Recap: ‘Top Chef’ – ‘Higher Steaks’

12.07.11 6 years ago 10 Comments


We’re down to thirteen chefs, and the boys are noticing they’re being picked off a little faster than the girls (okay, we’ve only had guys getting the boot for a while) and suddenly it’s the boys vs. the girls. Of course, Heather thinks this is a great opportunity to gloat. Sigh. It’s an individual challenge, people. Stop being ten years old for a minute and just cook. I had been feeling that this group of chefs was a little more mature and sophisticated than some we’ve gotten in past seasons, but I may have to reassess if they keep acting like they’re in a fourth grade kickball tournament. 

Dean Fearing of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas is our guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge. For the challenge, the chefs draw knives, each bearing the name of a mother sauce. They have to create a dish featuring a sauce based on the mother sauce they’ve chosen, and they have an hour and a half. I think this is going to be a bear of a challenge, though I know it seems simple (hey, sauce, that stuff you pour out of a jar, how hard is that? Kidding). Sauces are easy to burn, easy to overseason (or oversalt) and this is so much about nuance a pinch too much of anything could ruin everything. 

Chris C – veloute – Halibut over mussels, andouille, mushrooms and veloute

Chris used the fat from the andouille and mussels in the veloute, which makes Dean nod his head in what appears to be a happy way. I’m thinking this is a good sauce. 

Edward – bechamel – Cauliflower milk bechamel with poached red snapper, crab and fried oyster

I like the idea of a lighter bechamel (and really, who doesn’t?), and the cauliflower seems like a clever option. 

Grayson – hollandaise – Scallop, charred corn sauce, corn ravioli & blueberry balsamic reduction

I’m not sure about the blueberry balsamic reduction, but it looks good. 

Paul – Espagnole – Quail with pickled and roasted mushrooms, garlic scapes and okra

Dean does not seem pleased when Paul admits he didn’t use a roux. Paul wonders if he should have lied. Nah — a good chef would know the truth anyway. 

Whitney – tomate – Poached shrimp, fennell pilau, sauteed okra and pancetta

Whitney also did not use a roux. Whitney is taken aback when Dean says a true tomate uses roux. She’d never do such a thing! Um, I’d take a tip from Dean Fearing any day, Whitney. Pay attention.

Heather – bechamel – Gruyere croquette. apple & ginger compote and Asian slaw

No comment here, but the apple-ginger compote sounds pretty delicious. This is like the fanciest fried cheese ever. 

Beverly – Espanole – Crab maki roll with rib eye, charred shallots, peppercorn, sake and red wine

I thought Beverly was making steak? Did I imagine that? Was she kidding, or did she change her mind?

Heather points out that Beverly always cooks Asian food (I guess I’m not the only one who’s noticed) and she thinks the judges are probably bored with her. Still, Dean seems sad she didn’t include more sauce, and that might be the bigger problem today, at least.

Dakota – bechamel – Peach infused bechamel, seared scallop, truffle and lemon crab

This sounds awfully sweet. Dean thinks it’s almost like a hollandaise. I don’t think that’s a good thing, honestly.

Ty-lor – hollandaise – Hollandaise with lemongrass and citrus zest, ahi tuna and baby bok choy

Dean wants to know if he clarified his butter. He did not. Dean is not going to be an easy judge, I think.

Nyesha – tomate – Tomate sauce with coconut ras el hanout and braised lentils

Dean makes a happy face while eating this. Maybe Nyesha will finally win the immunity she wants so badly.

Dean thinks there were a lot of sweet sauces and overly acidic sauces. The worst were Dakota (too peachy), Nyesha (too many flavors made it muddled – I guess that wasn’t a happy face from Dean after all) and Beverly (more wasabi than sauce). Winners were Dakota (Dean loved that she made a ravioli), Chris C. (Dean liked how he used the poaching liquids) and Paul (perfect pickling). 

The winner is… Grayson. She did think she had a lock on this challenge, and it turns out she was right.

The Elimination Challenge is a team challenge (boo!) and the chefs will have to split into small groups to cook a four course steak dinner for the the Cattle Baron’s Ball. They’ll be cooking at Southfork, the ranch featured on “Dallas” and the winner gets a car. 

Off to Whole Foods to break things and generally be annoying and frantic. I get that this is a rough challenge, having to cook for 200 people. but really, that’s no excuse for kicking stuff off the shelves. 

Back at the kitchen, Heather is annoyed by Beverly. Beverly is trying to make her shrimp perfect, darn her! Okay, I don’t know why Heather is so fixated on Beverly, but this is only succeeding in making Heather look like a psychopath. 

It wouldn’t be an episode of “Top Chef” without someone slicing up their hand, and this week our unlucky chef is Ty-lor. He’s going to wrap it up and keep going because he is DETRMINED. But at the end of the day (after Ty-lor heads to the hospital), the real problem is no one wants to step up and take over some of Ty-lor’s tasks on steak. Still, Ty-lor comes back after spending all night in the waiting room of an E.R. for four stitches, ready to work. I admire his determination, but I suspect everyone’s already sleep deprived — he’s in no shape to do his best work. Or work at all. Or drive. Or be near an open flame. This may not end well at all. 

