If the movie Julie & Julia and the resurgent popularity of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking didn’t already wet your appetite for French cuisine, perhaps last night’s Top Chef did. The chefs had to create a flawless French dish using a classical sauce and protein combination. Sure, all their dishes have to be flawless. But this one had to be immaculate because their guests weren’t just any diners — they were some of the most celebrated chefs out there right now, like Hubert Keller, Laurent Tourondel, and Joël Robuchon, dubbed ”Chef of the Century” in France. How’s that for pressure?
But if we’re going to talk about pressure, we’d better start at the beginning with the Quickfire Challenge, where all sorts of anxiety-inducing things were happening. To kick off the French-themed episode, Tom introduced French chef Daniel Boulud, who explained that, for the Quickfire, the cheftestants would have to make an inventive dish using escargot as the main ingredient. For those who didn’t know (like me), Jen pointed out that snail is a pretty delicate protein that’s easy to bungle up. Kevin went on to mention that snails, on their own, have little taste, so the background flavors are key. Oh, and did I mention that the chef with the worst dish goes home? Pressure’s on!
But considering how high the stakes were, we didn’t get much juicy drama in the kitchen. In fact, everyone seemed to make the difficult ingredient work for them: French cuisine-newbie Hector opted for a Caribbean flavor (big surprise), Kevin added a touch of Southern lovin’ with bacon jam, and Mike I. used his Greek routes to channel a Crete-inspired dish. Least worried of the bunch was native Frenchman ”escargot is my whole youth” Mattin. I normally like to root for Mattin if for no other reason than his cute neck scarf, but I did kind of love that Boulud didn’t pick Mattin’s as one of his top three. Instead, Mike I., Kevin, and Jen wound up on top. A not-so-surprising trio, if you ask me. Jen and Kevin have been consistently on top of their games. As for Mike I., he’s had a spottier record. Take, for example, last week’s impressive potato risotto only to be shadowed by his sad salad.
In the end, Kevin took home the win (the judges loved his bacon jam), but no $15,000. Instead he received a special surprise, which we’ll get to later (but man, was it good). After the always-jovial Kevin breathed a huge sigh of relief, the rest of the chefs took in a huge gulp of nerves. And just like the top three, the bottom three were also a predictable bunch: Jessie for her ”ELT” (escargot, mache, and fried tomato), Ashley for her escargot soup, and Robin for her cute but ultimately flawed ”bagels and lox”-themed poached escargot. But chin up, girls. You get a second chance! Each had 20 minutes to create an amuse-bouche, a single, bite-sized hors d’oeuvre, out of something already in the kitchen.
But no one really thinks about the kitchen once they’re done cooking. As we saw from its complete disarray, it’s not the best place to make a one-dish wonder. The mess didn’t seem to bother Jesse, though, who was pretty confident about her tuna tartare, which, if you’ve watched any competitive reality show, means hers will be the worst. And, what do you know? Hers was! Robin’s avocado soup and Ashley’s foie gras saved them from elimination, but Jesse wasn’t so lucky. Her tartare, which she makes every night at her restaurant, failed to impress Boulud. Wonder if she’s still serving that tartare back at home…
NEXT: Jen and Michael V….perfect together