Episode: 12 Days Of Christmas (Or, It's A Festivus Miracle!)
December 17, 2008
Previously on Top Chef: The chefs were charged with preparing dishes for Gail Simmons' bridal shower. Ariane edged out ever-the-bridesmaid Jamie to win the elimination challenge by making some tasty lamb. And Deluded Danny was sent back to Long Island after making a general mess of things with a dreadful DIY "sushi" dish.
Warning: I'm feeling quite grinchy of late and the general bullshit nature of this episode really didn't help. So, if you find me under your tree stealing all your presents ... well, blame Bravo.
It's another sunny August morning and the cheftestants are busy getting ready for another day of grilling and getting grilled. Chef Ariane (The Sopranos' Dr. Melfi) is feeling confident now that she's on the winning side of things, so we figure that Boniva™ has properties about which we had been unaware. And Chef Eugene (Nip/Tuck's Escobar Gallardo) is freaking out over having done so poorly the last time that he nearly was sent packing.
In the kitchen, the members of Team Eurotrash™ are also stressing over their poor performance in the last challenge. Chef Fabio (The Simpsons' Luigi Risotto) consoles a distraught Chef Stefan (Arrested Development's Stan Sitwell, without the wig), who has been dreaming about his fetish for finding footwear in his rectum.
Elsewhere, Chef Hosea (The Addams' Family's Lurch) is concerned about his cancer-stricken father. So to console him, the producers kindly allow him to chat with his family as long as they can use the family moment to show us a larger-than-life, six-foot neon, blinking sign that says, "Isn't this the greatest smartphone in the world!? Don't you wish you had one to discuss your daddy's cancer with your family?! Visit our web site or any of our convenient retail outlets and order yours today!"
Once that abomination is over, the chefs head downstairs to see the corporate kitchen decked out in festive Labor Day decorations. There's garland and holly and a big Labor Day tree in the corner. Wow. Late summer really is the most wonderful time of the year.
Padma is there to wish them a happy holiday and to inform them that at this time of year, after burying themselves in sand at the beach, people traditionally bury themselves under "mountains of pots and pans." (Sounds painful. Must be an Indian thing.) And to honor this little-known tradition, the chefs will have to create a traditional Jerry Lewis Telethon Day meal using only one pot.
And who better to plug her book cool us all off on this hot summer day than the ice queen herself, famed Wall Street trader, Martha Stewart.
Ariane finds this "awesome."
Chef Leah (Rhoda's Brenda Morgenstern) is equally excited. She never dreamed she'd get to be in the same room with Ms. Martha. At least, not without knocking over a liquor store.
Martha tells Padma that she's a fan of one-pot cooking, since her 13 personal chefs cook things like that for her all the time. With that, it's go time!
Zip, zip, zip. Chef Jeff (L.A. Law's Arnie Becker) notices that most folks are fudging the one-pot guideline by preparing one item at a time in a pot, putting it to one side, and then using the same pot for something else. So, he decides to make a potato risotto.
Chef Jamie (Top Chef's Chef Jamie) shocks everyone by running for the scallops ... for the, what, fifth (?) time. And Ariane decides to make a some fillet mignon with veggies. But first, she must fricassee the English language.
"For me, doin' the collieflower pure-ay, the kids some- sometimes think it's mashpotaters so they'll eat it and get their veggies!"
Fabio tells us a heartwarming holiday story about how he was an evil child and was chained to the stove by his lovely "granma" who forced him to whip polenta until his hands bled. (OK, I made up the bleeding part.) So, to honor her (pa-rupa-pum-pum), he's making a polenta with mushrooms and duck.
Eugene's feelin' his granny too, and is making some kind of Korean stew. But since he doesn't have time to reduce his broth, he's using corn starch to thicken it.
Then it's time for the ex-con to judge the dishes. She makes a face at Eugene's broth (or it could be at his use of "restraints" in reference to the time constraints, it's hard to tell). She gets all precious over Stefan's use of a certain kind of mushroom while she tosses him her room key.
After a few stops, she arrives at Jamie's station where Our Lil Lesbian presents her scallops. Asked if she thinks scallops are indicative of "this" season, she says that she serves them year-round, "expessially" nice, big ones. And Martha shows off her everyman appeal by talking about going diving for them off the coast of Maine. It's a touching holiday tableau.
Later, Ariane of the tiny noggin (I have that same problem with "one size fits all" caps) shows off her dish to Martha while they bond over both being from Jersey.
When it's time to judge, Ms. Martha singles out her least favorites as being Jeff's risotto, Eugene's corn starch-assisted stew and Fabio's memories-of-abuse polenta. This upsets Fabio, who threatens to sic granny on the patrician princess.
As for the winners, she says she was fond of the Hosea Paella, Jamie's This Should Finally Win Me Something Scallop and Ariane's "one-pot" steak. And the winner of this moment's cross-promotion is ... Ariane.
She beams. Jamie stews.
