Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: February 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Episode 16 Recap: "Finale Part 1."

On week 16 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...

This is it. After 16 weeks of grueling battles and challenges we’re finally down to 2, um no, 3 chefs!

Yeah! Final 2 for now!
Brooke and Sheldon are left wondering who’s gonna crash their finale party. Regardless of who it is, I’m glad that the system worked and the remaining chefs are definitely the most talented and deserving to be here. With that said...I think Brooke and Sheldon are a little annoyed about it.

...and we’re in the finals we’re in the finals... We’re top 2...but it actually technically top 3... ♪” Sheldon sings while strumming his ukulele.

Yeah. And they had no idea about Save-A-Chef. That’s right guys. Last week there were actually 5 of you left!

As per Top Chef tradition, the final cheftestants go home for a few months before returning to the actual finale. We get a chance to visit with them and see how Top Chef fame have changed their lives. (Yes, they film the finale AFTER the season starts to air)

First stop. Maui. 

Bravo's forced to fill, so am I.
It’s been six months since Alaska and Sheldon’s been busy. He tells us during this time he staged at Vintage Cave, THE most high-end restaurant in Hawaii. They have one set tasting menu with the price at 295$. Um yeah. That’s the same price as Per Se. So we’re talking high caliber stuff here.

Sheldon’s definitely a big celebrity now. Star Noodle is bustling and he’s signing t-shirts and posing for pictures. Wait. He doesn’t own Star Noodle? Damn. I hope he got a raise!

Let’s have an family picnic by the beach! What. How else are you going to fill the show? There are only 3 people cooking now! 

Let’s go to LA and check out what Brooke’s been up to.

Equal opportunity filler.
Brooke actually runs two restaurants. Hudson House and The Tripel. Both places looks great. There’s nothing over 20$ on either menus and just looks like the kind of place where you can get good drinks and food. Frankly judging from her food on the show I had thought her place would be more high end. I’m glad it’s more gastropuby though.

To counter the staged picnic, let’s have Brooke go on a date with her husband!

They end up at Roy Choi’s A-Frame, where they run into Brooke’s mentor Sang Yoon, own of Father’s Office, which is not surprisingly, a gastropub.

Hey wait. Wasn’t Roy Choi last week’s guest judge? Isn’t there some conflict of interest or foul play? I kid, I kid.

Funny thing is we don’t see much of her restaurants nor do we see her getting the celebrity treatment. That’s LA I guess. Everyone’s kinda famous so no one cares. Ha.

Alright. Enough filler. Let’s get to it.

Finale. Day 1.

Brooke and Sheldon reunite. In the car ride they discuss who they might face from Last Chance Kitchen. 

Sheldon, “It would definitely be a surprise to see Josh. Who would you be surprised to see?” 

Brooke, auditioning for Mean Girls 2, “Carla and...Josie.”

Way to throw some digs on national TV! Eh. It’s not like they’ll ever see those three redshirts again anyway. So no biggie. 

They arrive at Craft. Fitting since this is where it all began this season. 

There to greet them: Padma, Hugh, and Emeril. 

The first gauntlet.
Padma tells them about Last Chance Kitchen, and for those people with no internet or just didn’t care to watch it on the website the producers are kind enough to provide you with a quick recap montage.

It’s actually a great way to sum up the entire season of Last Chance Kitchen. Here’s the quick version.

CJ set a record by defeating 7 straight opponents before falling to Kristen. Kristen then ran the table the rest of the way until they revealed to her that there’s also Save the Chef. So for the right to get back into the finale, Kristen had to battle not just Josh, but the winner of Save the Chef, Lizzie. Josh made rare venison so he got booted, leaving us to wonder if it’s going to be Kristen or Lizzie. 

The big reveal...

It’s Kristen. 

No big surprise there. 

Nope. Not Josie.
Actually, it’s no surprise these three are the ones left standing. They’re the favored from very early on. It should be an epic battle. 

The Challenge. Devise a three course menu and serve it tonight at Craft with Tom expediting. 

How profound. It’s an elevated version of the very first “amuse” challenge at Craft! Ah where there’s a beginning there’s an end. I feel like grasshopper.

Craft opens in three hours. Go.

It always tough when there are no real guidelines. That kind of freedom usually results in a lot of second guessing and time wasted. You’ve gotta just focus and go. 

