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Top Chef: I’m Not Crying

We’re down to the final four at the start of last week’s episode– Brooke, Shirley, and Sheldon I knew would be here, but I’m as surprised as John is to see him there!  But yeah, no; he’s not crying.

The chefs find the Quickfire set up to be a little different– 4 identical sets of 2 work stations divided by a wall.  The chefs are to instruct mystery guests and make a dish that tastes and looks the same!  Now, these mystery guests are their nearest & dearest– John’s wife, Sheldon’s wife, Shirley’s husband, and Brooke’s sister.  (Fans will remember; Brooke’s husband is a chef too, so he clearly wasn’t allowed to play.)  It cracks me up that no one seems to recognize their loved one’s voice!  Sheldon picks up on it right away, but he keeps the surprise for everyone.

All four dishes are successful, but Sheldon ends up taking home the win and a prize fo $10k for him & his wife!  The chefs all get to spend some time with their loved one that evening when Padma cooks for them in their home.

The elimination challenge for the week is equally as sentimental as the Quickfire ended up being.  The chefs are to create a dish to reflect on their time in Charleston; winner gets to cook at the James Beard house!

Here are the results:

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John worries his dish may be a little simple by comparison, but his oceanside point-of-view is clear.

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You know Shirley’s going to knock it out of the park when she says she’s not made this for the judges, but for her family who inspired her.  With a request to open up a Chinese soul food restaurant in Charleston heard, I think it’s safe to say she did just that.

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Brooke takes a literal interpretation of the challenge, as that’s how she works best.  She uses ingredients and elements from dishes that have brought her success in Charleston.  Though she’s not confident, the judges do enjoy what she presents.

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Sheldon works magic melding cultures– he takes Carolina gold rice and turns it into chow fun.  And with it, he wins!

Tom says there are no losers, just one person who’s not moving on.  Sadly, and honestly surprisingly, that person is Brooke.

Let’s not forget, Brooke was beat by Last Chance Kitchen’s champion, so she’s really still in this!  Maybe.  We’ll see tonight, right?!

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Top Chef: Ah Spicy, Ah Ginger! Next!

It’s the episode I’ve been waiting for!  Michael Voltaggio guest judges for a very fun Quickfire– the blindfolded taste test!  This is one of my favorite challenges from the best of the Gordon Ramsay shows, so I always like seeing it.

When all is said and done, Emily, Silva, and Shirley named the fewest ingredients.  Brooke, Sheldon, and Casey did the best.  Sheldon got 10, Casey got 11, and Brooke crushed the competition with 16!  (John goes unmentioned in the middle of the pack.)

The challenge for the week is to create a meal that is reminiscent of your childhood. (more…)

Top Chef: Wok This Way

In this week’s Top Chef, just six chefs remain… Karen is not one of them, and her Chinese challenge finally came up!  Sorry, Boston.

Martin Yan of Yan Can Cook is with Padma to introduce the Quickfire: using a wok to create their versions of chop suey.  With immunity now off the table, the winner receives an advantage going into the elimination challenge.  Carl, Kwame, and Isaac are on the bottom, while Jeremy, Marjorie, and Amar are on the top.  Marjorie wins with her Lobster Chop Suey with Ginger, Thai Chili, Orange & Fresh Vegetables Over Rice!

For the elimination challenge, each chef has to create a dish to embody a concept for a fast-casual restaurant.  Each chef is given a sous chef to help them accomplish this task.  As the winner of the Quickfire, Marjorie not only gets to choose her sous chef first, but also gets to assign everyone else’s.

Marjorie selects Angelina for herself.  She gives Jeremy Jason to work with, pairs Carl with Chad, Amar with Karen, Isaac with Wesley, and leaves Phillip for Kwame.

Here are the concepts and the representative dishes:

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Marjorie and Carl, my two favorites in the competition, are the best two of the night!  I’m happy to see Carl claim the win – let’s go, Cambridge!

