Top Chef: Weird Combos

Top Chef: Chicago
Improv

Sorry about the delay. I had surgery last Friday and thought I’d have time to get something up here before then, but my gall bladder decided to have on last hurrah on Wednesday and in between recovery and pain medications, it has been slow going with tons of typos. I never took for granted typing quickly and well until I’m stupid at it.

Here is a quick run down on the two challenges:

  • Quickfire Challenge: Create a delicious dessert that will be featured in the Top Chef: The Cookbook
  • Elimination Challenge: Improve a dish from an ingredient, color and emotion.

More with the team challenges. From this point on, I declare no more! Nikki had another chance to hide, and even though I agree that chefs can be tossed out for the tiniest thing at this point in the game, and no can really afford to let anything slide, things still get by when she’s still in the game.

Jennifer shows up and tells the camera for the millionth time that she is doing it for Zoi. Whoa, hadn’t heard that one before? Who is this Zoi you speak about and why can’t you function in life without her? Blarg.

Quickfire Challenge

Johnny Juzzini is the guest judge for this round, who is a world renowned executive pastry chef at Jean-Gorges.

It also sends the chefs into bitch and moan sessions since they start complaining that they like to cook and add what’s missing, then continue. I’ve always been more of a baker than a chef, so this is why I love the dessert challenges. I didn’t realize what I liked to do was considered so hard until I watched the show. I just thought it was a preference. I’m not sure why anyone would be shocked by this challenge. Was it the one thing that has hung up chefs in past challenges? Desserts. What has won over some judges this season? Desserts. What’s this here? A dessert challenge!

The challenge is to make a delicious dessert. The winner of the challenge will be featured in the new Top Chef: The Cookbook, which features various original recipes from the first three seasons of the show. If they do not have a recipe up their sleeve, then they will need to improvise. I am thinking Stephanie will ace it since she has won during two challenges where she did dessert.

Same with Lisa, but then she is complaining that she doesn’t do dessert. Was the thing she took credit for a the block party with Stephanie really Stephanie’s idea? Maybe that’s why Lisa didn’t win overall on block party day. She said she swore to herself she would never do a pastry. I say, why make such stupid statements to yourself?

Dale said he only has one recipe up his sleeve that he memorized for a situation like this one. Antonia said some people have some pastry experience, but she is not one of those people. For someone that watches the show, you should know better Antonia! She does seem prepared to sink for it. Richard came up with his idea while he was making it and cutting up the bananas. He decided they were similar in size and shape of scallops so he was going to go with that. He’s so weird. While preparing, Spike had a few recipes up his sleeve, but felt about the souffle so decided to do for it. He thought guest judge Johnny would appreciate his gusto!

When I watch this show the first time, I am recovering from a gall stone attack so I’m not in the mood for anything, yet I wanted to try everything I saw. Combo of fruit and chocolate and sauces. Can you hear me drooling?


Spike
Pineapple Rum Raisin Souffle with Toasted Coconut

Johnny said he was glad someone stepped down for the souffle area. He said he scored points for that. Other chefs were peeking around the corner at what Johnny had done.


Richard
Banana Scallops with Banana Guacamole & Chocolate Ice Cream

Padma said chocolate and guacamole is strange and delicious. Richard liked both responses. The guacamole doesn’t scare me but I’m sure it tastes fabulous next to anything and the chocolate, but the ice cream does not look appetizing. Maybe tiny little poofs would have made it presented better than glop of stuff.


Jennifer
Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Dipped Banana Bites

Banana and chocolate. How could it go wrong? Johnny almost choked and said, “That’s chocolate.” Apparently it could go wrong with too much.


Andrew
Banana & Chocolate Ravioli with Pudding

Anyone seeing a chocolate/banana theme?


Nikki
Buttermilk Cake with Berry Sauce

Shockingly, Nikki said she has a delicious buttermilk cake recipe. For those that are new to Nikki-land, everything she makes is famous and delicious in her head, even though she is usually at the bottom of the individual pack. Padma said it was a very pretty dessert. Nothing about taste?


Stephanie
Chocolate Cake with Salted Basil Ganache

I’m afraid of ganache since it can be so hard. Johnny said it was very tender and great.


Dale
“Halo-Halo” with Shaved Ice, Avocado, Mango, Kiwis & Nuts

Dale said his dish was a traditional one from his culture. Johnny said it has a great texture and he could taste a lot of the spice.


Lisa
Yogurt with Fruit Puree, Fried Wontons & Strawberries

I’m shocked her dessert looks so good for all her complaining. I would have wanted to try it.


Mark
Pavlovas Made with Wattleseed

Some kind of Austraian/New Zealand thing that looked like little poofs of fruit on cream.


Antonia
Bruleed Lemon Curd with Lemon Cake

She said she attempted it, which I guess is the most important word in that description.

Overall Johnny said some came in a bit excited about the challenge, but others came in already defeated.

Losers:

  • Antonia – It didn’t come together for him. I read later, that her brulee didn’t have time to cook before she burned the sugar glaze so it was just curd under her brulee top.
  • Spike – He said it was not because he failed at a souffle and that says a lot about his personality that he tried.
  • Mark – It was a classic Pavlova, but not a classic definition of dessert.

