Inside the stew room is a video the chefs are asked to press play on. It’s an episode of Cooking with Julia and Jacques. This is the kind of challenge I was hoping for out of Top Chef being in Boston – Julia Child is a legend in terms of taking French cooking and bringing it to the masses, and she lived and made the show out of WGBH Boston. After the video’s over, Padma brings Jacques in to meet the chefs. He brought wine, so everyone loves him immediately.
The chefs are asked to put together a dish that pays tribute to Julia’s legacy and classic French techniques. With some time to pick Jacques’ brain, the chefs learn more about Julia – vegetables were always separately seasoned, and taste was never sacrificed for presentation’s sake. Doug spends much of the time in awe of what they’re getting to do as chefs.
It’s off to Whole Foods as the chefs start to plan their dishes. Gregory is doing a classic Coq au Vin, while George is leaning towards doing something based on Veal Osso Bucco. Doug is going ambitious, roasting whole Foie Gras loaves1 and serving them family style, but he feels now is the time to go big or go home.
Back in the kitchen, it’s work time. George is using the pressure cooker to get his veal done in time. Melissa turns her nose up this a little bit and sticks to a traditional braise for her short ribs, even though she knows it’s a risky move that may mean they’re not as done as they need to be. Gregory shocks everyone by cooking with bacon and butter, and Mei decides to infuse her own traditions into the Duck a L’Orange she’s making, adding Chinese five spice powder. Tom and Jacques come through the kitchen and check in on everyone; Jacques seems particularly excited for Doug’s foie, adding to the pressure.
The next day, everyone has one hour at the dining location, Herb Lyceum2. It’s a nervous time – one wrong move is all it takes to send you home when everyone is putting out their best work.
Gregory was worried about his dish being salty, but quickly course corrects by adding more broth. His Coq Au Vin with glazed carrots, fava beans, and snap peas is well received by the judges, although Jacques notes that since the carrots and peas were cooked separately, they should have been plated separately to indicate that was the case. Mei follows Gregory, presenting the table of diners3 with Duck a L’Orange with turnip puree, orange puree, and glazed vegetables. The judges can’t find any fault with this dish – everything is perfectly done, and they like the personal twist she put on the final product.
Even with pressure cooking the day before, George is concerned his meat still isn’t quite done. The judges agree – his Braised veal with pomme puree, morels, glazed carrots, and asparagus has wonderful flavors in the garnishes, but the meat needed to be cooked longer. Melissa keeps her short ribs in the oven all morning to make sure they’re cooked through but doesn’t keep a close enough eye and suffers when they’re presented to the judges. Her red-wine braised short ribs with brown butter polenta and jardiniere4, like George, has great sides, but this time the meat is overdone and not moist enough. Jacque complements her veggies.
Doug seems to have the same bad luck as George and Melissa. In trying to get his whole roasted foie gras with roasted peaches, sweet and sour onions, and hazelnuts cooked perfectly, he’s managed to oversear the outside and undercook the inside, leaving the diners with only a few pieces that truly match what he had in mind. He seems disappointed in the dish – there was a lot of potential that’s fallen flat. Cooking Julia food is tough, y’all. Melissa, Doug, and George all seem to know that any one of them is likely to go home.
The judges agree with the cheftestants; Mei and Gregory were at the top, and Doug, Melissa, and George all fell a little short this week. At Judges’ Table, they take the time to question Mei and Gregory on why their dish should win. After some arguments from the chefs on whether imitation is the highest form of flattery or if putting yourself in a dish is truly the tribute, Mei is given the win for imprinting part of her self into her duck.
For Doug, George, and Melissa, it’s the protein that was the problem. Doug is ultimately asked to pack his knives and go5, but he knew he was taking a risk with the dish. He’s got another chance in Last Chance Kitchen, but for now it’s goodbye.
Next week: relatives! Who maybe can’t cook?