Sheldon picked up some spot prawns for appetizer and quail for his main course. Hm. Spot prawns I can understand but quail seems out of character for him. 

Kristen’s doing a chestnut volute to start, tuna for main and some sort of chocolate for dessert.

Brooke’s not quite sure what she’s doing. Or at least that’s what she’s telling the rest of the chefs. That’s smart. I’d play it close to the chest too. There’s a great line from David Mamet’s famous play Glengary Glen Ross, “You never open your mouth till you know what the shot is.” Words to live by.
Always Be COOKING.

Um. Even Sheldon knows the quail’s out of his comfort zone. He admits it’s NOT the food he’s been cooking all season. But he wants to show the judges how much he’s grown. 

I gotta tell ya. I have a feeling staging at the super high-end restaurant did Sheldon more harm than good. The whole reason he’s here in the finale is because judges loved his elevated soulful dishes. A definite misstep from the get go.

The curve ball for all three chefs is going to be the dessert course. I never understood why they are required to make dessert on this show. Most chefs don’t really do dessert because cooking and baking are two very different creatures. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but most restaurants hire pastry chefs that specializes in desserts. I guess to be a TOP Chef you’ll need to know everything. 

Ok times. Up. Tickets are starting to roll in and it’s time for service.

So can you!!
All three of them are scrambling but Tom demands the kitchen to be cleaned up before service. Boom. Just like that the fear of God, should I say the fear of Tom is instilled. 

Since Tom will be expediting, as the judges tasting table we are joined by culinary television legend Martin Yan and New Orleans super chef John Besh. Martin Yan has been hosting cooking shows since 1978. His catch phrase, “If Yan can cook, so can you!” is right up there with Emeril’s “Bam” and Julia’s “Bon Appetite!” 

Rounding out the table is of course, our lovely host Padma, judge provocateur Hugh Acheson, and the Grand Poobah, Emeril Legasse.

Here comes the food. Appetizers.

Really creamy soup.
Sashimi Spot Prawns, Court Bouillon, Radish & Asian Herbs.

Chestnut Veloute, Duck Rillette & Brussels Sprouts.

Crispy Veal Sweetbread Salad with Kumquat, Beets & Mustard.

It’s hard to read the judges here. None of the dishes really jumped out at them. Brooke’s sweetbread could have been cut bigger, Kristen’s Rillette needed some acid, only Sheldon’s prawns escaped without criticism. 

Stop smiling and plate those dish!
Back in the kitchen, Brooke is in trouble. She’s totally falling behind and Tom is getting frustrated. You can see how working for Tom under these circumstances can wilt a seasoned chef like Brooke. 

Brooke isn’t the only one behind. Kristen’s also lagging in sending up dishes. Seems like the only one handling service well is Sheldon.

It’s both amazing and scary to watch Tom expedite. No excuses, no small talk, just do you job and get the food to the pass correctly and quickly. Completely different from the mentor/judge Tom we normally see. 

Main Course.

Sorry Charlie
Seared Ahi Tuna with Veal Mustard Jus & Meyer Lemon Puree.

Braised Short Ribs, Parmesan Sauce, Nettle Puree & Squash Dumpling.

Roasted Quail, Pine Nut Puree, Garam Masala & Tangerine.

First sign of trouble. As we’ve been noticing all along, judges are confused by Sheldon’s dish. In fact, they are confused whether or not it’s Sheldon who cooked this dish. Hugh wants the old Sheldon back. 

Looks like Brooke’s short ribs scored the most points here. Ribs cooked perfectly, sauce goes well with the braising liquid, nettle puree spot on. Damn. how many of you have had nettle? 
Angry Bird


Brown Butter Cake, Whipped Goat Cheese & Blackberry Sauce.

Curry Chocolate with Cashews

White Chocolate Mousse with Apple and Fennel

Ying and Yan 
Brooke killed it on dessert. Great texture without being overly buttery. Blackberry sauce provided a great contrast. Martin actually said, “...give it a Ying and Yan balance. Just perfect.” Way to give your brand a plug Martin! Ha, #ProTip

Kristen’s chocolate with curry got mixed reviews. Hugh thought it was too basic and wasn’t sure about the curry. Padma’s the only one who liked it.

