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The Outsider

Eli Kirshtein describes how he does what most viewers do: think about what they would have cooked in the challenges.

By Eli Kirshtein

With the exception of the dozen or so episodes of Top Chef I personally competed in, I have always been an outsider looking in. I do what a lot people, or at least culinarily-minded people, probably do when watching the challenges, tell myself what I would cook during it. I talk to myself about the timing, the execution, the plating, even how far I could push the concept and detail work in the given time. For all three of the remaining chefs I am sure they have done the same or similar. This is an opportunity to cook in those Quickfires, and actually put those ideas to execution. All three of the challenges that the chefs were handed, I would say are fairly well-known Quickfires; maybe not quiet of epic portions, (i.e. Restaurant Wars) but still pretty notable. I felt as if all three of the chefs did produce an iteration of something preconceived in one respect or another. The concept of the dishes really came across as thought-through. 

The added twist didn’t really surprise me; I saw some kind of additional difficulty coming, and all three of these seemed to be pretty reasonable additions. I would personally have been the most terrified by the idea of having to cook one-handed. Honestly I would be really terrified to do almost any everyday task one-handed. With that being said, all the chefs got a fairly sophisticated dish out, and did a good job.

The idea of cooking someone’s last meal is daunting to say the least. Similar to recreating childhood memories, many of which ended up in the idea this meal, cooking a final meal carries a lot of person feelings and dispositions. As a matter of fact all of the chefs made a direct relationship to dishes they grew up with. The idea of a last meal is such an interesting culinary niche that the guest at the table, Melanie Dunea, has written an entire book featuring 50 iconic international chefs explanations of their final repast.I really felt like Antonia had the hardest of all three chefs to have to cook for. Most American chefs can draw their culinary background, or their own mentors culinary background, back to European and regional American cuisine. A small percentage would probably claim domestic Japanese as their culinary genesis or even inspiration.  With that being said, the esoteric nature of the specifics of Morimoto’s request, as well as what appeared to be a strong communications barrier, must have been amazingly difficult to cope with. 

All three chefs produced their own interpretations of the muse’s requested dishes; no one seemed to rhetorically speaking, mail it in. I felt as if the reason Richard was able to come out on top so concisely was due to his ability to recreate the highlights that Wolfgang loved about his dishes but maintain a modern touch and feel to it.

The one bite challenge is scary. The thought of having to create a great expression of yourself, and your whole season in a single taste is breathtakingly difficult. Both chefs did what they had to do, I think there was a tad more technical work put into Mike’s dish, and it was just enough to put him over the top.

One more to go.

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How to Watch

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

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