiang Mai

Under the Radar

The Thai That Binds

Okie Dokie

Full of Bologna

Troop Bologna?

Pick Up Your Game!

My Baloney has a First Name it’s J-E-N-N-A

When in Rome...

Super Tuscan

That's a Spicy Meatball!

Villa-ins

Down in Africa

Funky Cold Medina

Spice Girls

The Art of Culinary War

Prawn Stars

Barcelona or Bust

It's in His Lisp

My Retirement Plan

Allons-y a Lyon!

Truly Exceptional

Lyon for Lambs

Truck Nutz

Playing the Game

London on a Plate

Piss and Vinegar

The Dog's Bollocks

12 chefs arrive in London to start their international culinary competition.

(Editor's Note: This recap's title is appropos of nothing, but it's just one of my favorite British expressions, so thank you for humoring me.)

It's finally here! I know many of you have been in culinary competition withdrawal, and so I'm happy to say that 80 Plates is finally here! I'm Monica Reyhani -- I'm Senior Editor here at Bravotv.com and I'll be recapping the season for you. I have to say i was especially excited for the first episode to be in London because I'll be going there first the first time at the end of May, so I can't wait for all the places i saw in the episode to become familiar to me.

Let's get right into it then, shall we? First, we get a little taste of some of the cast in their elements -- their kitchens, their homes -- before they head to the airport and land in our first destination. They all meet at Borough Market, a place near and dear to Curtis' heart. From all accounts, this is a must-stop designation for any foodie traveler. 

The chefs get to meet the glorious Curtis Stone and Cat Cora. Seriously, if you're obsessed with either one, don't be ashamed. They're as nice as they are good-looking. And, they're kinda bawdy, which is always the way to my heart. Cat and Curtis greet the chefs and then have them split up into two teams -- Red and Black. Since they don't really know each other, this is kind of asking a lot, but they figure it out or sort it out as one might say in England, and then Cat and Curtis explain the way the challenges will work. The chefs will first tackle "The Course." Whichever team wins get to use an "Exceptional Ingredient" in "The Takeover," where they will take over a kitchen in their host city and cook for the locals. Get it?!In this first Course, the chefs had to first head to a pub -- in doing so, one chef already falls on her arse. Whoops! The Red Team decides to take a cab and the Black Team decides to run -- what would you have done? I would've taken a cab -- I hate running. Another benefit of taking a cab is that you're traveling with someone who knows where they're going, which wasted a lot of time for the Red Team.

The Red Team arrives at the Draper's Arms, their first destination. And I just get so excited! The Course challenge is to "finish 3 plates of black pudding hash and drink 1 Pimm's cocktail." G-d where's the adorable Adam Richman when you need him?! I love a Pimm's Cup, and it's something you can pretty easily order at a real cocktail place or British-style gastropub here in America. I don't know how thrilled I'd be about the black pudding, but we'll see if that ends up on a plate of mine when I go to London. Jenna asks the server what's in the Pimm's cup. Smart -- you never know when that knowledge will come in handy.

The Red Team goes to town on the food. When they're almost done, the Black Team finally arrives to complete their Course. 

The Black Team heads to the next pub. There they have to eat 3 steak and kidney pies or drink 3 yards of ale. They opt to drink. The chunks are already rising in my throat. Is it better to maybe throw up from too much food or be drunk for later challenges? At this point, Nookie is shvitzing, and the Red Team opts for the alcohol too. Oh, chefs. Eventually, the two teams are neck and neck. Off to the third pub they go. The teams end up at the Camden Head where Curtis and Cat are waiting for them to reveal their third challenge. Their final course is to finish 6 plates of fish and chips and 1 pint of scrumpy, which is hard cider. I might pass out.I'm nauseated but still can't wait to get the fish and chips at the Harrod's food halls, which my sources claim are the best, so hopefully I'll get over watching the chefs eat so many before then! At this point the Black Team is only three minutes behind the Red Team. and if you wonder, my favorite chips in the city are at The Breslin. They accompany the lamb burger which is my favorite. Ms. April Bloomfield knows how to make a proper chip. The ones at Resto are also awesome and come with various dipping sauce options.

