The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Top Chef Charleston Episode 12 – Cooking Away Again in Margaritaville

Near the end of every season, the contest moves to a completely different location.  A few years ago they moved from Texas to Vancouver, Seattle went to LA, California went to Vegas.   The best move was still the New Orleans finale moving to Maui, for obvious reasons

TC Nola Padma beach



Moving to another place has never made sense to me, nor did their choice of locations…. until now.   This time around they moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, which is the home of major sponsor Patron Tequila.

The move to a new location also means bringing back the winner from Last Chance Kitchen.  Jamie went on a tear at LCK, but he  finally lost out to Brooke and Casey.   In the finale, Brooke and Casey each had to make two dishes for Tom.  He would only choose one at random, thus putting a premium on consistency.  He ended up trying Casey’s steamed cod  and Brooke’s  cauliflower soup.

The Winner – Brooke.   I’m not sure I agree with this, but it’s impossible to tell which one actually tasted better.   But Brooke’s dish was a soup  (her other dish was a salad).  This is for a chance to go get back into the finale of the season.   The dish should really be something special.   And that must’ve been one motherfucking tasty soup.


Quickfire Challenge

They were in an empty soccer stadium and had to make a a dish featuring goat.   The winner gets 10k and an advantage in the Elimination.

Shirley – Braised goat breast with tortilla-pressed noodle, huitlacoche, & radish

Brooke – Goat ribs with chamomile, guajillo & papilla chiles, mango & papaya salad

John – Crispy goat torta with fire-roasted tomato sauce, & arbor chile sauce

Sheldon – Braised goat cheek with ancho chile, charred salsa & avocado


Winner: Brooke.  Her competitive advantage for the finale was that she got to choose a sous chef for herself and got to assign the others’.    As you’ll soon see, that was a MASSIVE advantage.


Elimination Challenge

The chefs had to cook for a private party of 100 people at the Patron factory.   They had to create both a dish and a margarita and were judged on each of them individually and how well they paired together.

Brooke (with Casey as sous chef) – Chilled avocado soup, watermelon & coconut salad, spicy watermelon, & hibiscus margarita

Sheldon (with Emily)  –  Octopus kinilaw with guava & coconut margarita

Shirley (with Sylva) –  Charred beef with salsa molcajete, cucumber & honeydew margarita

John (with Katsuji) – caldo verde con pollo with Patron silver margarita

Winner: Brooke – crystal bottle of a blend of special Patron tequilas worth 7500.

Gone: John


Random Thoughts 

– Well played, Brooke.   Choosing Casey was a no-brainer.   She was probably the best of the bunch and they got along really well, which is more important than actual skill.

– Another no-brainer was pairing John with Katsuji.  They were at each other’s throats during restaurant wars and she guessed they wouldn’t make a good team.  And she was right – while John wanted to make it work, Katsuji was still very much pissed at John.   I’m sure she identified Sheldon as the biggest threat and thus paired him with the absolute worst chef from the season.

– It’s hard to tell whether the lack of teamwork between John and Katsuji was fatal.  John really did try to take the high road and Katsuji, while making snide remarks through the whole thing, didn’t seem like he was undermining him.   I got the sense that a bigger factor was John not being himself – he went with a torta and the  soup to be “authentic” as opposed to making something that speaks to him.

– For his drink, John did pure tequila – Patron Silver and Patron Citron.   I love tequila, but that’s not a margarita.  It sounded like something that would be better as an after dinner drink.   As a result it completely threw off the soup.

– The others dishes were flawed – Shirley’s odd use of vanilla in the beef marinade and Sheldon’s too sweet ceviche – as were their cocktails.   But not bad enough.


– I was REALLY disappointed in the Elimination Challenge.  I really hate when they have Top Caterer contests where they cook for a massive amount of people.   There’s way too much sacrifice in quality when mass-producing food.   They did a good job of limiting them this year, but then decide to bring it back this late in the season.

– I was having a flashback when I saw the title of this episode.  Back in the early 90s I worked in a bar and every cover band played Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”.  Including the one that I occasionally played with.    It wasn’t a good flashback.

– Three ingredients were featured in this episode – chamomile, hibiscus, and huitlacoche – that prove that , even though Mexico is right next door and Mexican restaurants are very popular here,  Americans still don’t know much about their cuisine.  I’ve made huitlacoche tacos before and it’s fantastic, but I’ve never had it at any restaurant here.   Same with chamomile and hibiscus – I’ve never seen it in restaurants here, but several of the recipes I’ve made from the Hartwood cookbook feature them.

– Next week, the remaining three move yet again to the other side of Mexico to Riviera Maya, where they’ll be at their other major sponsor – Secrets resorts.   It looks like it’s going to be “interesting”




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.

2 comments on “Top Chef Charleston Episode 12 – Cooking Away Again in Margaritaville

  1. anotherfoodieblogger
    February 21, 2017

    Hello there! I have been purposely ignoring your Top Chef posts so that I could catch up and not get any spoilers. Well, I had the day off yesterday and binge-watched ALL 14 episodes, minus LCK because for some reason Bravo Online would not load them for me. I dreamed about cooking all night long, lol. So it’s almost down to the end, it sure was a fun whirlwind ride for me yesterday! I was surprised John did not go home sooner, and Katsuji is an asshole.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      February 22, 2017

      Ha, that’s what I figured! That’s quite a lot of food to see. I’d get way too hungry

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