Top Chef: Chicago
Here is a quick run down on the two challenges:
- Quickfire Challenge: Create a fabulous entree in only 15 minutes
- Elimination Challenge: Feed a family of four a healthy, nutritious meal for only $10
The challenges tonight were tough ones. I could do the $10 one fairly easily with some planning, but I know I couldn’t do the time limit one since I always take twice as long as what any recipe states. I’m just slow.
Oprah’s personal chef, Art Smith was the guest judge for the episode. He is known for simple and healthy cuisine, but he’s on the hefty side, so I’m not sure how healthy he can be. Their quickfire challenge was to create a fabulous entree in 15 minutes. I would fail! They do have Uncle Ben rice available to help out including the 90-second microwavable rice.
Dale was going to do fried rice. He was pleased that most Asian food is done very quickly at a high heat so he wasn’t too stressed. Richard is more methodical so he didn’t know how he was going to react to the time limit. Lisa was just laughing since it is insane at 30 minutes and having it cut in half made it more insane. Stephanie was just throwing things together. She saw scallops and decided to go with seafood pancakes, which she hasn’t made before. She didn’t taste it either. She just hoped it was good. Spike wanted to show off his Greek roots with stuffed peppers. Antonia is making her mom’s recipe of rice salad, which sounds crazy but she swears it is good.
Rice Salad with Skirt Steak, Arugula, Red Onions & Cherry Tomatoes
Antonia told them it is a strange combination, but she loves it. Art said he liked the cold salad mixed with the hot steak.
Vegetable Fried Rice with Mushrooms, Zucchini, Snap Peas & Eggs
Art said it was very comforting.
Tuna Steak & Tomatoes Over Rice with Yuzu Vinaigrette
Richard said his dish was a play on steak and tomatoes. Art loved the yuzu vinaigrette on the tomatoes and said his dish was a great complete meal.
Brown Rice Pancakes with Scallops
Art said it was very clever with the rice in the pancakes.
Rice Stuffed Tomatoes with Veal, Port & Rice Wine Vinegar Sauce
Art said it was wonderful and a great way to serve a vegetable.
Rice, Corn, Black Beans & Peppers with Avocado Creme & Grilled Shrimp
Art said it was all about the lime. It made a big difference. It is all about the acid. He said most chefs oversalt food instead of adding acid.
Pineapple Fried Rice with Grilled Scallops & Chinese Long Beans
Art loved the long beans since he thinks they are underused. Dale agreed, saying it is one of his favorite vegetables.
Miso Glazed Turkey Over Rice with Snap Peas & Grapes
Art said he needed more sauce. Padma agreed, saying it was too dry, while she was choking on the turkey and calling it chicken.
Wild Rice Crusted Fish with Almond & Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Art said it was a little crunchy. He said it was very clever, but Andrew needed more than 15 minutes to figure out how to make it right.
- Mark – His dish didn’t work. It is not something Art would have enjoyed eating.
- Stephanie – He loved the rice in the pancake, but the pancake was heavy and the scallops were unnecessary.
- Lisa – Her dish was pretty, but it wasn’t original.
- Dale – His dish tasted good and was a complete meal.
- Richard – It was delicious and well-balanced
- Antonia – He became a believer of the rice salad and said again how he loved the cold and hot together.
Quickfire Challenge Winner: Antonia
She won immunity. I know they have to stop immunity fairly soon as they get closer to the end.
Art runs Common Threads, which is an organization that brings families back to the dining room to eat together by teaching them to make simple, affordable and nutritious meals. Their challenge is to devise a meal that is delicious and nutritious for a family of four that is simple enough a child could help make it. Their budget would only be $10. They had that day to shop and the next day, they were cooking at a culinary institute where they would be serving their meals.
At the market, Dale watched everyone get chicken so he decided to go with turkey bratwurst. Why not? Stephanie was completely lost. She grew up with her mom making her gourmet food, so she doesn’t really have anything to go by. I guess she never feeds herself or has enough money that she wasn’t a starving college kid at one point? She just wandered around the store with a basket that made no sense.
Antonia felt she had an edge since she was the only chef with a kid and she tries to cook kid-friendly, nutritious meals at home. She was going to go with a whole wheat stir fry pasta dish. Mark wanted to make a veggie curry since that is what he makes when he runs low on cash. At the cash register, everyone had to take some things about of their baskets in order to not go over the budget.