So, the Red Team finishes the Courses first, which means they'll get to use the Exceptional Ingredient in the Gastropub Takeover. which is... The Potato! So, the Red Team can use potatoes and the Black Team can't. Both teams have to take over pubs and cook menus featuring three of the dishes in the Courses -- steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, and black pudding hash and two other dishes of their choosing. Both teams are at a disadvantage in that neither tasted steak and kidney pie so they have no point of reference for that. Curtis also explains that the winning team will be safe and the losing team will have to vote a chef off.

The Black Team has to figure out what to replace potatoes with -- they go with polenta. Eh. I love a polenta fry (I had them yesterday), but that didn't seem very creative to me. 

On the Black Team, Keven pushes for a dessert and his team thinks they should stick to savory. Mmm you don't mess with someone named Cheven. That's like a fake name a blogger would give a contestant, and Kevin's taken all the fun out of doing it.

Over on the Red Team, Jenna is adamant about a dessert too and her team rejects that idea too. I love bread pudding. I love sticky toffee pudding. Not sure why so many of the chefs were so averse to the idea of doing a dessert.A few thoughts as I watched:

- Nookie is willing to make a bad dish to win. Argh. There's  stereotypical word for people from Massachusetts that aren't that nice, and I won't use it, but I hope Nookie isn't one of them.

- I'm worried about Liz -- the oven incident didn't make her look that strong.

- I only have one tip for Sai: let's not call our patrons fat from the get-go. Mmmk?

- Nick thinks Chaz is bossy. Maybe Chaz talks too much, but someone needed to take charge. he expedited well and someone needed to do that. I have a feeling it's a combo of Chaz talking a tad too much but nick taking it all a little too seriously. Did he really think Chaz was serious about Harry Potter being real? Keep calm, Nick, and carry on.

- I iked that the fish and chips we saw were finger-sized. I hate when it's a huge filet because that means there going to be one to four sides without breading. Mmm.

- I got a little giddy hearing one of the locals complain about there being a lack of custard. It's something I've heard before from an English friend at one of Manhattan's ever-increasing number of English restaurants.

- Why did the Red Team change their pub's name to British Love, American Pride? Eek! You don't change the name of a pub. And, I mean, if you're going to inadvertently place a curse on an establishment at least make it a better name.Ultimately, the local diners -- including the fabulous Ms. Nigella Lawson -- preferred the Black Team's food, even without potatoes. And Chaz won MVP because Keven didn't take credit for his dessert idea. While Chaz did say he wanted to the menu to be balanced, Keven did really push for the dessert. And as Nigella said in my favorite quote of the whole episode: "Even when people were critical of British cooking, no one was ever critical of british pudding." I mean, it was brilliant and almost rhymed! She's the best.

Now, if Keven had spoken up for himself, would he have won? Who knows. in addition to the dessert, Chaz was really responsible for for the execution of the service, sooo I kinda think Chaz deserved it anyway. He stepped up as a leader, rather than just talking about stepping up. Totem pole or not.

Now, to the Red Team. Nookie somehow effectively convinced his team that Clara should go home and she did. Man, tough break, Clara. The whole thing was sort of confusing. Nookie didn't cook to his ability because he didn't want to be seen as a threat, but then he convinced the others to vote of Clara for being the worst. Those two strategies almost contradict each other in that they're assuming his fellow teammates are being swayed by two different thoughts. I just think Nookie and Cheven are so transparent with their "manipulation," I just don't get it.

I guess we'll see if it works as well next week when the chefs head to...  Lyon, France! Mon die!

Sooo who do you think is going to win it all? And who are you already exited to see pack their bags? Taking predictions and comments now! Until next week, Have a Nosh!

 

 

Food Reigns

Hugh Acheson is happy to see that it was all about the food in the finale.

Finale time. This worldly traveling circus has come down to the Strategist Nookie, the Relentless Avery, and Bubbly Liz. Obviously when looking at the map in a culinary voyage around the world we can’t overlook… Uruguay? In a coastal wedgie between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has never been on the cusp of culinary greatness, but their food has a fondness for beef, chicken cutlets, blood sausage, honeyed booze, and citrus fruits. This should be interesting, but before it all goes down, we have to go through the season's highs and lows. Though I vowed never to look at the Demon Chef ever again, there he is, dreamily hitting on Avery. Creepiest man on the planet. 

They get on the ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento, across the Rio de la Plata. This is a geography lesson to you and me. I went to the handy Google maps. In the sleepy little town of Sacramento the chefs find their challenge. They must purvey at three shops and create a typical Uruguayan dish. They have two hours and a map. There is a produce store, a dry goods shop, and a butcher. No baker or candlestick maker, but you get the idea. 

