Thursday, December 13, 2012
Tesar on Top Chef makes chowder that’s like a “hug from the ocean”
And The Grape's chef can't get over her jitters.
Sometimes the quietest people make the most noise. For the first time this season on Top Chef: Seattle, Dallas chef Danyele McPherson claimed the spotlight, however nervously. As she stood in front of a panel of judges after being placed in the bottom four during the elimination challenge, McPherson fought back tears as she told judges she feels like she isn't doing well on the show. The judges told her to ditch the nervous thing and keep her chin up, and we are gifted with our first Emotional Moment from a Dallas Top Chef contestant.
There was no way McPherson could be sent home after that. And she wasn't.
The show started with judge Marilyn Hagerty, elderly food columnist for the Grand Forks Herald who became unfortunately famous for reviewing a new Olive Garden opening in her North Dakota town. Chefs competing were tasked with making a sweet and savory holiday dish from their family's lineage -- and to do so without knives, except for the one knife that lucky chef Elizabeth Binder pulled.
During the challenge, we learned that both McPherson and Dallas chef John Tesar are adopted, which changed their interpretation of their family heritage slightly. (They do not bond over being adopted. Missed opportunity, producers?) The chefs turned out all sorts of fussy dishes, and California chef Brooke Williamson won with her homey apples and cheddar cheese. She played right to her judge, who revealed she doesn't know the difference between tacos and tamales. The horror.
The elimination challenge was then hosted at Chihuly Garden and Glass in Seattle, where we were treated to camera shots of Dale Chihuly's famous sculptures, some of which are currently in the Dallas Arboretum's exhibit. The chefs were asked to prepare a dish for a homecoming party celebrating actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt.
Unlike last week, the judges were mostly pleased with each chef's food. Tesar served one of the top four dishes, a seafood chowder that his former boss Rick Moonen (of RM Seafood) called "a hug from the ocean" and "like celebratory soul food." Also in the top four were Hawaiian chef Sheldon Simeon, Boston chef Kristen Kish, and Williamson for the second time. Williamson won again, this time for her squid dish. Her prize was a Prius. (Thanks?)
In the bottom was, of course, McPherson. When the judges approached her cooking station earlier in the evening, they found her nervously cooking boar with a tomato-bacon marmalade. Cue the thing you don't say: "I hope I don’t disappoint you here," she said. Judges called the food bland and cooked unevenly. It seemingly wasn't hard to dislike her food when they were prepped for disaster.
Also in the bottom was Dallas chef Josh Valentine, who has consistently told the judges he's known for pork and then makes mediocre swine. Padma Lakshmi commanded him to "stop saying it" after his roasted pork shoulder and grilled corn puree were unseasoned.
The other two joining McPherson and Valentine in the bottom two were Cali chef Micah Fields and Colorado hippie Eliza Gavin. Gavin's elk wasn't up to snuff, and she exited gracefully.
Our two cents: Come on, Danyele. We want to like you.