Top Chef Chicago Watch: Episode #6

DA BEARS! I think Chef Tom Colicchio said it best: “There are two things Chicagoans are really passionate about: One is their sports teams, and the other is their food.” So this week’s elimination challenge of cooking for a Bears game tailgate put Chicago sports fans in heaven. Paired with a”simple pleasures” quickfire, this episode was all about good food and good beer.Warning: Spoilers after the jump!

Ah…there it is, in all its glory…the infamous Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears! It’s honestly so exciting to see Chicago landmarks on TV! But anyway…

Interestingly, for a challenge that revolves primarily around beer, the guest judges were Koren Grieveson, and Paul Kahan of Avec, a restaurant that serves wine cuisine. Koren tasted the quickfire dishes, while Paul visited each chef’s tailgate station for the elimination challenge.

For the quickfire, a fired up and angry Jen was victorious for her shrimp beignets.

Starting the episode off with some fury over Zoi’s departure, Jen channeled her energy into winning the challenge, continually repeating “I’m doing this for Zoi.” Let’s just see how many times we’re going to keep hearing that throughout the season.

One of the unique qualities about the elimination challenge was that the crowd actually got to pick who would end up at the top or bottom. They filled out comment cards designed like football fields to share whether or not the food was a “touchdown” or a “fumble,” and the judges would decide who won or got kicked off among their choices.

Now, I have to say that amongst the “fumbles”, I was initially shocked by the judge’s decision to kick Ryan off, as opposed to his bottom of the batch contenders: Mark and Nikki. Had it been my decision, based on what was shown, I probably would have chosen one of the others. Mark barely had his act together…he was messy, his food did not look or even sound good. And Nikki not only ran out of food but she placed in the bottom among the crowd and in the quickfire. I think both of them commit bigger sins as chefs than Ryan did.

But after I did some thinking, I realized that this might be one of those times when the fact that I can’t actually taste the food for myself is coming into play. To me, Ryan’s food looked good and comparatively he had his act together, so maybe it just didn’t taste that great.

Trust me, I’m not overlooking the fact that his food did not belong at a tailgate whatsoever – I’m just analyzing who’s execution was worse. Would you rather eat an out of place upscale dish that looks decent? Or a miserably presented chicken skewer? Honestly, I’m not so sure. But overall, Ryan’s attempt at having a “California tailgate in Chicago” was hilarious. I especially liked Richard’s recap: “Ryan’s serving a five course meal…He’s got the mint on the pillow, the glass of wine…” It’s funny because it was true: he had chicken thighs, bread salad, poached pears with creme fraiche, and even a spiced cocoa. Some people can’t ever be taken out of their elements.

On the good side, our own main woman Stephanie is kicking some ass. She didn’t quite win this challenge but she was among the top three crowd favorites, and mentioned in the top three of the quickfire. Go girl! Others at the top included Dale for his crowd favorite ribs and Antonia for her finger licking Jamaican Jerk Sandwich.

The judges raved about the ease of a sandwich, how at tailgating a sandwich is definitely the way to go. But, oddly enough, they chose Dale as the winner -

-Dale, who made ribs. Are ribs really easy to eat at a tailgate? They sound delicious and I’m sure in that setting, ribs are considered tasty but I don’t think personally, I could hold my plate and eat ribs at the same time. A sandwich or something you can eat with a fork is more one-hand friendly. So those ribs must have been delicious!

I guess they don’t look so bad!


Title: Tailgating

Challenges: Quickfire - “Simple pleasures” – Create a dish that pairs well with a specific beer, Elimination – Create a meal to be served at a Chicago Bears game tailgate party.

Winner: Dale Eliminated: Ryan

Tune in for Episode 7 next week when we watch our chefs improvise at Second City!

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  • Anna

    Hey Hillary, I went to my first tail gate party last year with my 14 year old grandson and family,and I had a ball.My Corey is a sports fan of all sports,and now I am 72 and finally learning that sports can be fun.Grand children do that.Very nice article. Thanks Anna

  • evil chef mom

    I kept thinking that Jennifer was going to say ” I’m going to win one for the Gipper.”

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