Top Chef

Season 2 Episode 3

Food for the People

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Nov 01, 2006 on Bravo

Episode Recap

It's early morning at the apartment and Frank's snoring has disturbed everyone in the men's quarters. The chefs eat a sleepy breakfast, and everyone leaves for the Kenmore Kitchen to hear about the QuickFire Challenge. Padma says that although most of the contestants are used to cooking for fine dining clients, only 38% of Americans eat in these types of restaurants. This round will test their ability to provide original and exciting food for the "man on the street."

The QuickFire Challenge is to create an original ice cream flavor, and then freeze a three-quart batch using the Cuisinart ice cream makers provided. There are specialty ingredients laid out on a counter, and the chefs have two hours and 45 minutes to complete the challenge, including freezing time. Marisa is happy and sure she will achieve immunity by winning the challenge since she uses ice cream daily as a pastry chef. Cliff and Betty have never made ice cream before, and since Sam is diabetic he's not used to making this kind of food � he doesn't eat it himself. Padma informs them their creations will be road-tested at the Redondo Seaside Lagoon.

The clock starts, and the chefs pick their ingredients. Those who've chosen to use eggs must heat the mixture and they all have difficulty cooling it down so it can go into the ice cream maker. When time is up all batches are packed up and they set off for Redondo Beach where they face over 300 people, predominantly children, who will vote their favorite flavor after tasting them all. Emily, Marisa, and Marcel are not happy with the composition of the test group, Sam feels he can flirt for a few points, and Carlos tailors the explanation of his ingredients to whether he's speaking to an adult or a child. Padma excuses the contestants to tally the votes. The results are announced back at the Kenmore kitchen. Marisa's vanilla peanut flavor is the first of the bottom three, followed by Emily's calming chocolate with lavender. The worst of all the flavors is Marcel's bacon and avocado, garnering only seven votes. Carlos' avocado and marshmallows and Sam's ginger snap and citrus crumble tie for second place, but it is Cliff's marshmallow and cookies ice cream that wins the day, and immunity. Marisa says, "I'm feeling less confident because Cliff won, but, honestly, I don't really think it had anything to do with the quality of his ice cream." Padma introduces the Elimination Challenge guest judge: Chef Stephen Bulgarelli, Senior Director/Executive Chef for T.G.I. Friday's restaurants. Bulgarelli explains that T.G.I. Friday's customers really relate to the kinds food they grew up on but with a grown-up appeal. He challenges the chefs to take their childhood favorite and turn it into the next "wow" T.G.I. Friday's entrée customers will crave. Friday's will feature the winner's dish on its menu at over 500 locations. The chefs have $100, 30 minutes to shop, and two hours to prep their food. They will finish their dishes at the South Pasadena Firehouse. Padma makes one last announcement: Michael worked at a T.G.I. Friday's many years ago, but he will receive no special treatment, nor will it count against him.

At Wild Oats market, Marcel and Emily worry because this is not their type of cooking. Michael goes over-budget, and has difficulty letting go of the beer he bought for himself until Sam reminds him that cheese is not provided in the pantry back at the kitchen.

Back at the Kenmore kitchen, serious food prep is underway when Chef Colicchio stops in. Betty asks if he can taste her soup and he says he can he's just not allowed to comment on it. Betty jokes that she'll look in his eyes to tell, but the Chef tastes the soup with his eyes closed. He looks at Frank's fantasy concoction of mushroom-topped zucchini and wonders what childhood memory he's using. Sam tells Chef Tom he's flying blind since he has no experience with the restaurant. When Michael tells the chef he has a brother who's a fireman, Colicchio jokes he has too many inside tracks. Just outside the kitchen Colicchio sums things up, saying that just because T.G.I. Friday's is casual dining doesn't mean it's easy. Betty says Marcel is rubbing her the wrong way because he "pontificates" in order to seem more experienced than he is.

At the South Pasadena fire station, Padma announces the chefs will work one at a time, with 15 minutes to finish their dishes in the fire station kitchen before they serve it to the judges and firefighters. The firefighters sit down at tables with Friday's tablecloths, and the judges introduce themselves to the firefighters they're sitting with. Michael is first and his cheese steak sandwich is less than flavorful. Colicchio says, "It's like its presentation, it's very sloppy." Marcel has difficulty preparing his onion rings because Michael's frying lowered the temperature of the oil. As he complains, Betty points out he should be trying to figure out an alternative instead of moaning about it. He ends up eliminating the rings and serving just the pork chops with mashed potatoes and cabbage. Most are very impressed with the meat.

While Sam prepares his dish, Marcel continues to complain until Betty tells him anything that messes him up is fine by her and he's a "selfish, self-centered, egotistical bastard." Sam is grateful when Betty offers to continue the discussion later.

