Top Chef has but two episodes left to go this season, if you count the "reunion show" next week along with the Las Vegas finale on May 17th. This week's episode was all about luxury and being able to showcase ingredients. It is unfortunate that Stephen was eliminated last week because he probably would have done very well in the elimination competition.
First up was the quickfire challenge, after the show took the viewers though a quick tour of the household dynamics to point out that no one really likes Tiffani very much. For the challenge, a table bearing plates of junk food - from corn dogs to ding dongs - was presented to the chefs. There was a moment where they all looked crestfallen, sick of having to cook with such unwelcome ingredients. Fortunately for the chefs, however, the task was to reinvent the junk food as a gourmet food and they had 45 minutes to do it.
Predictably, none of the chefs chose sweet items hat might involve baking. Harold picked microwave popcorn and made an Ecuadorian Ceviche with Popcorn Cake. Tiffani chose the corndog and reinvented it as a Chorizo Duck Sausage Corndog with Gorgonzola Cream for dipping. LeeAnne made a Seafood Dog, with homemade sausage, instead of her chosen hot dog. Dave was the only one who didn't change the actual concept of his chosen food, which was nachos. Instead, he tried to emphasize the flavors that were present with a seafood topping and homemade salsas, guacamole and refried beans, rationalizing his decision by saying that nachos are popular for a reason. The judges like all the dishes, but picked Harold's as the winning dish, enjoying both his flavors and the twist he put of popcorn. Dave, unfortunately, finished last because his was the least inventive, though the judges like the flavors.
Immediately after the quickfire challenge, the judges returned with a bottle of 2001 Schafer Hillside Select and a basket full of perigord truffles. The elimination challenge was to create a dish that both showcased the truffles and complimented the wine. The dishes would be served in courses to all the judges the following day.
The next day, after sampling a bottle of the wine, the chefs were given $250 and one hour to shop for ingredients for their dishes (the truffles were provided). LeeAnne bought lamb and, unaware that she had done so, so did Harold and Tiffani. Dave saw that everyone else bought lamb, so he bought beef, remarking that it would probably give him an advantage simple because it was different. The dishes were:
In the kitchen, Tiffani admitted that she strongly preferred to work in silence with minimal activity and was visibly irritated at Dave's presence (sidenote: you would think she had never worked in a kitchen!). The other chefs described her as abrasive and openly admitted that they would rather go to the finals with LeeAnne.
The guest judges were some of the best chefs from the Napa area, including the chef from Julia's Kitchen at the Coppola Winery, where the event was taking place. When it came time to serve, Tiffani presented her dish first. The judges found the stuffed gnocci to be innovate, but largely unsuccessful. Everything on the plate was too soft and the cauliflower reacted badly with the wine, though when told this, Tiffani basically said the chefs were wrong in their assessment of the wine (despite the fact that one of the judges was Schafer, the vintner). Harold's dish was very well received, but the judges didn't like the fact that he had made and amateur error and served gritty mushrooms. In terms of technique, they judged him to be the "most experienced." LeeAnne was at a disadvantage because she followed two very good lamb dishes and had made a slight error in cooking her loin. She did have the best sauce, emphasizing the fruitiness of the wine, but the judges felt that the rest of her dish had too many flavors. Dave managed to acquire the nickname "Pepper Monkey" from one of the judges because they all felt he was a bit heavy-handed with black pepper, but they loved his dish. He was the only one who truly showcased the truffle, by placing it at the bottom of the bowl of mac and cheese to release its aroma.
After the judges picked their least and most favorite dishes, the contestants were called to the judges' table. Harold was told that his dish was perfectly cooked and very delicious, but Dave was the winner. His dish layered flavors and made the expensive ingredients soulful. Harold and Dave were asked to leave the room while the judges decided to eliminate Tiffani or LeeAnne. Trying to convince them to let her stay, a very smug-looking Tiffani declared that she was "fiercely competitive" and said she "brings humility" to the competition. LeeAnne simply said that she "didn't have to put anybody down to get [there]."
In the end, it looks like the fact that LeeAnne served lamb may be what ended her chance to become "Top Chef" because she was eliminated. Harold and Dave were none too pleased about the decision, but perhaps it will only motivate them to work harder in the upcoming finale.
Get caughtup and relive your favorite moments with our recaps:
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