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Top Chef Duels, 8/27, Stefan vs CJ, SPOILERS, an ever more profane and surly recap

*rabbit tobacco*
________________

Hello to all 6 of you still following this show. Top Chef Duels is back and so is my rambling recap thereof. Once again, I'm recapping from memory which guarantees I'll fuck things up, and then edit it over the next couple days until it more or less makes sense.

We're on to the fourth episode in the season now, and Top Chef Duels is hitting its stride. Not that it's any better or more interesting, but basically we all know what to expect now, so we viewers really have no one to blame but ourselves.

Stefan is taking on CJ. A hypnotic (I use 'hypnotic' in the medical sense, here) Australian accent is telling me about how these two are long time rivals, and this will be a bitter grudge match, and some more shit that I can't bring myself to pay attention to. The 'rivalry' is some bullshit, as far as I know. But there are a few compelling reasons to stack these two up against each other:

- Stefan is Scandinavian. CJ was a mediocre contestant until he traveled to a Scandinavian restaurant (Noma) and learned a few tricks. Then he was still mediocre. Then he stopped pretending he knew how to cook sous vide, ripped off Noma even more blatantly, and reportedly did well in Last Chance Kitchen.
- CJ is tall like redwood. Stefan short like Christmas tree.
- Stefan seems like a huge asshole when he's onscreen, but slowly over time becomes more likable. CJ seems likable at first and slowly becomes more of an asshole. They kind of meet in the middle. I'll insert a funny metaphor here eventually if I can think of one.
- Stefan is bald. CJ might be sporting hair plugs, but he's too damn tall for anyone to see the top of his head.

The first challenge is Stefan's. The contestants are to use smoke. This seems to be interpreted as 'be Scandinavian.' They go and cook things in rapid cut shots and occasionally in slow-motion. We don't know what's happening, but it would be super exciting if they were doing kung fu to fight the Matrix rather than dicing bell peppers.

* A over-long knife interlude, you might just want to skip *
In one of these slow mo shots, someone is using a Shun Edo knife. Now I'm intrigued, because a Shun Edo is the kind of knife you buy if you reaaaallly want to spend $200 on a knife and heard that Asian knives are nice but don't bother checking out any other knives. There's nothing wrong with it, except that it occupies that tricky space where it's more than most people need, and also less than you can get for the money. Basically, it's the knife equivalent of buying a Humvee - if I like you and you own one, it's a respectable purchase of a well-made product; if I dislike you and you own one, I take it as further evidence that you're a fucknut. And either CJ or Stefan could easily apply for fucknut status.

So I'm curious who's using it. I watch intently, skipping over such trivialities as who made what. CJ seems to be using some large octagonal-handled gyuto. Stefan has a few knives. He uses a scimitar a lot. And also a Western boning knife (could be a filet knife, hard to say). And a quick shot of him using a German chefs knife.

And slowly I realize. Neither one uses a Shun Edo. The producers are not merely taking useless slo-mo shots of the contestants cooking in lieu of actually explaining what's going on. Those motherfuckers are actually filming some production assistant chopping up vegetables and inserting those shots into the edit. And they're using a Shun Edo, those fucknuts. They probably drive Hummers around LA too.
* Back to the competition *

We go to the judges table, where Gail Simmons, Shinyteeth McAustralia, and the guy who installed Bravo's wifi system await. Stefan has made some smoked salmon dish, made it well, and inserted a few pinbones into the dish to hopefully choke Curtis Stone. CJ has made perch smoked three ways, at least two of which he ripped off Noma. It is good, but undercooked, so CJ talks some shameless shit about how Stefan ripped off his own mother. The judges buy it, and CJ wins. Stefan vows revenge, and also vows to return to Finland with a suitcase full of money and never cook again.

CJ issues his challenge: butts. The Bravo team captures the ensuing hilarity by making sure the edit includes no less than 984,834 uses of the words 'butt' and 'ass.' It's a very cheeky challenge, no?

Butt, butt, butt, ass, butt, ass, butt, slow mo, butt, ass, butt. Judge's table.