None of the losers seemed all that horrible.

Winners:

  • Dale – Great flavors that really worked well together.
  • Lisa – It was a good summary balance of flavors with the strawberries.
  • Richard – Originality of the entire dessert with the similar texture of the banana and scallops.

Quickfire Challenge Winner: Richard

He said he wants to show he can do more since he can win with technology, and also a dessert course that he just made up.

Elimination Challenge

They are told they will be informed of the elimination challenge later but for now, they wail have the night of to watch Improv at Second City If anyone has watched the show before, will know that thye never get a nght off. When they thought they were going out dancing at Miami night clubs, they ended up working the roach coach. Those that think any different are delusional.

While watching a show, they have the audience start calling out their favorite colors, some emotions, and ingredient for cooking. That’s when all the chefs realize, this will be their next challenge. They must cook five courses:

  • Yellow, Love, Vanilla
  • Depressed, Purple, Bacon
  • Magenta, Drunk, Polish Sausage
  • Green, Perplexed, Tofu
  • Orange, Turned On, Asparagus

They divided up the teams by picking numbers out of a hat and that would be their course.

Menu Items:

Dale & Richard

  • Inspiration: Green, Perplexed, Tofu
  • Dish: Green Curry Grilled Tofu

Dale has a curry sauce, he wants to use so while he is getting those ingredients, Richard thinks what could be more confusing than getting some beef fat to grill with the tofu to make it taste like beef. He explains this all in a Seinfeld voice, which I found funny. While working on stuff, Dale runs back and realizes they have taken all the electrical equipment out of the back so the can’t do something he wanted to do. He had to improvise on his curry sauce!

Spike & Andrew

  • Inspiration: Yellow, Love, Vanilla
  • Dish: Vanilla Squash Soup

They just pulled a bunch of stuff at the store and while they were trying to buy stuff, they put things back until they were under budget so they felt they were improvising. Spike felt he should have done a soup a couple of challenges ago, so he’s happy that he can do it now. Spike says making a perfect soup is what impresses a chef. Antonia is rolling her eyes abut Spike making his soup and hope he doesn’t win for it. Andrew and Spike aren’t even phased by he stuff he was going to puree for the soup. They knew that people used to make soup before electricity so they will do it that way. They really got into it.

Mark & Nikki

  • Inspiration: Purple, Depressed, Bacon
  • Dish: Roasted Pork Loin

They were very middle of the road with pork tenderloin and bacon. I thought they could have been more exciting. Mark found out he did not have a spice grinder when the electrical equipment had gone missing. He was smashing things with pots and pans to grind stuff up.

Stephanie & Jennifer

  • Inspiration: Orange, Turned On, Asparagus
  • Dish: Menage a Trois of Orange, Goat Cheese, Asparagus

They talked about making it a menage a trois with asparagus, orange sauce and goat cheese, but the cheese is huge and there is a piece of bread involved along with a salad. That sounds like five things to me, but maybe I can’t count. Stephanie was with Jennifer on everything but the bread bit. She said the pieces were very large and didn’t have really make the asparagus stand up like it was supposed too. It probably didn’t help there was a huge chunk of cheese lying on top of the asparagus, hiding everything. Why not make the asparagus cut up through the cheese in the middle? No bread needed.

Antonia & Lisa

  • Inspiration: Magenta, Drunk, Polish Sausage
  • Dish: Sea Bass, Chorizo, Purple Potato

Neither one of them wanted anything to do with pork sausage. Lisa went so far to insult the drunkards that came up with the suggestion. She has insulted the audience before. She’s very insulting. This is when I wish the judges can see what the contestants say. neither one of them want to do polish sausage at all so they don’t! Uh…..what? Antonia is worried that it does not look as refined on the plate as she would have liked, but as long as it taste good, she is good with it.

Everyone was under the impression they were making the food right in the kitchen there, but Tom walks in and says they have 20 min. to pack up their stuff and then an hour left to prepare in the Top Chef house kitchen. oops!

They all cram into the kitchen that is so much smaller than the one they just left, but they make due while they try to get their courses out.


Andrew & Spike – Yellow, Love, Vanilla
Squash Soup with Vanilla Creme Fraiche

Andrew talked about tasting the soup so many times so he knows it is excellent. Tim Allen is there talking about he likes the overall spiciness to it. Tom says the loves the little bacon flavor in the background. Johnny loves the texture and it fulfilled it for him. He thought the proportion was a bit large. Tom said it was simple, straightforward and delicious. Padma said she would lick her bowl if the camera wasn’t on her.


Stephanie & Jennifer – Orange, Turned On, Asparagus
Menage a Trois of Orange with Goat Cheese, Asparagus, Salad & Olive Tepenade

Stephanie still doesn’t like the crouton. Crouton? That’s a huge chunk of grilled bread. One Second City actor said he was going to feel weird eating it after listening to their sexy way of describing their dish to them. Another actor said it was too greasy with the oil coming out of the goat cheese. Johnny said it was too difficult to cut the bread, the way it was prepared. He hates fighting with his food. Tom said the cheese and olives were unnecessary. Tim said it was not a menage a trois, it was an orgy. Another actor said nothing turned him on about the dish.


