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Top Chef Canada: Episode 5

To my chagrin and pissed-off-ness (actually the definition of chagrin) my Roger’s cable showed a black screen for the first few minutes of Episode 5.  In trying to determine what I missed I checked the Top Chef Canada website and saw that Francois had won immunity.   I was flabbergasted.  Could I not make fun of him anymore?  Was he a master at something?  Nope, turns our he just pulled a horseshoe from his ass and a knife from the knife block that read “hog wild” granting him instant immunity.

Everyone else was divided into two teams–black and white.  Each team was gifted with an entire heritage pig to butcher courtesy of guest judge Stephen Alexander, owner of Cumbrae’s (and Toronto’s local Meat Celebrity).

Anyone who didn’t pull “hog wild” on their knife pulled a cut of meat (picnic shoulder, leg, shoulder butt, belly or loin) and each team member had to properly butcher their pork portion (from the whole pig) under Stephen’s watchful eye and pained expression.  The Quickfire Round was more about hacking than elegant knife skills.

The most heartening thing about the butchery was the enthusiasm.  The chefs actually looked like they were having fun.  Knife, corpse and tearing flesh turned out to be a good time.

Connie and Chris’s skill gave the black team an advantage, until Darryl stepped in and impressed Stephen, helping the white team catch up. It was down to the wire between Andrea and Dustin.  Dustin cuts his finger. Pit stop for band-aid and rubber glove. Andrea saws away at the pig while Jamie looks on-perhaps a little too enthused.  Dustin finishes just before her.

Stephen concludes that there were “flashes” (blink and you’d miss ’em) of pretty good butchery.  I will never sell you any of my farm-raised pigs or even a breakfast sausage–your faces are seared in my mind was the look in his eyes.

Black team wins each chef an extra $100 for shopping in the Elimination Round.

Elimination Round

Each chef must prepare two types of appetizers for a fund raising function benefitting The Food Bank of Canada.  One appetizer must include the cut of meat they butchered earlier.

The chefs discover they will be cooking in a secret location.

Francois, “Shit, I’m cooking in a new kitchen…just when I had taped my cheat sheet of the French Mother Sauces to the fridge in the GE kitchen

Chris, “I just need flames, pots and water…and a melon-baller but I’m trying to sound hard-core right now.”

Jamie, “I want to win for many reasons. Money is one. My mom is my main restaurant investor and she’s almost broke…..she’s eating at the Food Bank right now so I can have a restaurant.  I hope the fund raising goes well for her sake.”

Rob–I can’t remember what he said but OMG–I realize he is Clark Kent in chef form.

The chefs and the reception end up at George Brown College. Guest Chef is John Higgins, director of the GB Chef School and Andrea’s mentor.

The big surprise is that the chefs themselves will be mentoring a George Brown student who will act as their sous-chef.  The students are forced to wear tall, paper chef hats in a cruel, televised hazing ritual.

Rob makes jokes about his sous-chef because he’s “geriatric and older than his dad”.  He forgets to add the classic insult “old geezer”.  Later, after successfully bossing him around Rob is more forgiving, “Dwayne’s a nice guy. He was a Major in the military so he takes orders really well.”

Andrea’s sous chef is truly adorable and Andrea nicknames her Minnie.

Dale says he will be a “father figure” to his apprentice, cleverly segueing into name-dropping “Boulud” and “Ramsay” as his father figures.

Overall, the chefs are finally looking comfortable-like they’re forgetting this is a contest and just doing what they love–cooking (hopefully) impressive food.

Still loving Connie.  So professional but relaxed and sweet with her sous-chef.  Contrast with a shot of Chris lording over his table like Sauron about to wage war against the elves in LOTR.

The Final Judgment

Top Four:  Andrea “best tasting dish of the day” (Dry Spice Rubbed Pork Loin with Sweet Ontario Corn Polenta), Dale impresses with both dishes (a Thai consommé with poached black cod and sous-vide pork with sauerkraut), Rob’s “perfect dishes”  (confit pork and rillette and a crab and scallop croquette)  and Dustin “who’s come a long way up from the bottom–go dude!” (Pork Loin & Bacon and an Apple Terrine with Calvados Vanilla Creme Fraiche).