Sam's wild fruit salad impresses Chef Bulgarelli, and a firefighter says that when you go to a restaurant you want to order something you wouldn't have at home. Emily's surf and turf is so bad Gail can't take more than a mouthful; everyone feels it is too salty. Frank's version of Alice in Wonderland's garden confuses everyone: Tom says it's bizarre and Bulgarelli says it would be hard to do in a restaurant. Ilan's roasted corn dish appears to be tasty. Cliff serves mac and cheese with grown up fish sticks, Josie prepares BBQ steak skewers with salsa, Elia offers fish tacos, and Carlos serves chicken fried shrimp with a southwest corn salad. Mia's meatloaf sandwich with spiced ketchup gets points knocked off for her fries. Quite a few gush over Marisa's strawberry crisp.

Betty's turn is last, and she thinks she is home free until the grill starts acting up. Marcel is in the background quizzing her on how she feels. Betty switches from the grill to pans and Marcel continues heckling her until Cliff steps in. Marcel has annoyed everyone so much they begin chanting, "Go Betty, go Betty... " Betty manages to plate everything just in the nick of time and all but Elia and Marcel help her serve. Elia comforts him, saying she always stands up for him when others say things against him. Betty's dish, "Badda Bing Betty," a grilled cheese with Portobello mushrooms and red pepper soup seems to be universally liked. A firefighter says he would order it again. The contestants file into the eating area and Padma informs them there have been some hits and some misses and then dismisses them until the Judges' Table.

Padma starts the debate at the Judges' Table, asking everyone to discuss what the competition was to achieve. Chef Bulgarelli felt there would be more excitement and adventurism. Tom presses him on whether any dish really was innovative, and he says Sam's fruit salad pushed the limits and was crave-able. Gail latches onto that word and asks if any other dishes could be considered crave-able. Bulgarelli says Betty's dish was both crave-able and actually fulfilled what the challenge asked by putting a twist on a traditional dish. Gail asks about Ilan's corn because she feels it also falls into the category. Bulgarelli agrees, but says it wasn't enough; he could have used the corn and made an incredible entrée out of it. Tom then asks about Cliff's mac and cheese with fish sticks, saying there were many positive comments and that mac and cheese is a soulful dish people keep coming back to. Bulgarelli agrees.

Cliff, Sam, and Betty are called to the table. Padma congratulates them, saying they are the top three. Sam is congratulated for his flavors, the dish's healthiness, its sophistication, and that it was cool. Cliff is praised for non-greasy fish and great flavors. Both Tom and Stephen say the firefighters loved it. Tom tells Betty everyone has fond memories of grilled cheese and tomato soup and tells her the twists she chose were great. Padma asks Chef Bulgarelli to name which contestant will appear on the Friday's menu. When he names Betty, her excited yell surprises everyone. Padma tells Betty to send in Michael, Emily, and Frank.

Lined up in front of the judges the three listen as Padma informs them they are the bottom three for the challenge. Frank feels a conceptual dish such as his needed tweaking, although the individual components were good. Gail and Stephen point out it's not appropriate for a restaurant, and Stephen says the flavors were in fact flat. Emily agrees with the judges that her dish was too salty, although she says each one by itself was okay. Bulgarelli points out the cut of meat she used is known for becoming rubbery and chewy, and Padma gets her to admit her corn was not fresh. Michael doesn't understand why he's here, but Bulgarelli says since Michael worked at Friday's and their competition he doesn't understand how Michael thinks a steak sandwich would stand out. Tom asks why Michael should be kept, and says his presentation was sloppy. Padma sends them back while the judges deliberate.

Bulgarelli comments that at least Frank had an idea and went with it, but Tom says something that conceptual requires good technique and Frank is not a good technician. Colicchio says Emily really didn't go beyond her surf and turf concept. Stephen comments that if a chef's food is over-seasoned, she must fix it or not serve it. Gail states that Michael's attitude rubs her the wrong way; he doesn't seem to care. Bulgarelli says he was arrogant about his dish. Both he and Colicchio agree that somehow Michael managed to screw up a steak sandwich, which they didn't think was possible. In the waiting area, everyone is comforting a tearful Emily or trying to calm a combative Michael.

Chef Colicchio tells Frank that, although it would never have won the challenge, had he executed his dish better he would not be in the bottom three. He informs Emily everything was over-salted, and pressure is part of her cooking life. She should not make a mistake like this, but if she does, she has to figure out a way to fix it. He asks Michael whether he thinks the competition is a joke, and Colicchio tells him his professed love of food is not apparent in the sloppy and poorly executed dishes he's been serving. It's a difficult decision but someone must be eliminated, and Padma tells Emily to pack her knives and go.
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