Dale & Richard – Green, Perplexed, Tofu
Tofu Steak Marinated in Beef Fat with Green Curry

While they are preparing their dish, Spike says he doesn’t “get” Richard and how his dish is very weird. He seems almost…perplexed? I love while they leave the room, half the guests stick their noses in the dishes to smell it all first. Hilarious! Tom said it was very good. Tim said the curry was terrific. He thought they would have been stuck with their perplexed word, but they did a great job with it. Tom loved that they didn’t get bummed out with tofu. One actress loved how they kept complimenting each other and how they need to do that with acting so she was very impressed with their personal presentations.


Antonia & Lisa – Magenta, Drunk, Polish Sausage
Sea Bass with Purple Potato Puree, Chorizo & Tequila Sauce

They explained their dish, and then had a shot of tequila. Johnny looked down and asked if they were getting a shot of tequila too, but they said, “No, sorry.” Some were annoyed. Others were probably confused about the lack of polish sausage. Tim said he was confused if they were supposed to use polish sausage why is there sea bass on top of chorizo. Tom couldn’t find anything drunk about the dish. One actor is seemed like the suggestion was a burden to them.


Mark & Nikki – Depressed, Purple, Bacon
Pork Loin with Sweet Potatoes, Grape Sauce, Jus & Brussels Sprouts

Tom said it was a nice plate of food. The pork was cooked nicely. Tim loved the glaze on the bacon. One actress said this is comfort she would have wanted to eat if she was depressed. Another one said maybe they could have made the sauce with their tears.

I’m sad when there isn’t a judges’ table discussion that we get to watch. Once again, nothing this week. 🙁

Winners

Dale & Richard and Andrew & Spike are called back as the winners.

Johnny told Andrew & Spike that it was balanced really well with the sweet notes and the saltiness. Tom said it was the best seasoned dish they had had all season. Ted asked if they were nervous doing soup, but Spike was just fine with it. He said his mom is a chef and she taught him about making a good soup. Ted said that played back to soup being comfort food and love which went with their inspiration.

Richard pointed out that Dale did the curry and he did the tofu part of it. They were very complimentary to each other. Johnny said they did a great job coming out as team and stuck by each other.

Johnny got to pick the overall winner, which he named Dale & Richard. They each won a Calphalon cooking set.

Losers

Antonia & Lisa and Jennifer & Stephanie were the losers.

Tom asked who made the decision to go with chorizo over polish sausage. They both did. He was surprised and didn’t believe them, but they assured him that’s how it went. They were both complaining they didn’t like polish sausage and Tom said they had to have it since it was one of their ingredients. Lisa said she couldn’t believe she was up there because of a slight wording thing. Slight? They used completely wrong ingredients.

Padma asked Jennifer & Stephanie why they went with goat cheese. Stephanie said they liked when it is cooked, it has a nice orange flavor. I was confused about why the cut of it was so big. Tom said the goat cheese was front and center instead of the asparagus and orange. Everyone was shocked that they wanted the asparagus and bread to be erect. They didn’t like the presentation style at all. Johnny really didn’t like the bread at all. Johnny said the dish lacked finesse. Padma asked who did what. Jennifer said she did the cheese and bread and Stephanie did the asparagus, vinaigrette and a lot of the prep.

They were all sent out. Lisa was cussing up a storm outside saying they would have had a winning dish if they had put some polish sausage in some beer. She complained again about drunk people deciding what they are going to make. Oh, I don’t’ like her.

Tim asked what was worse: Antonia & Lisa changing the main ingredient or Jennifer & Stephanie giving them a muddle on the plate. I would go with the first one. I’d have loved to see Lisa go home with her attitude. Tom said polish sausage was used too loosely. Johnny said the word improv was being used to their advantage. Tom said he liked their dish more than the asparagus dish. Tim asked what was more important: better dish or following the rules. I think following the rules! Tom said that the asparagus was in the dish, but it wasn’t front and center. Johnny said it was a secondary component of the dish. Johnny said it was his least favorite taste wise.

They were called back in. Antonia & Lisa, they went too far off track from polish sausage with a fish dish. Jennifer & Stephanie, goat cheese became the main focal point of the dish, which wasn’t one of the main ingredients. They went with their least favorite dish: Jen & Stephanie. Jen was asked to pack her knives and go. oops! I think Lisa should have gone. I don’t get their reasoning behind it this time. I always see their judge reasoning, but I couldn’t with this one.

Questions

  • Should Antonia & Lisa had the worst dish of the competition?
  • Should Stephanie had gone home instead for not speaking up about the bread piece?
  • Should changing a main ingredient be worse than or having a muddled mess on a plate?
  • Should a team go home for not following the rules, but making a good plate? Or should they go home by making a messy, not good dish?

Photo Source: Top Chef

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