Sheldon problem continues. The big chunk of raw fennel over powered everything else on the plate. 

At this point you’ve gotta wonder if the actual performance during service will have anything to do with who goes home. Because if you’re just keeping score on the dishes, it’s not looking good for Sheldon.

Service is over. Tom emerges from the kitchen and surveys the table. The gracious guests chefs always say they had a great time. Just once I want whoever the guest is to say, “That one dish was the weakest and I think so-and-so should go home.” Oh well, maybe next time when David Chang comes back.

Judgement time.

Sheldon’s up first. Much to be expected. His appetizer of spot prawns was near perfect. The problem, was the quail. Poor thing. He really wanted to show the judges how he “grew” as a chef. He totally out thought himself by trying to be something he’s not. He wanted to give the judges “high end” food. I stand by what I said about him staging at a place like Vintage Cave. Emeril was right. Sheldon was “brain washed.”

The second problem was the raw fennel on the dessert. Tom called it an “incomplete dish.” Not looking good.

Kristen’s turn.

Kristen’s got a lukewarm reception overall as well. Hugh thought her volute was one note and too safe, Tom didn’t like the Myer lemon puree, and the dessert seem like an afterthought.  

Kristen definitely played it too safe. It’s one of those, “let’s do enough to get by” mentality that usually results in an early exit. At this point it’s whether or not Sheldon’s mistakes outweighs Kristen’s mediocrity.
It always ends like this.


The big problem with Brooke tonight was her service. She was clearly in the weeds early on and thankfully she got out of it. Aside from that all of her dishes were great. Her parmesan sauce was so good Padma wanted to use Kristen’s tuna to scrape some more up. 

Tom was oddly critical of Brooke’s dessert. Right after Emeril raved and went to the extent of telling her both John Besh and Martin Yan loved it as well, Tom puts the smack down and tells her it’s not a “restaurant” dessert. 

Laugh now...
I think Brooke knows Tom’s not happy with her service tonight because here comes the “I can do way more than what I showed tonight...and I would just love the chance to actually show that,” spiel. Tom scowls.

The chefs go back to the stew room while the judges decide.

“I know we don’t take past performances into consideration but it’s sometimes hard not to think about what they’ve all been through the season.” Tom confesses.

I’m glad he said that because you can tell that at times past performances does factor in. However, that’s not going to help them this time because all three of the chefs had a great season.  

Back in the stew room, Brooke the math genius explains to us the probability of winning Top Chef at this point.

“It’s a one in three chance.”

Thank you Brooke. Stick to cooking. #ProTip

Time for the verdict...

Early on during prep Emeril talks to Sheldon and gives him kudos for his progress this season, 
“You know, I want to say to you that I really admire where you came from, I don’t think you’ve lost that...just like myself, dishwasher, and just keep working hard.”

Cya Sheldon! Should stuck to them noodles!
Therein lies the irony. Throughout the season Sheldon never lost it. Never lost the heritage behind the flavors, the joy behind his cooking, and the soul behind his food. Today he reached. Today he wasn’t true to himself. Today, Sheldon tried to become a tasting menu chef who charges three hundred dollars for a meal. And for that, today Sheldon will go home.

It’s been great watching him all season long. He really showed the world that you CAN elevate ethnic family food into something special. With this great showing with national exposure, I hope he does manage to find backers and open a restaurant of his own. Be it in Hawaii or else where, I hope to taste his food one day. So long Sheldon and thanks for all the dish(es).

Next week. The battle we’ve been waiting for. All season long I’ve predicted this finale and hopefully it’ll be as epic and we’ve all anticipated.

Thanks for stopping by and as always follow me on twitter @ChezWu!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Episode 15 Recap: Glacial Gourmand

The final 3: Sheldon Simeon, Brooke Williamson, Josh Valentine

On this week’s Top Chef: Seattle (episode 15), there are just 3 chefs left in the running for the title of “Top Chef”. And between Sheldon, Josh & Brooke, it’ll be a tight race to the finale…

The episode opens with the 3 cheftestants at their Juno, AK-based quarters, reflecting on their last challenge and Josh stressing over his wife’s pending birth. Then the chefs go to the kitchen to grab breakfast and find a letter that reads:


The chefs drive up to find a helicopter.  Brooke is horrified and breaks into tears. The view from the air is just outstanding and she musters enough courage to take it in. The chefs land on a glacier and Sheldon notices a lot of dogs and says he’d “die for some reefer”. Yep. Sheldon has just outted himself as a pothead on National TV. You go, boy.

