Top Chef

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Chuck: B- | Grade It Now!
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The Elements

Team Water's poached salmon with faux caviar, parsnip puree and watercress salad arrives first -- with the pink salmon, orange caviar and green salad, the plate looks beautiful, but Andrew revisits his concern about scales, even though "Richard assured us that there was only a couple of pieces." Richard describes cooking for such a large group of people as his "worst nightmare," a dream that can only get worse when Ming, after favorably commenting on the caviar, says "it's too bad there's scales on the salmon." One of those couple of pieces definitely ended up in a bad place -- Ming's "got five scales in my mouth" as Colicchio questions the wisdom of cooking salmon sous vide since, in his opinion, it's not good.

While the judges seem to be getting all four first dishes, I'm guessing that each other guest only gets one. Richard says something about cooking for 300, which looks more like the size of the party than 80.

Moving on, Team Fire's grilled shrimp with pickled chili salad, deviled aioli and miso-smoked bacon is next out, and Padma finds it "amazing." Ming agrees, and Tom mentions the spice, but no one thinks it's too spicy -- oh, hey, Nancy Silverton ("It's fire," she reminds us). Random male party guest comments on the heat of the dish, while the woman next to him frowns like she's got weights attached to each corner of her mouth.

Nikki expresses confidence in the quality of their duck breast with citrus salad and pomegranate (what? I thought they used them all) prosecco aperitif, even though she thinks the drink could have been better. Yeah, you could have called it a pometini! I think we all know not to take Nikki seriously by now, which is reinforced when it comes to light that Team Air did not render the (very fatty) duck skin. "They need to score it -- it's the most basic thing about duck breasts," counsels Ming; Nancy expresses irritation over the drinkette, and Tom agrees. I like me some Nancy Silverton.

Team Earth brings up the rear, but Antonia, with her bionic palate, "tasted our dish, I thought it tasted good," so their beef Carpaccio with mushroom salad and sunchoke aioli should be in the clear. Except for the fact that, other than rosemary ("a bad choice," thinks Gail), it's bland and tasteless. Ming yearns for some fleur de sel on the meat, while Colicchio says "these are earthy ingredients and there's nothing earthy about them at all." Even the other diners are unimpressed -- one woman "can't taste anything," while another thinks that someone from this team will be sent home tonight. "Ooh, ouch," says her dining companion, and I want to hang out with them and their chardonnay. All the guests will be filling out comment cards, so Antonia, Spike and Zoi should probably be worried.

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Top Chef

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