Top Chef: Miami
In the past seasons and past episodes, there has been many times where Tom has pointed out that it is not Top <insert clever phrase here>, but Top Chef. The restaurant wars challenge confuses me. While I know a chef that owns his/her own restaurant would have some say in the design of the restaurant, to take someone away from the kitchen for a challenge so they can host the front room and not even cook seems odd. I think it should be changed so they do have some say in the design, but have staff on hand to host. They did seem to have staff to serve, but they had a person in front of each restaurant seating people and being the host of it. Get all the chefs back in the kitchen to cook and present their food.
The guest judge for this episode was French Chef Daniel Boulud. The Quickfire Challenge this week was renamed the Red Robin Quickfire Challenge. They needed to make a burger that they could add to their Adventuresome Burgers section of their menu, if they so desired. Most of the chefs decided to go with some kind of seafood burger, which worked out well since Daniel really liked all the seafood ones.
Shrimp Burger with Tempura Flakes & Shiitake “Bacon”
Daniel complimented Hung on how juicy it was and said it was very nice. I think Hung might have wet himself a little, he looked so overjoyed.
Scallop, Shrimp & Sea Bass Burger with Sweet Chili Glaze
Brian noticed most of the seafood on the Red Robin menu was battered, so he decided to do something different with seafood. Daniel didn’t like Brian’s bread choice, which was huge!
Crab Burger with Citrus Remoulade, Orange & Endive Salad
She didn’t have a bun, but used lettuce instead to be healthier. Daniel was not thrilled with that.
Scallop Mouse & Shrimp Burger with Tangerine
Daniel said that it had a nice fire to it and called it beautiful.
“Patty Melt” with Port-Salut Cheese & Grilled Onions
Daniel commented on how many seafood burgers there were, which seemed to make him happy. Then he got to Casey’s and asked what exotic ingredient she used for her burger. “Ground chuck”. Ooooh! Poor Casey. Bread looked super toasty and yummy. I would have been ready to just eat the bread.
Surf & Turf Ciabatta Burger with Horseradish Sour Cream
Tre had petite filet and tiger shrimp on his burger. Daniel and Padma were shown shoving it in their faces, but made no comments at that time.
Tuna & Asparagus Burger Topped with an Egg
Let’s be healthy with tuna and asparagus, and then mess it all up with a fried egg. Yum!
Black Truffle Burger with Taleggio Cheese, Tomato & Radicchio
More black truffles! The chefs love those things. Daniel said it was very moist.
He said some were more towards warm sandwiches instead of burgers. Sara was one of his least favorite dishes due to the lettuce and no bun. Tre was also another least favorite due to thinking it was more of a sandwich than a burger. He did say it was the one with the most French execution, which he appreciated.
He said Howie’s burger was satisfying. He liked CJ’s texture and fire. He really liked the bread that Dale used. He said it was the best of the non-bun burgers. He loved the fire in Hung’s burger. Lots of fire!
CJ was the overall winner. He doesn’t get immunity though! He does get to pick his team for the restaurant wars.
The group is split up into two teams and they have 24 hours to turn a blank space into a restaurant complete with menu, design elements, staffing and cooking. CJ picked for his team Tre, Brian and Casey. That left Howie, Sara, Hung and Dale on the other team. Poor other sucky team. At that point, I just knew that the sucky team would lose, but I felt bad for Dale.
Each team had 30 minutes to come up with a concept and decide who would be which of the following roles: head chef, front of house, design and sous chef. They would have $700 for food and$2500 for tableware and decor. There would be 30 guests showing up to dine at each restaurant the next night. The doors at the back of each restaurant lead to the Top Chef kitchen space that both teams would be sharing.
For some odd reason, Howie and Sara were getting along! They were agreeing with each other. Everyone reached a consensus about a American-French bistro style. Howie said he wanted to cook. Sara also wanted to cook, and she picked executive chef, which left Howie as sous chef. Dale had the most front of the house experience so he picked that for himself, which left Hung with design. They decide to go with the name The Garage after talking about the design and space was like a garage. Ok!
The other team divided up roles first. CJ decided that Brian would be front of house, even though he didn’t look too sure about it. He asked Casey if she would do design. He said Tre should be executive chef since he had the most experience and he would be sous chef. It seems that CJ just took himself out of the fire if they go down. Sneaky! They picked New American cuisine. They went with the name Restaurant April since CJ’s sister’s name is April. Huh?
Casey and Brian went shopping. Casey wanted smelly stuff on the table, but Brian said no to that since it will take away from what people are eating. Over with Hung and Dale, they were getting vanilla candles. CJ said he chose Casey since if it was just guys, they would decorate the place in black. Over with Dale and Hung, they bought black tablecloths! Uh-oh!
Tre took care of the first and third courses while CJ handled the second one. Tre did a lot of running around since he did his prep work for two courses in the time it took CJ to make his one course. Tre thought CJ was pretty slow. Tre was freaking out about CJ’s prep time, and ended up not getting to his potatoes in time. They were a little over roasted by about four minutes. When Tom came by, he said they should have braised all of the tenderloin and cut it table side, but they were cooking everything individually.
