Image credit: David Moir/Bravo
YOU'RE AMAZING Just the way you are. But Sheldon, you didn't bring your usual self to the challenge.
For the appetizers, Sheldon brought out some sashimi spot prawns, court-bouillon, radish, Asian herbs, and sea beans. It was the only dish of his of the night that was quintessentially Sheldon, and the judges recognized that. Hugh said it "sang," and Emeril noted that the prawns were perfectly cooked. Kristen served chestnut velouté with duck rillettes and Brussels sprouts. The judges all thought the rillettes were lacking some sort of acid. Brooke's crispy veal and sweetbread salad with kumquats, beets, and mustard was a good concept, but Hugh thought she could have cleaned the sweetbreads more to isolate their buttery flavor. The winner of the first course appeared to be Sheldon with Brooke in second.
The entrees flipped the standings a bit. Kristen's seared ahi tuna with veal mustard jus and Meyer lemon puree received a mixed response. Yan praised the searing of the tuna, but Padma thought the lemon curd was too intense, and John had a bite that was "borderline salty." Which once again supports my theory that even the bad dishes on Top Chef probably taste fine to normal people. On the other hand, Brooke's braised short ribs with parmesan sauce and nettle puree got glowing reviews; Padma even said she wanted to sop up more of that sauce with Kristen's tuna. Ouch.
Then it came to Sheldon's surprising quail dish, and it turned out it wasn't worth the risk. While Yan praised Sheldon's ambition, Hugh couldn't find him in the dish, and Emeril, who seems to be the season's resident Sheldon advocate, went as far as to say, "He's been brainwashed." Verdict: Sounded like Brooke was out ahead of Kristen.
Brooke led the pack by a mile with her dessert of brown butter cake, whipped goat cheese, and blackberry sauce -- John said simply, "Holy smokes, that is really, really good." Kristen's curry chocolate with cashews really just looked like a bowl of chocolate, which could be awesome, but not at this point of the competition. Sheldon's white chocolate mousse with apple and fennel impressed Padma, who thought the combination was interesting. But to everyone with a culinary background, the fennel was overpowering and tacked onto the dish. Verdict: Brooke, easily
At the Judges' Table, since it was the final three, the judges took the chefs' past performance into account, which we all know they neeeeeever normally do. Tom summed up each chef in a nutshell (I'm paraphrasing):
Brooke: You had a great season, and your food is complex without ever coming across as showy. Tonight you got behind in prep and had a rough service.
Kristen: You showed a lot of ingenuity and fight in Last Chance Kitchen to get back into the game, but tonight you played it a little safe.
Sheldon: You put together dishes that were new and exciting, but tonight you were reaching for something different but lost yourself.
If Brooke had shown more pride in her work, I bet the judges would have pretty much declared her the winner, because they all seemed to love her dishes. But I think with Tom sitting there, who'd seen how flustered she'd been in the kitchen, she had an unnecessarily apologetic demeanor toward the judges and didn't inspire much confidence. In the end, Sheldon ended up getting eliminated for his uncharacteristic and therefore uninspired dishes that night.
Who do you want to win next week? Are you excited that we'll finally have another female winner?
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