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Top Chef 5 Episode 7 Recap

Posted on 01/08/2009 by RealityWanted in Top Chef

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Top Chef 5

By Arthur Perkins
The Quickfire started off innocently enough. It was nicknamed the "Diet Dr. Pepper" challenge, no doubt for product placement because this had little to do with Dr. Pepper (except for one chef who had a can visible in the cooking area). It is to create a sweet treat without sugar. Guest Judge is Jean-Christophe Novelli, who one of the chefs termed as a pastry expert. My research indicates that he has owned restaurants since 1996 and is much more than a pastry chef. He is also a walking product placement for BRAVO's new show Chef Academy which is his creation. So the 11 chefs still in this competition scramble to make something worthy. Their choices were:
Fabio - granola and oat tart with eggless pastry cream and fresh berries
Jeff - frozen cherry and white fig yoghurt w/baklava spring roll
Eugene - mini blini burger w/ banana lumpias fries
Melissa - baked dessert burrito w/ Greek yoghurt sauce
Radhika - bread pudding w/ sauteed white peach and roasted cashews
Leah - crepe w/ whipped ricotta, strawberries and balsamic reduction
Stefan - sugar-free mousse de chocolate w/ cherries
Hosea - green figs and white peaches, brushed w/honey and balsamic
Ariane - whole wheat crepes w/ caramelized pears and toasted almonds
Jaime - ricotta, mascarpone, peach, nectarine and cherry Napoleon
Carla - baklava w/ chocolate disc and fried bananas
Who had the worst dishes as judged by Novelli? It was Carla, Ariane and Jaime, none of whom is happy to be in this category. Carla's bananas were very bland. Ariane was lacking a twist with her pancake.
Who had the best dishes? Radhika, Leah and Jeff did. The prize of Elimination Challenge immunity for winning the Quickfire went to Radhika. It was more valuable than most weeks as Tom announced that there would be 2 eliminations to make up for none last time. Padma announced that English food critic Toby Young would be joining the judges for the remainder of the season to replace Gail on her honoeymoon. Only Fabio knew much about him and what he knew indicated that they could expect harsh criticism from Toby. Eugene is shown in another product placement, for the T-Mobile Sidekick LX advanced cell phone.
The Elimination Challenge was quite simple. With 30 minutes to shop with $100, buy the ingredients and then prep 2 hours for a family-style meal for 12. There would be a focus group of foodies who would join the judges, who would taste blind (not knowing whose dish each one was). Let's come back to this blind concept at the end of this recap. The chefs drew knives for Team A (cooking first) or Team B (cooking last):
Team A - Fabio, Hosea, Jaime, Eugene, Melissa
Team B - Stefan, Jeff, Leah, Ariane, Carla
Radhika then got the opportunity to choose which Team she wanted to cook with. She chose  team A, as it did not have Stefan and she does not like working with Stefan. Food by Team A is prepared at the Astor Center and served at Top Chef headquarters. They find out that Team B is the foodie focus group judging their dishes along with Padma, Tom, Jean-Christophe and Toby. What the team B judges did not know at that time was that their was closed circuit TV fed off a hidden camera that allowed (I would even say forced) Team A to watch them at the table and hear their criticisms. Did you notice how the regular judges with Toby were saying about the same as usual during that period? No doubt they did not want to be accused of withholding their remarks until their decision-making at Judges Table, where the watchfulness of the camera could be edited. Here are the dishes from Team A:
Radhika - curried crab bisque w/lemon-scented crab salad (note: Toby made a comment here about the UN weapons inspectors looking in the wrong place when when would have found weapons of mass destruction here; Radhika can hear and see this remark and is mortified)
Hosea - bacon wrapped halibut w/roasted vegetables  in a beurre blanc sauce
Jaime - seared scallops w/ fennel, garlic, oranges and olives
Fabio - rack of lamb w/ cheese ravioli and mushroom sauce (note: Fabio knew he had failed to check them and they were undercooked when plated)
Eugene - crispy red snapper w/ tomato, basil and daikon fettucine
Melissa - ahi tuna crudo tacos ( I think Toby called this cat food)
So team B now transitions from foodie focus group to prepare their dishes. After being briefly present at the table for the beginning round B for no food-related reason I can understand, when they return to the kitchen they see the closed-circuit TV hookup set up again in the kitchen and realize that all their remarks about Team A were heard by them and they can expect the same level of criticism by Team A judging their food. The dishes are:
Stefan - roasted duck and braised cabbage w/bread dumplings
Jeff - trio tapas (oysters, seared tuna, avocado sorbet and grilled peaches
Ariane - skate wing w/pineapple and cauliflower puree
Leah -seared rouget encrusted bread w/fried beans in chorizo sauce
Carla - seared scallop on top of risotto w/gremolata topping
Tom stated that Team B produced the better group of dishes. The Best 3 were called by dish:
The chefs associated with those dishes were Ariane, Stefan, and Jaime. The braised cabbage of Stefan was appreciated by many; he said that southern Germans in Austria would particularly appreciate it. Tom called it perfectly cooked and spot-on. Toby called it quintessentially German. Tom loved Jaime's combination of fennel, orange and olive flavors. Jean-Christophe called it refined and "a lovely recipe." Jean-Christophe summarized Ariane's dish as great. Jaime wins for the first time in elimination challenges.
Next we have a very inappropriate violation of the confidentiality of the blind tasting. The losing chefs are called out by NAME and not by DISH. In order to do that the judges had to have access to tapes from hidden camera somewhere. One thing that normally happens but couldn't this time was Tom's visit to to kitchen as the dishes were under preparation. He had to remain at the table for both Team A and for Team B. How could this happen? Why bother to publicize a blind tasting when it really isn't?
If you recall from recent episodes the two worst chefs still in are Melissa and Eugene. They are my picks for elimination before anything is known about how they did in this episode. I was not surprised when the worst 3 included both of them plus Carla. Two of those 3 will be eliminated.
Melissa said that that her dish was difficult. Tom said that it was not wow, Jean-Christophe was bland and it was overdressed. Toby said the dish stunk (bad odor). For Eugene, Jean-Christophe said that the fish was overcooked. Toby said flavors too mild and lacked punch. Carla said that taking the scallops off her dish would make it perfect. Toby said the gremolata was bad.
The Judges conferred and Toby prefers Eugene to be the one who stays. Tom was upset that Eugene does not honor ingredients. Toby says Carla lacks confidence and without it she will never be a really top chef. Tom's final comments were:
Eugene- wildly creative but can't control it
Melissa-lack of imagination and creativity
Carla - overthought and overworked it
The two eliminated chefs were Melissa and Eugene. No surprise there. I have to say that I like Toby Young. He is from the Howard Cosell "tell it like it is" school. You can count on him for honesty, with no sugar coating whatsoever.

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