Howie said he loves his risotto because he has been making it for 10-12 years and he doesn’t make it like any other chef does. Tom quizzed them on how they are preparing the risotto and said it is a tricky dish. Howie nodded that he understood. Tom thought that the team had a better chance than Restaurant April since they had more restaurant experience combined.
The judges ate at this one first at the very beginning so the team wasn’t even in the flow of things yet.
Bluepoint Oyster with Ginger & Watermelon Granita
They never said who made it, but maybe Brian since he loves the seafood? The judges commented that the oysters didn’t have any flavor and were “washed out”. Then they all noticed that the dishes were dusty. Gross!
Course #1 – Tre
Seared Sea Scallop on Corn & Black Truffle Custard
Daniel said it was overcooked.
Course #2 – CJ
Seared Grouper with Shellfish, Basil Pistou & Artichoke Hearts
No one could eat it since the silverware had been cleared, but not replaced. oops! Brian didn’t handle it well. He freaked out in the kitchen. Casey went out there to calm Brian down and serve the next dish.
Course #3 – Tre
Wild Mushroom & Gorgonzola Crusted Beef Tenderloin on Smoked Potatoes
The potatoes were so overpowering, no one could taste the rest of the dish. Other tables complained that the potatoes were horrible. Uh-oh!
Pre-Dessert – Casey
Mango Lemongrass & Sake Sorbet
They all loved this one.
Apple Tarte Tatin with Brandy Sauce & Creme Anglaise
Ted said it was absolutely delicious and beautiful. Other guests were shown nodding and smiling while eating it. They must have approved as well. No idea who made this one either! Casey presented the last three courses so I guess Brian was in full-on freak out mode in the back during this part.
The judges were off to The Garage where they had to seat themselves since Dale was serving other tables. Ted was put off by the incense smell until he identified the candle was the culprit. They asked them to take it away. Madonna’s brother was at another table also disapproving of the candle. They never said it was her brother, but reading forums, I found it that’s who it was. The internet doesn’t lie!
Course #1 – Hung
Tuna Tartare with Egg Vinaigrette, Nicoise Olive Puree & Herb Salad
Ted said it was delicate and tasteful. Daniel said it was a very bistro dish. Tom said it was successful.
Course #2 – Howie
Wild Mushroom Risotto with Foi Gras & Black Truffles
More black truffles! While Howie was getting the second course ready, Hung noticed how long it was taking him to make. Hung said Howie was making huge batches to feed both restaurants instead of making it order to order, which shouldn’t take that long. The table noticed it was a long time in between courses, at least 15 minutes. When the food finally arrived, they all said it was very rich and did not fit in with a summer dish in Miami.
Course #3 – Sara
Braised Lamb Shank with Sunchoke Potatoes & Baby Vegetables
They decided it was too rich, especially after the risotto. They thought both dishes were too heavy. Over at Madonna’s brother’s table, he was commenting that the lamb was not prepared well. It tasted like metal and he didn’t think the vegetables were a vegetable medley. Maybe he needs carrots in it?
Dessert – Hung
Sweet Crepes with Dark Chocolate & Orange Grand Marnier Sauce
What’s that light pink blob? It scares me. Oh, it is whipped cream. Ted said he loved Dale’s table side presentation. They said it was another rich dish.
They had an undercover food blogger, but they spent so much time reading from her blog that we barely heard the judges’ thoughts. They loved April’s decor and did not like The Garage’s candles. Daniel said it was like a massage parlor. Ted loved Hung’s tuna tartare. The risotto was overcooked and too heavy for Miami. Daniel was turned off by the smokiness of the potatoes in Tre’s dish. They thought Brian did a lousy job. They were having a hard time coming up with a clear winner.
They called in Restaurant April first, but told them they were not the winning team. The blogger complained about Brian’s sweating. She has never seen Howie cook! She didn’t like the amuse. CJ jumped in and agreed with everything that the blogger said, but of course none of it was about him. She commented about Tre’s potatoes and Tre said they were more aggressive than where he thought they would be. Tom asked if the team thought that Brian brought the team down, and they all said no, there were errors in all aspects. I think CJ agreed with Tre and Casey because they said no and he didn’t want to seem like an ass. 🙂
The Garage came in next. More blog comments! Dale said that he has a poor sense of smell, which they thought was odd for a chef. They asked why black tablecloths. Dale said a white plate on a black tablecloth can really pop. The blogger said it reminded her of Billy Idol, and she didn’t want to eat off of Billy Idol. Huh? That really makes no sense to me. They thought the tuna tartare fit into the restaurant concept, but the rest of the menu didn’t fit in. Tom asked why Howie used heavy cream when risotto shouldn’t have cream in it at all. Howie said that’s how he makes it. Sara didn’t think the dishes were too heavy. Howie said he will eat heavy dishes any time of the year. Sara said she takes full responsibility for any final menu decisions.
The judges couldn’t decide who was a winner and who was the loser. They called everyone back in and told them all that they would get a do over! They had another 24 hours to fix their restaurants and try again. No losers or winners this week!
Photo Source: Top Chef