Top Chef Recap – Season 13, Episode 8 (and Last Chance Kitchen)

Where’s The Beef
Screened 28 January 2015

Quickfire

The challenge is to make a dish that’s visually stunning – “food porn” – but using junk food. It’s been inspired by a mystery chef who posts this type of thing on Instagram. We meet the incredibly bro-ish “Jacques LaMerde” who is just a silhouette with a computerized voice and Padma says they’re going to keep “his” identity secret.  His?  From the silhouette and painful attempt at swagger it is plainly obvious that “Jacques” is either a woman or Justin Bieber.

In fact, they immediately reveal “Jacques” is famous chef Christine Flynn.  Mind blown except for, you know, those of us who’d never heard of Jacques before tonight and don’t know that the fuss is about.

The chefs photograph their dishes and they will be posted on Instagram for the public to judge – results tomorrow, meaning everybody goes into the next challenge thinking they could go home.

During the presentation of the dishes there’s a lot of “this is so beautiful” from Padma and Chef Flynn but honestly, most of it looks like random crap arranged on a plate, especially Man Bun’s which doesn’t look “arranged” so much as “thrown up”.

Top (left to right) – Man Bun, Jeremy, Kwame. Bottom (left to right) Amar, Isaac, Sister Wife.

Top (left to right) – Man Bun, Jeremy, Kwame. Bottom (left to right) Amar, Isaac, Sister Wife.

Elimination Challenge

Out wanders Chef Neal Fraser who looks like a missing link between that fish that came out of the sea and humans. The challenge is to cater a “gluttonous feast” called Beefsteak where over 200 rich people pay a bunch of money to gorge themselves in a wasteful feast of food and alcohol to raise money for a foodbank. It’s like someone took irony and turned it into an event.

The three rules of Beefsteak are that there are no utensils, no plates and no napkins. Also they tear apart a live goat and devour its entrails as the starter. I may have made up that last bit.

The cheftestants are split into teams:
Blue – Isaac, Sister Wife and Chad
Red – Kwame, Karen and Carl.
Green – Man Bun, Amar and Jeremy

During the shopping Amar grabs a halibut the size of a mini-van. Buying a whole animal seems in keeping the “Beefsteak” theme. But then he breaks it down, as does Chad with these giant loins of tuna he purchased. This also makes sense since it’s a sit-down event, not a buffet – you can’t serve one giant piece of meat to twenty tables. Thus I’ve just illustrated the problem with this challenge – the cheftestants know the diners are expecting something “gluttonous” but that’s pretty much all they’ve been told. They’re forced to fill in the gaps and, as we’ll learn, they filled them in with a bunch of wrong.

As the Beefsteak begins the judges are all handed aprons, which is just as well because Padma is wearing white. Hey, there’s Colin Hanks. He was in…he’s from…hey there’s Colin Hanks, Tom Hanks’ son.

The green team serve first.
Man Bun – New Zealand Rack of Lamb With Prune Jam
Amar – Grilled Halibut With Mustard Vinaigrette(!), Cucumber and Pickled Red Onion
Jeremy – Fried Brussels Sprouts With Bacon, Sweet and Sour Sauce and Cilantro AND Roasted Carrots With Spice Yoghurt

Their food is critiqued for being too “dainty” – something we’ll hear a lot tonight. As Tom says “you should have a bloody mess at the end of the event”. However, Man Bun’s lamb chops made the diners felt debauched so that gets praised to heaven even though these tiny pieces of meat are so pink that they’re practically still roaming around a meadow.

TC8ManBun

It’s evident the judges have quickly settled – into the “gluttonous” nature of the event. Padma calls Amar’s fish “pansy” for its small portions and sticks her finger into a bowl of sauce. Top Chef regular Hugh Acheson, a guest judge this episode, tosses a half eaten lamb chop at another table. Someone thought this would make fun viewing but actually it’s just like when you’re out trying to have a nice meal and there are some drunk people making a scene at the next table.

The blue team are up second.
Isaac – Chicken and Bacon Sausage With Grilled Cabbage
Chad – Ash-Seared Tuna With Citrus, Pickled Beets, Radish and Black Sesame
Sister Wife – Assorted Pickled Vegetables and Milk Bread

Isaac’s huge sausage impresses in that looks like an anaconda coiled on a mound of cabbage but unfortunately it’s dry and bland. Of course, Chad’s slices of tuna are too small for the judges and it commit the crime of having a garnish – Padma literally tosses Chad’s micro-greens into the middle of the table like it has the audacity to be in the same room as her.

