Your Top Chef: California Recap (OC Edition) – Week 7

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.

We’re down to nine! Can you believe it? Our cheftestants are given polar opposite challenges this week, and it definitely threw them off their game. But we digress. It’ll make much more sense as we recap.

First, they are involved in an Instagram Quickfire. What does that mean, exactly? It means it has NOTHING to do with how the food tastes, and EVERYTHING to do with how it looks. We are introduced to @chefjacqueslamerde, who is really Chef Christine Flynn from Toronto. With 96,000 followers and counting, he/she knows a thing or two about food styling. Her catch: she incorporates junk food. And that is what our chefs are in for.

The challenge— Create a visually stunning dish that’ll be judged by Instagram users. The winning food porn will mean immunity for that chef. Oh, and the only protein provided is Spam. There are a lot of snack cakes, candy, and other assorted sugary and salty foods nobody dreams about plating in a formal restaurant. Amar immediately gravitates to Easy Cheese, “the original foam!” You know this is going to get silly really fast. Santana’s contribution was a study in fermented black garlic puree, roasted carrots, Doritos crumble, grilled spam and (wait for it) Easy Cheese. We think this would blend right in at Vaca. Right, chef?

While we wait for the final Instagram results, out comes Chef Neal Fraser. He’s here to explain Beefsteak, a.k.a. their Elimination Challenge. An event where there are no utensils, plates nor napkins, all proceeds from this barbaric shindig go to the LA Food Bank. Their mission is to group in teams of three to create a meat, seafood and duo side dishes for this beef feast. And with $2000, they’ve got 30 minutes inside Whole Paycheck to make something happen.

Green Team consists of Philip, Amar and Jeremy. Philip decides on a New Zealand lamb rack with prune jam. Jeremy chooses roasted carrots with spiced yogurt, plus sweet and sour fried Brussels sprouts with bacon and cilantro. Santana commits to a 25 pound halibut, because he loves doing all the butchering at Broadway. 

Things we learn while their team preps: Amar and Philip are roommates. Philip doesn’t take criticism well. However, Amar admits, “I was THAT guy. Since I’ve changed my mentality, I’ve been able to take criticism and I’m a better chef.” That just earned him another 5,000 followers on social media.

Fast forward to the venue, Vibiana in Downtown Los Angeles. A former Catholic cathedral, it’s a grandiose setting for an equally grandiose feast. We see the judges and their dining companions, including guest judge Chris Cosentino and actor Colin Hanks. Without dragging this recap further, know that every team got slammed by the judges. Their primary complaint: it wasn’t barbaric enough. WTF were microgreens doing there? Why does this sausage have no flavor? This beef portion is too dainty! No team was safe from elimination.

On the bright side, we find out Karen’s Instagram dish won her immunity with 5,795 votes! In addition, our green trio wins this challenge. Thanks to Philip’s bone-in protein, he even wins this round. Cosentino compliments Jeremy for an absolutely delicious dish with just enough bacon. Although Amar’s dish is cooked well, it didn’t quite fit into Beefsteak’s inappropriateness. 

We end the episode saying good-bye to Chad. An excellent chef, but he (like many of them) struggled with this challenge. Good luck in LCK! And next week, Restaurant Wars!! Tougher than ever, they’re being asked to do both lunch and dinner service. Plus, every team member will have to rotate between executive chef or front of the house manager during service. No wonder it’s a two-parter.

Until next time.

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