Dale walks away with a well-earned victory.

Bottom FourPatrick, Todd, Jamie and Darryl.

Todd apparently “took homey food to a lower level”.  Darryl’s flavours were “milky and muddy” and Patrick, basically, no one could remember ever being impressed with Patrick.

Best line of the show, Chef McEwan to Jamie about his salmon mousse, “if you’re a salmon and this is how you end your life, on this plate–that’s sad.”

For a few moments you think this is the end for Patrick, but WHAM, Jamie is asked to pack his bags.  It could be the fact that he tried to blame the judges for “never giving him any positive feedback” and then blaming his student sous-chef for distracting his focus.  I’m sure he’s going to go home, find the bank where his poor mom is defaulting on her loan  and blame her too.

He left us with this memorable…..veiled threat… “Canada only saw the tip of what I’m capable of.”  Looking forward to seeing Jamie on Canada’s Top Psycho.


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Top Chef Canada: Episode 4

We see a few shots of the male chefs waking up in their Camp Chef bunks and getting ready for a new dawn.

We learn that Dale is shocked to be on the bottom even though he is in a top bunk.

Derek is caught on film filling out what appears to be a job application,  though he says he’s now got the “fighting spirit” (it’s under his cap.)

We’re back in the GE Kitchen but Mark McEwan is missing in action.

From behind a rack of cookware emerges none-other-than Susur Lee. The chefs look shocked, except for Dustin who is smiling extra-wide.  We learn that he trained under Susur.   Susur and Dustin flirt a little with their eyes.  Dustin more.  Susur less.

The Quickfire Challenge

Inspired by Chef Lee’s 19-ingredient Singaporian Style Slaw, each Chef must create their own signature salad.

Dustin understandably feels the need to prove himself but also to “be his own chef”.  Darryl decides to base his salad on a roast corn salad his girlfriend makes.  “Simple and good” is still his mantra.  Actually, Darryl seems to break out his shell and radiate some warmth when he talks about his girlfriend.  It’s nice.  (awwwww….)

Francois is STILL HERE!   How is it possible?  Does he eventually rip off the Francois mask and underneath is Joel Robuchon who wins all of Top Chef?   Today he decides to make a french-style coleslaw as his tribute to the Singapore style salad.

Rob is afraid is salad has no focal point.  Radish rosette, maybe?

Chris is ever modest, “Susur is an Asian Guru but I am an Asian master” is the gist of his story.  Also, adding to his credentials, he mentions the job he didn’t get at Lee because he was “too experienced in Asian Food.”  I guess Susur shouldn’t have all those Asian restaurants then.  He’s just too damn experienced.

Ultimately Dustin proves himself as a good apprentice.  He wins the Quickfire with a dish that Susur deems “perfectly balanced” A beet carpaccio with wasabi mustard, pickled onions and shaved apples .

The Elimination Challenge

Chef McEwan is back with a new do!  (He was just out getting a haircut earlier.) 

The chefs each pull a  knife from a block upon whose blade is engraved a country.  Guess what! It’s the mosaic of ethnic food that makes up Canada. They are teamed up in pairs.  One prepares a cold dish, one hot.  They have 2 hrs to prep and 15 minutes to shop.  One chef at Loblaws and one in an “ethnic” food store.

Andrea and Rob pull Japan and look super confident.

Francois and Patrick pull Jamaica I imagine Francois wondering if Jamaicans would like a Pommes Dauphine roti.

Dustin and Derek pull Mexico (Luckily for them Derek has worked at a Mexican restaurant in Dublin.  Phew!).

Jamie and Dale pull Portugal and Jamie admits he’s hoping to ride on Dale’s coat tails.  Chris (asian master) and Darryl are on Korea.

Todd and Connie pull Ethiopia and everyone including Chef McEwan and the camera crew feel sorry for them.

Teams to worry about: Chris and Darryl when the “asian master” can’t find chili paste at a Korean store.  Guess Darryl will have to pick that up at Loblaws.

