Top Chef Recap – Season 13, Episode 6 (and Last Chance Kitchen)

Banannaise
Screened 14 January 2015

San Diego here we come!  I’ve been all around California but never got down to San Diego.  It’s full of seamen so I’m sure I’d love it.  On that topic, as we head into the city, we learn that Chad – he of the epic beard and general hot hipster bearness – joined the navy in the wake of 9/11, which brought him to San Diego. We’re then shown a picture of Chad in naval gear. What’s better than a hot bear?  A hot bear in uniform.

Sigh.

Sigh.

Sudden Death Quickfire Elimination

The guest judge is local restauranteur Javier Plascencia. I think he welcomes the cheftestants to his city but I was distracted as Chef Plascencia has the smouldering allure of a seasoned telenovela actor. In my eyes he looks not only good enough to eat, but also good enough to drink. Wait, that might have come out dirtier than I intended. Or maybe just as dirty as I intended.

They’re standing on the San Diego docks and the challenge is to make a great fish taco in twenty minutes. Because it’s also a sudden death quickfire the losing chef will have to cook against someone to stay in the competition.

There’s a tussle for the two lobsters available – Wesley grabs one, Jeremy the other. But a minute later, when Wesley returns to his station, his lobster is gone and immediately he accuses Jeremy and everybody else of stealing it.  I’m hoping the crustacean managed to slip its bindings and escape into the sea that’s literally right behind the cooking stations.  Swim, little lobster, swim!  In fact Wesley just accidentally placed the poor thing on Sister Wife’s station.  Alas, poor lobster, your time has come.

The cooking is a mad dash, with Wesley complaining he’s in the weeds after that whole lobster drama and Carl piling pressure on Chad (who is cooking in his home city, for a chef he knows and respects). But the real drama comes when, immediately after time is called, we learn Dangerous Minds hasn’t plated. She finished the tacos but she just didn’t put them onto the plates!

Top: Pink Hair, Chad, Kwame. The winner is Chad who made sure his Grilled Thresher Shark Taco With Oyster And Sea Urchin Salsa And Sal De Gusano had bite, understanding that Chef Plascencia would respond well to some heat.  By the way, sal de gusano literally means salt of worms, as in ground up worms!  I wish I was joking.

WormSalt

I’m not joking.

Bottom: Of course, Dangerous Minds is automatically the loser which was good news for Wesley.  He got one of the harsher critiques for using sliced melon as the taco wrapper.  Just think – a lobster died so he could make a taco with a sloppy mango wrapper that fell apart as they tried to eat it.  Isaac would have also likely been in trouble for his Cornmeal Fried Soft Shell Crab Taco which was described as “greasy” and certainly looked it.

The Cook Off Challenge is to make a dish employing the ingredients Chef Plascencia uses in his a caesar salad. I really enjoy watching challenges where they’re given limited ingredients.  This one is fairly easy as the ingredients are complementary – unlike, say, a challenge where they’re given kangaroo meat, strawberries and ground up worms and told to feed 500 people.  Dangerous Minds chooses Wesley which is a smart idea given how he just tanked.

Both of them go simple. Dangerous Minds makes crostini. Wesley makes a fried egg. A little too simple, I’m thinking but to be fair if you gave me the ingredients for caesar salad and told me to make something I’d make…caesar salad.  While Chef Plascencia thinks both dishes are good he gives the win to Wesley, which sends Dangerous Minds home. Of course, if you studied the teaser last week you already knew this.

Elimination Challenge

Padma is joined by Tom, Emeril Lagasse (hooray) and Richard Blais (not hooray). After Emeril hands out some brewskis Padma reveals she and the three men each created a craft beer with a  local microbrewery. The challenge is to cook a dish that captures the essence of the beer the cheftestant chose.

The flavor profiles of the beers, and the cheftestants assigned to them, are as follows:
Padma – jalapeno, ginger, tamarind.  Chad and Amar
Richard – ground glass, cigarette butts and swamp mud. Actually it’s beets, chocolate and ras el hanout (a North African spice blend).  Pink Hair, Wesley and Jeremy.
Emeril – coffee, cayenne, tangerine.  Sister Wife, Man Bun and Carl
Tom – lemon, coriander, banana. Isaac, Kwame and Jason. Isaac isn’t pleased he grabbed Tom’s beer and I don’t blame him.  Banana in beer?  It’s a pairing straight off one of those awful vintage recipe cards.

BananaCard

I’m not joking.

During the shopping Sister Wife perfectly sums up the pitfalls in the challenge “The hardest part of this challenge is to create a dish that tastes like the beer but that is balanced and not overly bitter.” Sister Wife is becoming one of my favorites this season – she seems very down to earth, unflappable and kind.  I’m going to have to start calling her by her real name.  It’s Marjorie?  Maybe I’ll just stick with Sister Wife for a while longer…

For some reason Jason has chosen to wear a beige and yellow plaid sports jacket.  Because isn’t that the ideal attire for supermarket shopping.  The material is an awful lot like that used for the trousers of the 1972 Walk Lively Ken doll.  How do I know what the trousers of the 1972 Walk Lively Ken doll look like?  This is how I know.

I'm not joking.

I’m not joking.

Top Chef has gotten the Hyatt as a sponsor and no sooner are the cheftestants settled into their suite than Uncle Emeril turns up with more alcohol. I just had to call him Uncle Emeril. He radiates uncle-ness.  He would make the best uncle ever.  He can cook good AND every time he appears he’s carrying booze. I wonder if I can adopt him?

