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We've learned so much about David Burke this season. He used to date a Colombian girl. She was an ex-stripper. She taught him how to cook Mexican food. He owns a duck press, and he knows how to use it. He knows what a duck press is. He wrestled. HIs father didn't want him to be a chef. He has titanium balls. Wait, what? Oh, we'll get to that.
Let's first address this week's Quickfire Challenge where the chefs were asked to elevate the burger -- a contentious dish if ever there was one. It's literally at the heart of an East Coast-West Coast battle. I'm obviously referring to the age-old question: In-n-Out or Shake Shack? And while the answer is obviously Shake Shack (hehe), I really prefer a restaurant-style burger. In fact, I'm heading to Umami tonight (in case you wanted to know what I'm having for dinner.)
The chefs go a few different directions. While Jen and Bryan find the beef, Douglas attempts a shrimp burger, and David does lobster... and burrata... and apples...and pickles. Their critic? Sang! Muahahaha! Sang knows his burgers. He digs Jen's and surprisingly David's (I wouldn't have minded the ingredients!), but thinks Bryan's is boring and Doug's is, well, gross. What was interesting was that Sang really couldn't tell which chef made which burger. Presumably he was most thrown off by Bryan's choice to go classic. This may seem crazy, but I actually think if Bryan had gotten that piece of wax burger around his burger, it would have made a difference. Presentation has a lot to do with diner expectation. That paper would have signaled to Sang that this was more of a fast food-style burger, and Sang then could have compared it accordingly. But when his paper gave him trouble, Bryan just put his burger on the plate, and it looked pretty sad.
Ultimately, Jen wins! That girl is on fiiiiire (or whatever Alicia Keys would say.)
In case anyone's interested, my favorite burger is still the lamb burger at The Breslin. And it appears that I'm not alone! I've got Frank Bruni to back me up! Read THIS.
On to the Elimination Challenge that made me cry. Anyone who has been reading my recaps for a few seasons knows that I cry often while watching Top Chef or Masters, but I really think this may be the first time I cried this season. Very unlikely me. The chefs are tasked with honoring four teachers with dishes. They all embraced the challenge with Bryan going so far as to say "Thank you -- it's an honor" while accepting his teacher's dossier. The chefs head to Whole Foods, and David reveals his strategy -- to knock Jen out. Jen looks crazy talking to herself at the grocery store, but I'll say it: I do the same thing! Back at the kitchen, it's obvious this challenge is a labor of love for each chef. Bryan is struggling cleaning a bazillion squid, and I worry he may not finish in time (but only slightly worry.) David Burke is using six mixers at once to create souffles, and Doug declares that David has titanium balls. David Guetta appears and starts spinning "Titanium."
"You know David Guetta?"
"Have I been living under a rock? Of course I know him. That's my jam. It's my lady jam."
Name that movie in the Comments below!
Jen is elevating porridge and maybe undercooking her lamb. Doug is just fine.
Time to present the dishes! First up is Doug who creates a dish inspired by a fairytale wedding his teacher, Emily, threw for one of her students, Camille. Doug starts by presenting his teacher and her student with roses. I'm instantly uncomfortable and proud. Doug's dish features every rich ingredient you could think of besides truffles and cookie dough. But, it works. It's lush.
Bryan is up next, making a dish inspired by his teacher -- one of math and science -- which seems fitting. Bryan has somehow made miso cavatelli. "The texture of the cavatelli makes me want to cry, it's so good," says GQ critic Alan Richman. That's saying a lot. Bryan has hit it out of the ballpark. Or the classroom. Whatever's appropriate to a teacher challenge.
And I have a confession. I've eaten Bryan's miso cavatelli before, and maybe you can too! It's on his Table 21 tasting menu at Volt, which you all know how I feel about. On the menu there it's listed as "calamari bolognese (miso, squid ink cavatelli, parmesan)." And the critics are right -- it's f---ing delicious. Here is the photo I took during my visit, which obviously doesn't do it any justice.
Jen's lamb is indeed undercooked. Doug notices before it leaves the kitchen, but doesn't say anything, and I don't think I fault him for it. Jen didn't seem worried about it, so if that's how she wanted to present it, that's how she wanted to present it. Her grains, though, get an A+ (Get it?! Cause they're teachers?) Jen's dish also happens to strike an emotional cord with her teacher as her mother used to make her lamb and she hasn't had it since she passed. Jen had mentioned earlier that she felt a kinship with her teacher. She was more right than she could have ever imagined.
And finally there's David and his fallen souffles. The critics seemed pretty mixed on them. Some didn't care for the texture, but Curtis ate the whole thing up!
So, going into Critics' Table, it's fairly obvious that either Jen or David could go home. As a result of Battle of the Sous Chefs, Bryan already has a ticket to the finale, but will he win the challenge as well? He does! His first win of the season (besides our weekly Viewers' Choice vote.) Doug heads to the finale. And, ultimately, David and his titanium balls go home. There are so many David Burke metaphors that come to mind this episode. David is his fallen souffle. He's also probably the greatest teacher in that kitchen because chefs are teachers, after all, and David's had quite the tenure.
I'll miss David and his random quips, but look forwad to continuing to eat at his restaurants in NYC.
Next week is the finale! Watch Battle of the Sous Chefs now, and until next week, Have a Nosh!