Teams to admire: Connie and Todd.  But really, Connie.  She’s awesome as usual.  She admits she’s freaked out about the Ethiopian cooking but in her 15 minutes of shopping she is calmly asking the Ethiopian store owner what would work best to soothe the heat of a spicy curry–yogurt or ricotta?

Chef to worry about: Derek, who explains he is self-taught (from reading cook books) and tries to compress time and braise 4-hr short ribs in 2 hrs.  (Maybe those were sci-fi books?)

Final Judgement

The good: Chris makes a Bibimbap with Daikon, Shitake, Marinated King Crab & Kimchi Marinated Pork that Susur really likes. Maybe now Chris can get a job at Lee!

The bad:  Rob and Andrea stumble big time.  Rob presents warm hamachi sashimi that still has the blood line in it (maybe he’s a True Blood fan?) and Andrea brings overcooked Soba Noodles, Daikon, Turnip & Carrots in a Light Miso Broth with seared Kobe.

The Ugly: Derek’s Mexican (Irish?) dish of undercooked braised ribs.

The verdict:

Top 2 teams:

Dale wins kudos for what McEwan calls an “extremely complicated and perfectly executed” dish of Hake with Salt Cod Mousse & Smoked Paprika Portuguese Sausage & Potato ConfitJamie is told his dish was a pale copy of Dales and  “too timid”.  Sometimes imitation is a form of lameness.

It’s Connie and Todd who win the day. Connie serves traditional Ethiopian ground beef with curry spices and traditional lamb katwa (stew) and Todd brings red and green lentil salad, tomato salad with onion & cucumber and Injera. Susur says, ‘I can tell you wanted to understand the culture.” And everyone is impressed at Todd’s homemade Ethiopian bread.  Todd looks modestly shocked at his achievement.

Let’s just cut to the chase:

Even though Rob’s sashimi is called “Richness on top of blandness on top of the wrong temperature–a sashimi train wreck” Derek gets sent home for his dry and goopy ribs.  He is told he fails to understand basic procedures.  Message from the judges, “Go to cooking school”.

Later Derek, I’ll miss that cap. You were kind of sweet. Otherwise, see you for Episode 5: Butchering.

(Is this when Connie breaks down a pig’s head in 4 min? oh please!)




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Top Chef Canada: Episode 3

Episode 3 has come and gone.  It was a little bit dull, like a Russian egg sans caviar.   Which there was no excuse for in this episode, the fridges were overflowing with the sustainably hatched delicacy.

Well, let’s go through it and decide:  dull or small spark of interest?

1.  Chef McEwan was wearing a silky billowing blue  shirt.  It was a “I can dine finely but still look casual enough for a movie afterward.”  Perhaps he planned to check out a rom-com after last week’s sad dishes.  Maybe Baby Boom– why didn’t he think of organic baby food before Diane Keaton?

2. Darryl says its time to bring his “A -Game” (yes, please. C-game is getting stale) and Steve confesses that cooking changed his life.   Francois mentions something about “bringing it”. Maybe he means he’s finished cooking the raw egg dish from last week.

3. Quickfire Challenge for immunity.

Very cool actually.  20 ingredients in a box covering sweet, spicy, salty and sour.  The chefs had to taste them blindfolded. You may have had this experience if you’ve ever been forced to taste baby food blindfolded at a baby shower (in the case of baby food you also quickly realize why kids start to hate vegetables at an early age.  Because they taste like pureed poison. Sorry Diane Keaton)

The chefs sampled items such as arugula, fermented beans, miso, sea asparagus, anchovy, beets and watermelon juice.

Chris won with a high score of 13.  Francois didn’t even bother to guess on many and managed to identify only 1.  The taste of fear.  Then he challenged any viewers who might be laughing at him to “try it–you’ll see”.   You’ll be sorry was unspoken.

Best guess of the night, Steve calls eggplant “a dry-ass cucumber”.

4. Elimination Challenge:  Dan Aykroyd arrives with his Crystal Head Vodka and the chefs are divided into 2 teams and have to prepare a Russian zakuski meal.  Essentially hot and cold appetizers–pickled onion, kolbasa, cold fish dishes and such- all requiring strong visual appeal.

