Juneau. Ah, Juneau. So beautiful and so wonderfully strange.
Stefan is gone and also lost in LCK to his beloved Kristen. The lineup is comprised of Josh, Sheldon, Lizzie, and Brooke. The boat pulls up to Juneau, and we all disembark. The chefs walk the gangplank and head into town. Juneau is a very interesting town: beautiful scenery, amazing people, very much a “last frontier” mystique. Sheldon realizes it's cold and tells us that he is wearing three pairs of Hawaiian Hulk Underoos to compensate for the chill to his “package.” I thought he called it his “Lil Menehune."
They get right into a Quickfire at Tracy’s Crab Shack with Sean Brock. Tracy’s is billed as Juneau’s “No. 1 culinary destination,” and it is really tasty, but don’t expect a deep wine program and Limoges china. It’s a hut that serves great food. But it’s a hut. That’s like calling a Kogi truck the apex of dining in L.A.
Fresh king crab is just so much better than frozen. These barbed beauties are eons away from the stuff you may have grown up with. It is truly superb, and Tracy’s does it in numerous ways. I think it’s probably a five-million-dollar a year hut with a 20% food cost, and it’s closed for a huge amount of the time. Sign me up for a franchise, as this business model makes me very jealous.
My friend Sean Brock, culinary wanderer, superstar chef, and wunderkind of Appalachian food lore, has flown up to meet the chefs for some crabby patties. He is wearing a Billy Reid t-shirt and looking very stylishly professorial. Sean and I made it a point to go to all the bars in Juneau that locals told us not to go to. Should have listened to the locals, as the Lucky Lady has no luck, no ladies, and is about the strangest-smelling drinking hole on the planet. It smells like Lysol covering a crime.
I have never even heard of the term chum related to salmon. However, I recall the Montauk fishing challenge a couple of seasons ago. The chefs had to prepare whatever they caught, and Kerry Heffernan commented that although porgie was not considered a "noble" fish, it was used very effectively in one of the better dishes. I think it takes creativity and skill to make something tasty when you don't have foie gras, truffles, and the like. One of my absolute favorite challenges was at Le Bernardin. After butchering several fish, the chefs had to take the leftovers (head, fins, etc.) and make a delicious dish.
Hugh, as a long long resident of Juneau, I am ROFL about your description of the Lucky Lady. I am definitely going to steal it. But thank the powers that be you did not go into The Arctic Bar - it makes the Lady look high class! BTW, no all locals dislike chum salmons (or dog salmon as it was lovingly referred to by my commercial fisherman Dad in my youth). The oil makes it great for smoking. But really, any type of salmon you catch that day and cook that night - ain't nothing better in the whole world!
I was so sad to Lizzie go. She is a sweetheart AND a clearly talented chef. Why is Josh still there? Except for Brooke, all the cheftestants had mistakes. Several guest and judges remarked that Lizzie's salmon needed stronger seasoning, but that her bread was the best, and, as one judge put it, the contest was to do bread and salmon. Sheldon had problems with his bread AND his salmon. I like Sheldon, but I think the judges are partial to him, and they seem to read his Asian approach to all the challenges as "creative" instead of what it is - the way he always cooks . If the others always did French or Southern, I think they would get called on it. Lizzie I'll miss your lovely voice and spirit.
Hugh, as a former resident of Juneau, I agree that the Lucky Lady is absolutely terrible. In fact, "Lysol covering a crime" smells better than how it actually smells. What other bars did you visit?
Your recaps are the best thing about Top Chef! I don't always see the show but I always read your recaps!
Loved this eposode, thanks for reconfirming how much I want to go to Alaska! Loved the challanges and the chef's choices! Can't remember the last time I saw King Salmon in the store, I love it! Even in Canada I was surprised at all the salmon choices in restaurants and none were King!
Speaking of salmon choices, these chefs drive me crazy when their choices are based on when they were growing up instead of what they've learned and experienced as a chef, ie., Sheldon's salmon choice!
