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Wedding Bell Blues

You asked. She answered. Stephanie Izard discloses her top three picks!

By Stephanie Izard

Hello all, sorry to have missed last week. As many of the chefs have to look forward to, I have been doing an obscene amount of traveling and though I am sure to have enough frequent flyer miles to go to China and back a few times, it sometimes becomes difficult to squeeze everything in. No complaints though as each day is a new adventure.

How to Watch

Watch Top Chef Season 21 Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

It seems that Ariane is beginning to have more confidence and is moving past some of her early mistakes. It is a different environment than any chef works in on a day-to-day basis and I think it takes some people a few episodes to adjust.

It is time for the palate test. This is one of the Quickfires that finds its way into every season in a slightly different way. This year, it is set up as almost a game show as the chefs have to call each other's bluff. I found myself wishing that is had been set up a bit differently so that each chef was required to name as many ingredients as possible. As it was, some chefs were able to move on to the next round without naming anything. I suppose that is the fun of playing BS.

The sauces chosen were classically made so that even if a chef could not pick out exact ingredients, they would know many ingredients based on what sauce they believed they were tasting. I loved Carla's comment about tasting flavors in her head. This is a trait that I believe all chefs possess and I have often tried to describe it when asked how I come up with dishes. I think most chefs can taste various components of a dish in their head and know how the end result will come together. Not that this in any way takes the place of tasting everything you make, but it is a nice preview. Stefan is certainly coming out as the most competitive and arrogant of the bunch. So far he has shown that he has the skills to back it up though so I do not have a problem with it. It does make all of the chefs feel that much better when they are able to overtake him. Hosea is able to beat him out in the final taste of the Mole as Stefan tastes tomato paste incorrectly. Pretty sure this is not going to ruin Stefan's confidence but Hosea had to feel pretty good knocking him out.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs draw knives with the obvious wedding theme of something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Then in comes the beautiful bride, Gail Simmons. I have to say she is one of the sweetest women I have met throughout this experience and I wish her the best with her new marriage. Her husband is certainly a lucky man!

The "old" team of Hosea, Jeff, and Stefan decide to go with heirloom tomatoes. I thought this was a nice choice for both the relevance to "old" and also for the placement as first course. Stefan is certainly not afraid to voice his opinion which I can respect, though I was happy to see that the other boys trusted their own instincts and did not let him run the show. In the end when the dish was tasted, the women loved the sorbet which Jeff made and Stefan had tried to talk him out of. Others commented that Stefan's terrine was a bit under seasoned. Maybe Stefan will start to realize that he is not the only talented chef still standing.

I was not quite sure where the "new" team was going with this dish. Sushi does not really scream "new" to me at all. There were many missteps beginning with the sushi rice. Sushi rice is an art form all in itself. Most new cooks at sushi restaurants spend months only making rice so they can learn to perfect the craft. I am not going to claim to be an expert, but when the timer went off on the rice cooker, that rice needed to come out and be fanned until it cooled properly and was unable to carry over cook. The second mistake was deciding to use the rice anyway. A good chef needs to know when to throw away a component of a dish and either start again or make a new plan. Adding flavors to mushy rice is not going to make it any less unpleasant. It seemed that the team just had too many ideas and needed to streamline a bit. There was so much going on that the women had no idea how to even eat the dish. Though Eugene and Daniel had the most trouble with flavors and execution, Carla lacked communication skills. It was easy to tell she was uncomfortable with the direction of the dish from the beginning and she should have voiced that to the others on her team. It makes her just as at fault as the others. The "borrowed" team seemed to be headed up by Jamie. Though Ariane has proven to be gaining confidence, she still takes a bit of a back seat in the team challenge. Radhika also is a bit quiet and is still concerned about being seen as someone who only knows Indian cuisine. The truth is that she did grow up in a household where Indian food was the staple and I think she should embrace this. Of course she can and should branch out into other areas but when she focuses on Indian flavors she does very well. The entire group of women seem very pleased with this dish. Just from watching their reaction I could taste the bright flavors working well together to create a very harmonious dish.

On to the "blue" team. This does seem to be a tricky one seeing as, as Tom pointed out, there are no blue foods. I guess going into the deep blue ocean was the way to go. It seemed to me that the dish just lacked any creativity and love. A piece of fish over some chard with a corn puree is just not going to impress. The chefs had two and a half hours to prep the dish and I just can not imagine what they were doing this whole time. At the end of the day the fish was cooked properly and the dish tasted fine, but it just did not show any real thought or effort.

The "borrowed" team took the prize as the best dish of the day. The flavors worked well together, the lamb was cooked perfectly and the idea behind the dish showed that there was thought put into it. I will say that I was as shocked as Jamie was that Ariane was given this win. I would hope that any of the chefs could cook a lamb rack properly. I know that proper cooking technique is the biggest factor to Tom and I agree that it is key, but Jamie should have been given praise for her creativity and leadership. As for the bad news, the "new" team was clearly on the bottom. Though the 'blue" team lacked creativity, they at least put out an edible dish. The "sushi" dish was composed of many faulted components and in general just too many components. No one wants to look at a plate of food and be confused as to how they should eat it. It seemed that Tom was most shocked and concerned at the fact that Daniel could not see that the dish was a failure. It is good to stand by your dish at certain times, but when it is so clearly faulted a good chef must admit their mistakes and learn from them. Carla and Eugene were given a chance to do so.

I am getting excited to see where this all goes. Many people have been asking me who I think will win this season. I still have my top three picks of Fabio, Stefan, and Jamie but the race for fourth is pretty in the air. Plus you never really know as one mistake is all it takes.

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