Top Chef Recap Episode 14
By Jason Lee
March 7, 2016
Top Chef has arrived at its Finale Eve and I can’t remember a more level playing field. One day you’re up; one day you’re down. Momentum is as fleeting and insubstantial as one of Phillip’s foams. I can imagine any one of the five remaining chefs going to the finale, and can just as easily imagine any of them going home. As we rejoin the cheftestants, Carl is riding high as the third straight first-time winner in the last Elimination Challenge. Jeremy, on the other hand, Mr. Taco Dude, fully recognizes that he’s been bringing up the back in the last few episodes. If there was ever a good time for a turnaround, now would be it.
Our guest judge for the Quickfire is acclaimed chef Traci Des Jardins, who has a number of well-respected restaurants in San Francisco. She wants to see the chefs take on a food trend that swept through San Francisco to the rest of the nation: toast. Set before the chefs is a variety of different breads, which they’ll use to put together “the perfect bite” of toast. The winner gets a rational oven (yeah, just Google it. I had to).
Oh yeah, and this is a Sudden Death Quickfire. The two chefs in the bottom will face off for the right to… face off again for the right to… face off in the finale for the title. What a time for the Sudden Death Quickfire to rear its ugly head again. Not only does this episode promise to leave one chef really upset that he or she came “this close” to the finale, only to fall in the Elimination Challenge, yet another will lament his or her failure to make it through the Quickfire.
Oh, Top Chef Gods, how heartless thou art!
After 30 minutes of frantic cooking, Jeremy serves a chicken liver mousse with pickled cherries, white raspberries, and jalapeño on toast. Traci, apparently unable to taste the ciabatta underneath all that fruit, has to ask Jeremy what type of bread he used.
Marjorie, in total San Francisco fashion, uses a sourdough baguette to support her pancetta and fennel marmalade and Dungeness crab salad. Traci loves her incorporation of local flavors.
Amar apparently wants to bring back his uber-rich, uber-fatty, calorie-laden French dish from two episodes ago with a foie gras and duck breast toast with fig marmalade, balsamic truffle glaze and prosciutto. Traci asks about his use of raisin sourdough bread, which looks burnt to me.
Carl pairs burrata cheese with blistered cherry tomatoes and shrimp on grilled sourdough, breaking the unwritten food rule against serving seafood and cheese together. Padma questions this decision.
Finally, Isaac presents a butter-fried ciabatta toast with prosciutto and roasted pepper spread. Traci notes its similarity to romesco sauce.
Having held her cards quite close to her chest, Traci finally reveals what she really thinks about the food. In short, one chef rose above the pack, and that’s Jeremy. Sigh. I’ve kind of had my fill of Taco Dude, with his over-the-top bro-ness. But apparently that didn’t get in the way of his dish, which was well-composed and incorporated textures and flavors that all made sense to this San Francisco chef. “I’m stoked!” Jeremy exclaims.