Jeremy and Kwame find themselves in the bottom.  It’s hard to see two such strong chefs up for elimination.  Kwame made the fatal mistake of using frozen waffles for his chicken and waffle concept, and for that is asked to pack his knives.

This was as hard of an elimination as last week.  As we get closer and closer to the finale, who do you think we’ll see there?!

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars – Dinner

Oh hey – I took my three day weekend really seriously and this post is super later!  When we last left Top Chef, it was Restaurant Wars part 1.  Lunch service had come and gone; one team’s service may have gone better than the other’s, but in the judges’ eyes, the score was pretty even.

Team District LA– Amar, Jeremy, Kwame, and Phillip– are in the weeds a bit when it’s time to switch to dinner service.  Team Palate– Carl, Isaac, Karen and Marjorie– has a lot of prep to do too.  This time it’s Karen at the front of the house and Carl as executive chef.  Get it, Boston!  Here’s what they make:

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Not pictured above is Marjorie’s appetizer, parmesan parsley garlic bread.  The judges are always impressed with Marjorie’s baking skills and I’m super impressed that she pulled off bread and two dessert courses!  The judges aren’t crazy about her berry soup, and they definitely aren’t keen on Karen’s trout, but overall the meal goes well.  Isaac’s braised lamb is the real winner.

District LA serves:

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This team does an extra amuse, and also (not pictured) an aperitif– Phillip’s Bangkok Dangerous served, awkwardly, right at the hostess stand.  With Amar as executive chef and Phillip at front of the house, the service does not impress the judges.  In the bottom right corner pictured above, Tom and Padma note that Phillip is probably talking about his own LA restaurants, not the one he’s currently running.  Almost none of the food impresses, and the judges have a clear winner when they walk out.

Thankfully, team Palate takes home the win, specifically, Isaac!

Padma asks Phillip to pack his knives and go, and the viewers breath a collective sigh of relief.

What did you all think?!

MasterChef Junior: Season 4 Finale

It only took us four seasons, but we finally saw a girl vs. girl finale (actually– we finally saw a girl in the finale)!  Nine-year-old Avery faced off against nine-year-old Addison for the title.  Personally, I was happy to see both of these amazing girls in the finale and knew I’d be happy to see either of them win the title.

There is only one challenge in the finale: both girls cook an appetizer, entrée, and dessert, present them to Gordon, Christina, and Graham, all while their families and former competitors cheer them on from the balcony.

Here is what they make for their final stand in the MasterChef kitchen:

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Down the left, we have Avery’s appetizer, cream of asparagus soup with smoked oysters, creme fraiche, and a Creole crouton; her entrée, lobster and crawfish etouffee with crispy okra; and dessert, strawberry and rhubarb shortcake with orange chantilly cream.

Down the right, we have Addison’s appetizer, sake marinated shrimp with seaweed and sea bean salad, sour plums, and puffed rice; her entrée, miso black cod with bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, and coconut ginger broth; and dessert, green tea panna cotta with brûléed plums over crumbled cookie.

It was especially fun to see Christina during her first season of MasterChef Junior– while Gordon and Graham are well-acquainted with what ulta-talented kids can do, I think these girls knocked Christina’s socks off a little.  They always impress me, and I don’t even get to taste their creations!

The moment of truth comes, and it’s Addison for the win!

Congratulations to both girls!  What did you guys think about this season of MasterChef Junior?  I can’t wait to see another crop of kids come through this kitchen!

MasterChef Junior: Rise to the Occasion

Can you believe this was the semi-final of MasterChef Junior?!  That means the final showdown is THIS WEEK.  And the news is even better than that… well, we’ll get to that as we recap last week’s episode.

