Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

The Hugh Acheson Comedy Hour

There are no pork medallions in team.

Hello, my little nuggets of fried brownness! We start this week's episode with the chefs reminiscing about Carla and Chrissy's elimination. Josh makes a comment about his disappointment over having a poor performance his first time meeting Hugh. I didn't notice this until I watched the episode for the second time, but Josh obviously has a lot of respect for Hugh, and it's adorable. We'll come back to this later.

Back at the house, we celebrate Stefan's birthday, and by celebrate I mean insinuate that he might get sent home because of a Season 5 curse. I had honestly completely forgotten about this. Fingers crossed, Stefan!

OK, back to the food. The chefs are up at the (butt) crack of dawn to head to Pike Place Market, the "soul" of Seattle. I thought Ben Gibbard was the soul of Settle, but what the hell do I know? Eliza shares that she got engaged at the market. Equally as important, CJ unveils his glasses, and I am digging them. I almost forgot how attractive he is. Just me? OK.

The chefs pair up -- little do they realize how important these team-ups will be. Padma and Daisley Gordon present the Quickfire Challenge -- make breakfast for the farmers' market vendors… on a stick! Sausage on stick won't cut it here, but I would kill for one. So, the chefs are off to Sur la Table to find supplies and produce, and they all start planning their menus. I'm usually more of a savory breakfast girl, but I like where Brooke is going with the sweet/savory idea. Also, I had no idea she knew Stefan, so that was an interesting little tidbit. 

Another interesting tidbit? Eliza followed Widespread Panic around the country and sold vegan sushi out of a van. The Eliza "Supreme" Moment of the episode may have to become a new mainstay in this recap because she is just throwing gold nuggets out every. single. episode. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite cheftestants. Tell us more, Eliza! I am hanging on your every word.

Aaand the chefs start cooking. So far, John and Joshua are really getting along, but I will say I don't see the point of putting a taco on a stick, as a taco is inherently a finger food. I do love a breakfast taco/burrito, though, so we'll let this slide for now. 

Bart and the ground are having some issues. He drops his panini press while colliding towards the ground, and actually does break it. Sidenote: I think Bart and Tyler should have their own show. I don't know why, but I would watch it. We shall call it "What the Heck? Salmon on a Stick!"

Honestly, Josie seems like maybe the least agreeable chef, so kudos, John, you get the week off for that title. 

I have one comment before we discuss the dishes, and that is how happy I am to finally see Seattle hipsters! They were obviously hiding at the market. Obviously.After presenting their dishes to Padma and Daisley, John and Josh end up on top, and acknowledge how well they work together. Bart and Sheldon win, though. Broken panino press and all! Danyele and Lizzie were on the bottom for not really making a meal, but they knew that. Josie and Eliza's dish was too sweet. Perhaps the extra heat Eliza wanted to add would have balanced that out.

On to the Elimination Challenge and the true beginning of Hugh's comedy hour. The chefs are told that they'll be working in the same groups they worked in for the Quickfire Challenge. They pull knives, each representing different items sold at the market, and I suddenly have a yen to hop on the East River Ferry and head to Smorgasburg.

The only ingredient that didn't catch my fancy is the rose jelly. I hate rose water. I actually had this conversation over Thanksgiving with my Persian family because it is an ingredient included in almost every Persian dessert. My relatives try to get me to eat desserts with rose water in it, and I refuse! Blech! (Let me know in the Comments section below if anyone despises rose water as much as I do!)

The Elimination Challenge is to create a dish highlighting the chefs' chosen artisinal ingredient - not just any dish, a lunch dish. And the chefs only have two hours to do it.

Let's start with CJ and Tyler, who have pickles. Tyler has an idea for a chowder with a pickle fritter. CJ wants to make a burger, thinking that Tom will be looking for simplicity. In fact, he does an impression of Tom that sort of sounds like Seinfeld. CJ is on fire with his impressions this week.

John and Joshua make grits and pork. John suggests making pork medallions. Josh isn't too keen on this idea, but for the sake of compromise, he agrees. I think these two need to learn what compromise means. John is afraid of Josh exploding. This seems rich coming from John.

