Welcome back, my little tayberries! Let's start this week by looking back on the latest episode of Last Chance Kitchen where reigning champs CJ and Tyler compete against newly-eliminated chef, Eliza. This time, though, CJ and Tyler break up, and CJ couldn't be more happy about it. I was amused by CJ saying he could now do what he wanted to do because he wasn't on a team. Well, CJ, that pork burger was your idea. ("Touche, Monica!") The three chefs have to cook using the two ingredients that kicked them in the arse, respectively, pickles and carrots, in 30 minutes. I actually kinda hate carrots, so the thought of these dishes didn't appeal to me at first, but the three chefs were inventive with their offerings. Eliza redeemed her carrot disaster, but not enough to pull her through. Tyler makes a desconstructed ceviche, which also isn't enough for the win. In the end, CJ won with his Pan-Roasted Trout, Carrot Puree, and Charred Pickles. Roasted Pickles! Who woulda thunk it?
Back to the Top Chef Kitchen! This week's Quickfire is presented by Padma and Season 4 winner, Stephanie Izard! Hi, Stephanie! The last time I went to Chicago was prior to Stephanie's win, so I'm very excited to finally eat at Girl and the Goat when I return this April. Stephanie is here to issue a very cruel challenge -- the chefs have to create a dish using pantry items wrapped in Reynolds Wrap. If they grab a product and unwrap it, they have to use it. I want to give a huge shout-out to our production team for wrapping everything in foil! I don't even want to know how long that took. The most obvious way to cook with only aluminum foil is to make a papillote, which traditionally uses parchment paper, but doesn't have to. Bart says this challenge is like "fun and game." Yes, Bart. Yes, it is. Obviously the chefs have some idea of what's where in the kitchen, and they can obviously see the shapes of their items and somewhat feel the texture, see if the product has any "give." Oh, remember when Stefan almost fell on the floor while asking, "Where's the Reynolds Wrap?" Good one.
Kristen goes for the gold (or is it silver in this case?) and decides to make a cake. John makes a soup! Micah is making lamb with panzanella -- an idea that just came to him. "It's almost a gift and I can't describe it," he says with no sarcasm whatsoever. Easy, Micah. Back with Bart, he's shaping bowls on his head (very sanitary I'm sure), but we later discover he has fashioned a strainer. Did I read this man all wrong? Do I want to be stranded on a desert island with Bart?! Maybe. Stephanie and Padma go around foiling everyone's plans. Hehe. Stefan lucks out with salmon and potatoes and ends up in the top group. As does beautiful Bart. Danyele, Stefan, Sheldon and his smokiness, and Josie also impress Stephanie. Kristen's cake is the winner though. Yay, Kristen! Micah's dish was deemed too raw, and you could tell it was by simply looking at it. He scoffed at the idea. EASY, MICAH! Brooke's dish wasn't seasoned enough, and Josh's was "uninspired." Way harsh, Steph.For the Elimiation Challenge, the five runner-up chefs select one chef from the bottom five to compete head-to-head. The challenge is to create a dish highlighting a specific berry for 150 festival goers. The festival is the Remlinger Farms Berry Festival. I looove berries, and I have it on good authority that Gail Simmons does too. We caught you red-handed (literally) swiping those raspberries, Gail! Sheldon selects Micah and gets strawberries. Danyele selects Josh for an Oklahoma vs. Texas blueberry showdown. Stefan wants John since they're both so old (just kidding!) and cook with gooseberries. Josie gets LIzzie and raspberries (my fave.) Finally, Bart gets Brooke and blackberries Brooke is flattered that she's the last one chosen, as she should be. My real question is: Where are the snozberries?! Different challenge I guess.
A couple key things happen while the chefs are cooking. First, we see a sarcastic and ballsy side to Danyele. Maybe her top spot during the Quickfire gave her a little more confidence, and I'm digging it. Secondly, Bart and John get into a little tiff over a blender. Bart needs one and John has one. John doesn't appear to be using it yet, but that doesn't mean he won't be using it shortly. I honestly could go either way on this argument. I guess the best way to squash it would have been for John to say he would be using it in a moment, but give Bart a timeframe on when he'd be done, rather than just denying him the blender. But I will say it was odd seeing Bart get aggressive. He and Danyele must have drank the same thing before the challenge!
And perhaps the most important moment occurred during Tom's walk-through. John drops the frozen fish bomb on Tom, referring to Stefan's dish. John basically defended this "throw-under-the-bus" moment by saying that Stefan started it. Hmmm, I don't know, John. Stefan madea joke about your age to Tom, which affects nothing. Doesn't quite seem like the same thing. And although his purchase of frozen fish may have seemed like a death wish from the get-go, it didn't have to be. The reason this seemed different than other times on the show where chefs haven't used fresh or non-sustainable items is that 1) it wasn't part of the challenge, 2) Stefan claims (and honestly I don't know enough to check it) that his fish was of extremely high quality, and also, usually the chefs' dishes are so bad because they don't know how to use the product. Stefan's dish wasn't bad.
Oh, also, Micah reveals his children's names are Sage and Saffron. Not cinnamon cause that sounds like a stripper name. I obviously go through the spices in my cabinet to see which are stripper, which aren't. Fun new game alert! Cardmom? Not stripper. Nutmeg? Total stripper.
I won't go through every single dish, but I will say that Josie really had a rude awakening this week. It's obvious she knew she got in way over her head. The minute she said she'd be rolling the sushi a la minute, I said "Stupid" aloud. Sorry, Josie! Not sure if she thought her little show would detract from the slow cooktime, but it didn't. I think if her roll had been worth the wait, the judges maybe could have overlooked it, but it wasn't. Fortunately for Josie, Danyele's dish was worse. Danyele made a rubbery almost bologna-like terrine with a thick, too-crunchy crostini. I would also like to note that although the judges weren't in love with Micah's offering, I wanted to eat the shit out of that.
Back in the Stew Room -- or is it Boiling Room now? who can keep track -- the chefs start turning on each other. Stefan tells John to "Suck it hard." sSuch vulgarity, Stefan! Josie says something about her kitchen being a van and the chef being the drum. Methinks it's time for Josie to join Eliza on a Widespresad Panic tour. Josh says Josie's laugh makes his soul hurt. Ouch.
The top go before the judges and Kristen wins again with her tayberries -- a berry I honestly don't think I've ever consumed. Kristen is two for two! Stefan kisses her on the cheek and refers to her as "wifey." Awww?
The bottom group goes before the judges and make excuses. When they return to the Stew Room, just as Josie is putting on a show, er, talking about how the jduges don't want to see a show, Stefan cuts her off and they start arguing. Josie tells Stefan he's acting like a 30-year-old. Since i'm only 29, should I not take offense to that? Oh well. Ultimtely, Josie is safe, and Danyele heads to Last Chance Kitchen to compete against defending champ CJ! I guess Danyele wasn't far off when she revealed last week that she wasn't cut out for this type of competition. What a sad self-fulfilled prophecy.
Next week -- yes, the day after Christmas -- is an all-new episode, so until then, Have a Nosh, and have a berry (hehe) Merry Christmas to those celebrating!