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Recap Top Chef 5, Episode 6

Posted on 12/18/2008 by RealityWanted in Top Chef

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By Arthur Perkins
Quickfire Challenge was with Martha Stewart as guest judge (Quickfire only). Martha challenged the chefs to cook simple but not too simple. The theme was one-pot cooking in 45 minutes. Chefs prepared the following dishes:
Jeff - potato risotto w/ crispy pork, sauteed brussels sprouts, verjus
Ariane - cauliflower puree w/ herb-rubbed filet mignon
Stefan - veal celtic goulash w/ potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms w/ garlic, saffron, fresh herbs
Jaime - potato/kale stew w/scallops and fried sage
Leah - not shown
Eugene - spicy Korean stew w/ pork, mushrooms, cilantro sour cream and wonton chips  thickened with cornstarch because time not enough for reduction
Fabio - roasted mushroom polenta w/ seared duck breast
Radhika - not shown
Carla - brined turkey breast w/ apple and dried cherry stuffing
Melissa - pork tenderloin w/ braised cabbage, apple bacon, orange, fennel
Hosea - fish, shrimp, chicken, chorizo paella
The losers group was Jeff(starchy and too heavy), Fabio (polenta color grayish, mushrooms not showing), and Eugene (too much cornstarch).
The winners group was Ariane, Hosea, Jaime (perfectly cook and kale winter vegetable available despite filming in August). The winner was Ariane who got the "Martha Stewart's Cooking School" as a prize. She also got immunity for the elimination challenge and had the opportunity to chat as "jersey girls" with Martha. I am compelled to comment that I felt Ariane's food was "too simple" to win but I wasn't tasting it. Maybe there was complexity that was not visually evident.
The Elimination Challenge is to cater a holiday party for 250 guests at the Prince George Ballroom for the American Foundation for Aids Research (AMFAR). the judges would be Michelle Bernstein and actress/foodie Natasha Richardson. Padma called in the Harlem Gospel Choir to sing about the food theme for the event. It is the song 12 Days of Christmas and each of the 11 chefs drew a knife (except for #4 which didn't make it to the event because there was one chef less than the number of days). Chefs were given a budget of $400 each at Whole Foods, which works out to maybe $4000 total food spending ($16 per guest). Days drawn were:
1 Radhika Partridge in a Pear Tree grilled duck leg, toasted brioche, pear chutney, toasted pistachios
2 Carla Turtle Doves braised chicken w/ duxelles, mushroom cap
3 Leah French Hens braised guinea hen with butternut squash puree over puffed pastry
4 nobody Calling Birds
5 Eugene Golden Rings Poisson Cru w/ pineapple ring, Yukon Gold potato chip
6 Ariane Geese a Laying Devilled Eggs 6 ways
7 Jamie Swans Aswimming crudo of sea scallop in vichyssoise, lemon agrumato, leeks, microgreens
8 Melissa Maids Amilking gorgonzola and NY strip steak on sourdough crostini w/ cranberry vinaigrette
9 Fabio Ladies Dancing sweet corn and roasted pepper crabcake, chipotle, lime aioli, coleslaw
10 Jeff Lords Aleaping seared Halloumi and Kasseri cheese, roasted beets, pears, mint and spices
11 Hosea Piper Piping sauteed pork w/ chipotle mashed potatoes, apple brandy jus
12 Stefan Drummers Drumming Chicken pot pie w/ English peas, white asparagus, thyme and parsley
The constraints are that they have 3 hours to prep, then 1 hour to prep and pack in the top Chef kitchen, followed by one more hour onsite. They will have to plate 300 dishes of their dishes. What happens overnight is that the refrigerators were overloaded and running much higher than normal temperatures. Hosea's pork and Radhika's duck were pretty much wiped out, with Melissa having some minor damage. The entire group of chefs came to their rescue the next morning and helped them redo their dishes. You will see what the results are.
The event guests voted for their favorite dish by pinning AIDS ribbons onto a board for each chef. Some pinned them directly onto a favorite chef, particularly Hosea(for his food) and Fabio(you know why with a huge crowd predominantly female at least what was shown on camera). The judges ate sequentially and caucused after each dish.
The final results were that Hosea, Jeff, Stefan and Radhika were in the Winners Group. The win went to Hosea, who got a copy of Michelle Bernstein's book. Michelle then undercut the value of that gift by announcing that all chefs (not clear if limited to winners group) would also receive one. One comment Padma made and Tom seconded was "does she (Ariane) expect to win with a devilled egg". I think Ariane once again went too simple. Note that two of the four "winners" were the ones burned by the refrigerator incident.
The losers group was Jaime, Eugene and Melissa. Jaime was called out for not cooking the scallops, which if done would have improved the dish. Eugene had a hard-headed attitude that his dish was fabulous in spite of feedback to the contrary. Melissa was criticized for having too much cheese on her dish.
Tom Colicchio stated that he was disappointed in the overall level of cuisine enough that he was going to talk to the chefs and urge them to raise the level of their cooking in the future. He said "we are not looking for a little canape, we are looking for amazing food." Tom announced that in the spirit of the holidays nobody be eliminated. Natasha had originated that concept. Eugene, Melissa and Jaime had not done that badly in my opinion compared to previous losers groups, so there was a second rationale for this decision.
I get the last word here and I am appalled at the license allowed chefs when you have the "the days of Christmas" theme. Only Ariane and Jaime seemed to adhere to any semblance of the their "day". It looked like the chefs used this as an opportunity to make favorite dishes that could work in that environment. I think that is wrong and the judging should have called them out on this. At the very least, each chef should be forced to state how their food was related to their theme (a few made a pathetic effort at this).
I will also say that my long-range predictions have not changed . There are 3 groups right now, the winners such as Stefan, Fabio, Hosea and Ariane, the middle group of Radhika, Leah, Jaime (in spite of her difficult last two episodes), and Jeff and the soon-to-be-eliminated group of Eugene and Melissa and Carla.


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