Hugh, if you want to get into some trout fishing in North Georgia, check out my friend Jimmy Harris at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen. He has a Gilligan Special which is a great way to learn. Also in Atlanta, in Buckhead, is the famous Fish Hawk, one of the best outfitters on the planet. The Chattahoochee in Atlanta, from Morgan Falls Dam to Hwy. 41 host a "delayed harvest" opportunity with trout stocked from Nov. to spring. Strick regulations, catch and release in force but a good time on a river that runs through Atlanta. Enjoy.
Chef, I have very important question for you. I love salmon sushi, what makes salmon "sushi" grade or worthy?
Am I the only one who started laughing as soon as the word "chum" was uttered? C'mon--Sponge Bob, The Chum Bucket restaurant owned by arch villain Plankton. . . . If Sheldon were more cartoon conversant he would have known better than to touch the chum!
Umm, yeah. OK is not the South, sorry guys. Neither is most of FLA. Hugh is right on, even if he is Canadian. Btw, Go Dawgs!
The "South" officially starts where you can get grits at Waffle House and sweet tea is on the menu. The "Deep South" is where grits and sweet tea are served automatically (I live in SE Alabama). Oklahoma qualifies as The South. Some parts of Maryland do as well, while some parts of Virginia and even Florida do not.
As usual, great recap. I tend to agree with you about Lizzie wanting to be outta' there several episodes ago. Even so, she was an admirable cheftestant.
Now, Joker, you might want to figure out the whole Mason Dixon Line/North-South thing. I can hear folks already: "What??? Does he not know ANYthing about the south???" Oh, lord...the trouble you'll see.
As a sun-lover have never really wanted to go to Alaska. These episodes and the judge's blogs are making we want to go tomorrow!
I am a huge fan, and I realize that you live in GA now, but we all know you're Canadian.
I am from Oklahoma and I, along the United States Census Bureau, strongly disagree with your statement that OK is not part of the South.
You are still my favorite judge and wittiest,most insightful blogger.
Jason in OKC
Love your play-by-play, Hugh. But I must have missed it in the episode and you didn't mention in your recap...who won the quickfire? Was there a prize or advantage?
@Misspearltaylor Well, let's see...a review of the recipes posted on bravo.com shows that Sheldon Simeon has cooked dishes with influences from the cuisines of Thailand, Korea, Southern USA, China [disregarding the vast regionality], Hawaii, Japan, Philippines/Pinoy, Italy, USA-Western, Vietnam, France... That's quite a wide range. That's FAR BROADER than someone who might cook just French (as Kristen Kish mostly does, in fact) or "Southern" (what sort of Southern? Do you mean USA Southern? or (wink, wink) South African?(Lizzie Binder is from there, remember)) Brooke Williamson cooks FAR MORE limited kinds of food by comparison, in fact - and if one said she cooked "European", that would mean an awful lot of different cuisines, which she does not do.
So - what DO you mean by "Asian"? Do you mean Chinese? Filipino? If so, why not say so? After all, Asia is a very large place and Turkish, Tamil, Punjabi, Persian, Siberian-Steppe, Indonesian, etc etc etc cuisines are all also encompassed by the adjective "Asian" which would be descriptive of cuisines from Asia.
Brooke Williamson should certainly stop making those snide remarks about Sheldon S. cooking "Asian", if she fancies herself as cooking "European" (haha).
also a former Juneauite and that description of the Lucky Lady cracked me up! wonder if they hit The Triangle bar? loved seeing all the scenery, the salmon bake, etc. again. made me smile.
I'm planning a trip to Alaska this summer...what month did Bravo film this adventure?
@ainsly isn't chum also the term for fish guts and parts thrown into the water as bait for other (better tasting) fish? I was amazed sheldon didn't immediately steer clear based on this alone.
@j-son Let the great South debate continue...
I'm from "north central" Texas and Okies are about as Southern as Texans. Both very socially conservative areas, but also culturally more where the South meets the Midwest (OK) & the South meets the Southwest (TX). Arid West Texas is not Southern and Oklahoma has more in common with Kansas, which is not Southern.
Sharing some cultural mores in common with the South doesn't make your state Southern.
@mum0672 Sheldon won. Some kind of prize but I don't remember what.