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!)?