As the diners become more frustrated with what they’re being served they start becoming even more grating. “Where was the sexism, people? The Beefsteak is about sexism!’ shouts Matt Selman, an executive producer of The Simpsons who is sitting with the judges. If that’s his idea of funny that explains why these days the Simpsons is as funny as cancer.

Okay, red team – it’s your turn to get told that you didn’t understand the nature of the challenge.
Carl and Karen – Roasted Strip Loin With Romesco
Kwame – Peel and Eat Shrimp With Aromatic Butter
Karen – Asparagus With Chorizo AND Potatoes and Olives

The shrimp elicits cries of excitement since it meets the requisite decadence but it’s overcooked. The beef suffers the opposite problem, it tastes good but looks too refined. “Too much of this,” says guest judge Chris Cosentino as he haughtily pulls some tweezers from Kwame’s jacket to prove his point. Except Kwame had nothing to do with the dainty beef, he made the shrimp.

TC8Red

Why can’t you follow the instructions that we neglected to give you!?

I’m left feeling incredibly perplexed after Cosentino’s interaction with Kwame. It reeked of arrogance and disrespect, not to mention that Kwame didn’t have “too much of this” since, of every cheftestant bar Isaac, his plate most met the challenge visually. It’s an incredibly odd, even unsettling, moment. Cosentino won a Top Chef Masters season and had a show Chef vs City which basically consisted of him going around being mean to other chefs. He’s said he regrets who he became to achieve TV fame – but from this I’m wondering if being horrible is just the real him. Cosentino owns a restaurant called Cockscomb. Part of that name describes him perfectly. Hint: Not the “scomb” part.

As the diners sum up their experience we’re told, for the billionth time, how bad everyone tanked. “They didn’t need to reinvent the Beefsteak” says The Simpsons’ Matt Selman who is apparently a co-founder of the event. But we were earlier told Beefsteak was founded over a 100 years ago. So does he have a picture of a really old Matt Selman in his attic or did he not really found Beefsteak?

Judging

It turns out the quickfire winner is…Karen!! Hooray, she’s safe! She’s relieved and she should be – everyone knows this judging is going to be uglier than Isaac’s giant sausage.

Tom ascertains that the chefestants understood Beefsteak was about decadence. “Why didn’t we get decadence?” he then asks.

Chad says he doesn’t want to get defensive but he immediately does. “We wanted to do that, it’s just very small parameters of things that we can actually get”.

“Hey dude,” replies Chris Cosentino arrogantly. “I’ve been through the same boat that every single one of yous have been in. When I was on Top Chef Masters I’ve done it. Being chefs it’s learning how to deal with problems and getting around those limitations, that’s what growth is.” “Hey dude”? A ‘when I was on Top Chef story? A bunch of trite advice? Please, nobody put Cosentino on television again.

Man Bun, Amar and Jeremy are the top team and Man Bun wins, apparently because he served meat on a bone.

Sister Wife, Chad and Isaac made the least favourite meal. Sister Wife’s break and pickles were highly praised so it’s between the two men. Isaac’s sausage was bland. Chad’s fish was good but the presentation was, of course, a miss.

And it’s Chad who goes home. He had been in the episode a lot so it’s not much of a surprise but rather disappointing that he goes home for cooking an apparently decent tasting dish. I’ll miss you my hot hipster bear chef.

Sigh.

Sigh.

I imagine the cheftestants found this episode immensely frustrating. I certainly did. There was a huge disconnect between the expectations and what the cheftestants produced – not just a couple of them but almost everybody. So is that an indication they all misunderstood the challenge or that the challenge wasn’t sufficiently explained or that perhaps the strictures of shopping (small amount of time, a single supermarket) might not fit the needs of a specialist event like Beefsteak?

Best Line of the Episode: “It’s like the judges showed up to see Metallica and Weezer were playing.” Oh, Man Bun, you are SO not Metallica.

Worst Line of the Episode: “I think serving this halibut in these little fillets, it seems a little pansy to me”. Padma loses all the gay brownie point for that mass same sex wedding.

PadmanSTE

Just for that I’m going to share this photo of Padma “acting” on Star Trek Enterprise again.

Last Chance Kitchen

Jason v Chad

Because of Chad’s failure to serve a whole raw horse at the Beefsteak they have to butcher and cook a huge cut of meat but they can only use their knives for the first five minutes (of twenty five).

Chad grabs a cow head and starts cutting out the eyes, tongue and cheeks. He’s suddenly 1,000 times sexier than he’s ever been. Jason chops up some Flinstones sized rib-eye.

Jason – “Chuleton” Bone In Ribeye, Grilled Onions and Braised Herbs.
Chad – Beef Cheek With Huitlachoche Puree, No Bean Chili of Tongue and Cow Eye

Winner – Jason. Only five more wins to go.

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