Top Chef recap: That Ain't Fried Chicken

A deceptively simple fried chicken challenge throws talented chefs for a loop
Ep. 12 | Aired Jan 23, 2013

FUNKY CHICKEN Josh served as the self-appointed chicken police, disparaging everything that didn't fit his narrow definition of fried chicken. Please let all the sushi lovers of the world remind him that the ball of ingredients he presented in the Quickfire most definitely was not sushi.

David Moir/Bravo

Katsuya advised the chefs to keep their dishes simple — just rice, fish, happiness — but of course not all of them listened. Josh brought up the whole borderline-jingoistic “I live in Oklahoma” excuse again and disrespected the challenge with his breakfast sandwich-like tempura bacon omelet with salmon belly. It hardly seemed like he tried. Lizzie failed to impress with her overly fussy sushi lobster with micro greens with a yuzu sake broth poured over it. Katsuya noted that the hot broth over cold fish made the whole thing too fishy.

Unsurprisingly, Josh thought Sheldon's Filipino heritage would somehow make him a shoo-in for a Japanese-style sushi challenge, but his hamachi sashimi with fresh ponzu and lemon charcoal didn't impress Katsuya the most. He preferred the clean taste of Brooke's octopus with yuzu and grated wasabi, but he gave Stefan his first Quickfire win for his yellowtail with grilled shitake and raw lobster with seaweed and unagi.

I bet when Momofuku owner David Chang walked in the room, Josh thought, "Please don't let this be another Asian food challenge." Luckily for him, the Elimination Challenge was all about fried chicken, to be prepared for a bunch of Tom's chef friends at a boozy dinner party.

A lot of unsurprising events ensued: Stefan made a bunch of double-entendres about chicken breasts and thighs (he needs to pick up a copy of Fifty Shades of Chicken); Posh Spice Brooke tried to make her chicken over-complicated; and Josh made more faintly arrogant and jingoistic comments about what qualified as fried chicken. Even though I wish Kuniko had been around to tell him that his McSalmon Biscuit was most definitely not sushi, Josh had a point: Some of the other chefs didn't understand the simple goodness that is fried chicken. They should have taken a page from Minnie from The Help and just used Crisco. It would have been better than Brooke's nasty Kashi granola crisp or whatever she plopped on those chicken breasts. Seriously, fried chicken with no skin??? Disaster.

There were a number of guest judges at Tom's outdoor dinner party, including Michelle Bernstein, who played a hand in sending Josie home in her first season. Ever the great sport, Josie had absolutely taken it personally and didn't even look Michelle in the eye. Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook from the L.A. meat hub Animal also had history with one of the chefs — Brooke had once interviewed them for line cook positions but didn't give them the job. Awkward!

NEXT: Tom should have just held up a photo of fried chicken and said, "This. Make it."


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