Top Chef 7/14: Heading to the Farm
A somber mood has set in at the Top Chef house the morning after Arnold and Lynne’s departure. After the last challenge working together, Angelo has taken a liking to Tamesha; as the other chefs eat their breakfast, Angelo counsels Tamesha on how to get ahead in the competition. Just like everyone on the show, I questions Angelo’s motives, but Tamesha looks up to him. The other pairing driven home this episode is Ed and Tiffany, who also have developed a relationship, but it’s not at all creepy like the Angelo-Tamesha one.
When crabs attack!
At the Hilton Top Chef Kitchen, the room is full of live blue crabs; also present are Padma and guest judge Patrick O’Connell, a famous DC chef with a creepy grin. The chefs have one hour to prepare the blue crabs in any way they like. During this cooking time, we learn Angelo once had to be treated for (non-blue) crabs, Tim is the only one who is smart enough to use tongs to get crabs, and Angelo thinks Ed is gunning for him. Tamesha used to be allergic to crabs, so naturally she goes to Angelo for help; she thinks the other chefs misunderstand him. Kenny decides to show everyone up and make a tasting plate of three separate dishes while Kevin pounds the hell out of the crabs to make chowder. Time’s up, utensils go down and the dishes tasted are:
Tiffany’s hot and sour crab soup, arbol chiles, spaghetti leaks.
Ed’s jumbo lump crab with Thai basil, mango and cucumber salad.
Angelo’s blue crab broth infused with lemongrass and ginger.
Tim’s beer steamed crabs with avocado, passion fruit, and heirloom vinaigrette.
Stephen’s crab salad in sweet bell peppers, brandy basil dressing.
Tamesha’s crab chowder with lemongrass, ginger, cardamom and coconut milk.
Amanda’s crab salad with sauterne, ginger and juniper gelee.
Kevin’s blue crab chowder with potato, celery and espelette oil, frozen bacon crumble.
Andrea’s warm crab salad, citrus gastrique, Mexican red chiles.
Kenny’s crab three ways: Korean crab bisque, crab bruschetta, and warm crab with sesame.
Patrick wasn’t fond of Andrea’s dish, because there were potatoes that overwhelmed the dish (but weren’t good enough to be mentioned in the description). Amanda’s was out of balance and Kevin’s crab got lost in his dish. Kevin is now having a full on attack of self-doubt, being in the bottom four times in a row. Patrick did like Ed’s dish, Kenny’s trio, and Angelo’s delicate broth. Patrick gives the win to Ed, who gets immunity in the Elimination Challenge.
One big happy team. Yeah, right.
For the EC, the chefs will head to a farm to cook organic foods from local ingredients provided on-site. They will have to work as one big team, though each person must produce something on a plate. There will be at least six different dishes to be served to 40 local chefs and farmers, family-style. There is little else told to the chefs, especially anything else about the ingredients or equipment.
Back at the house, the group tries to make a game plan, but Angelo and Kenny butt heads and it is, as Stephen says, too many cooks in the kitchen. A lot of squabbling ensues, but ultimately the chefs decide to stay in the pairs they had from the prior challenge. Ed is a bit perturbed, as he doesn’t want to work with Alex and would rather work with Tiffany, but he takes solace in having immunity. Tiffany isn’t all that thrilled to work with Tim, after carrying him last time; she sees the as a “team” as in the food they make has to work together, but that’s it. Tamesha is a bit put off at all the fighting and childish behavior; though she’s the youngest, she thinks they all need to act like adults.
The next day, they arrive at the farm where they’ll cook outside on hot plates, portable ovens and grills. The chefs make a mad dash for meats, vegetables, and stuff from the mobile pantry. Kenny takes charge with Kevin, who is still lacking confidence. Andrea and Kelly work well together, but Andrea is freezing in the weather. The chefs have three hours to cook, so Stephen decides to make a killer salad…three hours for a salad? Kelly and Tim make a vegetable swap, leaving him with turnips. Tiffany lets Tim struggle with his turnip issue and just focuses on her dish. Angelo makes love to his duck; let’s hope the crabs have been long gone. Tamesha then accidentally knocks down Kevin’s finely cut cauliflower for a couscous; Kevin starts over with broccoli and other ingredients. Andrea consults with the group on cooking her pork—the weather is cold and the grills aren’t as hot as she’d like. She ultimately decides to cut the pork into parts to grill, but is still worried. Tim changes what he’s going do with his vegetables, and just leaves them roasted. Amanda works on a soup that she hopes will knock Progresso out of the park—not exactly high aspiration. Kelly has some time, so she makes a strawberry-rhubarb crisp for a dessert; she hopes it will win her some extra credit.