Addison, Amaya, Avery, and Zac are the final four.  Gordon, Graham, and Christina present a table with four cloches under which the find the heads of their parents!  (No, don’t worry, their bodies are under the table.)  Amaya’s mom, Avery’s dad, Zac’s mom, and Addison’s dad each offer them some advice and present them with a gift box of their flavor ingredient for the upcoming challenge: soufflés!  Amaya will make a dark chocolate soufflé, Avery will make strawberry, Zac will make milk chocolate, and Addison will make blackberry.  Gordon makes a little pun about them “rising to the occasion,” and they really do!

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Addison’s impressive rise literally made Christina gasp, and the judges agree that she is the winner of the challenge!  She gets the advantage in the finale Elimination Test.

Addison is presented with 4 cuts of pork and it’s her job to assign them.  She keeps ribs for herself, gives Amaya the loin, assigns Avery pork belly, and gives the tricky pig’s ears to Zac.

Here’s what they make:

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Addison’s fall-off the bone ribs impress, but the plating and presentation don’t impress.  Zac’s pig’s ear salad looks amazing, but the cook in not right on the ears.  Avery’s braised pork belly is the clear winner, cooked to perfection and possibly Christina’s favorite dish she’s eaten in the MasterChef kitchen.  We knew poor Amaya was in trouble when she sliced her pork loin and saw the raw center.  She is able to bring the temperature up with a second cook, but it wasn’t enough.

Avery is awarded the first spot in the finale, and Addison the second!  These are my favorite two little cooks left and I can honestly not wait to see what they do in the finale!  AND HECK YES FOR A GIRL FINALLY WINNING THIS COMPETITION.

Who do you think will take the title?!  Who are you cheering for?!

Top Chef: 10 Years Later

Get ready for a lot of 10’s!  There are 10 chefs left on Top Chef in this week’s episode, and the challenges are appropriately themed.  It has also been 10 years since the very first season of Top Chef premiered.

So, for the Quickfire, the 10 chefs can only use the same 10 ingredients.  Each chef has 20 seconds to pick one, they don’t have to use all 10, but they can use nothing else.

  • Phillip grabs beef
  • Isaac gets chicken
  • Chad picks jalapeño
  • Jeremy adds salt
  • Marjorie selects vinegar
  • Karen grabs olive oil
  • Kwame picks garlic
  • Amar gets mushrooms
  • Carl selects tomato
  • Jason chooses celery

Top Chef Alumna Antonia Lofaso is here to judge the Quickfire with Padma.  She selects Isaac and Karen as having made her least favorite dishes, and Jeremy and Amar as having made her favorites.  Jeremy wins and receives immunity!

The elimination challenge is also 10 themed.  Padma can barely make it through her giggles to the list of things that were happening 10 years ago– that Myspace was the most popular website (oof) and Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes.  The chefs need to put themselves 10 years ago on a plate and serve it to a table of (surprise!) 10.

It’s really fun to hear the stories of where these chefs were (and who these chefs were!) 10 years ago, but for one, it’s not a happy memory.  Kwame can’t get out of his own head during this one.  Michael Voltaggio (heart-eyes emoji) comes around with Tom to taste, as he’s one of the four Top Chef Alumni attending the dinner (the others being Antonia, Blaise, and last year’s winner Mei Lin!).  Phillip makes a literal fool out of himself explaining how he can’t cook to the judges’ tastes.  Tom tries to explain the concept of simply cooking good food correctly, but it’s not sinking in.

Here’s what they make:

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Gail makes a comment to Tom while they enjoy that she sat down next to him 10 years ago and here they still are!  Too cute.  The two of them plus Padma, Blaise, and Michael Voltaggio sit at the judges table to give the good news– their favorite dishes belonged to Marjorie, Chad, and Carl.  Marjorie gets her second win!

Now for the bad news– Jeremy’s immunity saved him this week, but Kwame got in his own head and ended up on the bottom, as did Phillip and Jason.  Jason is eliminated, he’s seemed a bit off-beat for a while.  He packs his knives, but something tells me Phillip could be right behind him… enough excuses, just cook well!

Thoughts?!