The next day, at the culinary institute, they discover they will have helpers. It is kids that are part of the program. Each chef has their own kid. Antonia almost started crying after seeing kids and it made her miss her daughter.
Some chefs are good about making the kids get right in the mess of everything while other ones seem like the kids are in the way, when they seem like very good, eager helpers.
Lisa had the following items:
- Chicken breasts
- Black Beans
- White Bread
- Peanut Butter
She was excited to have a helper since her girlfriend has a kid that helps her at home at times.
- Chicken thighs
- Black Beans
- Ginger Root
Richard was a bit concerned about choosing beets since not many kids have had beets before. His helper had never eaten one.
- Chicken breast
- Bok choy
- Red Pepper
Antonia’s kid was listening off all the things he can cut, so she let him go crazy chopping onions, carrots, bok choy and bell peppers.
- Pasta sauce
- Parmesan cheese
Spike gives his kid a carrot and a peeler, and his kid cuts himself with the peeler. He was a trooper about it. He washed up and got right back in there.
- Curry paste
- Coconut milk
- Sweet potatoes
- Naan bread
Mark’s kid has never had curry so he’s concerned if his dish will be kid-friendly enough. Lisa saw what Mark was making and thought it was not the best choice of a dish for a family. I think it could be if it was tasty and not too spicy.
- Whole chicken
- Red potatoes
- Brussels sprouts
- Grape tomatoes
Nikki was raised by a single mom so she learned how to cook when she was very young and remembers what her mom used to make for her, so she was making a one-pot recipe that was easy to make and clean up.
- Turkey bratwurst
- Red cabbage
Dale likes that he has one of the smaller kids since he was a small kid too (and also is a small adult).
- Chicken thighs
- Fennel bulb
- Parmesan cheese
- Bread crumbs
Andrew used to weigh over 200 pounds in high school so he knows how easy it is to fall into unhealthy eating because it is cheap so he was very invested in making something healthy with good flavors.
- Half a chicken
- Parmesan cheese
- Peanut butter
Stephanie thinks her helper is excited about the meal and trying new things, except Stephanie’s dish sounds scary with a tomato-peanut butter sauce. What?
Tom came around to visit the chefs and the helpers. When Richard’s helper said they are letting the onions sweat, Tom asked if they put them on a treadmill to sweat. He asked Dale’s helper what his favorite part of cooking was and the response was “eating.” I agree! He cringed at Andrew’s helper smashing something with a pot, but the kid never got his fingers. Tom stayed in the kitchen the rest of the time to keep an eye on everything.
When they went out to serve the food and they served other kids from Common Threads along with the judges.
Roasted Chicken with Black Beans, Apple, Avocado, & Beet Salad
Padma loved the apple. Gail liked the beans. Art said the beans were very nutritious. He said the only thing he would change is removing the skin. It wasn’t needed.
Roasted Chicken with Edamame & Black Beans, Peanut Butter & Apple French Toast
Padma wished there were more fresh vegetables. Art said the chicken didn’t have a lot of flavor. They all loved the apple french toast. Art said it was a great snack.
Turkey Bratwurst with Potatoes, Onions, Red Cabbage & Apples
Gail said the cabbage was very acidic. Padma was looking for something more universal.
Pasta Puttanesca, Carrot Soup & Semi-Baked Apples
Gail found it tasty and loved all the vegetables in the pasta and soup. Art said it was yummy.
Roasted Chicken with Mixed Vegetables, Tomato & Cucumber Salad
Art loved it. He said he was a big believer in one-pot wonders. He said it had delicious flavors. Gail said it was a very complete dish.
Vegetable Curry, Cinnamon Rice & Cucumber Salad
Padma said it was too sweet, especially with the sweet potato, coconut milk and the peanut butter was very sugary. Gail wished there was some protein.
Chicken & Vegetable Stir-Fry with Whole Wheat Noodles
Gail said it was a little sweet, but it was great. Padma said it trumped Spike’s spaghetti. Gail said it proved she knows how to accomplish the task from real-life experience.
Chicken Paillard with Fennel, Apples & Orange Salad
Art said it was a well-executed dish.
