Top Chef Chicago Watch: Episode #8

This week’s episode was all about constraints. The quickfire posed a 15 minute time constraint to make an entree, while the elimination had a budget constraint of $10 for a well balanced, healthy and simple family meal. A chef can cook anything he wants in an ideal competition, but the measure of a good chef can only come from the presence of restrictions.

But the episode had another element to it, and that was family. When you’re cooking for your family in everyday life, you often have these sorts of constraints, all the while having to be concerned with how healthy the meal actually is.

In other words, I thought this week had great challenges.

Warning: Spoilers after the jump!

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really been a believer in Antonia all season, but wow, what a week it was for her! She made a believer out of Oprah’s personal chef Art Smith with her rice salad for the quickfire (pictured above), and took the elimination challenge with her whole wheat pasta and chicken vegetable stirfry.

I do admit, her pasta dish looked quite delicious. And it was fitting that as one of the only chefs on the show with a kid, she won the family challenge. Good job Antonia.

Among her partners at the top were Nikki with her roast chicken, and Andrew with his fennel salad atop chicken. I thought Andrew’s dish sounded great and I agree with Gail that he “expanded [the kid's] culinary language” by serving them fennel in a tasty way.

Now, Bravo took a poll to find out what viewers thought was the “cutest moment” of this episode. Was it the chefs interacting with the kids? Was it Tom interacting with the kids? Or was it…Mark? Also known as the “Aussie/New Zealander,” Mark does happen to have an adorable personality. He always seems to be ‘discovering America’ for the first time, even though he has been living in NY.

Sadly, he was told to pack his knives this episode after a curry full of bad choices and a poor quickfire performance as well (did you notice all three of the bottom in the elimination were also in the bottom for the quickfire?) I will miss his clueless explanations each episode and the fun he brought to the show, but I don’t disagree with the judge’s decision. It was his time to go. He seemed to be missing something in the way of thinking about his dishes. It always just seemed like an ill conceived plop of stuff on a plate, or at least lately…

But Mark did manage to receive a special goodbye from Tom:”For the record, I don’t dislike you. You’ve been a great competitor. You’re fun to be around. I’m sure we’ll catch up after this and share a beer….or a pint.” I think he’s the only one to ever receive comment after the “Pack Your Knives” shpeal.

I was quite nervous Stephanie would be sent home, since she was on the bottom. She’s so strong in some challenges but occasionally she can get a little discombobulated if she doesn’t know what she’s doing from the start. I’m glad she’s still there!

Her presence at the bottom however raised an interesting question. One of the judges commented that her dish was “a telltale sign of a restaurant chef who doesn’t cook at home very much.” Now, the question is: Which is more important in this sort of competition – being a good restaurant chef or home cook? You would assume a great chef is just as good when cooking dinner for their family but I could see where there might be a difference. Readers, feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

EPISODE 8 RECAP:

Title: Common Threads

Challenges: Quickfire - Create an entree in 15 minutes Elimination – Create a simple, healthy meal for a family of 4 with a $10 budget.

Winner: Antonia, Eliminated: Mark

Tune in for Episode 9 next week when our chefs cater a wedding!



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  • Katie

    Uh … do they not realise that Mark is from New Zealand? They don’t call it a “pint” there – the pint thing is English!

  • http://www.espn.com John Hastings
  • http://stickygooeycreamychewy.blogspot.com Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy

    Great recap! I was a litle sad to see Mark go. I was really gunning for Lisa. She gets on my last nerve! I’ve been following the show on my blog too. Stop by and comment if you have a chance. I’m doing weekly Top Chef giveaways.

  • http://www.herbaceous.net/ Herbs

    Thanks for the recap, BTW People in New Zealand do call it a pint but is often referred to as a handle.

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