Top Chef Charleston Recap: Episode 3
By Jason Lee
December 20, 2016
As if the producers of Top Chef (those Magical Elves) haven't already done enough to spoil fans of the show this season - bringing back hottie chef Sam Talbott, always-good-for-a-little-shade Katsuji, and underdog-is-my-identity Brooke Williamson - they kick things off this episode with the glorious, chaotic, and beloved mise en place relay race for the Quickfire. Ah, I love it.
The cheftestants are broken up into two teams of seven, with five chefs doing prep work and two chefs assigned cooking duties. In a nice twist on the format, the preppers will all work at the same time, peeling and mincing five ounces of garlic, finely dicing two quarts of onions, turning three artichokes, peeling and deveining 30 shrimp, and shucking 15 clams. Once a chef finishes with a task, he or she is able to help out another chef on his or her team with another task. The first team to complete their prep work not only can start on cooking their dish, but can also force the other team to pause for three minutes-thus cutting out precious prep and cooking time.
And oh yeah, the winning team's MVP will get immunity.
I anxiously await a flashback montage of Casey taking FOREVER to dice up her onions on the Top Chef All-Stars mise en place challenge. That was hilarious and agonizing and I can't wait to see her re-live it. And yet, for some perplexing reason, the producers don't harken back to that challenge. So odd. Did this disappoint any other TCers out there?
In any event, the two teams (blue and green) are neck and neck through almost every face of the challenge. Katsuji (green) finishes his onions just moments before Sheldon (blue) does as well. The blue team jumps back ahead in the garlic round before green ties it back up. Same thing happens with the artichokes and the shrimp. It all comes down to the clams and with just one clam remaining on the blue side, green finishes it off. Sam and Amanda, the designated chefs for green, immediately start work on a stuffed clam dish, while Brooke and Shirley agonize on the other side during their three-minute pause. It's clear that it's the longest three minutes of the other team's life - I love the mind games that the producers are putting these chefs through.
Finally, with 12 minutes left to go, the blue team clears their last clam and Brooke and Shirley go to work, revamping their dish due to the lost three minutes. When time is up, they serve their fried clam bellies with shrimp to Padma and Guest Judge Chris Cosentino, while the green team has a similar dish of stuffed clams and fried artichokes. The blue team comes out on top based on their use of raw artichokes paired with the fried clam belly, and Sheldon gets immunity as the team's MVP.
The same chefs are stuck together for the elimination challenge, which will require each team to cook a seven-course progressive menu to a room of Top Chef super fans (THOSE LUCKY DEVILS). Each course will be compared head-to-head, with the winning dish garnering a point for its team. The first team to four dishes wins. On the losing side, only the chefs who lost their head-to-head battles will be up for elimination. And as one final constraint, each dish must feature Chris's favorite ingredient, the humble radish, including each team's required dessert course.