Top Chef Recap

By Jason Lee

September 7, 2010

The editors disagree with the judges' decision.

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It’s hard to believe that there are only five chefs left. Usually, I know we’re getting to the end of the season because all of the remaining chefs are AMAZING. It’s like (to use a food metaphor) a really great red wine reduction; it’s done when it’s at its most potent. Maybe it’s just because of the caliber of chefs we had last year, but the fact that we’re one episode away from the finale took me by surprise because I’m not overwhelmed by the talent that’s left.

And who’s left? Hot Angelo, who seems to be running on empty after a fast start; Kelly, a bossy lady who’s really proven herself to be a fine chef; Kevin, who’s capable of blowing you away one day and underwhelming you the next; Ed, who despite his brash Long Island accent, always puts sophisticated flavors on the plate; and Tiffany, who’s arguably the one to beat right now. She and Ed have really begun to pull away from the competition, in my opinion.

The chefs enter the kitchen for their final Quickfire in DC. They see a bunch of wine bottles on display, plus Dana Cowin, editor of Food and Wine Magazine. Dana laments the fact that 10% of food and wine pairings are great, but 10% are simply disastrous. The chefs today will attempt to fall into that top 10% - and they’ve got real incentive to do it. Not only will they win bragging rights for bagging the final Quickfire, this one is a high stakes Quickfire and the winner gets a trip to London.


The chefs sample the wines, one by one, and select the wine that they’d like to work with. Then, it’s a hard hour of cooking as they try to impress Dana. There isn’t all that much drama, save for Kevin, who underestimated his pressure cooker’s ability to cook his pork belly. It comes out raw and he’s forced to replace the pork belly with quail, which he knows won’t stand up to his red wine sauce.

It’s time to eat and Tiffany presents a cocoa and black pepper-crusted wagyu beef tenderloin. Dana thinks that it’s cooked beautifully. Kevin has his grilled quail with shaved apple and fennel. Dana thinks that the quail is too delicate for use in this dish and Kevin agrees. Angelo has a sauteed foie gras and cumin broth for his Evolution wine. Dana finds it “an interesting dish.” Kelly pairs a Zinfandel with a wild boar tenderloin with blue cheese emulsion. Finally, Ed has an italian wine to pair with a grilled wagyu rib-eye with a wild mushroom ragu.

Overall, Dana judges the chefs to have done well in this challenge, though she finds Kelly’s dish (with the blue cheese foam too strong) and Kevin’s dish (quail not a good match) to be the least successful. On the other end, she loved Tiffany’s beautifully seasoned dish and Angelo’s use of contrast in his dish. I bet that Tiffany wins because she’s been so darn good so far, but Angelo takes it. He’s thrilled. This is his first win in three episodes.

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