Stefan has produced some kind of Thai soup made with pig butt' which mind you is probably different than pork butt. It's too thick but people like Stefan's inclusion of kaffir lime, which is kind of like complimenting a Southern dish on using butter. CJ makes some kind of poultry butt sauce under some kind of pig butt. Meanwhile the 'puns' if you want to call them that continue, until I'm so inured to hearing about butts and asses that I'm kind of begging for someone to push the envelope and tell the judges that they're also eating a crackling of the pig's vagina.

CJ wins again, on the virtue of his sauce. And gloats that he can now pay for better hair plugs.

Main challenge. There are strict requirements: the contestants are to make three dishes, using food.

They will also go foraging. This might favor Rene Redzepi... er, I mean, CJ, since that's what he does. They also introduce some 20 year old actress whose name doesn't really matter. She's wearing an arresting ensemble of purple Magic Eye pattern cut into a stunning knee-length, midriff-baring WhatInTheHolyFuckIsThatAnyway.

So they go foraging, and learn about which plants can make you puke. Foraging is interesting, and brings up a number of ethical questions and culinary considerations, none of which are explored in the least here.

Then they're back in the kitchen, talking a little shit. The shit talk isn't very interesting, but they're doing a decent job of selling the honesty of it. They might genuinely dislike each other a little. It's believable, and helped along by the fact that I dislike them both a little bit myself. They cook, and no one gives a fuck, least of all the producers. Of note however, the 20 year old actress at one point asks CJ about his favorite thing to forage. He names manzanita berries and she replies, "ooooooh, manzanita berries" in that in that knowing and enthusiastic tone talented actresses use when they don't know what the fuck you're talking about but want to convince you they have interests outside of acting and street drugs.

At the judges table are Gail Simmons, that boring-ass Cuckholding Australian chef from TV, a pair of hobbits, and a woman who seems to have a pulse but who might also be wearing Lisa Loeb glasses attached to a Farrah Fawcett wig, kindof the female equivalent of Groucho glasses.

For the first course, Stefan makes a lobster bisque with fennel. It's good. CJ makes a rock with some grass on it. Everyone seems to think Stefan won that course, except for Stefan himself, who was probably assuming that anything as bizarre-looking as CJ's course had to be a work of profound genius.

Also, Stefan is asked which parts of his dish he foraged. He responds, and I'd like to say this:
Fuck you, Stefan, you fucking liar, there's no way you foraged those morels. Oh, someone foraged them. Sure. But not you, you bald-headed lying motherfucker. See, I've been looking for morels. Many times. You can't find the fuckers. It's impossible. It's like telling me you were strolling along a creek in Pittsburgh and found gold nuggets. Every single place on Earth where they grow has been mapped out by an army of people far more dedicated than you or I. And they're not sharing with you or me, stefan, oh fucking no they're not. Those were foraged from the back of a pickup truck at $15 per ounce.

For the second course, CJ steps it up and makes duck with nettles and some more random grass. It is praised as being very, very, ducky, and I'm starting to listen intently to the judges for embedded codes that they are being held hostage by the producers, occasionally waterboarded, and forbidden to say anything substantive about anything they're eating. Stefan, meanwhile, makes a galantine of pheasant and duck. It's technical and impressive and is immediately compared to turducken, and thus labelled 'phucken.' As there is no chicken that I know of in the dish, it technically should've just been called 'phuck' but no one worries about that. Gail Simmons says the word 'phucken' and later mentions something about being in the shower, and from 500 feet away per the specifics of his restraining order, Wolfgang Puck punches a wall. Both dishes are well received.

For the final course, Stefan makes goat with an acorn mash. The goat is over-braised. CJ makes braised rabbit with rabbit tobacco, which for some reason I giggle about for like 15 minutes. And some more random grass. By most accounts CJ wins this course.

So who wins the night? It's very close, as it apparently always is. CJ steps up and points out that Stefan played it very safe, whereas CJ himself showed off great creativity by ripping off Noma, which is in another fucking country so it doesn't count.

And CJ wins. I think he might have actually talked himself into the victory, overcoming the technical disadvantage by accusing Stefan of being less original and safer often enough that the judges bought it. CJ moves on, Stefan goes on to compete in Last Chance Kitchen, where Wolfgang's presence is still allowed by law, and where Mike Isabella lies shamelessly about what 'medium rare' is.