Avery has some funny things she says; funny like Yogi Berra. She says “conversate”, which is kind of yokel way of sounding all smart (it’s a backformation), and then later in the show she says “time restraint.” It’s constraint. Silly Avery. But she’s a good shopper and a fine chef. 

The cheftestants shop through the sleepy little town that would be an awesome location for a modern western movie, and meet up with their regional experts on the local cuisine, Cat and Curtis. I think something must have fallen through at the last minute because I don’t think that Cat and Curtis know anything about Uruguayan food at all; I certainly didn’t until about 20 minutes ago. Evidently they love arugula down there, cause all three of the chefs make some sort of protein salad thing. And the main drag in town is named after FDR. Facts come in handy. You can use that in a trivia night sometime.They cook in a small kitchen but Liz has not purchased salt. Nookie won’t lend her any. Neither would Avery we later learn. Really? That’s crappy. I don’t roll like that. Liz, you can borrow salt from me anytime, no matter what’s on the line. 

The dishes they make are pretty basic. Nookie has chorizo from the butcher, arugula, and some onion condiment. That’s his dish. He is done way before time expires and the judges pretty much call his simple bluff, and tell him he could have done something with a bit more complexity. At this stage I would recommend pushing the parameters beyond something as simple as a PBJ sandwich. Liz makes a grilled steak with sausage, caramelized onions, and arugula. She actually cooked something and it would be a winner, but the lack of salt is an albatross around her neck. She’s kicking herself. Avery makes up a bunch of new words and cooks chicken with citrus and the ubiquitous arugula. She nails it and wins this thing. 

Now the pressure is on. Avery and Nookie have had a longstanding pact that seems pretty tight, but now she’s put in an interesting position: choose the perceived weaker opponent or follow the code of the dark side. She ditches the Nookie. Cue that Limp Bizkit song (I swore to myself that I would only mention that song in the last blog post.) 

“I can't believe that I could be deceived (but you were) 

By my so-called girl but in reality 

Had a hidden agenda 

She put my tender heart in a blender 

And still I surrendered”

Ah, the immortal words of Fred Durst, more apropos than ever. So that’s out of the way, let me be clear about something vital to our relationship… I hate that band. And off to L.A. we go. Avery and Liz will both be on home turf for this final battle. At least they are less likely to get lost while driving to Wolfgang Puck’s Red 7 restaurant. Two Infinitis and beyond!

So along the way they shop and find some discarded contestants. Avery gets Nick and Jenna. Liz gets Chaz and John. They have three hours to cook and they get surprised by their close family and friends in the kitchen. Liz’s boyfriend is dapper. Small, but dapper. Avery’s kids are cute as can be. Nookie tries to manipulate them for no apparent reason except that’s how he lives. It’s his oxygen. Did he just say that “lepers don’t change their spots”? That sounds like an Avery-ism.

Chefs galore come in to be guest eaters and voters. I know of many of them, but only really know Ben Ford. Ben is awesome. Josiah Citrin is the lauded chef of Melisse and is a badass. Many more chefs looking stylish come forward. Then we have Wolfgang Puck, one of the most iconic figures in food of our era. He’s also got an awesome personality that shines on camera. Good choice, people. 

The cooking goes pretty well and Avery bangs out a Thai salad with shrimp and coconut, then a steak with chimichurri, and then a nice-looking pannacotta thing. The judges seem to be shining to her food, though WP seems to want the salad to have a bit more oomph. Avery’s aunt drops a line from Procol Harum’s Lighter Shade of Pale. I did not see that coming. 

Liz puts up a beef salad with crisp rice, a "braised" chicken, and a puddle of creamy stuff with some fried dough resting in it. Her salad is awesome, but the other two kind of fall flat. 

The votes pour in, and it’s close, but Avery pulls it out and wins a car and the money. Liz is devastated, but she should be very proud. She made it to the final. As for Avery, she was a favorite from the beginning. She had confidence and was smart about things while she cooked great food. The latter is the more important facet for me. So food did reign supreme which was a treat.  The chefs are dizzy and probably need a little down time. I know I do. To the victor the spoils!

Follow me on the Twitter! @hughacheson

I will be blogging Top Chef Masters Season 4, which premieres next Wednesday on Bravo!

Rock on and thanks for reading.

 

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