Couscous with Eggplant & Zucchini, Chicken in Peanut & Tomato Sauce and Apples with Granola
Art did not think it tasted great. Padma said the couscous wasn’t done very well. Gail said the dish was a tell-tale sign of a restaurant chef that does not cook at home very much.
Their discussions afterwards have been so few this season that I love it when I can finally see the judges discuss what they thought before the winners are called.
Tom said the kids had a great time and the judges really got into the kids helping them. Tom asked them what dishes they liked. Padma brought up Nikki’s dish. Gail said it was presented really well with a lot of color. It was fun. They also loved Antonia’s dish. Gail didn’t see it as a stretch for her. Tom said that Antonia mentioned it is one of the dishes she makes with her daughter.
Padma asked about Lisa’s dish. Tom said he didn’t care for it. Art said it was a bland plate of food. Gail asked about Stephanie’s dish. Tom made a face about the peanut butter and tomato sauce.
Andrew, Nikki and Antonia were called in as the best dishes. Nikki! She made a top dish for once! I guess it had to happen. Tom told Nikki she did a great job with the entire dish in one roasting pan. Gail said she loved how it was seasoned and it was balanced very well in flavors. Art said one-pot wonders are very accessible.
Padma told Andrew he made fruit accessible in a savory dish. Art said it was well-executed with the fennel and orange in the dish. Gail was impressed that none of the kids had fennel before, but they loved Andrew’s salad.
Padma said they loved her stir fry. Art said it was perfectly cooked. Padma said it was delicate enough for any child to eat it, but also flavorful enough for an adult.
Art was able to pick the overall winner and he picked Antonia. She won both challenges. Way to go Antonia. I think she redeemed herself over the past few weeks. She just needs to stay away from Lisa.
Lisa, Stephanie and Mark were the three worst dishes.
Stephanie thought she was there since her dish wasn’t simple enough. Tom brought up the odd sauce combination. He found it really bizarre. Art said the portion was too large and the couscous was not right. Stephanie agreed that some of the couscous was overcooked.
Mark was baffled why he was there. He thought it was because Tom didn’t like him, which caused Tom to laugh. Tom said he would be happy if Mark served him good food, but Mark looked like he was ready to just give up since he couldn’t win. Gail didn’t think his dish was healthy enough. Art said more vegetables could have been added. Gail agreed saying sweet potatoes made sense, but cucumbers did not since they do not have a lot of nutrients in it. Mark looked like he just didn’t care anymore.
Lisa was standing there with her arms crossed, very defensive. She thought her dish was fine and nutritious. She liked the sweetness at the end in the dessert. Tom said the beans and edamame were uncooked and bland. She did point out that her stuff came from cans which is what people have in their homes. Tom said he thought it was nutritional meal, but he wanted more flavor.
Everyone was sent out. Art did not like that Lisa did not take criticism well. Her dish looked beautiful, but it didn’t taste right. Padma and Gail said it wasn’t a tasty dish. Tom said he didn’t care what audience Lisa was cooking for, the dish was bland and no one likes bland food. When they moved onto Mark’s curry, Tom said it was a sloppy plate of food. It wasn’t appealing. Gail said his dish was lacking compared to other people’s dishes. Art wanted to like it because he loves vegetable curry, but it didn’t have enough vegetables in it. Tom didn’t think he spent his money wisely. Tom was confused about Stephanie who had been very sensible in her choices up until this point, but the sauce was so bizarre. Padma found it disgusting. Art said couscous isn’t hard to cook.
I think that Stephanie was having a really off day, but people have been sent home by having off days. I would have loved for Lisa to be sent home after last week, and for being so defensive, but she did calm down a bit after being defensive at first. Mark was so resigned for being at the bottom of the pack again that I don’t think he has anything left in him to continue.
They were called back in. Lisa had her arms crossed again. Stephanie’s dish was too complicated and her sauce was off-putting. Mark didn’t spend his budget wisely and his dish didn’t come together very well. Lisa did make a nutritious meal, but it lacked flavor. She looked like she was going to kill Tom. Mark was asked to pack his knives and go.
- What do you consider harder? Making a meal in only 15 minutes or making it with only $10?
- Should Lisa have been sent home instead for being so negative and not taking criticism well?
- Should Stephanie have been sent home for thinking that tomatoes and peanut butter goes together?
- Did the kids hinder the chefs in the kitchen or actually help them by being effective sous chefs?
Photo Source: Top Chef