The cheftestants get off the cruise ship in Juneau, Alaska, and are greeted by Padma Lakshmi and Alaska’s most famous chef . . . uh, wait. Strike that. Never mind. They’re greeted by Padma and Charleston, S.C.’s most famous chef, Sean Brock. (Sure, why not.)
Padma tells them they’re standing in front of Juneau’s No. 1 food destination: some chick’s king crab shack. Now, just because some place is a city’s No. 1 destination *cough, cough*Ben’s Chili Bowl* cough, cough (or, in the case of my Pennsylvania hometown, Red Lobster) shouldn’t automatically mean that a show about chefs should do a challenge there. Ahem.
For their Quickfire, the chefs must produce a dish in 30 minutes featuring Alaskan king crab. Here’s what they made:
Lizzie: crab frittata with cherry tomato, garlic oil and fried capers.
Sheldon: king crab, Dungeness crab “miso,” pine-smoked asparagus and charred corn. (I want to eat this; like, now.)
Brooke: king crab, sweet corn and leek salad on toast with Dungeness crab butter. (Put it in my mouth. NOW.)
Josh: butter-poached king crab succotash with bacon.
Sean thought Lizzie’s dish was overcooked, had too many capers and held too many flavors. He tells Josh that he “served succotash to a succotash snob” and that the bacon covered up the flavor of the crab and his sauce was broken. He liked the simplicity of Sheldon’s dish and tells Brooke that while he didn’t want to like her dish, he sure did. Sheldon nails it, winning the Quickfire and a $5,000 check.
Padma tells them for their Elimination Challenge they’ll focus on salmon and sourdough bread. Each cheftestant has a tub of 30-year-old sourdough starter (yeast, water, flour) waiting for them in their guest house to begin working on their dough so it has time to rise. After making their bread dough, the next day they head down to the dock to get their salmon, fresh off a boat. They gut and clean the fish to prepare to cook them later. Lizzie gets choked up remembering her late fisherman father. Tears? Emotion? That’s usually who goes home at the end of the episode. Let’s hope that’s not true tonight. I like Lizzie, dangit.
Back in the kitchen, they work on their food for the challenge. They have three hours to prepare something incorporating salmon and sourdough bread for 200 people. Co-host Tom Colicchio comes into the kitchen to check on them and asks Josh about his wife back at home, who has just gone into labor. The chefs go over their dishes with Tom, and the guests start arriving at the outdoor venue. We’re made to believe a mama bear and her three cubs are hanging out in the tree limbs above the salmon cookout. Tom jokes about bears being his biggest fans . . . and the Daddy Hunt message boards go wild! Joining Padma and Tom in the judging this week along with Sean are Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson and Emeril Lagasse. Here’s what they ate:
Brooke: poached sockeye salmon and seafood broth with mustard-seed caviar and grilled dill sourdough.
Sheldon: green tea and chive sourdough with smoked salmon and pea soup.
Josh: roasted garlic and sourdough soup with sockeye salmon and black olive croutons.
Lizzie: citrus- and beet-glazed salmon slider with poppy seed butter and pickles.
Time for Judges’ Table! Tom tells them there were “a few mistakes here and there,” but overall it was a job well done. Tom praises Lizzie’s rolls but says her salmon was underseasoned. Gail and Sean tell her she needed more flavor because her bread was so good. Lizzie confesses that she never tasted the whole slider together as one bite, which might have been her downfall. Gail tells Sheldon she’s not sure his dish worked. Padma tells him that the chum salmon he used is what the locals use to feed their dogs, but that they were surprised to find his chum was delicious. Sean thought Sheldon’s fish was bitter from over-smoking. Gail loved Brooke’s broth but thinks her fish was slightly overcooked. Sean loved dunking her bread in the broth and “didn’t want it to end.” Emeril compliments Josh’s soup, and Hugh tells him that the fish was beautifully cooked but that it was overpowered by all the other flavors in the dish. Gail thought the garlic was too heavy. Tom tells him that both his soup and his salmon were good but they didn’t complement each other.
So, who wins this week’s challenge? Brooke, who also earns a trip to Costa Rica. Who’s going home? Lizzie. I’m sad about that. She goes up against Kristen in the online series “Last Chance Kitchen” and loses. Now, don’t get all crankypants that I should have provided a Spoiler Alert for that little nugget. You know you’re not wasting your precious online time watching it. You’re welcome.
Up next week: helicopters, glaciers, sled dogs, Padma in some badass “Top Gun” Ray-Bans, Roy Choi, Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell, Josh’s wife in full-on labor and Padma in a pretty, pretty blue dress. Oh, and food. I think. But who could tell?
Blymire recaps new “Top Chef” episodes each Thursday.