Josie and Eliza aren't working well together. Spoiler alert: they end up with sand and rocks (?!) in their dish.

Danyele and Lizzie get chocolate. Lizzie, thinking outside the box, wants to make fish, and Danyele thinks they should go with a tart. We've had successful chocolate/fish dishes on Top Chef, so that sounded good to me. I don't know why Lizzie didn't stand up to Danyele.

Stefan and Brooke get rose jelly and make duck… with candied cabbage. Sweet on sweet on sweet. Methinks pickled cabbage was probably the way to go.

Kristen and Micah get curds, and all I can think is that Grayson Schmitz would have killed that ingredient!

Bart and Sheldon made a salad that balances the acidity of their salmon candy.

Sooo, we get to the lunch table, and Padma introduces the judges. Kurt Beecher Dammeier is kind of a big deal in the cheese world, and for you New Yorkers, there is a Beecher's Handmade Cheese in the heart of the Flatiron District, so you can sample his product there."Long Live the Artisan!" Padma toasts the table. I will obviously be foregoing my usual "l'chaim" for this toast from now on. It's too good not to.

Time to eat! And for Hugh to begin his series of zings that surely make this episode one of the funniest ever.

First, Hugh comments on how tough Stefan and Brooke's duck is to cut. Zing No. 1!

Next up is John and Joshua's grits and pork. Hugh declares that the grits suck. Joshua will later say at Judges' Table how intimidating it was to make grits for Hugh. He's in love with him.

The only real complaint about Bart and Sheldon's dish is that there isn't enough salmon candy. Coulda been worse.

CJ and Tyler's crumpet bun gets soggy. I actually think the idea of using a crumpet is interesting, but they made a big ol' mess. I don't know if this would have made a difference, but wondering if they were toasted.

Micah and Kristen's curd dish is muddled.

After the dining was done, Tom went in to go tell them what's what. Sheldon and Bart probably did have the best dish, or at least that's what it sounded like.

I just want to take a moment to say I loved this challenge in concept. I think -- at least in the foodie community -- going to your local farmers' market on the weekend and thinking about what you might make with the interesting artisinal ingredients is common practice. It's unfortunate that the chefs didn't rise to the challenge.

Before Judges' Table, back at the apartment, the chefs wallow in their self pity. This fridge is bare -- just like everyone's imagination. Or so says John. Whooaaa. Intense.

Tyler makes a comment about accepting his elimination if it's his time to go, and Joshua gets very angry. We've seen a little bit of his anger in the past couple episodes, but nothing to this extent. I don't think Tyler's comment was something to get that angry over. Josh calls Tyler an idiot. It's fine to not like a defeatist attitude, but calm down, and step away from the corkscrew!

We also witness Stefan's attempt to explain Last Chance Kitchen to Josh. I kind of love that these two get along. Josh describes them both as likable, arrogant a--holes. Mmm. There's a fine line to likability, Josh. 

Jump to Judges' Table -- a few interesting things happen: 

First, we see that Stefan did try to counterbalance his duck's sweetness, he still served it too sweet. I did appreciate that he knew it was too sweet, and tried to correct it. I actually don't now if that makes it better or worse, but I think it made it better for me.

This is unlike CJ and Bart who really thought their burger was good. I'll take this opportunity to recommend a great pork burger in NYC -- the one at Miss Lily's. It's a Jamaican restaurant and their burger is pretty delicious.

Anyway, not only did CJ not think his burger was bad, but before the chefs leave to head back to the stew room before judges' deliberation, CJ take sthe opportunity to ask the judges what they thought of Danyele and Lizze's chocolate tart because he thought it was worse than his dish. Bad move, Ceej! Hugh pounces to let CJ know their burger was worse. Burn.

Finally we have John and Joshua. Although Josh doesn't want to throw John under the bus, he does, and at that point, I probably would have too. 

In the end, it looked like it came down to Gail's vote. Aaaand Gail hated that burger. Sooo, take the "l" out of "lover" cause it's over.

In the end, CJ and Tyler are eliminated. But fret not, CJ and Tyler fans, they're heading to Last Chance Kitchen to compete against reigning chef Kuniko.

