Top Chef – Episode 8: “Tribute Dinner”
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Is that? Can it be? Yes, the Toyota Siennas are back! Just in time as the contestants had to pack up their things and go to Austin. Austin’s easily the best place to be in Texas, probably in my top 5 places in the US. The Texas Hill Country is beautiful, there’s a huge techie scene, and it’s the live music capital of the world.
It’s also Paul’s current home, so it’s it will be interesting to see if he’s extra motivated. Speaking of, I just realized he looks like Kundun.
Probably more like The Last Emperor, but Kundun’s going to be easier to type.
Quickfire Challenge – Top Chef Fans “Tweet” Instructions for Chefs.
This was a fun little link to Austin’s techie culture. Padma and Tom were collecting suggestions for the challenge via Twitter and tossed them out to the chefs throughout the challenge. The chefs then had to work in the suggestions on the fly. The winner got $10K, but no immunity. I wonder how tough this really is for a professional chef. I know in golf I’m probably better than Tiger Woods at hitting a ball out of a forest – only because I’ve shanked way more than he has. So maybe these pros would have a tough time because they’re used to working in controlled environments.
- First Tweet – “Everyone always says bacon makes it better. I want to see the chefs finally prove it.” Ok, no biggie.
- A few minutes later – “Do a hash for a #hashtag challenge.” OK, this would be tough if you were going pretty far down a recipe path, as Sonny Chiba found out. He was making bacon pate with softshell crab. Damn, that guy RULES!
- Minutes after that – “Chefs choose a pantry ingredient and hand it off to another chef must use in their dish.”
- Ugly Chris – Corn puree with bacon, potato hash and seared scallop.
- Grayson – Shrimp puff with crispy bacon hash cake
- Sonny Chiba – Potato hash with bacon and soft shell crab deglazed in sriracha. Oops, Sonny burnt the hash.
- Beverly – Crispy pork belly with corn, bell pepper, habanero, and potato hash
- Sarah – Burrata stuffed squash blossom with bacon and zucchini hash
- Kundun – bacon fat, crispy bacon, clams, blackberries, chorizo and mushroom hash
Winner – Kundun. Of course he won – he’s the fucking golden child Dalai Lama.
Elimination Challenge – Tribute Dinner
It’s off to the hotel bar where R&B star Patti LaBelle performs a stripped-down version of her 1970s hit “Lady Marmalade”. She would stay on as the challenge was to prepare a dish for the music icon, her friends, and the judges.
Really? Can a one-hit wonder truly be called an icon? Couldn’t they use Willie Nelson – a true legend that actually lives in Austin? How AWESOME would it have been if the challenge was to smoke the biggest joint with Willie and THEN come up with a meal. My money still would’ve been on Sonny Chiba.
The actual theme of the challenge was for each of the chefs to make a dish that would serve as a tribute to their cooking inspiration. In my case, it would be my dad, who was a complete master in the kitchen. He did all the cooking for the family while my mom brought home the bacon. As he started getting sick towards the end of his life, I started to do more cooking. The life lesson for me wasn’t the cooking – he never had any recipes to share because he winged everything. It was living in a family with those non-traditional roles that really made me into a better person.
Here’s what the chefs made:
- Ugly Chris – play on grandma’s steak and potato. Miniature lemon-pepper steak with baked potato, vegetables, and A1 demiglace.
- Heather – take on mom’s one-pot meals – beef stroganoff with herb spaetzle, roasted wild mushrooms, citrus crema.
- Sarah – Pork sausage stuffed cabbage and spinach with browned butter.
- Kundun – Play on his grandmother’s adobo – Quail Adobo stuffed with ginger rice and green mango salsa.
- Beverly – Korean braised short rib with edamame scallion puree and hon shimeji mushrooms.
- Chris – A tribute to his uncle – Sockeye salmon with confit potato and brown sugar carrot puree.
- Penishead – Trout spanakopita with crispy leeks and rainbow trout roe. Emeril said it had too much butter. (Huh?)
- Sonny Chiba – A modern twist on his grandmother’s Bi bim bop with lemon-chili sauce, pickled vegetables, zucchini, and fried egg.
- Grayson – “Wisconsin-style” meat and potatoes – Monstrous grilled Rib eye with german potato salad and grilled vegetables.
- Ty – His take on his Japanese nanny’s chicken tenders – Duck fat-fried chicken tender with pickled peaches
Top 3 – The top three chefs were Beverly, Sarah, and Sonny Chiba. These chefs didn’t just do a literal interpretation of their inspirations’ dishes. Instead, they used their inspiration as a starting point and then took it further into something new.
Winner is – Sarah. In the first few episodes, she pissed me off with her cattiness. After Heather’s bullying she’s now just kinda garden-variety annoying.
- Grayson – Beef not trimmed, sinewy, and spongy. Also, pretty unimaginative as it’s exactly what her parents would’ve made. Or what I’ve made hundreds of times at the pool.
- Heather – The judges couldn’t tell what kind of meat it was and the dumplings were dry, chewy, and overcooked.
- Chris C – Salmon was too basic, and seared too hard and fast. Also had too much dill.
Loser – Heather. She knew she messed up the beef. Beverly called it “Karma” and took personal satisfaction in blah blah blah… There was no evidence of Heather’s bitchiness this week, probably because they were working independently and she didn’t have the opportunity to bully Beverly. It also could’ve been the editing. Anyone who comes off as bitchy in a show full of “my humble Grandma” stories would really sound like the anti-Christ. The editors knew Heather was booted so there probably was no point in totally burying her.
- Heather: ”It’s difficult to have a long relationship, being career-focused.” No, it’s difficult because you beat on meek Asian chefs and look like Jabba the Hutt.
- I wish I had known when they were taking suggestions so I could’ve had another reason to tweet “Armadillo Balls”. If you’d follow me on Twitter, you’d get all kinds of gems like that. I promise I won’t send you naked pictures. At least not of me. Unless you ask nicely.
- Sonny Chiba looked like he was ready to go all Chuck Norris on Padma. But at least he got that sideways moving mandible locked down.
- Look at Bev rockin the short shorts in the Quick Fire:
- I really think Ugly Chris is the darkhorse in the competition, even though he appears to be bumbling all the way through. With the steaks and elk in previous challenges, and scallops now, he’s nailing the main part of the meal while still showing creativity. If he can be a little more careful and also control his funky urges (and his plumber butt), he can get pretty far.
- Grayson keeps mentioning her Wisconsin roots, but I’m not buying it – her forehead isn’t big enough to be from there. They have fiveheads in Wisconsin.
- Kundun was a teen Asian badboy selling dope and racing his Honda Civic. These Asian guys with souped-up rides crack me up because they’ll have a superfast car but still drive 10 mph below the speed limit. (I can make those jokes. You can’t, that’s racist.)
- Wait… Kundun is Filipino? REPRESENT! I had no idea. Apparently my Flipdar is not as strong as my Gaydar or Blackdar.
- Previews show Sonny Chiba pissed b/c Sarah got carted off to the hospital. Quote – “What’s wrong, is she dead?” YES!
What did you think?