Another week, another Top Chef adventure; this time the chefs are off to the ‘Date capital of the US’, where they pick up three large baskets of dates, each one containing a different variety (Zahidi, Medjool and Deglet Noor), and damned if I knew these existed. Dates are dates to me. Sticky, sweet, and that’s about it.
Aside from the dates, Isaac takes a particular interest in the ‘date machete’ they use to harvest the fruit and everyone’s excited, but sadly this Top Chef episode doesn’t turn into The Palm Spings Date Machete Massacre. It would be fascinating to see how the ep would have turned out had they been allowed to take the machete with them to the elimination challenge.
The chefs arrive at the kitchen where they are greeted by Padma and Chrissy Teigen. Everyone’s excited, but none more so than Kwame, who’s practically drooling and was almost stammering when he had to present his dish to the beautiful model. With a plunging neckline like that, who can blame the guy, really?
The quickfire is simple enough: make a dish that tells a story of the best date they’ve every had, highlighting the date. We’re treated to a lovely (and cheesy) montage of the chefs telling each other their date stories and then it’s time to present their dishes to the two gorgeous judges.
The chefs really went to town with the dates and each of them had a bit of witty banter with Chrissy, explaining their date stories – well, except for Kwame, who seemed to be lost for words.
Carl’s story was probably the cutest, but his simple date milkshake landed him on the bottom, along with Chad’s halibut dish, which was made bitter by the orange peel, and Phillip’s tuna crudo and peach puree, which reminded Padma too much of baby food (Chrissy loved the peaches but the dish didn’t feel “date-y” to her).
On the upside, both judges loved Isaac’s chicken ballotine and Giselle’s pork-stuffed date, but in the end Jason’s carrot dish was the winner – Padma does ‘heart’ that char on the veggies, people!
After they say goodbye to Chrissy, Padma really milks the ‘date’ theme for all it’s worth, explaining that after love comes marriage, so their next challenge will be to cater a wedding.
Not just any wedding, though: a 25-couple wedding, one of which is Top Chef Masters alum and all-around awesome chef Art Smith. He and his husband are renewing their vows, 24 other gay couples are getting married, and Padma has just been ordained and will be officiating!
Luckily, Art will be providing the cake, but the chefs do have to prepare a dessert course. They start planning their menu and pairing up, with Karen begrudgingly collaborating with Giselle, who always seems to be very stressed out while cooking, and Jason teaming up with Angelina for their dish. Isaac goes it alone, as he doesn’t ‘play well with others’ by his own admission, which does seem a bit weird, since he seems like such a fun, likeable guy.
As the contestants go off to prepare their dishes, there’s a slight bitchiness in the air: Jason and Angelina are obviously not working well together, with Jason taking control of the dish even though he’s got immunity and ordering the younger chef around, and Angelina getting pissed off that he’s too focused on technique and taking his time to prep the dish while it’s her ass on the line.
Karen and Giselle aren’t having the best time of it, either: Giselle has a hard time with Karen’s flavor profiles and keeps asking for instructions, and Karen gets annoyed.
Meanwhile, Kwame works on two dishes, acting like the team’s saucier, which is a good thing, as his flavors are usually spot on. His collaboration with Wesley runs smoothly, but he hits a bump in the road with Phillip, whose mashed potato in his steak & potato dish turns out to be more like a creamy, gummy foam. Kwame isn’t impressed, but apparently that’s exactly what Phillip intended to make.
It’s time for the wedding, and the ceremony is quite moving. Next, it’s time to serve the food. Dish after dish, the judges seem to enjoy everything.
Amar and Chad’s sherry-glazed pork belly with smoked orange marmalade, pickled fennel, onion and smoked salt is a big hit, as are Jeremy’s citrus-roasted carrots with harissa yogurt, shaved radish and baby kale.
Next up, it’s Wesley and Kwame’s pickled shrimp with cucumber onion salad, citrus vinaigrette and cashews, followed by Jason and Angelina’s swiss chard stuffed with braised chicken and caramelized honey sauce.