The next part of their journey involves a dog-driven sleigh ride. When chefs arrive at their destination, a dog sled camp, Tom and Padma are waiting to greet them. This is the final Quickfire before the finale. Their challenge:  To prepare a dish in 30 minutes using whatever they can find in the camp.

The chefs grab their ingredients and prepare to cook in an extremely small (tent) kitchen that doesn’t have any electrical equipment. To make matters worse, the altitude and temperature make it that much harder to prepare their meals.

Brooke prepares a pan-roasted halibut, panzanella salad with walnuts and red currant and beet vinaigrette. Tom seems very impressed and the overall response is very positive. He particularly liked the crunch from the croutons.
Josh makes a cornmeal cake with Canadian bacon, scrambled eggs, and smoked salmon. The response from his dish isn’t quite as flattering – one person ever refers to it as “good, hardy camp food”.  To be honest, I was hoping for something more innovative, but the guy’s wife is having a baby and he’s a thousand miles away. Hello distraction…
Sheldon serves up pan-roasted halibut with tomato sauce, sesame bok choy, and pickled radish. Tom compliments him on the fish preparation, but tells him that the sauce was very “one note”.

Brooke-Pan-Roasted Halibut, Panzanella Salad with Red Currant & Beet Vinaigrette
And the winner is… Brooke!  I love all of them, but would really love to see this girl walk away with the “Top Chef” title at the end of this season. We haven’t had a female “Top Chef” since Stephanie Izard, from season 2, and Brooke’s so damn likable.

The three chefs and Padma pile back into the helicopter and then are driven (by Padma) to a special surprise:  They find that Kogi’s Roy Choi and Emeril Lagasse have prepared an amazing-looking meal just for them! Roy prepared braised short rib and tells the story of how Emeril inspired him to become a chef. Then the Elimination Challenge is announced: The chefs must prepare a dish that represents the defining culinary moment in each of their lives. The chefs will be cooking for the governor of Alaska and his wife, as well as the array of celebrity judges.

Brooke, Sheldon and Josh retire to their living room and discuss the challenge when suddenly, Josh’s cell phone rings… It’s his wife. Her water broke and she’s going into labor. As if he needed any distractions, the tension across his face is agonizing. Poor Josh…

The chefs arrive at the challenge kitchen and have 2 ½ hours to prep for their dishes. Brooke is struggling to figure out what to make, but decides on braised chicken and quail. Sheldon is doing snapper and Josh goes for a foie gras dish. Tom makes sure to apply more pressure on the chefs. When they get back to the house, Josh’s wife calls him (in tears from labor pains) and then they video chat the next day. Congrats, Josh! You’re now the proud father of a baby girl, named Georgia.  

The Top Chef Seattle Episode 15 Judge's Panel
The chefs are now back in the kitchen and the chefs have 1 ½ hours to finish their dishes. It’s clear that Brooke is the one to beat – that girl’s got game. Padma, Tom, Gail, Emeril, Roy and Wolfgang all arrive at the governor’s home and await the chef’s presentations. In the kitchen, Sheldon accidentally over-reduces his broth, which comes out too salty and there’s not enough time to correct it…

The chefs each come out to present their dishes.

Sheldon serves up pan-roasted rockfish, spot prawns, baby vegetables, and dashi. The judges are really impressed with his dish, except… It’s too salty. Damn that over-reduced broth.
Brooke serves her braised chicken and grilled quail with carrot barley, kale, pickled vegetables, mushrooms, and pearl onions. Brooke almost nails it, but Wolfgang Puck’s quail is just slightly overcooked. However, he still thinks the dish is terrific.
Josh does foie gras three ways: torchon with pineapple, pan-seared with apricot, and profiterole with foie gras mousse. The two latter versions get quite a bit of praise, but nobody seems impressed with Josh’s torchon.