During the prep the next day we learn that Sister Wife has never used a pressure cooker and we’re given a shot of Wesley’s butt crack. I think we’re meant to be grossed out but I prefer my men stocky so for me it’s just free porn.  From the edit it seems that Wesley and Jason will be in trouble, along with Isaac who uses this opportunity to coin the word banannaise used in the title. He thinks he can make #banannaise a thing. It’s not a thing.

Judging

The comments made during dining confirm that Wesley, Isaac and Jason really are in danger, along with Sister Wife.  During both the eating and the immediate post-eat conference Richard Blais describes Jason’s Pork and Squid Meatball With Grilled Marinated Squid as “one of the weirdest thing [he’s] ever had”. It certainly looked odd.

Jason7

Baby Cthulhu, hopefully not coming to plate near you soon…

Also looking odd is Blais himself who this week is sporting a pair of tortoise-shell rimmed glasses big enough for a giant.  Not looking odd is Tom. Whoever is styling him this season deserves a raise – he looked so debonair last week at the wedding in his bow tie and tonight’s lavender shirt and grey waistcoat combo made him look very sexy.

Top: Like last week there are a lot of cheftestants who receive good feedback.  I’m loving that there have been so many great dishes put out this season.  Sure, it can be entertaining watching someone fail but it’s so much more rewarding watching great chefs make great food.

In the end it’s Amar, Pink Hair and Kwame who are singled out. Pink Hair had earlier noted that it was frustrating to watch Kwame (and Jeremy) on top all the time so it’s pleasing when she takes this eventual win. This season is becoming a bit of a sausage fest (there are only two women left now) and in earlier recaps I’ve spoken of the straight-broness that infuses many episodes. I hope a woman winning will stop those men getting cockier than they already are. I guess I’ll now have to start calling her Karen as well. Congratulations, Karen!

Karen7

I love the vibrancy of Karen’s dish – just divine.

Bottom: Jason, Isaac, Wesley.
Isaac served an odd looking plate of Corn and Crab Veloute.  He made a big deal of being thrown by the challenge of incorporating the banana but, in fact, it’s his inability to edit that landed him with the losers.  I’m not sure what possessed him to stick the crab salad on top of a hunk of raw corn cob.

Isaac7

There’s a lot of yellow going on here, not all of it good.

The meat in Wesley’s Lamb with Roasted Beet Puree was overcooked and, according to Blais, the dish “wasn’t refined enough”. Wesley had earlier noted he and Blais were polar opposites in terms of cooking so no surprises with that criticism.

The eviction appeared to be going Jason’s way but it’s Wesley who goes home and in hindsight I can see why – overcooking meat is a fairly rudimentary mistake. Wesley is philosophical as he leaves and-  What the hell? My god, Richard Blais actually did a “namaste” hands-clasped-together gesture as a farewell. Who does that? I’ll tell you who, Lisa Kudrow’s Valerie Cherish in The Comeback!  But that was to show what a douchebag the Valerie character was!  It looks forced and patronising.

So we’re about halfway through the eliminations now.  In most seasons picking the top four at this point would be fairly easy but this time around the field is quite even. Kwame and Jeremy must be considered front runners as they’ve won the most challenges. But unless the edit in the teaser for the next episode is a red herring neither of them will do well next time. Definitely not winning is Man Bun, who is probably the weakest cheftestant left. Also probably not winning is Chad, Carl and Amar unless they seriously up their game. Karen and Sister Wife both have a win and if either cooks to their best could take it. Isaac is probably a dark horse but I’m thinking he’ll wilt under pressure.  This season feels like Kwame’s to lose but, of course, one bad dish and he’s out.

Best Line of the Week: Isaac – “So how do I get banana in a savoury. Oh that’s it, I’m gonna freeze banana in nitrogen and stick it up my ass”. Is he throwing shade at Richard Blais, who’s into molecular gastronomy? One problem with Isaac’s plan – if the banana has been up his ass I doubt anyone will want to eat it.

Worst line of the Week: Richard Blais – “You’ll be cooking at my restaurant Juniper and Ivy, so try not to break anything.” Speaking of patronising…

Last Chance Kitchen

Grayson vs Angelina vs Wesley

The challenge is to make a great burger – but in fifteen minutes. I could barely chop an onion in that amount of time! I know they’re trying to add drama but what’s next? Make roast chicken in three seconds?

While “sizing” up the three cheftestants Tom notes that “by the looks of [him]” Wesley knows his way around a good burger. Time out: Tom Chef just engaged in some very suspect size shaming. The show never would have called out any of the larger female competitors in this way. Truly bizarre stuff, especially from a show where the judges stuff their faces with multiple meals at the end.

As usual the cooking is fun to watch – aided by our ever increasing audience who are all so charming and funny they make me wish they were still back in the main show. Angelina is more relaxed that we’ve seen her all season, she’s actually fun to watch. Even dour Wesley has lightened up, despite Tom calling him large.

All three burgers look delicious and all three are completely different:
Wesley – Lamb Burger With Ras El Hanout, Goat Cheese and Fennel
Grayson – Beef and Pork Belly Burger With Mushrooms, Pickled Red Onion
Angelina – Beef and Pork Burger With Avocado, Heirloom Tomatoes

Tom gives the win to Angelina. To my eye her burger looked seriously underdone – some of minced meat was decidedly pink – but Tom’s idea of a good burger is one medium to medium rare. He’s so not cooking burgers for me.

Congratulations Angelina! Only eight wins and you’re back in the competition. That’s not gonna happen but kudos for smiling – it makes me embarrassed to have nicknamed you Dangerous Minds. Almost embarrassed.

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