The winning dish was a study in smart cooking. Paul listened to his clients and delivered a dish that was well-balanced in every way. The textures complemented each other as did the flavors. It was presented well and was a manageable appetizer.
As for the four dishes on the bottom, they were all very problematic. All showed a lack of thought. Chris J.’s dish was all gimmick, and an ill-conceived one at that – would you want to eat a cigar? I love cigars, personally, but I wouldn’t want to eat one, nor would I want to tuck into its ashes. Chris C.’s cupcake dessert was a riot of disparate items on a plate – it made no sense whatsoever. And Ty’s dish was poorly executed and completely out of proportion. Again, I couldn’t understand it.
But, sadly, Chuy’s was the biggest loser. The overcooked salmon was unpalatable on its own; combined with goat cheese, I didn’t want to eat it. Smoked fish is paired with cream, which is why mild cream cheese works with lox. But goat cheese is pungent, and I can’t figure out why Chuy would think it paired well with salmon. Think about it: In Italy, we do not put parmesan on fish dishes. And then, despite acknowledging that this was a dish he had served at his restaurant in the past, Chuy couldn’t execute the dish properly because his proportions were off: In order to warm the goat cheese inside, he had to overcook the salmon.