Josh, Brooke and Sheldon stand before the table of culinary celebrities (not intimidating at all **wink wink**) to receive very direct critiques. Josh takes a hit for shortcutting his torchon – a dish that usually takes days to prepare. Brooke almost skates by without criticism, but Wolfgang makes sure to point out his over-cooked quail. And Sheldon’s salty broth comes back to bite him in the butt. However, his fish was cooked to perfection.

Brooke's Braised Chicken, Grilled Quail with Carrot Barley & Pickled Vegetables
The judges take no time to deliberate. The winner is: Brooke! (again) She takes her win so graciously and manages to stay humble. I can't say I'm surprised. She's consistently been a force to be reckoned with. 

But then the judges have to decide who goes home. Both remaining chefs made major mistakes in their dishes. Will Sheldon’s salty broth send him packing? Or will Josh’s torchon end his time as a Top Chef competitor?

Josh, please pack your knives and go.

Chef Josh Valentine
Can’t say I was surprised. It’s hard to imagine any man keeping his head in the game while he has a newborn child waiting to meet him at home. But Josh is such a sweetheart. He'll be missed...

Tom informs Brook and Sheldon that they’re heading for LA and will not only be competing in the finale, but that they also need to compete against the winner of Last-Chance Kitchen. Damn. All this way and they get an extra hurdle to overcome.

Can’t wait for next week’s finale part 1.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Recap Episode 14: "King of Alaska."

On week 14 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...

Final 4.

Actually, final 6 if you’re counting the winner of Last Chance Kitchen and Save A Chef.

Geez the show give people more chances to come back every season. Not to mention the returning chefs from previous seasons. Soon it'll be like Oprah. “You get a another chance! You get another chance! EVERYBODY GETS A CHANCE!!!” 

The cruise ship reaches its destination, Juneau Alaska.

Right away we get down to business.


Charleston IS the new Brooklyn
Greeting the chefs at Tracy’s King Crab Shack is our lovely host Padma and Sean Brock, owner of Husk in Charleston. This restaurant has gotten so much attention it’s becoming one of those destination restaurants. Meaning it’s worth a visit to South Carolina from where ever you are JUST to eat at this place. 

Also, if you’re ever in Juneau you have to stop by Tracy’s King Crab Shack. It’s been written about and praised by everyone from Food and Wine to Conde Nast. Chances are every king crab you’ve had before is previously frozen and not fresh like it is at Tracy's. 

The Quickfire is a straight-forward challenge. Make a dish highlighting the Alaskan King Crab. 30 minutes. Winner gets five grand.


Lizzy’s feeling the rustic-ness of the setting. A shack by the river surrounded by beautiful mountains will do that to ya. She’s making a crab frittata. Good choice. Crab and eggs go really well together. If done correctly, the creaminess of the egg can really highlight the flavor of the crab.

Josh has gone mad. He actually thinks he does the same type of food as Sean Brock at Husk. That’s as ludicrous as Dan Quayle comparing himself to JFK. Anyway he’s gonna pull the “country boy” card and make succotash.
ALL the crabs!

Brooke’s keeping it real simple with a crab toast. To class it up she’s making some compound butter with Dungeness crab meat. Smart. Simple is always the way to go.

Sheldon’s the real smart one. He’s making a miso soup with Dungeness crab innards or crab fat as I like to call it. I can’t believe the other chefs didn’t think to use this. Crabs (and shrimps) are one of the few ingredients out there that come with their own sauce! He’s also going to smoke some asparagus tips with a pine branch. He got the idea from the great Rene Redzepi of Noma, recently named the “Best Restaurant in the World” by Restaurant magazine. Had CJ stuck around the whole season, we would have heard that name invoked many many many times as he would have kept reminding us that he staged there for a spell.

Times up.
Sufferin' Succotash! (C'mon you knew it was coming)

Crab Frittata with Cherry Tomato, Garlic Oil & Fried Capers.

King Crab, Dungeness Crab “Miso” Pine-Smoked Asparagus & Charred Corn.

King Crab, Sweet Corn & Leek Salad on Toast with Dungeness Crab Butter.

Butter Poached King Crab with Succotash & Bacon.

With the exception of Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi who basically told everyone they sucked (in a nice way,) the guest judge always says something like “Overall it was pretty good...but” right? 

I think in the future the guest judge of the Quickfire should take the challenge on themselves so these chefs (and the audience) can see (either before or after) what the judge would do. I say that because I’m always sitting there thinking what these awesome (guest) chefs would come up with. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see what Sean Brock would make with these crabs?

