Back Where It All Started
Aired 4 March 2016
Sudden Death Quickfire Challenge
Padma and guest judge chef Traci Des Jardins, who is so tiny she looks like she’s standing in a hole, welcome the cheftestants to Tracey’s restaurant The Commissary. The challenge is to make a piece of artisanal toast. No one is under any illusions – it only sounds easy. There’s no immunity on offer but the chefs do get an extra incentive to win – a $16,000 oven.
Then the stakes are raised when we learn it’s a sudden death quickfire. Worse, after the two bottom cheftestants duke it out one of them literally is toast – the loser will go home!
Top: One chef’s toast stood out – the winner is Jeremy who made chicken liver mousse on ciabatta. Not only does he win the world’s most expensive oven – he’s spared the agony of waiting to see if he’s part of the quickfire elimination.
Bottom: Amar’s foie gras and duck breast on raisin sourdough had too much balsamatic vinegar on it. And Carl put shrimp with cheese on sourdough which he noted was an usual combination, unusual and unsuccessful this time.
So it’s Amar vs Carl to see who gets to stay. They’re tasked with cooking a dish within thirty minutes, any dish – and Tom wanders out to help judge given that so much rides on just this one plate.
Carl is making…snapper crudo. He calls it “his old friend” – we know it as “that thing the judges joke about the cheftestants always making”. Amar makes fish as well – sea bream. Padma jokes “Another crudo, huh?” as she taste’s Carl plate but turns out she prefers that dish. Tom votes for Amar, even though he felt it was underseasoned. The deciding vote goes to Chef Des Jardins. She chooses Carl. Sorry, Amar, it’s time to pack your knives.
Their guest judge this round is Chef Hubert Keller who may be the only man in the world who makes a ponytail look good. Chef Keller hosted the very first Quickfire in Top Chef Season 1 at his restaurant Fleur de Lys, explaining this episode’s title and giving a hint towards the upcoming challenge. There’s a flashback to episode 1 showing Keller, Tom and Gail, none of who appear to have aged at all in the past thirteen seasons. Thank you, Botox and fillers!
Keller recently closed Fleur de Lys but they’re reopening it one last time for this challenge which is to cook a “send-off” dish to farewell the restaurant for good. The guests will be Chef Keller’s friends, some of whom are well-known chefs, so no pressure!
To help them get into the groove Chef Keller cooks for the final four at Fleur de Lys that evening, a place that makes Marjorie feel like a princess. To add to the fairytale experience Emeril Lagasse turns up to pour the wine! Chef Keller has cooked an authentic pork, lamb and beef Alsace dish. I hope it tastes better than it looks because it looks – well, it’s easier to show than tell…
During dinner Chef Keller explains how he conceives a new dish – after service in the empty restaurant. It’s an inspiring moment, especially for Jeremy, a self-professed French foodie who probably has an advantage over the other cheftestants this episode, especially Isaac who, as we know, can only make three things, all of them being gumbo.
Duck Ballotine, Porcini, Beluga Lentils, Broiled Figs and Aged Balsamic Cherry Gastrique.
In fact, Isaac had taught himself to make ballotine. The flavors are good but the meat is dry – time constraints meant Isaac had to cook it in a hotter oven than he wanted.
Roasted Lamb Saddle With Artichoke Pureé, Artichoke Barigoule and Roasted Squash, Tomatoes and Olives.
As Jeremy notes, this is a relatively simple dish so it needs to be executed perfectly. Tom thinks the artichokes were under seasoned while Chef Keller felt the lamb wasn’t properly rested. Chef Lagasse felt it was close to being perfect, but just missed the mark slightly.
Filet de Loup de Mer, Truffle Potato Pureé, Pommes Souflées and Heirloom Tomato.
Jeremy was inspired to break out an old dish of his, those pomme souflées that are little slices of potato cooked so they puff up like a pillow. His plate looks like a work of art and has all the diners singing its praises, especially the fact that it really typified a “Fleur de Lys dish”.
Foie Gras En Gelée With Black Pepper, Strawberries and Fines Herbes.
