Perhaps it’s because the chefs were asked to get personal, or perhaps it’s because there were only three chefs left standing, who had all been through a lot together, but this episode was utterly devoid of all of that stupid back-biting, finger-wagging, snarky stuff that has been known to go down between chefs at times.
Instead, this episode showed the human side of what we do. Our industry is more about this than about any dog-eat-dog stuff -- it’s really about the journey chefs go on and the self-exploration they do in their attempt to put themselves into their food and to create something worth all of the effort, because what chefs do is hard. They put in a lot of hours and engage in seemingly endless repetition. For a very long time, I was in restaurants on every holiday and during every family wedding, missing every life event. Things are certainly easier for me now, but even so, the profession is not nearly as glamorous as it’s made out to be. I felt Josh’s sacrifice, being in Alaska when he ached to be with his wife at the birth of their new baby daughter. I know his two competitors did, too, and while the three never forgot that they were still competing against each other, they were very supportive of one another throughout this challenge as well. I thought this week’s episode did a great job of showing this and of featuring what motivates chefs to enter the field and to stick with it despite its formidable challenges.
And I thought the episode did a good job of highlighting the dishes that epitomized the moments that these three chefs chose their paths. In the end, we were handed an obvious and easy decision: we had one dish that was cooked without mistakes (I know that Wolfgang said his quail was a bit overcooked, but mine wasn’t), one that was slightly overseasoned, and one that was outright cooked improperly.
I cannot for the life of me understand what prompted Josh to make that foie gras torchon. I was shocked then, being there in person, and I’m shocked now, watching the episode. A foie gras torchon takes time, plain and simple: the foie gras should be soaked in milk or cold water to draw out the remaining blood. It should then be marinated for a day, then shaped and then poached. After this, it needs at least another full day, but preferably a couple of days, to ripen. I consider making a foie gras torchon a five-day process. I can see bringing that time frame down to two full days (though you’ll be sacrificing depth of flavor), but not a few hours. Josh set out to do something that he himself declared from the get-go was impossible to do, so why did he undertake it? It’s inexplicable to me. Frankly, had he simply done a beautiful sautee of foie gras with the braised pineapple and that cornmeal, and had he seasoned it all nicely, he would have been in the finale right now, because Sheldon’s overseasoned broth would have been the worse mistake. But Josh’s attempted torchon-that-could-never-be clearly beats out a slightly salty broth for Worst Mistake.