That's a lot of capers.
Ok. Lizzie’s frittata was a bit overcooked, and there were too many capers. Took away from the crab. Probably not gonna win.

Josh thought he was being clever by serving Sean succotash. Big mistake. Unnecessary usage of bacon (go figure.) Oh and the broken butter sauce didn’t help. Yeah, still think your food is similar to Sean Brock’s? *waves head*

Sheldon scored high with the usage of the crab fat. He kept it simple and interesting. Funny there were no mention of the smoked asparagus. Guess that was part of what made it interesting.

Sean really didn’t want to like Brooke’s dish because it was too easy. Yeah it was basically crab and butter. However he can’t help it, cuz it was super delicious.

Winner? Sheldon.

A bit of a redemption after last week's poor showing. Good to see him bounce back.

Elimination Challenge.

This week’s Elimination Challenge involves two of the Alaska’s oldest culinary traditions: Fish and Bread.

This is why the show is good. Because you do learn things about food, people, and traditions. 

I had no idea that bread, especially sourdough, was such an important part of Alaskan food culture. Padma tells us that early pioneers used to carry sourdough starters in their packs. What Padma didn’t tell us is that these pioneers carried the starters close to their body to keep it from freezing. Also as you all know, sourdough is extremely popular in San Francisco. It was these gold prospectors who first brought sourdough bread to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush, and it stayed ever since. 
The "wet" stuff

Obviously, the fishing industry is the heart and soul of any seaside town and Juneau is no different. The main fish here is of course, salmon.

For the challenge the chefs must create a dish using both sourdough and salmon.

Tomorrow they’ll pick up their salmon and then they'll only have 3 hours to cook. The even tougher part is they are cooking for people who grew up eating and cooking the same thing. So critiques will be harsh.

Padma warns, “You’re serving them ingredients they’re probably used to cooking themselves in a million different ways, kinda like serving succotash to a southerner (gesture towards Josh) So you’ll have your work cut out for you.”

Ouch. Bacon boy. Haha.

Tonight, they mix their dough.

Frankly, none of them are excited about baking bread. Baking and cooking are two very different beasts. Cooking is more like jazz improvisation while baking is a science experiment. Cooking you can change things on the fly, with baking, the margin of error is slim.

The foursome retreat to the Jorgenson House, a lovely bed and breakfast in Juneau. Imagine a cozy country home complete with fireplace and old timey furniture.

They do the obligatory “walk around and talk about how nice things are” scene when in a moment hard to describe with words, Sheldon jumps out from a curtain and scares the bejesus out of Brooke. She was genuinely scared, like literally curled up in a ball with tears coming out. Ah...priceless.

Forget Boudin. Get your SF bread here instead.
In the kitchen waiting are four tubs of sourdough starter. A starter is basically the “mother” mixture of a bread. Each starter dough has its own distinct flavor and characteristics. As long as it’s maintained correctly, a mother dough can last a long time. The Boudin Bakery in San Francisco is said to have used the same dough for over 150 years.

These starters are only 30 years old. They’re brought in to help the chefs bake their bread. They’d have to take parts of the starter and work in addition flour and water to achieve the final dough. That’s where the trick comes in. They’d need to know the ratio of how much to add...etc.

The chefs need to work their dough tonight and let it rise and rest overnight to be baked tomorrow.

Sheldon grinds up some green tea leaves and chives to mix into his dough much to Brooke’s chagrin, “Of course he somehow works that Asian ingredient into a sourdough bread.”

Don’t hate sista! Add some of your own flair into it. Where ever you’re from.

See. Josh is gonna put some olives in his bread. Actually he’s gonna do two kinds. An olive one and a regular sourdough. The regular is going to be blended into a soup as a thickener and the olive one will serve as a crouton.

Check it out. No bacon! Way to start thinking outside the box Josh! Kudos.

Lizzie’s going to make individual rolls and stuff salmon into them. Kinda like a sandwich I guess.

After kneading, they wait for it to rise.

You know what’s not interesting? Watching people waiting for the dough to rise.

Thank goodness Sheldon plays the ukulele. How else are they gonna fill an hour-long show?

