Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

I am a Scallop Lover

Stephanie Izard breaks down the Le Bernardin challenge, and explains why she was surprised by the outcome.

This week’s episode was right up my alley. I had hoped we would have a couple of challenges based around fish since my last restaurant was primarily seafood, and I just love working with fish. I was also excited to see my old sous-chef (from Puerto Rico) Eric Ripert. He is such a sweet guy and of course a very talented chef. I think he was slightly offended when I gave him pointers on cleaning snapper when we worked together, but you never know; a lot of big chefs do a lot more schmoozing than cooking though I think Chef Ripert is far from rusty in the kitchen.

I thought it was a nice selection of fish that they chose for the chefs to break down. Those little sardines are just so delicate that I am sure they would be hard to work with if you were a bit shaky having Ripert watching you. I appreciate Carla and Jamie’s honesty … they both knew they did not do the best job and just came right out and admitted it. I bet both of them have reattempted cleaning these little fish a number of times since filming. 

Arctic Char is one of my favorite fish. It has some similarity to salmon of course but without that overpowering flavor. It is simply delicate both in flavor and in texture. Quite delicate actually when you are filleting it and removing the small pin bones. I am not sure why Leah just sort of gave up.  t seems like she lacks confidence from time to time in her abilities. Either that or she is just not a very hard worker and does not like to try her best; I am going to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that she just needs to  believe in herself a bit more.

Not surprisingly it comes down to Hosea and Stefan, who seem to be the strongest chefs still standing. I am sure there are many chefs out there who have not worked with fresh eel. I know that I have seen the technique of nailing down the squirming creature many times, but I cannot say I have tried it. Of course it is on my list of things to do as soon as I get back home. Stefan just killed it. Seems like he grew up hammering down eels and ripping off their skin while some of us were off playing Legos.

The Elimination Challenge of course took place at Chef Ripert’s famed restaurant, Le Bernardin. When you think of great seafood, this place is sure to enter your mind. I have never had the pleasure of dining there but am sure that the food is simple, delicious, and perfectly-prepared.  The chefs sit down for a six-course lunch. I would hope that by now they are catching on to things and realized that with six chefs left, each of them was going to be responsible for recreating a dish. It would be very unlikely that Tom just wanted to take them out for a nice meal. Though they had to be paying attention closely while eating each course, it seemed that when they got to the kitchen, the ingredients for each dish were set out for them. This would be a huge help, since they did not have to have as much guesswork as to what the exact flavors and components were in each dish.

Stefan seemed very confident right from the beginning. His dish was simple and all he really had to do was make a good hollandaise. It made me laugh when Eric mentioned that he makes it in a blender as I remember seeing him on a morning show last year teaching his method to a simple hollandaise. Saves your whisking arm a bit I guess. Fabio did not have much trouble with his dish either. The crust was a bit dark of course but otherwise it was hard to tell the difference. Carla made me a bit nervous with the chips, but she pulled it off for the most part. At least Chef Ripert found one or two crispy ones on his plate. 

The other three chefs had some problems. Hosea just could not figure out the spice crusting on the fish. He also had the fish that is probably the most tricky to cook. You have to pull it out while it is very rare and let it rest a bit but it gets to being overcooked pretty quickly. Leah just could not get the flavor profile of the dish down. You could see that she was frustrated with the dish and was just unable to get the right balance of miso. Jamie just did not seem on this week. She claimed not to be inspired by the food at Le Bernardin (though that was probably recorded after she was booted so of course she would say that). I was just surprised that this challenge gave her so much trouble, especially the braised celery. I am going to have to agree that it is not my favorite vegetable and I have never really served braised celery, but I think her heart was just not in the dish and it showed. Often in kitchens, you have to make dishes that the chef has created that you may not love, but you still have to cook it as though you do.

I was a bit surprised by the outcome this week. I guess I always assumed Jamie would be in the final four. Maybe I just wanted her to go far since I am a scallop lover as well. I think Leah is going to have to step it up a bit next week and build up some confidence or there is going to be a lot of testosterone in the final four.