Top Chef: Good Airplane Food?

Top Chef: Miami
Snacks on a Plane

Good news! I finally found a way to take a screen capture and turn it into an image so I can share even more pictures of the yummy, and sometimes scary, looking food. It was not working before so I would only grab what I could find on the Top Chef website, but had to find a way to do it since they had a lack of pictures this week.

Tom mentioned during the show that they are expecting first-class results out of all the chefs at this point in the competition. I agree and thought of the stuff they were serving surprising. When they admitted certain side dishes were afterthoughts, I’m wondering why they are still there. I think some of them are being worn out and their desire to be there is not as strong as it once was, while others are ramping up to their full potential. It should be an interesting final run to the end of the season.

Quickfire Challenge

Padma woke up all the contestants at 6am to make her breakfast in their apartment. The entire living room area was set up like a kitchen with Top Chef pantry items. They each had a Breville Blender at a table, along with a tiny cutting board and a small burner with a small skillet. Not a lot of room to make anything, but about as much room as I have in my kitchen, so I know it can be done! They had 20 minutes to make it. No one had a chance to change, so they got to make everything in their pajamas. Hung knocked over a bottle of truffle oil right away so there was broken glass on the floor. Broken glass is bad, but I’m glad they knocked over some truffle stuff since haven’t we had enough truffle anything in this competition? I think it was a metaphorical send off of Hung and his love for everything truffle.

Crepe with Berries & Cream and Blueberry, Date & Mascarpone Shake

CJ made a crepe since he said women love crepes. He says he doesn’t understand it, but he was sticking with it. I do like crepes so maybe he’s on to something there. Padma said it was very good. CJ said he had girl power. You go CJ. 😉

French Toast, Prosciutto & Eggs

Sara said that Padma likes alcohol, marcapone cheese and healthy, whole grain items, so she made rustic french toast dish with whole grain bread. Not sure where the alcohol went in there unless she just wanted to point out that Padma likes to drink. Who doesn’t? Looking at Sara’s dish, I would love to eat it. The egg and prosciutto were all piled in between the bread to make a french toast sandwich, like a McGriddle! Padma asked if there was any maple syrup baked in there and approved.

Grapefruit, French Toast with Salsa, Spinach & Egg

Casey used the blender to make her salsa. She wanted a complete breakfast. Padma asked Casey if she makes breakfast at home a lot. Casey admitted that she doesn’t cook at her home very much and doesn’t have really anything in her fridge.

Steak & Eggs with Toasted Baguette and Papaya, Banana & Grand Marnier Shake

Hung made steak and eggs since that is a classic American dish. Hung has been called out for his so-called classic dishes (latin-themed fare and last week’s appetizer challenge), so you think he would steer clear and just make something good, but differentl. Hung never listens though since everyone else is obviously wrong. Crazy Hung. Padma said that she is not a fan of steak and eggs, but it was really good. She was downing the shake, which caused Hung to giggle. Why didn’t Sara make an alcoholic shake? Padma said it was fantastic.

Ham, Apple & Onion Frittata

Dale said he is known for his breakfast food at his restaurant, but he was worried about making anything good with the small amount of space that they had to work with. Since he’s from the midwest, when he thinks of a savory breakfast, it involves bacon, but there wasn’t any for him to work with. What? Why no bacon people? He used ham to make his fritatta instead. Padma approved.

Lobster & Butter Poached Egg on Smoked Salmon Saute

Shockingly Brian did something with seafood. I don’t mind though since I would like someone to make me lobster and butter poached eggs for breakfast. He also made a blackberry smoothie, but left the seeds in there. Padma said it would have been better if he strained it first.

She asked everyone if they had fun. They all nodded, and CJ pointed out that it was fun until Hung broke the bottle. Oh CJ, just leave it alone. You are such a whiner at times! They will know who dropped it. There are cameras everywhere! Padma ignored him and said she did not have a least favorite, so she moved onto who she liked the best. She said Hung was one of her favorites, even though she is not a steak and egg fan. She said it was very light and she loved the shake. She also loved Sara’s dish, calling it heavenly. She picked Hung as the overall winner since he really used the blender, which was the main point of the challenge. As the winner, Hung received a copy of Padma’s cookbook where she didn’t say she cooked anything from it, but tasted each recipe in there.

Elimination Challenge

Padma also announced that the game had changed. They were going to be on the road and end up at the finale in Aspen. They would be leaving that afternoon. She gave Hung the airline tickets to pass out to everyone. Their first stop would New York City. CJ was thrilled since he has never been. All he wantedwas a slice of pizza. The elimination challenge took place where they landed at Newark Airport in New Jersey. Everyone stared at New York City across the river, but they couldn’t go there yet. They were sad headed off to their nearby airport hotel rooms after living in the luxury suite in Miami.

