On this week's episode of Bravo's Top Chef, the theme tried to integrate a very hot topic in cooking: speed. Along with speed, convenience was really emphasized in the theme of Food on the Fly. While the contestants are used to being behind the scenes in restaurant kitchens, working on their own terms, a Top Chef has to have the capability to appeal to home cooks' desire for easy, accessible meals. The episode started in a convenience store and ended with a microwave - and another elimination.
In the quickfire challenge, where the prize is immunity, the contestants were given $20 and 30 minutes in a gas station convenience store to shop for the ingredients to make a main course dish. One contestant called it "a nightmare for any chef" but they managed to pull it together. They were given 30 minutes to prepare and plate their meal. Two contestants - Miguel and Tiffani - attempted krispy kreme bread puddings without too much success, though Tiffani seemed unnecessarily hostile over their use of a similar idea. In addition to their in-store finds, the contestants were allowed access to the dried herbs and spices in the kitchen. Stephen pretended that he hadn't heard that instruction and used fresh flavorings. It didn't help his case, though.
The judge for the day was Jefferson Hill from the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. He turned out to be very critical of the dishes, not giving any breaks because of the limited resources the chefs had to work with. To put it bluntly, he hated almost everything. LeeAnn's "Funyun Spiedini", a sort of breaded (with Funyuns) salami dish, won the day and she ended up with immunity.
The main challenge was to prepare and package a meal that could be reheated and served straight from the microwave the next day. The chefs had 90 minutes in the kitchen, then were to serve the food to the Oakland Junior League Ladies the next day for lunch. The catch, of course, was the microwave. Stephen, Andrea and Harold didn't know how to work them and the other chefs were variously less than enthused about the prospect. Overall, however, the food turned out well and the ladies enjoyed the lunch. The dishes were:
Tiffani - Mirin glazed escolar (sea bass)
Stephen - Banana leaf-wrapped fusion tamale
LeeAnn - Chicken and vegetable stir-fry
Candice - Shrimp and spinach quiche
The top three finishers were Harold, Andrea and Tiffani, but the almost unwatchably superior Tiffani won the challenge with her perfectly cooked escolar. Her secret involved under-cooking the fish while preparing it, so it did not turn rubbery in the microwave. Several other chefs, including Harold, used this technique as well. Her recipe can be found here.
The bottom three finishers were Stephen, Lisa and Candice. Stephen's fusion tamale was like a "chem lab" with "a thousand ingredients" and was too confusing to taste good. Lisa didn't have time to finish her chicken, and the herbs overpowered the rest of the dish. Candice, the only competitor still in culinary school, learned that quiche is not meant to be put into the microwave. Not only did her dish have a limp, flavorless crust, but the filling was too eggy and the shrimp were overcooked. The judges decided she couldn't take the heat, so she was eliminated.
In case you're just tuning in:
Episode 1 recap
Episode 2 recap
Episode 3 recap
Episode 4 recap
Episode 5 recap
Episode 6 recap
Episode 7 recap
Episode 8 recap
Episode 9 recap
Reunion show recap
Finale part 1 recap