So the green team was set up as the team of potential implosion–it had the good: Rob, Andrea, Connie and the bad: Jamie, Darryl and Derek. (I always forget about him until I see his “cap”).  I guess the cap says, “oh yah-the guy in the cap!”

Blue Team was all go, go, go.  Dale was pissed that Chris didn’t “man-up” (since he had immunity) and take on the dessert course, often a surefire ticket to failure. Ultimately B&B Todd took it on (making a good waffle is halfway to making a good dessert).   Dale declared himself the leader.

Green Team was “each man for himself” or as Andrea put it, “It’s Top Chef, not Top Team Chef.”  She seemed to have the revelation this episode that she could kick some serious man-chef ass.  Go Andrea.  We also learned that Connie was a ballerina for eighteen years which gave her the discipline to keep a straight face while realizing that half her team was a bunch of duds.

5. Final Judgment:  In a well manipulated TV upset, the green team pulled off the most consistently good zakuski for the judges (including Aykroyd and Frank Chef Anne Yarymowich).  Connie nailed a cold dish of smoked garlic sausage, hand-made Kasha and barley lavash and won the challenge. Andrea also rocked the Crystal Skull with sauerkraut, smoked speck, pork loin and ribs, with a veal-and-rye bread meatball.

FYI-Dessert Todd ended up doing an impressive job making a parsnip blini.

Poor Connie, excited about her prize of a weekend in LA, must have been stricken when she realized she was actually committed to cooking meals for the Aykroyds for two days. (cleverly disguised as an invite to “come cook with my wife Donna in our kitchen.”)

And the bottom four came from the blue team.

Dale: “I thought my fishy tasting fish was just perfect”

Chris: “I won’t make dessert, I’d make a flavourless sausage.”

Steve: “I thought the bacon foam on my one-pot-potato salad was like seasoning the whole dish”

Patrick: “tasted good but looked bad”

Since, Chris had immunity it was down to the other three.  Steve was sent packing.  I felt some sad.  I might need a bad rom-com to cheer me up.  Maybe the one where Aaron Eckhart and Catherine Zeta-Jones play chefs.

In Episode 3 the cooking was much improved, but overall I felt like the whole show could have been cut down to half an hour.  The other half could have been a chef cock fight, where the chefs drinks lots of Crystal Head vodka, dress in mascot costumes and fight each other in a ring made of caviar.  Just a thought.

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Top Chef Canada- Episode 2:

What did we learn on Top Chef Canada: Battle Cheese last night?

Well, not a heck of a lot about cheese.  The chefs seemed like they’d be more comfortable cooking with spiny insect legs than showcasing Canadian fromage.

What else did we learn?

Jamie is going to SNAP.  I called it first.

Quickfire Challenge:

The chefs were asked to prepare an inspiring breakfast dish from a table laden down with 2000 kgs of cheese (that no one seemed to know anything about).

The highight/lowlight (they go together just ask your hairdresser) was Clayton’s Dali-esque melted cheese wedge (serving size for 6) that looked like it had been run through the microwave on high for 10 minutes before serving.

Silly Clayton, if you’re going to microwave cheese it should be on a Triscuit.

KILL the cheese, KILL KILL the cheese. (oops sorry, that was Jamie’s inside voice escaping)

I did very much appreciate Connie’s Monte Cristo, quail egg and Truffle cheddar plate. (I officially have a girl-chef crush)

And of course Todd’s winning “Toad in the Hole” using the Avonlea Clothbound cheddar (only clothbound made in Canada) so Todd has immunity.

The best whine/excuse (they go together just ask any toddler)  came from Francois, “I wouldn’t be on the bottom if my eggs weren’t raw.”   He later added, “Stupid non-cooking eggs. It’s not fair.”  And kicked some dirt.

Which takes us to:

The Instant Elimination Round: 

Francois, Clayton and Dale, whose “inspiring breakfasts” were only inspiring if you were using reverse chefology, were put into a 20 minute instant elimination.  Goal: Make an amuse-bouche with anything in the kitchen.

