Top Chef Charleston Recap: Episode 2
By Jason Lee
December 13, 2016
With the first Quickfire (and first elimination) in the books, the cheftestants are thrown into their first Elimination Challenge - but not without a little bit of inspiration. Tom, joined by Guest Judge Frank Lee (the “Godfather” of low-country South Carolina cuisine), proceeds to haul out a huge (yuge?) basket of shrimp. Yep, a good 'ol fashioned shrimp boil will be many of these chefs' first taste of South Carolina cuisine. Shrimp juices, sticky hands, and traces of Old Bay seasoning abound.
But that's not all! There's more! For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be broken in to two groups - rookies vs. veterans, so good! - to serve a big, family-style meal. To provide even more inspiration, each team will be treated to a home-cooked meal at the house of local chef whose family has been in Charleston for generations. Tom is jealous. And he should be. This reminds me of the dinner Emeril cooked for the chefs in New Orleans. This should be an experience to remember for this set of chefs.
The rookies head over to the home of Carrie Morey, the founder of Callie's Hot Little Biscuit - a Charleston staple. She cooks them a huge dinner chock full of pork chops, slaw, squash casserole, tomato pie, and, of course, biscuits. The vets, meanwhile, are dining at the home of BJ Dennis, a personal chef and caterer from the city. His dishes have a decidedly more west African lean, with shrimp salad, eggplant stew, red rice, and gumbo.
Inspiration abounds in every bite. Shirley wants to do a take on an oyster dish that she ate growing up, Casey is going to do her spin on collard greens by not cooking them much at all, and Sheldon wants to play off of an eggplant dish that's cooked in Pilipino culture. You'll notice that all of those examples hail from the vet side of the kitchen. On the other side, with the rookies, they seem to be dead set on copying what they ate at Carrie's place - tomato pie, slaw, vegetable casserole, pork chops. Oh, except for biscuits. They're not gonna make biscuits. Realizing that this could be a glaring absence in a southern, family-style dish, the rookies do their part to pressure Jim, who has immunity, to take on biscuits. He's having none of it.
Before we know it, it's off to Whole Foods, where the rookies once again demonstrate that they're, well, rookies. While the veterans each have their own list of ingredients that they need to get in order to bring their menu together, the rookies seem to be winging it. By the time they gather at the checkout line, not only are they way over budget, but BJ (who's decided to make pork chops) has already rung up and paid for his pork loin, thus using up a huge portion of their money. The rookies argue amongst themselves for the bare necessities of what they'll need to complete their dish, while BJ annoyingly waives off any suggestion that he shoulder some of the blame for their predicament they're in.