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Up, Up, And Away ... In My Beautiful Balloon

Carlos explains why the Elk challenge was his favorite ever!

This is my favorite episode so far -- both as a chef and as a former contestant. It made me anxious, nervous, and excited in all the right places. What an amazing backdrop to film in ... absolutely gorgeous. Great work all you Magical Elves!

How to Watch

Watch Top Chef on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

Quickfire Challenge

Twenty minutes! I think that is a little tight on the time considering that the chefs have to gut, scale, filet, and clean the trout, as well as prepare a sauce and side dish. I would think a half hour minimum. And the added pressure of cooking for Eric Ripert must have been unnerving. I was very impressed with all of the chefs just to get the entrees prepared. Interestingly enough, I found myself reaching (at least in my mind) for the corn just like the other chefs. And what was up with those uneven stumps -- "My kingdom for a folding table!" I didn't understand Brian's comment about trout not being real seafood. Maybe one of you can explain that to me. Is it because trout is a river fish? "A fish by any other name still needs lemon juice!" But I digress. Casey's roll continues once again -- very impressive!

Elimination Challenge

In true Top Chef style, the producers stick the chefs in the stables to cook their meals -- just like livestock. Too funny! I thought that maybe Brian was burning sage to rid the evil spirits. Ha! Actually it was a great idea to create an ambiance, as well as very practical to cover any lingering, unwanted aromas -- they were in a barn after all. Elk can be very difficult to cook and to serve at the perfect temperature, as it is quite lean and can be a bit gamy. This really reinforced the old axiom "The secret's in the sauce!" One of the signs of a true chef is their ability to create beautiful sauces to enhance their dishes. My two favorites as well as those of the judges were Dale's huckleberry and blackberry sauce and Casey's smoked tomato butter. Both obviously brought out the quality of the elk and as Mr. Ripert said, "took the elk to another level". Unfortunately, Casey undercooked her elk, and I am sure that it was rather chewy as a result.

On to the issue of piling too many ingredients and spices onto one plate. It tends to show a lack of clarity and vision. The judges who review for the Michelin Guide put it the best: simplicity sings. Work with four or five ingredients and let them soar in harmony. Otherwise the palate goes into sensory overload and nothing stands out. I think this is ultimately what did Brian in for this challenge. But he had a great run, and with his personality I know we will be seeing more of him. Congrats Dale, you really pulled this one out of you're a**! It was very smart to abandon an idea that didn't work. And to think that this was actually your first win. Bravo brother! Don't forget to go to Miami Spice for my latest recipe on this week's webisode here. Until next week ... Break an Egg!

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