Last night we said goodbye to Manuel, and it's debatable (shocker) whether it was he who deserved to pack his knives and go. Is it worse to follow the leader like a sheep, or be the leader with the lousy ideas? That's certainly up for discussion, but last night the judges decided it was the sheep that would go home.
To start off the episode that would be the end of Top Chef for Manuel, the producers offered up a nice challenge. They packed up the gimmicks for a later date (or later in the episode), and tested basic classic technique, from knife skills to poaching and grilling, with guest judge chef Daniel Boulud. I think this was one of the better challenges because it did expose the contestants' weaknesses in foundation cooking. It seems Manuel's departure stems originally from his poor performance in the Quickfire Challenge.
The Elimination Challenge was a fun one, but I was surprised that no one used great classic food movies as their inspiration. Maybe it would be too cliche to use Big Night or Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, but someone could've used Super Size Me and done a fun burger (perhaps some riff on the stuffing of foie gras and short ribs in an ode to the DB Burger) and fries (maybe show off some pomme souffle technique) and a fancy milk shake for the judges.
Like the judges, I was disappointed in the Talk to Her meal (though I too LOVED that movie), as it didn't seem terribly confident, bold, or passionate. While I loved the idea of using Willie Wonka as inspiration, I had my doubts about that white chocolate wasabi sauce (so did Zoi as she said over and over again, rather petulantly, in the stew room). But apparently Richard, Dale, and Andrew nailed the flavors and really produced a stunning dish. I think the Quote of the Show has to go to Andrew who offered this gem at Judges' Table when discussing his Willy Wonka-inspired plate: "I have no doubt that people will culinarily crap in their pants when eating this food." What would we do with out Andrew? He's the best.
Below is a list of my favorite "food" movies. I would love to hear yours so please add your comments below.
What's Cooking, directed by Gurinder Chada, is probably the most underrated food movie ever made. It's about four different (dysfunctional) families celebrating Thanksgiving and the drama and meals that show up in each of their kitchens. It was out for all of one month in art house theaters in New York City and I caught it and LOVED it. See it now.
Mostly Martha (German version), written and directed by Sandra Nettlebeck, was exquisite in its original German version-heartbreaking and poignant. I didn't even bother with the American remake.
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, written and directed by Ang Lee, is a classic. If you can watch this movie and not laugh, cry, and come out of it craving Chinese food, you're inhuman.
Babette's Feast, written and directed by Gabriel Axel based on the short story by Karen Blixen is really the story of nourishing the soul with food. The meal that Babette prepares for these two sisters in this small gloomy village brings the whole town to life. Big Night, directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci, tells the story of two brothers and their failing New Jersey restaurant and the one night they have to save their business. It's inspired many to attempt the famous timpano. I still haven't had the nerve.