Top Chef “Oui Si A Challenge” by BB
Carlos, Nina, Brian, Shirley, Stephanie and Nicholas remain. Stephanie won the last challenge and is feeling confident. The chefs arrive at the kitchen and see Padma and chef/author Jacques Pepin. The quickfire challenge will test the chefs’ technical skills since chef Pepin wrote a whole book about technique. All the chefs will be required to cook their version of dover sole with artichokes and asparagus, after a lesson from chef Pepin, who makes it look easy. Whoever does it best will get immunity in the elimination challenge.
Shirley and Nicholas both know French cooking the best of the six remaining chefs. The chefs are all very quiet and focused during this quickfire. Stephanie and Brian say this quickfire has made them the most nervous. Stephanie is having a hard time skinning her fish and Carlos, Stephanie and Brian are way behind Shirley, Nicholas and Nina, until she realizes she forgot to turn the stove on. When time is up, Carlos and Brian just have to laugh. Shirley is very happy with her plate. Nicholas thinks his plate looks neat and great.
Brian, Stephanie and Carlos were in the bottom three. Nina is somewhere in the middle. So it’s between Shirley and Nicholas. Nicholas gets immunity. He has won his first quickfire challenge.
The elimination challenge is a fight to control Top Chef territory between French and Spanish cuisine. Two chefs will be participating; Julian Serrano representing Spain and Dominique Crenn representing France. There will be two teams preparing either a Spanish or French five course meal. They will have to highlight five ingredients found in both cuisines; olives, almonds, mussels, chicken and chocolate. The team with the best overall meal will win the challenge. One member of the losing team will be going home. They draw knives for the teams. Nicholas and Shirley are happy they have drawn the knives for the French team. Stephanie will be joining them. That means Carlos, Nina and Brian will be cooking Spanish cuisine. None of them really cook Spanish, but chefs Crenn and Serrano will be there to coach them. They have all day to shop and prepare and they will be serving at the restaurant R’evolution the next day.
Chef Crenn makes some suggestions like making a nest and Stephanie really doesn’t understand her, but she’s willing to step outside of her box if she can figure out what box she’s in. Chef Serrano seems to be more basic and traditional. Nina, Brian and Carlos are trusting him completely and will follow his suggestions. The chef advisors accompany their teams when they go food shopping. Chef Serrano seems lost and is not used to rushing. Chef Crenn seems way more energetic going through the store. Nicholas is taking risks on this challenge since he has immunity. Stephanie is way outside of her comfort zone. Nicholas is taking on two dishes including the dessert. Chef Serrano is very involved in the Spanish team’s preparations. He’s micromanaging and really into the details. Chef Crenn is more laid back and has a drink with her team at the end of the day.
The next day they have an hour to finish their dishes. Nicholas feels that Shirley and Stephanie are leaning on him and he needs to lead them to the promise land. Shirley is using liquid nitrogen for the first time for her ice cream. The Spain team is hoping their dishes are not too simple. Out in the restaurant at the judges’ table, Chef Crenn tells them her team seemed nervous, but she isn’t. This will be old school (Spanish) versus new school (French). Here we go.
The first course is Shirley’s Snapper Ceviche with Dehydrated Olives and Ice Cream, and Nina’s Ensaladilla Rusa with Green Olives, Gulf Shrimp and Potatoes. One of the owners of the restaurant liked Shirley’s dish. Tom likes the fish and the ice cream, but he doesn’t like them together. They all seemed to like Nina’s even it was a more simple dish. I think Team Spain may have won the first course.
Second course: Stephanie made Pickled and Poached Mussels, Crustacean Jus and Tomate. Nina made Ajo Blanco with Almonds, Crab and Cherries. Emeril said he could eat a second bowl of Nina’s dish. Chef Crenn thinks the crab flavor is missing. Tom liked Stephanie’s old school with a modern twist, but someone else’s mussels were gritty. This may be a tie.
Third course: Carlos made Mejillones a la Romesco with Crispy Leeks. Stephanie and Shirley made Chicken Liver Mousse with Roasted Chicken Bouillon. Everyone except one person at the table likes the Mousse dish, even Chef Serrano. They think Carlos’ execution was good, but it was a little one note. I guess this course goes to the French team.
