Another day, another challenge awaiting our chefs, and poor Stefan is worried. It’s his birthday, and during his season there was a birthday curse — chefs seemed to go home on their birthdays or immediately thereafter. Happy birthday, losers! I want to tell Stefan he shouldn’t be so negative. He makes great food! He has his own restaurant! There’s no way that could happen, right? Sorry, didn’t mean to laugh right then. Something in my eye. Or throat. Whatever. Really, this season the chefs seem to be performing at a particularly high level (if the judges can be believed), and maybe Stefan should prepare to pack his bags. Anything could happen, curse or no curse.
Quickfire Challenge! The chefs meet Padma and Daisley Gordon, owner of Marche, at Pike Place Market. For the challenge, they have to divide into teams of two. Somehow Josh ends up with Dallas John, and I can’t help but thing two producers stood offscreen and shoved them together, just to see the fireworks.
The chefs will be making a meal for the people who work at Pike’s Place — breakfast-to-go… on a stick. They have one hour to set up and cook. They also have to run over to Sur La Table to buy cooking equipment. This challenge makes my head hurt and I’m not even attempting it.
Eliza finds this challenge exhilarating, because she used to follow Widespread Panic around the country and sold vegan sushi out of a van. Wow, I am pretty sure Eliza will be going home sooner than I expected. Vegan sushi? Please.
So, Dallas John is paired with his mortal enemy, Josh. And you know what? Dallas John lets Josh come up with the idea because he wants the cranky hothead to be in his comfort zone. Dallas John may be a jerk, but he’s not an idiot.
John & Josh
Chilaquiles: tortilla, salsa, quail egg, avocado-heirloom tomato relish
Padma seems to like how it tastes, and Daisley says there’s seasoning in it. So, not sure if that’s a rave, but I don’t think they’re going home.
Eliza & Josie
Ricotta, raspberry & sausage pancake with jalapeño maple syrup
It dissolves on Padma’s stick, so that might be a problem. Daisley says it’s a dessert/breakfast combo, which sounds gross to me.
Micah & Kristen
Bacon & cinnamon waffle, pecan maple syrup, boysenberry & strawberry jam
Now this sounds like dessert, or really diabetes on a stick. No comment from the judges.
CJ & Tyler
Salmon & cream cheese crepe
Padma is amazed at how well hers holds together. I can’t say a crepe on a stick sounds all that appealing, though.
Bart & Sheldon
Green forrest breakfast sandwich: eggs, cheese, pancetta, bacon & spinach
Daisley thinks this one was a clever combination. First glowing review!
Danyele & Lizzie
Summer berries with crispy pancetta
Granted, Danyele said everything was gone when they tried to gather ingredients. But this just looks like leftovers. Daisley loves the berries.
Brooke & Stefan
Croque monsieur: presses hem & cheese sandwich with toasted fig
This seems like something Stefan might serve at his L.A. restaurant, Stefan’s at L.A. Farm.
So, who screwed up? Daisley says Danyele & Lizzie didn’t make much of an effort, which I totally agree with. Josie & Eliza, because the ricotta pancake wasn’t great and the jam was too sweet. The best teams? Sheldon & Bart made breakfast sandwich that was easy to eat and was well-executed, while Josh & Dallas John had a good riff on the taco concept. Josh can’t believe it, but he and John worked well together. So, the winner is… Sheldon & Bart. They both have immunity.
Elimination Challenge! Teams remain the same, and each team has to draw a knife bearing the name of some weird ass ingredient. The challenge? Each team must create a dish highlighting said weird ass ingredient. Oh I’m sorry, these are artisanal weird ass ingredients, which means you can have them gift-wrapped and sent to people you dislike. They will be judged by the people who create these horrible sounding things (coconut curry chocolate? Salmon candy? Rose petal jelly? Blech!), and they have two hours to make them lunch. This may be one of the grossest challenges yet, “Top Chef,” just saying.