Padma explains that for this challenge the chefs will be catering a Labor Day ball for 250 guests at a benefit for AmFAR (the Americans For AIDS Research). And to help them, they've brought in a dozen vocalists from the Harlem Gospel Choir.
They enter singing. ... Now, no doubt they're exceptionally talented, but let's just say that their vocal stylings are not a good match for the never-ending Christmas carol, "The 12 Days Of Christmas."
Still, their appearance does set off Chef Carla (Good Times' J.J. Evans), who recognizes them, shrieks, and then has to spend the rest of the day locating her left eyeball after it's rolled behind the GE Monogram™ stove.
The knife block appears and before you can say "twelve chefs a-pickin'," the contestants are each paired off with a "day of Christmas" from the song which is to serve as the inspiration for their dish.
Carla, still looking for her missing eyeball, find the challenge daunting. Ariane thinks it's "awesome."
Oh, and apparently there's still a Chef Melissa (Frasier's Maris Crane).
While the chefs make their appointed sponsorship rounds for their ingredients, let's run down the match-ups.
- 12 Drummers Drumming: Stefan
- 11 Pipers Piping: Hosea
- 10 Lords A-Leaping: Jeff
- 9 Ladies Dancing: Fabio
- 8 Maids A-Milking: Melissa
- 7 Swans A-Swimming: Jamie
- 6 Geese A-Laying: Ariane
- 5 Golden Rings: Eugene
- 4 Calling Birds: No one, damnit. (I totally didn't get that there are only eleven chefs left! What kind of fucking Labor Day spirit is this?)
- 3 French Hens: Leah
- 2 Turtle Doves: Carla
- And a Partridge In A Pear Tree: Chef Radhika (The Office's Kelly Kapoor)
As the chefs shop, we see that some are happier with their assignments than others. Hosea's thinking of making something smokey to signify "pipers piping" and is glad he's not saddled with "eleven lords a'leaping." Like Jeff.
Jeff, so saddled, decides to use a variety of Mediterranean cheeses to signify "leaping" from one island to another. (You laugh, but, if you couldn't find frog legs, what would you do?)
Stefan (I guess figuring a pot pie looks like a drum) decides to make that. Leah thinks playing it safe with three hens is the way to go. And Fabio again curses his luck for having the crappy assignment. First "something blue" and now he has to make "nine ladies dancing" work as "foo."
So, he decides crab legs are enough to suggest the theme and snorts away, his neck vein still a'bulging.
Ariane opts to go with an "I have immunity, screw you" theme and decides to make six different kinds of deviled eggs. (Speaking soley for myself, the mere thought of deviled eggs makes me gag hard.)
They wish the friendly friends at Food 'N' Friends a happy Labor Day and head back to the kitchen for some late-night cookery.
In order to showcase Food 'N' Friends' spiffy new bags made from recycled materials, the producers have Stefan make some bullshit statement about how the three hours of prep time is hardly enough when you have to take the time to unpack all this food. (Disclaimer: I noticed in his live chat during the show that Chef Spike mentioned that unpacking time is routinely done "off the clock," as it were.)
The cooking commences and Jamie reveals that (surprise!) she's going back to the scallop well for her dish, which will have said scallop "swimming" in some vichyssoise.
Melissa tells us she "believe(s) in the spirit of Christmas" (particularly when doing back-to-school shopping). This somehow translates to mean that she's doing something with cheese.
Radhika wasn't able to go on one of Dick Cheney's Canned Hunts™, so she's sans partridge. Instead, she's opted for duck with pear chutney hoping it'll be good enough. Still, a "duck in a pear tree" doesn't sound like it would be too comfortable for the duck.
Fabio reveals that he's making a "crap cake" and Eugene says that he's preparing a Tahitian ceviche with a "golden ring" of coconut.
With an hour remaining in the show to cook, Hosea figures this will be a good time to eliminate the competition by having them all drop dead from smoke inhalation. It doesn't work.
Finally, the chefs takes their steamy dishes for 250 guests and cram them into the unreliable-and-totally-not-worthy-of-your-purchase GE Monogram™ refrigerators and head upstairs to bed. And while visions of sugarplums (and end-of-summer sales) dance in their heads, a drama occurs downstairs.
The next morning, the chefs wake to the idea that with "1 hour to prep & pack" they'll have just enough time to pack up their dishes and head to the venue.
But then ...
The chefs discover that one of those terribly unreliable GE Monogram™ refrigerators was left open (or couldn't take all the hot food inside it, or was sabotaged by production, or was just horribly unreliable) and what was inside is totally spoiled and unusable.
This most directly affects Radhika and Hosea (and to a lesser extent Melissa) who had stored their duck, pork and cheese, respectively, there.
Whatever will they do?! Hosea is angry. And Radhika is so upset that she contemplates just quitting over this tragedy.