"Sorry Charlie." Oh wait, that's tuna.
I had almost forgotten what the prize was until Top Chef producers so brilliantly work in their sponsor, Green Mountain Coffee, who will provide a trip for 2 to Costa Rica for the winner of this challenge. Thanks Green Mountain Coffee!

Next morning the chefs head out to the docks for some fish. These are literally fish straight off the boat. It really doesn’t get fresher than this. Damn.

There a quite a few different types of salmon: King, sockeye, coho and chum to list a few. Each with their own flavor and texture. 
This is where their experience comes into play. They really need to know which fish is most suited for their dish in order to execute it perfectly.

Sheldon is going with chum and sockeye. He plans to make a pea soup and top it off with smoked chum.

Poor Lizzie. Being on the docks reminds her of her pops, who recently passed away. *Tears* Big hugs for her.

Fish in hand, they head to Gold Creek Salmon Bake and start cooking.

Josh comes up with the idea of mixing some of that sour starter into his soup. 

“It’s risky, but it kinda fits the whole theme of my entire Top Chef experience.”

Really?! I’m sorry. Wasn’t that you who used bacon or pork belly at almost every challenge? And when there are challenges that doesn’t call for bacon (like making sushi) you decide to force it anyways? You’ve been about as risky as a grown man running around with scissors! Hm wait.

Sheldon’s making a pea soup with a seafood broth as base. He’s never made pea soup before. I don’t understand why people come into this competition and make things they’ve never made before. I understand they don’t want to be boring but at this level they should bring the tried and true dishes and ensure victory. But hey, I guess if the technique is there then it doesn’t matter as much. Like I mentioned before, cooking is like jazz. Improv away!

Brooke’s also doing a seafood broth. She’s gonna poach some sockeye salmon and serve it with mustard seed caviar. Damn this girl is good. Using the mustard seed that way gives the dish some texture and extra zing. Color me amazed.

Lizzie is doing a citrus and beet glaze for her salmon. She’s gonna serve it inside individual rolls with poppy seed butter. That sounds like a good plan as well. Crunchy crust on the outside and silky salmon on the inside. Poppy seed butter sounds interesting, especially paired with salmon. 

Here comes Tom for the show and tell.

Wow. Sheldon must have ESP or something. When he told Tom he was making (pea soup) Tom confessed to have had a craving for pea soup! I think that’s a Top Chef first. Talk about a confidence boost.

Alright time's up and here comes the crowd.

Ok they weren’t joking about bears in Alaska. Apparently some bears wondered into the camp area and one of them is in the tree! Who says bears can’t climb trees. 
Photo courtesy Eater.

Insert Tom/bears joke here. Oh wait Tom already did that. 

“I actually...(bears) that’s my fan club, my fan you know.”

Bravo Tom. Way be ahead of the game.

Time to eat.

This week’s judges are Hugh Acheson, Sean Brock, Emeril, Gail, Tom and Padma. Big crowd this week! 

Here are the dishes.

Sockeye Salmon & Seafood Broth with Mustard See Caviar & Dill Sourdough.

Smart move with the mustard seed and dill sourdough. Dill and salmon is a natural pairing so this definitely worked. Everyone loved the seafood broth. When done correctly, who doesn’t love a seafood broth!

Green Tea & Chive Sourdough with Smoked Salmon & Pea Soup.

Um...that bread is gray.
Um yeah. Green tea and chive? Padma didn’t like that combination and I don’t think I would either. To incorporate 3 distinct flavors into one bread might be hard to pull off. 

Sean didn’t like the way Sheldon mangled the salmon with thongs. The revered Chef Thomas Keller always preached to not use thongs because it tears at the flesh of the protein. Sheldon should have listened. #protip 

Also, master chef and part time comedian Hugh Acheson thought the soup was too thick and compared it baby food. “A good baby, healthy baby. Well flavored baby.”

