"Let's blow this joint!" Thank you, Sara, for a great opening line -- "Me likey likey!" You know at this point the contestants have been confined for several weeks with no outside communication and I think it is really starting to show in both their actions and reactions. I liked the grocery aisle challenge. The chefs could end up with a lucky aisle ... or not. However they all had the same limited pantry supplies to work with, and I was a little surprised at how challenging this seemed to be for some of them. I am so glad to see that Brian has finally graduated from seafood...but Spam?! Apologies to all my friends in Hawaii for whom this mystery meat was a staple growing up, but yuck. You did make it look good and I guess this just shows that it really is all about cohesive thought. Sara's dish looked good, but perhaps the pasta was a bit too large. Is it just me, or would anyone else like to see a split screen of Hung's fantasy breakfast next to Frank's mushroom fantasy from Season 2?
Follow the leader. What the &*%$? Seafood sausage again. I cannot believe that Brian would allow CJ to make this dish after he had previously made it not once, but twice for this competition! Even more incredulous is that no one -- fellow chefs nor judges alike -- mentioned it. At the Judges' Table it was as if this were so inspired. Last week CJ really got a free ride when he escaped the curse of the salad, but it looks like the meter on his cab is broken! Ha! Now I respect Tom's opinion, but I know how the game works. You said that you wished some of the chefs had just concentrated on fewer items and made them shine. However the truth is that if that had happened you would probably have said something like "You had all that time and this is all you did?" Let's face it, at a cocktail party people want variety. Poor Howie. Just as he seems to have gotten his sweating and temper under control, his food and inspiration seem to be fading. I saw this coming. As any true Top Chef fan knows, when the cameras begin to show your softer, gentler side, the end must be near! Ha!
To my surprise, all of the chefs seemed to be shocked over the amount of food that was being consumed. Are you kidding? These are fashionistas who haven't eaten a thing since 1989 -- about the same time that Hung first made his salmon mousse! From my experience with parties like this, you should only put foods that can stretch onto the stationary table and pass everything else. Otherwise people will try to make dinner out of it and it can be impossible to keep up. Finally to the judging table. Although this looks like a short process thanks to the joy of editing and limited time to present the segment, it can actually go on for hours. You can see from Hung's defensive stance how exhausting the combativeness between the judges and the contestants can get. I know firsthand how it can really feel -- as if the judges are attacking you over and over until someone is bound to crack.
A really telling sign was Sara's roll of the eyes when Padma asked to see everyone. Believe it or not, I actually agree with Tom that you should never hold back. I learned that lesson the hard way. But I also agree with Howie that you have to maintain your dignity, and all that sparring back and forth can really zap your creative juices. I was happy for Casey and Sara as they have really hung in there (pardon the expression) and presented consistently creative and tasty fare. Best of luck to Howie. Follow your own advice and just stay true to your food. Check out Miami Spice for my latest recipe on this week's webisode. Stay tuned, and Break an Egg!