Hello, my little dumplings! And, Happy Thanksgiving! Let's dive right into this week's episode, so you can go back to arguing with your families. This week, the chefs are greeted by Padma and Dana Cowin, the all-powerful EIC of Food & Wine magazine. The chefs are tasked with creating authentic international dumplings. Now, I don't know if any of you know how to make dumplings, or have friends that do, but you really can't beat a homemade dumpling. I was fortunate enough to go to school with a friend who made them a couple times a year, and they were probably the best dumplings I've ever had. My go-to dumpling now is the pierogi, care of Veselka in the East Village. If you've never been there, go! You'll probably recognize it from Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.
The chefs are given five minutes with Kindle Fires to look up recipes for the dumplings they've probably never heard of before. Or, you know, they can catch up on a few pages of Moby Dick -- whatever floats their boats. Some of the chefs face challenges.
Micah doesn't know Kazakhstan was a real country. Really?!
Carla is still trying to work around her injury from last week. Also, she doesn't know what fufu is. If she asked me I would've proably responded with "Flava Flaaav," which may seem appropriate in a kitchen settin, but still isn't quite right.
Brooke is without enough flour -- and we learn later, jicama, but she does the best she can.
Kuniko doesn't get her dumplings on her plate. Methinks this won't be the last time we see Kuniko with timing issues.
Other things were happening in the kitchen that must be mentioned:
Stefan reveals older photos of himself -- he looks better without hair!
John tells someone their dumpling is burning -- we see, once again, that he is helpful towards his teammates in the kitchen.
Stefan and Joshua seem to be getting along. I like it.
The results come in, and not surprisingly Brooke, Carla, and Kuniko are on the bottom. The top? Josie, Stefan, and Micah. Josie wins immunity.
Now, on to the juicy stuff (the dry stuff in the Gray Team's case... zing!) -- the Thanksgiving Challenge! The chefs are broken up into two teams -- Red and Gray -- to cook a Thanksgiving meal to benefit FareStart. The twist? The meals must be inspired by Tom and Emeril, who join them in the kitchen. The music playing while the two culinary heavyweights enter the Top Chef kitchen is just amazing, isn't it? Tom gets the Red Team, while Emeril gets the gray. Emeril explains the New Orleans influence he hopes to capture, while Tom talks about Thanksgivng at his maternal grandparents'. Sidenote: I realized I've never actually heard Emeril say "New Orleans" before. I don't know how that's possible, but if it's true. I will say that I feel somehow vindicated in my early New York ignorance in my "New Orleens" pronounciation. I shall now say it like Emeril -- "New Orleeins." I shall also say "scallop" like him whenever possible because it is now one of my favorite things ever.Back to the dishes! There is one commonality in the two menus though -- the amount of butter they put in their dishes. You know when Emeril says things like, "Stuff that a-- with a lot of butter," he means business. Julia Child would be proud.
Both teams get started cooking, and the Gray Team gets a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- learning how to make gumbo from Emeril himself. Tom, on the other hand, is marveling at how quickly the clock moves. You can almost hear a bitter groan from Top Cheftestants past when he utters this. Chrissy asks Emeril if she can say "Bam." Emeril, I'll take this one. No, Chrissy. You can't. We hear a disembodied voice that sounds like Carla looking for a chinois... again. Carla is always looking for white pepper or a chinois. Someone get here these items already! Stefan needs more space. I giggle when says, "Fuck you?" Stefan curses like he's asking a question. Amazing. Tyler reveals an alcohol problem which makes me nervous for his future in this episode.
Just as I'm cooing over Emeril's spice dance -- this obviously tells the gods to bring the spice -- Carla and Stefan get into a little tiff. Only a moment earlier, Carla was singing Stefan's praises, saying "I love Stefan -- he's crazy." If Carla's calling you crazy… But then CJ and Stefan check on Carla's soup, which she has not yet seasoned, and she flips. Stefan tries to calm her down by, well telling her to calm down, and calls her things like "sweetie" and "honey." Men, if I can dispense any advice at all in this blog, never tell a woman to calm down. And never call her "sweetie" or "honey" while doing so. It's condescending. Did Stefan mean to be rude? No. But that doesn't make it any better. "Carla? She kind of freaks me out." says Stefan. That seems more like it. I think if these two ever got together, the world would actually implode. That doesn't, of course, mean I don't want to see it happen.
Anyway, it's time to serve! The adorable Seattle chef -- and Top Chef Master -- Thierry Rautureau joins the table. Emeril's team serves first. First, the turkey. It's kind of blackened on the outside and raw on the inside. It wasn't looking' good during Emeril's check-in earlier, so this surprises no one. "The ovens were hot," Josie later says. I now what she meant, but this doesn't stop me from screaming "No s--t, Sherlook" at my T.V. screen. I'm feeling saucy again. Kristen's vegetables aren't bad, but are underseasoned. Tyler's gumbo is bitter, doesn't have flavor. He forgot the worcestershire and hot sauce. Kuniko's pave is raw, and Sheldon's greens need to be cooked more. On the plus side, the chorizo stuffing is tasty (chorizo makes everything better,) Brooke's sweet potato biscuits are a big hit, and Chrissy's bread pudding is good. John's pumpkin dessert is OK.
Sooo, it's kind of hit or miss for Emeril's team, but let's see how Tom's team does.
Well, their turkey is already better. Tom's direction calls for a lot of butter under the skin -- a trick Tom's Twitter followers have sen before. Also, Tom's traditional stuffing has foie gras in it. Thierry questions how "traditional" this recipe is. Ha! Sidenote: thank G-d this wasn't' a health challenge. Carla's carrot soup was awesome. Someone seemed to find a chinois. Wel done, honey, er, I mean, Chef!Joshua's sweet potato ravioli dough was too thick. Although,I will say I think his dish truly embodied Tom's direction to make something American with an Italian twist. Micah's brussels sprouts are met with mixed results, while Lizzie's potato puree is off the chain. We learn later she was most likely inspired by Joel Robuchon an his half potato-half butter recipe. That's a lot of butter, kids. All in moderation! Stefan's panna cotta was meh, but luckily for him, Eliza's dessert was worse.
It seemed somewhat clear that Tom's team had won. And they did. And who from Tom's team had the best dish? Carla! CJ looked disappointed he didn't get the win since he not only oversaw the turkey, but took a leadership role int he kitchen.
So Josie, Kuniko, Sheldon, and Tyler appear before Judges' Table for elimination. Despite Josie's best defense, Kuniko goes home for raw potatoes. Rememder last week when I said that John loves Kuniko, like, forever? Well he quickly turned on her in the Stew Room post-elimination, stating that undercooking potatoes in five hours is pretty inexcusable. CJ's not having it, and they get in a fight. Sooo, that should be fun for the rest of the season.
I for one am pretty upset to see Kuniko go home, but I just don't think the pressure and time constraints of Top Chef aren't suited to her type of cooking, and it happens. Fortunately for the remianing chefs, they knocked out someone I considered a serious competitor pretty early.
Until next week, Have a Nosh!