Top Chef Canada recap, episode 13: you win some, they lose some
Last night’s Top Chef Canada episode started in fine finale form, with the three remaining contestants—Carl Heinrich, Jonathan Korecki and Trevor Bird—offering backhanded praise to their opponents for the confessional cam (a sample: “I wouldn’t call Carl robotic, but…”), while psyching themselves up for the big competition ahead (the prize, lest you’ve forgotten: $100,000, a GE Monogram kitchen and some title or other). But the producers had one big trick up their sleeves before that could happen—such a big trick, in fact, that it necessitated a special 90-minute finale, a luxury even the U.S. version of the show hasn’t availed itself of. Find out all the nefarious twists and turns, including the return of the season’s designated villain, in our recap below.
Mini–Last Chance Kitchen Challenge
What? No quickfire? Instead, the producers called back the last three eliminated chefs—Trista Sheen, Xavier Lacaze and David Chrystian—and gave them one last chance to get back into the competition to the stupefaction of Carl, Jonathan and Trevor, who offered up their best WTF faces. (The whole thing was a bit like a lower-budget, one-shot version of the Last Chance Kitchen conceit from season nine of the U.S. show.) Their challenge: create at least two dishes using Blue Dot beef, mussels, lobster, Malpeque oysters and potatoes, all from what we can only assume was a sponsoring province, P.E.I. And in a further twist of the knife, Carl, Jonathan and Trevor were all invited to help judge the dishes and determine who they’d be competing against in the final competition (reality TV strategy time!).
The meals the runners-up created were perfect distillations of their culinary personalities. Trista, recalling her humiliating defeat in episode 10, went simple with raw oysters, lobster and mussel soup, lobster mashed potatoes and a grilled tenderloin with béarnaise. David went high-concept, making a lovely-looking mussel-clam-lobster soup with pan-fried gnocchi meant to evoke a beach-side shellfish boil. And Xavier went French, piling ungodly mounds of butter into a pan with some lobster. The chefs dinged both Xavier and David for execution errors (the former served his chateaubriand practically blue rare), and, in what resident judge Shereen Arazm suggested was a strategic decision, proclaimed Trista’s dishes the best. Not that this made much difference—Arazm and Mark McEwan were totally taken by David’s creativity, and just like that the diminutive Victor chef, just eliminated last week, was back in the competition. His take on it all? “I just have to prove that they’re right to be intimidated by me.” Translation: bring it on.
As promised last week, the final four were driven out to Hockley Valley Resort to cook the meal of their lives. But in time-honoured Top Chef fashion, before they started cooking they had to be assigned their sous chefs from the ranks of the already-eliminated. Drawing knives from the ceremonial knife block, David got Xavier, Carl got Trista, Trevor got little Jimmy Stewart and Jonathan got this season’s designated villain, Elizabeth Rivasplata, who turned out to be perfectly lovely in the finale. The challenge: create your “best menu ever,” made up of four courses that build on each other in a natural progression.
Joining the regular slate of judges for the 16-dish gorge-fest extravaganza were Michael Potters, chef at Hockley Valley’s Cabin, John Paul Adamo, the resort’s owner, and Vancouver Indian cooking legend Vikram Vij, resplendent in a bright blue outfit to rival Lisa Ray’s. The first course went to Jonathan, who served lobster three ways, each one a different riff on southeast Asian food (he was counting his lucky stars to have drawn Vij as his judge given McEwan’s lack of love for all things spicy). Carl was a close second, with an expertly balanced and über-local hot-smoked trout salad. David, for his part, launched his Toronto-themed menu (he serves something like this at Victor) with a tribute to the city’s, erm, “French” neighbourhood of Yorkville (the resulting soup was as curdled as the concept). Trevor raised the ire of the judges for serving—egads!—an amuse bouche of fresh fig, pickled raspberry, brulleéd goat cheese and hazelnut instead of an honest-to-goodness appetizer. “On a four-course tasting menu, you think you had room for an amuse?” asked an incredulous McEwan.
From then on, each chef dominated precisely one course. The second course went to Carl, for an expertly roasted elk loin that he had the balls to carve tableside, where he’d have no chance to fix any mistakes (he served it with a homemade barbecue sauce and fried pork belly to compensate for the elk’s leanness). Trevor totally blew it out of the park for his third course—he told the confessional cam, “I haven’t had a chance to be this creative in two years… after today, regardless of what happens I’m quitting my job!” His dish: a veal “doppelgänger” with a beautifully butchered tenderloin, mushroom farce and braised shoulder ravioli topped with dainty oregano flowers. And David brought his left-field A-game for dessert, a corn (!) pudding with sage-dark chocolate truffles and cocoa nibs (it was somehow based on Kensington Market).
Similarly, each chef had (at least) one course that left the judges scratching their heads. First off, there was Trevor’s amuse disaster. And in the third course, David had the unenviable lambs-to-the-slaughter task of serving one of this country’s avowed masters of Indian food his scattershot deconstructed biryani (said Vij in a well-worn but apt turn of phrase, “it wasn’t fusion, it was confusion”). Also in the third, Carl managed to make McEwan deeply, deeply disappointed when he presented a “pre-dessert” of orange sorbet and tuile. Jonathan, who’d been serving high and low takes on Asian food all night (mostly to Vij’s delight and McEwan’s, well, opposite of delight), made a totally incongruous (i.e. white bread) peach preserve–filled doughnut with peach ice cream for dessert.
At the final judge’s table for the year, McEwan et al. forwent the usual naming and shaming, and let the chefs advocate for their own meals. But soon enough, it was announcement time. “David and Jonathan,” Ray said first in the customary kiss of death, “you are not Canada’s Top Chef.” She then cast her eyes on the two remaining chefs and called out “Carl” before waiting about three eternities to finish her thought, “you are Canada’s Top Chef!” Soon enough, the recently eliminated chefs appeared, champagne flutes in tow, and a disappointed Trevor managed a very gracious, “Oh, fuck! Dude!” before embracing his conqueror. For his part, Carl got to sit in front of the confession cam, while he called his girlfriend to say the words he’d no doubt been waiting to utter all season long: “Hi Julia. I’m Top Chef.” Our hearty congratulations to him.
Check out our post-victory Q&A with Carl »
The Top Chef Canada leader board for the end of season two:
See you next year!