Heather is furious that Beverly has been working on shrimp for two days. Dakota thinks Heather is an obnoxious bully. I think Dakota’s right. Still, I do wonder if Beverly’s a little slow. Yes, she has to peel and devein a lot of shrimp, but the footage they’re showing us of her suggests she’s doing itty bitty surgeries on each shrimp. Yes, you don’t want to be sloppy, but you don’t want to be ridiculous about it, either. 

Tom Colicchio and Dean drop by the kitchen. Tom isn’t quite sure why Dakota is leaving the skins on her red peppers. Dean notes Whitney isn’t a using a double boiler. Ty-lor tells Tom he’s marking the steaks on the grill, then finishing in the oven. Ty-lor doesn’t look like he’s going to pass out, so I guess he’s running on adrenaline and fumes. And espresso. 

We learn that this is the largest fundraiser in the country for the American Cancer Society. That’s nice. 

Behind the building, Ty-lor is grilling in 112 degree heat. Really, this guy is going to either throw up or pass out.

Time to eat! Tom makes a point of telling the other judges (yay, Hugh Acheson is back!) that Lindsay and Heather have taken the lead. This is either a compliment or his way of telling everyone that, if the food sucks, one of them goes home. 

1st Course – Sarah, Dakota, Beverly – Tomato-watermelon gazpacho, poached shrimp and avocado mousse

Tom thinks it’s properly seasoned but it’s a little safe. Hugh thinks it’s a little too acidic, but a nice starter. I’m with Tom — I’ve seen something similar on a lot of menus, and not even in great restaurants. I hope Beverly feels committing two days to shrimp for a so-so dish was worth it. 

2nd Course – Paul, Ed, Chris J. – New York strip carpaccio, heirloom tomato salad, vinaigrette and mushroom “bacon”

Tom thinks there’s no point of view. Hugh thinks they should have peeled the tomatoes. But Dean points out the steak is perfectly cooked. 

Lindsay is worried about the steaks, and she rushes to get them cooked, jamming trays into the oven and pushing around the guys in the kitchen. And, of course, she cooks them too early. Ty-lor’s hard work is all for naught. I think Ty-lor is legitimately allowed to kill Lindsay at this point. Really, I don’t think anyone else would mind, either. She’s not Heather, but she’s close. 

3rd Course – Nyesha, Ty, Whitney, Chris C. – Grilled rib eye, creamy potato gratin, braised greens and compound butter

It looks good — but if it’s cold, ick. When Padma asks who worked on the dish, Nyesha neglects to mention that Lindsay stepped in and messed up everything, but hopefully that will come out later. Hugh says the steak is messy and one person at the table says her steak isn’t medium rare. Dean notes this is a problem. Tom thinks the gratin, which was Whitney’s responsibility. is not cooked. Nyesha’s sauce and butter get a unanimous thumbs up.

4th Course – Lindsay, Grayson, Heather – “Right side up” Texas peach cake, peach salad and candied pecan steusel

Tom thinks Heather did a great job with the cake. Hugh wanted more sugar. Heather’s a lunatic, but she is talented, I guess. 

Back in the stew room as the chefs await the judges’ decisions, Heather wants to know what happened with the steaks. Ty-lor takes responsibility. Heather nods quickly, as if she doesn’t really care, then asks Beverly why she spent so much time on her stupid shrimp. Beverly squirms but doesn’t really justify her actions. I think Beverly may want to invest in body armor or a good pepper spray, because it’s still early in the competition and Heather is already ANGRY. 

The judges ask to see Nyesha, Heather and Chris Jones. I think they may be the best, but I’m not sure. 

Padma declares they turned in the best elements of the challenge. They thought Heather’s cake was perfectly moist, Chris’ steaks were perfectly cooked and Nyesha’s butter and sauce added brightness to an otherwise crappy dish. The winner is… Heather. Ugh. She gets a car. Just don’t let her run over Beverly with it. 

So, who’s on the bottom? I hope Lindsay is pulled into this. The bottom is Ty, Whitney and Ed. No Lindsay? Really? 

The judges start in on Ty-lor. He mentions that firing at the right time would have helped (Lindsay!) but then takes full responsibility. Do you want to go home, Ty-lor? Don’t be a hero! The judges ask Whitney why she made a cream-based dish on a 112 degree day. And, oh yeah, it was raw. Tom tells Ed his salad was a boring mishmash. 

I think Whitney’s going home. She really hasn’t stood out at any point so far, so it wouldn’t be a big surprise. 

Tom tells the chefs he’s thinking they picked the wrong finalists and it’s easy to send someone home this week. He seems genuinely pissed off that dinner was not up to his standards. Ouch. And yes, Whitney gets the boot. 

Oh, my. Next week looks like lots of yelling and bullying (okay, that’s all Heather) and Heather bitching about being paired with Beverly. Yes, Heather, karma’s a bitch. 

Whitney will take on Chuy in Last Chance Kitchen at, so don’t wave good-bye to her just yet. Okay, soon, maybe, but not right now. 

Do you think Heather had a legitimate bone to pick with Beverly, or was she being unfair? Should Lindsay have been in the final three? And who’s your favorite so far? 

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