Recap Top chef 5 episode 3

December 11, 2008 at 9:36 am 1 comment

By Arthur Perkins for

This was one of the least interesting Top Chef episodes ever. There was little attempt to display the results of judging and some short-cuts were taken in not presenting key aspect of judging decisions (such as who lost the Quickfire and who won the Elimination challenge. Plus the 7 minute commercial break is always a great way to turn off viewers. I actually went back on my VCR and timed it, because I could not believe it. Sure enough, there were two 3.5 minute all-commercial periods in minutes 41 to 48  of the show, broken only by a lame 15 second altercation involving Hosea. So let’s get on with a less-than-happy task:
Quickfire was called “Be prepared for curveballs”. Grant Achatz of Alinea restaurant in Chicago was the Guest Judge.  The apparent task was to take the page number in the Top Chef cookbook (product placement effort #1) and reinvent that recipe. However, about 10 minutes in, Padma told all chefs that the real task was to create a soup out of whatever ingredients they already had. Since there was too little time for them to make their own broth (major product placement activity coming next), chefs were providing with an unlimited supply of Swanson’s Broth(product placement effort #2). Teams were enthusiastic on the new task. The dishes shown were:
Leah – chilled white asparagus soup with brioche, tuna, and tapenade (note – Leah says she hates white asparagus)
Carla – shrimp tomato and coriander soup w/ cucumber and avocado salad
Stefan – Thai green curry bisque w/shrimp and scallop dumplings
Ariane – diced lamb, eggplant, red pepper and couscous soup
Jamie – chick pea soup w/pickled chiles, yoghurt, crispy shallots
Daniel – ham and egg soup w/ sauteed mushrooms, corn and cheese
Richard – black bean and roasted pasilla pepper soup w/ rice (funky Mexican soup)
Fabio – mushroom and asparagus soup w/ seared trout and salmon belly
Melissa – Italian Wedding Soup w/ black truffle Parmesan, linguini and chicken
The winner is Leah over Jamie and Daniel. This gives her immunity and the opportunity to select 6 other chefs to be on her team, which is given the horrible name Team Sexy Pants(they should lose just because of selecting that name). She chooses Stefan, Fabio, Hosea, Jamie, Melissa and Radhika. Presumably those are either the 7 best chefs or some excellent team players in there.
There was no loser’s group from which to organize the other team, which had a clear motivation to win because they were implicitly rated weaker. Jeff stepped us as that organizer. The others were Richard, Eugene, Ariane, Carla, Daniel and Alex. The name they adopted, presumably because they had the two oldest females in the competition, was Team Cougar.
Elimination Challenge
The focus of this was the Foo Fighters musical group, who were giving a rock concert in Rochester’s Blue Shield Center. They needed to be fed along with 60 others in their entourage (18 of whom are vegetarians) and the 4 judges and they wanted a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. Foo Fighter favorites like chocolate covered bananas and bacon were to be definitely included. The catch was that on arrival the chefs learned that they had only microwave ovens and toaster ovens plus one burner each to cook. The teams developed their menus:
Ariane – Butterball Turkey confit w/ mushroom gravy and cranberries
Alex – macaroni and cheese w/ bacon
Eugene – smoked ham
Daniel – potatoes
Jeff- corn spoonbread stuffing w/figs, cranberries, walnuts and onions
Carla – ? cobbler
Jeff – pumpkin mousse over fresh fruit
Richard – banana S’Mores w/vanilla cream
Leah –  Butterball Turkey w/ gravy
? – Sweet Potatoes
Hosea – Mashed Potatoes
Fabio – Side Salads
Jamie – vegan stuffing
Fabio – pumpkin tiramisu
Hosea – fruit cobbler
Melissa, Stefan, Radhika – they contributed but it was not clear which dishes
Although the turkey by Ariane and macaroni and cheese by Alex were clear winners, the vegan stuffing was judged about equal in quality, so the main meal appeared to me to be a slight edge to Team Cougar. The winning team was Team Sexy Pants, due to their good desserts while Team Cougar faltered there. The chefs on Team Sexy Pants got to see the concert while the losers cleaned up. Team Cougar was bitter about their loss, as they thought they had won. Tom had to ameliorate them by saying that the judging was close (indeed there would have been 8 voters and one of the them was uninterested in desserts).
Loser’s group started with the whole team, but Ariane, Alex, Eugene and Carla were dismissed from further judging. That left Daniel, Jeff and Richard. Daniel was dismissed because his potatoes were passable. Jeff’s two bad dishes plus his leadership were up against Richard’s S’Mores. I believe that the leadership efforts, which did distract him from making better food, were the reason why he survived. Richard’s lack of gooeyness and chocolateness in the S’Mores resulted in his elimination. Team Rainbow is no longer a team; it is just Jamie on her own. Frankly. I was tired of hearing about it anyway, as the editing decisions put that in too much.
After a traditional meal I look for a return to traditional Top Chef practices and will be disappointed if the policy changes mentioned at the top are not reversed.


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1 Comment

  • 1. Kathy T  |  December 12, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    “Plus the 7 minute commercial break is always a great way to turn off viewers. I actually went back on my VCR and timed it, because I could not believe it.”

    I’m so glad it isn’t just me. The first time I saw that, I figured I had just imagined the 15 seconds of show in the middle but then they did it again last week, in an episode they had to make 15 extra minutes longer! How about they let me go to bed on time and skip the 7 minutes of ads.


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."


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