Top Chef Episode Recap

Welcome to another episode of Top Chef Chicago!

Quickfire Challenge

As usual we start off the competition with the Quickfire challenge. The guest judge: Rick Bayless, a multi Beard award winner and owner of Frontera Grill and Toplobampo in Chicago. The challenge: Create a high end staple of Mexican cuisine, the taco. Mmmm I would be lying if I said I wasn't salavating.

Immediately I'm thinking that Manuel (executive chef of Dos Caminos) should be able to pull this one off, seeing as how he IS the executive chef of a high end Mexican restaurant.

Manuel makes the quintessential taco with chorizo (a staple type of sausage in Mexican cooking). Oh man am I hungry.

Lisa blows her chances by creating a chewy skirt steak taco. Andrew uses duck meat, which works well seeing as Bayless' favorite taco in the world is duck taco. Spike manages to gain points by going with a street style taco. Richard decides to use jicama as the tortilla for his taco which is an interesting choice.

Once judging comes around, the guest judge doesn't like Eric's taco because it doesn't look high end enough. Eric retaliates by saying Mexican food can't be high end. So there.

On the top end, the guest judge really likes Andrew's duck taco, Richard's jicama tacos and Spike's street style tacos. In the end Richard's oddball jicama taco pays off as he wins the Quickfire challenge. On top of the win, Richard's taco will be featured in one of Rick Bayless' restaurants. Not bad.
Elimination Challenge

Immediately after the Quickfire, everyone forms two teams, Blue and Red. The chefs split into teams as follows:

Red team: Zoi, Dale, Andrew, Spike, Ryan and Jennifer

Blue team: Stephanie, Nikki, Antonia, Mark, Manuel, Lisa and Richard

As both teams head to their unknown destination, they start thinking about where they could be going. Polish district? Chinese District? Whats going on!?!

They end up in a random neighborhood in Chicago which soon will be hosting their annual block party. Each team is responsible for catering the block party of about 150 people. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Each team finds out that they have to go door to door searching and begging for food to cook for the challenge. Chefs spend 95% of their time in the kitchen talking to no one but other chefs. Lack of social skills will not help. Immediately the cheftestants start raiding poor Chicagoans' refrigerators and pantries, searching for enough food to feed about 150  people.

The next day the teams head into the kitchen for 3 hours of prep. Both of the teams decide to stick to BBQ type food: slaw, corndogs, sliders with specialty toppings, mac and cheese and pasta salad. Zoi gets stuck with the unfortunate task of making pasta salad. To paraphrase Zoi: you can't win Top Chef with pasta salad. Couldn't agree more.

At the block party, both teams start laying out their food. Nikki's mac and cheese became extremely dry in transit and Eric's corndogs turn a little soggy, but not too soggy to not serve them, according to him. You have to think about these things when you're catering a party.

The red team manages to have a very versatile menu with sliders, chicken skewers, and s'more lollipops. The blue team has slightly less, but manages to hit a home run with their self proclaimed sexy drink.

Judges Table

At judges table the blue team is called in first, making the red team extremely uncomfortable.  Nikki's dry mac and cheese was called out right off the bat. Tom told Richard that his rice pilaf was not a paella. Stephanie's drink and dessert, however, managed to pull the team in the front for the win (kind of a surprise, no?). It was close according to the judges. Chef Collichio tells the team that they didn't do as well as he thought they would, but they managed to pull in front.

After celebration, the red team is brought in as the losing team, much to their surprise. The corndogs were called soggy, which Eric agreed with. It was probably a poor decision in retrospect (crispy just can't hold for that long).  The red team retaliates saying they were cooking for the people at the party, not the judges who have trained palates. Andrew is especially feisty for being told his team lost saying, "I'm going nowhere. This is my house." Anybody think he sounded tough? Anybody?

Zoi, of course, gets called out for her pasta salad, which she didn't even want to do in the first place. 

Ultimately Eric's soggy corndogs gave him the final blow as he was told to pack his knives and go. Sorry Eric. As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Until next time, Happy Eating!

 

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