But then, magic happens! We hear sleigh bells and, suddenly Radhika remembers that she didn't use the legs of the ducks she broke down (and somehow conveniently remembered to store elsewhere at the proper temperature). Melissa "finds" a different cheese to use. And Hosea locates boxes of pork loin which have magically appeared under the Labor Day tree.
It's a Festivus miracle!
I think Eugene best exhibited his wonderment when he explains (emphasis mine), "We get more product for them ... "
I do, I do, I do believe in production assistants!
And not only has more product appeared, but Labor Day Santa has also either planned time for three hours of prep work to happen in an hour or he's also brought extra time in his bag of goodies.
Because now we get to see our happy little elves co-operate and help the most-affected two get their dishes ready with the products of their culinary alchemy. It just makes me feel all toasty inside. Like when I'm on the beach in August.
The chefs arrive at the venue and set up. Everyone reminds us about how much pressure they're under. And chop, chop, chop, the guests and judges arrive.
The judges this time are Tom, Padma as well as celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein and AmFar spokesperson, actress Natasha Richardson.
Stefan tells us how he wants to hump Ms. Richardson's leg and we move on to the event. She and her cleavage address the gathered guests, remind us that summer is the "season of giving," and tell the invitees that they will be picking a winner by pinning red AIDS awareness ribbons to the table of the chef whose dish they liked the most.
The service goes like this:
- Stefan (Twelve Drummers Drumming): He's made a chicken pot pie. It's a hit.
- Radhika (A Partridge In A Pear Tree): She's got her magic duck with pear chutney. Everyone swoons at it's magic-y goodness.
- Carla (Two Turtle Doves): She creams over Kenneth Cole and tells us that a mushroom cap is indicative of the back of a turtle (dove). Somehow.
- Eugene (Five Golden Rings): He tells some story about Polynesia and a "golden ring," which I could swear I heard Jeff Probst make up tell on some season of Survivor. This explains a "poisson cru," a pineapple ring and a potato chip. It's judged as being entirely too sweet.
- Fabio (Nine Ladies Dancing): The One Who Makes Them Wanna Drop Their Drawers has made a crab cake. No one cares as long as they can stand there and hear him talk. Who cares if it's another bullshit story of inspiration? Have you seen the man?
- Jamie (Seven Swans A-Swimming): She clearly thinks she's clever with her whole scallop "swimming" conceit. The judges just think it's slimy. (And major hotness Chyanne Jackson is edited to make it seem like he didn't like the dish, when he did -- as seen on Bravotv.com.)
- Melissa (Eight Maids A-Milking): It's cheese on toast. There may be some steak there. The dish makes the same impression as does the chef.
- Leah (Three French Hens): Hens. They're French. Next.
- Ariane (Six Geese A-Laying): Deviled Eggs. Six of 'em. ... Gag. (Sorry, reflex.) Still, aside from being a boring choice, the judges do think they're tasty.
- Hosea (Eleven Pipers Piping): Revealing perhaps more than he wanted to, Hosea says that when getting this assignment, his first thought was "put something in your pipe and smoke it ... dude." (The "dude" is silent.) His enchanted smoked pork is a hit. And Hosea gets hit on by some chick (which makes Leah wanna go scratch her eyes out.). In fact, it seems that Hosea is ... how do dey say in dis country? ... "da man," getting all kinds of attention.
- Jeff (Ten Lords A-Leaping): Not to be outdone, the culinary haircut is also getting "da digits" thrown at him by the lady guests. Some girl even says she wanted to be sure to "try him." (Not really my type, but, sure. If we're sampling, put me down for some, too.)
Radhika, Jeff, Stefan and Hosea get called to the table for having the judges' favorite dishes. We get another telling of the tale of the magic pantry o' proteins and, one by one, we hear how each winning dish was good, but could have used this or that done differently.
Finally, the declare the winner to be ... Hosea of the Supernatural Pork Loin.
He tells us that he feels just "awesome" about the win.
And as a Labor Day gesture to the contestants, and to reward them for all pulling together in the spirit of Festivus, This Segment's Cookbook Plugger totally spontaneously and with no prompting from production decides to bestow her book upon each one of the finalists.
What happens next hardly matters. They call in Eugene, Melissa and Jamie as having the worst dishes. They go through the motions as if they're 86ing either Eugene or Melissa and they totally spontaneously and with no prompting from production decide to send Tom back to talk to the chefs.
He shames them, smacks them around some and forces them to eat Cheese Doodles off the floor for their crimes against cuisine. And, in the spirit of late-August, he totally spontaneously and with no prompting from production decides to not let anyone go tonight ... and advises that they raise their game step up to the plate bring it not be pitchy, dawg cook what they came here to cook next time.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a rubber Christmas pool toy to inflate.
Next time on Top Chef: A new judge. He's snarky. He scares Fabio. But will the chefs raise their game step up to the plate bring it not be pitchy, dawg cook what they came here to cook? Or will we see a re-run of last year's Top Chef holiday throwdown? Ask that stern bald man over there in the chef's coat.