Top Chef Chicago Watch: Episode #7
On this week’s Top Chef, we laugh along with the chefs as they visit Second City, the Windy City’s own original improvisational comedy theater. Paired with a pastry/dessert quickfire challenge that was no laughing matter, this week really forced the chefs to do their own improvisation.
Warning: Spoilers after the jump!
Let’s cut to the chase. Why is it that so many talented chefs are so afraid of making desserts? It frankly just baffles me. I understand that baking and cooking are not the same thing, but shouldn’t most chefs be skilled in all sorts of food preparation. I mean, if you’re on a show like Top Chef, you should at least have some knowledge or ability in the dessert department, be it your forte or not.
For example, Lisa “swore to herself she’d never do a pastry” on the show. But come on, you know they’re going to ask you to make one! Versatility is part of the challenge. Lucky for her, guest judge Johnny Iuzzini wound up mentioning Lisa as a favorite. Once she conceded to go along with the challenge, she apparently did quite well.
But, the same did not fare for the elimination challenge. Her and her partner Antonia’s self-proclaimed restrictions got the best of them. With the chefs receiving their challenge from the stage of the Second City show, they were asked to create dishes from categorical suggestions from the audience. A color, a feeling and an ingredient were the components of each dish, leaving Antonia and Lisa stuck with “magenta, drunk Polish sausage,” to which they both simultaneously exclaimed “We’re not using Polish sausage!”
Huh? You’re not using Polish Sausage? But I thought that was the ingredient? There have been many many times when I get angry at the judges for focusing less on the food itself and more on the literal wording of the challenge, but this time I’m behind them all the way. After Antonia and Lisa came up with a Chilean sea bass dish (with little alcohol or magenta color, mind you) and a bit of chorizo thrown in, it might as well have been a “make anything you want” challenge. The fact that both of them refused and thought they were too good for Polish Sausage made both of them come across as incredibly snobby. Not only that, it really proves that they’re not top chefs…because a true good chef would make something tasty and delicious out of any ingredient thrown at them. That’s my two cents, hmph.
Another team did the exact opposite. Stephanie and Jen embraced the challenge after being assigned “Orange turned-on asparagus” and decided to take it all the way with a “menage a trois” of orange, goat cheese and asparagus. But unfortunately, they took it almost too far. Their happy spirits and ideas for phallic presentation wound up causing them to overlook the mess that the plate turned out to be. And not that I had the chance to taste it, but it didn’t really sound all that good.
However, it was quite sad to see their plate chastised so much after all the enthusiasm they put into it. Unlike their chopping block peers, they weren’t snooty or too good for any part of this challenge. But unfortunately, the judges chose Jen to go home. It seemed as though they only chose Jen because they couldn’t figure out who was more responsible on the other team. Antonia and Lisa were too much in agreement that it was hard to pick between the two. But, if it were up to me, show’s rules or not, I probably would have sent both of them home. Antonia had another week in the bottom of both the Quickfire and Elimination. But, alas, I guess we won’t be hearing Jen repeat “I’m doing this for Zoi” all too many more times.
Now, on to the good dishes. At the top of the notch this week was Richard and Dale for their admittedly inventive Tofu Steak Marinated in Beef Fat with Green Curry inspired by “green, perplexed, tofu.” It certainly lived up to the challenge and just sounded like a great dish overall. I don’t personally ever enjoy tofu but the concept of the “tofu not knowing whether it’s soy or steak” was pretty creative in both the logical and culinary sense. I do certainly give them props.
But, I have to say I was rooting for Andrew and Spike’s Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup with Vanilla Creme Fraiche and was sad they didn’t win. Inspired by the phrase of “yellow, love, vanilla,”it just seemed like everything about this dish was perfect. Noted by the judges, it was seasoned to perfection, and they both even said they tasted it hundreds of times. And, after finding out they had no electrical equipment, neither Andrew nor Spike threw up in their arms in a frenzy – they immediately embraced the challenge of mashing the squash themselves and pouring more of their hearts into the soup. Not to mention, vanilla creme fraiche with butternut squash soup – that just sounds good!
Spike finally got his soup after all. I’m pretty sure he stole Daniel Boulud’s phrase (from two episodes ago) that “a soup is the best test of a good chef” and claimed it as his own mother’s but hey, I know I can’t back that up.
Overall, many of the chefs proved their improvisational skills this week in both pastry and culinary comedy. Our own Stephanie may have wound up on the bottom this week but I do believe it was through no fault of her own. She showed she had great worskmanship and both the cheese and the bread (the disliked components of the dish) were not her idea. I do believe that’s why Jen was sent home.
EPISODE 7 RECAP:
Challenges: Quickfire - The Top Chef Cookbook Challenge – Create a dessert that will be published in the cookbook Elimination – Pair up and create a dish based on words yelled out at Second City – color, emotion and ingredient (i.e. purple depressed bacon).
Winner: Richard and Dale Eliminated: Jen
Tune in for Episode 8 next week when we watch our chefs cook with the little ones!