Photo, below, left to right:
Bland but likable
Clothes inspired by the very last level in Space Invaders
Bland and unlikable
Hobbitses

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  1. At this point, I'm basically only watching this show so that I can have some sort of context for your awesome recaps.

    To be fair, Shailene Woodly was a pretty decent celebrity guest for this challenge. She's a rather odd breed of Hollywood starlet, talks frequently about dropping off the grid to become an herbalist. I kind of suspect she knows more about foraging than either of the chefs.

    2 Replies
    1. re: RhodyRedHen

      "Shailene Woodly... talks frequently about dropping off the grid to become an herbalist. I kind of suspect she knows more about foraging than either of the chefs."
      _______
      Ya know, the outfit should've clued me in that she doesn't spend much time powdering her nose with Paris Hilton.

      I might have given her an unfair shake. Rest assured that if my own mother showed up as a guest judge on this show, I'd probably make fun of her mercilessly ('look at that sad hand-me-down Goodwill shit she's wearing, someone in her family should really start forking out on Christmas and Mother's Day... ohhhh').

      1. re: RhodyRedHen

        I was going to write the same thing about Shailene Woodley - I don't know that much about her but I know the foraging/sustainable lifestyle thing is something she's famous for - I know her at least as well for that (from some of my younger co-workers, etc. ragging on her for it, unfortunately - and agree she probably knew more about it than the chefs) as I do for her TV and movie work. It was creepy when CJ got excited about her sexy foraging knowledge - "why aren't there more women interested in that?" Dude! She's 21!

        "As there is no chicken that I know of in the dish, it technically should've just been called 'phuck' but no one worries about that. "
        Jeez, you're right - and here I was all giggly about both Stefan and Gail saying "phucken" on the air without being bleeped.

        ETA: I LOVE the photo!

      2. It's strange - I find both Stefan and CJ to be complete assholes. but I actually like Stefan, I think, because he owns his assholedness. Whereas CJ wants to appear to be tge nice guy, but is just a passive-aggressive, undermining turd. I guess as far as assholes go, I'll take the one that owns it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: drew13000

          I think Stefan is actually kind of charming, and I'm not the sort that usually goes for assholes.

        2. Since you've started THIS, I haven't watched any episode "live"... just wait for you're recap... I don't mind the spoiler one bit!

          2 Replies
          1. re: kseiverd

            I'm with you. Cowboyardee's knife interlude is the most interesting and educational thing to come out of this show so far.

            1. re: cresyd

              I loved Stefan's use of a "scimitar." Your recap is fantastic and had me literally laughing out loud several times, smiling throughout. Please don't stop! It's one of the highlights of my week...

          2. I enjoyed this episode and enjoyed this recap twice as much.

            ETA: Oh! Awesome catch on the Shun knife. I'll be watching with different eyes from now on.

            1. Well you could have had the decency for a spoiler alert!!!! I only watched the smoke and butt part.

              This is the funniest Top Chef recap I've ever read. I've been scolded off of other threads.

              You owe me a new keyboard very early in your report......as I was sipping on grain alcohol and spit it out.

              "- CJ is tall like redwood. Stefan short like Christmas tree.
              - Stefan seems like a huge asshole when he's onscreen, but slowly over time becomes more likable. CJ seems likable at first and slowly becomes more of an asshole."

              Well done!!!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Bellachefa

                Thanks.

                "Well you could have had the decency for a spoiler alert!!!!"
                ______
                Oh, shit. Sorry bout that.
                *Added to the title*

              2. I love that you took the time to write that splendid review. I'm reading it at work and laughing out loud. Folks are looking at me strangely! I thought CJ was a strange choice for this show in the first place. Most of the other cheftestants for this either did REALLY well in their Top Chef turn or are already celebrity chefs.

                I also share your "love" for Curtis Stone. Ugh.

                I missed last week (gladly) and think I will watch selectively from now on depending upon the cast for the week. Actually looking forward to next week, as I've eaten both chef's food and really like Takashi Yagahashi. Hopefully it will be more interesting than last night's episode. BTW, I disliked Stefan on his season, but last night I really felt sorry for him. I think he cooked well most of the time, but got tossed under the bus.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ChefJune

                  Stefan kind of ran into that during this TC seasons--looked good when he was first on, but when he came back later his food was considered classic but dated.

