Top Chef

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It's Up to The Egg At This Point

Bryan serves roasted hen, bacon, Brussels sprouts, Concord grape reduction, ruby quinoa, and arugula. I feel like he might have overcomplicated things. Finally, Jen serves sautéed chicken livers, steamed clams, macerated Cabernet grapes, wild mushrooms, and tendrils.

The train pulls into a station as Padma asks Chiarello what he thinks about the food. He thinks Kevin did well, but could have used more grape flavor. He loved Michael's use of so many different parts of the grape, of course. With Bryan's dish, he felt the bacon's smokiness overpowered the grape flavor. He pays Jen a compliment when he says he's totally going to steal the dish for one of his restaurants. Chiarello has to give a tribute to Napa Valley first, and he says that one chef told a story with his dish: Michael. What story did he tell? The story of how to kiss up to the judges? You know Michael saw Masters and used the idea. I mean, I'm sure the food was good and all, but it seemed like Jen's dish was better based on the reaction we saw. Anyway, Michael wins the Prius.

The next morning, the three men are eating breakfast and Kevin sends Jen a video voicemail in a flurry of product placement. Jen interviews that she's "ready to cook her fucking ass off," and seriously, I like this Jen so much better than the, "I'm ready to go home" and "I don't even know what I'm going to make" Jen from the past few weeks. The time off clearly did her some good. She adds that Eric Ripert is really proud of her for making it this far, and brags about her to all his patrons, but she will accept nothing less than winning the whole thing. I'm starting to get a little nervous about her chances due to the editing.

The cheftestants report to the final Elimination Challenge. Padma explains that it's the winery's season-ending Crush Party, and the challenge is to cater for 150 people using all local ingredients. They have to create two dishes; one vegetarian, and one using a local protein. They'll have five hours to prep and cook. Kevin interviews that he cooks locally in Atlanta, so he feels like he has an advantage. Yes, because the ingredients local to Atlanta are exactly like the ingredients local to Napa Valley.

They head to the local farmers' market for shopping, and the produce looks amazing. They have to choose their proteins, and Jen gets stuck in "I don't know what to make" mode, which is worrisome. She ends up getting duck. Michael is off buying every egg ever -- nine dozen. Kevin checks out Michael's haul and interviews that Michael's dishes are very complex, but Kevin thinks he can win with his simple, flavorful dishes. Yeah, screw Michael and his complexity!

Next, they head to the kitchen of a local restaurant to prep and cook. Bryan is impressed with the wood-fired oven. Michael lists off all the prep he has to do on his foie gras, and it sounds extensive. Kevin gives Jen some advice on using the word-burning oven, namely that the coals left behind after the wood burns will be really hot, as anyone who's ever sat around a campfire knows. Jen interviews that they're all giving each other tips because they want to beat the others at their best, not because of trickery or sabotage. That's why this season has been enjoyable for me -- that attitude (for most of them).

Bryan is braising short ribs, so he debones them first to make the cooking time faster. He is into local cooking anyway, and he doesn't think his brother is, so he feels he has an advantage. Michael interviews that there's a sibling rivalry, and he wants to beat Bryan, even if it means feelings are going to get hurt. I don't think Michael understands that you can beat someone fair and square without hurting his or her feelings; it's called not being a dick about it. Michael clearly hasn't mastered that yet.

Colicchio shows up to chat with the cheftestants. Kevin's up first, and admits that he's a little worried about braising his brisket in the time limit. Jen actually has time to talk about her dish, which never happens. Bryan explains his dishes, and as usual he has like a million ingredients. Michael quickly explains his dishes and Colicchio leaves. Afterwards, he interviews that he has concerns about Kevin with the time limit, and that Jen seems nervous. He adds that the Volt Brothers are both making really complicated dishes, vying for family bragging rights.

Jen worries that the grill isn't getting hot enough and Kevin tries to help her out. Apparently, she was the only one planning on grilling and she didn't tend to the coals, and they started to go out. She quickly changes her game plan, but she's disappointed. Kevin's got his own set of problems; his brisket is not as tender as he'd like and time is running out. Then there's some more sibling rivalry bullshit. Michael worries that his eggs won't be fully cooked, but he's running out of time too. He utters my favorite line of the night: "It's up to the egg at this point." Isn't that always the case?

The cheftestants carry their food to the lawn outside, where they will be serving the partygoers. Kevin chops some herbs while noting that he's had fun competing and he hates to see someone go home. Michael is happy to see that his eggs and foie gras both came out perfectly. Kevin thinks his food and flavors are good, but he thinks everyone made good food today.

The guests and judges arrive. Not sure why they couldn't provide cater waiters for each chef to help serve; Michael is particularly overwhelmed as his complicated dishes probably have complicated plating needs.

Padma heads over to Bryan's table first with fellow judges Colicchio, Gail, and Chiarello. Bryan introduces his dishes: his protein dish was fig-glazed short ribs, celeriac purée, wax beans, and wild arugula and his vegetarian dish was goat cheese ravioli, delicata squash purée and bronze fennel. The judges start with the ravioli, which they think has perfect texture, but needs salt and pepper. They think that the ribs also need some seasoning, because it would have elevated the flavors.

Michael is up next, and drinks the Kool Aid, saying that he's totally going to cook local food from now on. He introduces his dishes to the judges: his protein dish was turnip soup with foie gras terrine, poached pear, and glazed turnip and his vegetarian dish was vegetable pistou, heirloom tomato coulis, 63 degree egg, and fennel. The judges like the egg dish mostly, but Tom thinks that the egg flavor overwhelms the vegetables and Chiarello suggests that the vegetables were cut too small. Padma also feels like her egg wasn't served properly, and is thus too watery. They love the flavors in the foie gras dish, but Chiarello points out that the sauce overwhelmed the foie gras, which should be the star of the dish.

Kevin explains that, when catering, he's always concerned with impressing the diners as well as the judges. His protein dish was grass-fed brisket with pumpkin polenta and marinated root vegetables, and his vegetarian dish was roasted beets and carrots with carrot top puree and San Andreas cheese. Gail loves the colors in the vegetarian dish, and Padma is impressed by the complex seasoning. Padma calls the brisket "ropy," and Tom and Gail agree. Gail loves the polenta, but Tom can't get over the "tinny quality" of the beef.

Jen interviews that she's happy with all of her food, and the duck has a strong flavor, but she likes it. She introduces her dishes: her protein dish was grilled duck breast (but she ended up not grilling it because the coals weren't hot enough), braised duck legs, squash purée, and foie gras vinaigrette and her vegetarian dish was Chèvre mousse with honey mushrooms, braised radishes, and basil. She's also the only one to mention wine pairings with her food, which seems obvious. The judges think the vegetarian dish is a bit salty, but that it uses the seasonal ingredients well. Tom likes the strong duck flavor, and Chiarello likes that she used all of the parts of the duck. So no complaints about Jen's food! She's a shoe-in to make it to the next round, right?

Michael interviews that s

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