If you watched the show last week, you know that I was unhappy about what all of the chefs put out -- vocally so. That talk I gave was meant to send a message. Clearly, the chefs got it. The food was, for the most part, much improved. It was much more imaginative, and the cooking of it was far better. It was all far more on par with what I expect from chefs competing on Top Chef, which shows me that these chefs are capable of rising to the challenge. Having stepped up their game, hopefully they will continue to keep it stepped up.
I was glad to see chefs tackling game, like elk. Elk, as with all game, is very lean. Game typically has fifty percent less fat than farm-raised meats, which is a double-edged sword: the leaner meat makes it a healthy choice, but one that’s tricky to cook. It should be kept rare, and it usually helps to wrap the meat in fatback or bacon or something to keep the outside moist, too.
It was clear to all the judges that of all the chefs who had flaws in conception and/or execution, it was Eliza who would be going home. Her elk was basically OK -- a little grainy, but OK -- but Eliza really got sent home for the whole dish. Biggest problem? Those carrots. They were a mystery to me. I just don’t know how a person could possibly try to make them the way she did. They were dry, cooked through yet somehow still hard, as though she were trying to make carrot leather. They were just terrible.
Contrast her dish with Brooke’s, which was really, really great. Talk about a risky dish -- on paper, that dish would make you ask, “WHY?”… and yet in actuality it was so good. Shellfish and meat do have a natural affinity for each other -- pork and shellfish are commonly seen together, and, in fact, I do a lot with that combination in my restaurants. Lamb was a somewhat unexpected selection for the meat, but it all just worked. The lamb wasn’t overly “lamby,” the rice was a great foil for the squid, the textures worked incredibly well together, and, all in all, everything was in balance. It was great to see Brooke go all out and show us her inventiveness as a chef.
@singingscallops, if by underseasoning, you mean lacking salt it could just be that that is the level they're used to. I had to switch to a lower salt diet for health reasons, and while at first it was unbearable, I now eat much less and feel it's adequate. I can't eat a lot of restaurant foods now because they seem over-salted to me, especially soups and that makes me sad because I loved to order them. That said, I use tons of other seasonings, especially heat and acid to add flavor to my food, so if you mean seasoning in that sense I'd have to agree (because just salt and pepper on a pork shoulder doesn't work for me unless maybe it's smoked). I think there should be a low sodium challenge, to see if the chefs know how to compensate for less salt.
Shelly_ll Hi, yes, I did mean basic salt and pepper. It sounded to me as if Tom was referring to this pair as he labored through Josh's pork dish. And, as I express below, I'm always surprised by the lack of this sort of seasoning in any chef's dish. It's so basic.
I think your idea about testing a chef's skill in making anything tasty through seasonings other than S&P is a GREAT one. I think I heard Donal Link from New Orleans once speak of the misunderstanding people have of Cajun fare: it's not spicy; it's simply well-seasoned. And by well-seasoned, I think he refers to the type you mention, using a variety of herbs, dry rubs, dry mixes and powders, and vinegar and lemon juice, to amp up the natural flavors of whatever foods they're used on. I once saw a chef compensate for an absence of salt through low-sodium soy sauce. For Italian tomato sauce! And it was great!
I never understand under-seasoning food. Does it occur because some chefs are overly cautious? Does it occur, because in a challenge in which so many dishes must be served, the chefs simply stop tasting their food at a certain point? Does it occur because after so many dishes, your palate is shot?
Interesting. When you give people a reasonable amount of time to shop and cook, you get good food. I was really disappointed last episode, but mainly with the nerve you displayed with being surprised at the lackluster results the chefs came up with for such a ridiculous challenge. If you want the chefs to step up you at least have to allow them to use the stairs.
Speaking of ridiculous challenges, the Quickfire in this episode was poorly constructed. One knife that they can all use among them? Not a bad idea, really, except there was no way they would all be able to use it. If they were given a specific amount of time and had to use a chess clock or something, that would have been fair and interesting. As it was, it would have been better to tell them they could not use any knives at all, like they did in that episode of All-Stars.
I agree that a Top Chef will have to be versatile, cosmopolitan, creative, and have a large amount of endurance, but when every single chef underperforms maybe you can admit that the producers might be doing something worng.
Great Episode. Loved Marylin Hagerty's appearance. That lady is serious about food and what she likes! However the tamale is a new concept for her... guess it hasmen't made it to the northern high plains yet. The EC - That family gathering looked like so much fun and glad to see so many chefs come up with original and successful dishes. Chris was hilarious loved the Bachelorette improv. Loved seeing the Chihuly glass garden. What a fun show to watch.
Tom I'm curious as to why Lizzie didn't finish on the bottom, everyone disliked her salmon, ever her! Josh had a seasoning issue I understand, but did that warrant him finishing beneath Lizzie?