Greetings Top Chef Trashies! Only one more episode until the winner is crowned and yet it feels anticlimactic maybe because we aren’t being swept away to Mexico to frolic in a resort. I had my kids watching this episode with me because I was feeling lazy and we ate leftovers after evening activities, a couple of times they are going to make an appearance in the recap.
The chefs are still at 221 South Oak in the kitchen celebrating being the final threesome but pouring some out for their fallen homey.
On their way to Aspen, Stacho is keeping his neck supported with his bear slippers (gross). They are in another mountain resort suite with sweeping views that Le Bernardin can’t actually see from certain angles. Non-mustachioed Joe calls his wife and tells her he almost home. FINALLY, someone acknowledges in a call home that they can’t say shit and says all he can tell her is that he is in the finals.
Based on the background in this picture I know exactly where this was taken and … I feel like a stalker
The chefs arrive at a lake to find Scar and Quickfire Challenge guest judge Chris Consentino. Who I love after last season when he made John Tesar shake in his skinny jeans after eliminating him in Seattle.
I can’t believe it took 13 episodes in Colorado to get Scar in a cowboy hat
Scar welcomes them to the Lazy T Ranch where they all guess it will be about trout but there’s a catch… they have to catch the fish first.
Chris tells them that he grew up commercial fishing but fly fishing is something entirely different. There is canned fish in the pantry in case they are not able to catch anything but they are all hoping that it doesn’t come to that. The winner of the Quickfire Challenge will of course have an advantage.
Non-mustachioed Joe learned who he knows about fishing from A River Runs Through It, but it must have paid off because he is the first to catch one at the 37 minute- mark.
Stacho catches a wee one next and makes a bear joke… ugh. For some reason this is the first time in his career that he has butchered a fish. The Joes are getting started cooking while Le Bernardin is reduced to cat calling the fish to get on her line. Stacho is just a little too jazzed for my liking that Le Bernardin can’t catch any fish, because she is a little too good at cooking fish. FINALLY, at the 22-minute mark she gets one and not so gracefully scoops it off the ground and runs to the kitchen.
She decides to make a barely cooked trout skin reasoning that fresh fish is best served raw. Non-mustachioed Joe makes a joke about catching fish straight out of Lake Michigan across from the restaurant.
My oldest laughed really hard at this joke because even he knows it’s true. Le Bernardin however did not realize that was a joke and that’s why Non-mustachioed Joe clarified.
Chris asks her if she meant to keep her fish raw. She did because she wanted the skin to be crispy and the fish barely cooked through. Chris asks her if she has ever heard the saying, “does a bear shit in the woods.” She smiles thinking he is making a joke, but he is serious because they do and it all runs downhill to the stream.
Shallow Stacho smiles at her loss and his advantage
Chris tells her that fish of that caliber should be cooked all the way through. Scar asks if she should eat this and he shakes his head no, so they pick at the skin and taste the sauce.
It should be noted that nothing was left on the plate and Chris called it beautiful
Chris tells Le Bernardin she has to cook the trout through, but he could have eaten a whole bowl of the sauce and skin. He liked Stacho’s play on the frontier, the corn cake was good and the berry sauce delicious. Non-mustachioed Joe’s fish with the bread crumbs was delicious but he would have liked the skin to be a little crispier. The winner really embraced the fish and is….
Asian carp for everybody
Scar asks the chefs to follow her and leads them just beyond the shelter they just cooked in to a wide-open field with a table of vegetables and cauldrons.
They will be hosting their own Aspen Food & Wine Classic event for the culinary elite but there will be no proteins.
They will have three hours to cook tomorrow on the cowboy cauldrons because they want to see what they can do with smoke and fire. Because the “steaks” are so high they are giving them an extra set of hands.
Since Non-mustachioed Joe won the Quickfire Challenge he will get to choose his sous chef AND will get to assign the other chefs their help.
This was Le Bernardin’s face when Scar announced this twist I am guessing its saying do not give me Pasta Pete
Non-mustachioed Joe chooses Denver and since he doesn’t want the pasta bros together he assigns Stacho, Dr. Chocolate aka B.Funk and Le Bernardin, Pasta Pete. They will get to use the premium produce in front of them and will have 30-minutes to shop at Whole Foods.
