Top Chef Canada recap, episode 10: I got soul, but…
Last week, we complained that the one-two punch of a vending machine quickfire followed by a camping challenge made it feel a bit like a novelty episode. So it was with great anticipation that we tuned in to see last night’s episode, which featured Top Chef Masters champ and all-around chef hero Marcus Samuelsson, who, as Ryan Gallagher suggested, did push the chefs to try harder. It also featured a shot of a young Trista Sheen, who grew up in Flemingdon Park, in full-out cornrows. In other words: an excellent episode all around.
The chefs entered the kitchen to discover last season’s winner, Dale MacKay, nicely scrubbed and with an improved beard and haircut, followed by his cute-as-a-button son Ayden, who was sporting a junior-Bieber coif (a definite upgrade from last year’s adorable junior beret). The challenge: using ingredients that kids normally hate to create something that this kid (whose dad won Top Chef Canada) actually likes.
We were happy to see that Ayden was escorted from the kitchen for the actual cooking segment, since the chefs lost no time in dropping f-bombs right and left. David Chrystian, who admitted to never really having cooked for kids, nevertheless decided on a potato galette to hide his mussels and radishes. After all, what kid doesn’t love a good galette? (Oh, wait—all of them.) Still, that didn’t land him on the bottom, which was reserved for Xavier Lacaze’s mackerel with honey confit eggplant (too sweet) and Jonathan Korecki’s grilled lamb with artichoke dip (not fun enough). While Carl Heinrich made an admirable attempt to kid-ify his liver and asparagus into some kind of PB&J with asparagus fries, Trevor Bird’s Brussels sprout slaw with onion ring-style squid took the win, netting him $2,500 in Le Creuset cookware. And throughout the whole thing, Ayden gamely kept a straight face while eating all that icky, icky food. Bless.
Host Lisa Ray announced this week’s challenge was all about “your food story,” before inviting Samuelsson to join her and explain his own New York-by-way-of-Sweden-by-way-of-Ethiopia food story (by this point, most of the chefs were basically hyperventilating at the prospect of cooking for a chef whose Aquavit cookbook they all seemed to worship). The challenge: work with the other chefs to create a six-course tasting menu, with your course showing “your soul on the plate”—a conceit that sounds perfectly fine when you hear it on TV, but makes less and less sense the more you think about it.
Throughout the shopping and cooking segments, we learned little snippets of each chef’s back story. Trevor’s mom was a flight attendant, which meant he had to prepare his own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—hence his peanut butter lava cake with banana ice cream and strawberry jam. Trista was the only white girl in her class, so she grew up eating a lot of Caribbean and Indian food—hence her plate of many, many different Indian and Jamaican chicken preparations. And Carl? Well, Carl is from the West Coast—hence his, um, salmon.
The chefs that did best all ended up tugging at the judges’ heartstrings with their stories. Xavier (the actually-from-France Frenchie) made a “thank you to Canada,” a sort of tribute to his Calgarian wife and daughter (though what exactly Canada had to do with his elegant Mediterranean vegetable terrine with a beet reduction we’re not entirely sure). Jonathan, drawing on his grandmother’s pierogi recipe, made a dumpling soup with a killer scampi stock, prompting Samuelsson to tell him his grandmother would be proud and prompting Jonathan to cry into his trademark bandanna. The win, however, was reserved for David, who, God love him, has soul enough for the entire cast (was it us, or did he look particularly world weary during the episode?). His winning dish was a cabbage roll, cribbed from his Ukrainian upbringing, with a flash-seared flank steak, a crème fraîche croquette and a beautiful pinwheel roulade of beet, horseradish and apple, which Samuelsson promised to take back to Harlem with him. All the judges were putty in his hands (quoth Ray: “I’m glad my grandmother isn’t alive anymore… she’d be highly offended I preferred someone else’s cabbage roll over hers!”).
At the bottom were Carl, Trevor and Trista. Trevor’s dish, despite being a play on Samuelsson’s infamous foie gras ganache, was too sweet and unsubtle, and Carl’s bacon-wrapped salmon with fava beans came off as pretty soulless (clearly, he should have made up some sentimental story to go with it). Still, they were saved by one inexcusable error on Trista’s part: she left a huge piece of plastic wrap, which she had earlier used to poach some chicken thigh, on Samuelsson’s plate. As she so eloquently put it: “I shit the bed today.”
Next time on Top Chef Canada
Another sponsor-tastic quickfire, with the five remaining chefs going head-to-head in a—wait for it—Kraft Dinner challenge (we’ve said it before: Top Chef Canada, folks!). Things seem to get a little more refined in the elimination challenge, with a guest spot by Italian food icon Lidia Bastianich.
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