After last week’s Top Chef-less week, I feel refreshed and ready for more foodie television. But the cheftestants probably didn’t get the same mini-vacation we did. In fact, if last night’s episode was any indication, it seems like they’re more stressed than ever.
It’s halfway through the season, which is perfect timing for the skeletons to come out of the closet and the doubt to start settling in. For starters, Michael V. dropped the news that he’s actually a father to two daughters — a 5-year-old and a 9-year-old, who we know are adorable from a portrait that the Bravo producers flashed on screen. He may be somewhat of a punk, but I’m feeling a bit softer toward him now, knowing that he wants to do well to justify all the time he’s spending away from his girls. Aww.
Just as Michael V. started to contemplate his place on the show, Ash, too, revealed his doubts as a chef, having not been to culinary school. Either I forgot or I didn’t hear it the first time around, but this was news to me. But it’s not surprising that he’d be so worried. I’m not saying you have to go to culinary school to cook well, but clearly the trained chefs are knocking them out of the park. Most of his dishes, on the other hand, have been major flops. Sweet potato ice cream/custard anyone?
And to finish the one-two punch, Jen was sick. It’s no surprise that she refuses to back down or rest up considering her tough attitude, but it sure didn’t help her confidence.
But she had to buck up for the quickfire because it was a complicated one this week. At the challenge, guest chef Tyler Florence explained that the contestants would be making a dish using three key words chosen by a slot machine. I loved this Vegas-themed method of choosing — such a nice change of pace from drawing knives.
But tomato, tomaato, the slots are just as random as knives and with it, we got some pretty funky keyword combinations, like Ashley’s — blue, cheesy, Middle Eastern. Impressively, Ashley actually fared well with a feta pudding and sumac-dusted halibut. Padma and Tyler admitted she had one of the hardest ones, but I don’t think she got any sympathy votes. Judging off the dish itself, it sounds like she nailed the combination. To top it off, she doesn’t ever cook Middle Eastern! Kudos, but please lose that bow-tie shirt.
Other stand-outs? Florence loved the flavor combination of Michael V.’s yuzu curd with whipped yogurt and a seaweed cracker, an interpretation of adventurous (pastry made by a non-pastry chef), tangy (the yogurt), and Asian (the seaweed). Mike I. (stressed, umami, Asian) also got a shout-out for his raw mushroom salad with yuzu emulsion. (A lot of yuzu love this season, no?) It was a shocker to Mike I., who at first stumbled over the nothingness of umami, which he explained is the fifth taste that’s neither spicy nor salty not sweet nor sour. Tough for a guy who also never cooked Asian. But it turned out that Florence found his creation light, fresh and clean.
In the end, though, it was another chef who had never cooked Asian who won. Kevin’s chargrilled pork with Vietnamese herb salad, a mixture of stressed, hot and spicy, that wowed Florence enough to give him the win and the High Stakes prize. When given the option of $15,000 or immunity, Kevin bravely and boldly chose $15,000. Like Ashley said, who wants make it to the next round because of immunity, not the merit of their dish?
NEXT: Robin’s sunny outlook