The chefs break up and start grabbing produce and strategizing with their assigned sous chefs. Stacho is all over the place and is totally bugging over having to make 200 of something in 3 hours while Dr. Chocolate snacks on something green totally chillaxed because he knows it’s not his butt on the line. Non-mustachioed Joe is thinking grilled baby zucchinis and a charred vegetable pesto with and awesome goat cheese. Le Bernardin is thinking charred corn and serrano pepper puree with something to contain it all.
Le Bernardin is all of us…
She wisely knows that this dish has to be all her and pasta is not her thing. He may have a lot of ideas, but it is her that is going to get sent home for this, not him.
The chefs take their sous to shop with them at Whole Foods and Stacho is all about the summer veg. Non-mustachioed Joe and Denver are buying cheese when Denver informs them she has cooked on a cowboy cauldron because her dad would build them. He calls her a pioneer woman and another good reason why he chose her to assist him on this challenge. Le Bernardin is being contemplative by the berries and decides right then and there to change her whole dish
Back at the suite the three amigos make dinner together and Stacho makes napkin swans for the occasion. The next morning over protein shakes and coffee Non-mustachioed Joe admits he is going to miss their mornings together.
Their sous chefs meet them at the spot and things get cooking. Stacho lets everyone know not to put their shoes directly under the cauldron because it will melt the rubber. Also, after a night of good rest he has had revelation on his dish that sounds suspiciously like fancy toast. So much so he tells Denver he is making fancy toast and she excitedly asks him, “really!?!?!” Then he laughs and says no. We will see Stacho because you can all the sourdough an “accent” all you want. Then he makes fun of Le Bernardin for making a corn coconut custard with a champagne dashi. He is truly the bitchiest of the cheftestants this season.
Denver is really showing her worth on this challenge as she is firing wood in one cauldron and moving the hot wood with a big shovel. An elk makes an appearance half way through the cooking time and so does Tom and Nilou. They stop by Le Bernardin’s station first to emotionally terrorize her and walk down memory lane. She admits in her talking head that she is in a good place but not a great one and is just trying to keep her head above water. So beyond telling him her dish and saying she is just letting her balls hang out all her answers are one word.
Next, they stop by Stacho’s station where Tom shakes his confidence by making him admit that as an executive sous chef he has never really done his own food. Non-mustachioed Joe is all about doing clean concise flavors with the memory of grilled veggies.
At the 40-minute mark Stacho’s beet for his beet “carpaccio” are just not there and by that I am guessing it is not getting that smoky flavor that he wants. So, he decides to add a burning log directly to the pot.
Le Bernardin runs into a problem when her tempura shishito pepper she intended to serve is not coming out right, her corn pudding is too soft, and the lime juice pearls aren’t setting. She 86’s the tempura, decides to char them on the cauldron, does lime gelée and to gives the corn pudding texture by putting coconut flakes on top of the Swiss chard and hopes for the best.
The guests roll in and there are so many familiar faces in the crowd.
Guest judge for the episode
I loved the conversation they were having in this scene about the year he first showed at the festival along with an amazing class of chefs.
The judges stop by Stacho’s tent first and Gail remarks how great it smells.
Tiny fancy toast
Tom remarks that there are a lot of little things happening here and the acid is good. Gail likes the goose berries. However, it doesn’t eat cohesively and says, “if you are going to give us a piece of toasted bread, butter it or oil it.” Daniel agrees that the bread needed nourishment. But Nilou felt that the technique he used with the beets felt very on trend and of the moment.
Some of the guest are very curious about Stacho’s mustache as was my little one who asked several times during the episode asked about the mustache. But I think it’s only because the villain, Mayor Humdinger on Paw Patrol has the exact same one.
The camera cuts away to Curtis tasting and saying he really likes the corn and coconut, calling it a smart dish.
OMG it’s his wife Lindsay Price
Gail calls it very delicate and Scar really likes the dish she just wishes the sauce was a little thicker and they all agree. Gail says its texturally interesting, well-seasoned but she does feel like she missed an opportunity to go bolder with the char. Daniel says but the flavor! Big Daddy agrees this dish hits all the points sweet, acid, heat and salt.