Angelina discribes the dish as ‘almost like a dolma’, which it certainly looks like one, but apparently Jason takes umbrage with the comparison. “This is my dish, don’t f*cking tell me what you don’t know”. Jeez, lighten up, man. You have immunity. And may I just say, as a Greek who’s grown up on phenomenal dolmades, dude, you’d be lucky to make one as lovely as the ones I’ve been eating all my life. Isaac serves his lovely dirty rice dish, which is also a great success, as it’s ‘done right’, and all the judges seem to agree that so far, the food is top notch.
Fortunately for them, their decision about who’s going to land on the bottom is made easier when they try the next two dishes:
Karen and Giselle’s charred eggplant puree with asparagus, smoked mushrooms, citrus vinaigrette and kumquats dish is all over the place, with undercooked asparagus and underseasoned faro.
Kwame and Phillips’s center cut New York steak with potato cream and eggplant tomato relish isn’t a favorite, either; Kwame’s relish is its only saving grace, as Phillip’s potatoes are overworked and gummy.
Luckily, the dessert makes up for the last two dishes: Marjorie (and Carl) work miracles once again, with their grilled apricots with cherries, mascarpone cheese and hazelnuts dish reminding the judges of a good cobbler or pie, minus the heaviness.
To wrap things up, Tom cuts the (rainbow, duh) cake, and Art makes a lovely toast to the newlyweds. Sadly, the joyful evening must end in heartbreak for one of the chefs, as it’s time for Judges’ table.
It’s always nice when the chefs give the judges a hard time deciding a winner among great dishes, and tonight the honor goes to Wesley and Kwame’s shrimp dish. I really like them both so I’m totally happy that Kwame snatched the win – he definitely deserved this one.
Before he can even enjoy his triumph, he lands on the bottom of the pile along with Phillip, Karen and Giselle, although the judges soon make it clear that he is, of course, safe. What they really want to know is what happened.
Phillip has a smile pasted on his face the entire time, which might well be nervousness, but he just ends up looking smug. He starts explaining his thought process about the mashed potatoes, which, admittedly is entirely different from the version he presented to the chefs during menu planning, but none of them really expected Jason to interrupt and point that out. Whoa Nelly. The guy has a point (and the producers cleverly edit in the scene where Phillip had explained his mashed potato dish as exactly that, instead of a ‘sauce’), but his overall bitchiness throughout the episode just makes him seem like a bit of a jerk.
Meanwhile, soggy mushrooms, undercooked asparagus and bland faro are never a winner, and it looks like Karen was responsible for all of it, as Giselle’s contribution to their dish was minimal, if not non-existent.
While the judges deliberate, the bitchiness continues in the stew room. Phillip continues to look smug and Jason continues to act like a bitchy queen, which really annoys me. For one thing, way to go reinforcing the gay stereotype, Jason. For another, you’re the only one freaking out about a dish that wasn’t even yours in the first place: you had immunity, you really don’t have a dog in the race right now. And thirdly, what’s the deal with that god-awful shirt peaking out of your chef’s jacket?
The judges are having a hard time deciding who should go home. Kwame’s relish saved the steak dish, but Phillip’s potato component was universally ill-received. On the other hand, nothing was good on Karen and Giselle’s dish, so which is worse? Cooking a mediocre dish or basically not adding anything to it?
In the end, it’s Giselle’s time to go home. I guess I can see the reasoning behind that decision: since Kwame’s contribution to the steak dish made it the second-least-favorite, Phillip was safe, so they had to decide between the ladies, and in the end the one who skates along gets to pack her knives and go.
I kinda wish Phillips had gone home instead, mostly because I like Giselle better. So far both have had successful dishes as well as flops, so I don’t know which one is the better cook, but she seems nice and humble, which always scores points with me.
I guess Phillip will get more chances to prove his worth in the following episodes. Until next week!