This week’s contestants are:
Wilo Benet from Puerto Rico. Colicchio tells us that he’s Puerto Rico’s first celebrity chef, and reminds us that Benet was a judge during the finals of Top Chef Season 4, which took place in Puerto Rico.
Cindy Pawlcyn from the Napa Valley. Oseland tells us that she’s the queen of Napa Valley cooking, and she’s owned a restaurant for over 25 years.
Ludovic Lefebvre, originally from France, but currently owner of a restaurant in Los Angeles. He’s won many awards despite being fairly young, and has classical French training.
Rick Bayless, who you’ve surely heard of before even if you’re not a foodie -- he is Chicago’s best known chef of Mexican food. He’s the one chef I had heard of even before Top Chef. I remember doing book signing events for him when I worked for a national bookstore chain.
Quickfire. The chefs draw knives and must create a dish based around the color of their knives. They’ll be judged by a food stylist, cookbook author, and food photographer -- people that are really concerned about presentation and visual style.
Ludo’s dish is based around red. He serves steak tartare with watermelon, red onions and beet gazpacho. It looks like a plate of placenta. I’m sorry. I know that’s gross, but it’s true. Ludo runs out of time and forgets to put a tomato on the plate, and then the waiters forget to take his gazpacho out. He gets the waiters to take the gazpacho, but the judges think it makes the dish less appetizing.
Cindy has yellow and serves yellow vegetable curry over sweet corn grits and fried corn tortillas. The judges like the variety of texture and shades of yellow.
Rick has green and serves roasted vegetables, mole verde with tomatillos, green chiles, and pumpkin seeds. The judges call his dish complex and tasty.
Wilo has orange and serves smoked salmon tartare with coconut milk and tomato paste sauce. There are carrots in there somewhere as well. The judges like the texture but think he should have removed the ring he used to form the salmon cake. Wilo agrees.
Quickfire Scores: Ludo gets 3 stars, Cindy gets 3.5 stars, Rick gets 4 stars, and Wilo gets 4.5 stars.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs have to cook street food for tourists, and they’ll be basing their dish on a protein that the average American would find unappetizing. Wilo gets beef heart, Rick gets tongue, Cindy gets tripe (stomach), and Ludo gets pig ears.
Rick makes chorizo, bacon, and tongue tacos with guacamole and pickled onions. The judges love it, and Gael Greene kind of wants to go back for seconds.
Wilo makes beef, ham, and chicken “tripleta” in pita bread. Of course, the beef component is beef hearts. The judges appreciate the texture because normally heart can be chewy, and this isn’t.
Ludo struggles with getting his food cooked in a timely fashion. He made pork quesadilla with chorizo, pinto bean puree, lime aioli and smoked paprika. The judges make snarky comments about how long it takes to get their food while Ludo tries to charm them with his French accent. The judges aren’t sure all the different components work together.
Cindy makes hot and spicy menudo, a Mexican soup and hangover cure. The judges find it to be a bit underseasoned, but think the tripe is cooked well.
When the final scores are tallied, Ludo has 16.5 stars, Cindy has 15.5 stars, Rick kills it with 22.5 stars and Wilo has 19.5 stars. So Rick is moving on to the championship round, and the field is halfway filled out! Already! And next week, they are cooking for Neil Patrick Harris. Can’t wait! Love him.
The first chef arrives in the Top Chef kitchen, and it's Wilo Benet from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He's been a chef for twenty-seven years, and he does NOT look old enough to be able to say that. Did he start working as a chef when he was a toddler? Colicchio tells us that he's Puerto Rico's first celebrity chef, and reminds us that Benet was a judge during the finals of season four, which took place in Puerto Rico. Wilo definitely feels the pressure being on the other side of things now.
The second chef to arrive is Cindy Pawlcyn from the Napa Valley. Oseland tells us that she's the queen of Napa Valley cooking, and that she does "very rarefied and extremely intelligent cooking." Does that mean everyone else does common and dumb cooking? I don't know what he means by that comment. It's one of those things that sounds smart but really doesn't mean anything. Anyway, Cindy's owned a restaurant for over twenty-five years, and she hopes she doesn't go brain dead during the competition.
The third chef to arrive is Ludovic "Ludo" Lefebvre, who is originally from France but currently owns a restaurant in Los Angeles. He's won many awards despite being fairly young, and has classical French training. Between his emo hair and his tats, I'm sure he's the Johnny Depp of the culinary world. Also, his accent is strong enough that they caption most of what he says.
The final chef is Rick Bayless, who you've surely heard of before even if you're not a foodie -- he is Chicago's best known chef of Mexican food. He's the one chef I had heard of even before Top Chef. I remember doing book signing events for him when I worked for a national bookstore chain.
Kelly Choi welcomes them all to the kitchen and asks if anyone has butterflies. Rick Bayless admits that he does, because it's not his home kitchen and he doesn't know where things are. Ludo looks confused. Bayless adds that he was a judge before, but competing is totally different. Kelly Choi puts her eyebrows way up to show that she's listening, since I'm not entirely convinced that she's human. I think she might be an alien. What better way for an alien to infiltrate our culture than to host a reality show? Come to think of it, that might explain Samantha Harris too. Hmm. Also, the Chenbot. I think I'm onto something here.
Quickfire. The chefs draw knives and must create a dish based around the color of their knives, which was a challenge from Season Two. Mikey won. Seems like there are a lot of references to even-numbered seasons. Wilo has anxiety bout a one-color dish, since he thinks it'll be tough to make it work. They'll be judged by a food stylist, a cookbook author, and a food photographer -- people who are really concerned about presentation and visual style. Cindy is nervous, because she feels like she's old and slow. Aw. She'll kick their asses. I hope.