As Top Chef: Seattle begins to separate the wheat from the chaff, the competition continues to get more interesting and is really bringing out the fighter in each chef.
Season four winner Stephanie Izard showed up to introduce this episode's Quickfire Challenge, in which the chefs could cook whatever they wanted, with one caveat: all the ingredients were wrapped in aluminum foil, and once unwrapped they had to be used. Also, aluminum foil was the only cooking device allowed. With 30 minutes on the clock, the chefs just needed to hope for the best.
Kristen’s sponge cake was the winner, because making a sponge cake with only aluminum foil sounds pretty tough. She won immunity.
Now, onto the main event. The chefs were told that they need to cook with berries, in head-to-head battles. Because Kristen had immunity, she would be cooking alone. Sheldon challenged Micah, Danyele chose Josh, Stefan chose John, Josie took on Lizzie, and Brooke got paired with Bart. They had three hours to cook for 150 guests at an outdoor event at Remlinger Farms, and the winner would receive $10,000. Each duo was assigned a different berry, and got to work (in a space that was clearly way too tiny for so many chefs).
Here were the final dishes (with the judges’ comments):
Danyele: Chicken pine nut terrine with blueberry mostarda
Josh: Savory goat cheese mousse with blueberry compote, Thai basil, and serrano ham cracker crust
Judges: Danyele’s terrine was "rubbery" and didn't have a lot of flavor, according to Tom. Stephanie found it "crunchy." Josh "did a nice job with it," Tom said, and Gayle agreed that it was "balanced and delicate."
Josie: Rock ‘n’ Raspberry Roll: sockeye salmon, Dungeness crab, and raspberry aioli
Lizzie: Raspberry steamed cabbage roll with Heritage pork and bacon stuffing
Judges: Padma loved Lizzie’s pork, and Stephanie called the combo "a good direction to go in." Tom thought it "would have been a great dish if it had been seasoned just a bit more." Gail didn’t get much raspberry flavor in Josie’s dish, and Tom was confused by her decision to weigh it down with mayonnaise.
Sheldon: Ahi summer roll: ahi poke, strawberries, and sweet chile sauce
Micah: Strawberry-marinated fried chicken with strawberry and pepper bacon buttermilk biscuit with sour cream and fresh chive
Judges: Tom found Michah’s biscuit to be "a little dense," and Gail liked the fried chicken, "considering." Sheldon’s sauce had "an odd consistency," according to Stephanie, but Gail thought he "did a great job with the strawberries."
John: White gazpacho with Spanish chorizo, gooseberries, and sweet grapes
Stefan: Cali crudo with raspberries, gooseberries, and spiced vinaigrette
Judges: Gail thought Stefan "did a beautiful job" but didn’t capture the gooseberry flavor. Tom agreed. Stephanie thought that John’s chorizo overpowered the dish, and Padma thought that he "had two flavors going on in the same cup." One guest called it "cheeseburger soup." Yikes.
Brooke: Spicy smoked chocolate pudding with blackberry tapioca with salty graham cracker crumble and Earl Grey marshmallow
Bart: Blackberry soup with salmon and rhubarb yogurt sauce
Judges: Tom liked Bart’s blackberry and rhubarb, but thought his salmon was "as bad as it gets." Brooke’s dessert got an overall nod of approval, and reminded the judges of s’mores.
Kristen: Matcha sage-infused goat milk custard with olive-oil macerated tayberries
Judges: Tom loved it, and Gail dubbed the tayberries her "favorite thing of the day."
On the bottom were Sheldon, Josie, Bart, Danyele, and John, for reasons mentioned above. The rest "did the best job working with the product," according to Tom, and Kristen’s dish, according to Izard, was "flawless" and won her the day. It looks like we have a dark horse on our hands.
At the end of the day, Danyele’s dish sent her home. The mostarda didn’t work, the crostino was hard, her terrine reminded the judges of lunch meat, and the dish just didn’t come together.