Top Chef: Individually Frozen

Top Chef: Miami
Freezer Burn

Reality shows love their sponsors, and Top Chef is no exception with their longing camera glances at the Glad plastic containers. This episode was apparently brought to us by Bertolli Mediterranean Style Frozen Dinners, since the product was mentioned a million times. It is fine, and less distracting to me than saying “Generic Frozen Pasta”, but it still makes me laugh.

Quickfire Challenge

The guest judge for this episode was Rocco DiSpirito who comes from the NBC Universal family that also owns Bravo. Since he had his reality show The Restaurant on NBC, it did not shock me that he showed up here. It also didn’t surprise me that he had another show or contest thing going on where he was looking for a co-host or a helper. The commercial was played during each break. You think I would have paid attention more to remember what it was about, but I just remember a cardboard cutout.

The challenge was a sight and/or taste test of various ingredients called a Culinary Bee. Some people were able to taste and guess what something was while others had to guess just on sight. I hadn’t heard of most of what was in the challenge, so I was impressed when anyone knew anything. Howie made a comment that anyone could guess bow tie pasta, but I was wondering if easy items were added, just to thrown off the chefs and make them guess something more complicated. I don’t think anyone fell for it.

Howie talked about he would be good at the challenge because he’s a thinker. I thought you would need to be a taster, but whatever! I also wanted to tell him that he’s a sweater more than anything else. The best line came from CJ when he said that he suspected Hung would do really well at the challenge and the only thing that could get in his way is his “asshole arrogant factor.”

I laughed at Hung guessing without tasting, when he did have a chance to taste it. After guessing, Padma asked if he was going to taste it. As soon as he did, he said it was something else. Then she said, “I’m sorry, we have to take your first guess.” Oh to torture him when he had already guessed wrong. Hilarious! Sara M started spouting off guesses and finally came up with the correct one, but they had to take the first thing she said too. Think before you talk! It came down to Brian and Casey. Casey ended up being the overall winner and was safe from elimination.

Elimination Challenge

The chefs had to be put into teams again. They were to make a mediterranean-style frozen pasta, freeze it overnight, pack it up the next day and then cook it to serve it in the Fresh Market to shoppers. They had two hours to prepare it and put in the freezer. The next day they had one hour to pack it up before taking it to the market to cook it in a skillet for shoppers. The winners of the challenge win a trip to Italy. Nice!

The lesson I learned about frozen pastas is that it is individually frozen. This point was only said by the chefs over and over again, yet not all of them followed that technique when they were preparing their dishes. Tre, CJ, Sara N, and Hung are all shown talking about it. Hung told the camera he has experience with frozen pasta and “understand the science behind it.” Hung even mentions it to Tom when he comes around to check on everyone, yet when Hung and Joey packed up their meals, Hung lets Joey glop the sauce right over the pasta. Why didn’t he stop him? What happened to the aggressive crazy Hung? Is he really all talk and no action?

Howie and Sara M were paired together and they did not get along. Neither one liked the other one’s ideas. She would end up shutting up rather than get into an argument with him, which annoyed him. When she talked, he viewed it as whining and annoying. There was no winning with those two. Sara wanted to use tri-color pasta, which Howie thought was cheesy. Is color that big of a thing? Over in Hung/Joey land though, Joey, the Italian, went for the tri-color pasta. Does Howie know this? Will it spell doom for the multiple colors of pasta in Joey’s dish?

Sara N bugged the crap out of Brian. He prepared almost the entire meal, but Sara seems to be like me in the kitchen. She cut the peppers and had time to do nothing else. I’m that slow. That’s why I would fail at this show.

All the teams prepared their meals and put them into bags to freeze. CJ and Tre were the only team that put their entire meal in trays into the freezer instead of into bags or containers. They cut up their sauce and ingredients so it can all be added together while it cooks. They actually used the hour the next day to put their frozen parts into bags while all the other teams just sat around for the hour since they had their stuff frozen and packed the night before. Hints about who is going to do well in the challenge!

The final dishes that were presented to customers at the market:

Hung & Joey
Tri-Colored Fusilli with Garlic & Sundried Tomato Sauce & Chicken

Shockingly, when Hung and Joey take their pasta from their bag, it was one huge block and they only had 10 minutes to cook it. Could they thaw it in that time? When it did finally warm up, the pasta became mush from absorbing all the moisture from the pasta sauce. Gail found it overcooked and unmemorable in taste. They sold no boxes. So sad. 🙁

Casey & Dale
Turkey & Pork Meatball with Orecchiette Pasta & Pesto

Casey and Dale were the first team to sell all of their boxes to customers. Rocco ended up with a partially frozen meatball. Gail thought it was one of her favorites. Tom didn’t like the tin artichokes.

Brian & Sara N.
Chicken Rigatoni with Kalamata Olives, Peppers, Sundried Tomatoes & Rosemary

They seemed to be the team stuck in the middle. They sold a good amount of their boxes to customers, and the judges found it light and tasty. It didn’t seem to stand out as great or horrible.

Howie & Sara M.
Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta with Fennel & Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette

Another team that thought it would be awesome to freeze it as a block instead of individually. Howie finally admitted it would have been good to have the sauce separate from the pasta at least when freezing it. They hardly sold any of their boxes, but it was more than Hung and Joey! Tom didn’t think it had a lot of flavor.

Tre & CJ
Black Truffle & Parmesan Linguini, Kale, Tomato Confit & Grilled Chicken

They were the only team that didn’t start cooking their pasta immediately since they though they only needed six minutes instead of ten. They giggled at everyone else being frantic while they were just two cool dudes. Rocco commented that the pasta looked really juicy and was impressed they got truffles on the budget. They said they got truffle butter and it went a long way. Tom was really stuck on the truffles not being mediterranean, but Rocco stuck up for it. It was his favorite.


CJ & Tre and Casey & Dale were the top two teams.

Tom brought up the truffle butter thing again when they were all there. Tre said they put together Italian and mediterranean. CJ said he’s been to Italy and had truffles in mediterranean dishes. Rocco pointed out the frozen meatball he had and Tom didn’t like the tin artichokes. Rocco commented that the pesto Casey & Dale made was one of the best pesto sauces he had tasted.

CJ & Tre were the overall winners. Tre said he plans to open an Italian restaurant and would love to learn while there. CJ had been there before, but he would love to just breathe in the air and learn even more.


Howie & Sara M and Joey & Hung were the losing teams.

They were all teams that froze everything together. They didn’t individually freeze anything. Hung threw Joey under a bus since he explained what needed to do, but Joey threw the sauce on top. Joey said he didn’t hear Hung say anything about individually freezing anything. He said he needs someone to start yelling to hear it. Sounds like someone should work on their attentive listening skills rather than wanting other people to change the way they talk (aka yell) so he will pay attention.

Howie & Sara M’s dish was very dry and had to work with a big block of ice. Howie said it wasn’t obvious that anything was frozen individually. Tom called Sara out saying she didn’t really contribute to the team. Her way to contribute apparently wasn’t actually cooking but telling Howie what he should be doing. Howie didn’t like her reasoning and went off on Sara. She called him a bulldog.

Rocco found both dishes depressively bad. Gail said Hung & Joey’s dish was boring, uninteresting and mushy. They also didn’t sell one box. Gail said if Hung knew what to do, why didn’t he do it? Rocco thought Howie & Sara’s dish had a poor flavor profile. It was brought up again that Howie’s temper keeps getting the best of him and affects how he is cooking. Tom said if a dish wasn’t good going into the bag, it wouldn’t be good going out. He said neither of these dishes were that good going in.

Joey ended up being the one that was going home.

Source: Top Chef

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