12 Cheftestants become 10 as they show off their bar food and menu-planning skills on this week’s Top Chef.
Straight off the events of last week’s episode and amidst this week’s B-roll footage, we get a shot of Chef KeriAnn crying – she’s missing her family and about ready to leave the competition. Talking with her husband helps, and she’s back in the game to fight to prove she deserves to be there. Elsewhere in the Top Chef apartment1, the chefs find a note from Padma, instructing them to meet her at 84 Beacon St. for their next challenge. 84 Beacon St., as it turns out, is the
Bull & Finch Pub Cheers Bar. It actually has a name other than the Cheers Bar, but the Top Chef producers only show the Cheers signs and Padma only refers to it as the Cheers Bar, so it’s the Cheers Bar2.
It’s a special Quickfire this week, as Padma is joined at the Cheers Bar by George Wendt, who played Norm on Cheers. Was it mentioned that Cheers was set in Boston? WE GET IT, PRODUCERS. Padma notes that Boston is a bar town, albeit one with a rule that all bars must also serve food. There are some mighty tasty bars serving food in my neck of the woods – I’m partial to Trina’s Startlite Lounge and Five Horses Tavern, which take bar favorites and give them a more modern twist. The cheftestants are asked to do their own take on bar food to wow Padma and George.
The chefs work in two groups, and there’s the usual chop/cook/scramble montage as everyone plates their food. Here’s what they come up with to update the usual standards:
- Aaron does his take on a bar burger, topping his with peanut butter, mayo, a fried egg, and bacon3 Padma describes it as “not as bad as I was expecting”.
- Katie makes beer-battered cheese curds with lemon zest and other more upscale touches. They still look like cheese curds, which are delicious, but hardly fancy.
- Stacy (the hometown chef) creates a play on a BLT with arugala pesto, barratta, and tomato jam. I really want to eat that sandwich.
- Rebecca presents some “wicked hot” chicken wings that don’t have quite as much of a Ponzu glaze as either Rebecca or Padma would like.
- Keriann did a beer-battered onion ring with a fresh crab salad and spicy hollandaise in a twist on a crab cake.
- Gregory manages to drop the tops to two of his buns in getting from the kitchen to the dining room and can barely present his burger and sweet potato fries to George and Padma.
- Adam made black bean chilaquiles with a fried egg
- Mei’s chicken wings with a lime vinaigrette seems to go over well with Padma and George
- James’ veggie-focused dish with two different carrot preparations goes over as well as you’d expect it to in a bar food challenge.
- Katsuji’s seafood tostada looks like a refreshing end to the tasting
There are 2 other chefs in the kitchen(Dougie and Melissa), but we literally saw/heard nothing about their dishes so I’m assuming they did a perfectly fine, if ignorable job. George singles out Gregory and James as his least favorites, although Gregory just had an off day. James’ dish is explicitly called out as Not Bar Food. Katsuji’s tostada and Keriann’s crab cake are singled out on top, with Katsuji eking out a win and earning immunity for the next challenge.
With George Wendt now on his way, Michael Schlow comes in and greets the chefs. The chefs will be taking over one of his nearby restaurants (Via Matta) to create a three-course Italian menu. This challenge is as much about presenting their menus as it is the food – diners will be picking from all menus and choosing one each. The top-selling menu’s team will be the winners for the week, with all other teams up for elimination. Did we mention it’s a double elimination this week? Two chefs will be going home. Also, amongst the diners will be a ~special celebrity guest~ of some sort.
The chefs are allowed to pick their own teams and end up with Adam, Mei, and Doug on the orange team, Keriann, James, and Melissa on the Grey team, Katsuji, Aaron, and Greg on the Purple team, and Rebecca, Katie, and Stacy on the Blue team. Menu writing is often left to the head chef, who needs to blend accurate description of the dish with wording that will make a diner want to buy it. The purple team is composed of all head chefs, and they have no problem pulling together an appetizing menu. the orange team, who are all sous-chefs, aren’t quite as used to menu writing and figure it’s the quality of their food that will need to shine if their menu doesn’t. Keriann’s team decides to do all seafood dishes, even though James is having second thoughts.
The next day, we see the chefs at Via Matta. As it turns out, I’ve walked by Via Matta a bunch of times and not realized it was a swanky Italian restaurant. I’m pretty sure at one point I thought it was a spa/wellness center of some sort. Michael Schlow himself will be the expediter for the teams in the kitchen, and as everyone gets set up for service Aaron immediately starts butting heads with Katsuji. Two hours of chopping, prepping, and readying later and it’s time for service.
Emmy Rossum is the special guest! She’s gluten-free, which will definitely throw a wrench in the works for our chefs, since their three-course Italian meals needed to include a pasta course. This doesn’t even throw Katie off – she just creates a zucchini “noodle” and keeps working as planned. Katsuji struggles to figure out how to do his ravioli without and just gives Emmy the filling, which gets called out by the judges. Elsewhere, pasta is replaced by a risotto or polenta, all of which seem to go over well with Emmy. Less well received are James’ lackluster seafood salad and Rebecca’s disappointing scallop dish.
With service over, it’s down to the diners to decide the winner rather than the judges this week. Before revealing the winner, the judges note that while food was good over all, there was a disappointing lack of risks overall by the chefs. The Blue and Purple teams were closest in number of tickets sold, but ultimately the Purple Team wins. This is great news for Katsuji – without immunity or the rest of his team, he’d have been on the chopping block. This win immediately make Aaron think he’s resolved his teamwork issues, but I have my doubts that’s likely to happen anytime sound.
The orange team’s menu had a lower sell rate, but their strategy to make their food the best they could saves them all – the judges loved all their dishes and they are safe. From the remaining cheftestants, James, Stacy, and Rebecca are singled of as having the poorest dishes this week. Stacy is questioned for her decision to thinly slice her ribeye and the overcooked vegetables served with it, but is reminded that standing behind your dish also involves being honest about what didn’t go right as she tries to backtrack whenever the judges ask what she thought of the dish. Rebecca’s dish felt very safe, and the execution left it feeling like mediocre room service4. James’ salad was out of balance and needed more oil. He mentions focusing on team harmony than the final dish, which doesn’t seem like the thing to say if you want to stay in the competition.
In the end, Rebecca and James are asked to pack their knives and go, while Stacy stays in the competition. Rebecca is thankful for the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat. James is kicking himself for not pushing more to go with his gut.
- chefpartment? ↵
- A side note, for those of you visiting Boston: don’t go to the Cheers Bar/Restaurant in Quincy Market. It is a gross tourist trap that sells mediocre food and you can do better in the immediate area. ↵
- I refuse to believe this combo is anything but super gross, no matter how good Aaron says it is ↵
- oof. That’s gotta sting. ↵