Top Chef recap: Chum Bucket

The chefs prepare super-fresh salmon and super-old sourdough for Alaskans who really know their salmon and sourdough
Ep. 14 | Aired Feb 6, 2013

SLAMMIN' SALMON Josh tries to stay focused on oily fish while his wife is ready to give birth thousands of miles away.

David Moir/Bravo

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to combine two of Alaska's oldest culinary traditions: fish and bread (no moose), and in this case, salmon and sourdough. Lizzie immediately expressed concern about baking bread, especially sourdough, which involves cultivating "starter," which is sort of like the yeasty primordial ooze from which sourdough emerges. For the challenge, they used starter that had been incubating for 31 years. That's some tangy yeast.

With only four contestants remaining in the competition, we took some time to get to learn about the chefs' personal lives. Cleaning salmon that came straight from the ocean reminded Lizzie of her recently deceased father. Josh's wife Courtney was about to give birth at any moment. By the way, did anyone notice the subtle, metaphorical imagery of birth and fertility that recurred throughout the episode? Josh saying starter had to be nurtured like a child; Josh's salmon being jam-packed with roe; Tom asking Josh about his wife while there was a bun in the oven in the background? What is this, an episode of Top Chef or a David Chase drama?

The chefs presented their fishy and bready snacks at a salmon bake, which is apparently an Alaskan tradition like clam bakes in New England and fish fries in the South. I've never been to any of those things, although I've been to a kimchi squat. (If you must know, it's where a bunch of Korean grandmothers make enormous amounts of kimchi in plastic kiddie pools while, you know, squatting). The entire occasion looked like a rollicking good time.

Then came my favorite moment of the week. While everyone was noting that there might be some hungry bears in the vicinity, Tom joked that bears are "his fan base," which is hilarious. Of course, he was referring to the subculture of "bears" in the gay community, which is formed of primarily hefty, hairy, mature men, and indeed Tom would hear a lot of "woof"s were he to enter a bear bar.

NEXT: At this point it's all about the tiny mistakes...

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