Seriously. He should have a show of his own. Get on it Bravo execs!
Oh oh. Apparently chum is a trash fish. Nicknamed “dog” salmon because the natives used to feed them to their dogs. The judgey locals are berating Sheldon for using chum. However, some say that if chum salmon’s caught in the ocean and is salt water fresh, then it’s actually pretty tasty when smoked. But once they hit fresh water the flavor changes and it becomes much less tasty. #protip

Skip the Quarter. Head to Frenchman Street!
During the interlude, Emeril tells us when Hurricane Katrina came, his chef took the restaurant’s mother dough home with him and fed it the whole time. Three months later when they reopened, the “mother” was intact and came home with him. Speaking of which, do try to visit New Orleans when you get a chance. It’s one of the greatest cities we’ve got and it still could use your help in tourism dollars and support. Thanks. #Protipofthehat

Roast Garlic Sourdough Soup with Sockeye Salmon & Black Olive Croutons.

Salmon’s well cooked but Tom’s not sure if the garlic soup might have overpowered it. However he won points for working the crunchy black olive croutons into the dish instead of just serving a piece of bread on the side. Looks like his “risky” move might have paid off.

Citrus & Beet Glazed Salmon Slider with Poppy Seed Butter & Pickles.

Pacman ate Pinky the Salmon!
A slider huh? She decided to not to do soup because everyone else is doing soup. Once again, she does a little pickle thingy on the side. And as usual, everyone loves her pickles. It’s a great way to introduce acid into a dish. 

The bread is also spot on. You can hear the subtle crunch on those little slider buns. The bad news though, is the salmon. Apparently the she didn’t marinate the salmon with  the citrus/beet and merely glazed it on after cooking. The judges can’t detect and taste the citrus and beet flavor at all. Trouble could be on the horizon.

So with only 4 dishes to discuss, we need to fill some time. So how about letting the judges get some feedback from the locals? *Yawn* Yeah, the locals had nothing interesting to add. So I won’t bother either.

Time to judge.

It’s not looking good for Lizzie. Tom praised her for the bread but questioned her for lack of seasoning of the slider. Even though she tasted all the components, she failed to taste the sandwich as a whole. Mistakes like that could be fatal, especially since she decided to so something as simple as a slider. 

Mixed review for Sheldon as well. Sean thought while the salmon was cooked well, the smokiness made it too bitter. The good news is that even though chum is usually reserved for the dogs, the locals thought that Sheldon managed to make the chum delicious.

Despite Gail’s salmon being slightly overcooked, Brooke’s dish appears to be ahead of everyone else’s. Sean loves the combo of the bread dipping into the broth. Yeah, there’s something magical about seafood broths. We could be looking at a winner here.

Emeril loves garlic soups. Now that’s a shocker (sarcasm.) I remember watching his “Emeril Live” show and where people literally cheered and applauded for garlic. He’d always ask the audience, “You think we put enough garlic in? (applause) Nah let’s put some more in! (thundering applause)” Ah the good ole days when Food Network cared about cooking.
The Bible (one of them...)

So Emeril’s on Josh’s side. But he might be the only one. Everyone else thought the garlic flavor was too powerful, and the salmon got lost in all that bold flavor. Here’s a #protip, blanch your garlic in milk a few times to get rid of the pungent taste and that’ll mellow it out. I learned it from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook and trust me, anything he has to teach is worth doing.

The winning dish was the one that really showcased both ingredients. And almost all the locals agreed that the winning dish belongs to...

Brooke. She gets to romp around Costa Rica to drink some fair trade coffee!

She’s really on a roll lately. Think about it. Her dish made the most sense. It was in a way, a refined clam chowder bread bowl. Right? There’s a reason why San Francisco is known for their chowder bread bowls. The flavor of the sea must match well with sourdough. That’s why this particular bread is so revered around these parts! Bravo Brooke.

Bye Lizzie! We'll miss your accent and your food!
On the flip side, the losing dish was just too bland and too simple.

Lizzie committed couple of crucial Top Chef losers’ sins: lack of seasoning and lack of imagination. Those two combo will send you packing in a heartbeat.

She’s been a force to be reckoned with from that tortellini from the opening episode all the way til now. And she did it with zero drama and zero controversy. Hell she never even bad mouthed Josie! A brilliant and strong showing.

Good luck in Last Chance Kitchen!!

Well, we’re down to 3. Finale can’t be too far away. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle and introduce the winner of Last Chance Kitchen and the surprise on everyone’s face when Save the Chef winner is announced. (Surprise because while the chefs know about Last Chance Kitchen, they have no idea about Save the Chef.)

Thanks again for stopping by and checking us out. Please leave some comments and as always, go follow me on twitter @ChezWu!