Hello my little ballotines! I'm so sorry for being so tardy to this party, but now you have a blog to read on our week off! I do also hope that you took my advice and read Richard Blais' blog this past week -- it was one of his best. Before I start, just want to say that no, "lina2000," that was not me at the dining table during last week's Elimination. I wish! The only taping I've ever been able to attend was last year's Super Bowl episode, and it was my birthday, and it was maybe the greatest moment of my foodie life.
Onto this week's episode, which was maybe the greatest moment of some of our chefs' young chef lives. For the Quickfire Challenge, Padma introduced Gavin Kaysen who competed in the Bocuse d'Or in 2007. Seriously, you HAVE to read "The Bocuse d'Or incident" on Gavin's entry on Wikipedia. It's crazy! I just got a copy of Andrew Friedman's book on the Bocuse d'Or, Knives at Dawn, so I should be an expert on the subject pretty soon. Anyway, Gavin and Padma asked the chefs to create dishes inspired by his Bocuse d'Or dish: to create a dish composed of a protein within a protein within a protein. Most of the chefs handled this pretty well. I didn't even know what a Scotch egg was before Art Smith attempted one on this past season of Top Chef Masters. Thankfully Eli's came out better than Art's did! Jennifer was back to her old self, even getting a "Welcome back" from Padma, which was kind of hilarious. Michael didn't make a ballotine and argued that those weren't the instructions. I'm sure this would've been a bigger deal had it affected an elimination, but alas it just gave Michael the opportunity to make a comment about how he could have created a better ballotine than Gavin. I think I've finally realized that my affinity for the Voltaggios is boundless because rather than being totally turned off by Michael's comment, I just laughed.
Onto the main event, which I lovingly refer to as the “Faux-cuse d'Or.” The chefs were given the option of using either salmon or lamb to create a main dish with two side dishes, but these aren't just any side dishes. These are crazy side dishes. You know that person who takes the time to make a basket out of a watermelon? That person would probably do really well in this sort of competition. The chefs are put under even more pressure when they are told that Thomas Keller will be at the table, and then he makes a surprise visit to the kitchen! The rest of the guests at the table were pretty scary too.
Let's start with Kevin's dish: He decided to go simple, and it paid off. It seemed like he won because his was the only dish where the protein was actually cooked correctly. I'm a little on the fence about his win, but in Gail's blog, she explained that the dishes had to be judged not only by Bocuse d'Or standards but as a regular winning Top Chef dish too.
Jennifer's dish was very, very pretty, and dare I say it the most feminine. So much purple! Her salmon unfortunately wasn't evenly cooked. She kept saying her fish was cooked unilaterally and it almost seemed like the judges didn't know what that meant. Did anyone else get that impression or am I crazy? She also suffered from whom I believe to be the harshest judge at the table, Traci des Jardins. Every time she spoke I shuddered!
Bryan's dish just suffered from lack of time. Bryan was apparently totally coachable and it seems like sometimes he is missing just one thing for his dish to be extraordinary. I thought he could've taken this one home actually. Michael's dish didn't work at all for the judges, and his Mediterranean theme was lost on them. Tom kept arguing that cauliflower is not Mediterranean. Mmm, for some reason I think it might be, but I'm purely basing this on the fact that my dad used to preserve and use a lot of cauliflower in his Persian cooking. I guess that's Middle Eastern cooking? I guess it's a fine line.
And, finally, there's Eli. Although Gail seemed to be very impressed with his sauces, the meat was just wrong. It seemed that the overall consensus was that his cooking just wasn't as refined as the rest. So, we say farewell to Eli. I think he has quite a career ahead of him.
And, we have our Final Four! Perhaps some of you knew who would be moving on to the finale all season, but even if you did, hopefully you'll agree that it's been a pleasure watching them get there!
Here's a sneak peek at next week's Finale Part 1. And let me know, who's going to win the whole thing?!
P.S. A few of my colleagues and I went to Ajna Bar to check out Hung's new spot, and the food was absolutely delicious. We got to try a lot of things, but I have to say the sauce on my pork loin was to die for! Oh, and the drinks are pretty amazing too. Order the coconut mojito if you go! I could go on and on, but, well, I don't know if you care. If you do, I'll go into more detail next week! Until then, HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! Tell me what you'll be cooking/eating!