leave your inhibitions at the door
In my recap of Episode 12: Wolfgang Clucks I put forward the proposition that, despite how the whole internet pretty much hated Top Chef Texas, it was shaping up to be better than Top Chef Seattle. Last night’s episode proved that for me.
This is the final four, dammit! Last year’s final four had them cooking in a ski mountain gondola, chipping through big ice blocks for ingredients to cook outside, and doing the biathlon. Sure, all of those were ridiculously gimmicky and had nothing to do with food. But it was at least interesting. This week’s episode had a lot of downtime with chefs reflecting on family, the experience, life, blah blah blah. Boooooooorrrriiiinnngggg.
But I get it, they wanted to focus on what’s going through their heads as they prepare for this all-important battle. More importantly, they wanted to focus on the food. So what did they give us? An elimination challenge focused on salmon and sourdough bread. Look, I get that both are deeply entwined with the history and future of Alaska. But is seeing them prepared that exciting?
By focusing on these two ingredients, they limited the creativity of what the chefs could make. Last year, in a gondola, Paul Qui made:
Lamb loin with curried enoki mushrooms and wasabi crème fraiche , with a gastrique of fresh juniper.
And that was in a preliminary challenge. In the elimination this week, Lizzie made – a salmon sandwich. Wooohooo! (Said no foodie, ever.)
Brooke Williams hot
The final four got off the ship in Juneau and were greeted by Padma and Sean Brock, chef of McCrady’s and Husk in Charleston, SC. The challenge was to create a dish highlighting king crab with the winner getting $5K.
Lizzie – Crab frittata with cherry tomato, garlic oil and fried capers
– described as overcooked, too many flavors
Sheldon – King Crab, Dungeness crab “Miso”, Pine-smoked asparagus, & charred corn
– simple, highlighted the king crab, and utilized innards
Brooke – King Crab, sweet corn & leek salad on toast with Dungeness crab butter
– simply described as delicious
Josh – Butter poached king crab with succotash and bacon
– since Brock’s a southerner, he’s a self-described succotash snob. This didn’t meet his standards and he found the bacon unnecessary.
Brooke Williams sexy
Salmon and sourdough bread has a rich history and is a vital part of Alaskans’ lives. The contestants were given three hours to create a dish featuring the two at a local salmon bake. Winner gets a trip for two to Costa Rica. Judges were Gail, Hugh, Tom, Emeril, and Sean Brock.
Brooke – Poached sockeye salmon and seafood broth with mustard seed caviar and dill sourdough
Sheldon – Green tea & chive sourdough, with smoked salmon & pea soup
Josh – Roasted garlic sourdough soup with sockeye salmon & black olive croutons
Lizzie – Citrus and Beet glazed salmon slider with poppy seed butter and pickles
Winner – Brooke. It was the popular choice amongst the attendees, too.
Gone – Lizzie. Unbalanced – too much bread and salmon not seasoned enough
– I’ve been to Charleston, SC a few times and was never able to get into McCrady’s. Just thought you’d like to know that.
– The other problem with the Elimination Challenge was that they had to prepare 200 portions for that salmon bake. There’s only so much you can do to a dish when you’re making it in mass quantity. Again, this is the final four, we really should be seeing creativity.
– I’ll NEVER get tired of bacon, but I’m starting to get tired of the pop culture references to it. There’s all kinds of t-shirts and eecards about how cool bacon is and they were funny for a while. Now Josh is single-handedly pushing me over the bacon-loving edge.
– I LOVED how Sheldon used the innards of the crab in the Quickfire. My cousin called that stuff “The Boogie.” In fact, I remember my parents buying jars of “Taba ng Talingka” which is Tagalog for “crab fat.” Any Filipino will tell you, that’s the best part.
– Speaking of – Sheldon was totally showing his Flip Card with those white slippers. We do wear those things constantly. Even more authentic was that he probably nabbed them from the cruise ship.
– I know Kristen was a model and a lot of people think she’s really hot looking. But I’m thinking Brooke’s prettier and has more marketability as a celeb chef –
– More Sheldon love – the ukelele playing, scaring the bejeezus out of Brooke by jumping out from behind a curtain, and the random Dr Evil impersonation.