Recap: 'Top Chef,' Season 11, Episode 3
Three episodes in, and this season is starting to shape up as one that’s full of both characters and solid chefs, even though the one who arguably rose to the top of the "character" pack, Jason, was eliminated last week. This week, we had a (much-welcome) double elimination, and took a trip to Commander’s Palace.
The chefs walked into the kitchen to meet up with Padma and Emeril, and Dana Cowin made her first appearance of the season to introduce the Quickfire: to create a dish featuring four food trends that she believes are past their prime: kale, bacon, egg on top, and "smoked." They got half an hour, and to top it off, this would be an Elimination Quickfire. Some kept cooler heads than others, but in the end they all got something on the plate:
Egg on Top
Nicholas: Quail egg, scallop, truffle juice, and duck egg vinaigrette
Nina: Quail Scotch egg on confit potatoes with leek and potato purée
Carrie: Soft-boiled eggs with chile flakes and lemon zest on green beans
Shirley: Rice congee with shirred egg, soy sauce, and sesame oil
Sara: Tuna tataki with arbol chile vinaigrette
Michael: Cold-smoked oysters with mignonette
Janine: Roasted pork loin with chipotle smoked caramelized apples
Louis: Smoked trout with lime and olive oil vinaigrette
Bene: Seared tuna in bacon with honey, vinegar, jalapeños, and corn
Brian: Bacon with scallop, ginger, honey, and sugar snap peas
Travis: Bacon pho with seared scallop and sweet carrot purée
Carlos: Bacon and halibut with apples, tomatoes, avocado, and bacon vinaigrette
Stephanie: Pasta with lightly candied bacon and flash-fried sweet potatoes
Patty: Kale with toasted garlic, chile flakes, and shaved Parmesan
Justin: Kale steamed with lemon, anchovy syrup, and Parmesan
Aaron: Fried kale dredged in soy, mirin, rice vinegar, and yuzu sauce
Bret: Kale juice and gazpacho with kale salad
On top were Nina, Shirley, and Stephanie, and Shirley took the win, and with it immunity. Bret made a salad after being asked not to make one, Aaron’s was too salty, and Louis’ wasn’t smoky at all. Aaron was kicked off, because his overly salty kale came across as simply unappealing.
Moving right along into the Elimination Challenge, Padma told them that they’d be spending the evening inside Commander’s Palace, one of the country’s most legendary establishments. They headed over to the restaurant for a group lunch, and none other than chef Tory McPhail, head chef and 2013 James Beard Award-winner, told them that they’d need to replicate one of the dishes they’d be trying, similar to last year’s Canlis challenge. The foods they tried were from four of the restaurant’s most renowned head chefs: Jamie Shannon’s Tasso shrimp Henican, Paul Prudhomme’s black speckled rainbow trout with crawfish, Emeril’s famous veal chop Tchoupitoulas, and McPhail’s strawberry dessert three ways. They were divided up by the tables they were sitting at, and Prudhomme and Emeril would be on hand to judge.
This challenge is always tough, but this time, with complex Creole flavors at play, they really struggled. One couldn’t figure out how to make blackening spices, another couldn’t figure out biscuit dough.
Here’s how they turned out:
Shrimp and Tasso Henican: Bene’s version got the sauce pretty much right, with Travis the sauce could have been thicker and the flavor was off, Michael’s shrimp was overcooked, and Nina’s shrimp were cooked well but the presentation was off.
Black Skillet Seared Speckled Trout: Janine’s came together well, Nicholas’ was too saucy and bland, Louis’ was overcooked and dry, and Carlos’ was underseasoned and overcooked.
Veal Chop Tchoupitoulas: Brian’s Brussels sprouts were raw, Patty’s looked good and was nicely cooked, Shirley’s was overcooked, and Bret’s sauce was close but the meat wasn’t seared properly.
Strawberries Three Ways: Sarah’s beignet was greasy, Carrie did well on the cocktail and biscuit, Justin pretty much nailed it, and Stephanie also hit the nail on the head. The judges agreed that this was the best course.
Stephanie, Justin, and Nina were first to meet the judges, and theirs were the ones that came closest to the Commander’s Palace original. Justin, with his flawless dessert, came out with the win.
Louis, Carlos, and Bret were the ones on the bottom. Apparently, Louis made the blackening seasoning for the whole group, and completely blew it. Carlos’ fish was tasteless and overly blackened, and Bret knew that his meat wasn’t cooked properly.
In the end, Bret was told to pack his knives and go. He didn’t manage his time well, and "there were too many mistakes on the plate," according to Tom.