leave your inhibitions at the door
At one point in this episode Stefan said he was suffering from writer’s block. The assignment was simple with no special ingredients or any twists, so he was having trouble coming up with anything interesting. The reason I bring this up now is that there’s a parallel with how it’s been for me this whole season. Frankly, this season sucks.
Last season’s Top Chef Texas was the first time I saw the show, so maybe I’m not the best judge. Just about everything I read in blogs, recaps, and commentary pointed to Texas being the worst season ever. There were complaints from the ridiculous challenges that didn’t have anything to do with the food to Pee Wee Herman being a judge to no eye candy. (Yes, that last one was my complaint.) And early episodes this season indicated that maybe the producers learned from their mistakes.
But here’s the thing – the overall quality of the food is not good this season. When Paul Qui was tearing up the competition last year, he was doing so with some seriously kick-ass dishes. Some very simple, some extremely complex. But he also had solid competition, all of which would’ve cleaned up here in Seattle. Even Ugly Chris with his geeky molecular gastronomy would’ve done really well. There are six left here and those included Josie and Josh, two of the biggest asshats I’ve ever seen.
And that’s the other thing – when you consider the show in terms of TV entertainment, it’s also lacking. Even though Texas had stupid non-food related challenges like riding bikes around The Alamo and doing a biathalon, at least it was entertaining. The chefs themselves were a lot more interesting to watch, especially Grayson, Ty-lor, Ed, and Chris. Even the part with Heather bullying Beverly provided some really compelling drama. This year, John initially seemed like he’d be lively, but he was probably mellower than anyone expected. Stefan’s pretty funny though. Josh and Josie are just plain annoying.
Why is Josie so awful and annoying? She’s constantly trying to put on a show and make it all about her. The Chef Josie shirt, the cackle, the Chef Josie headband, the senseless banter. And, at the risk of sounding shallow, the last time I saw a smile like that it…. it won the Kentucky Derby.
But Stefan was able to muscle through and thus so will I.
The chefs were asked to create a dish to impress sushi master Katsuya Uechi. His advice: Don’t mix up too much. Make people happy. Word, sushi master, word. No immunity, but winner gets $5K.
Stefan – Yellowtail with grilled shiitake & raw lobster with seaweed & unagi
Josie – Halibut with yuzu & bacon aioli
Lizzie – Lobster, micro greens, & pickled ginger with yuzu-sake broth
Brooke – Octopus with yuzu & grated wasabi
Josh – Tempura bacon, omelette, salmon belly, & yuzu kosho aoli
Sheldon – Hamachi sashimi with fresh ponzu, mitsuba & lemon charcoal
Least favorites – Lizzie, Josh
Favorites – Brooke, Stefan
Winner – Stefan wins his first challenge in 27 attempts. This is the one that Stefan had writer’s block, so he bounced back nicely.
Make a fried chicken dish for a dinner party at Tom’s rented pleasure palace. His guests were some major chefs – David Chang, Vinny Dotolo, Jon Shook, Michelle Bernstein, Emeril, and Wolfgang. The winner gets 365 bottles of Terlato wines.
Sheldon – Umami drumsticks & thighs, wings with usukuchi & grapeseed oil and rice vinegar
Lizzie – Chicken with coriander, black pepper & brown sugar rub with peach-cabbage slaw
Josie – chicken with black garlic, cayenne, thyme, & hot sauce with daikon salad
Josh – smoked fried chicken with hot sauce & blue cheese
Stefan – Cordon bleu with garlic aioli & lemon
Brooke – dukkah crusted chicken breast with wilted escarole & tomato salad
Top Three – Josh, Sheldon, Lizzie
Winner – Josh. Seemed like a no-brainer for a southern-based meat cooker. It would’ve been pretty embarrassing if he didn’t take it.
Bottom Three – Stefan, Josie, Brooke
Gone – Josie. I was watching on delay and was wondering what that thunderous uproar was.
– Thankfully, Josie’s finally gone. She should’ve been gone long ago, but always seemed to creep along by not making the worst dish of the day. Although last week, she actually did make the worst dish of the day. It’s just that Kristen had too much integrity. Even this week she was plagued with poor time management. At the start of the elimination she was planning on making Asian wings, Southern fried chicken, and biscuits. The wings didn’t work outand the biscuits were non-existent. Yet she didn’t have time to drain the grease from her ONE DISH she managed to put out.
– Lemon charcoal!
– Padma asked, “Chef Katsuya, as a group, how do you think they did?” Chef Katsuya responded, “You guys worked very hard. Thank you.” Give this guy a show, please.
– David Chang: “…everyone loves it, it’s simple, yet deceivingly complex.” He was talking about fried chicken, but really the same can be said about sushi. And this blog.
– Best fried chicken recipe I’ve found was from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc. Best fast-food Chicken ever – Harold’s Chicken Shack in Chicago. There’s like 57 of them.
– It was pretty clear all those chefs at the dinner table were pretty messed up on that Terlato wine. Wonder if they had a start on Josh’s winnings?
– Lizzie was talking about wanting a bucket of KFC when she was a kid in South Africa. My mind immediately went to this Vanity Fair piece about Chris Rock’s trip to Africa. Not surprisingly, it was totally hilarious and insightful all at the same time. Here’s what he said about KFC there:
As we continued to drive through Johannesburg, I kept looking for a sign that would connect me to my African brethren—something that would indicate that we were all one. Finally I saw it: the biggest Kentucky Fried Chicken I’d ever seen. As I marveled at the Eighth Wonder of the World, I also remembered seeing K.F.C. when I went to Jamaica the previous year. There was also one when I went to Haiti. Their slogan should be “Wherever black people are, we’re not far.”
– That is, except Top Chef.
– This commercial for the VW Passat commercial had me rolling on the floor: