With the Quickfire out of the way, a bunch of baseball snack vendors enter the kitchen. It’s a baseball challenge! Baseball and the Red Sox are particularly loved in Boston, and this week the chefs will be taking ballpark snacks (peanuts, popcorn, pretzels, and fried dough) as inspiration for a fine dining dish. They’ll be serving this to a group of judges directly on the field at Fenway Park.
The chefs make their snack selections and head off to Whole Foods1 to get the other ingredients they need to wow the judges. Ron’s planning a popcorn soup with a haddock croquette in the shape of a baseball, which doesn’t feel very “fine dining” to me. Katsuji was the only chef to pick fried dough as inspiration, which, depending on what he creates may be a good or bad thing. Katie mentions fond baseball memories with her father watching Twins games – I thought I detected a Minnesota accent! She wants to make a dish that reminds her of those sweet memories, and is planning a free-form creme brûlée, which is something I did not know you could do a free-form version of.
Back in the kitchen, the chefs are using the 3 hours of prep time they have to get everything as ready as possible, since they don’t know what the cooking conditions will be like at the park. James struggles with his pretzels, since he’s neither a snacker or a major junk food eater. Keriann was inspired by the flavors she enjoys most with pretzels, beer and cheese, but other chefs are wary that she has enough time to properly braise short ribs. At the end of the day, Katie’s concerned – her creme brûlée looks mostly done, but she won’t know if it’s set completely until they’re at Fenway.
At Fenway, the chefs are staggered in groups because of the condensed cooking space available in the Fenway concession stand. Katie is scrambling because her creme brûlées did not set – she’s running around like crazy trying to turn it into something presentable for the judges. She’s in the first group along with Ron and Aaron. Here’s a breakdown of what everyone cooked:
- Ron – Popcorn, Popcorn soup, breaded croquette
- the croquette isn’t just baseball-shaped, it’s baseball-sized, which sticks out in the bowl of soup.
- Aaron – Pretzel, Pretzel warped rillette and spring pea salad
- Katie – Popcorn, Popcorn mousse, blue cornmeal salted cracker
- Katie apologizes immediately for her creme brûlée turning into a mousse, but the judges really love it and tell her to stand behind what she makes.
- KeriAnn – Pretzel, Beer-braised short rib, horseradish
- the judges notice that the ribs aren’t fully cooked to doneness. Keriann stands behind her braise.
- Katsuji – Fried Dough, bread pudding with mushrooms, bacon, and deep fried pork belly
- In what’s clearly a thing for Katsuji, there’s too much going on here. Had he just done the bread pudding portion, I think things would have been fine
- Dougie – Popcorn, Seared scallop, grilled corn, sweet corn sauce, season popcorn
- Melissa – Popcorn, corn and ramp soup, fried calamari, truffle butter
- Mei – Peanuts, Seared pork loin, braised peanuts, peanut sauce
- Stacy – Peanuts, seared scallop with pickled peanuts, peanut/sunchoke puree
- Adam – Peanuts, watermelon curry, peanut oil poached halibut
- despite completely overcooking his fish, the rest of the dish appears to save Adam in the eyes of the judges.
- Greg – Peanuts, roasted duck, peanut nam pho, crispy shallots
- James – Pretzel, Lobster cake, pretzel panzanella, avocado mousse
- Melissa – Pretzel, roasted salmon with mustard/honey glaze, pretzel streusel
As always, I’m amazed at the ways the chefs were able to take such simple inspiration and turn it into an amazing array of dishes. The judges seemed to agree, and thought the dishes that kept things simple were some of the best. Gregory, Melissa, and Katie are called before the judges as the best of the night. The judges loved Katie’s dessert (even if she had her doubts), enjoyed the simplicity and flavor profile of Melissa’s popcorn soup with pickled ramps, and were wowed by Gregory’s complex dish with its balance of flavors. Gregory runs away with the wins this week, and sets himself as the frontrunner in the early part of this year’s competition.
Up for elimination this week are Ron, KeriAnn, and Katsuji. Keriann’s judgement in choosing short ribs for the amount of cooking time they had is called out. Ron and Katsuji have larger problems with editing and portion size, so Keri is safe for at least another week. Of Katsuji and Ron, Ron’s instincts and skills at editing on the fly if something seems off (like the size of a croquette) need work. It’s this that sends him home, leaving Katsuji safe.
Next week on Top Chef Boston: Norm! What had better be the bar Cheers is based on, and not the horrible tourist trap down in Quincy Market!
- in Lexington, if my Google-Fu is correct – that Legal Sea Food next to the store helped me place it ↵