Top Chef

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Chuck: B | Grade It Now!
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Film Food

The non-comatose women of Talk to Her will be preparing a rack of lamb with cauliflower saffron puree and romesco sauce. Lamb, to Antonia's chagrin, "is muy, muy expensive," and she and Zoi can only afford enough to mandate perfect cutting on their part. Whole Foods is, strangely enough, fresh out of duck, so Mark and Ryan end up with quail for their dish, which excites Mark based on quail's flavor potential, but which makes the connection to A Christmas Story a bit more tenuous. They also score some first of the season cranberries, so it balances out.

Night. Day of Elimination. Andrew shares his bright idea to serve the meal as an oompa-loompa "to make more of a connection. I wanted to show them what an oompa-loompa was," which is apparently a full-grown man walking around on his shod knees and speaking in a cartoon voice. Dale and Richard shoot him down in an extremely polite manner (the former calls it "kitschy," the latter "too tongue in cheek"), considering that Andrew's idea is nothing short of idiotic.

The challenge, to be conducted at a space called Gallery 37, commences with the usual runaround. Nikki leaves a pan of kale to concentrate on rolling the pasta dough; Richard, tired of "sitting in the backseat" on previous challenges, strides forth as a leader, taking full responsibility for the outcome of his team's dish. He and Andrew, on caviar duty, look like they're working quite well together. Spike, however, thinks their combination of ingredients is "something I would not want to imagine," yet he does feel they present a challenge to his summer roll with chili-rubbed Chilean sea bass and pickled Swiss chard. Eh, ugh.

Backing up a season, Mark and Ryan are working on a spring roll, for another Asian-inspired dish (sensible given that it's informed by a scene in an Asian restaurant). Lisa and Stephanie collaborate nicely for the second week running on a New York strip, with a braised short rib and apple potsticker and caramel sauce. The apple and the caramel are a nice way to bring in a sweet element to an otherwise savory dish, if they manage to pull it off. Antonia and Zoi decide to stop adding saffron to their cauliflower, choosing taste over achieving the vibrant yellow they had envisioned.

As the clock runs down and plating of the first dish begins, Richard's using the electric smoker on the salmon and covering each plate with saran wrap -- the same presentation trick he used in the first Elimination challenge. This time, the wrap will capture the smoke, releasing it when punctured at the table. While I don't love the idea of being served a dish wrapped in plastic, I'm sure it can be done elegantly, and so far everything about this dish is making me rather curious. Unfortunately, the trusty smoker gives up the ghost less than halfway through the plating, leaving the three gents to explore alternative methods of imparting smokiness to the salmon.

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Top Chef

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