TOP CHEF 13.06: “The First Thanksgiving”
Yes, I’ve absolutely missed out on weighing in on a couple of Top Chefs, including an episode that was practically filmed in my backyard at the Watertown Arsenal. How did I miss out on that? Anyway, I’d say the most notable event over the last few weeks was Aaron, aka Douchehat, who I’ve pretty strongly disliked since the beginning of the season. I’ll admit, I actually felt a little bad for him after his final speech; he’s obviously a guy who’s had a tough life and probably didn’t have a very positive home life to grow up in, and that’s got to leave some scars (that are hidden by adopting the exterior of a raging asshole), so it’s hard not to feel for someone with that kind of background, especially when they’re on the way out and you don’t have to deal with their posturing anymore. But then I hear that he got arrested for felony domestic abuse, which sends the sympathy quotient plummeting back down again.
Anyway, enough of him. We’re somehow down to nine contestants; I can’t believe the numbers are so low already. The Quickfire starts with a mad dash through a flooded cranberry bog; the four chefs who can fill their crates the fastest get to use better ingredients in the cooking portion of the challenge, when they’re tasked with making something that highlights cranberries. Can’t say I’m a super fan of the cranberry rush, though, as it seems to give an advantage to the more physically built chefs, although it was amusing to see Katsuji rolling around on the floor afterwards like he’d just run a marathon. Of all the Quickfire dishes, Katie’s stood out for me; borscht with cranberries instead of vinegar? How creative! Obviously the judges thought the same, because she wins and gets immunity.
The elimination challenge takes place at Plimoth Plantation. The chefs will have to cook at true 17th century Thanksgiving feast, using not only period ingredients (duck, venison, goat milk, squash), but also period cooking equipment, and serve the results to descendants of Mayflower passengers and local Native American tribes. It’s a lot of fun to see the chefs work with open flames, iron spits, cauldrons, and wooden spoons. It strips away a lot of the high-technique distractions of contemporary cooking, which is a nice change of pace. No xantham gum, no liquid nitrogen, nothing special. It’s great, and interestingly enough, everyone gets along incredibly well, functioning as perhaps the most well-oiled team ever seen on the show as they work together to get their feast on the table. The strong teamwork apparently shows in the quality of the food as well; the judges have high praise for pretty much everything, and the three folks on the bottom only had minor flaws in their dishes. I actually thought they might not kick someone off today; certainly this season, with it’s unexpected elimination quickfires, is primed for at least one unexpected non-elimination challenge. But in the end, its not to be and our local Boston girl, is sent home; it’s a shame, because any other day her dish would have been good enough to save her for the next week.
Restaurant wars is next week. Despite Gregory’s weak showing in the elimination challenge this week, he’s still clearly at the top of the pile. Mei, Doug, and Adam are a tier below, with everyone else perhaps just a step below them.