Photo Credit: Kelsey McNeal/Bravo Photo
Food lovers everywhere gasped in shock and disbelief while watching last night's Top Chef episode as beloved head judge Tom Colicchio proclaimed, "Everything ISN'T better with bacon." The horror! The scandal! No, Tom, say it isn't so!
But let's go back to the beginning, when bacon was still the beloved, omnipotent ingredient worshipped by gourmet chefs, home cooks and eaters alike. For the Quickfire, our contestants face Tom and guest judge Daniel Boulud, one of the most renowned French chefs in the world, to hear their challenge: Make a tasty dish using escargots, aka snails. Some pretty gross close-ups of slimy, live snails follows. Now I love escargots, but I admit -- they look pretty nasty.
Some of the chefs, like Mike I. and Mattin, are pretty stoked -- they've cooked lots of these slimy creatures before. But then Tom raises the stakes: The winner gets immunity, but the loser will go home. Wow. There's an unexpected twist. Everyone suddenly gets really nervous.
After the tasting, Mike I., Kevin and my girl Jennifer get called out as having the best dishes. Once again, Keven and Jen are proving themselves to be the toughest competitors of the bunch. Kevin wins the immunity with an earthy snail fricassee, boosted by his homemade bacon jam. "Of course," you think. "Add bacon to anything and it's going to win." It's a no-brainer...right?
At the bottom are Ashley, Jesse and Robin -- three women. C'mon girls, let's get it together and step up your game! It's getting really embarrassing to watch. In another twist, Tom announces a 20-minute amuse-bouche cook-off for the bottom three; whoever makes the worst dish will go home. Talk about pressure.
The dishes come out, and I can already predict who's going home (see my last recap). Sure enough, it's Jesse and her poorly executed tuna tartare. She's just screwed up too many times in this competition. A teary-eyed Jesse packs her knives and goes home, saying that she really doesn't "suck this bad."
For the Elimination, the chefs draw knives and pair off, each making a dish composed of a typical French protein and traditional French sauce. Mike I. and Bryan are a team, and Jen and Mike V. are also paired off -- clearly, the two strongest teams of the bunch. In fact, Jen and Mike V. seem to have a pretty good synergy in the kitchen. Jen says they're going to make a "bangin'" dish together, then later adds that they don't need to talk while they're cooking because each knows what the other is doing...and they "feel each other's movements in the kitchen." Hmm... who sees a hook-up in the near future?
The cheftestants are cooking dinner for one of the most intimidating assortment of guests in Top Chef history -- some of the greatest French chefs alive, including Hubert Keller, Daniel Boulud and possibly the greatest of them all, Joel Robuchon. And they're actually cooking in Robuchon's kitchen! The chefs all freak out. Kevin, the lucky winner, is exempt from cooking and gets to join the guest chefs for dinner. He freaks out a little too.
Mattin, who's French, seems like a shoe-in. He exudes confidence, and his partner Ashley lets him take the lead. The chefs present their dishes course by course; Mattin introduces his dish in French, prompting Joel Robuchon to say (in French, of course): "He spoke French very well." Ha! I should hope so, considering that's where he was born and raised.
The judges' favorite dishes were Mike I. and Bryan's trout with deconstructed bernaise and Mike V. and Jen's sophisticated take on rabbit with sauce chasseur -- surprise, surprise. Mike V. throws many compliments Jen's way as they're explaning their dishes to the judges (wink, wink), but Bryan wins the Elimination for his perfectly assembled and cooked trout. Another one for the Voltaggio brothers!
Ashley and Mattin land on the bottom with their poussin in veloute sauce, which the judges say tastes too overpoweringly like bacon. Too much bacon? Impossible! But yes, apparently, there is such a thing as too much bacon. Mattin takes extra heat because hey, he's French, and he should know better. He also nudges Ashley towards the bus when he says the misguided asparagus on the plate was her idea.
Yet Frenchie and Ashley survive to see another challenge, as it's Hector who goes home for overcooking his beef and hacking it up while plating it. It's kind of a shame -- I bet we would have seen some pretty great things from him in the future. But hey, if you can't even cut a piece of meat properly (Gail says her piece looked like it was hacked with an axe), I guess you don't deserve to cook for four-star French chefs.