The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Top Chef Episode 14: Mentors

Previous Episode

Based on what I’ve read on the internet, longtime viewers of Top Chef were pretty pissed off at last week’s episode.  Many did not like having Pee-Wee Herman, a non-food expert, playing a crucial role in determining contestants’ fates so late in the contest.  Others thought that the bicycle-themed Elimination Challenge, was a silly reality show gimmick that led to unimaginative, low quality food.  That’s fair.

However, I’ve seen a lot of commentary that the gimmicky challenges are taking the focus away from food and pandering to non-foodies.  Right.  I’m sure the folks at Bravo are thinking, “To heck with getting millions more people interested in the show, let’s focus on the douchebag who has a preferred emulsification method…”  (For the record, that’s not me, I’m a different breed of douchebag.)  Well, those who complained about last week got their episode this week.

This is also the week where the winner of Last Chance Kitchen got to rejoin the competition.  While chilling at the mansion the chefs were trying to guess who won – Sonny Chiba bet on Bev and, of course, Sarah said Grayson.  So who won the pack of smokes and a banana?

Sonny wins! Cute boots, Bev...

Sonny did.  Bev beat Grayson in the final week of LCK.  I’m not surprised, she’s a strong cook.  Not very wide-ranged, but strong.  Is this the year for Asian Domination?

Quickfire Challenge

The chefs had 30 minutes to choose ingredients and prepare a dish with all of those ingredients.  The catch?  They had to pick the ingredients blindfolded.  The winner got a choice between a new Toyota Prius V or a guaranteed spot in the finals.   So there’s an interesting choice here – go for the sure thing or let their pride get in the way and try to earn the finalist spot.

I guess we were supposed to laugh at all of the chefs wandering aimlessly, fumbling around, and bumping into each other.  It would’ve been funnier if they put a chef’s knife in Bev’s hand.  So she can “accidentally” shiv Sarah while reaching for limes.  As it was, the best part of that scene was Sonny’s reaction to grabbing pork casings.

  • Beverly – Striped bass with avocado, lime, & jalapeño
  • Sonny – “Udon” with ribbons of zucchini, mushrooms, scallions, casings used for broth
  • Sarah – Corn soup with onion, red chili, roasted mushrooms, peaches
  • Penishead – fish with bulgur wheat, marscapone,& broccoli rabe
  • Kundun – sautéed prawn with thai-style tomato salad

Winner –  The two top dishes were Sonny’s and Sarah’s.  Sarah’s innovative use of peaches in the soup was the difference maker and she opted for the guaranteed finalist spot.  I’m mildly annoyed at this because I thought that Sonny’s use of the casings should have been rewarded.  And I’m totally annoyed because she doesn’t have to cook in the Elimination challenge.  I would’ve loved to have seen her reaction if Bev beat her.  It also translated into less screen time, thus less opportunities for the Sarah Grueneberg Drinking Game.

Elimination Challenge – Make a dish for their mentors

In the previews for this week, we saw Kundun crying with the implication that he messed-up badly.  I should’ve known that it was a red herring, that guy has ice running through his veins.  What did send him, and all the others, crying was that their mentors were brought in for the Elimination Challenge.  There were all kinds of tears flowing from everyone’s eyes as the contestants spilled their guts about their mentors’ impact on their careers.  Well, everyone cried except Sonny Chiba.  He’s wayyyyy too badass for that shit.

The chefs had a couple of hours for prep and one hour for cooking to make a dish that fulfills their mentors’ expectations.  This is exactly what the internet was clamoring for – total freedom to cook whatever they want.  I, personally, was excited to see them drive to Whole Foods in the new Prius V, with ample headroom.

  • Sarah (mentor is Tony Mantuano) – Didn’t have to cook, so they had dinner with a couple shots of tequila.  Followed by a steamy, romantic evening where they – ok, I just got sick…
  • Penishead (Michelle Bernstein) – Seafood “stew” over  toasted cousous & broth with emulsified cream
  • Beverly (Sarah Stegner) – Gulf Shrimp and bbq pork Singapore noodles
  • Kundun (Tyson Cole) – Chilled sunchoke and dashi soup with summer vegetables
  • Sonny (Frank Crispo) – Braised pork belly, smoked oyster crema & pickled vegetables

Judges table – Hugh, Gail, Tom, Padma

Top two: Bev and Kundun got to move to the final.  Bev’s dish was described as coming from the heart and was commended for the skill needed to make that many wok dishes.  Tom praised Kundun for doing something completely different than what he’s prepared before and, echoing Kundun’s thoughts while cooking, knowing when a dish is perfect.

Winner:  Paul gets to bring home the new, spacious, fuel efficient Prius V.

Bottom two: Penishead was called out on use of dried herbs and cream, and she admitted so.  Sonny’s dish was praised for the pickled vegetables, but the use of canned smoked oysters and busyness of the dish were slammed.

Gone:  Sonny Chiba.  I’m really bummed about this, because he probably had the most personality.  Then again, Sarah has a ton of personality.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Random Thoughts

  • Apparently the choice between the car and guaranteed entry into the finals was an interesting dilemma.  Kundun said he’d go for the car because he wanted to win his way into the finals.  I’d take the spot in the finals because I wouldn’t care how I got there.  Besides, despite all their product placement, I wouldn’t want a fucking Prius.
  • A lot has been made about Bev getting bullied and it’s true that she got some unfair treatment.  However, I think it’s the editing that is making her look like a bumbling idiot who doesn’t belong there.  You think she was the only one to bump into others while blindfolded or spill stuff?
  • I also don’t buy that Sarah didn’t mean to grab a peach in the Quickfire.  There aren’t many fruit out there that are fuzzy.  Plus she could’ve easily tell it was a peach from the aroma.
  • Wow, even Sonny Chiba almost lost it when the mentors were brought in.  Later he says he was crying on the inside.  Of course it was on the inside.  He’s a karate man!
  • Speaking of karate man, it looked like Sonny Chiba was going to unleash a roundhouse on Hugh’s unibrow.

  • Based on next week’s preview, those who didn’t like the gimmicky challenges are probably going to hate the finals, where the competition moves to a ski resort in Vancouver.
  • Wait, Vancouver is in Texas?

About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

5 comments on “Top Chef Episode 14: Mentors

  1. Pingback: Top Chef Episode 13 : Bike & Borrow & Steal « The Food and Wine Hedonist

  2. The Sicilian
    February 10, 2012

    Fire the editor. Editing made it appear as if the judges were more critical of Lindsey’s dish, only to send home Ed. I guess I never imagined my favorite television show would jump the shark, but it’s happened.

  3. Pingback: Top Chef Episode 15: Culinary Games « The Food and Wine Hedonist

  4. Pingback: Top Chef Seattle Episode 13: Chefs at Sea « The Food and Wine Hedonist

  5. Pingback: Top Chef NOLA Episodes 9 & 10 | The Food and Wine Hedonist

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This entry was posted on February 9, 2012 by in Television and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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