Until next week, Have a Nosh (just don't eat your grandmother.)

 

You May Also Like...

Recommended by Zergnet

Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

Richard Blais explains why Mei Lin won, and why we'll definitely be hearing from Gregory Gourdet soon.

The finale of Top Chef is the one absolute every season. Make the best meal of your life, in a multi-course tasting format for a room of the "who's who" in the culinary industry.

If you get to the finals, it's the type of thing you can prepare for. Every finalist should have a few four to five course menus floating around their heads, including a dessert, and all complete with options and Plan B's transcribed to their moleskins. And although the knowledge of what's coming is helpful, the format does not play to every chef's strengths.

There aren't too many restaurants committed to such meal services. Which means less chefs experienced with how to "write" and execute them. A progressive meal has to have a certain flow about it. And even the stereotypical versions of the "menu degustation" could force a contestant into cooking a dish that's not in their wheelhouse, for instance a straight forward fish course because "it belongs there."

Tonight, Mei Lin has a slight advantage. She cooks in a restaurant every day that showcases a tasting menu. Her food has been the epitome of a modern tasting menu all season. Many previous times, to a fault. Mei's food is small and precise. Beautiful to look at, and intellectually stimulating to discuss. Cold sometimes, every once in a while a shaved radish plated with tweezers heavy. It's not for everyone. It's not for everyday. But it's the type of food that when done well, can win Top Chef. Win James Beard Award noms. Win Best New Chef honors. Win Michelin stars.

Her future could indeed be bright.

What struck me most about Mei's food tonight however, wasn't technique. Technique and presentation often can get in the way of flavor. But tonight Mei delivered a few courses that were deeply satisfying. Soulful, delicious food that also was presented at a high level and cooked with surgeon's precision. That congee though...combined with a simple dessert that took yogurt and granola to another planet, won her the day. Her other two courses were fine, but suffered from the strains of modernity. Overly plated (the duck) and technically overwrought (the fried octopus).

Gregory on the other hand, it's just not his finest work. You can hear it in his voice as he's explaining his food. He's cooking improv, an ode to Mexico. The problem is, this isn't a jam session at a local cantina. This is a studio session where the chefs should be cooking practiced and refined pieces.

His octopus was a highlight and featured the unusual combination of passion fruit and avocado. It was an explosive start. The following two courses unraveled a bit, with the soup being good, but way too unrefined for the moment and technically problematic (the crispy shrimp heads), and the fish course bordering on dessert with the sugary carrot purée.

The mole was authentic and delicious, the rib cooked perfectly, but the dish felt a little incomplete. I believe Gregory had the better ideas, but just needed to think them through a bit more.

His sadness after the fact, I can attest, is profound. Tearful. Absolute emptiness. Close to the feeling of the sudden loss of a loved one. This may shock some of you, because it is indeed just a game. The mere thought of feeling that way over such silliness is well, silly. But not for us. This isn't the Super Bowl where an athlete loses and they can shake it off. Jump in their Bentley and start thinking about next season. There is no next season. There is no guaranteed pay day for the runner-up. The ten wins you had before don't matter. It just ends. Suddenly. And it's rather sad.

The good thing is, this is certainly, 100%, not the last time you will hear from Gregory. I waxed last week about Doug's professionalism, all of which is very true. But Gregory... Gregory is a special talent. His food (and I can say HIS type of food, because it's unique to him), is a study in refined, exotic comfort. What the man can do with a one-pot meal of braised anything, some chilies, sugar, vinegar, herbs, and spices is beyond impressive. Rarely do I taste food that makes me jealous as a cook. Rarely do I taste food that makes me start thinking about a new restaurant concept. The word inspiring in cooking competitions is sort of like the word "love," when it gets used too much, it loses it luster. Gregory's food however. I love it. It is inspiring.

Congrats to Mei and Gregory! Tom was right, I can't wait to one day say I saw you two way back when, in Mexico, in a little kitchen, before the bright lights, fancy kitchens, and big stages that lay ahead for both of you.

See you next season. I hope!

Richard Blais
@RichardBlais - Twitter and Instagram

Read more about:

You May Also Like...

Recommended by Zergnet