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 was a high-stress episode. Every minute was precious in its own way. In fact, we realized half way through that it was an extended episode. Those chefs needed every last bit of time they could squeeze out of that timer.
Quickfire found them at The Presidio, inside the Traci Des Jardins establishment, The Commissary. Their challenge: Create the ultimate artisanal toast. The winner receives a Rational oven, valued at $16,000. Shut the front door! The two at the bottom will face off in a sudden quickfire, and the loser will go home. Jeremy ruled this challenge, but we are more focused on who lost.
Fancy bread is no stranger to San Francisco or Orange County, but it was something Amar doesn’t indulge in. He decided to follow the ‘go big or go home’ route with foie gras and duck breast, fig marmalade, balsamic truffle glaze and crispy prosciutto over raisin sourdough. Traci thought it was heavy-handed, too saucy and that the flavors were masked by the balsamic and spread. Carl was also at the bottom for an atypical pairing of shrimp and burrata.
The two went head-to-head, crafting a dish “to save your life”. Per Santana, “I want to show the world that I’m a great chef, and that I can cook under pressure and come up with great dishes.” Carl decides on a crudo, while Amar opts for pan-roasted sea bream, watermelon radish, plum yuzu brown butter and pickled mushrooms. “Fish Royale!” Issac exclaims. Head judge Tom is brought in to provide an additional opinion (a.k.a. tie breaker). While both dishes are well-executed, Amar is sent packing.
At this point, we’d probably turn off the television. But the guest chef for this episode is legendary: Hubert Keller. When Fleur de Lys closed in June of 2014, it was a sad day in San Francisco. However, Chef Keller invites the remaining chefs to create a tribute dish to send off his establishment. 40 guests for one-night-only will dine a final time. They’re given past menus to review, and a budget of $1,000 inside Whole Paycheck.
After groceries, but before prep and service the next day, Hubert cooks dinner for the cheftestants. And Emeril is there to pour wine! They pick Chef Keller’s brain for ideas and inspiration while dining on marinated and stewed pork, lamb and beef. According to our final five, the meal is epic. The pressure is now on to perform.
Dominique Crenn, Nancy Oakes, Chris Cosentino, Michael Chirarello and Harold Dieterle (Season 1 winner) were all present at dinner, providing commentary. Jeremy wins two in a row with filet loup de mer, truffle potato puree, pommes souffles and heirloom tomato. Joining Amar in Last Chance Kitchen was Carl, for attempting to do a three-day dish in three hours. A for ambition, Carl.
Now if you have been watching Last Chance Kitchen, you’ll know that Jason has won five in a row. His confidence is up, but he knows both guys are going to be tough to beat. LCK is two episodes this week, lining up with the first half of Top Chef’s finale. The threesome attack a sourdough challenge with gusto, forcing Jason to end his streak.Then it’s down to Carl and Amar. Again. It’s seafood royale, part two.
Before Tom announces who will be moving on to Vegas, the web episode wraps. Could Amar be hiding a surprise? That is the question of the week.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.