Top Chef is really heating up. The closer we get to the end of the season, the more the viewers can get involved with the contestants. No doubt everyone has their favorite to win at this point, but it is still anyone's game. This week the contestants faced the celebrity chef judge Ted Allen, the food guru of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and a panel of professional food writers and critics at a party he hosted to celebrate the release of a new book. Talk about pressure! This was the first challenge that all the chefs had to work together, though the were judged separately, and things really got hot in the kitchen.
The quickfire challenge was about budgeting money and time. The contestants were presented with an array of ingredients, priced by the ounce, and had 20 minutes and $3 to spend on an appetizer. Ted Allen's favorites were Tiffani's dish of oyster 3-ways ($2.67), Harold's radicchio stuffed with Gorgonzola and wrapped in bacon ($2.93), Stephen's poached clams over grilled sea beans ($2.84) and Lee Anne's deep fried oysters ($2.98). Allen was won over by Stephen's El Bulli-like ultra-modern presentation, as well as the taste of his dish, and awarded him with immunity. This drew criticism from the other chefs, but clearly is a hugely successful trend in the restaurant business.
The main challenge was the previously mentioned party. The chefs were each responsible for one course of a seven-course meal to be served to Allen and his friends. As none of the chefs were pastry chefs, they coerced Stephen into taking the dessert course, since he couldn't be eliminated. Not one to give up, Stephen when to work online looking for inspiration while the other chefs planned their menus. They shopped and planned and everyone was confident going into the dinner.
They had the use of the kitchen at Frisson, which was reserved for the occasion. When the chefs arrived, they were met with an unpleasant surprise. They had to prepare one anothers dishes, selecting the number of a course at random. They were judged on the course that they presented, not on the course that they designed. By course, the menu was:
- Andrea had to go against her own healthy and natural cooking preferences and cook Miguel's Fried Potato Latkes with Scallops and Caviar.
- Stephen ended up making Dave's Chanterelle Soup with Thyme Cream.
- Dave tried his hand at Andrea's Poached John Dory fish with vegetables.
- LeeAnne made Tiffani's Fig Stuffed Gnocci with Duck Confit.
- Tiffani took over Harold's Prime Sirloin with Parsnip Puree and Foie Gras Bordelaise.
- Miguel was responsible for making LeeAnne's cheese course, which was supposed to include a beet sorbet, but ended up as Fourme d'Ambert Cheese & Beet Salad.
- Harold had to reach far out of his element to make Stephen's ambitious dessert trio: Saffron-White Chocolate Semifreddo, Five-Spice-Dark Chocolate Flourless Cake & Black Tea-Milk Chocolate Soup.
The judges loved Stephen, Tiffani and LeeAnne's dishes and raved about taste and presentation. Harold finished in the middle of the pack, after working closely with Stephen to make the dishes come out. The bottom finishers were Andrea, Miguel and Dave.
Dave was accused of being overly emotional in the kitchen by the judges. He stuck faithfully to Andrea's recipe for the poached fish, but was not able to make the flavors come out in any real way. He completely underwhelmed the judges. Miguel was a disaster in the kitchen, ruining the beet sorbet that was supposed to be part of the cheese course by making it with salt instead of with sugar. He also could not remember the name of the cheese, Fourme a'Ambert, a single time throughout the dinner. The judges thought he was immature and disorganized. He validated their beliefs by actually hissing (like a snake) at Tiffani, who he decided was conspiring against him. Andrea put in next to no effort in the challenge and, even though she seems like a lovely person, the judged felt that she was just was not flexible enough to be Top Chef. She was eliminated.
At this point in the show, it is obvious that Stephen, Harold, LeeAnne and Tiffani are the front-runners. They have more skill and are able to make use of their talents better than the other contestants. Miguel and Dave are cracking under the pressure, and neither's cooking style is up to the high level of the four top competitors. Unless something unforeseen happens to Stephen, Harold, LeeAnne or Tiffani in the next episode, it looks like Miguel or Dave will be going home.
We're getting closer to the end:
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