Thursday, January 10, 2013
Dallas’ remaining Top Chef contestant, Josh Valentine, has up-and-down day
Valentine seems destined for the middle in this show.
Last week on Top Chef: Seattle, Dallas' John Tesar was surprisingly ousted for improperly cooked risotto. Following his elimination, he competed against Chris "CJ" Jacobsen in Last Chance Kitchen, and was defeated there as well. Barring a twist, Tesar is gone from Top Chef for good.
On this week's episode, the chefs spend little time dwelling on John's absence. Dallas chef Josh Valentine says he's "really glad" Tesar has packed his knives.
We jump right into the Quickfire challenge, with judge Wolfgang Puck. The challenge is simple, but not easy: Create a dish using ginger in just 15 minutes.
Valentine makes a white chocolate and ginger soup with fresh peaches and tarragon, an attempt to balance spicy and sweet. The dish is called out in the bottom two by Puck, who says it "lacked flavor" and was underwhelming.
Brooke Williamson wins with her dish of ginger-caramel squid with fresh lime and chili powder, which Puck says he'd put on the menu at his restaurant, Chinois. She wins immunity as her prize.
On to the elimination challenge: The guest judge is highly respected New York City restaurateur Danny Meyer, whose restaurants have won 25 James Beard Awards. Seasoned
Top Chef viewers know what's coming next: It's restaurant wars.
But this season, there's a twist. Usually, the chefs are split into two teams, and each team has to create a full-fledged restaurant in two days. This time, each of the remaining chefs will come up with their own concept, create a dish that represents that idea, and serve it to guests at the annual Bite of Seattle event. The judges will choose two winners, and those chefs will be the executive chefs of their teams next week in the real restaurant wars. Their restaurants, of course, will be based on the winning chefs' concepts. Oh, you tricky producers!
In another little twist, four eliminated contestants are brought back as sous chefs to help out the eight remaining chefs: Chrissy Camba, Eliza Gavin, Carla Pellegrino, and Kuniko Yagi. So no, the producers didn't make Tesar serve as these guys' sous chef. (But you know they wanted to.)
Josh Valentine: His concept is Bistro George, in honor of his father, who died of cancer several years ago. "He was a steak and potatoes kind of guy," Valentine says, so he is keeping his menu "super simple, straightforward, just like my dad was." He makes seared eye of rib eye with cauliflower puree and mushroom red wine sauce. The judges think it was cooked well, and conveyed his concept perfectly.
Sheldon Simeon: He's calling his concept Urbano, which is his grandfather's name. He wants to make modern Filipino food. He makes sour tamarind soup with pork belly, shrimp, and fish. "Everything had a place, everything had a purpose," says judge Tom Colicchio, who called it a great dish.
Lizzie Binder: She wants to highlight the cuisine of northern Italy, which is unlike what most people think of as typical Italian food. She makes mustard green canederli with fonduta and crispy speck. Judges deem the canederli to be overly heavy.
Micah Fields: His concept is raw foods. That's pretty much it. Just raw. He serves salmon, snapper, hamachi, squid, scallop, and mackerel with raw vegetables. The judges are unimpressed, both with the concept and the dish.
Kristen Kish: She's going for French contemporary food. She makes an onsen-style egg with Camembert-mustard sauce and buttered radishes. Judges say the egg is perfectly cooked, and they praise the Camembert sauce.
Josie Smith-Malave: She's calling her restaurant Home 305, to honor Miami and its Cuban cuisine. During service, she once again has trouble managing her time and a long line forms. Judges say her roast pork is dried-out and tough.
Brooke Williamson: Her concept is "un-kosher," or "Jewish gone awry." She makes matzo ball soup with duck confit and rye bread.
Stefan Richter: Richter, who was born in Finland but grew up in Germany, calls his concept, "Bangkok via Munich," and is serving Thai-German food. He makes a Thai lobster bisque with dumplings, potatoes and radishes. He also makes a dessert, a Bavarian cream lollipop with mango.
The top three are Valentine, Simeon, and Kish. Valentine gets squeezed out by the other two, who not only will get to execute their concept in restaurant wars, but also get to take home $10,000 each. That has to hurt.
Simeon and Kish are told that they have to pick their teams before they know who's eliminated. The teams shake out as women vs. men, which is amusing.
The bottom three are Fields, Smith-Malave, and Binder, who's appalled at being in the bottom two challenges in a row. Ultimately, Fields is told to pack his knives, meaning Simeon's team will have just three people to Kish's four.
My two cents: Even though he hit the top three this time, Valentine seems destined for the middle in this show. Unless some kind of light switches on in his cooking, I don't expect him to be in the finale. Conversely, if Kish isn't in the finale, I'll be shocked.