A Girl Without Her Goat — Chicago chef and “Top Chef” Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard — joins Padma as the Quickfire judge. The challenge? Cook anything you want in 30 minutes, using any ingredient from the pantry. The hook? All the ingredients are covered in Reynolds Wrap.
I can hear the Takoma Park tree huggers weeping at the waste. But more importantly, can you imagine being the production assistants who had to do all that wrapping? The chefs can unwrap any ingredient to check it out, but once they unwrap it, they have to use it. To top it off, Reynolds Wrap can be their only cooking vessel. No pots, pans, trays or bowls.
Brooke’s bacon with raw onions and sweet potatoes was not a hit, nor was Micah’s uber-rare lamb with panzanella. Stephanie tells Josh his roasted chicken and potatoes were uninspired. She did, however, like six of the chefs’ dishes — those by Danyele, Sheldon, Kristen, Bart, Josie and Stefan. In particular, she highlights Danyele’s stew, Kristen’s sponge cake and Sheldon’s smoky scallops. Kristen and her sponge cake get the win, earning her immunity in the Elimination Challenge.
This week’s Elimination Challenge is berry, berry interesting. (Can you tell I’m preparing for a holiday visit with my parents where my dad will barrage us with his punny sense of humor?) The cheftestants will be cooking at some alleged berry festival on a farm, and they need to create a berry-focused dish for the 150 attendees. They’re cooking head-to-head, which means that to avoid elimination you have to beat the chef you’re cooking against.
Because there’s an uneven number of chefs, Kristen cooks alone, given her immunity status. The remaining top five from the Quickfire get to pick their opponent for the challenge. Here’s how it shakes out:
Sheldon vs. Micah (strawberries)
Danyele vs. Josh (blueberries)
Stefan vs. John (gooseberries)
Josie vs. Lizzie (raspberries)
Bart vs. Brooke (blackberries)
There’s the usual jostling for space in the makeshift farm kitchen, and shenanigans unfold as chefs refuse to share equipment. This week, I’m loving three people big-time: Danyele for her potty mouth; John for laughing as he called Stefan’s irradiated, frozen tuna shipped in from Asia “sustainable;” and Bart for his overall congeniality and cuteness.
Stephanie sticks around for the Elimination Challenge, judging along with Tom, Padma and Gail. Here’s what they ate:
Danyele: Chicken-pine nut terrine with blueberry mostarda.
Josh: Goat cheese mousse with blueberry compote and Serrano ham. (Uh, is this cooking? I don’t think so.)
Josie: Sockeye salmon, Dungeness crab and raspberry aioli.
Lizzie: Raspberry steamed cabbage roll with heritage pork and bacon stuffing.
Sheldon: Ahi summer roll with ahi poke, strawberries and sweet chili sauce.
Micah: Strawberry fried chicken with strawberry-bacon biscuit.
John: White gazpacho with Spanish chorizo, gooseberries and sweet grapes.
Stefan: Tuna crudo with radishes, gooseberries and spiced vinaigrette.
Brooke: Spicy smoked chocolate pudding with blackberry tapioca and graham cracker-marshmallow crumble.
Bart: Blackberry soup with salmon and rhubarb yogurt.
Kristen: Toasted sage-matcha-goat milk custard with macerated tayberries.
The judges talk about the dishes as they eat them, and the guests cast their votes for which of the berry dishes they like best. None of the food slapped me upside the head as something I needed to make or eat or think about, with the possible exception of Brooke’s blackberry dish.
Back in the Stew Room, Padma calls John, Josie, Bart, Micah and Danyele to Judges’ Table. They’re told that the guests and judges concurred that they lost their head-to-head battles. The judges went down the line to critique each dish, and they felt like Micah, Danyele and Josie were the closest to the chopping block. They’re sent back to the Stew Room and told to send out the other six chefs, who clearly won their battles. So who wins? Kristen! She gets $10,000 and a smooch from Stefan (who later calls her “wifey,” which makes me kind of barf just a little).
The judges deliberate over the losers to see who was the loseriest loser. Who’s going home? Danyele. That’s a bummer. She never really seemed to find her footing in this game. She goes up against CJ in Bravo’s online Last Chance Kitchen.
Up Next Week: Oyster harvesting, roller derby and Josie having some kind of perimenopausal conniption. (She points a lot at her lady-bits area as she yells at Stefan, and no one is quite sure what to make of it. It’s a heaping helping of awkward casserole.)
Blymire will recap new “Top Chef” episodes on Thursdays.