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

Sheldon served his fried chicken two ways: umami drumsticks and thighs, and wings with Usukuchi soy sauce, grapeseed oil, and vinegar. He didn't make enough wings, but the judges agreed that he delivered on the chicken that actually made it to the plate.

Even though Lizzie didn't seem to really understand fried chicken, she at least got to a close approximation and made a good dish. Her fried chicken was marinated in a ground coriander black pepper and brown sugar rub. Vinny and David liked the flavors, but Tom noted that if you're given a whole chicken, the last thing you'd do is take just the breast and de-bone it.

Josie proclaimed (loudly) that her chicken was a traditional Southern recipe, but the result didn't quite match her sales pitch. It might have been better if she'd just called it her own family recipe. The chicken came on top of a banana leaf and was served with a daikon salad. Wolfgang and others were amazed by how oily the skin was. Michelle, Josie's arch nemesis, couldn't even finish.

But no one had a harder time in the kitchen than Brooke. It's characteristic — and kind of loveable — that she can execute extremely complex dishes so well but freaks out over fried chicken. She was all over the place in the kitchen and dipped her chicken in the fryer at the last minute to make the skin crispy again, which she knew was not a good sign. Her dukka (seriously?)-crusted chicken breast with wilted escarole and tomato salad looked ridiculously fussy and unappetizing. Wolfgang, a few dozen glasses of wine in, joked that the sad chicken looked more like The Apprentice than Top Chef, which either makes a ton of sense or no sense at all. Vinny cracked, "I'm glad I didn't take the job," which was a funny but complete a-hole thing to say.

Stefan took a total B.S. route in this challenge by making chicken Cordon Bleu. Vinny and Jon just found the choice hilarious. Emeril said, "I have the chicken Cordon Blues right now," and tried to remember the last time he saw the dish on a menu — two flights ago. (Honestly, the only time I've had it was at a high school cafeteria).

As we all could have predicted, Josh won the challenge with his honest-to-goodness fried chicken. He may have been annoying throughout the episode, but I wanted to reach through my TV screen and grab one of those chicken legs. His smoked fried chicken with hot sauce and blue cheese and celery salad looked amazing. Tom and David both agreed that smoking fried chicken was an interesting move.

Judging from this one challenge alone — as it's supposedly a rule to do so — both Stefan and especially Brooke were in serious danger of going home. But Josie was the one sent packing her knives, at long last. Weirdly, Padma defended her yet again, saying that the ridiculously oily chicken "was flavorful!" The flavor of a banana doused in a vat of grease? Oy, Padma, what are we going to do with you?

Josie's exit was about as classy as expected. Stefan went in for a hug, but Josie side-stepped it and turned it into a weird handshake. Everyone seemed more than ready to part ways with her.

Did anyone feel less invested in this episode after last week? Let's see how she does against Kristen in LCK!

Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.

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