Top Chef: Classic Ingredients

Top Chef: Miami
Manhattan Project

At the end of this episode, I really had no idea who was going home. I thought it was going to Dale or Sara at various times and would have not been surprised either way. I was not overly impressed with Sara most of the competition until she was an executive chef for that one challenge. Then I liked her and thought she might make it, but then after that, she went back to just being her usual weird self that wasn’t overly creative. I have always liked Dale, but I don’t think he’ll be the winner. I am really rooting for Casey to win now. I think it will be between her and Hung at this point.

Quickfire Challenge

The chefs show up at Le Cirque where they meet owner, Sirio Maccioni. They are all served a halibut dish wrapped in a potato on a bed of leeks and mushrooms. While eating it, they are informed that they will have to recreate the dish. The one who makes a dish as close to the original as possible will be declared the winner. They only have 20 minutes to prepare but they do get their own time in the kitchen without them all trying to make it at the same time.

Hung was up first and talked about how excellent he is at technique, which his competitors have talked about before. He said the challenge was really easy and anyone could do it that was paying attention. After he serves it to Sirio and Padma, Sirio says it is close to the original and very good. Hung goes back to the group that has been discussing how to prepare the dish. They asked how it went and Hung said he nailed it. When they asked him about a certain technique, he clammed up. None of them thought that was cool. I was thinking, why would he share how he did it, if he knows he did it right, and give everyone else the same advantage? They were the ones all discussing tings when he went first without getting to discuss it at all. I was with Hung on this one.

Dale and Brian were shown being pretty nervous getting everything together while the chefs of the restaurant were preparing for that evening’s service. Sirio said Dale’s dish had no seasonings in the leeks. Brian’s looked burnt on top and the potato wasn’t wrapped all the way around. It did taste good. Sirio said Casey’s tasted the best of all of them. Sara was extremely nervous back in the kitchen and started cooking the fish way too late, so it was raw halfway through.Sara was his least favorite since it was raw. He loved Hung and Casey’s dishes best, but went with Hung as the overall winner.

Elimination Challenge

They went to the French Culinary Institute where they had to use basic ingredients to really prove their culinary skills and imagination: chicken, russet potato, and yellow onion. Since Hung was the winner, he had an extra 30 min. to cook and serve first. The loser of the challenge would be the only one not going to the finale in Aspen.

Hung wanted to show off all his classic training skills and techniques with his fancy way of chicken the cooking. Dale wanted to show off what he could do so he did two different preparations of chicken with the same sauce and show how different they can be. Brian wanted to make a shepard’s pie with a twist and tons of flavor so he added in some sausage he found at the market in with all the other ingredients. Hung thought Brian’s dish look like a mess. He said the bottom was very heavy with the meat and the top was very light with mashed potatoes and leeks, which made it look neon green on top. Sara said she liked classic food, but with a twist so her dish would have a Jamaican twist to it. Casey made a dish that her grandmother used to make for her all the time. She said she wasn’t classically trained, but has been cooking forever.

Tom came around checking in on the chefs. Tom asked Hung he had done pomme dauphin before and he said eight years ago. Tom thought he should really know how to do it, since this is right before the finals. Tom was concerned about Dale having plating issues since his dish was so complex. Tom was very concerned when Brian told him about his dish. He actually looked a little scared. Tom giggled a bit about Sara making couscous again, but since she messed it up before, he knew she wanted to show she can make it. When learning what Casey was making, Tom commented that coq au vin is usually made with an old rooster, but if she can pull it off, he’d be impressed.

A bunch of Deans from the FCI showed up and Tom looked overjoyed introducing them all. It was pretty cute.


Hung
Butter Poached Chicken, Crisp Chicken Skin, Pommes Dauphin, Petit Greens

Hung asked if anyone could help him plate, but his karma from earlier in day came back to bite him since everyone was too busy. He said it was okay, even though he complained about it later. Can’t have it both ways Hung! They loved the chicken skin, calling it perfect. One wasn’t impressed that the pommes dauphin wasn’t puffed up enough, but another one said that she finished everything on the plate and thought it was all good.


Sara
Fricasse Chicken with Seared Breast, Couscous and Potato Risotto, Confit Onions

Hung helped Sara plate. She introduced that her dish had a Jamaican twist to it. They were not thrilled with the confit, which is supposed to be like marmalade instead of pickled. They did not taste any Jamaican flavors in it and Gale from Food and Wine had an undercooked chicken. One of the deans said that she needs a couple more years in these kitchens before she is ready to be a top chef.


Dale
Truffle Honey Duet of Chicken — Leg Confit, Asparagus, Potato and Onion Puree

Dale was distracted while plating and forgot the honey rosemary sauce. Tom talked about how it wasn’t a sauce, but just a puree. They all commented about it not having a lot of flavor and was too complex.


Brian
“Peasant’s Pie” with Chicken, Pheasant Sausage, Potato and Ramp Puree

No one could taste the chicken since the sausage was so overpowering, but they said it had great flavors and was well seasoned.


Casey
Coq Au Vin with Wrapped Potatoes, Sauteed Ramps, and Asparagus

They loved the presentation, it was well done, and had a lot of flavors. Tom pointed out how she called the coq au vin, when she should have called it a braised chicken.

Hung, Brian and Casey were the favorite dishes of various deans. Dale and Sara’s dishes were picked as least favorites by everyone at the table.

Judges’ Table

They loved Hung’s technique in his dish except for the potatoes. They didn’t get the contrast or the point of Dale’s dish. Why did it have to be two preparations. Gale did not like Sara’s raw chicken in her dish. They loved the flavors in Brian’s dish, but worried about the sausage upstaging the chicken. Gale loved Casey’s dish and said it took a lot of skill to prepare it.

Hung blamed his potatoes on no one helping him plate. Casey said she didn’t use a rooster since her grandmother always used chicken growing up. Sara said she didn’t want her spices to be overpowering so she didn’t use that much. Sara was surprised when she heard Gale’s chicken was undercooked. Brian talked about his dish was all about flavor and did put tons of chicken in there so the sausage wouldn’t overpower it. Dale said his huge mistake was missing his sauce. He admitted he shouldn’t have done the duet and he didn’t conceptualize the dish very well.

The chefs were sent out. Gale said Casey’s dish was a focused, complete dish. Andre liked Hung’s dish the best. Padma loved Brian’s dish the most. Gale said she loved Brian’s dish, but liked Casey’s dish better. Tom said Sara’s dish had a lack of execution with the lack of seasonings and undercooked chicken. Tom said if Dale would have concentrated on just one preparation of chicken, it would have been more successful. They had to decide if execution or conceptualization is more important on deciding who would go home.

Winners

Hung, Brian and Casey were the three favorites. Andre picked the winner for the round and chose Hung. He was on his way to Aspen! Then, Brian and Casey were told they were going too.

Losers

Dale and Sara were left over. Padma was very dramatic when she said Dale’s name, paused, and then said he was going to the finale in Aspen and for Sara to pack her knives and go.

Photo Source: Top Chef

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