I have to admit that Bruce has been amazingly supportive of Le Bernardin at this challenge, but we do see where she has to assert herself when Jonathon Waxman comes by and bros out with Pasta Pete. She admits that when most people see a female chef and male chef working side by side they are going to assume that the man is the executive chef.
I loved this guy on Top Chef Masters
All the judges agree that this a beautiful dish and the first time they are getting smoke and fire. Tom calls the cheese and the nuts the star of the day. However, he wished that he had used larger zucchini and cut it up because the baby zucchini does not have enough flavor. Gail was unsure of the cheese because she felt the put so much on, but it really grounded the dish. Aside from the judges Danny Meyer says that he hates hazelnuts and Non-mustachioed Joe did something to them that made them delicious.
While sitting at the lodge waiting for judges table Stacho has a bad feeling because he tasted all their components and they were all really good. Le Bernardin shrugs it off because last time he felt like that he won.
Scar compliments them on the amazing food that they gave them. Daniel tells them that the flavor was great, and the seasoning was on point but then Tom rains on their parade and tells them that there were missed opportunities given what they had to work with. He asks if they were conflicted. Le Bernardin speaks for them all and says that while they wanted to be rustic they wanted to elevate their food due to the event and clientele.
Gail tells Le Bernardin that she loved her coconut champagne sauce. The flavors were bright, there was heat and spice but there was no smoky cauldron flavor. Le Bernardin tries to defend her dish explain the charred corn and grilled shishito but Gail tells her none of that came through. Tom says that not many would put Swiss chard, corn, coconut milk and champagne together but she made it all work.
Gail tells Stacho that she thought his yogurt sauce was inspired and loved the idea of the beets cooked in the embers. Daniel call the contrast interesting but Tom it felt like there were two different things going on the plate. He says while certain components, like the tomato, yogurt and goose berries were all good but they seemed to work in contrast to the beet. Stacho says that is why he inserted tiny fancy sourdough toast to give the dish body, but Tom says that was just bread. However, he did love the yogurt and the roasted beets in the embers.
Gail tells Non-mustachioed Joe that his dish felt really composed and finished. It captured the heart of the challenge. Tom inquiries about the tiny zucchinis instead of using the big ones. Non-mustachioed Joe just thought the tiny ones were sweeter but points out that he used the bigger ones in the pesto. Big Daddy says the pesto was great and overshadowed the baby zucchinis because they were just too small.
Outside they give each other a three-way hug relieved to be out the room. At the judges table the great debate for who will sent home goes on. Overall it was good food with a few small mistakes. For Stacho the yogurt sauce and goose berries were good, but the bread was dry and no smoke to the dish. Non-mustachioed Joe’s dish was good but perhaps too fussy and not playful enough…. OK, this is like the one grain of salt bullshit. Le Bernardin’s was creative and Gail loved the concept and beginning of a good dish but no smoke.
The cheftestants back in front of the judges are looking like they are minutes away from having a panic attack. Scar calls out to Non-mustachioed Joe and pauses, all the color drains from his face.
He won the challenge and is having a real Kristen Kish moment having come back from Last Chance Kitchen and all.
Only Le Bernardin and Stacho remain, Stache looks calm but Le Bernardin looks like she is on the verge of tears. Scar starts off Joe….
He shakes his head knowing what is coming next
Tom tells him that the dish just didn’t come to together and he says he understands. He is understandably upset to make it so far and yet not see it all the way to the end. He has one of the most awkward packing of knives sequences as he is quite literally at the other end of the room from where he was just ejected from the competition.
It’s all happening
Next and FINAL episode, it’s a south side showdown as for the first time ever it’s an all Chicago hometown heroes and I couldn’t be prouder of my adopted hometown. It’s a four-course meal challenge with Fati, Stacho, Dr. Chocolate and Denver returning to sous and it looks like it’s going to be great!
So, what did you all think? Were you glad to see Stacho go or felt that it should have been the other two. I have to admit that I am so curious about who wins! Place your bets and don’t forget to cast your votes for fan favorite.
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