Fourth course: While getting his course ready to go out, Stephanie and Shirley are not sold on Nicholas’ corn silk nest. Shirley shakes her head no. Nicholas tells Stephanie to let it go and she says “it’s my ass.” Stephanie says she can’t tell him to remove the nest because it’s his dish, but he has immunity and she doesn’t and she’s obviously worried.
Anyway, for the fourth course, Carlos and Brian made Pollo Con Arroz: Chicken and Saffron Rice. Nicholas made Cornish Game Hen and Spiced Chocolate with Corn Silk Nest. Chef Serrano and Chef Crenn have a difference of opinion about Carlos’ and Brian’s chicken. Chef Crenn thinks it’s a safe dish and the chicken is too dry. Padma says her chicken is beautifully done. Padma asks the others what they think of Nicholas’ chocolate course. Chef Crenn says it’s progressive. Someone (I think Chef Serrano) says “My God” and Chef Serrano asks Chef Crenn the question, “You like that?” Chef Crenn nod her head yes and he says, “You’re kidding me.” Tom and Emeril start laughing. Chef Serrano won’t touch the corn silk nest. Chef Crenn then says she thinks she may have hurt someone’s feeling because Chef Serrano won’t eat it. Chef Serrano says it’s new cooking and for him it absolutely makes no sense and it’s exactly what he doesn’t like about the new cooking. Chef Crenn accusing him of being one dimensional and not embracing what the chefs are doing while Padma is nodding her head. One of the restaurant owners says the thought process was there but not the execution. Tom holds up the corn silk nest and says it’s what you pull out of the drain when you take a shower (what he did before he lost all his hair.) He also says Nicholas is lucky he has immunity. Team Spain won this one.
Dessert course: The French team’s looks much fancier. Brian made a simple Flan de Chocolate and Strawberries. Nicholas made a more complex Almond Flan, Plum and Dark Cocoa. Neither dessert is a big hit, so I’m saying it’s a draw.
The results: The Spanish team served the judges’ overall favorite meal. They took a risk by doing it old school, but their execution was really good. The winner of this challenge is Nina. She’s shocked because she thought she was going home for her simple potato salad.
Now for the French team. They are shocked when the Spanish team comes in and announces Nina the winner. Since Nicholas has immunity, it will be either Shirley or Stephanie who will be going home. They can’t believe it. I’m sure it’s not going to be Shirley because they loved her dishes. Nicholas says his dish was outside of his comfort zone but he liked the sauce. The judges didn’t see it. Tom says it was their least favorite dish of the night and the dessert (that Nicholas made) wasn’t much better. Chef Pepin asks Nicholas if he thinks he should resign even though he has immunity because his dishes were what made the French team lose. Nicholas says he thinks he earned his immunity in the quickfire challenge so he chooses to not resign and they leave for the judges to deliberate. Stephanie says if she were in that position, she would have resigned. Shirley says she would also take the fall and fight back in the Last Chance Kitchen. The judges hate that they have to choose between Stephanie and Shirley because they both made good food. Tom is hoping that Nicholas will fall on the sword when they return for the decision. He doesn’t, so Padma asks Stephanie to pack her knives and so. Rules are rules and if push came to shove, I wonder if either Shirley or Stephanie would have really resigned and given up the chance to win Top Chef. We’ll never know. I don’t think Nicholas will be the ultimate winner of Top Chef, but if he does win, this challenge will probably always haunt him.
Last Chance Kitchen results: Emeril, who shares a past with Stephanie, joins Tom to judge this challenge. I think Top Chef is trying to give Stephanie every advantage due to the circumstances of why she’s there (because of Nicholas’ bad dishes in the last challenge). Stephanie and Louis will have 30 minutes to prepare a sweet beignet and a savory beignet (fried dough or fritters). Stephanie uses yeast to make hers and is familiar with how to make them. Louis doesn’t really have any experience in making a beignet and uses baking powder for his. In the end, Louis made the best combined beignets. Louis just may make it to the finale. Stephanie did not get the vindication she wanted.
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