The next day, they went to an airport hanger and came across where they set everything up for the airplane food for Continental Airlines. They are looking to upgrade airplane food. The challenge was to make one restaurant-quality hot entree that Continental could serve to their business-class customers. They had Gerry McLoughlin, executive chef for Continental Airlines to show them around their kitchen. They had two hours to prepare and pack their entrees for travel onto the plane. Then they had to heat and serve their food to a group of travel experts.

Hung got to pick his protein first as the winner of the quickfire challenge. No one else could use the same protein after her picked. They received a tour from Gerry so they would know what they had to deal with when making their entrees. He showed how the food starts out in the container with the protein on the main plate and the side dishes on a separate plate. They had to keep in mind height restrictions since there was only two inches on the food cart, so they couldn’t make anything too high. The ovens would be pre-heated, but they had to cook their food for at least 10 minutes, and everything had to be heated together. How many would not pay attention to these restrictions?

Hung used Chilean sea bass so no one could touch that. Since they did not know the kitchen, everyone was running around looking for things they didn’t know where they would be located. There weren’t as many burners that they were used to. CJ was shown trying to open a can with a knife since he couldn’t find a can opener.

Tom walked through and saw some chefs looking like they were cracking under the pressure of there not being enough burners, since they all wanted to put their stuff on the burners at the same time. Brian and Hung seemed very concerned about that. Tom was wary about anyone going with fish since there is just a one minute difference between fish being done and overcooked. He said that anyone going with meat would probably fare better since it has a higher tolerance against being overcooked. He did say that if anyone has good food going into their containers, should have good food coming out, so he was interested in what the final results would be.

When they had a few minutes left, all the chefs noticed that CJ wasn’t as close to being done as he should have been. They all pitched in to make sure that he was finished except for Hung. He was done and just cleaning his station. He said he didn’t help since CJ didn’t ask for it. Dale said that he’d rather lose to a competitor based on the food rather than because that chef didn’t complete the task in time. He thought there was more to being a chef than just putting food on a plate, and Hung lacked that team player effort. It looks like more of evil Hung is coming out now that Howie is gone. It was pushed to the back when Howie was made the evil, non-team player man, but Hung has stepped up to take his place.

The guest judge for the round was Jimmy Canora, Continental Congress of Chefs. They also had returning guest judge, Anthony Bourdain, chef and host of No Reservations. The travel experts were the flight attendants from Continental Airlines.

Strip Steak with Purple Potato & Lobster Hash

Brian went with New York steak, and I was thinking that he finally made something not seafood-oriented, but then he grabbed some lobster for his side dish to make a surf and turf dish. Brian loves his seafood! Brian was have some difficulty getting his huge steak to work with the kitchen so he went out to get CJ to help him plate. Tom commented that the portions were huge. Brian said it was only the best for first class. One flight attendant commented that her steak was tender and the portions were very generous. Padma thought her steak was overcooked though. Tom said the lobster was overcooked. Anthony said he didn’t even know what it was until Tom said that.

Steak Au Poivre with Demi-Glace & Leeks and Shrimp with Zucchini & Celery

Dale wanted something that would please the most amount of people with a lot of flavor so he went for a peppercorn-encrusted steak. Dale had Casey help him. One flight attendent loved the presentation when Dale served his food. Jimmy said the demi-glace was too strong. Anthony and Tom talked about the peppercorn was very aggressive. Anthony said he liked it, but for the average person, it would be too much and cause them to choke on it. Another flight attendent loved the kick it had. Dale miscounted and only had 17 instead of 18 steaks, so one poor guy received no food.

Seared Salmon over Leek Fondue and Spinach & Fig Couscous

Sara went with salmon due to it being high fat and would stay moist. Sara had CJ help her plate. She said her spinach and fondue held up really well to the reheating, but was worried about the fish being overcooked. The flight attendants loved the sauce and said it would be something that their customers would order. Both Anthony and Tom recieved overcooked fish.

Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Tomato Sauce, Baby Squash & Onions

Hung chose Chilean sea bass because it was really oily, high in fat, and would not dry out. He also thought it was elegant and hoped it would impress the judges. Casey helped Hung. Tom seemed surprised, but said it was very good. Anthony said it was cooked perfectly.

Seared Halibut & Toasted Farro with Mint Oil and Roasted Broccolini with Breadcrumbs

CJ went with halibut since it is very buttery and light. Not sure how those two descriptions go together, but that’s what he said! CJ had Brian come help him. He was worried about his broccoli that got pretty dark around the edges. Jimmy said it was tough to eat. Tom said it was not good at all. Anthony said there was some bad decision-making going on there, and he would stop eating at the first bite if he was served that dish.

