Recap Top Chef 5 Episode 4

December 17, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Posted on 12/04/2008.

There was a repeat last night of the 7 minute commercial break almost at the end. This time the 15 second interlude was Hosea and Leah flirting. Otherwise, it was a quite interesting episode with plenty of challenge for the chefs.
The Guest Judge was Rocco DiSpirito, most recently a Dancing with the Stars competitor but usually a celebrity chef. The Quickfire Challenge was deceptively simple: create an amuse-bouche (which I think Leah defined as a one bite starter). Chefs were told that Rocco loves bacon, so they were supposed to infer that the dish should be savory because that is what he thinks is correct for breakfast. One chef did not agree and many did not follow the “one bite” philosophy.
Fabio – he created a sweet breakfast dish, a brioche with brulee banana and expresso cream
Jamie – Bacon Lettuce tomato breakfast sandwich
Daniel – cornflake crusted zucchini flower stuffed with hash
Stefan – Huevos Rancheros w/ salsa and cheese
Ariane – French Toast w/chli maple syrup
Melissa – French toast, eggs, strawberries, bacon
Jeff – twice baked potatoes, yoghurt sorbet with fruit
Leah – bacon, quail eggs, cheese w/ grilled bread
Radhika – feta cake w/ omelet, bacon, Hollandaise sauce
Those chefs not having their dishes shown in this QF as best I could see were Hosea, Eugene, Alex and Carla.
The judging by Rocco was very direct. He hated Fabio’s sweet breakfast and Fabio commented that he should have listened to the hint. Daniel’s use of corn flakes did not resonate with either me or Rocco. Who in the gourmet world wants to eat cornflakes if something better is available?
The race for the best was between Stefan. Leah and Jamie. Stefan was lauded for his fancy container (hollowed egg shell cut precisely) but I say who cares since it does not impact the food and Tom Colicchio is adamant on the quality of the food being the only criteria for judging.. Leah was lauded for great arrangement of flavors in one bite and Jamie  for beautifully assembled and perfectly prepared dish. The nod went to Leah, who won immunity for the Elimination Challenge plus Rocco’s book “Rocco Gets Real”. I should note that Jeff, whose tasty dish had two separate components, clearly failed the one bite criteria. I should also note that the Keep It Simple Stupid philosophy appeared to be key to success (and for the Elimination Challenge below as well)
The Elimination Challenge was to do a 2.5 minute live demonstration of a dish for television. Chefs had limited time to buy produce and only one hour to prepare for this. Fabio talked the fish retailer in Whole Foods to allow him to cut tuna himself. Hosea and Eugene then did the same. We will surely have 3 tuna-based dishes. Here is the menu:
Fabio – tuna w/ roasted carrots and asparagus salad
Jamie – bittersweet salad w/ duck egg, bacon and caviar
Alex – rose infused crème brulee
Daniel – ginger sweet soy skirt steak w/ cabbage salad
Stefan – minestrone soup w/ pancetta and herbs
Ariane – New Jersey beefsteak tomato salad w/watermelon and feta cheese
Jeff- Malfouf roll w/ shrimp and muhammara sauce
Leah – seared duck breast w/corn and blueberry hash
Eugene – tuna sashimi and pea shoot salad
Radhika – sweet shrimp and cucumber salad
Hosea – crispy ahi tuna roll wasabi peas
Carla – tortilla soup
Melissa – blackened habanero shrimp
Comments by the judges were:
Leah – she ran over, so “it’s a good thing you have immunity”
Alex – he too ran over but worse his brulee never set properly in the one hour prep time
Daniel – he smoked up the studio plus his hamming it up was over the top
Stefan – showed insufficient personality
Jeff- pulled it off
Ariane – perfect presentation
Winners were Jeff, Fabio and Ariane. the overall winner for the second time in a row was Ariane, whose comment on this was “move over you young kids, here comes the old lady”. Her point is that she has broad experience which is difficult for younger people to have. I like her a lot, not just because she’s from New Jersey (without the Joe Piscopo accent). She has redeemed her poor showings in the first 2 episodes.
The bottom were Melissa, Jamie, Leah, and Alex. Leah was immune and not subject to elimination.
Now an extraordinary (but clearly highly planned) surprise happened. Tom snuck into the sleeping quarters and awakened the 3 top competitors. He told them that their dishes would be judged by the 4 TODAY show hosts and taped at 6:37am for showing on “the day after the episode shows”. That would make it this morning for the showing. So that occurred without incident except for Cathy Lee Gifford spitting out Jeff’s shrimp on-camera. The judges  went with simple and flavorful and picked Ariane’s dish as the winner. She will also get a 5 minute live spot on the TODAY” show sometime and she won a set of chef’s tools from Rocoo..
The 3 remaining losers were now judged. Melissa had been defensive during her presentation when criticized. Jamie left the lack of doneness of her egg whites to impact her and was angry on camera. Alex picked a dish which had no chance at setting up in time and then his on-camera presentation failed, leaving him without crème brulee. The loser was Alex, who went home to his fiancee for their marriage in one month (which means it has already happened).
I was very pleased with the concepts and the editing of this episode. They were excellent challenges for these chefs.


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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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