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The Top Chef Final Four Revealed: What Do You Think?

An un-Kevin cooking method, but nonetheless, the latest Top Chef challenge winner.

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Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade… and I’m calling the final four Top Chef contestants damn good chefs! This week’s episode proved their mettle, in my opinion, as they took on two challenges inspired by the French Bocuse d’Or competition. The ultra-refined, super-stylized cooking at the Bocuse d’Or is not in fashion these days (in America, at least)… today’s hottest chefs are all about simple, seasonal cooking.  But the competitors at the Bocuse d’Or are true chefs, in the most traditional sense of the word. And this week’s challenges would leave many shaking in their clogs.

First, the quickfire: an intimidating task, to reinterpret Cafe Boulud chef Gavin Kaysen’s Bocuse d’Or 2007 competition dish: ballottine of chicken stuffed with chicken livers, foie gras, and crayfish (think turducken for millionaires). It’s fun to say, but I wouldn’t want to cook it against the clock.  Jen’s seafood skills produced a winning calamari with scallops and salmon, served with an Asian-inspired rice noodle salad. She’s got her groove back!

Michael, on the other hand, mixed up his French vocab and made a terrine instead of a ballottine. Later, he dug himself deeper, claiming that “The food Kevin cooks is the food I cook on my day off.” What a poor sport!

Then, the elimination: create a presentation platter worthy of the Bocuse d’Or featuring one protein (lamb or salmon) and two garnishes (which in Bocuse-d’Or-speak does not mean a few sprigs of fresh parsley, but rather two incredibly detailed, creative little side dishes). The judges, including Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, and Paul Bocuse’s son, Jerome, were as serious as the challenge. AND the contestants only had 4 hours to cook. Bocuse d’Or competitors practice their dishes for months, if not years.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be covered in glue and sent out into a hurricane than have to cook on this show!  That’s probably why I love watching it so much.

Kevin made me mighty nervous when he opted to sous-vide his lamb saddle (pictured above), a decidedly un-Kevin cooking method.  But unlike Robin’s panna cotta disaster of last week, he managed to pull it off by keeping things simple (well, simple for the B. d’Or). Despite his “elementary” garnishes, his spot-on cooking took the win.

Uneven results on the part of the Voltaggio brothers, Eli, and Jen put them in danger, but it was Eli who ended up heading home. I was OK with that… I like him and all, but the brothers, Jen (when she’s on her game), and, of course, Kevin, are the real hard-hitters this year and they deserve to go to Napa for the finale.

Do you agree? Was it right to send Eli home for his fatty lamb sausage, or should Michael have packed his knives for the bone in his salmon (the horror!)?


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  • User avater
    DMickelsen | 11/24/2009

    Lisajoy, you have a great point, there. And the judges did say at least twice that a bone would be disqualifying in the real Bocuse d'Or. They should have stuck to their guns, I guess. But, like on all reality tv shows, they can't get rid of the arrogant, drama-creating contestant until the very end, right?!

  • User avater
    LisaWaddle | 11/24/2009

    Your write-ups are so entertaining, I can't help but getting sucked into reading them, even though I'm not watching the show.

  • Lisajoy | 11/24/2009

    Bone in the salmon should have sent Michael packing. My understanding was they were to be judged on the dish of the night, not history of wins.

  • suzsuz100 | 11/21/2009

    On the body of work, Eli was up for elimination. But gosh, I was rooting for nasty Michael to hit the road.

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