Top Chef Boston Recap
By Jason Lee
January 26, 2015
The chefs return home after last week’s stunning Elimination Challenge win by Melissa over Mei, thereby securing one of the three coveted spots in the TC finale. In my mind, Melissa effectively stealing one of the spots puts a lot of pressure on Mei and Greg - they’ve been the two chefs to beat all season, and frankly they deserve to be in the finale. As the opening credits roll, the remaining chefs toast to being among the final four. There’s laughter all around as the glasses clink, but a palpable tension underlies it all.
The chefs head to Top Chef Kitchen for their Quickfire and encounter Padma standing next to Wylie Dufresne - a frequent presence on TC (longtime fans will recall his presence in the Season Two finale between Marcel and Ilan). Though one might expect some type of molecular gastronomy Quickfire given Wylie’s culinary style, instead, the chefs will be asked to elevate the most humble of ingredient – beans - into something that could put Beantown back on the map. The winner gets a trip to Napa, California.
Greg is a bit flummoxed. Unable (apparently) to do anything outside of Asian food, he laments the fact that Asian culture infrequently uses beans in their cooking (apparently he’s never tried goma dangos). He decides to cook navy beans with sake, ham, avocado, and carrot chips. I think the combination of avocado and sake sounds bizarre, but hey, what do I know?
Mei knows exactly what she wants to make for Wylie - she’s fully aware of how much he loves breakfast, and she plans to indulge that. She’s putting together black beans and corn with bacon, a poached egg, and a pinto bean foam. She plates up her foam . . . and it looks like a big, soft, pillowy, brown turd. I hope it tastes better than it looks.
Melissa is a huge fan of fried garbanzos and is planning on making that a key part of her dish. She puts a seared pork tenderloin alongside it with a bacon/butter-bean puree.
Meanwhile, George wants to do a traditional Greek dish, pairing chickpeas with seafood. Unfortunately, he’s unable to find any in the Top Chef kitchen and incorporates a pork tenderloin instead.
George’s dish is up first with Wylie and Padma. Padma enjoys the texture and Wylie likes the spice of the dish. They move onto Mei’s bean breakfast - Padma is weirded out by the foam but Wylie appears to enjoy the runny yolk of the poached egg. Melissa is next and gets chided by Wylie for not making beans the focus of her dish. Finally, we have Greg. His dish is not a hit. Padma notes that his dish has some element of bitterness to it. “Sake,” Wylie concludes.
Finishing up, Wylie is assigned to give the verdicts. George had nicely cooked beans with some good spice, but the pork felt like an afterthought. Greg overcooked his beans and didn’t have any texture to his dish. Melissa’s food tasted good but didn’t highlight the beans. Finally, Wylie was concerned about Mei’s dish, saying that it was the least-appetizing-sounding of the four, but compliments her textures and flavors.
The winner, Wylie says, is the chef who highlighted the ingredient the best… and it’s Mei. Good for her. This is her first Quickfire win of the entire freaking season. Mei promises to go to Napa and “get wasted.”
But enough of this Quickfire stuff. It’s onto the only thing the chefs have been thinking about since the last episode: the Elimination Challenge and making it to the finale. The challenge is very much in the style of Wylie. The chefs are asked to create an “innovative” dish - one that pushes their own boundaries and demonstrates the next iteration of their own culinary style.
My first thought is that Melissa must be thanking her lucky stars she already has secured a spot in the finale. I’m not sure what innovation she would be able to bring to a challenge like this. Perhaps she could demonstrate a new, innovative set of knife skills in cutting vegetables.