Disclaimer: While this is a Top Chef recap, this is also specific to OC. In other words, us Weeklings are rooting for Amar Santana!
Disclaimer #2: There are total spoilers in here. Do not read unless you want to know who won what this week, okay? Now, let's DO this.
This episode was difficult in more ways than usual, despite the cheftestants operating out of the classic Top Chef kitchen environment. It began with the Quickfire presented by TC alumna Antonia Lofaso and Padma. The remaining 10 had 20 seconds each to select one ingredient. The 10 ingredients selected would be the only ones used by everyone to create a winning dish.
The chosen items were beef, chicken, jalapeno, salt, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mushrooms (by Amar), tomato and celery. Overheard by one chef, the challenge definitely requires one to focus and concentrate on flavor and execution. Santana discussed how his old boss, Charlie Palmer, would judge a chef's restaurant by the way they would make a chicken dish. He was taught early on the importance of making a great chicken. His final dish was a roasted breast of chicken with charred tomato celery vinaigrette and mushrooms a la grecque.
Amar was extra chatty in this challenge, commenting on Jeremy on his non-cooking (crudo, ceviche, his current Quickfire dish). Of course, when it's time for Antonia to choose between Amar and Jeremy's dish, it's Jeremy who wins his very first immunity. Next up, an elimination challenge that'll make or break our chefs. They are to create a dish representing who they were 10 years ago. With 45 minutes and $400 at Whole Paycheck, they're off!
Back at their hotel, they gather on the roof for some grilling and Colicchio impersonations. You start to hear everyone's story from 10 years ago, and realize how far they've all come. Fast forward to the next morning, and we can see hints of frustration already stewing in some of them.
In the kitchen, Tom and Michael Voltaggio stroll in to check on the chefs. They have a moment with Amar, as he describes starting as a line cook at New York City's Aureole. They discuss the lobster dish he is preparing, and how it is an ode to his mentor, Gerry Hayden (who the episode is dedicated to). Things start to get dicey as Kwame slices his finger. Stress levels are peaking.
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At a chef's table set up in the middle of the kitchen, the guests start to roll in. There's Nancy Silverton, Top Chef winner Mei Lin, Chef/owner Zach Pollack from Alimento and Kris Yenbamroong of Night + Market restaurants. A very LA crowd, indeed. Chefs are paired off, plating and serving together for the sake of a one hour show.
Chef Santana serves a butter-poached lobster, sauteed bok choy, tapioca coconut curry and tempura onion rings. While enjoyed by the judges, the winning dish belongs to Marjorie. Her seared halibut with grilled and roasted vegetables in green curry sauce knocked their socks off. Judge Richard Blaise was enamored by her finesse with the vegetables.
At the bottom, we see Kwame, Philip and Jason. Both Kwame and Jason admit to losing focus. Phillip says something that frustrates everyone. Tom's words of wisdom remind us that "Too often we forget about the emotional side of cooking." And then Jason is sent packing for Last Chance Kitchen.
Next week: Instagram food porn and Colin Hanks? Alrighty. Have a good weekend, people.