The diners arrive along with the judges—Tom, Padma, Patrick, and Eric—and sit at a really long table in a field. The chefs serve up:
Amanda’s country vegetable minestrone with smoked tomato broth. Patrick finds it too rustic; Eric is okay with the rustic nature but doesn’t like the undercooked carrots. Tom points out the vegetables were not cut uniformly, which is why they didn’t cook uniformly.
Stephen’s farm salad with balsamic onion, egg, apple, cabernet vinaigrette and garlic dressing. They hate that it’s served in a bowl and is overly wet.
Kenny’s hot and sour curried eggplant with peppers and carrot tops, which Tom likes, even though it’s spicy, served with Kevin’s broccoli couscous scented with lemon zest.
Tim’s roasted turnips and asparagus with honey doesn’t register with the judges.
Tiffany’s collard greens with Swiss chard, turnip and chanterelles in duck broth are undercooked.
Andrea’s garlic and five spice-rubbed grilled pork loin with shallot-apple balsamic jus was perfectly and went well with Kelly’s five spice-roasted apples and roasted beets.
Angelo’s ginger grilled duck breast with oregano honey served with Tamesha’s cherry compote, red wine balsamic vinaigrette, and grilled asparagus salad is liked by the judges.
Alex’s provencal beef tenderloin stuffed with Ed’s ratatouille with eggplant, summer squash and tomato is good for the beef but Eric has issues stuffing the beef with ratatouille.
Kelly’s strawberry rhubarb crisp with basil scented whipped cream is a hit with the judges as well.
Standing by your dish pays off.
As the chef wait in the Stew Room, Padma enters and asks for Kevin, Kenny, Andrea, and Kelly. This group had the best dishes and they let out sighs of relief. Kevin explains his couscous started out as cauliflower-based, but lost that due to the spillage. Tom asks Kevin and Kenny if they were okay with just having vegetables; Kevin was happy with it for the challenge. Kenny wanted to do a curry to warm everyone up; Padma loved it, and as Tom says, she’s a tough judge of curries. Andrea says she was nervous about the temperature and says she added sugar to the sauce to balance. Tom and Eric both loved the sauce and Patrick though it was an elegant take on rustic. Kelly’s dessert is also praised. Patrick then awards Kenny the win for a beautiful balanced dish.
Kenny then sends Tim, Amanda, and Stephen back to Judges’ Table. Tim is totally blind-sided by being in the bottom. Tim knew it could have gone better, and admitted he didn’t go for the mousseline but served the vegetables just roasted. Eric has an issue with the lack of seasoning and tiny cuts of turnips. Tim says he added asparagus at the last minute for color; Tom concludes that Tim didn’t like the dish and gave up on it. Stephen is told that serving a salad in a bowl is the worst possible way and the dressing was too heavy. Stephen tries to defend the dish by saying he wanted to add texture by adding apple but Tom calls him out on just putting a big piece of apple, rather than a dice. Amanda is quizzed by Eric on minestrone—he missed the pasta. Tom calls her out on not cutting the vegetables uniformly, and is called an amateurish axe-wielding grandma.
At the deliberations, Tom doesn’t have an issue with the amount of ingredients in Stephen’s salad but the way it was presented. Eric speculates Stephen tried to put all he knew into the salad because he had three hours. Tim’s turnips would have been better if he actually did puree them; Eric thinks he wasted three hours. Amanda’s dish was on the bottom for the over-sized carrots and calling it a minestrone, when it wasn’t.
The chefs are called back in, Tom tells them all their errors again, and Padma tells Tim to pack his knives. He’s disappointed and would rather go out on screwing up bigger. He cautions the other chefs to season their food, but he’s generally a positive guy, knows he’ll still keep in touch with the fine people he met on the show, and is going on a vacation.