Usually the foie gras component of this dish takes days to prepare (it needs to cure) so in attempting it in three hours Carl not only set himself a huge level of difficulty, he set himself up to fail. As Chef Keller says “it’s raw liver”. Gail points out that it’s not a complete failure – probably so that we won’t think the cheftestant going home is a foregone conclusion – but from the feedback it does appear that Carl is doomed.
Top: There is no doubt as to who is the winner – Jeremy. Chef Keller says Jeremy’s dish is something he would put on his menu – a huge compliment for Jeremy who earlier in the episode noted he was in a slump and resolved to pull out of it – mission accomplished. Nice to have you back, bro.
Bottom: The other three are grilled on their dishes in an attempt to distract us from the fact that Carl is going home.
Marjorie ends up in tears, she knows the mistake she made in not resting the lamb properly. Today she felt her fear tripped her up, though she vows if she makes it through she won’t let her fear hold her back.
Dead Cheftestant Walking Carl is quizzed on why he attempted something that couldn’t be done in the time allotted. As Gail points out “there’s no substitution for the process” with something like foie gras. Carl’s still defending his dish as “good” – even if he wasn’t already getting the boot this is the type of thing that gets a cheftestant sent home – it’s one thing to fail, it’s another to fail but claim you succeeded.
Majorie is let off the hook first, she’s through! Hooray!! So it comes down Carl v Issac – or as we already know, Carl v Nobody. Gail, as usual, nails the issue in my mind as she “would rather eat overcooked duck than undercooked foie gras”. Me too!
But there’s a HUGE SURPRISE as Isaac is told he’s out! Ha, ha, just kidding. Carl served raw liver! It’s him who is sent home.
The two-part finale is being held in Las Vegas and we are reminded that Jeremy, Marjorie and Isaac will be joined by the winner of Last Chance Kitchen. During the flash-forward we see the LCK’s winner’s shoulder as he stands next to Isaac – potentially a very big spoiler. Read down right down the bottom of the LCK recap if you want my guess as to who it is…
Best Line of the Week: Jeremy (at Fleur de Lys) – “You know, I thought the day of my daughter’s birth was huge but this is…”
Worst Line of the Week: Chef Chris Cosentino (That jerk from the Beefsteak challenge who snatched Kwame’s tweezers out of his jacket) – “I hope that everyone that’s cooking in the kitchen today realises the honor and the opportunity they have to be in that kitchen.” This is more of the trite, arrogant spiel we got from Cosentino last time around. Why does he feel the need to bring the cheftestants down? If anyone needs a lesson in gratitude and humility it’s him.
Last Chance Kitchen
San Francisco Staple
Jason vs Amar vs Carl (two will move on)
Important things first: hot hipster bear Chad is wearing a grey and camo sweatshirt, dark grey shorts and sneakers with a check pattern. Not that I’m obsessed with him or anything…
The challenge is to use “San Francisco staple” sourdough bread in a dish. Needless to say Amar isn’t impressed.
Carl – Green Apple and Green Tomato Gazpacho With Grilled Shrimp and Sourdough Croutons. My first thought is that this doesn’t showcase the bread, which was the challenge but Tom says Carl “used the sourdough well”.
Amar – Beef Wellington With Grilled Asparagus, Red Wine Jus and Béarnasie Sauce. Amar makes his own sourdough and the bread part comes out well. Go big or go home? This “go big” might have just paid off.
Jason – Brushetta With Smoke Salmon and Hazelnut Aigrelette, Artichoke Frittata and Shaved Radish. Jason also made his own bread but it doesn’t come out so he scraps that and uses the bread on offer.
Tom’s favourite is…Carl and Amar is also put through. That sends Jason home. It’s a sad end after five straight wins but he feels he found some mojo back in LCK so there’s a silver lining to his exit.
During the full episode they showed the winner of LCK standing next to Isaac in the next episode (Jeremy was standing on the other side of Marjorie). The angle may be deceiving but it looks like the winner is shorter than Isaac. Carl is about Isaac’s height so I believe that the winner of LCK is…Amar!