Francois made an amuse with foie gras and walnuts which Chef McEwan said, “exploded in the mouth”.  I really liked Dale’s melon, cilantro (?) concoction…..fresh and simple.  And I honestly cannot read my writing and figure out what Clayton made.  Which is appropriate as Mark McEwan axed him.

Bye Clayton.  Peace.

The Elimination Challenge: 

The chefs were paired up to make hors d’oeuvres using cheese and inspired by their teammate.

All you need to know is that Jamie was paired up with Darryl Crumb (if that’s your real name) whose hors d’oeuvres dish was inspired by Jamie’s farting (so he eloquently explained).

Let me break it down-

Jamie +farting = blue cheese risotto.

Jamie in turn made a roulade which was so large and not “bite-size” I imagine it was inspired by the rolled carpet Jamie would like to hide Daryll’s body in after he beats him to death with a whisk.

Other teams were more successful (Connie and Todd) and Chef McEwan was impressed by the fact that Rob’s Cobb Salad did not fall into any society cleavage.

It was great to see cheese-guru Julia Rogers as a guest judge on the show.  She looked lovely and super buff and I am sorry she had to be caught on camera trying to gnaw through Jamie’s death roulade.

Reckoning:

Andrea wins the challenge by creating a cheese hors d’oeuvre in which one can actually taste the cheese and swallow it without gagging.  Sound easy? Apparently Steve’s grilled cheese “tasted nothing like a grilled cheese”.  (Maybe it’s a molecular gastronomy thing- it’s a grilled cheese but it tastes like air!)

So final reckoning leaves the following waiting for elimination:

Dustin: “grease explosion”

Jamie: “only a cheese sauce could make this worse”

Rebeckah: “does she understand savoury?”

Darryl: “farting and food”

At this point Jamie lets loose his inner tattletale-chef and whines about being “left all alone” by Daryll to tend the station and how it was “all HIS fault”. (Eyes getting crazier by the second.)

Daryll lets loose his not-so-inner thug-chef and vocalizes his wish to ram Jamie’s head into a frozen ice rink/brain damage surface (they go together just ask the NHL).

You know neither of them is going home.  This is good drama.

So, its bye-bye Rebekah, who apparently just found out her restaurant went bankrupt while she was on the show.  Double whammy.

But on the bright side, perhaps she’ll be one of the only people to escape alive after Jamie’s sure-to-happen killing spree.

Errrr…elimination round.

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Top Chef Canada: Episode 1:

Voila, my  Top Chef Canada observations:

1. I loved the Filet-O-Fish challenge.  What happened to all those fish afterward– staff meal?

2. Tarragon +Hollandaise = Béarnaise.  I have to ask, “What were you thinking chefs who added tarragon in the “Hollandaise challenge”?”  (though I do prefer a Béarnaise sauce and understand that if you’re hungry and craving steak frites your impulses might get the better of you.)

3. Go Chef Connie DeSousa.  She is my fave.  Did you see how calm she was during the challenges?  Calm and deceptively fast I bet.  And the woman MADE a sausage for the first cooking challenge.  I think if you’ve made a sausage you should win the whole show automatically. (Plus she can butcher a pig’s head in 4 minutes.  Hello!)

4. Most heart-wrenching moment–when Francois Gagnon‘s spoon hovered over his plate and the timer went off and he was not allowed to sauce his dish.  No sauce?  Quelle horreur!  Luckily–he kicked ass anyway.  (WHAT WAS THE SAUCE!  I missed it.)

5. Moment of deflated elation:  When Rob Rossi won the elimination challenge and $2500 worth of Le Creuset cookware.  But then I realized that $2500 worth of Le Creuset only buys you about 2 large Dutch ovens (cassoulet for everyone!) and then a bunch of those little oven-safe pots that you think you’ll use to serve individual souffles or hot artichoke dip in but never do–eventually relegating them to paperclip or raisin storage.

See you next week (oh, except for Chef Michael Stauffer (he was the one that served the “vomit sauce” with his lamb–I would have eaten the lamb that rare (raw-re?) by the way Michael…..)

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