So for the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to make the dish that inspired them to become chefs. They'd also be cooking for the governor of Alaska Sean Parnell (Sarah Palin, that could have been you!) and the first lady.
Before they got two-and-a-half hours to prep and cook their food, Josh received a call from his wife at home, telling him that her water broke. Oh, the drama! That's really a crazy position to be in. Quick poll: Would you have stepped out of the competition if you were Josh, or would you continue on? His wife called again at night, crying like crazy, and Josh stayed up all night and saw his baby girl Georgia for the first time via Skype. Andy Cohen tweeted that this episode made him cry — did you get emotional too?
But the competition went on. Josh thought back to the moment when he tasted foie gras for the first time. He was reading Food & Wine magazine while on a stationary bike. He needed new recipes because he couldn't eat his mom's cooking when trying to make weight for wrestling, and foie gras at the time seemed so far from anything he'd ever eaten. He finally got to taste it as a torchon while working at Alma for Alex Roberts. While it was great to see Josh doing something so different from bacon and cornbread, he made a fundamental mistake by being so ambitious. His foie gras three ways: a torchon with braised pineapple; pan-seared on cornbread puree; and a profiterole with foie gras mousse. The judges loved the flavors in the pan-seared foie gras and the smooth, creamy profiterole, but the simple fact that Josh took on the torchon, which simply can't be made in such a short time, was something Tom and the other judges couldn't get past.
For his dish, Sheldon thought of Sam Choi, who he saw on a cooking show in Hawaii. To him, Sam Choi validated Hawaiian cuisine and what we wanted to do in life. Sheldon went Asian again — nothing wrong with that — with pan-roasted rockfish, spot prawns, baby vegetables, and dashi. Wolfgang said Sheldon cooked the fish and shrimp like the "best chef in the world," but the sauce was way too salty. Like Josh's torchon, the judges just couldn't get past that one glaring error in the dish, which at this point is the sort of thing that gets you sent home.
Brooke made a mistake as well, but it wasn't as big of a deal-breaker as either of the boys'. She had a hard time at the conceptualization stage and got off to a late start as a result. She finally thought back to her childhood, when her mother made traditional braised chicken for dinner. In addition to her chicken with crispy skin, she added grilled quail with carrot barley to represent the more sophisticated side of her work as an adult. Roy, who knew Brooke when she was a "prodigy" at Kogi, said the dish looked simple until you broke it apart and saw the different layers, textures, and temperatures. The judges agreed that the quail was overcooked, but the dish as a whole was excellent. Brooke won the challenge unanimously.
It came down to Sheldon and Josh, and yikes, it was pretty brutal to eliminate Josh at such a meaningful time for him personally, but it seemed he made the more fundamental mistake, and Sheldon had the better track record (not that that's EVER a consideration on Top Chef). One thing that bothered me, though, was Tom mentioning Last Chance Kitchen before they made a decision about the elimination. I don't think there was anything insidious behind the comment, but it sort of indicates that the existence of Last Chance Kitchen is influencing the judges' decisions — that's not at all shocking, of course, but it just makes me think of Kristen again.
Did Josh's story make you cry? Is Roy Choi delightfully kooky? Who do you think will return next week?
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