                2. I just watched Divergent. Before that I had to suffer thru two previews with the same lame actress. She's a terrible actress, and it shows with her pathetic ooohhhing and aaahing about the foraged crap with both contestants. And that outfit is atrocious. Fade back to obscurity.....go forage shrooms!

                  1. Awesome recap, I'm not even watching this show :) but am LMAO at your recaps!

                    "Butt, butt, butt, ass, butt, ass, butt, slow mo, butt, ass, butt. Judge's table"

                    which puts me in mind of this song from the awesome and underrated Bob's Burgers:
                    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm_gAD...

                    1. Who needs to watch the show, this is just great! Totally amusing recap!

                      1. It had never occurred to me to watch this show and now you've sealed that deal. I'll just wait for your recaps. I think you've found your calling although I have no idea what you do when not cracking us up on this board. My only suggestion is to might spell 'fuck' alternately as 'phuck' as you do throw it in a lot.
                        Just a minor point. I also like to use 'frigging' once in a while to be annoying.

                        1. Keep doing that voodoo that you do so well!!!

                            1. There is a patch of morels about a half mile from our house, but I don't always time it so I can harvest them. They are not in an easily accesible location.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: John E.

                                And they're only available for a couple of weeks a year...not like you can just go find them as if they're in the veg case at Whole Foods

                              2. Awesome recap. It actually makes me want to watch more so I can read the hilarious insights of your recap.

                                1. Oh, cowboyardee, I think I'm in love. Don't tell my husband. I was smitten after last week's recap, but head over heels now. The show is okay, but this is genius.

                                  1. The best line of your review: "- CJ is tall like redwood. Stefan short like Christmas tree."

                                    Oh wait. I found another best line: "And either CJ or Stefan could easily apply for fucknut status."

                                    And yet another (about CJ's 2nd win): "And gloats that he can now pay for better hair plugs."

                                    Then again, it could be this one: "They cook, and no one gives a fuck, least of all the producers."

                                    But there's also "...and a woman who seems to have a pulse but who might also be wearing Lisa Loeb glasses attached to a Farrah Fawcett wig, kindof the female equivalent of Groucho glasses."

                                    Finally, "whereas CJ himself showed off great creativity by ripping off Noma, which is in another fucking country so it doesn't count."
                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~
                                    Oh, let's just say "phucken" and call them ALL the best lines! Nicely done, cowboyardee. Seriously, are you SURE you don't want the regular TC recap job? ;-) I sure as hell can't live up to this.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      Thanks linda.

                                      I could never measure up, and you know it. Anyway, this week's episode (9/3) will probably be the last one I recap - I'll be moving to a new appartment at the end of the week and won't have a TV or cable after that.

                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                        Like FOREVER you won't have TV or cable?

                                        And good luck with your move. Never a fun thing to do (the move itself, that is!).

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          Thanks, Linda.

                                          For the most part, I haven't had cable for the last couple years - which is why I stopped participating in the regular Top Chef discussions. I recently moved across country (back to the East Coast) and have been staying with the in-laws while setting up a new apartment, which is why I've had cable for the last few weeks.

                                          I like Top Chef and stuff, but I feel like I'm probably better off without cable anyway (just me, personally). I probably won't get it again any time in the near future. But I can still stream off the internet, so I might look into options for a favorite show or two.

                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                            Dang! Or should I say "Phuck it!"? Your comments on regular TC, as well as other topics, are always great, and usually informative. No wonder I've been missing you! Your recaps so far have been wonderful, although Linda Whit is irreplaceable during regular season. Linda, you've worked yourself into a job that no one else feels suited to take over from you.
                                            Good luck with the move, Cowboyardee! It's always difficult, and then there's setting everything up, including the kitchen. If you're anything like me, you'll be moving stuff around in the kitchen for the first month or so, finding the place where everything seems to work best.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              Understand. Sometimes you don't know that you really won't miss something until you no longer have it. ;-)

                                      2. Albert Einstein's fears have come true..............

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                          He caught his cousin making out with Neils Bohr?

                                        2. Not sure bout the US, but in Australia the media wish us to believe that Curtis Stone is swooned over by legions of women.
                                          Like his surname, really, I think he looks like a bag of rocks.
                                          I've seen better faces on a clock.