So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Top Chef episode 5

chow wagon

Image courtesy of http://serenabartonsblog.blogspot.com/

This episode was hot and dry, sort of the Joanna Lumley of Top Chef episodes.

Disclaimer – I am the proud owner of a Walrus four person tent, a Sierra Designs one person tent,  a 26 year old Gregory internal frame state of the art backback (that set me back almost $200 way back when!), various backpacking stoves, fuel bottles, water bottles, tarps, flashlights and other assorted house-on-your-back stuff. None of which has been deployed for several years.

While it wasn’t exactly Survivor, it was funny to see these folks scrambling around in the desert because, not only is the desert hot in the day, it can get cold at night. I’ve experienced this when I was deployed to Ft. Irwin, California to take part in Army OPFOR exercises (Opposing forces exercises where the “home team” was outfitted as Russian troops). 40 degrees is damned cold when you’ve been working in 100 degree heat all day. We didn’t have cute teepees though.

But let’s go back to the beginning (ignoring the opening which was a bit flat and maudlin in turns), where we get one of the most taciturn, yet critical judges yet,  Tim Love. He’s pretty clipped and curt and looks like he just ate a rattlesnake one rattle at a time.  It’s appropriate that the viewers chose a prickly ingredient for a sometimes prickly guest judge. When Tim Love smiles, it’s through gritted teeth.

Mike Isabella is starting to come on strong after a bit of hubris hovering over his boastful statements about his abilities. Maybe there’s something behind it. And, isn’t just adorable how our little mime pronounces cactus “cactrus”?

We see ceviche becoming a dominate theme in this episode, something that is borne out later when our intrepid chefs are thrown into “the wilderness”.  Various chefs struggle with the sliminess of the cactus but Mike has the best solution and that is to let salt draw a lot of that sliminess out.

“Wet spot”! Best.Line.Ever.

Poor Ron. He just keeps getting outgunned, outclassed, and outdone by both the other chefs and the various challenges. He’s only hanging on by his accent. However, we’ve seen this before. All it takes is one challenge that’s actually in his wheelhouse and he could very well regain his equilibrium. But I doubt this will happen. He just doesn’t seem to respond well to this format.

When the chefs are told of their challenge, they seem to get the right idea. At least it seems that way. I suspect that there will be some serious failures to execute along the way. And I’m right. But here’s the thing, nobody said anything about ceviche during the Whole Foods segment. Serving ceviche to ranchers? That’s like Andrew from two seasons back serving vegetarian sushi rolls to firefighters. Not the smartest ploy if you ask me.

I know, hindsight is 20/20, but if it had been me, considering the guest judge, the prospective audience and the cooking conditions, I would have probably gone with pork “country-style ribs”. They aren’t really ribs, they are rib-shaped slices from the pork shoulder. Not having enough time to properly smoke and pull them (even though they are smaller, they still take a couple of hours to cook to the point of pulling or being tender enough to eat), I would have probably broken them down into bits and “smoked” them that way. I’d have tossed them in a quick rub and gone to town. Made some sort of BBQ “stew” using a little commercial beef stock and water. Maybe an onion, a carrot, a foiled wrapped potato cooked directly on the coals and then diced at the point of being firm but cooked. Grabbed a couple of cans of BBQ beans, a jalapeño and some canned pineapple and heated a slightly spicy/sweet pineapple BBQ beans dish over a smoky fire under a tin foil canopy. But it’s easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.

What? Our Aryan princess/dominatrix doesn’t like losing control of the cooking environment.? What a shocker.

Frankly, I was disappointed at the challenge. A little over an hour doesn’t allow much use of flame and smoke, especially since it seemed that they were allowed no prior prep time as they usually are when cooking at a remote site. I also wonder if they weren’t allowed to even start the fires until the challenge began. If they weren’t, that seems a bit harsh. I’m also surprised that no one used the griller/smoker that was seen in some of the shots. Ashley seems concerned about even heating. Why not use one of those instead of the fire rings?

Bears and cougars. Saw that coming a mile away.

Even though I’m uncomfortable mentioning it, Ron’s Aunt Jemima moment was chuckle-producing. And who doesn’t love them a little voodoo?

Hey Eli, you’re asinine. No, Teleburst, you’re asinine. No, you are.

Gotta love a well-placed outhouse. I’m surprised it wasn’t labeled as a GE Monogram outhouse.

So Ash was an “animal psychologist” in a prior life. Probably tried to break the id of a cat and failed miserably. That’s why he’s a chef now.

Cooking, cooking, slipping, banging, spraying, buckboard raiding, sword-needing. More cooking, flaming, baking (in the sun).

Hey Mike, it’s not gyro as in gyroscope.

Dashi. Like a good Thai coconut based dish, always a good, smart choice. I love me some dashi.

Could shrimp/prawns be the undoing of yet another chef? Oh dear – “chlorine”. I suspect that he meant “ammonia”, but same difference really. If it was chlorine, could the cooler that she used might have been sanitized but not completely rinsed out? I suspect that this would be picked up by the ice and transferred to the shrimp, especially if the bag that they were stored in wasn’t sealed correctly.

What is Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos doing ranching? Did the last album tank?

Hey, bearded old fogey – wipe your mouth! Don’t you know that you’re on television? Where were you raised, in a barn? Oh, you were. Never mind.

Ron doing Haitian Tai Chi. Rippin’!

Tasting, tasting, tasting, evaluating, spitting out, pulling faces, praising, praising, praising…

Here’s a hint to the viewer, when a cheftestant is shown on camera saying that they thought that their food was great, plan on seeing an unpleasant Judges’ Table® experience.

JT was fairly brief on all counts. Not much to talk about really. Robin showed the wisdom of copping to mistakes. Mattin made the common mistake of continuing to defend his food. Ron was just sort of there.

And so, with a fond wave of the baguette, we bid a fond adieu to our mime. In this case (paraphrasing Billy Crystal in This is Spinal Tap), mime isn’t money. We pull a Marcel Marceau with a single painted tear on a whitewashed cheek and we expressively and silently wave goodbye while standing crookedly against an imaginary wind.

Mattin, please take your beret and go.

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