Well I was happy to see the outcome of last week finally. Not that I am happy to see someone go, but I think the judges made the right decision I should know better than to try to guess the outcome by the editing alone.
Thanks again for the comments and feedback! Last week was a big week for my new restaurant in that the name and some other details got leaked on the internet. There will be more information to come as things get a bit further and are a bit more secure but for now if you are interested just search for The Drunken Goat Chicago and you can get a little info on the new place.
Back to the show. I must say I was shocked to see Grant Achatz walk into the Top Chef kitchen. Being Chicago's real top chef, many people thought he would appear last season. Of course with all that Grant has gone through recently I was not expecting him last year. It is so great to see that he has recovered from his battle with cancer and is now reaching new heights at his restaurant and with his beautiful new book. Chicago is lucky to have such great talent and I eagerly await my next meal at Alinea.
The chefs begin by pulling knives with seemingly random numbers (I know I could not guess where they were going with this one). Out comes the Top Chef Cookbook comprising of dishes created by chefs during the first three seasons along with Blais' tasty banana scallops from our dessert challenge. I love the way they snuck in a little merchandise plug ... hoping next week the chefs will all be wearing the fabulous "Culinary Boner" t-shirts. Turns out that each number represents a page in the book with a recipe that the chef is to put their own twist on in an hour... a whole hour? Something fishy is going on for sure.
Of course half way through the challenge, once the chefs are well into their creations, in comes Grant announcing he is actually in the mood for soup. Most of the chefs seem pretty happy with the change. Jamie mentions her love for making soup and Carla mentions the final ingredient in soup being love. I have to agree that making soup is very satisfying. You end up with a well balanced bowl of comfort to slirp up and enjoy, well hopefully. For the most part, the soups that we got to see look quite tasty. Seeing Fabio's made me laugh a bit remembering back to the original dish that Mike created while completely high on pain killers, but Grant found his soup a bit flat. Melissa had a bit of a misstep as well. I thought it was a nice idea to recreate a classic Italian Wedding Soup but it seemed to miss the mark. Richard seemed to know he was a bit off with the balance as he ran out of time to add in some lime juice which would have helped with the acidity.
I thought Daniel's looked delicious. Reminded me of a ham hock and leek soup I like to make that stemmed from my love of French onion soup growing up. Just so warming and hearty. I am also a sucker for anything with chickpeas so Jamie's soup called out to me as well. Friends make fun of me for the lack of food in my apartment at any given time, but there are always some chickpeas around. I can imagine that the pickled chilis and cilantro yogurt would have brightened the peas up nicely. Leah was chosen as the favorite for her chilled white asparagus soup. It is a difficult vegetable to work with as Grant points out, as it can turn out quite bitter, though when cooked properly in a soup it can be refreshing and delicious. Leah must have handled it just right.
I would say we all could have guessed that this week's elimination would involve some turkey. Having won the Quickfire, Leah gets the honor of choosing her team. Brings me back to elementary school when we were picking teams for kickball...you never want to be the last one picked, or in this case the seven not picked. For the most part I probably would have chosen the same team. Even though it is still early in the competition there seem to be some standouts, and I am sure some choices were made based on who Leah gets along with and believes she will work well with. Jamie, Hosea, Fabio, Stefan, Melissa, and Radhika will join Leah on team Sexy Pants. Not sure I want to keep writing Sexy Pants so from now on they are SP for short. Team Cougar, named after Ariane who is apparently the hot mamma of the bunch, will also include Jeff, Eugene, Alex, Daniel, Richard and Carla. I can imagine that Team Cougar feels the extra pressure of proving themselves since they were not the chosen ones, but it seems to me like anyone's game.
The fun twist this week is that they will cooking for the Foo Fighters. They claim to be long time fans of the show (not sure if I buy this but what the heck) and are hoping for a Thanksgiving feast for themselves along with their crew and roadies. After the chefs do a walkthrough of the arena in Rochester, they are walked outside to their lovely kitchen. Yes, outside with microwaves, toaster ovens, and one burner. A step up from a row of Easy Bake ovens but not quite what the chefs were hoping for. Both teams begin to go through their menus once again and strategize on use of the equipment. Jeff emerges as a natural leader once again, helping stop the chaos of seven chefs talking over each other and organizing the team's menu. rianne is a bit disgruntled as she seems to have the most insight into catering yet no one is really listening to her. She has chosen to do the turkey which is of course the center of the meal and it seems a few of the chefs do not trust she is up for the task. I think it is a great opportunity for her to prove herself after a couple of close calls on the chopping block. Team SP seems pretty confident, as most of the members of that team have been doing very well thus far. After a quick trip to the store the cooking gets underway. I would say that the most impressive showing is by Eugene. He actually used his brain and made a make shift roasting grill for his pork. I think that when this challenge was given to the chefs, the hope was that rather than restricting their cooking with toaster ovens, they would come up with creative ways to cook their food. I had some friends who made a roaster for a suckling pig this summer out of two metal gates and some cinder blocks. Chefs in general tend to have creative minds and it is fun to see them at work.
Other than that, the chefs just did the best they could with what they were given. There were not many super standouts, but it is Thanksgiving and I think it is best to stick with the classics and just execute them well. With the Foo Fighters, the vegan stuffing that Radhika made was the best dish of the evening while they were also happy with the little burnt marshmallows team SP had on the sweet potatoes. Arianne pulled through with the better of the two turkeys served which was great to see. Sure she was relieved not to be in the bottom two again this week. The bread pudding, however, was very dry and did not compare to Rad's stuffing and Daniel tried to sneak in some crunchy potatoes that had not cooked all the way. Much easier to get a potato soft in the microwave before you cut it. Seems time just got the best of him and as Tom pointed out he would have been better off making the decision not to serve them at all. That is a tough decision to make especially if that is your only offering to the table. Would you go home for serving nothing?
A bit of a struggle in the dessert area again seems to be the deciding factor. Hosea makes a decent fruit crisp and Fabio makes a pumpkin Tiramisu. I am not a pumpkin pie person but that Tiramisu looked light and delicious. A great alternative to the classic. Jeff attempts to change up the classic pie as well but not in a good way. The berries and pumkin did not seem to really compliment each other and the pumkin "mousse" was a strange texture which the Foo Fighter's did not quite get. Richard decided to make banana S'mores based on the rider listing bananas dipped in chocolate as a favorite of the band. I am a huge S'more fan but what he made did not really seem to resemble what I love about S'mores. Warm gooey marshmallow with melting chocolate on a crisp graham cracker. Makes me hungry just thinking about it. The dessert Richard wound up with just did not have the same effect, and the band was a bit turned off by the "spit" garnish. So team SP gets to go have a goof time at the concert while the Cougars have to hang in back and clean up. Kind of rough. Gives them a lot of time to wonder why the other team was chosen and who is going home. It was very close seeing as neither team was perfect and Arianne actually had the better turkey. Radhika's stuffing must have been damn tasty and the Cougar desserts must have lost them the fun night out.
At Judges' Table, Jeff is spoken very highly of by his teammates for his leadership skills. This is a big part of being a chef. It is not just about the food so although he put out two very mediocre dishes he pulled through by showing he has the ability to run a kitchen. Richard was just not able to hold on with the dish he put out this week. I am sure Tom will miss the weekly remarks on how hot he is. Looks like Team Rainbow is down to one but Jamie seems to be holding strong.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Hope many of you are enjoying a tasty deep fried turkey!