Veal Medallions with Crimini & Apple Brandy and Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyere

Casey was worried if her veal would cook all the way through and if she made the right choice in her portion of meat. Tom and Anthony liked it alot. Anthony loved the flavors. Jimmy talked about how they usually stay away from brussel sprouts and cauliflower in the air. A flight attendant agreed with him, but said the dish was very good. Padma explained you want something that is gentle for the stomach. I had no idea that cauliflower wasn’t gentle for the stomach.

Judges’ Table

Jimmy said a couple of dishes were first-class food, but a lot were not. Jimmy thought Dale’s dish was tender and wonderful. Anthony liked the kick to it. Tom pointed out that Dale did not bring out enough portions for everyone on the plane, and that was a huge mistake. Moving onto Brian’s dish, Tom said his steak was cooked medium, but Padma’s steak was overcooked. They did not like the lobster hash. Anthony called it rubbery. The bass was a great choice for Hung. Jimmy said it was flavorful. Anthony said it was a great riff on a classic. Hung did two good things with classic items in this episode. Maybe Hung does know what he’s talking about! Tom loved Casey’s dish, including the cauliflower. He said it was a very sophisticated dish. Anthony said it was not top cook, but top chef and Casey showed what you look for in a chef, which was creativity and daring. Anthony’s salmon from Sara was overcooked. Tom asked what was up with the couscous. Jimmy said he thought it was second thought, which Tom responded, it was a fifth or sixth thought. Anthony said it was scary and Tom called it one of the worst dishes. Tom said CJ’s halibut was on the verge of being overcooked, but no one agreed that his broccoli shouldn’t have been served. Anthony said it looked like it was picked out of the garbage.


Hung, Casey and Dale were called in for having the best dishes. Dale looked very surprised. They loved his dish. Anthony said it wasn’t the most original dish, but his was perfectly cooked and a definite crowd pleaser. Padma asked him what happened with the one missing portion. Dale said he miscounted. Tom did not like the answer. Jimmy agreed that Hung made a great choice with the fish. Anthony told Casey she had great flavors in her dish. She looked liked she had tears in her eyes when Anthony complimented her. Jimmy chose the winner and he chose Casey. She won two in a row. Go Casey! I’m really rooting for her now. It is like she stepped out of the shadows recently. She won two first-class tickets to anywhere that Continental flies.


Brian, CJ and Sara had the worst dishes. Sara admitted that her portion sizes varied too much, so some of the dishes were overcooked, but she really liked her fondue. Anthony said salmon was a very forgiving fish, but what he was served was beyond overcooked. Padma pointed out the couscous was boring. She said she is a fan of couscous and knows Sara is too, so she knows she can do better. CJ said he did not execute a good idea well. He said he should have made more broccolini. Tom stopped him there and asked why he would make more. CJ said he should have had more and not cooked it as long. Anthony said that was a poor choice of what to make in the situation he was in, and an even worse choice for serving it after he saw how it came out of the oven. He said it should have never been served in any setting where there are customers, including prison. It was wretched. CJ said it was not a dish that should send him home. He said it was a good idea, but wasn’t executed well. The judges looked surprised at him saying his dish was a good idea to begin with since they just finished telling him that the broccolini was a bad idea to start with in that cooking situation. Brian was surprised he was there and thought it was his portion sizes were too big. They said it was the lobster hash that had him in the bottom three. It was horrible. Anthony said it had the texture of a doll’s head. Nice! Brian said that he’s going to stay away from lobster from now on since he gets yelled about it each time he makes it. Jimmy said that it was a good idea, but not executed well.

Everyone was sent out. Padma commented about Brian being surprised that he was there. Anthony said that was scary if he didn’t think there was anything wrong with the hash. Tom said the dish was bad. Tom hated Sara’s dish. Anthony said that broccolini should not have been served. It was the single worst dish they have had in the competition. Wow!

They were called back in. Sara was told that some of her salmon dishes were overcooked and others were fine. Her couscous had no business being there. CJ was told that his broccolini dish was the worst dish in three years of the show. Brian was told his lobster dish was terrible. CJ was picked as the one to go home. He thanked them all for teaching him so much and left with a lot of class. Later on, CJ mentioned that he would love to have a beer with Anthony and listen to him bitch about his broccolini some more. I found CJ a bit whiny and ready to say anything nasty about his fellow competitors, when he really should have been more focused on doing the best job he could do. I think if he had focused, he could have lasted longer than some of the people he would say nasty stuff about to the camera crew.

Photo Source: Top Chef


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