Top Chef Canada recap, episode 5: 11 little piggies

Top Chef Canada recap, episode 5: 11 little piggies

A toast to us! (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions) 

TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 5

Last night on Top Chef Canada, the competition moved into its second phase: some obvious underperformers have been eliminated, a leader pack is emerging, and the clowning around has died down. Tellingly, even when the contestants are shown in their underwear, they’ve got their game faces on. Here, our recap of an episode that contained everything from whole hogs to former military officers.

Quickfire

When Cumbrae’s owner and “go-to meat man” Stephen Alexander was introduced as the quickfire guest judge, we knew the challenge would involve some serious butchery skills. Sure enough, the chefs were asked to break down a pig to Alexander’s exacting standards. Drawing knives, the chefs were split into two teams and each chef was assigned one cut of meat: picnic shoulder, leg, shoulder butt, belly or loin. The first team to satisfactorily complete each of the cuts would win. (Lucky for him, François Gagnon drew a knife that said “hog wild” on it, which granted him instant immunity.)

The challenge proved to be surprisingly dramatic. The black team, with skilled butchers Connie DeSousa (“I can debone a pig’s head in four minutes”) and Chris Kanka (“Most chefs don’t have the ability to butcher, but I do”) took an early lead. But Darryl Crumb managed to tear through a leg with both speed and finesse to help the white team catch up. In the end, it came down to Grace’s Dustin Gallagher for the black team against Great Cooks on Eight’s Andrea Nicholson for the white, both of them wrestling with a giant loin. In a made-for-TV moment, Gallagher cut himself and required a bandage, but managed to rally in time to beat Nicholson.

Our favourite part was watching Alexander, who couldn’t hide his dismay as the chefs, their instincts honed for competitive TV, ruthlessly hacked away at his prized, pasture-raised heritage pork. Patrick Wiese’s picnic shoulder? “Completely unacceptable.” Dale MacKay’s hock? “An absolute disaster.” His overall assessment? “It got pretty rough, but there were some flashes of some pretty good butchering.” Ouch. For their marginally quicker hacking, the black team’s chefs won an extra $100 each for their elimination challenge shopping budget.

Elimination

The challenge this time was simple: each chef, working alone, was to prepare two different cocktail hors d’oeuvres, at least one of them featuring the Berkshire pork they’d just butchered, for 100 people. This being reality TV, a twist was announced the next morning when the chefs arrived at their “mystery destination,” the George Brown College cooking school. The kicker? Each contestant would get a student from the program as their sous-chef.

Some chefs took to their little piggies immediately. “My little assistant is so friggin’ cute,” gushed Nicholson of the sous she’d nicknamed Minnie, before going off on a righteous rant about why female chefs make better team players. Crumb, meanwhile, made the ultimate hoser move of trying to bond with his sous over hockey (apparently, she wasn’t a fan). MacKay told the camera that he enjoyed the opportunity to be a father figure to his sous, before name-dropping his own mentors, culinary gods Gordon Ramsay and Daniel Boulud. And Mercato’s Rob Rossi? He couldn’t seem to stop making cracks about getting stuck with the Old Guy, Dwayne, as his sous (“I didn’t know I was actually going to be in the geriatric ward! He was older than my dad!”). Turns out Dwayne was a former major in the Canadian Forces, and he suffered his chef’s orders with military deference.

Dale MacKay’s two winning dishes (Image: Food Network Canada/Insight Productions) 

Three Toronto chefs made it to the top of the heap this time around: Rossi, who made confit pork and rillette and a crab and scallop croquette; Nicholson, who made a beautiful brined pork loin over polenta and an olive-oil cake; and Gallagher, who served a loin and an apple terrine. But the win went to Vancouver’s MacKay, who miraculously prepared a Thai consommé with poached black cod and sous-vide pork with sauerkraut in just two hours. Guest judge John Higgins, the director of the George Brown chef school, called the soup “liquid gold.”

The chefs with the four worst dishes were Crumb, Wiese, Todd Perrin, who was on top last week, and Jamie Hertz, who started off the episode whining observing that judges hadn’t yet said one good thing about his dishes. Unfortunately for him, his words proved prophetic: Mark McEwan and company found very little to like in his braised pork belly with cauliflower purée and (did we hear this right?) cola, and his smoked salmon mousse with Boursin cheese over roasted beets. McEwan likened the latter to cat food and offered the philosophical reflection that as a salmon, if your fate in life were to end up on Hertz’s plate, it would be a sad thing. Talking to the camera, Hertz chose not to go quietly into that good night: “There’s no fucking way that my dish was the worst dish today.” The judges, however, disagreed.

Next time on Top Chef Canada

The chefs have their technique tested as they prepare classic French dishes for Daniel Boulud. Will MacKay choke in front of his former boss? Will Crumb actually utter that hoary old reality TV cliché, “I’m not here to make friends”? This week’s preview suggests the answer is yes.

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Check out our recap of episode 6 »