Dallas John seems to be taking charge this time around, telling Josh he wants pork and he wants medallions, stat. The problem is that Josh wants to keep the peace, so he isn’t bringing up what he sees as wrong (too thick grits) and Dallas John is keeping his mouth shut about what Josh is screwing up (possibly overcooking the pork) for fear the guy’s going to blow up and knock off his ridiculous mustache.
Padma introduces the chefs to the people who make the kitschy crap ingredients they had to work with, as well as Daisley Gordon, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons and Hugh Acheson. I hope they brought their barf bags!
The judges will be served in two rounds. First up!
Josh & Dallas John
Pan-seared pork tenderloin with truffle popcorn grits
Neither Josh nor Dallas John seems proud of this dish, and I think they may want to be worried, even with the bar set very, very low.
Micah & Kristen
Cheese curds three ways: béchamel, raw & fried
Stefan & Brooke
Rose petal glazed muscovy duck with braised cabbage
Sheldon & Bart
Candied salmon with sweet & sour salad
Good thing they have immunity — salmon candy may be the grossest ingredient I can imagine cooking with. Poor guys.
Daisley thinks the duck is tough, and Gail and Tom think it’s too sweet. John & Josh’s grits, in Hugh’s opinion, suck. Tom thinks the sauce is a gloppy mess. Gail thinks the curds are a mess, and Padma couldn’t tell it was cheese. Tom wanted more candied salmon.
Well, that’s not a great, is it? Next!
Josie & Eliza
Curry cardamom broth with manila clams & seared white king salmon
Lizzie & Danyele
Coconut curry chocolate mouse tart
Lizzie had wanted to do something with fish — and I really wish she had. A gooey tart? Not original and so obvious. I’m surprised Danyele is still in this competition, honestly.
CJ & Tyler
Pork crumpet burger with spicy dill pickles
CJ thinks a burger will appeal to Tom. I don’t.
Hugh thinks the crumpet on the burger is a soggy mess, and Tom is incensed. The best they could dream up is a stupid burger? I wish Tyler had fought CJ on this one, as it was his stupid idea. Gail thinks Josie & Eliza’s broth is inedibly salty. The tart is mushy and Gail declares it one of her least favorites.
Gail thinks there wasn’t a lot of finesse. Tom doesn’t have a favorite because everything was so bad. Padma apologizes to the makers of the crappy kitsch food.
Okay, let’s take a moment to talk, “Top Chef.” If you give people random food items made solely for tourists to take home and foist on unsuspecting friends and relatives, you’re going to have a crappy outcome. Here in L.A., you can get some of the same lousy stuff at the Farmer’s Market. Yes, some of it is tasty, but most of it is just weird. I call foul, and really, no one should be going home for this challenge.
Tom comes by to tell the chefs everything sucked. There will not be a win and no one will get the $10,000. An entire team will be going home tomorrow. Everyone is depressed. Dallas John thinks it’s the worst plate of food he’s put out in 30 years, so I’m guessing he blames Josh.
The Red, Yellow and Grey Teams are called back before the judges. That’s Stefan & Brooke, C.J. & Tyler, and Dallas John & Josh.
Stefan blames the stinky rose petal jelly. Hugh doesn’t care — he should have fixed it. Tom thought Dallas John & Josh’s food was what you’d expect from someone who doesn’t like cooking. Hugh declares the burger overcooked and soggy. CJ stops to tell the judges he thought the dessert was a debacle. Hugh declares their burger even worse. Ouch.
The judges grump back and forth. Hugh wins the prize for best comment, when he describes the rose petal jelly as, when used too liberally, being like eating somebody’s grandmother.
Well, Stefan did say he has the birthday curse, so I have a sinking feeling he and Brooke might be going home. But it’s CJ and Tyler. I’m sad that Tyler let CJ run with his crappy idea, and he’s paid for it. Stefan’s broken the birthday curse. Tyler is happy that he stayed sober.
It’s not all bad news, however. CJ and Tyler will be moving on to Last Chance Kitchen — and facing off with Kuniko. So, if they can deliver the goods, they could return to “Top Chef.” But if the show keeps digging up challenges like this one, why would they want to?
What did you think of the challenge? Were you surprised by how much the judges hated the food? Have you been to Pike Place Market?